Meet my new friend Natalie Greenfield. I began following Natalie about a month ago. She uses her Twitter account to advocate for those who have been sexually abused in the Church @. When I began my mission of “breaking the glass steeple” in 2014 my reasonings were much smaller than God’s reasonings.
I simply wanted ‘women in ministry’ to be equally considered as pastors and leaders of adults in the evangelical church. God had specifically told me to “set the captives free” but since I grew up in an egalitarian home and my only experience with “complementarian limitation and oppression” was not being permitted equal job opportunities in the Church, I had no idea the depths of evil complementarism can lead to.
The past six months or so, I had a wake up call. God has shown me that this ministry God led me to start is not really about myself getting a better job, but about the thousands of women I have never met who are enslaved by various forms of religious patriarchy.
Today I see clearer than ever. Today I am certain that complementarianism must come to an end in the evangelical church. It is psychologically unhealthy for men and women alike, as well as an unsafe doctrine for girls and women.
It claims that men are to sacrificially lead women and women are to submit to their leadership, but men are not God and God is not a man. One way submission was never the Apostle Paul’s marital advice (see Eph. 5:21), yet his command to “mutually submit” is often under emphasised; while “wives submit to your husbands (Eph 5:22)” is often dangerously over-emphasised, leading to a man-centric church and view of God.
Complementarian theology is too easy for corrupt humans to abuse and all humans are corrupt to some degree because we all fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).
I ask you to open your hearts today and hear the story of an innocent young girl who fell into the hands of a devastating doctrine. I will not judge Doug Wilson’s heart because I don’t personally know him, but I do irrevocably stand with Natalie as she now shares her story with the world as a woman. -Jory Micah
Natalie Greenfield is a mother, wife, business owner, musician, and sexual abuse advocate. Through her personal blog she shares stories of the longterm sexual abuse she suffered as a young teen while attending Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Natalie is blessed to be years down her road of healing and enjoys a full life in beautiful Northern Idaho with her husband, Wesley, their 3 young children and a chocolate lab. Find Natalie’s Blog HERE.
“What do you want to do?”
I answered confidently, “I’m going to be a musician. I want to travel the world performing.”
He frowned. “What about a family?”
“Oh, I want a family someday but not until I’m older. Maybe when I’m 30. I have other things to do first.”
The conversation ended, and at the time I didn’t know it but this man and I would have many more discussions about my future. In fact this man, who was 10 years older than I, would go on to groom me for the following several months and then sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse me for 2 years.
He would use the teachings of the church I was raised in to keep me in a place of quiet submission and obedience. My strong leadership skills, the ones I’d exhibited since I was old enough to talk, and that made people call me ‘bossy’ and ‘loud-mouthed’, would systematically be trained out of me and replaced with a meek and timid spirit that didn’t know the first thing about standing up or speaking out, and all of it would be done in the name of making me into “wife material”.
Before the abuse, I was a free spirit. Bubbly and extroverted, I loved people, music, dancing, and performing. I was averse to conflict and wanted everyone to get along and just love each other.
As we were more active in the church community, I started to hear that people thought I was “boy crazy”, too flirtatious, too loud and uninhibited. These rumors bothered me. I knew the church taught that women should dress modestly and carry themselves with grace and gentleness, and I remember desperately trying to fit in and figure out what that meant for me.
Who was I supposed to be? I didn’t want to be a rebel or cause my Christian brothers to stumble, but at a tender, impressionable age and with a rapidly developing body that looked more like a woman’s than a young girl’s, I struggled to reconcile my personality and appearance with the idea that I was responsible for the way men responded to me. Every decision I made about my dress and behavior had to be weighed against the ever watching eye of a church whose views on gender roles were rigid and unforgiving.
After the abuse began, I saw the dark underbelly of what was expected of me as a female. Granted, my abuser’s treatment of me was twisted and perverse child abuse, but, ironically, the words coming out of his mouth were taken verbatim from what the church taught about gender roles in marriage.
In hindsight, it’s frightening to realize he was taking everything he had been taught about gender roles and applying them to a young, vulnerable girl. The addition of his cruelty and predatory behavior created an ugly, criminal concoction, one that almost took my life.
Nearly three years after the abuse ended, when I’d suffered in silence long enough and finally decided to tell someone, it never occurred to me that the church’s response might be in favor of my abuser, yet that’s exactly what happened. It was evidenced by their handling of the situation that teenaged girls just don’t have the same value as would-be pastors.
The focus was on “salvaging” him, whatever the cost, and that meant I was marginalized while my abuser was trusted, blame was shifted to me and my family and away from him, I was not offered resources or professional counseling, love and caring were not extended to me in my hour of need, and my already shattered life was further broken.
Several men in the church wrote letters to the court heralding my abuser’s character and blaming my good looks and flirtatious behavior for the ‘mistakes’ he made. My father was harshly rebuked by the church for “failing to protect” me.
My former pastor, Doug Wilson, wrote letters to the judge and to an officer of the law requesting leniency for my abuser and even sat on his side of the courtroom at the sentencing. Alienated and exposed, I left the church within a year of coming out about the abuse. I was then placed under church discipline, barred from communion for dating a non-Christian man.
Now, nearly ten years down the road, I am so grateful to be free from the church of my youth where the voices of victims are stifled and scandals are swept under rugs in order to protect men in positions of power.
To this day, Doug Wilson stands by his decisions to defend my abuser and blame my family for the abuse I suffered. He continues his attempts to silence and shame me as I tell my story publicly. With a grave misunderstanding of abusive relationships and an unhealthy view of gender roles, he has created an environment where abuse can thrive in the shadows.
The way I was treated in the church pastored by the author of one of the main complementarian manuals on marriage is a perfect example of an epidemic in our culture, one that for the sake of so many innocent women and children, must end.