How to drive women away from your ministry

Greetings, and welcome back! I’m excited about getting back into blogging after this two-month hiatus. I’ve had a lot of time to think, and some important discussions with friends and family.

Today I’ll be wrapping up our foray into Training Faithful Women, and be giving some closing thoughts on the topic. Faithful women 11

Ok, I feel like I need to tread lightly here. This particular passage, on the surface, is not all that troublesome. To a certain extent, I agree with Gothard. Many Christian parents have somehow bought into the idea that children are, if not a curse, at least a horrible nuisance. It is honestly quite upsetting to go into fellowship halls, or Sunday school rooms and hear what some parents say about their children. It’s much more than someone sharing their struggles; it’s often just a kid-bashing party. Even parents who don’t have anything to complain about get in on the action, bemoaning the fate that awaits them when their ticking time bombs decide to make life a living hell.

Yes, children are bothersome. I’ve spent over an hour writing this post so far, because I’ve been interrupted so many times trying to get the two month old to calm down and stop crying. I get that kids can be difficult. But many parents are in need of a serious gut check about their own attitude towards their children.

But the issue here is that Gothard has taken a much more radical stance than “keep a positive attitude towards your children.” Gothard raises importance of the birth of children (and not just children, but large numbers of children) to an unhealthy level. In ATI world, those with large families are lauded, and held up as perfect examples to follow. Regardless of health, regardless of financial situations, regardless of housing conditions, Gothard preaches that true Christians must have lots and lots of children. We’ve already seen an example from an IBLP booklet in which a husband was lauded for ignoring the fact that his wife feared for her life and instead brow beat her into agreeing to having more children.

This is the opposite of grace. This is hard, cruel law, devoid of love, compassion or understanding. Grace understands that different people have different abilities. Some parents can raise 8, 9 or 14 children and provide the needed attention, training and love. Some women are able to give birth to many children without losing their health. Other women struggle after one or two children. Some families have children with special needs that require many times more attention than most kids. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how many children you should have. Preaching that there is places the future of many people at risk.

Faithful women 12faithful women 13

Oh my, how insulting can you be in three paragraphs?

First is the assumption that a wife can only add to the husband’s income. That’s kinda funny for my family, because my wife actually makes more money than I do (it turns out that formal education actually does make a difference, and having a master’s degree is enough to bump you up a pay grade).

Second, it’s interesting that there is no IBLP material that suggests men supplement the family income via “home crafts.” This hearkens back to issues I brought up with David Gibbs Junior, and the way he made fun of a female doctor, as though her gender prevented her from practicing medicine. Because, in IBLP world, being female means that you really are only good for certain things. You’re only good for having babies, and encouraging other women to have babies. And if all those babies put strain on your budget, you’re only real option is to knit potholders, because the 1950s really were the greatest time in the history of ever.

Well, we’ve finished the ten reason why your church should start this ministry. The rest of the booklet lays out a plan for finding the correct woman to run this ministry and training her to run it. I’m not going to take the time to go through everything as thoroughly as I have up this point, or we’ll be in this booklet forever. I’ll just take time to grab a few pieces of crazy and hold it up for us all to laugh at.

Here’s a good one; the older woman who will minister to younger women in your church “must have inward radiant beauty.” Wow. How, exactly do you determine who has this radiant beauty? I wonder if this search for inwardly beautiful woman might not tempt pastors (who, as we have been told in the past, are oh so weak in this area.)

Wow…one of items on the checklists for pastors is to “be deeply convinced by the Holy Spirit that the training of faithful women is not an option.” Is it just me, or is the impetus for the moving of the Holy Spirit placed on the wrong party?

At the end of the booklet we are given a schedule for how to train this first “faithful woman.” It’s pretty funny. At the first meeting (which you cannot arrange; your wife must call this lady and schedule the meeting. Also, your wife has to be there for every meeting, but she has no actual role in any of the meetings) you are to give this woman an assignment, such as reading a book or memorizing some Scripture. Tell her to call your wife (not you) when she’s done her homework. I can’t help but laugh at the mental image of a young pastor calling an older woman into his office and giving her homework like a 6th grade kid.

At the second meeting, you are supposed to ask her how she became a Christian, and then “ask her if she desires to be totally dedicated to God’s will.” If she answers “yes” (yea, they really put the word yes in quotation marks), then you give her…ANOTHER HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT! It’s a 4 question form that they’ve provided for you, and it’s literally the most boring type of reading comprehension questions that you encounter in 4th grade Sunday School. (Actual quote: “Whom has God chosen to teach young women? Answer: Titus 2:3-4.”)

At the third meeting, you give her more homework! This time it’s a “personal spiritual evaluation” (how convenient that such a form precludes the need to observe and test a person’s fruits!) and a form on which this poor woman can write down a bunch of goals for you to judge. There’s also a special NOTE (in all caps, just like that), telling you to be certain that you have not made any commitments to spending time with this women up to this point. I guess she’s still on trial.

Oh boy! The fourth meeting! This is the meeting in which you actually explain your purpose in meeting with her all these times!  I guess you have to be sure that she’ll put up with loads of BS before you let her in on the deep, dark secret that you want her help in the women’s ministry at your church?

Oh, this is rich. They don’t actually tell you when to use this form, but there’s actually an evaluation form that you are supposed to fill out. This will help you decide if this woman is perfect enough to invest time in.

Pre-training evaluation

Honestly, what self-respecting woman would allow her pastor to treat her like this?


Stay at home, you infernal ladies!

Today I am deeply saddened by the denial of justice to Eric Garner and his family. The fact that this decision was handed down while the public has access to video footage of the murder shows a truly frightening disregard for even appearing to care about justice or equality. My prayers are with the Garner family today. This blog isn’t really a platform for discussing recent events in New York and Furguson,but I must say that I have been horrified at the willingness of many of my friends on the right to ignore statistics in favor of focusing on a single criminal, their willingness to make light of the plight of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and their hardness towards families and communities with gaping holes left by police bullets and batons. My prayer is These Frail Hands by Brave Saint Saturn.

And I am overwhelmed with grief,
to see such suffering,
For those who lack the voice to speak
For those of us left stuttering

May this not prevail,
Dear Lord, your love will never fail

We now return to your regularly scheduled disposal of bath water.

Reason number 7 why you should start a “Faithful Women” ministry.

Faithful women 7

Ok, this is cool, right? Strengthening marriages sounds like an excellent goal!  And the verse talks about teaching women to love their husbands; another noble goal. We should be able to skip over this point, right?


Ok, never mind. We’ll be here a while.

First off, agape love is not love that is “founded in admiration, veneration and esteem.” This is more than a slight twisting of the meaning of words; this is categorically, factually wrong. Agape love is unconditional, self-sacrificing love. It is the love that God has for us. Did “God so love the world” because he admired, venerated or esteemed us? This statement seems strange and far out of left field even for Gothard.

Secondly, phileo love is “brotherly love.” This is the type of love that exists between family members, or close friends. And it is so much more than an “inclination prompted by emotion.” As DC Talk so eloquently pointed out, love is a verb. It’s real actions. It’s washing the dishes and fixing the car and writing a note to put in the lunch box and setting down the cellphone to talk to someone. It’s calling to check that someone made it home on icy roads, or sharing your Dr. Pepper with someone (that one is tough for me.) It’s not simple an “inclination.” That word choice is downright insulting.

Thirdly, how the heck is an older women supposed to “wisely teach” this “inclination”? What on earth does that look like, in real life? I can’t even imagine it.

Blind obedience

“This is not to be blind obedience…” Well, that sounds great, except for the fact that it totally is blind obedience. I just happen to have a booklet published by IBLP about making an appeal; let’s take a look at what is actually meant when they say a wife can make an appeal. According to The Key to Freedom Under Authority, to make an appeal, a wife must

  1. Have the right standing with her husband
  2. Have the right basis for her appeal
  3. Present the appeal at the right time
  4. Give accurate information
  5. Have the right attitude
  6. Use the right words
  7. Display the right response if the appeal is rejected

This last one is extremely significant. Aside from the fact that Gothard wants women to follow a 7 step program to talk to their husbands, we have the extremely disconcerting fact that the final say rests completely in the hands of the husband, and therefore the wife must, in fact, practice blind obedience if her appeal is rejected. Please remember that Gothard has gone as far as to suggest that Abigail was wrong to prevent the murder of her entire family by David, and even suggested that it would have been better for Abigail to appeal to her husband, be rejected and then the entire clan to be murdered than for Abigail to get out from under her umbrella. (see A Tale of Two Abigails, part 1 and part 2.)

faithful women 8

Never mind that Paul was writing to a pastor in a particular place, with a particular history and particular culture. Never mind any considerations of context or intended audience. No, let’s just slap a Bible verse on it, and then preach our own ideas. “Stay home, you infernal ladies!  Do what you’re told! Feel those inclinations! Have lots of people over to your house, but don’t ask them questions about the Bible! And you better not let it interfere with your home business!”

Bleh. I have a headache. I’m going to drink my tea and go to bed now.

Tying hands and closing doors

Why not more unapproved music to start off? Here’s The Distance by Cake.

Today we’re returning to Training Faithful Women, a handbook about women’s ministry. Part 1 is here. Let’s look at reason number 4 for starting a “faithful women” ministry.

Faithful women 4

I don’t have too much issue with this reason, except that the text following it is so strangely confusing. The first several paragraphs are a rant about how the church, not the government, is responsible to take care of widows. Then they talk about how the church is only supposed to take care of widows whose family cannot help them. And there’s a quote from the Internal Revenue Service (how the heck did we get here from “provide a ministry”?) telling us that whoever takes care of widows is at the center of society. Finally, we get something that sorta, kinda, almost relates to the heading:

Godly widows

But wait; these widows have spent years earning these qualifications (by bringing up children, lodging strangers, meeting needs and helping the afflicted), which means they are already actively involved in fulfilling ministry. And how do these ladies manage to have “outstanding” qualifications (meaning they’ve been doing a lot of ministry) and still have “outstanding” availability? I’m just really having difficulty picturing this woman. She’s apparently been heavily involved in church ministry for decades (beginning before she lost her husband, I would assume), but apparently has stopped all ministry recently, which leaves her available to help young ladies. I have to wonder why she’s stopped ministering (and why that’s not a red flag) and why she would suddenly be willing to start again, since you don’t let go of a life-long habit without considerable thought.

Why am I making a big deal of this? It’s not heretical. This isn’t teaching that is going to cause problems in your church. But it doesn’t actually make sense. It’s poor, meandering writing that can’t decide where it’s going or what it’s trying to say. It has no logical flow and the writer can’t even manage to keep his focus on the heading he just wrote. As discussed previously, there are literally thousands of resources available on the topic of women’s ministry; given the choice, who would choose this one?

faithful women 5

Oh my word, this is terrifying. Please remember what these “Scriptural standards and qualifications” are in IBLP world. Also remember that Gothard just told us that the church should carry the sole responsibility of caring for a widow without a family. In Gothard’s ideal world, women are made to toe the line because they fear they may starve if they don’t follow the rules.

You don’t want to marry this man your father has picked out? You want to go to college? Leave an abusive husband? Send your kids to public school? Not teach the Wisdom booklets? Use birth control? Remember, one of these days, we may be the only people who can help you. And if you don’t live your life according to our rules, we won’t lift a finger.

In Gothard’s ideal world, women are bullied and pressured into following the church’s teaching on threat of complete Earthly ruin. How utterly horrifying.

faithful women 6

Oh boy. Here we go.

leaders need followers

That’s…wait…what? Isn’t that supposed to work…like…exactly the opposite way? I thought leaders inspired people, who then followed them. Where does this idea come from, and how the heck does Gothard get away with making a statement like this with nothing to back it up?

fragile egos

You really have to wonder why these guys are supposed to be the leaders. Apparently they can’t lead if they don’t first have followers, and their egos are so fragile they can’t handle their wife asking other people questions. Gothard isn’t describing a husband; he’s describing an insecure 13 year old kid.

Ahh…there’s so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, this is not how any healthy relationship works. No matter who you are married to, there is always going to be something that your spouse is better at than you, and things you are better at than your spouse. This is a good thing. You’re supposed to complement each other. You’re supposed to arrange your life in a way that makes the best use of both partners’ strengths, and allows each partner to cover for their spouse’s weaknesses. Marriage is not an ego trip for the man. If his wife knows more about the Scriptures than he does, he needs to recognize that and get over himself. If he wants to know more about the Bible, maybe a great start would be learning from his wife.

Second, this teaching undermines one of the most important roles of the body of Christ, namely, supporting and helping Christian families. You must be aware of a need to meet it, and telling women not to ask questions at church ties the hands of the church. How is a pastor to appropriately instruct his congregation if half of them aren’t allowed to even ask him questions?

Thirdly (and perhaps most scarily), this is yet another door of escape that is being closed for a woman in an abusive relationship. Not only is she not allowed to talk to the pastor about anything personal, she is not allowed to ask anyone except her husband any questions about the Scriptures. This would include the question “What does the Bible say about leaving a man who hits you?” Further tying the hands of women in these horrible situations is a grave, grave sin.

Finally, this puts incredible (and totally unnecessary) pressure on the husband. Regardless of how long he’s been a Christian, how much training he has (or hasn’t) received, or how well equipped he feels to answer her questions, a husband has the responsibility of knowing more than his wife, or of anyone that she might want to ask a question of. Picture this: a new Christian is approached by his wife, who says “I was going to ask one of the elders (who have spent decades studying the Scriptures) or the pastor (who is a seminary graduate), but I decided to ask you instead: how can we tell the difference between poetic imagery and factual prophecy in Revelation?”

What insane pressure to place on a brand new Christian! In the hands of an abuser, Gothard’s teachings on authority and male leadership are extremely dangerous. But even in the hands of a compassionate, loving husband, they are still a heavy, crushing burden.

How did Gothard dupe so many?

Greetings! I haven’t posted as much in the past few weeks because life is getting pretty busy, and probably won’t slow down until…who am I kidding? It won’t ever slow down. But I’m trying to keep to a at-least-once-a-week schedule anyway!

After posting last week’s blog, I kept feeling like I had missed something important. Sure enough, my friend Craig pointed out another problem.

Is there another dangerous unstated insinuation by the testimony that you highlighted?
If this woman’s morning sickness was cured when she repented then, MORNING SICKNESS IS CAUSED BY SIN. If you can figure out what that sin is and repent your morning sickness will depart.
Or if the husband can point out the sin that is causing the morning sickness and get his wife to repent, then he to can “conquer his wife’s morning sickness.”
What a disgusting anti-gospel message.

In other news, Throwing Out the Bath Water was featured on Recovering Grace, which was pretty cool. Recovering Grace also recently linked to a blog post about Gothard’s teachings on giving up rights, which I highly recommend that you read. I had several major “ah-ha!” moments when reading it, and it’s going to take me a while to process through it all.

Training Faithful Women

Today I want to look at a supplemental material that apparently comes from a seminar on church ministry. This book is going to take a little time to get through, because there is so much to be discussed.

We have weak churches

Some of these statements seem rather benign, even if they are a tad simplistic. But I want to take a moment to talk about it, because these few sentences show very clearly how Gothard works, and, to a large extent, answers the question, “how could Gothard manage to dupe so many people?”

He starts with a statement that seems to be undeniably true, yet is extremely over simplified. He also commits a major logical error, arguing that because weak families result in weak churches, any church that is weak must have weak families. Weak families do cause weak churches, but not all weak churches are weak because of weak families. To put it in different terms, termites cause structural damage to a building, but not all structural damage is caused by termites.

The next statement commits the same error, although it’s not quite as egregious, considering how much influence the father and mother have in the family. Nonetheless, there are still things beyond the control of the mother or father that can weaken a family. Illness, employment, abuse by an uncle, a neighbor selling drugs; all of these things can also weaken families. Life is not always as clear cut or straight forward as Gothard would have us believe.

And finally, we get the kicker: all it takes to strengthen families and churches (two excellent goals!) is to have somebody personally explain responsibilities. It’s just that simple. Gothard has the magic ingredient to fix these problems. He has the information for this “forgotten fundamental” for every church.

Now stop for a minute, and put this into normal-people language. Gothard, for all of his talk of “faithful women” and “dynamic potential,” is actually proposing that churches implement a women’s discipleship program. That’s his “forgotten fundamental.” It’s not forgotten at all: there are literally thousands of resources available for these types of ministries, and hundreds of thousands of people involved in these ministries. They’re not new, they’re not unusual, and they’re certainly not “forgotten.”

So why does Gothard try to paint a women’s discipleship program in this light? Simple. He wants to be seen as the only source of wisdom on this topic. He doesn’t want to compete with other writers or speakers who have spoken on the subject. So he wraps it in strange terminology and claims everyone else has “forgotten” about it in the hopes that nobody will go shopping elsewhere.

This is how Gothard dupes people: simplify a problem that people want desperately to fix, and then claim he is the only one who knows how to quickly and easily fix that problem.

Next, Gothard lists ten benefits of training faithful women. Some of them are very interesting. Faithful women 1

Ok, cool. I have no issue with this reason. It’s good for younger women (and younger men and older men and older women too…) to have people they can look up to and emulate. But then we get a list of women in “God’s hall of fame” and it gets a little strange.

God's hall of fame

Several of these really jump off the page here. Deborah, a woman of discernment? Really? What about leadership? Bravery? Kick-ass-ed-ness? Or Priscilla, a helpmeet? Priscilla was an industrious craftswoman (a tent maker, like Paul) who was an important evangelist and church planter. Priscilla even functioned as a 1st century talent scout, seeing and nurturing the potential in Apollos (someone who Scriptures says “was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.”) All her ministry boils down to “a helpmeet”?

Some of these make sense; Hannah, a woman of prayer, or Esther, a woman of courage. But honestly, this lists seems to cheapen them; it seems to convey that the great works and examples of these women were simply the result of working really hard on one of Gothard’s 49 favorite words. Maybe I’m being too picky here….but it still bothers me.

Reason number 2:

faithful women 2

“The danger of…wrong attitudes or behavior of wives” is not clearly stated in Scripture. People are all capable of corrupting doctrinal truth; there is no particular sub-set of people who are more likely than others to corrupt. We do need to be aware of the danger of corruption coming from wives, but also from husbands, and from youth group leaders and song writers and from blacksmiths and computer technicians and U.S congressmen. Particularly singling out wives as a dangerous source of corruption paints them as time-bombs in our churches, rather than people loved by God.

The Scripture quoted here does not support the claim made by Gothard either. Briefly summarized, it tells us that young women should develop the character of Christ in their daily life (which, for those young women in Titus’s church and cultural setting, meant particular things), so that God’s word would not be spoken evil of.

Violating truth

Wow, every single one of them? Man.That’s tough. I wonder if men ever violate truth…

special danger of women

Now I’m confused. We need older women to teach women how to ask their husbands to teach them things? Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more efficient to just have the men teach their wives about this? And since women are so susceptible to doctrinal error, whose crazy idea was it to put them in charge of training other women?

I’m not going to address the quote from 1 Tim. 2, because, bluntly, I’m still very confused by that chapter, and I really don’t think I can speak with any authority on that passage. Perhaps some of my readers would care to share their thoughts?

faithful women 3

“When a women pours out her problems to a minister, she exposes him to the strong temptation of becoming inappropriately involved with her in his emotions.” And loving her as a sister in Christ isn’t an option here? Weeping with those who weep isn’t a good idea? Sharing your struggles with someone who is charged with your spiritual welfare should be discouraged? And if a women sharing her problems with her pastor causes him to become “inappropriately involved” with her, is the real problem with her sharing, or with the pastor?

This tendency (that can be seen through IBLP material and at all IBLP sponsored functions) to build walls between the sexes is disturbing for multiple reasons.

  • It over-sexualizes all interactions and prevents real, solid friendships and real fellowship from happening. I remember not being allowed to eat at the same table as my sister when doing CharacterFirst! work in Memphis. (There were about 9 of us in the basement of a large church, and we literally sat on opposite ends of the fellowship hall.) Rather than speaking to a person, you find yourself speaking to a gender. It’s institutionalized objectification.
  • It divides the body of Christ, and prevents members from loving their brothers and sisters in Christ. (How can I “do good unto…the body of believers” if I am not allowed to even talk to a significant portion of them?)
  • Walls that prevent communication serve to protect abusers. If a women is not able to speak to her pastor about an abusive husband, that is one more door that is closed to her. And if we are to take all this talk about ladies speaking only to their husbands about their problems seriously, it does not take much imagination to picture a pastor telling a wife to talk to her husband about these issues!

“When a women seeks regular personal counseling from a pastor, she will usually cause signals of caution or alarm in the pastor’s wife.” Wow, there is so much more  wrong with this pastor’s marriage than a counseling session with a church member if the wife is getting signals of caution or alarm! There is an obvious lack of trust and understanding between the couple. At the very least this couple needs to have an open discussion about what they are comfortable with, and what type of boundaries they should put in place to protect their relationship. And if this alarm becomes “seeds of contention” that damage the marriage…well, again, there’s a bigger issue here that is causing the damage. A pastor counseling a church member does not destroy a marriage.

Side note: how insulting is this to pastors? Do we think male pastors (because female pastors are never addressed) are unable to handle a situation like this? If a pastor can’t manage to deal with the temptation of talking to church members about their problems, is this guy qualified to be a pastor? And if this pastor is honestly that weak, will preventing these conversations actually prevent problems at your church? Rather than giving advice on how to “pastor proof” your church, wouldn’t it be far better to put out a booklet titled Kick That Guy Out and Hire A God-Fearing Professional?

Finally, notice who is to blame for broken marriages and sex scandals in the church: women who try to seduce pastors. Those poor pastors! Those poor, passive pastors! Why, they had no more choice in the matter than you or I; these evil women seduced them.

No. This thinking is wrong. It’s disrespectful to women and to pastors. It paints women as the bad guys and men as innocent victims. It erects walls between members of the body of Christ. It excused the sins of pastors who abuse women in counseling.

Final note: Isn’t it interesting how Gothard carried on private counseling sessions with multiple young girls for literally years and yet had the audacity to teach this?


On a personal note, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the passing of my son. My wife and I would appreciate your prayers.