Monday, May 16, 2016

Fixing the Culture of Abuse for ABWE and Others

A detailed report on the abuse and cover-up which happened within ABWE's (the Association of Baptist for World Evangelism) walls has been published. Pii, Professional Investigators International has finalized their report on their ABWE and Donn Ketcham investigation. Even some people who have known about the abuse for years were shocked at the extent of it. You can read the entire 280 page report here.

As an abuse survivor myself and as a woman who has suffered spiritual and emotional abuse within the same circles in which ABWE operates, I can see a clear path to stopping this culture of abuse. It's really not all that hard, either. This blog post will serve as a skeleton of the bigger picture of what needs to be done. I have no doubt that, if a plan such as this were implemented, this culture of abuse would die. I also have no doubt that ideas such as I'm about to present will be fought, dismissed and not even taken into consideration.  Still, I think these ideas need to be introduced.

I have already shared these thoughts with my husband and a pastor on the BBC (Baptist Bible College) Facebook boards. I've had a number of requests from others to share my thoughts. Please keep in mind, these points are at their skeleton stage and each one needs to be elaborated on and more thoroughly supported by Scripture. I simply haven't had time to do that much yet. Also, I'm typing with a fractured thumb, but I felt time was of the essence to get this out there. Some good may come from introducing these ideas.

1. Patriarchy has to die. The vast majority of modern day cults and terrorist groups start by subduing the women. I have always wondered why modern evangelicalism does the same. Ketcham's abuse was allowed to continue unhindered for so long partially because all the women serving with the mission were subdued and quieted into submission. That created a culture that screamed silence for those women and girls. No one dared push back against the culture because patriarchy was/is fully incorporated. While patriarchy was the default system of the Old Testament, that does not mean it had God's approval. Slavery and polygamy were also common; that did not make them right. The New Testament blows patriarchy out of the water.

2. Put women on the boards of all mission agencies and other organizations. When women are put on these boards, they have to be treated as equals. We cannot treat women as though they are "being allowed" because men are giving in to their demands. The Great Commission is talking to women, too. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples......." He did not say, "Cook dinner for those who will go." He was talking to women as much as men. Women are not involved in missions or any other work of God because men have allowed us to be. We are involved because we are called by Christ.

3. Do not minimize women's input. This is common. Even women who have been on the field are minimized and not taken seriously. I see this all the time. I also see women quietly doing the work of their calling without men's approval. I see women on foreign fields standing up in front a group of people, men and women, teaching. Margaret Laird and Elizabeth Elliot were not as much the exception as some would have you believe. Still, women fight minimization. They didn't with Jesus.

4. Women and men on these boards should not be husband/wife teams. The husband/wife relationship brings a spirit of submission which, in the present culture, is unbalanced. The board members need to be individuals who are not related to or married to each other.

5. Leave your fear at the door. Philippians 2:2 calls for us to be like minded, yet I know many men who are afraid of women. I don't understand this fear because if we're all called to the same purpose, what is there to be afraid of? A pastor once, in an attempt to subdue me, said to me in front of his deacons, "You're a steam roller!" I hope my answer surprised him, because instead of cowering down with an apology, I said, "Then you'd best stay out of my way." That pastor spoke out of fear. I see no room for fear in the work of God. Perfect love casts out fear.

6. Treat women as equals on the boards and on the field. This means, when it's time for learning from Scripture, women need to lead this as much as the men. It means when it's time for prayer, women lead in prayer. Full equals means the women don't take a back seat to leadership.

7. Leave your ego at the door. There is no room for ego because people are dying and going to Hell and we have to tell them the Good News that Jesus has died for their sins. It has nothing to do with you, or with me. It has everything to do with them. It has everything to do with Jesus. Donn Ketcham was allowed to abuse for so many years partly due to ego.....his ego and the egos of those who are guilty of the cover-up. Arrogance is the first sign of an abuser. These same arrogant men subdued and downplayed women's input, allowing the abuse to not only happen, but thrive.

8. Revisit submission. I believe it's being taught all wrong and this needs to change.

9. Women need to stop allowing their input to be minimized. We are Daughters of Abraham, there is no reason to remain in the background. If we women have something to offer, we need to step up and offer it without apology and without hesitation. We can push our voices without allowing men to subdue us.

10. ABWE needs to step back and re-examine their by-laws to insure they were not created with a prejudice against women and favoritism toward men.

11. Local churches need to take back more power. The path of least resistance, which some pastors  take, is not an honorable way to do missions. Mission boards have become too powerful and this has minimized local church involvement.

There are 11 very skeletal staring points. I have more but they are not organized enough to put down.
Yes, you are not mistaken, a theme has come out of this.
We can stop abuse.
We can end the culture of abuse.
Who is courageous enough?
I welcome civilized dialog on this.


  1. The abuse of power is pandemic to fallen humanity. Patriarchy has demonstrated itself as a grave evil, for sure. Bill Gothard is a prime example. However, both genders are fallen and have a propensity to sin. The only solution is for there to be obedient, bold, believers who will confront sin constantly. As hard as it is to hear, the truth is, many women in the Ketcham story did not protect their daughters and fellow females. They did not have to bow to the pressure of the culture. They should been steamrollers!

    Also, it was the courage of the one lady who was abused when she was a 13-14 year old girl referenced many times in the account, that broke this thing open. (At least that is my impression.)

    Placing women on boards may be a fine idea, but it is hardly a solution.

    1. Thanks for your comment and I agree with your point. Placing women on boards is simply one step as I've indicated in this skeleton of an outline of what needs to be done. I believe the women were guilty and should have come forward, but I also believe they were victims of the culture to an extent. Even the victim who blew this apart did so reluctantly in the beginning.

      Yes, we are all fallen. I expect many men will disagree that stopping the abuse of women might not start with the women. Patriarchy hurts us all and eradicating it is but one step in undoing this culture of abuse.

      I have yet to hear of men being abused in these mission-related contexts. It's generally women and children who are abused. There's a reason for that. They need a strong voice; they need the voice of women.

      A fine idea, a step in the right direction, a step toward a solution, is putting women on the boards and treating them as equals. I know very few faith-based leaders who would be able to set aside their ego enough to do such a thing.

    2. I agree with much of what you say, except for one thing. Men ARE abused in mission-related contexts. Perhaps not in sexual ways (although I wouldn't rule that out), but in horrible spiritually abusive environments. Not only missionary men, but nationals as well, are abused. I am getting ready to tell my story of the abuse I experienced under ABWE because I spoke up on behalf of national brothers and sisters who were abused by national "leaders" being paid with ABWE money. I'm talking about rapes, serial womanizing, adultery, theft, filing harassing lawsuits, etc., etc. Please pray that God would give me the platform to bring this to light. Unfortunately, the Donn Ketcham abuse and its coverup by ABWE is only the tip of the iceberg.

    3. I stand corrected. I'm so sorry for the abuse you suffered. I'll pray you find the strength to tell your story in hopes it will be of help to someone else. I think you are brave.

    4. Tricia, I appreciate your perspective very much and I am sorry for the pain of your past. I agreed with Nathan regarding the deeper solution. One observation in that regard. You pointed out that although mothers (fathers too by the way) were guilty and should have come forward, they were "victims" of the culture. By this logic, it could be said that the male leaders were also victims of the culture. It would seem, by this line of thinking, nobody is guilty and everyone is a victim of something beyond their control. This is simply not the case! We, both men and women, need to stand up for what is right regardless of our culture or situation, like keeping my job or not wanting to make waves or whatever it may be. We live in an age in which "victim mentality" pervades everything. The solution is much deeper and is not just a problem with males.

    5. My statement about their victim-hood is only in the context of the patriarchal culture of abuse, similar to the Warren Jeffs culture where women are so beat down, emotionally and spiritually, that they don't have their right sense about them. I did not take this to the far extreme in that no one is a victim. The ones who did stand up were quickly quieted in this fiasco and their victimization continued.

      This is why it is so important for people to understand the culture of abuse. Read about the culture of abuse that Warren Jeffs used; it's the same here. It's not an excuse in any way, shape or form, it's simply an understanding of what the culture of abuse can and does accomplish. It's truly amazing how simple, seemingly innocent tactics are used and honest words twisted to keep a culture of abuse going. Unless you have a suspicious mind like I do, you won't see it and you won't believe it when it's pointed out to you.

      There are still many victims of this culture today. Most of them are women and children. Most, not all, but it's a culture I'm talking about, which is very hard for people to understand.

      Of course we all need to stand up for what is right regardless of our culture or situation. Clearly. All I'm doing is trying to educate people about this culture of abuse because until people recognize it, they won't be able to stop it.

      I am not a proponent of a "victim mentality." I am simply someone who knows what a culture of abuse does to people. I know how it works. I know how it starts. I know the intentional moves of the perpetrator and how the maneuver people without those people even realizing it.

      My line of thinking is not in agreement of the places you took it. We can easily sit here and judge the nurses and mothers without trying to understand the culture of abuse and its effects and tactics. Even their words in the report spoke of this culture....."I thought maybe it wasn't right....I thought maybe he was going to far, taking too long....I thought something seemed off....I couldn't put my finger on it....I watched things....I wasn't sure..." etc. All that is evidence of a culture of abuse. I could go on, but I have to run. Thanks for commenting.

    6. Thanks Tricia, I appreciate your points very much and I think we are in basic agreement. Please don't mistake my comments as a rejection of your mission. I am only expressing a caution of making this a male only problem. I have personally experienced and witnessed the negative impact of male bashing as a counterbalance. Regarding the ideas of "culture", "abuse" and "victim", much work needs to be done in the Church to bring God's Word to bear. I am so angry with what happened at ABWE and I have yet to read or hear anything from the GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptists). ABWE is making an effort to clean house but I fear they have much work to do and I am uncertain they have the fortitude to do all that needs to be done.

      Keep up the fight Tricia. It is not my intention to discourage your efforts. Dialog with respect is a good thing.

    7. Thanks for that clarification, Tom. I agree that these terms are often loosely used with no definition or context. My references to patriarchy as a partial cause of ABWE's issues is just isolated to ABWE only since it practiced patriarchy very strongly at the time this abuse took place.

      You are so right, though, that much work needs to be done. Thanks for your encouragement.

      I am very familiar with the GARBC and my husband pastored 2 GARBC churhes. I'm hoping they will put out an article on this in their magazine, The Baptist Bulletin. We'll see.

  2. Hey, this is a great start. I agree with all of your points. I attend a denominational church that holds women in high esteem. It is the Evangelical Covenant Church. It sounds as if you may have used their outlook as a model for your list. Our search committee for our most recent youth pastor hire consisted of 4 women, 2 of them teens, 3 men which included our teaching pastor and me. Our hire was a super guy who is now a teaching pastor in Detroit.

    I do know missionary boys who were abused on the field. So, don't draw empirical evidence or principles without that knowledge or understanding.

    My wife is a deacon in our church based upon the teaching of scripture and their application of the ECC group.

    Wendall Kempton led me to Christ as a teenager. It breaks my heart that his wisdom was not on the same level as his zeal to win the lost. Or perhaps, one got in the way of the other.

    Thanks for article.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Many children, boys and girls have been abused in "mission" work.

      It sounds like some churches are breaking this gender barrier down.

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  4. We also pastor in a church that treats women as equals,(Conservative Congregational) and this has been so refreshing! We are sad, but not surprised, at the horrors we have read in this report from ABWE. The patriarchal culture always felt 'off' to us, even 40 years ago. And it remains the same today in many of these same churches - hopefully this is the time for real change, led by articles such as this, Tricia!

  5. You are so right to listen to your "gut instinct" that told you the patriarchal culture felt "off." Thanks for your kind words. So glad to hear that some churches do recognize the gifts and talents of women.