Former Pastor Jonathon Christopher Powell Sentenced to 8 Yrs for Sexual Abuse

Former pastor Jonathan Christopher Powell pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and was sentenced to 8 years on Monday, Jan. 26. The charges stemmed from his sexual assaults on two 13- and 15-year old girls.

He will serve the 3- and 5-year terms consecutively and will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous?

By Danni Moss
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Dr. Dobson is considered a leader in modern Christianity and his family advice is highly regarded.

However, I am very concerned about his advice regarding domestic violence. He makes some strides in the right direction, where other evangelical leaders have not. Unfortunately, regardless of good intentions, his advice still leaves abuse victims in life-threateningly dangerous territory.

I also want to carefully note that the Troubled With website by Focus on the Family, offers some of the most comprehensive acknowledgement and advice about the issue of domestic abuse that I have ever seen from a major, mainline Christian source. Unfortunately, this material copied below comes from the same website. And throughout, Dr. Dobson’s book Love Must Be Tough is referred to and recommended — which is where this advice I am addressing originates.

Here is the piece from one of Focus on the Family’s websites:

How should a wife deal with her husband’s abusive tendencies?

The principles of Love Must Be Tough offer the best response to an abusive husband. They begin with a recognition that behavior does not change when things are going smoothly. If change is to occur, it usually does so in a crisis situation. Thus, a crisis must be created and managed very carefully.

After moving out and making it clear that the woman has no intention of returning, the ball moves to her husband’s court. If he never responds, she never returns. If it takes a year, or five years, then so be it. He has to want her badly enough to face his problem and to reach out to her. When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin. A plan can be agreed upon that involves intensive Christian counseling with a person of the wife’s choosing. She should not return home until the counselor concludes that she will be safe and that the husband is on the way to recovery. Gradually, they put their relationship back together.

It’s a long shot but one worth working to achieve.

Answered by James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Excerpted from Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide by James C. Dobson Ph.D., published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

I commented on this issue on another blog where it was brought up. I have compiled my comments, with some expansion and editing for clarification, as well as incorporation of some ideas mentioned by other commenters to the original post. My thanks to the other commenters for their contributions to the ideas included!

There were some points in here from which the church can learn. At the same time, however, Dr. Dobson leaves huge, and dangerous, holes which abandon an abuse victim in an extremely vulnerable position.

This original post ended up being extremely long, so I have divided it into twelve parts. To read them all, see Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous, Series. The first of these is a segment pointing out the things Focus on the Family is doing right regarding the issue of domestic violence – because their websites have some truly exceptional information and resources.

You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here:

Advice that Can Get a Woman Killed

Response from Dr. Bill

Church Youth Mentor Jeremy Little Arrested for Sex Abuse

Church youth mentor Jeremy Little has apparently confessed to drugging and molesting boys from the church during sleepovers at his home. There are three known victims at this point but police are continuing to investigate. The alleged abuse apparently continued for the past year.

E–book — Legal Domestic Abuse

If you or someone you know is about to bring domestic abuse to light, this e-book may be a very helpful tool in safely navigating the legal system without being further wounded by it. Many abuse victims can attest to the fact that getting out is just the beginning. The system that should be helping us, can be very dangerous. Knowledge is critical!

Here’s a video clip by the author:

New Sex Allegations Against Ted Haggart

New sex allegations have been made against former mega-church pastor Ted Haggart. The incidents allegedly occurred with a church volunteer during Haggart’s pastorate at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

There is something very important to notice about this. When a pastor’s sexual sin is exposed and he “repents,” that repentance must include acknowledgement of all sexual sin. When subsequent incidents are revealed – even if they occurred before the “repentance” – one thing can be known with certainty. The “repentance” was not real because he persisted in hiding sin from exposure to the light. That is not repentance!

And there certainly can be no restoration or moving on past that point, when the repentance wasn’t real. This exposes the real motivation of the “repentance” – to attempt to salvage whatever reputation he can, and regain acceptance as quickly as possible, preying on the fact that Christians are gullible and will believe anyone who can produce the right words, accompanied by tears. This isn’t being judgmental – it is using spiritual discernment and testing the spirits.

Churches often teach that we have to forgive, and do not realize we do not have to forgive without discernment and evaluation of fruit. Nor does a fallen pastor ever later become qualified for pastoral service again – which includes speaking in other people’s churches! Even if he has repented, he has permanently disqualified himself from pastoral service, according to the Word.

A Look at Why Abuse Victims Stop Attending Church

By Danni Moss
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There are quite a few of us out here now – people who have experienced abuse in the church and are not able to attend church as a result.

Unfortunately, we are then looked upon as back-slidden and everything we attempt to say to the issue of abuse in the church is discredited because “we are not in church” and, therefore, so out of touch with God we couldn’t possibly have anything valid to say. I have been openly discredited on this blog because of my church status, not to mention in private e-mail. I have also seen others in the same situation receive the same treatment.

However, this perspective turns reality upside down.

What has really happened is that the church has put us out of fellowship with its treatment of abuse.

How can I attend a church which predicates my acceptance on the idea that they will forgive me for getting a divorce since God does? It is not true that “God forgives me for getting a divorce” – since He directed me in taking that action. My behavior wasn’t sinful and doesn’t need forgiveness. This statement also blames me for the failure of my marriage. To attend a church under this presupposition, I have to live a lie – a lie that violates my conscience before God.

How can I attend a church which views me with disrespect? Because of my divorced status I am excluded from teaching in the church or using the gifts God has given me (except singing). This means the church is saying I am less than what God says I am. The church is also limiting me from doing what God has called me to do. So to attend that church I have to deny God in my life.

How can I attend a church which teaches and fosters unbiblical gender role stereotyping when I know that this teaching is both unbiblical but also leading to the abuse of other people in the church? To attend that church I have to compromise my conscience, call evil good, and give tacit consent to the continuance of abuse in the church.

How can I attend a church where I know an abuse victim will receive the same treatment I received? The result of this treatment is literal physical abuse, and potential death, to the lives of people in the church, at the insistence of the church and its erroneous doctrine. And I know better! The church may be acting in ignorance – but I would not be! To attend that church I would again have to compromise my conscience and I would have to be an accessory to the crime of abuse – because I do know better.

These are the reasons I cannot attend any evangelical church I know of. It is not because I refuse to attend church or do not want to attend church. The church will not let me worship with them in good conscience.

So, instead, I have to go the heart of the Word and remain “in fellowship with believers” through more unconventional means – which I do.

And I am not alone. I am merely one of a very large and growing group of people that the church is barring from fellowship through their actions. But, in true church irony fashion, guess who is being blamed for being “out of fellowship?”

[Now, the next step is for us to bond together in church relationships where we are accepted and acceptable. Something I’m praying about…]

THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce

By Danni Moss
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In a recent dialog in the comments resulting from three posts (Rick Warren and Saddleback Church on Domestic Violence, Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Abuse, and Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce) I made a comment, which generated a question, the answer to which needs its own space. So here they are, with a little amplification.

Original comment: …Yet, when the subject is domestic abuse, which is far more egregious than adultery – and has the same spiritual root – there is no acceptance of the offending spouse’s decision and no acceptance of the offended spouse’s options.

Question: OK, I’m stumped. What is “the same spiritual root” that adultery, abandonment, and abuse have in common?


“Putting asunder” – violation of the marriage covenant by utterly severing the one-flesh/one-spirit bond.

This is one of the “illogics” I see in this piece. The speaker gives permission for a wife to proactively divorce her adulterous husband though he remains under the same roof with her and refuses to get a divorce. This is exactly the same as an abuser.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship is sexual with another person in a sexually adulterous relationship.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship is geographic with abandonment.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship uses a literal spirit of murder (expressed through rage, etc. – not necessarily inclusive of actual murderous actions) to kill the spirit and body of the spouse (in violation of multiple Scriptures) and also demands an idolatrous relationship, which is a direct violation of the Word.

The Word makes the very clear connection that the reason sexual adultery is grounds for divorce is because human marriage is a picture of our relationship with God, with the marital one-flesh relationship being a picture of our worship and one-ness with God. Adultery is equivalent to idolatry — that is why it is grounds for divorce. This is THE reason it matters.

When two are married they become ONE – this is not just a sexual thing. They are ONE unified whole. This is why abandonment has the same root as adultery. Two cannot be one if one has abandoned the other. The reason abandonment is grounds for a divorce is not because the Bible says “here is an exception to the rule.” It is because abandonment is the same sin as adultery.

This matters because of what Jesus said repeatedly about the spirit of the law being more important than the letter of the law. Abandonment and adultery are the same violation – because it is a violation of the spirit of the law; of the one-flesh marriage covenant. Further, it is a violation of fact; not just the opinion of a whining spouse who wants an excuse for a divorce.

And this is also true of abuse. It is the same root of “putting asunder” committed by the abusive spouse, who has utterly violated the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship, though s/he continues to reside under the same roof and professes a desire to remain married. The spouse of an abuser – even a verbal and emotional abuser – is literally in far more physical danger than the spouse of a sexual adulterer! And this danger, which extends to the levels of spiritual authority (principle outlined in I Cor. 6:15-20), persists even beyond the boundaries of a marital separation. But the church is oblivious to this fact.

I thought many times that I wish my husband would have an affair. That would have been far less painful, far less damaging to the children, far less ruinous to all of us for the rest of our lives! AND the church would have blessed the dissolution of our marriage. It is a conundrum.