Rick Warren and Saddleback Church on Domestic Violence

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

[Update and correction 1/9/2009 — It has been brought to my attention, that the audio clip referenced in this post was by Saddleback’s Teaching Pastor Tom Holladay. In light of that reality, I have edited my original post accordingly. I apologize for my original error in attributing the quote to Rick Warren.]

To hear for yourself the position of Rick Warren and his Saddleback church about domestic violence in Christian marriage, you need to scroll down this FAQ page on the Saddleback Church web site to find question 32. What should I do when abuse is happening in my marriage? The audio clip is far more revealing than the bit snipped out below.

In this clip the speaker, a Saddleback teaching pastor, makes crystal clear his belief about marital abuse and the question of divorce. He clearly speaks for the entire church and pastoral staff using the collective “we” when he says, “I’ll tell you the advisement we give in our counseling ministry…”

Furthermore, as senior pastor of the church, Rick Warren gives his tacit consent and agreement to these statements since this audio clip was chosen to be featured on the website and he would definitely be a part of the collective “we” mentioned above.

Holladay states Saddleback recommends separation but not divorce under any circumstances. His commentary about the issue of abuse also expresses a distinct lack of understanding about the nature, heart and spiritual roots of abuse. I think he believes he is doing right and doesn’t realize his ignorance or how much he is hurting people, so this is offered without personal judgment. But I also believe catagorically that it is dangerous.

He also states that divorce is a sin. I find that interesting, since God divorced Israel. How did God manage to commit a sin???

I’d always rather choose a short-term pain and find God’s solution for long-term gain than try and find a short-term solution that’s going to involve long-term pain. … [In scripture] adultery is one [reason for divorce] and abandonment is a second. I wish there were a third in scripture. Having been involved as a pastor in situations of abuse there’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you have a right to leave them. … If you’re in this kind of situation I strongly recommend that you take advantage of our lay counseling ministers.

[Thanks to slog.thestranger.com for the original clipped quote above. It showed up on my research ramblings.]

9 Responses

  1. I’ve just sent off an email to info@saddleback suggesting that they (and esp Rick Warren) check out Not Under Bondage. IN the audio-clip, Rick Warren stated that he wishes there were a verse in the Bible that says you may divorce for domestic abuse. Well I think there is, and it’s 1Cor.7:15. I’ll let you know if they respond. He sounds willing to examine a viewpoint different from his own, if it can be argued from Scripture.

  2. Sadly, Saddleback have not replied to me yet.

  3. They have their head in the sand and do not understand the most basic aspects of keeping and breaking covenants.

    • Which, frankly, is ironic, since one of the basic premises of The Purpose Driven Life is manipulating people into entering into a covenant/vow relationship regarding the book and its principles. On a side note, I believe this is both dangerous and unscriptural for a variety of reasons.

      But for a church that is very hung-up on covenants in the church, in an unhealthy way – they’ve missed when a powerful truth pivots on one.

      — Danni

  4. Below, please read Saddleback’s response this week to a very conservative Christian battered woman whom I have been counseling for a number of months. She has really struggled with the whole idea of divorce and was planning to stay married to her abuser despite the dangers, due to a strict interpretation of the scriptures on divorce. The whole Saddleback issue really threw her for a loop. (I think that due to early inaccurate reports in the media, she must have thought that Rick Warren himself had made the statements on divorce that Saddleback Associate Pastor Tom Holladay made.)
    Hooray for this Saddleback pastor, Jim Wilke! I think this whole controversy has been a big eye-opener for the Saddleback staff and I hope that they will respond by getting some great training on DV and by putting something like this in writing, to set the record straight publically, once and for all. It would be lifesaver for many woman stuck in abusive marriages.

    ” I bring good news for our good cause… Do not be discouraged by the quotes taken from Saddleback Community Church. It is not an accurate picture of what they really counsel!

    I just called Saddleback and spoke to thier pastor on duty Jim Wilke, he seems to be one of the main guys in pastor care, has worked there for 20 yeas. I told him I was not calling to criticize or attack the article I read, but to verify that what I had read was a true and complete representation of the options they give battered wives in thier congregation, because I respected their pastor a great deal, and wanted to know where he was coming from with such advice…I gave the scenario of my specific situation and what would be recommended, you have a wife that left an abuser, an abuser who doesn’t want to change, and their hard stand that abuse is no excuse for divorce. What is she supposed to do???

    After talking for about 20 minutes, I realized that Saddleback does allow for divorce as an option in such case, when it becomes clear that the abusing spouse refuses to get real help and prove his changes over time. Jim said that the cycle of abuse and manipulation must first be broken, (that’s no opportunity for him to get away with it), the abuser must repent, and not just with words but with proven measurable changes over time. He said the abuser must want to change, the church cannot enforce it. It can be suggested by the spouse, but is not her responsibility. He has seen in his 20 years of pastoral care, some marriages that were once broken by abuse, restored, others such as his own brother-in-law’s, not, due to pride, refusal to let go of the sin.. You just have to make sure you’ve sought godly wisdom (which includes taking care of yourself), and the same is expected of the abuser. He percribed I surround myself with support and the Lord will make clear what I need to do. He said that Saddleback does NOT hold that God can’t tell a woman to divorce her husband. They only encourage couples to consider the process of restoration; if either is unwilling to be part of that real process, then that partner has abandoned the marriage. Actually, he kind of insinuated that that is my option.. He told me about couples that at Saddleback who have gotten divorces and it took that for the abuser to want to change. It’s chosing to end the marriage the way it is.

    I was encouraged by this, and relieved. I have seen Rick speak before at an event and even met him. He seemed so down to earth, like one who maturely and carefully searches the whole Word before he answers. I was surprised by the push button statements that were quoted, and glad to find out that the counsel at the church is realistic, is informed, and is fair-minded when it comes to the options they give estranged battered wives. Jim said that what happens is pieces are taken from the whole of thier stand, and there is nothing they can do to stop it… I hope this is a relief to you as it is to me.”

  5. The above…is wishful thinking.

    I would like to meet these fellow SVCC MEMBERS who have made it through to the other side.

    Please remove your goggles of seeing it how you wish it to be and be willing to dig deeper to learn how it really is.

    The PPD is a celebrity church and sets itself up to be modeled after. I can tell you first hand. UNTIL this matter is resolved they have lost all authority in many eyes on how to do/be the church.

  6. I meant to say that the PDC vs PPD

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