Is your Church or Denomination Safe for Abuse Victims? 20 Denominations That Aren’t

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Abuse | 34 comments

20 Denominations Divorce for Abuse
Merchandise is Here!

Sheila here!

One of the things I love about being online is the friends that I meet who are passionate about similar things and doing work adjacent to me. 

And one of my favourites is Gretchen Baskerville, author of The Life Saving Divorce. She’s done great work on showing how the Bible considers divorce life saving for many people, and how life saving divorces are crucial for people’s safety and well-being.

However, she’s also meticulously documented what denominations and organizations are hurting women especially (though she also talks about male victims of abuse) by not condoning divorce for abuse. 

Because it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I invited Gretchen to tell us about what we can do to influence our denominations to change.

Here’s Gretchen!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Abuse victims are often scared of their churches.

One night, several years ago, a new woman slipped quietly into the room where my Christian divorce recovery group met at my church. She was terrified that anyone would find out she had come.

Michelle was a homeschool mom who had experiencing verbal and emotional abuse for years. She was a devout conservative Christian who attended a nearby church. She hadn’t filed for divorce yet.

She said, “I cannot tell my pastor anything, because I have read the church’s policy online, and I know they won’t support divorce for physical or emotional abuse.”

In the end, she decided to leave her church and resign before they knew. She had heard the pastor’s marriage sermons and knew he would pressure her to stay. And she had stayed long enough. Her life and sanity were in danger.

Michelle’s story is more common than many pastors and church leaders know.

Evangelical divorcees are walking away from church in droves due to the stigma of divorce policies than do not condone divorce for abuse. Many churches are choosing their own ideology above the safety of parents and children.

Churches Shooting Their Own Wounded

I first saw this problem documented in a 2020 Christianity Today article, “Despite Stigma, More Divorced Evangelicals Are Going to Church.” Despite the cheerful title, this article includes data from a nationwide study that shows a huge problem in Evangelical churches. Many of them shoot their own wounded and cause them to leave their church.

The author of the article was demographer and pastor Dr. Ryan Burge who found that:

The gap in church attendance among married and divorced evangelicals is at least twice as large as any other Christian tradition, at 20 percentage points. Even more worrisome, the attendance gap between the two has actually widened among evangelicals in the past decade. So, despite more divorced evangelicals coming to church, they still aren’t as eager to show up as their married counterparts.

Ryan Burge

Despite Stigma, More Divorced Evangelicals Are Going to Church, Christianity Today

So, Dr. Burge is demonstrating that Evangelicalism, with its no-divorce-for-abuse policies, is driving vulnerable parents and children away.

Gretchen dug deeper into this attendance gap in these resources:


20 Unsafe Denominational Policies That Stigmatize Abuse Victims

If you are a marital abuse victim, and you belong to one of these 19 denominations listed below, or attend one of their churches, please protect yourself. You may want to leave, switch churches, disappear for a while, or divorce without telling them.

How Can I find out if My Denomination has an Unsafe Divorce Policy?

Download this 8-page side-by-side comparison chart of more than 50 denominations. The information comes directly from their own website, so there’s no doubt what they believe. I’ve included links to each claim. Some condone divorce for abuse, others do not.

Denominations that don’t condone divorce for physical violence or emotional abuse (per their own written policies):

Their contact forms I could find are linked so that you can reach out to them:

Please write or email the denominational presidents!

Even if your own pastor condones divorce for abuse, please contact them and ask that they change their official divorce policy. If even one pastor or church leader follows these unsafe policies, they are risking vulnerable spouses and children’s lives and sanity. See below for ideas of what to write.

Denominations that don’t condone divorce for physical violence unless leaders say it’s “life-threatening.”

(How do they know in advance?)

  • Presbyterian Church in America (PCA): only if abused by an unbeliever or a murder threat by an unbeliever (WHAT? So Its okay to be threatened by a believer?)
  • Evangelical Presbyterian Church: ongoing violence or murder attempt [Note: this implies it must be a failed murder attempt, not merely a verbal threat.]

Denominations that have no divorce policy online, but analysis suggests they prohibit all or most divorce

  • American Baptist Association (ABA) (is not the same as ABCUSA)
  • Apostolic Lutheran Church of America
  • Primitive Baptists
  • Assoc. of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA)
  • Salvation Army
  • National Center for Family-Integrated Churches

If you belong to one of these denominations, please reach out and ask for their divorce policy. And if you get it, send it along to me through my website! I’d love to see it, since I haven’t been able to get it yet.

Unsafe Christian Organizations

Focus on the Family doesn’t officially condone divorce for physical abuse either.

Please be aware that when listeners call in to Focus on the Family’s counseling service, their counselors have been trained NOT to advise divorce for abuse (this may not be true in other countries, but is true for Focus on the Family US).

This is why conservative Christian marital abuse victims (wives and husbands) who need a life-saving divorce are streaming out of our churches and taking the children with them.

“No-divorce-for-abuse policies” have a chilling effect.

When the official website takes a hard line, it is used to determine which pastors and members align with the denomination and which do not. It is a litmus test. Even good caring pastors feel pressure to tell their abused church members to stay.

Here’s a question: Has your pastor stated his personal view on the local church’s public website? If not, that may show the power of official divorce policies to silence pastors. It has a chilling effect.

Here’s an analogy: What if your company had a handbook stating the policies, and your supervisor said, “Ah, you can just ignore that rule.” What do you as an employee do? You are being given a no-win choice. If the policy is not a good one, it’s better if the company revises its handbook, rather than putting managers and employees in a situation where they are non-compliant and fear losing their job, just for doing the right thing.

What if My Pastor Supports Divorce for Abuse, Even if the Denomination Doesn’t?

You may say, “My pastor doesn’t follow the policy, so there’s no problem.” But that’s not the point. These divorce policies are unsafe. These divorce policies kill people. Abused spouses are driven to despair, depression, and suicide. They are left vulnerable to more domestic violence, and they are more likely to be homicide victims. Divorce saves lives.

What if My Denomination Has Some Good Articles about Domestic Violence and Condemns Marital Abuse?

That’s great. I’m thrilled that your denomination is addressing physical and emotional abuse. I’m glad they are condemning it. But that isn’t the same as changing their official policy about divorce-for-abuse.


What does the Bible Say?

Several of these divorce policies suggest that God wants you to stay married even if there is physical violence. You can never divorce. But that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible commands abusive/neglectful husbands to divorce their wives and let them go. Read more about it here.

Christian Abuse Victims Are Being Excommunicated for Divorcing. This Needs to Stop!

Thousands of Christian divorcees, perhaps a million, have already stopped attending these conservative Christian churches. These denominations need to face the truth: that THEY have presented a false choice for abuse victims. Some abused wives have been excommunicated for divorcing abusive husbands, as these stories show.

How Can You Help?

If you belong to one of these denominations or attend one of their churches, please contact them. Even if your own pastor condones divorce for abuse, please write, call, or email denomination leaders and ask that they change their official divorce policy.

If even one pastor or church leader follows these no-divorce-for-abuse policies, they are risking vulnerable people’s lives.

What to Write When Protesting the Denomination’s Divorce Stance

1. Look up the denomination’s official public stance. Download the 8-page side-by-side comparison chart to find your church’s view. Be aware that many churches have similar names, so double check.
Contact your denominational leadership and send a letter or email. Tell your story, or talk about other people’s stories (here are some examples).

2. To get ideas, here are 50 comments from marital abuse survivors who went to church leadership for pastoral care. Some got good care. Some got terrible care. They tell about their conversations with pastors and church leaders, some of whom demonstrated good wise discernment, and some showed their hardheartedness and indifference to the suffering of others.  You can also show the biblical support of divorce for abuse

3. For those who have loving pastors who defy denominational divorce policy, please THANK THEM!

There are many courageous pastors who secretly ignore the official divorce policy of the denomination and, like the courageous Hebrew midwives from the Bible, save lives.

What if My Church Changes their Official Policy?

If they have now changed their policy about divorce and abuse, then they need to post it publicly and clearly on their official website and remove their old policy. Let me know what response you receive and a link to the new policy. Then I will change my chart and article!

Sheila here: I’m so grateful that Gretchen has done all the hard work of compiling this information. Her website, The Life-Saving Divorce, is a treasure trove of resources.

The marginalized, the oppressed, and the hurt flocked to Jesus. But today, those who are divorced flee the church. How can this be? Quite simply, far too many of our churches are not acting like Jesus did.

But our churches and denominations are merely bodies, made up of people just like us. That means when we change, they can change, with enough pressure. Sometimes that pressure comes from letter writing and speaking up. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and then the pressure comes from leaving. 

I don’t know what’s right for you to do. But this cannot go on. This is an affront to Christ. 

God, have mercy.

Unsafe Policies of 20 Evangelical Denominations about Divorce for Abuse

Do any of these denominations surprise you? Do you know your denomination’s official stance? What can we do about this? Let’s talk in the comments!

Gretchen Baskerville

Author at Bare Marriage

Gretchen Baskerville is a Christian in the Los Angeles area who has been doing Christian divorce recovery ministry in churches since 1998. She has heard many many heartbreaking stories of betrayal and abuse, which inspired her book "The Life Saving Divorce."

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  1. Christopher Smith

    The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada adopted a new policy statement on Family and Marriage this last summer that includes abuse as a valid reason for divorce, as well as a robust definition of abuse. You can find it in the updated version of the denominational manual.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s wonderful! Is that just Canada, do you know, or is it the US as well?

  2. Laura

    Wow! Just wow. Where’s the fruit of the Spirit being shown in these churches’ stances about divorce? None, it seems to be all about keeping up appearances. There’s those white-washed tombs Jesus talked about in Matthew 23:27. And also, in Matthew 22:30, Jesus said there would be no marriages in the Resurrection, so why is the church so hung up on making sure all of their congregants stay married for life? Sounds like they make marriage an idol.

    Twenty years ago, I had a life-saving divorce and am so thankful I got out of an abusive situation. I attended a large megachurch in a big city so they didn’t notice when I left and joined another large church. The church that I attended when my ex and I were marriage had a Divorce Care group that I went to once. The pastor who led this group had been our counselor at one time and he (ironically was on his second marriage) had said that divorce should never be an option. Well, he did not know that my ex sexually assaulted me while I was asleep and I dare never said why I had to leave him.

    For years, I felt like I had to repent for my divorce. In women’s Bible studies I had been told things like, “Well, if you had had godly counseling your marriage could have lasted,” “Adultery is the only biblical reason for divorce,” and “God hates divorce.” I’d also hear testimonies of women who had been in toxic marriages but with lots of prayer and “obedience” to their husbands, their husbands changed and their marriages were restored. Of course, I felt like a total failure because maybe I did not try hard enough to save my marriage. Yet, I knew I had to leave. After experiencing constant sexual assault for months, I could not live this way. I no longer felt safe around my ex and he was also abusing my dog. Getting to safety was more of a priority than trying to keep up the Christian appearance of a white-washed tomb.

    So, here I am to say that I repent for feeling like I had to repent for getting a life-saving divorce. Thank you a million Sheila and team for introducing many new people and their resources. Thank you Gretchen for your ministry. I wish I had discovered you all years ago.

    • Laura

      I just remembered that the church I started attending after my divorce had a support group for domestic violence survivors. I felt welcomed there and unashamed for leaving my abusive marriage. I also gained more knowledge about abuse and that it is not only physical.

  3. Nathan

    My church isn’t on the list, but our pastor told a story last week that give me hope that we’re a little more aware of how divorce is necessary at times.

    There was a woman who lived somewhere else, and was in a physically abusive marriage. No children, she felt that she was in danger, and finally left her husband. She turned to her church leaders for help, and the only told her “It’s a command of the church that you return to your husband immediately and ask HIS forgiveness for leaving him. No mention of the abuse.

    She told them that she can’t return, she’s afraid for her life and her physical safety. They basically escorted her out of the church and told her that she was no longer welcome there.

    She moved to my town (she has friends and family here who are supportive) and for a while swore off ALL churches. Then a friend of hers convinced her to come to my church. She told her story to our pastor and elders, and they stood by her, understanding her need to get to safety.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      That first church is pure evil. The gall of people to say that God wants that evil to continue. ughh.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      For many churches, it’s more important to make sure men are in charge and can do whatever they want than it is for women and children to be safe from danger.

      In fact, if women’s safety means men are curtailed in any way, then women must be at fault. Because, in their minds, God cares more about men being in control than He does about women being safe. Men are the main story; women are merely sidekicks.

      It is pure, unadulterated evil. And it will only stop when people leave those churches.

  4. Nathan

    Looking at the “negative experience” stories from the link, it’s sad that some pastors won’t even LOOK at documented evidence of abuse.

    Also, many have the attitude of “let OTHER MEN talk to and confront your husband if he’s abusing you”. Okay, even if that’s true, it seems obvious that many churches PREACH that advice, but don’t PRACTICE it. Instead, they support and comfort the abuser while exiling the victim.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      John Piper and John Mac Arthur, for example.

  5. Viva

    In my experience, the “other men” who say they believe that abuse is occurring and want to help, confront and “hold accountable” (which is humanly impossible) always step over me to comfort my abuser. They do not check back with me after meeting with abuser (usually during coffee dates and lunches).
    This is the pattern I have experienced with multiple elders, different denominations (Plymouth Brethren, PCA, EPC, Church of Christ), pastors and other helpers over nearly three decades.

    I often imagine the Good Samaritan hopping over the beaten up victim to chase after the criminal and invite him to an ongoing feast.

    I believe that if church people say they see the abuse, they should support the victim as they confront their abuser. The victim is most often a woman. She should be sheltered, comforted and empowered to use her voice to speak directly in exhortation to her abuser. I have seen a lot of manipulation perpetuated by abusers and eventually church people because of third party “other men” given more standing to confront instead of the victim.
    If the church people see resistance to change and willfulness from the abuser there are many consistent instructions in the Bible regarding how to test and discern a person’s heart based on their behavior, and how to respond when they prove to be hard hearted.
    May we have the courage to love others by loving in truth and justice.

  6. Angharad

    Am I the only person who finds it slightly weird that the people who say ‘God hates divorce’ never say ‘God hates abusive behaviour’? It’s crazy that people focus so much on divorce that they ignore what has led up to it entirely! I’ve often had people ask me if I ‘agree’ with Christians divorcing, and I’m like ‘how can I answer that?’ because divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all. There is a huge difference between leaving a spouse who is abusive and leaving a spouse because you’re having an affair with a work colleague!

    Slightly off-topic, but on the subject of abusive family relationships…someone recently donated a copy of The Act of Marriage to our church library. Having read your comments on it, I pulled it from the shelf real fast but decided to read through it myself. Among the many other disturbing things he wrote, he gives two examples of wives he counselled. The one has trouble relating to her husband because of the sexual abuse committed by her father who is STILL in church leadership when she comes to LaHaye for counselling. The other is a woman who has trouble loving her husband because of the way he beats up their kids. Both women are told they need to repent and forgive the abuser. At NO point does he suggest reporting either of these men to the authorities for child abuse… I know it’s not spousal abuse, but I found it chilling that he completely blanks out the reports of abuse and just focuses on the wives’ ‘sin’ of not forgiving men who are physically & sexually abusing children.

    (P.S. That book is now shelved in the ’round bookcase’ – AKA the waste paper basket!)

    • Laura

      Was this the original edition (1976) that was in your church library? I heard this book was updated, but still the same sexist beliefs did not change from what I heard.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, those were disgusting anecdotes! I read them in the most updated version, too.

      • Angharad

        Scary and sad thing is that this book was donated by a recently retired church minister – and you can see the teachings in this book reflected in the way he treats his wife. It was suggested to my husband (he is also a pastor) by other church ministers that he look to this guy for mentorship as a ‘more mature and experienced pastor’ and I said ‘please don’t – I don’t want you ending up treating me the way he treats his wife’. (Glad to say he listened!)

  7. Nikki Isom

    I would put Conservative Baptist of America on this list.

  8. Rachel

    The Evangelical Covenant Church policy is about 30 years old. Nit that it excuses a poorly written and poorly thought out divorce policy. I have written to the denomination and received a response that they are pursuing a change in the written policy. Via my pastor, the new president verbally said that no credible pastor would condone staying in destructive marriages. So from the tippy top, the ECC condones divorce for safety. Now we just need to get the written position to reflect this!

  9. DragonLady

    I grew up in American Baptist Association (ABA) and Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) churches. (BMA formed from churches that split from ABA which was formed by churches that left SBC.) Unless there has been huge changes in the last few years, they do not condone divorce. I can almost guarantee that’s why my mom wouldn’t leave my abusive dad even after his bestiality and his pedophilia. Even though her brothers and sisters tried to get her to leave.

    • Anna McGuire

      I am a member of an ACNA. Can you please point me to the reference you have that leads you to claim they don’t allow divorce for the reason of abuse? My individual church certainly doesn’t uphold that , and it is shocking to me because the culture I have been exposed to at my church is just not consistent with this claim! I would want to talk to our bishop about this if that is something that is in print somewhere.

      • ObserverCN

        Same here. I belong to an ACNA church that is very welcoming of divorced people, although it doesn’t condone casual divorce. I couldn’t get the link on the chart to open.

  10. Boone

    My family, having been SBC since about 1885 when the local Missionary Baptists got mad at their betters and joined up with the SBC, I feel the need to explain the quirky way that SBC churches operate. Each church is completely autonomous. The Convention can’t tell you what to do. They can boot you if you start electing gay deacons, ordaining women pastors or baptizing babies.
    Their statement of faith is the Baptist Faith and Message which spells out the beliefs on Salvation, the Trinity, Baptism, etc. I checked the section on the family and divorce wasn’t even mentioned.
    I tried to find the resolution that your author relied on for her position but it was not to be found. I must explain how resolutions work. Each year at the convention which is attended by your senior church staff and two or three retired deacons who don’t have anything else to do, the president is elected and anybody that wants to can propose a resolution. It will come to the floor for a vote and if it passes that’s where it ends. The resolutions aren’t binding on any church or any member. It’s really quite pointless.
    Now, back to east TN. Our church has about a thousand members, the FBI couldn’t find half of them, but of the 500 or so that at least show up on Easter almost half of them are on spouse number two or three. Here people get married right out of high school and divorced in their thirties. It just isn’t an issue. Abuse cases tend to be handled by the victim’s male relatives and all that that implies. Everybody at church knows what I’ve done for a living for the past 39 years and I’m still in good standing. I even get referrals from the pastor.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Boone! I’m glad that your church supports what you do. 🙂

      I did look at the links that Gretchen provided for the SBC, and they are there. The resolution from 2010 says that divorce can only be for biblical grounds and is adamant that divorce is bad.

      I agree that the resolutions aren’t binding, but it is interesting to see what the SBC as a whole does vote to approve. I have seen quite a few SBC churches with statements of faith that say that you can’t divorce for abuse, and I have heard from people who have been running domestic violence groups in SBC churches lately who have had to stop because they were seen to encourage divorce (I can’t say more than that).

      So while some churches may be okay, I would strongly encourage people to be wary, because many churches are quite problematic!

      But, again, I’m glad yours isn’t. 🙂

      • Boone

        I think it depends on the local culture and the individual church. You can have two SBC churches across the street from each other and they be as different as night and day. For instance over in Lynchburg, TN you won’t hear any sermons on the evils of drink in any SBC church. That’s because most of the members and the deacons work at Jack Daniel’s. It’s the only real industry in Moore Co.

  11. Anonymous305

    This might explain a lot of confusing, mixed messages from my pastor. He seems to have genuine empathy for hurting people, including women, but he says contradictory things like,

    “I’m not sure if you can divorce for abuse, but definitely call the police.” Someone can be worthy of jail, but not worthy of divorce?

    “There are biblical reasons for divorce, but never give up.” Not even when Jesus says I can give up?

    “The husband has authority, but he shouldn’t use it more than 1% of the time.” What’s the point?

    My interpretation is his natural empathy is in conflict with the denomination’s requirements…that I didn’t know existed…until today. And maybe he actually believes that the denomination’s stance is God’s will, which would make his own beliefs conflict with his compassion. Just a guess, don’t know for sure. Wow.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think many pastors are honestly very compassionate and good, but they have a lot of cognitive dissonance. I hope those pastors speak up!

  12. Jes

    I have a question. Since when is it the church is authority or job to tell its congregation how to run their own lives? If God and Israel had been able to work things out, and if Israel had not been divorced by God, there would not be a church. The church is only here because Israel disobeyed and committed so much adultery that God got fed up with it and decided to start over. Pastors are not God, and thus they have no business telling their congregations how to live their own lives with regard to marriage. That stuff should be done privately. My wife and I were looking for a church one time, not because of anything related to our marriage, but because we needed to find a new church. We listened to a sermon online, and I’ll never forget it. The pastor essentially told its members to never be too quick to say no to God. If God commanded you to go on a missions trip and the wife just had a baby, the pastor actually suggested in front of the congregation, to leave the new child with relatives while the parents went on a missions trip. Utterly ridiculous. Deuteronomy 24:5 fits in here. What are these pastors thinking? Totally pathetic advice! The recent married couple who has just had a child has no business going on any sort of ministry tour. The family comes first. Well, unless you want your children to resent all the time that you were gone later in life.

  13. Lylas

    (For context, I’m a part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, although I believe my statements would also apply to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.)

    To my understanding, “adultery” and “desertion” are used as (vastly oversimplified) one-word umbrellas under which abuse would fall as a valid reason for divorce. (For whatever reason, this isn’t a topic that has had a lot of attention at the upper levels of denominational leadership, and therefore it hasn’t been hashed out and set forth as clearly as perhaps our stances on other points of doctrine have been.)

    In his Small Catechism (a brief pamphlet which every adult member of a Lutheran congregation has publicly affirmed to be an accurate summary of the Christian Faith and which most Lutheran youth are expected to memorize substantial portions of) Martin Luther provides “explanations” for each of the commandments, showing that God’s intent for us is far more extensive than just a distilled soundbite. (This is the same thing as Jesus did in Matthew 5 where He explains that lust is adultery in God’s eyes, not merely the actual physical act of sex.) Luther’s explanations are still very “soundbite”-y, as they are intended to be memorized by children, but they expand the picture a bit.

    According to the translation available at bookofconcord[dot]org, the explanation for the Sixth (as Lutherans number them) Commandment is as follows:
    “We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.”
    Therefore, if men are not loving and honoring their wives–that is, they do not “love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28), and are not fulfilling their marriage vows to love and cherish, then **they** are the ones who have committed adultery. A wife seeking a divorce in such a situation is merely seeking legal acknowledgement of the tearing asunder that has **already happened.**

    Unfortunately, we as a denomination are way more fractured (on a variety of theological topics) than we look at first glance, so your results may vary widely from congregation to congregation. But if you’re reading this, please don’t immediately write us all off because we appeared on this list. Take the time to talk one-on-one with your local pastor–you may be pleasantly surprised how compassionate he may be.

    And even if there *is* a layer of sin in seeking a divorce to escape an abusive situation (not that I’m saying there is), well, God gave the commandments in the order He did for a reason. There is a hierarchy in their order. This world is so overrun with sin that sometimes we are faced with having to choose the lesser of the two evils.
    When you’re a first-century Christian and the Romans tell you to denounce your faith, do you curse Christ (misuse God’s Name/2nd commandment) or disobey earthly authorities (the full extension of the 4th commandment to honor your parents)? When you’re a WW2 German and the Nazi’s come to your door, do you lie about your Jewish neighbors (breaking the 8th commandment about false witness) or do you rat them out and effectively murder them (5th commandment)?
    If I’m in a situation (either personally or as a confidant) where the choice appears to be between breaking the 5th commandment (all forms of physical harm, including self-harm, fall under the prohibition of murder) or the 6th (keeping the marriage bond sacred), well, I’m going to conclude that God has placed a higher value on life than marriage, “Sin Boldly” (as Luther supposedly once said), and trust that Jesus’ Blood covers me for the rest.

  14. Cynthia

    I hope there could be a follow-up of what healthy resources and supports exist to help people in abusive relationships.

    As a divorce lawyer, I see what a huge difference it makes for someone to have supports in place. There is so much that can feel overwhelming during the separation process. When I have worked with clients who came in with a professional or with a genuinely helpful and supportive friend, there was someone who could help take notes and get them organized, help with childcare, help them follow up with getting tax returns and benefits and bank statements, gently prompt with questions, organize a safety plan and provide a temporary place to stay (crucial when the cost of housing is through the roof and many victims of coercive control don’t have control over their finances). From the legal side, we have tools to eventually get things sorted out, but what happens in the initial period can be so important.

    Churches and other religious institutions can, in many cases, be a source of support in general to people. That’s wonderful, but it makes it really hard when that source of support and community suddenly gets yanked away right when someone needs it the most. Getting away from a toxic church is the first step, but finding support and community to replace it is also key.

  15. Drew

    This article is an example of why I stopped recommending this blog and books to people. this site has become so anti-church. Posting a list of churches who attempt to follow the Bible on divorce and marriage is pretty low. It doesn’t show much grace to some churches whose policies may be vague. Jesus gave a clear answer as to God’s intentions at the beginning.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      When women are being coerced to stay in abusive relationships, that matters. And the evidence for this is overwhelming. I believe that when these denominations change their policies, a lot of that will end.

      I’m curious, have you ever spoken to a woman who went to her pastor to ask about what to do about an abusive situation? And then she was told to stay in the relationship? Because I hear from these women every single day. Perhaps if you listened to those who were hurting, as Jesus did, you would have more compassion.

      • Jes

        This is why people should study scripture for themselves, rather than have some imperfect pastor play God.

  16. Natasha

    I am not here to bash Catholics as I was a Catholic for a long time and the priest I had growing up for a long time was very good and understanding, it wasn’t until we had a new priest assigned to are church around the time I was planning to get married and a new bishop in our diocese that things started taking a turn for the worse, my bishop would flat out refuse to annul marriages where there is domestic violence involved meaning in the eyes of the church, you are still married to them.

    In a lot of Catholic marriage books I have read, like I think this one called Holy Sex back when I was considering having a Catholic wedding, they said that if there is abuse involved to seek religious counseling (as opposed to a licensed counselor) and couples counseling which is the most dangerous thing for an abusive relationship, it has been a while since I read that book so there might be stuff that I missed, but that did strike me as something bad as well as the romanticizing of married sex which could cause unrealistic expectations for newlyweds. I also remember there was this story in to book of a couple whose husband would go to strip clubs and solicit prostitutes and the woman was looked as a bad person for divorcing him and remarrying even though he was committing adultery. I have wanted to apply the rubric you used to some of those Catholic marriage books for a while.

    I ended up not being able to have a Catholic wedding due to not being “open to children” even though it was dangerous for me due to my risk of postpartum psychosis as a bipolar woman to have kids plus the fact I was taking birth control for endometriosis and PMDD which they viewed was bad and not “getting to the underlying problem” and instead tried to get me to do a bunch of “natural” methods for dealing with severe pain that had little basis in science. I am glad I joined my husband’s denomination and had his pastor marry me instead and got out of that.

    I guess what I am saying is that there is still a big problem in the Catholic church with a lot of bishops not granting annulments over abuse or only certain types of abuse. While they still say civil divorce is okay, there is still that assumption that divorce is not approved due to the church not permitting you to marry again and refusing to annul your marriage and basically saying remarrying is adultery.

  17. Rebecca Noel

    Please, please include all Assembly of God churches and all non-denominational churches in your list. These are the churches I was a member of for 27 years. They do not believe in divorce for any reason. They spiritually abused me terribly. They put my children and I in danger. They are not safe havens.

  18. Mms

    The OPC monthly magazine (new horizons) in the spring i believe had an entire issue about abuse and divorce – it said that anyone, or her children, feeling unsafe, needed to contact the pastor, who is to set up a safe place with an anonymous church member for the safety of the woman/children while the church involved police if necessary. I’m don’t know why they’re on your black list.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It could be that their stated policies still say you can’t divorce for abuse. Again, what you have said means that they may support separation for abuse, but this doesn’t mean they would support a divorce. Many places allow women to leave the house–just not the marriage.

      Many churches are also doing great things to help abuse victims, but the stated policies on the website, and the stated policies of the denomination, still say no abuse.

      If you can find an official statement online where they support divorce for abuse, I know Gretchen would love to see it.


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