Dear OPC: Amendments

First and foremost, I want to thank you for the abundant encouragement and support I’ve received after publishing my, Open Letter to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) Regarding Abuse. On Saturday alone, I received over 50 private messages, in addition to numerous public comments on my website, Facebook, and Twitter. Today, more communications are pouring in. I plan to respond to you all, but it will take me some time, so please me patient with me, and pray for my wisdom and peace.

Of particular note, I want to thank OPC pastors Andrew Moody, Mika Edmonson, Bill Shishko, Joe Troutman, and Andy Webb for their kindness in reaching out to me both publicly and in private.

While the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, I do want to clarify a few misunderstandings, as well as add some important details. I also would like to encourage anyone with questions to contact me directly. I want to know when I’ve been unclear. If anything I say is confusing or needs further explanation, please reach out. I desire understanding and peace.

Yesterday, I had a phone conference with Todd Bordow, my elder Drew Barnes, and my husband, Jason Greenberg. Todd and Drew have assured us that the session of Cornerstone OPC wants to work with me to address abuse in the church.

[A section of this article has been removed, because after talking to the pastor in question, he listened to my concerns, repented, prayed with me, and we have reconciled. I am still working diligently within the OPC and my Presbytery to address issues of abuse and to ensure that pastors understand Texas mandatory reporting laws. You can learn more about Texas mandatory reporting laws here. – Jennifer, 10/30/2020]

The Presbytery of the Southwest

I have recently learned that the OPC Presbytery of the Southwest has called the authorities on Gary Davenport, and they have set up meetings with Gary’s current church oversight to warn them.

Though they cancelled a recent meeting to address abuse, I am relieved to learn that they’re planning another meeting in the near future. I look forward to working with them to equip our leadership in recognizing abuse in both the home and the church, from the perspective of someone who has experienced both personally. This does not take away my concerns with the Presbytery, or the OPC, but I am beginning to hear from more and more pastors, and see a growing desire to address this topic honestly. Please, thank God with me for this. It feels like rain after a drought for me.

Finding My Voice

For 20 years, I have waited for good men to take action; for righteousness to prevail. I told my stories to pastors, hoping they’d take action to institute change, or at least approach at-fault leaders to ask them to apologize and reconcile with me. That never happened, and that is unfortunate. I am eager to do my best to help the OPC change, and will continue to speak up whenever I can. I know none of these problems are unique to my denomination, but that is the one I was in when I was abused, and as I have stated before publicly, I still love the OPC. I have many godly brothers who are OPC pastors and elders. That is why I want to work from the inside to help it and change this aspect of it.

My prayer is that the OPC becomes better equipped to identify and reject the wolves and will stand with me against those who perpetuate or tolerate abuse. I desire to be submissive to my session in all of this, and ultimately to Jesus Christ. I am grateful for their guidance and wisdom, and thankful I’m not alone as I call out this evil.

Glen Clary and Andrew Moody, among other OPC pastors and elders, are working behind the scenes to equip churches to better handle abuse. When the meeting we were planning was canceled, I was only told it was because Gary Davenport is in another denomination now, and that his new church would hopefully address the situation. My hope – something which I had not felt in so long, and which had been building up for weeks in anticipation of that meeting – came crashing down.

You know how, when you have a cut in your mouth, and you bite it again, it hurts even worse than the first time? And every time after that, it hurts a little worse? Injured hope is like that too. And that’s when I decided to go public. It was a last-ditch effort to get anyone to listen, even if I had to sacrifice my friendships in the OPC to do it. I was afraid the issue was slipping back into the shadows. I have since learned, that these men are still planning a meeting, but they’re waiting for the COVID-19 shutdown to lift, so we can all meet in person, and not be separated behind screens. It is my dearest wish that these plans continue, and this meeting take place. Please, support these pastors in their efforts. What they’re doing means more to me than words can express.

Some have said they feel I’m attacking the OPC. That is far from my intention. If a drowning person grasps out for help, they are not attacking you. They desperately need you. I desperately need you. Some have asked if I’m leaving the church. But I love the OPC, and I particularly love Cornerstone. However, what has happened to me over the decades must never be allowed to happen to another child in our denomination. We are better than this. Our kids deserve better than this. If I did not use my experience to protect our children, what kind of a person would I be? What kind of parent? Not a good one. I am emotional and I am distressed, yes. I’ve slept 2 hours in the past 24. So, please do not think I’m am venting for revenge or lashing out because it feels good. This is extremely difficult for me. But I am determined to do what I believe God wants, regardless of how painful it is, or how it might look to those who can’t understand.

I am not rescinding my original letter; however, I will be adding to it. Due to the nature of this medium, I had to leave out a great amount of history, personal insights, and other factors that matter deeply for context. My Open Letter is around six pages long. It could have been 60,000 words, but fearing that no one would read anything longer, I crammed my most urgent fears, pains, anxieties, and entreaties into as short an article as I could manage. It is a call to action. A desperate plea. It should not be interpreted as a detailed history, let alone a deposition. It’s a love letter, albeit, a heartbroken and panicked one.

What I have given you is an overview. A snapshot of my life from 30,000 feet. Now I want to take you down closer to the ground, so I can sculpt out the landscape, explain the chemistry, flesh out the personalities, and expose dangerous theologies. In doing so, my prayer is to help you see what I see. I aspire to equip you to better protect our children, so no one is ever placed in Adam’s position again. I aspire to make the OPC unsafe for abusers. My education in this area has been extremely costly, so please be patient with me as I wrestle through my anxieties.

With the help of Todd Bordow and my church session, I will be publishing a series of letters to shed light on the truth and expose abusive patterns. My list so far (which I may adapt as I go along) includes:

An Open Letter to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC):

  • I: Regarding Abuse
  • II: Regarding Good Men
  • III: Regarding Bear-Bait Theology – how to not attract abusers to your church
  • IV: Regarding Wounded Sheep – how to respond to stories of abuse

I will be the first to tell you that I come from a perspective of severe distrust, fear, and sorrow. I have nearly lost hope, and I confess that I expect to be abandoned. This expectation of rejection and disbelief makes it difficult for me to reach out optimistically. It is not that I don’t want to trust. It’s that I’ve already trusted so many times, and I feel all my trust has been bled out of me. Where I used to feel hope, I have this gaping wound. Where I’ve always wanted to serve the OPC, I feel shredded and disregarded. But we can change that. God has healed me from worse things, and he will heal me again.

I do not wish to harm the OPC, but I have been grievously harmed within it. I fear that to apologize for my grief could imply to other survivors that they should not express their own grief, so I cannot do that. Rather, I beg you to be patient with me. Try to see the world and our denomination through my eyes. I want it to be my home, but I also want it to be safe. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to any of our kids. Perhaps, if we work together, I can help you understand me. Then maybe, when you encounter another victim, you’ll be able to spare them from the harm I’ve experienced.

Thank you for reading.

Comments 9

  1. Jennifer, thank you. I too, have been harmed within the OPC, and called on my own (now former) elders to “do better.” Your letters express so much better what I wanted to say. I *don’t* want to malign, or ‘get people in trouble,’ but there’s a fire in the building. If we say nothing, but watch other dear souls enter, we’re complicit in its destruction and that of those inside. My own letter also ended with “Please, Gentlemen. Do better.” (It also begged them to read Todd Bordow, for whom I am also grateful). May God bless your desire for truth and dignity for all His beloved.

    1. Post
  2. Thanks again for your courage Jennifer! I’d like to post a couple of resources that might help congregations care well for abuse survivors. The first is an entire free online curriculum. It features Rachel Denhollander, Dr. Diane Langberg, myself and others detailing ways to help the church care well.

    The second is an amazing talk given by Rachel DenHollander at our church (New City Fellowship OPC) a few years ago. Rachael Denhollander is an advocate and educator who became known internationally as the first woman to file a police report and speak publicly against Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. As a result of her activism, over 250 women came forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse, leading to his life imprisonment.

    I hope these resources serve you well.

  3. Yes, yes, Praying the OPC learns and growns in the area of seeking to help those in these hard situations. “The do nothing” tendency is so hurtful. Yes, yes. Please gentlemen do better! Thankful to hear of the good responses you are getting now.

    1. Post
  4. Thank you Jennifer for sharing your experience. I am a student in seminary and this was instrumental in bringing me to understand the danger and complexity of abuse inside the church. I am looking forward to your upcoming additions to your experience. I am not in the OPC, but I hope your testimony here will be instrumental in waking up other church’s to the problem with in their own fellowship.

    1. Post

      Thank you, Peter! I’m hopeful and thankful that God is raising up more pastors and church leaders such as yourself who care for the oppressed and desire to understand this issue. I will certainly be posting more. Please let me know if you have any specific questions or topics you’d like me to address. Thank you for your service to God’s kingdom.

  5. Jennifer,

    My heart bleeds for the pain you have endured. Thank you for speaking out even in the face of much cost to yourself. I’m praying that your choice to speak out will be blessed to shine forth the truth of Christ’s name and character (because as you too well know, it is trampled and maligned when abuse is not confronted particularly in ‘Christian’ homes and churches), to aid in your own healing, to protect others from being similarly abused, and to teach churches how to rightly minister to the abused

    I have my own story of domestic abuse and painful waiting for my church and it’s leadership to understand and support. Throughout that time I believed it was my duty to stay and “minister Christ” to my husband.

    I was frantically searching for help, for Biblical responses to what I was living. God graciously answered and brought a new pastor and his wife who understood abuse and ministered Christ’s protecting and self-sacraficial love to me, as well as the book “Cry for Justice” by Jeff Crippen (cannot recommend highly enough) into my life. I realized that there was beginning to be help available for the partner in a domestic abuse situation, but what about for the children, such as my own, who witnessed abuse of their parent and then often endured episodes turned on them as well?

    As I read your postings, it struck me that you are THAT generation. The child witnessing abuse from one parent to another. The child experiencing abuse from the actively abusing parent. The child churned with emotion against the other parent, who while perhaps not actively abusing you, failed obtain the safety for that you so badly needed. The fact that your faith has remained in tact is indeed a testament to God’s keeping.

    Please, please to those considering how to rightly respond to domestic abuse – please provide help, and ministering that addresses BOTH perspectives – the child (even if they are adults now) and the abused spouse.

    Thank you, Jennifer! Thank you for speaking out! May God bless, comfort, protect, strengthen, and equip you in this spiritual battle.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.