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Focus on the Family initially had its logo on the book Love & Respect, and heavily markets it through their website and emails, often giving it as a freebie to people who donate.

As I have talked about at length on this blog, I have grave concerns about the book. After writing my initial series on Love & Respect last year, we created a report of women’s testimonies of the harm that was done by the book, and we sent that along to Focus on the Family.

We did not hear from them, although they did answer other readers who wrote in. After I sent several emails about this, they did finally respond.

(You can view that email thread here; it shows the context of what comes below). 

In response, I wrote the letter that appears below, which I intended to be my last ditch effort to share my grave concerns about Love & Respect. I have now said it all. I wanted to encapsulate all of it in one place, and so I would like to share that letter with you today as we cap off this discussion.

For context, at the time the letter was written, the Caring Well conference, covering how to handle sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, had just ended and was front page news on Christianity Today. I reference some statements from that conference in this letter. This letter was originally addressed to Jim Daly and his assistant, Rebecca Marshall. (It was Ms. Marshall who replied to my emails on Mr. Daly’s behalf.)

I have edited the letter slightly. I have taken out some personal information, and added more to incorporate the video footage from the sermon series at Houston First Baptist, and the results from the survey we recently conducted with 22,000 respondents. 

On this, the one year anniversary of the week that our Love and Respect series first ran, I want to post it as the culmination of our discussions. My prayer is that people who work for Focus on the Family, and others who are promoting this book, will listen. Thank you for your patience and support as I’ve tried to bring these issues to light.

As I have wrestled through these issues, I remember Jesus’ words:

John 8:36

“If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”

Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

He came to set people free. Please, may 2020 be the year of the Lord’s favor, when women are set free from this bondage; when couples are free to be truly intimate and truly serve Jesus together.

Dear Jim and Rebecca:

Thank you for your letter. I know this is a difficult situation to navigate, and I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my email.

I would like now to comment on your response and shed some more light onto the problems with Love & Respect and your stance regarding the book. I realize that this will be a long email. I apologize for that, but there is much to be said, and this is important.

This email will cover:

  1. Focusing on the author’s intent rather than the author’s published words
  2. Framing things as a doctrinal issue rather than addressing the harm that has been brought to your attention
  3. The contradiction between your embrace of the book’s core message and the message you give to readers writing in and to those listening to your radio program
  4. 10 problematic things that Love & Respect states and that you apparently condone
  5. Examples of Eggerichs’ attitudes towards women who are describing marriage problems
  6. How to proceed from here

Intent vs. Results

To begin, an important point of clarification must be made. You said in your email that my interpretations of the author’s intent do not match your own. However, I am not commenting on his intent. I do not know Emerson Eggerichs; I have not attended his seminars or seen his DVDs.

(Note: I have since watched his sermon series from Houston First Baptist).

I am commenting only on his book. The public does not have access to his intent, and most have not seen his seminars or his DVDs either. They only have his words written in Love & Respect–the book that you are promoting and to which I am referring. If his intent differs from what is in his book, then he should withdraw or modify the book. The fact that he has not indicates that he stands behind it, and it is legitimate to critique it. Thus, I believe his intent is irrelevant. What matters is his book and the teachings that it contains, and it is that which I wish to address.

Doctrine vs. People

You have framed my issues with the book Love & Respect as a doctrinal disagreement. However, doctrine is not the primary problem I have been raising in my emails. What I have been talking about, again and again, through my emails and my report, is that real harm is being done to real people with this book. I would hope that preventing the abuse and mistreatment of women is something that all can agree on, regardless of doctrine.

I have asked you, again and again, to take heed of the stories of abuse that have escalated when people read Love & Respect. As Beth Moore said last week at the SBC Caring Well conference, hyper-complementarianism is often used to promote and justify abuse, and is heavily implicated in abuse. The fact that you would repeatedly disregard the harm that I have brought to your attention, and that your team would disregard the harm that my readers have repeatedly raised, and that you would instead frame it simply as a doctrinal issue, is highly concerning.

To paraphrase Diane Langberg from the Caring Well conference, “Jesus was not crucified for our doctrines. They are not eternal. We are.”

Or, to put it another way, a person is not a doctrinal disagreement.

Here are just two stories of real people that I pulled out of the report that we sent you:

Years ago, when in the throes of my husband’s sexual addiction, which had starting progressing beyond porn, a marriage mentor at our former church made it all about respecting him. She told me I was fully responsible for making him feel 100% respected and like a man. Over the next year, our marriage mentor asked at every meeting if he felt more respected and if I felt more loved than the previous week. He happily reported each week that he was feeling more and more respected, while I was becoming severely depressed each week as I was feeling less and less loved. He was reaping the benefits of “unconditional respect,” while still fulfilling his sexual needs outside of our marriage, ignoring and neglecting my sexual needs, emotional needs, etc., and being verbally and emotionally abusive to me. Practicing unconditional respect, especially while my husband blatantly showed no desire to behave respectably, nearly killed me. I became near suicidal from depression. Fortunately we’ve gotten away from that person, and that church, we have found good counselors and recovery groups, and he and I are both much better today.

If you had asked me at the time of reading Love and Respect what I thought of it, I’m sure I would have said positive things. Those were the days-excuse me, YEARS of trying to fix my rotten marriage by myself. My husband and I are still together after 21 years of marriage but only after he filed for divorce, I moved out and finally understood and then faced the hard truths of what a mess our marriage was. My part being that I could/should hang in there and keep trying selflessly no matter what. I stopped going to church because of not wanting to be around that type of teaching anymore. Still love Jesus of course. I had read every marriage book that I could get my hands on. I’m free from that now, thank God. It’s terrible to live through emotionally abusive crap for 19 years and with every turn and all advice being to fix myself. Ugh. Much better since I learned to be me without the brainwashing. No longer do I believe so many unhealthy teachings. Never will I go back to works based sacrificing my life only to promote more selfishness in my husband. I’m finally free and back with my husband and he has become better since I changed my wrong beliefs and ways of handling marriage.

I have just finished a massive, comprehensive survey of more than 22,000 Christian women, asking over 150 questions about their marital and sexual satisfaction. In that survey, I left open-ended questions where people could name resources that helped their marriages and those which harmed their marriages. I did not list any resources; people volunteered them on their own.

Love & Respect was the most frequently mentioned resource that harmed marriages. For every 10 women who said Love & Respect helped their marriage, 15 volunteered that it harmed them. Two women even reported that the book nearly killed them–one said, “without exaggeration” and one “almost literally”. This book has hurt people, and that matters, because they matter. 

The Inconsistency of Your Message

In the original emails sent on behalf of Focus on the Family by Tammy Masters to those who raised concerns about Love & Respect, it was implied that Focus on the Family did not recommend Love & Respect for “troubled or destructive marriages”. However, in your recent email to me, you seem to be contradicting that position, now saying that you stand behind the book’s core message and believe that it helps marriages. You are giving one message to listeners, and another one to me. I assume this is because you have since clarified your response. I would respectfully ask, then, that you craft a different email for readers who write in from now on, embracing the book as you have done with me, so that you do not mislead them and they can judge accordingly.

I must infer from what you have said, as well, that you believe that the book is helpful for troubled or destructive marriages.

I would thus like to draw your attention to how Love & Respect recommends handling a situation in a troubled marriage. The book directs wives who need to confront a husband in sin to a story in the Appendix, where Eggerichs gives lengthy advice on how a wife can influence a workaholic in a respectful, godly way:

To influence him directly, respectfully say, “Your son (daughter, children) needs you at home more. You have a unique influence on him. In certain areas, nobody matters to him as much as you do. It may not appear that way to you, but your positive presence has the power to mold him. I know you are swamped and have little time, but I also know that you want to give him that part of you that no one else can give to him. Thanks.”

After delivering your “we need you at home more” message, don’t repeat it for anywhere from ten to twenty days. Then mention it again, quietly and positively with the general tone of “just a positive reminder because of your importance”….

Quietness shouts loudly.

So Emerson Eggerichs’ instructions on how a woman can deal with a husband’s sin or destructive behaviour is to say 2-3 sentences once, and then be quiet for 10-20 days. I should note that this does not line up with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15-17.

On pages 274-275 of the book, Eggerichs gives his philosophy of what unconditional love and respect look like with the reward cycle:

“To the world, it may make no sense for a wife to put on respect toward a husband who is harsh and unloving. It makes no sense for a husband to put on love toward a contemptuous, disrespectful woman. But it makes sense to God. These seemingly fruitless efforts matter to God because this is the kind of service he rewards. What is wisdom to God is foolishness to the world (see 1 Corinthians 3:19). One way I like to picture this is that there is a cha-ching! effect in heaven when believers do things the world might call stupid. It’s as though a billion angels are holding a gigantic handle. Each time you do something loving or respectful toward your spouse, the angels pull down on that handle. A secret treasure dumps into a colossal golden bowl and cha-ching! The lead angel exclaims, “He did it again! He put on love toward that disdainful woman!” … “She did it again! She put on respect toward that pathetic man! Okay, everyone, hit it again! Cha-ching!”

Emerson Eggerichs

Love & Respect, Pages 274-275

He is telling a woman married to a harsh and unloving man (a classic description of an abusive husband) that she must respect him (do the things included in the acronym CHAIRS), and when she does, a billion angels celebrate. Even if others warn her that this advice is “stupid”, and even if she instinctively realizes this will only make the situation worse (as it did not for the two women’s stories mentioned above, and for many of my survey respondents), she must disregard that feeling. Rather than confront her husband in his sin, she is to endure his harsh and unloving behaviour (his abuse) as service to God.

This, quite frankly, is terrible and dangerous advice, and goes against the plurality of published marriage advice about enabling bad behaviour and growing intimacy. It also goes directly against the Southern Baptist Convention’s new resolutions about caring well for those in abusive marriages.

More importantly for this conversation, though, it contradicts many, many other authors that you have featured on your radio show. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, for instance, say that this type of advice is bunk. In their books about boundaries, they show how “respect” of the kind Eggerichs instructs is both untenable and unbiblical, and then they instruct people to stop interrupting the Law of Sowing and Reaping so as to allow the offender to bear the consequences for his misdeeds. At the end of the book Boundaries in Marriage, Cloud and Townsend also directly address the theology that is used in Love & Respect and show why this view of submission, which states that a woman must bear with sinful and harsh behaviour, is wrong.

You also feature Leslie Vernick, who explicitly teaches that saying very little to the spouse and expecting change will do nothing but enable the problem to continue. Gary Thomas has also stated that enabling bad behaviour is wrong: if you love someone, you wouldn’t want them to continue in sin. Thus, he argues, it is incumbent upon a wife to do something about that bad behaviour. In his book Lifelong Love, for instance, he talks about a wife throwing out her husband’s porn stash as an act of love. He, too, believes in boundaries, as his recent book When to Walk Away shows. And there are many more guests of yours that I could name (including myself) who have given the healthy message of how to confront a spouse doing something wrong.

You routinely feature guests who teach that the passive female behaviour advocated by Eggerichs isn’t just ineffective; it’s dangerous and can do harm. But then, incongruously, you also say that you stand behind Eggerichs’ core message.

By featuring guests like Vernick, Cloud, Townsend, Thomas, even myself, you prime your audience to think, “Focus on the Family is a safe place. They give advice which actually works.” But then you turn around and heavily promote Love & Respect, which teaches the opposite. Essentially, you’re doing a bait & switch.

You make people think that Focus on the Family is a safe resource by featuring healthy perspectives on your show, but then you market Love & Respect to those same listeners, or offer the book as an incentive for donations. You give your seal of approval to Love & Respect–a seal of approval that you earned through featuring teaching diametrically opposed to Love & Respect.

Examples of What You Are Affiliating with By Endorsing Love & Respect

By endorsing this book, you are implicitly endorsing all of the following views found in Love & Respect.

1. A man has desperate needs; a woman only has desires.

Please note that in the title itself, respect is something that a man “desperately needs”, while love is merely something she “most desires”. From the very start, Eggerichs is framing the man’s needs as being more important than the woman’s.

2. Sex is only for a husband’s physical release.

Love & Respect repeatedly says sex is for a husband’s physical release (p. 250). Eggerichs never gives in his book any other reason for sex–not intimacy; not growing the relationship; not feeling close. It is only about the husband having an orgasm.

3. Women’s sexual pleasure is so unimportant it’s not even worth mentioning.

In the book, he never once talks about how sex should feel good for the woman, too. In fact, he explicitly says that sex doesn’t take very long, so why wouldn’t she do it (p. 252–“Why would you deprive him of something that takes such a short amount of time and makes him sooooo happy!?”)? By endorsing this book, you are saying that you think it’s healthy to write a whole chapter in a marriage book about how a husband needs sex, but never once mention that a woman should feel pleasure as well, or that the husband has any obligation to ensure she does so. You think it’s okay to treat her sexuality as an afterthought, if that.

4. If a physically abusive husband “repents”, he should be allowed back in the house, and it’s now the wife’s job to not react to his anger.

You agree that it’s okay to frame a physically abusive spouse as only needing to “repent” to be let back into the home (p. 278), without a warning about the prevalence of the “love bombing” phenomenon–whereby a husband says all the right things to be allowed to return, but then becomes even more abusive afterwards. You agree that it’s safe and healthy to not warn women that true repentance must be accompanied by the fruits of repentance, and that these fruits must be demonstrated over a long period of time. And you agree that it’s wise counsel to then portray the problems in this relationship as resting on her shoulders, because she must now learn not to react to her abusive spouse’s anger, since to do so is disrespectful.

5. If a man is “drinking or straying”, he should be shown respect, rather than boundaries

You endorse the belief that the cure for any problem in a marriage is for the wife to respect her husband, no matter what he is doing. A man who is committing adultery or who is drinking heavily still needs to be respected (p. 88). And what does the word “respect” mean? On page 68, Eggerichs says that respect our husband in the way we respect a boss. He then elaborates using the CHAIRS acronym. So a wife to a husband who is drinking or straying must still treat him as her boss and presumably abide by all of the CHAIRS elements, including having sex with him; allowing him to make all the decisions; respecting his authority, and so on. You apparently have no problem with this advice being given to a woman married to an adulterous or alcoholic man.

6. If a woman is upset that a man leaves wet towels on the bed, it’s okay if the husband then denies the wife love–and it’s okay if he teaches his sons to ignore their mother’s correction, too.

In one of the worst anecdotes that my readers have repeatedly commented on, Emerson Eggerichs recounts how he leaves wet towels on the bed (among other things), and his wife Sarah would become upset about him for this (pages 242-243). She would ask her husband and her sons to stop doing this, but they did not listen. When she returned after being away for a week, Eggerichs told her that he didn’t miss her, and that he and the boys enjoyed being without her. Thus, by his own definition, he denied her love because she was asking him to not leave wet towels on the bed.

Let’s note, please, that it takes no more effort to put a wet towel on the floor (and only marginally more to hang it up) than to put it on the bed. By putting it on the bed, he is making more work for his wife, who will have to rescue that towel before it necessitates all the bedding being changed or causes the comforter/bedspread to grow mildewy over time. The immaturity in this anecdote is quite astounding, especially as he used it to illustrate how it was Sarah who was being disrespectful, completely ignoring the disrespectful way he was treating her, not least by standing with the boys against their mother. Demanding your wife respect you should not give a man permission to act like a petulant child, or to undermine the authority a mother has over her sons. 

The resolution to this issue was that Emerson could continue to leave wet towels on the bed, and Sarah stopped asking him not to.

By endorsing this book, you are comfortable blaming a wife if she does not cater to her husband’s immaturity and selfishness.

7. Women are more easily deceived, and thus should not listen to their intuition, or the still, small voice in them.

Women can’t trust the messages they hear or believe, because they are so easily deceived (p. 230). Thus, they should trust the husband’s intuition, and not their own. When a woman believes something, she should disregard her opinion in favour of her husband’s perspective, in direct violation of 1 Timothy 2:5; Matthew 6:33; Acts 5:29; the events in Acts 5:1-11; and the events in 1 Samuel 25. It should be noted, as well, that Emerson Eggerichs makes this point by distorting Scripture. He says that Eve was deceived and then took the fruit to Adam (p. 230); Scripture, on the other hand, says that Adam was standing right there with her (Genesis 3:6).

You feel that this description of women is fair and correct, and do not take issue with the misuse of Scripture to support it.

8. A husband can criticize what he does not like about his wife, such as her weight gain, but she must not bring up what she doesn’t like about him–even if her concerns involve sin issues like porn use.

In chapter 19, Eggerichs gives this example of a wife being disrespectful:

For example, on occasion a husband may venture into that dangerous territory known as “Honey, you’re putting on a few pounds.” In truth, it is far more than a few pounds – his wife has let herself go, and he feels it is time to be honest. What he usually gets in return is, “You should love me no matter how I look.” Or he may be told he knows nothing about her eating disorder and that he should be checking on his own potbelly. If the husband is on the trim side (as many men with very overweight wives often are), she will bring up some other log that he needs to get out of his own eye – that time she caught him viewing internet pornography or overindulging in alcohol…The point is, it’s easy for a wife to discount or disparage a husband’s suggestion that she has some problem that needs correcting.”

In this anecdote, the husband is presented as being in the right for wanting his wife to lose weight, and the wife is in the wrong if she brings up his use of pornography (something heavily linked to a husband’s rejection of his wife’s body) or alcohol use.

While it can be debated that one should accept criticism without deflecting blame, the fact that Eggerichs mentions porn use in passing, but then treats it as unimportant, is alarming. If a wife catches a husband using porn, it is generally not a one-time slip-up. Considering that porn is a factor in over 50% of Christian marriages by some stats, it is incumbent on all marriage authors to treat this seriously. He uses this anecdote to show how a wife may need correcting for losing weight, but never mentions how a wife may correct a husband for using porn (except presumably to use the strategy in the appendix, where you may say 2-3 sentences once, but then must stay silent for 10-20 days).

You thus agree with Love & Respect that a husband’s criticism of the wife’s appearance is more important than a wife’s concern over her husband’s porn use.

9. Since women have body image issues that they expect their husbands to understand, then women should understand that husbands will naturally struggle with lust and be tempted towards affairs. To become upset at this is disrespectful.

You agree with Eggerichs that a wife struggling with body image issues is the equivalent to a husband struggling with lust (p. 256). You think it’s reasonable that if a wife wants to be able to talk to her husband about her body image issues, then she must have empathy when he admits that he struggles with picturing other women naked or imagining doing sexual things with them. You think it’s reasonable to expect a wife to listen to a husband explain how he struggles with wanting other women sexually, and that this struggle should not have any more emotional weight on the wife than her struggle with body image has on the husband.

10. If a husband has an affair, the wife is at least partly to blame because she isn’t having enough sex (p. 252-255)

This seems to be a theme in several books Focus on the Family promotes and publishes: If a husband has an affair, figure out the role the wife must have played (for instance, your recent release, How God Used the Other Woman, is based on the author asking herself, “what role did I play in this?”). You seem quite comfortable laying part of the blame for affairs at the innocent spouse’s feet. On your broadcast on November 5, you also stated that the reason that men often turn to porn is because women don’t have sex, ignoring the research on how porn use before marriage affects marriage. This seems to be a perspective that Eggerichs endorses that you also are comfortable spreading, though I must suggest that this is highly problematic and unscriptural.

These are only ten things that I pulled out very quickly from Love & Respect. There are many, many more, and I confined myself to ten for the sake of the length of this email, not because these are the only problematic elements of the book.

If you do not agree with any of these ten, then you should be issuing disclaimers and warnings every time you talk about the book. You do this frequently whenever you have single-parent guests on your show, so it should be no problem to do it with Love & Respect. The fact that you do not issue disclaimers gives your implicit endorsement to these 10 things.

Thus, I ask you to consider two questions:

  1. Where, in any of these 10 things, do you see Jesus?
  2. What do you think your listeners would think about these 10 things? What do you think people outside the church, whom you are trying to reach, would think? If your average person recognizes that these are horrendous, why do you continue to support them?

Examples of Eggerichs’ Dismissal of Women’s Negative Experiences with Love & Respect

We are not the first to raise the issue that the core message of Love & Respect–that message which you say that you support–leads to harm. Eggerichs himself has admitted it multiple times, including in the book itself and on his blog.

1. In Love & Respect, Eggerichs admits that a woman’s husband used the respect message to rage at her.

Before Eggerichs even wrote the book he had women saying, “when you give this message, the men take it to mean that they can treat us horribly.” That should have given him a warning that his message had serious flaws, but he did not heed that warning.

“Now whenever he senses anything that smacks of disrespect, even when it isn’t, it reminds him of our pasts and he gets infuriated. I haven’t seen such rage in awhile… Actually, I regret letting him know what I had learned from you because he used it against me each time… I can take on the criticism – I feel I deserve it – but his rage is withering and makes me want to get away and hide.” (p. 282-283).

2. In this blog post, Eggerichs blames a marital breakdown on a woman’s lack of respect, though he shows the husband pulling away first.

He discusses how people often go to Love & Respect conferences and feel great in their marriages for a few weeks, but then end up divorced anyway. In explaining why this happens, he puts the blame entirely on the woman.

“[H]e doesn’t [keep showing love], she returns to reacting without respect! Then…he reacts without love…she needs to return to what she did at first: putting on respect in the face of un-love.”

So, to sum up:

  1. She shows him respect.
  2. He shows her love.
  3. He stops showing her love, even as she continues showing him respect.
  4. She stops showing him respect, as a result of his unlove.

And who is to blame for this? Her, of course!

Eggerichs lays the blame for the crazy cycle on the wife, despite the fact that the husband erred first. Somehow, according to Eggerichs, the wife’s response to the husband’s behaviour caused the behaviour that she was responding to. I don’t know how he squares that circle.

3. Eggerichs posts an email showing how the Love & Respect Bible study caused the men to become condescending towards their wives–and then blames the wives.

In his post “Not Wrong: Just Different But Valuable”, he quotes a woman reporting this:

“For the most part the men in our small group are not “getting” that their wives have insight also. There being a scriptural command to respect and value men does not give license for them to disregard what their wives think. If there is one weakness in the material, we are finding it is the omission of the value of a woman’s insight; not as the leader but as an integral part of information gathered for the decision-making. . . . While this is not a problem in our own marriage, it seems to be a major one for the other couples. Listening to the material seems to have swung the pendulum the other direction so far. How to love your wife is being translated into a condescending attitude.”

This woman is explaining how she and her husband had hosted a small group DVD study, and the wives complained that their husbands had become condescending and treated them worse since working through the material.

I will summarize Eggerichs’ reply:

  •  No man has any reason to ignore or dismiss a godly wife. It’s in his best interests to listen to her.
  •  Thus, if a man is ignoring his wife or being condescending, it must be because she is not acting in a godly way.
  •  He then quotes four verses in Proverbs about the problems of nagging wives.
  •  Later in the email, he instructs her to think about what 1 Peter 3:1-2, insinuating that she should be silent and stop complaining.

This is classic gaslighting. A woman writes in saying, “the men are treating the women horribly,” And he replies, “No, they’re actually not. The problem must be with you, and you should be quiet.” And then he weaponizes Scripture against her, using it in a horribly irresponsible and illegitimate way. My husband and I recorded a podcast going over this answer, because it was so egregious.

How does this reply show any respect to women? Do you think it’s appropriate to quote verses about nagging wives to a woman saying that the men are treating their wives in a condescending way? Do you want Focus on the Family to be affiliated with this? I challenge you to read that blog post and show me any way in which Eggerichs does not completely dismiss women’s experiences and tell women that they are responsible for their husbands’ ill-treatment of them. I will assume, by your refusal to distance yourself from this book, that you endorse this message and think this is a fair way to counsel women with legitimate concerns.

4. At Houston First Baptist, Emerson Eggerichs mocked those who are concerned that his teachings can lead to emotional abuse, and claimed that all men are accused of abuse when really they’re just being honorable.

Despite the fact that, statistically speaking, hundreds of women in this audience will be suffering from domestic abuse and emotional abuse, and at least 50 will be married to narcissists, Eggerichs used those worrying about enabling abuse as the butt of condescension and derision. He went on to explain that men are often accused of being abusive when really they are being honorable. Anyone sitting in the congregation will hear the message: If I think my husband is abusive, I’m wrong. The problem is with me. My husband is actually a godly man, and I’m blaming him because I’m the one in the wrong. Again, this is a dangerous, and even evil, message to give. I will let the videos speak for themselves (and you can see the full videos here):

Where We Go From Here

In light of all that I have shared, I hope you understand that this is not something where I think we can “agree to disagree”. When real people are being harmed in the Christian community, it is incumbent upon us to stop that harm. That is your job. That is your calling.

You are refusing to do it, and so others will have to take up the reins. You have consistently refused to distance yourself from this, and so others of us will have to speak even more loudly.

That is a tragedy for the Christian church. I implore you to watch the speeches from the SBC Caring Well conference, and heed their warnings. Ignoring abuse not only allows it to continue, but always, always, always ends up coming back on the organizations who disregarded warnings.

I’m afraid it will do the same to you here. In that same survey where Love & Respect was the most commonly mentioned hurtful resource, many also called out Focus on the Family as being harmful (and you were the fifth most mentioned harmful resource). For every eighteen people who said that you helped them, another 10 said that you hurt them. By not distancing yourself from harmful teaching, you are hurting your listeners.

I also want to speak directly to your staff who will also be reading this letter.

Dear people: I know that you signed on to Focus on the Family to help marriages. I know that so many who work at Focus love Jesus and want to bring His love to families and individuals. And I know that many of you reading this are dismayed, too. You know this is not right. So I urge you to speak up. You did not go to work for Focus on the Family to unintentionally enable abuse. I pray that you will be courageous. God did not give you a Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Now, to Jim and others in the President’s Office: If your stance has not changed, even after reading all of this, there is no need to craft a reply. It is enough, for me, to know that you have read this and, despite all the evidence of harm that I have included, have chosen to stick by Love & Respect.

However, you need to understand that over the next few years you will be under increasing scrutiny for how your counselors advise abuse victims; for what you say about abuse; and for the resources you support. You will not be able to hide behind doctrinal differences. I cannot urge you strongly enough, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our advocate, to examine yourselves now and do the right thing. If you would like some help with this, I would be glad to be part of that process, and I have many others I can recommend to help you with this too. I do believe that you are committed to the health and welfare of families. I just also believe that you are missing the mark right now, and this is going to become increasingly serious for you.

At the Caring Well conference, J.D. Greear said that, in the past, the Southern Baptist Convention treated warnings from survivors like Tiffany Thigpen, Christa Brown, Jules Woodson, and others as “attacks from adversaries instead of warnings from friends.” I mean this letter as a warning from a friend.

When you are in ministry, a friend is someone who spurs you on towards love and good deeds. That is what I am trying to do now.

I pray that you will realize this soon, while you have time to decide to make a course correction, rather than realize it too late, as the SBC did, and find that course correction being forced upon you.

In Him,

Sheila Gregoire


Note: Since sending this letter in October of 2019, I have received no reply.

UPDATE: Focus on the Family has responded by issuing a public statement in which they present factually inaccuracies about me (things that they KNOW are untrue), and accuse those of feeling the book is harmful of having “nefarious intent”.

Read their full statement here.

Read my statement in response here.

You can respond to Focus on the Family through leaving a review on their Facebook Page, or through their contact page on their website. You can also leave a comment on this post.

If you agree with this letter, and want to add your voice to it, please leave a comment in support of it.

And if you want to say something directly to Focus on the Family, use the comments section to do so. I know they will be reading this.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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