When Quiverfull Churches Crash and Burn?

When Quiverfull Churches Crash and Burn? July 29, 2019
The night the church literally burned down in Copey de Dota, Costa Rica across the street from our guesthouse. August 2017.

Today is a little different. Instead of quoting some Quiverful enforcer saying very wrong things I think we need to look at churches in Quiverfull, how they operate, the tendency to split, the drama and the sturm and drang to the nth degree. When Quiverfull churches crash and burn.

When I left my old Quiverfull church, Possum Creek, I’d been a member of for many years and there had already been a pile of ‘church splits’. Why did they  happen? Over a pile of silly things. One split happened  because a group of ladies stuck in unhappy abusive marriages demanded the pastor kick out all church members who’d been divorced, no matter the reason. Once the split was over head coverings, with those demanding all women wear head coverings all the time departing to find a purer church.

See what I mean about the silly? One thing most of the splits had in common at our very patriarchal church is that they were largely spearheaded by supposedly submitting very hard women. There is something inherently backwards about Quiverfull and the role of women. Many times these ladies that made the most noise about joyfully submitting, the Lori Alexanders of this world, were actually doing the most controlling things behind the scenes. A weird secretive version of the Power and Control wheel needs to be updated just for Quiverfull.

After I left things continued on, church splits, people announcing that this or that action had to happen, before leaving the church. One of the splits saw roughly three quarters of the members deciding to up and go to a different church Church of the Hill. That other church had only 20 members, so the influx of suddenly two hundred more was a shock. I watched that the old church members took over the new church, creating more drama before all departing two years later for other places, leaving the pastor and that church pretty wrecked.

Back at Possum Creek the thirty or so members remained. They renamed the church after claiming someone was spreading lies about it online. This was ten years ago, and in the ensuing years I’d hear things about the happenings there. The pastor I knew raided the endowment funds and various accounts to keep paying himself and quit when the money ran out. In ten years they went through a huge pile of young pastors.

Now I heard, and confirmed that the church has been sold. The church, and the land it sits upon, and the monies divided among the few members of the Elders board. A big mega church with ties to Al Mohler have bought them out. The mega church I am going to call the Pepsi church because they have lifted one of Pepsi’s branded logos as the logo for the church.

Got it straight? Possum Creek turned into Creekside. Most of the members ran off to Church on the Hill and then Living Church, crashing and burning a pile of churches in their wake. Creekside was bought out by Pepsi church with much personal pocketing of money.

Here’s the kicker. If you pull up the Pepsi church’s website you now see that the elders board at Creekside not only got money, they are now all on the elders board at Pepsi, and on staff. Even the guy that had a physical fight with the former pastor at another pastor’s funeral!

Sounds like an episode of ABC’s cancelled “GBC” does it not? I share all of this Peyton Place of a mess not because I think it’s an aberration. But because I believe from too many years in churches that this is what typically happens in Quiverfull and other fringe churches without a state or national governing body. Drama happens, and people hop from church to church, sowing destruction, spiritual abuse and hurt every single place they go.

Some of it happens because it seems that no one can agree on anything. Some because members are all to eager to judge others and justify their own interpretations of the truth. But it’s all toxic and bad.

I have a theory that Quiverfull and just out there independent churches attack people who would already be considered outliers before they even join. People who don’t believe that most of the rules of polite society apply to them.

What do you think drives these church splits and all the drama?


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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichtermann

13:24 A Dark Thriller by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 33 years. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    Woman Buys Out Arkansas Payless Store’s Stock, Donates Shoes to Children in Need

    This is what churches should be supporting. And there are many more examples like this.

  • GeckoShamelessRaceMixer

    “By their fruits shall you know them.”

  • GeckoShamelessRaceMixer

    Yes

  • gimpi1

    Among people who are drawn to religious belief, some small group seems to have a need to ‘prove’ their devotion with more and more extreme outward acts. Peculiar, extremely ‘modest’ clothing; restrictions that make it hard to live in the larger society; overt ‘devotions’ such as loud, public prayers all come into play. Every aspect of life becomes “a hill to die on,” with churches and even families splitting over things like haircuts or skirt lengths.

    Most people are able to let petty differences be. However, because they ate so passionate about everything extreme believers often take over any group they’re associated with. They’re simply willing to put in more effort, more time, more work, than others. Then, when they have power, they almost always tear the group apart, because they make unreasonable demands of everyone around them, insisting everyone adopt their standards, follow their ever-changing, ever-increasing rules and accept their beliefs as fact.

    Fanatics tear any group they’re associated with apart. Standard oversight in groups such as churches, clubs and political organizations exist in part to keep fanatical believers in check. Groups without such checks tend to crash and burn.

  • This gets better when you remember what one of the Fundies I know of say that splits are not real because the ones who go away were pastors, not the people that forms a church so the Church of Jesus is actually one.

  • Polytropos

    My family was thankfully never involved in QF, but the church we attended for a number of years was infected with some of the ideology and we knew people who bought into it. Here are a couple of things I observed about we&#8203ird churches:

    1) People who cause drama tend to go through a cycle of getting upset when they don’t get their way about something, causing disruption, leaving the church, and finding another church they think is more godly, so they share their drama around all the churches in their area.

    2) Yes, absolutely, we&#8203ird churches are a magnet for we&#8203ird people.

  • Nea

    That’s the thing – everyone has to have the “right” standards, follow the “right” rules, and the strictures get tighter and tighter until eventually even the original founders/fanatics/purists aren’t good enough anymore and the very movement they started rejects them.

  • AFo

    From what I gather of the people in these churches, they seem to be in a perpetual urination contest with each other over who is the “godliest.” I guess when a certain group feels that they’re being out-“godly-ed,” or maybe that their “godliness” isn’t being acknowledged and praised enough, they split. Also, the way they seem to measure “godliness” is through the most ridiculous things like what kind of skirts the women wear, or something equally mundane that they’ve elevated to a measure of devotion and status.

  • smrnda

    If a church attracts people who all have to ‘out-Christian’ everyone else, it’s going to split.

  • MuttsRule

    I read a book called Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History, by Deborah Vansau McCauley. She was very sympathetic to her subjects, but often the accounts were of small congregations that fissured into even smaller groups over pretty trivial disputes (very reminiscent of modern-day Quiverfull drama). She wrote indignantly that the rest of us don’t appreciate these people, and disapprovingly quoted Timothy Dwight, President of Yale, who wrote of a similar population in New England and New York in 1821-1822:
    “{They] begin the cultivation of the wilderness . . . [but] these men cannot live in regular society. They are too idle; too talkative; too passionate; too prodigal; and shiftless; to acquire either property or character. They are impatient about the restraints of law, religion, and morality . . . they are usually possessed in their own view, of uncommon wisdom; understand medical science, politics, and religion, better than those who have studied them through life.”

  • Lisa Cybergirl

    Even the guy that had a physical fight with the former pastor at another pastor’s funeral!

    Oh my goodness. I don’t suppose there’s video footage?

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I wish there was because it would have been the funniest thing of all times.

  • I think that all of quiverfull operates because it demands that people have an external locus of control. And the people who have a healthier internal locus of control can’t be bothered, may visit a time or two, but they don’t want to stay in such a place. The external locus folks gain their worth from the warm fuzzies they get from everyone else, but it’s my experience that it’s very hard to earn them. They’re dumpster fires waiting to happen and by design.

    In the hard-core Calvinist QF churches, those who are very driven to climb the ladder of “leadership” (another way of garnering warm fuzzies to feel good about yourself) are always the ones with the “purest doctrines”. if you have them in control, the church splits happen because of disagreement over doctrine. If the dominant leaders aren’t that wound up over doctrine, you get more of a cult of personality thing going on. Identity is strongly tied to the church as a whole and how you rank within them. Those divisions seem to happen because of authority struggles which are seen as lack of proper submission to authority.

    Everyone has some kind of control issue, and they don’t go away when those cast offs recycle into another “ministry.”

  • B.A.

    Well,you know what they say about birds of a feather.

  • A friend of my mom’s attended a church that they held in the basement of some old building, and the pastor met with a woman from the church who wasn’t acting right (of course). He picked up one of the folding chairs and threw it across the room in a fit of rage. I just don’t understand how people even have that kind of energy.

  • Mel

    I wonder if part of the problem is that CP/QF is such a relatively young religious movement that nearly everyone in a congregation is essentially a convert from another religion.

    C.S. Lewis describes it far better than I could in “Screwtape Letters” when he describes the mental hurdles that new Christians have to get over when they realize that 1) not all Christians are as “on fire” as they are, 2) that being “on fire” means very little compared to actions 2) that genuinely good Christians can have annoying as hell habits. IOW, the vaguely slimy appearing grocer who is middle-aged, unattractive and has the audacity to talk about business instead of spiritual stuff is providing good wages to local people, cares for his curmudgeonly neighbor without complaining, and gives money to the poor without telling other people about it…..

    I bring this up because “the zeal of a convert” is a known red-flag for dysfunction in churches. Add in the fact that CP/QF is often (but not always) aligned with a religious belief that promotes personal feelings about a relationship with God over theological study along with a fanatical belief in the primacy of a married male as the spiritual head of his home with no form of checks or balances and I’m surprised that churches can stay together at all.

  • Emersonian

    It’s interesting, in that most denominations within the mainstream protestant church stem from splits that originally probably seemed as strangely petty and doctrinally minor as some of the examples you’re giving here. But the Quiverfull pie is already sliced very thin; splits upon splits over minor issues like sinful head coverings (or lack thereof) can’t help but continue to weaken the IFB and other “denominations” of conservative Christianity, because you’re bound to lose at least a few frustrated families with each split.

    My UU church split into two congregations about a decade ago, and I think both groups are better for it; when I first joined my congregation there were still definitely some hard feelings on both sides, but that seems to have given way to an acceptance that different people are looking for different things from their church life, and Universalism can (must!) make room for that. I wonder how many of these Quiverfull splits continue to nurse grievances against prior congregations for years on end….

  • Saraquill

    This type of thinking haunts some of the geek subcultures I inhabit. One toy collector website is ruled by people with unreasonable demands and insist everyone adopt their ever changing, ever increasing rules.*

    I’m still recovering from the baggage of being there. I can’t imagine what it’s like to cope with a QF church.

    *The queen bee grew ever more loud about “acceptable” ethnicities. Blergh.

  • Jennny

    I like Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood which was (to destabilise the x-tian’s faith) to make the person more and more nit-picky about doctrine so that he moved further and further away from fellow-believers, and became a church of one person, no one else had his purity of doctrine. I once took on a troll who said he knew the bible and jesus were true because he’d ‘walked closely with god for 40yrs.’ After my response that I’d been a x-tian and worked hard for jesus in my church for years too…he replied he no longer went to church..they were all corrupt. So I quoted that Screwtape bit to him..and he never came back!

  • Jenn H

    “What do you think drives these church splits and all the drama?”

    A few guesses:
    *This isn’t a subculture that can handle differences in opinion well. There is one right answer to everything, and being wrong is seen as a moral failing. Compromise is a dirty word.

    *More moderate members are quickly driven out, leaving mostly the hardcore believers.

    *These churches don’t have much in the way of real world goals to work towards. All that energy and motivation has to go somewhere.
    *They don’t know much about other forms of Christianity and other religions. Without that perspective what looks like small theological differences to everyone else are a big deal to those in the church.

  • Nea

    Someone I know just shared a reddit story about drama in vintage tractor fandom. How does one have drama in vintage tractor fandom? One builds a life-size working prototype of a model designed but never made and for that gets kicked out of the local collector’s society, which also de-certifies the aficionado magazine that dared run an article about it.

    The person telling the story referred to said prototype as “The Forbidden Smelman” to anonymize the actual tractor and people involved, and now I’m one of the people trying to get “Forbidden Smelman” into the lingo meaning something innocuous that makes purists go out of their minds.

  • Saraquill

    I never was in that fandom, but the drama sounds familiar.

  • persephone

    That’s something that seems extremely common with monotheisms. There are always going to be people competing to be the most whatever, and if the society only has one god, then they’re competing with everyone. As others here have noted, the same behavior happens in other types of groups, but religion makes it much more dangerous. If you are kicked out by a hobby group, it’s possible to join another or start your own or just walk away. But religion is holding that your eternal future is at stake.

  • This petty bullshit69 also happens in other churches as well, this drama is why I avoid church (also just doing believe in that BS) and most of these social organizations. I saw this BS when I was in soccer from 5-12, three leagues I was in went under because moron69 parents tanked them, petty infighting by Dads who all thought their SON was destined for sports greatness. I quit for good at 12 and should have happened at 6.

  • Quinsha

    “What do you think drives these church splits and all the drama?”

    You’ve got to do as I say, or else I am taking my ball and playing elsewhere.

  • SAO

    I suspect that the lack of an established authority in the CPM movement attracts narcissists who want to be leaders (and collect a nice salary for having an eager audience for their thoughts on God) and also people who nitpick.

    All communities have their jerks, but collecting a few too many causes a systemic problem.

  • Mark in Ohio

    I love that quote!

  • 24CaratHooligan

    My own experience of British fundagelicals suggests that so long as people are “our” kind of christian, they can do no wrong. So when those drama llamas bounced into another church they’d be welcomed with open arms so long as they made the right noises. By the time their drama came to light it would be too late, they’d be entrenched. Someone came into my dad’s church just before he retired. They were warned by several people that this man was dangerous. Not just difficult, the word used was “dangerous” But because he was the right kind of nutter he was allowed in to wreak havoc. A pox on the whole boining of them I say

  • 24CaratHooligan

    If heaven is real I suspect many devout christians will be aghast at the number of people “allowed” in…You spend you life thinking you and yours are the last bastion of right-thinking, get upstairs and there’s even Catholics in there!!!

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Interestingly enough during one of the splits at my old church several of the drama llamas tried to join the Mennonite church. They were rejected. Why? Their reputation had preceded them, and the Mennonites told them they were too unstable to be members.

  • Astrin Ymris

    This may be the reason Mennonites have endured for so long. They’ve learned how to identify and keep out the crazies. ;-D

    Mind you, there’s a down side to this protection of borders. They’ve reached the stage of inbreeding to the extent that genetic disease is increasing among them and their sister denominations. So if they can’t bring in some genetic diversity without letting Toxic Christians destroy them from within… well, they may breed themselves out of existence. It’s a classic Catch-22.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I’m thinking that CPM is attractive to people who feel alienated and disenfranchised by the modern world, people desperate for belonging, and emotional predators looking for a perfect victim pool… with a certain overlap among the categories. This isn’t a combination which makes for long-term stability.

  • That shows either there’s no superior power controlling everything or said superior power, if exists at all, does not give a damn.

    It goes without saying that “superior power” means here “superior, divine power”. It’s quite telling the whole lot of splits within Protestantism, as there’s not superior power of the other kind there, and how most of these are rather modern (XIX Century onwards)

  • Christian

    Just send them to Syria to deal with ISIS