Hello everyone. Today I am excited to introduce a new ministry organization to you — one that I believe has the potential to significantly improve how the Christian church supports victims of domestic violence. My husband, Peter, and I learned about the Psalm 82 Initiative recently through Naghmeh Abedini, who has over the past year become a very vocal and high-profile advocate for women caught in abusive marriages, and who has consulted about her own case with founder Thomas Pryde.
After three years of informal study and work in the world of advocacy, I have grown increasingly aware of the insufficient available resources for addressing domestic violence, and worse — the lack of social awareness especially in the church (which I believe should be the very safest place for oppressed people to take refuge) about what even constitutes abuse within a marriage.
Thomas and Martha Pryde are musicians and ministry workers, but they have also been working for the better part of a decade with victims of domestic abuse and the churches they attend. In the course of their work, and based on the knowledge gained from years of interaction with abusive people, they seek to educate abused spouses, attorneys, and church leaders. Specifically, they work to coordinate all the entities in a given situation in order to present the abusive person with an effectively cooperating and united front. As anyone who has studied the dynamics of abuse knows, this is a critical part of dealing effectively with an abuser, who is typically working to fracture the rescue effort by driving wedges between the various people involved.
The Prydes have done most of their work anonymously, and in the wee hours of the night, when people tend to need emergency counseling. Up to this point they have not advertised their services; survivors and churches find them by word of mouth. We are blessed to have met them at a critical point in their story, just as they were coming to realize the time is ripe for making their services more broadly accessible to church leadership. In keeping with that objective, they have established the Psalm 82 Initiative with a primary focus of helping churches and other organizations deal knowledgeably with abuses of authority.
Thomas has kindly granted me an interview for my blog, and I’m so excited to be able to help spread the word.
Hi, Thomas. Thanks so much for granting me a personal interview. I’m incredibly excited about what you and Martha have been doing, and about your upcoming plans. Tell me a little bit about what your ministry has looked like for the last ten years. What is it, exactly, that you do?
Thank you, Claire! It is a bit odd for me to be talking about what we do, but I am glad for the opportunity to share what God has been doing.
We left the pastorate and started traveling a little less than ten years ago, with the main objective being to simply be a blessing to the churches God led us to. For most of our ministry, the most visible aspect has been our music and preaching, but behind the scenes we have done a lot of church consulting. Initially, we addressed more church leadership problems, but over time we have increasingly dealt with domestic violence related cases. At this point, we are primarily aimed at helping churches recognize and respond to domestic violence / abuse. Sometimes we are simply musicians giving a concert, but our music has allowed us to operate anonymously regarding our primary ministry.
So I understand you’ve essentially been operating undercover, like some kind of special ops group for helping abuse victims. I’m sort of picturing you in a cape and mask right now! Why all the secrecy? Is this how ministries to abused people have to look?
Hahaha! It isn’t much of a super-hero thing. The truth is that it is a lot of simply rolling up your sleeves and walking with people through some of the most challenging times of their lives. At first, our maintaining anonymity was geared toward the reality that people would talk to a musician far quicker than some church consultant. This allowed us to be more effective at assessing a given situation. However, as we began to be involved with more domestic violence cases anonymity became absolutely essential, since it can be very dangerous for a victim to be discovered receiving help. This is the primary reason we have kept our involvement with domestic violence related ministry quiet and in the background. Until recently, most of our extended family hasn’t even been aware of the extent of this part of our ministry.
It can also be very hard to get people who help victims of abuse to speak out about what they do. This is first because giving out some information can end up actually helping abusers refine their tactics and make it harder for victims to get the help they need. It also is essential to protect the interests of the people we help. We take quite a few steps to ensure the security of our activities; it is a stealth ministry by necessity.
I love what you said about rolling up your sleeves and walking with people through the most difficult time in their life. That is so true. So tell me a little bit about what your work looks like, practically speaking. What kinds of people typically get in touch with you, and what kind of help can you offer them?
We are usually called by a church leader who is dealing with an abuse case of some sort. It may involve a member who has sought counsel or a staff member who has a problem that has come to light. We are also sometimes contacted by victims directly, especially in the case of couples in ministry. Generally, our process includes these components:
- Evaluation: assessing what kinds of help are needed
- Assistance: helping obtain the kinds of help that will be most useful to them
- Working with the victim to ensure that counselors, church leadership, and legal counsel are effectively meeting their needs.
- Working with the abuser to ensure that he* is actively involved in appropriate counseling / therapy – demonstrating good behavior over time OR making sure that any continued abuse is opposed effectively.
- Involvement: depending on the case and needs, we will get directly involved at certain stages of the process. This can involve a wide variety of activities related to security, setting expectations, meeting with those involved, and generally making sure that the best possible outcome is more likely. The nature of our involvement depends entirely on the needs of the people we are helping and their available resources.
We also provide general teaching to congregations and leaders regarding how to recognize & respond to abuse, biblical leadership, and [recovering healthy concepts of] authority & submission in marriage. Often situations arise during these seminars and sometimes we are able to assist the church as a result.
So what is your vision for the new incarnation of your ministry? What do you hope to offer in the next few months/years?
Up until recently we have remained relatively anonymous and have been able to operate with minimal funding. As our ministry activities have become more visible this past year we have begun to see a couple significant challenges. The primary challenge is that our caseload has rapidly increased. This has led us to consider how we might operate more effectively and fully.
Psalm 82 calls on both civil and religious leaders to rise up and defend the oppressed, and we believe churches need to accept this responsibility. We cannot remain neutral in the face of abuse, because neutrality only serves the abuser and weakens the victim. That is why we are calling this new phase of our ministry “The Psalm 82 Initiative.” We can no longer meet the growing need without building a team that is interested in answering the call God gives us in this passage. These are the first objectives that we would like to tackle, and we are excited to be a participant in what God is doing.
Initially, we are focusing our attention on helping churches recognize and respond to abuse. To do this we will gather together as many resources as we can, continue to offer workshops and seminars, use music as a way to highlight the issue, and offer pastoral coaching on abuse cases. We will also continue to be involved in individual cases, but especially cases where the abuser is in full-time ministry. As we progress, we hope to be able to use technology to create a network of “safe” churches who are tapped into local resources, and maintain staff who are trained in dealing with abuse.
Okay, let’s say someone would like to consult with you about a case: are you available to anyone and everyone? If so, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Once someone has my name or our band name we are not hard to find. However, we do tend to be very skeptical of cold calls, because we are sometimes contacted by abusers or their surrogates who are trying to get information on us or a person we are helping. Because of this, social media is probably the best way to contact us, and we do try to respond to every inquiry in as timely a fashion as we are able.
For those who are interested in following the progress of this ministry, I’ll plan on updating over time with further blog posts, opportunities to donate, and more about what the Prydes are up to. Meanwhile, please keep their work in your prayers. If you would like to get in touch personally, you can message Thomas through the Psalm 82 Initiative Facebook page. I have always found him to be very responsive.
*The use of “he” and “she” are not intended to suggest that abusers must always be male, or victims always female. The dynamics of abuse can run in either direction. That said, the fact is well documented that in our society at this time, it is more common for the husband to be the dominant partner.