Codependency and the Evangelical Church

Have you ever been confronted with a hard truth about yourself by a dear friend and therefore knew that it was worth examining?

Eight years ago, I was sitting at a coffee shop with one of my longest and dearest friends and for the first time, I asked a question that would begin a new healing process in my life. “Laurie,” I began, “I think (ex) might be an alcoholic.” I began to divulge the details and at one point she stopped me and stated calmly, “Christelle, you need to heal from your codependency.” My first response was one of denial. But I knew Laurie had my best interest in mind and she had known me since high school. I knew I needed to examine myself. As I began my journey toward healing, I started to recognize the root of my struggle and in 2019, I decided to write an open letter to the American Evangelical Church. The institution that served as my second home for nearly my entire life. I believe that codependency and the church is especially relevant today.

An Open Letter to All American Evangelical Churches:

We, the church, must recognize that staying silent and looking the other way on dysfunctional behavior is only enabling it further. Not only does silence NOT help dysfunction, it creates further victims. This is also called codependency, a habit, I, myself learned from a very young age as if it was a healthy attribute.

Codependency is NOT love, nor grace, nor compassion, nor forgiveness. It is quite possibly the primary issue that needs a huge overhaul in the American evangelical church today. I would like to challenge pastors and church leaders to read the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie as a first tiny step in recognizing what codependency truly is.

Will you go a step further and process through this idea with other church leaders?

My life was shaken the day I realized how codependent I was. Further, I realized that I learned many codependent traits as if they are Christlike and healthy in my own family and throughout my years in many evangelical Christian settings. I spent time in 2 evangelical elementary schools, 3 evangelical university settings, and multiple evangelical ministry workplaces including a seminary. And I am absolutely still learning, healing, and in process. Healing is a journey.

Might I gently state that it’s time for the American evangelical church at large to recognize where we may need to be challenged. Are we willing to learn, grow forward, and take into consideration serious changes that need to take place in our individual lives and the church at large?

I am.

Codependency, as it teams with addiction and Cluster B personality traits within my own family, nearly destroyed my life. Will we, the church, take a hard look together and consider how we can do better and be better, for ourselves, our local community, and the world?

Love is not codependent.


A Woman with a long line of family in leadership in the EC for generations and who married into the same and was the same. Phew. Are you with me?

Further reading:

Healing from Codependency, My personal journey to recovery

Can Christian Youth Workers Be Codependent No More? By James Ballantyne

Published by christellelerryn

Blogger with a thing for love and hope and grace and adventure. Wrote a Children's Book. Creative. Work in a homeless shelter and treatment facility. Every day I hear the words "I just can't do this anymore" and I remember when I whispered those very words. And I remember hope that whispered through my soul from stories like yours. We all have one. A story. We are more alike than different.

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