36% of subjects in Orlowski's study said that it was essential to participate in blogs to assist in recovery from spiritual abuse (p.172)
True confession: I love to read the acknowledgment page in books. I particularly enjoy reading about the people who assisted and supported an author in the writing of a book. In order to find subjects for her study, Barbara Orlowski contacted blogs that focused on the myriad of issues that involve spiritual abuse. On the acknowledgement page of Spiritual Abuse Recovery, she lists, and thanks, no less than 29 blogs for their assistance. 29 blogs which discuss spiritual abuse?!! Good night!
What is even more surprising is that none of the blogs, with which we at TWW are currently familiar, are listed. This could mean that, since Orlowski’s research was completed, the problem of spiritual abuse is either growing, becoming more well known, or being talked about more openly.
Another factor that may be contributing to the growth of this phenomenon is that more people are becoming Internet savvy and are willing to brave the technology to start blogs. That is certainly the case for your technopeasant, yet always glamorous, blog tsarinas,
Others folks may be encouraged by the success of similar blogs and want to help folks in their particular denomination or family of churches. For example, there are a couple of blogs, which have focused on the reported abuses within Sovereign Grace Ministries. Here is a link to Sovereign Grace Survivors.
When the author began her study, she asked the following research question. How have Christians recovered after experiencing perceived spiritual abuse in a local congregation?
She hypothesized several scenarios:(p.7)
- Said abused individuals need confidants such as friend, relatives and leaders from other churches to help them process their negative experience.
- They needed time to tell their story.
- They may use the Internet to connect with people via websites or blog interactions to receive immediate support and feedback.
- They may find books that deal with spiritual abuse
The author mentions a book called Missio Dei- In the Crisis of Christianity- by Fred Peatross. Here is a link to it on Amazon.
The purpose of this book is to explore how to develop an authentically missional church. What is a missonal church? According to Brad Brisco, writing for the Missonal Chruch Network, link, “A missional church is a unified body of believers, intent on being God’s missionary presence to the indigenous community that surrounds them, recognizing that God is already at work."
Orlowski quotes a review of this book which contends that Peatross believes that blogging is contributing to the changes happening in today’s church movements. “If you think you can go to a bookstore and check out the most recent book and find out what’s going on, you’ll miss 90 percent of the conversation, which is largely grassroots, democratic, electronic and interpersonal conversation.” (p.16)
Let’s take a real life experience. Doug Pittman (you can read his story by clicking on the his name in our categories) observed pornography on a pastor’s computer in his role as the designated “computer geek” for his church. The situation is allegedly covered up and Doug and his friends are made persona non grata for revealing this problem. After a series of increasingly bad experiences, Doug turns to the Internet and starts a blog. Said blog attracts the attention of others who have gone through similar experiences. Discussions ensue. TWW, always researching, is made aware of the situation. We write on this terrible situation and more people, now through our blog, are made aware of the problem. Some begin to share their painful experiences. Through this, we become aware of Tom Rich’s blog about FBC Jacksonville, link, and write his story. We share links to each others blogs and begin to develop supportive friendships and networks. More and more people begin to find these blogs and share their stories. A far flung, sympathetic community of “What, you too? I thought I was the only one!” is born.
I know that both of us have benefited from the warm fellowship of the interconnectedness of the Christian blogging community. Some of us have met personally, talked on phones, certainly commiserated via emails and have found great satisfaction in the body of Christ expressed in a new manner. We are blessed by these new friendships.
Orlowski, who has been observing these blogs over time, made the following observations. (p.17) She says that there are “significant parallel patterns about people’s unfortunate experiences of church life.” She lists major issues that bring Internet readers to the same point of cynicism.
- Hierarchical leadership styles-power and control
- Kingdom building among leaders (rather than pastoral care)
- Inability of church leadership to deal with criticism
- Heavy-handed ways of dealing with members who oppose or question the direction of the leadership
- Individuals who feel they have no voice in the congregation, especially regarding injustice
Such issues lead to the following problems for the hurting individual (we have added a few of our own)
Many times the harmed individual feels that others do not believe his/her story. Not only has the individual endured a wrong, but he/she is now accused by others of being a liar. Sometimes, this one grates the worst. It calls into question one's very integrity within the Christian life.
According to the author, blogging has become a significant bridge to the road to recovery. One issue that is instantly resolved is isolation. A belief in the individual’s story is the second relief offered. I still remember meeting with Doug Pittman and his friends at a Cracker Barrel in Georgia. For them, this was now no longer an isolated pain. Someone in another state was concerned. When we posted on this matter, we were stunned by the response. Suddenly, there were people all over the country who were angry at how these folks were treated. Suddenly, Douglasville, Georgia, was now everyone's community. These folks also had stories of their own to share. God was calling the fellowship of believers together to believe, uphold, and love.
Although Orlowski’s book focuses on recovery, TWW has observed another value to blogging. Until blogging, abusive pastors and abusive situations could be deep sixed by a code of secrecy that is endemic in many such negative situations. In the past, pastors have the only efficient means of communication via the pulpit, church meetings and church newsletters. The offended person is often frozen out of the fellowship and his/her stories are not only not heard, but are actively silenced, by the co-dependent church leadership.
For example, I know of one situation in which a group of members asked to speak about an issue involving sexual abuse to the deacons in that church. The deacons invited the individuals but, at the last minute, the pastors stepped in and prevented the matter from being discussed. In the past, that would have been the end of the matter. However, a blog made this situation public and the pastors have been forced, reluctantly, to deal with the matter.
Blogging offers an instantaneous method for the “little guy” to share his ideas along with his pain and concern. In some respects, the priesthood of the believer is coming into its own via this medium.
Blogging has been a shock to pastors who have been used to controlling information flow. Some of their reactions to blogging have been counterproductive and have backfired on the leadership. In Doug Pittman’s situation, the Georgia Baptist Convention, at the behest of his embattled pastor, passed an antiblogging resolution. Here is a link. However, this action only served to draw attention to the underlying situation, causing blogs such as ours, FBC Jax Watchdog, Wade Burleson and others to feature this action, causing even more people, across the country, even globally, to become aware of the problem. The GBC inadvertently went international on this one and it wasn't well received by the masses.
Mac Brunson, lead pastor of FBC Jacksonville, reportedly used state and local authorities, to “out” an anonymous blogger, Tom Rich, who had been critical of Brunson’s excessive lifestyle. Brunson then had Rich and his family excommunicated from "his” church and issued trespassing papers against the family. Tom has sued the church along with state and local authorities for illegally obtaining his name. This has become a nationally watched court case (Tom has won his suit against the state and local authorities and, in our opinion, will most likely win against the church and the pastor). This ill-advised reaction on the part of the church (Just who is advising this well-endowed church so poorly, btw?) highlighted the issues of FBC Jacksonville in glaring and embarrassing detail in local, state and national news. You can read about it here. Tom’s blog, link, has grown in numbers and national prominence. (Way to go, Dog)!
One thing is certain. Blogs are here to stay and pastors will need to learn how to effectively deal with the fact that their daily activities are now open to public scrutiny. TWW believes that blogging is a gift from God to challenge the secret, hypocritical and closed society of church leadership by allowing free and open discourse to occur between the priesthood of the believers. And perhaps such fellowship will help to heal the broken hearts and the wounds of those rejected and mistreated by narcissistic pastors who care far too much about fame, money and power than caring, as Jesus, for the least amongst us.
I leave you with this comment I found on a blog that deals with abuse. Always remember, there are real brothers and sisters who have been deeply wounded by the church. Please join me in praying for one of those who was rejected and forgotten. May she find hope in the Lover of her soul.
“It has been 4 years since we left the church and community we had poured ourselves into. 7 years since the pain started. And I have found myself with no trust, no church family, no real friends and unhealed. It has hurt my marriage and family and i wonder if I will ever heal or recover. It seems the longer it has been the less hope I have that there is another chapter or a reason for the pain. No hope”
Lydia's Corner: Numbers 8:1-9:23 Mark 13:14-37 Psalm 50:1-23 Proverbs 10:29-30