It’s Time for the Conservative, Evangelical Wing of the Church of England to Get Up to Speed in Dealing With Abuse #Istandwithfletchersvictims

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/811/global-callisto-in-color/?category=planets_jupiter

“Bright scars on a darker surface testify to a long history of impacts on Jupiter’s moon Callisto in this image of Callisto from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft.The picture, taken in May 2001, is the only complete global color image of Callisto. Callisto’s surface is uniformly cratered but is not uniform in color or brightness. Scientists believe the brighter areas are mainly ice and the darker areas are highly eroded, ice-poor material.”

“I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.” ― Arthur C. Clarke


A message to the victims of Jonathan Fletcher/John Smyth:

TWW is willing to post your stories of abuse and will guarantee strict confidentiality and anonymity. You will find much support amongst the readers of TWW and the greater abuse advocate community. dee@thewartburgwatch.com


What does “Chacun voit midi à sa porte”in the title mean?

According to 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress:

Chacun voit midi à sa porte” is a beautiful expression which, while being somewhat unfortunate, is nevertheless quite true. The literal translation goes, “Everyone sees noon at his doorstep.” It means that every individual is occupied, first and foremost, with his or her own personal interests, and each feels their subjective opinions as objective truths. When such tenacity occurs, the French would say, “Inutile de discuter,” it is “useless to argue,” since every man feels he is right.

Basically, it means *we all have our wown way of looking at things.*  The Three Anglican Amigos (One of the ways they describe themselves) continue to look at the Jonathan Fletcher abuse saga.

Warning: A several minute description on the graphic nature of Fletcher’s sexual abuse is graphic.

There is no such thing as spiritual abuse says Gavin Ashenden.

He is the man to the right in the video. He believes that there is no such thing as spiritual abuse although I think he would say that abuse has a spiritual component. He wrote a post on the matter There is no such thing as ‘spiritual abuse’ which was published in Virtue Online.

I agree with his statement here.

Most sexual abuse is of course not confined to sex: it extends also to improper acts of power and destructive psychological manipulation and consequent wounding. One of the victims of Jonathan Fletcher has in recent days been phoned six times by a member of the Fletcher inner circle, ‘just to enquire if he’s alright’!

There is no sex involved in this recent manipulation, but an abuse of power there certainly is, and an unwelcome degree of psychological pressure to accompany it.

Ashenden appeared upset that Bishop Lines utilized the term *spiritual abuse* to possibly describe his own abuse at the hands of Fletcher.

Ashenden highlighted his concern that Bishop Andy Lines did not fully disclose what had happened to him when he decided to take a break from hi9s clerical duties as outlined in GAFCON bishop speaks of ‘spiritual manipulation’

THE Rt Revd Andy Lines, the GAFCON “Missionary Bishop for Europe” in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), has revealed that he has experienced “spiritual manipulation”.

Bishop Lines announced in January that he would be moving with his wife to Australia, in March, for three months, to “take a break to recover and regroup”. The reasons given included “very difficult personal matters”, although no details were given at the time.

…A statementfrom Bishop Lines was posted last week on the website of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), over which Bishop Lines has episcopal oversight.

The statement says that Bishop Lines has decided to speak of his experience of manipulation “in light of recent reports in the media”. It does not specify which media reports, although the statement was made shortly after news emerged of allegations against the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, a former Minister of Emmanuel Proprietary Chapel, Ridgway, in Wimbledon .

…Archbishop Foley Beach, Primate of ACNA, who chairs the GAFCON Primates’ Council, said: “The betrayal of trust by a mentor is a terrible wound, and when things like this take place in the Church it only increases the pain.

“Bishop Lines is a survivor who has shown the willingness to do the hard spiritual and emotional work of coming to grips with the actions of an abusive father-figure.

Ashenden appeared irritated that Lines did not fully disclose the extent of his abuse. Perhaps he is demonstrating a lack of understanding on how difficult it is for victims to disclose their pain in these circumstances.

Now, back to Ashenden’s concern regarding the use of the term *spiritual abuse* and/or *spiritual manipulation.” I find Ashenden’s criticism of Lines to be a bit cold. However, it may be that he does not fully understand how abuse can affect one’s spiritual and emotional health.

This may attempt both, because it helps an organisation one cares for to come to terms with its responsibilities, and also facilitates the possibility of some personal progress. Curiously, the main stimulus to do this came from my discomfort with the phrase the Bishop Andy Lines had used in his own much too partial disclosure.

I’m very sorry for his discomfort and any suffering he has had endure, but I feel he has not made it any easier for other people by the opaqueness of his own disclosure.

He outlined his belief that *spiritual abuse* is a term which should not be used.

I find that I strongly disapprove of the term ‘spiritual abuse’. It is a euphemism and one that is going to be used oppressively by the progressive culture against the Church. It should neither be endorsed or adopted by us.

Abuse is usually psychological, sexual or physical. There is no such thing as ‘spiritual abuse’. Abuse may have spiritual implications but that is not the same thing.

It appears that his argument against using the term rests in his belief that the term could be used by those outside of the faith to claim that *praying for a patient* could be considered abuse. But is that any reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Spiritual abuse is a useful and necessary term.

Jesus called out the Pharisees for their willingness to burden the Jewish people with spiritual *to dos.*  In Luke 11:46 NIV:

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Jesus was not referring to sexual, psychological or physical abuse. He was referring to spiritual burdens. According to one commentary:

While multiplying men’s religious obligations to infinity by ridiculous and hair-splitting interpretations, the lawyers did not personally accept and fulfill the obligations which they imposed on others. They avoided the regulations they prescribed for others by all kinds of “theories and handy methods of escaping the fulfillment of the commandments while keeping the appearance of executing them.

Mary De Muth wrote 10 Ways to Spot Spiritual Abuse.

Have a distorted view of respect.
They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.

Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ.
It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.

Use exclusive language.
“We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.

Demand blind servitude of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives.
They live aloof from their followers and justify their material extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges. They typically chase after wealth–at any cost, and often at the expense of the very people they shepherd.

Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader.
These leaders and churches view those who bring up legitimate issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.

The subtle power of spiritual abuse

Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson (Author), Jeff VanVonderen (Author) attempts to begin to capture what spiritual abuse might look like in a church setting.

How understanding spiritual abuse can also help us to understands the far reaching implications of other forms of abuse.

Here is a comment found in the comment section under the video,

The pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church helped many to see how spiritual manipulation was used for pedophiles to gain access to victims. In Hiding behind God former victims described the *tricks* used by the priests to get them to comply.

Mr. Thompson would not say why he was upset, because, he explained, Cipolla told him “it would be a sin if he told anyone” and made him sign a paper in the Bible agreeing to stay silent.

These victims were sexually abused and were spiritually manipulated. They were trained to believe that the priest was God’s representative and that they should be obeyed. Many also believed that if a priest told them to do something, it must be good and right.

Jonathan Fletcher used spiritual abuse and manipulation in order to sexually, physically and psychologically abuse those

Jonathan Fletcher was a revered leader of the conservative evangelical movement within the Church of England. He came from a posh, public school background and had the authority and connections to make or break the career of up and coming religious leaders.

He was revered as a fine teacher and, of course, he was a *man of God.* Achensen is making my case for me.

In the case of Jonathan Fletcher, he has sadly been unable to acknowledge what has been done badly. Worse than that, the whole circle of influence that he presided over involves considerable powers of patronage, and it is hard to think that this influence has not been abused as a price of silence. The great danger in this case is that many of the people who owe their office to Jonathan Fletcher must now be under suspicion of having condoned his activities with the silence for which they are still paying for their positions and the exercise of his considerable and far-reaching patronage.

The fact that behind the scenes at the moment there is emerging some evidence that members of Jonathan Fletcher’s sphere of influence, who may have been victims themselves of course, are pressuring into silence those who have come forward for help, is deeply worrying. More than worrying it is, of course, deeply disturbing and greatly offensive. It can only deepen the psychological wounds and compound the abuse.

Achensen is part of the system that has allowed men like Jonathan Fletcher to thrive. I am not saying that he knew of Fletcher’s deeds. However, he knew much about the system that allowed men like Fletcher to thrive. I sincerely believe that there will be dark days ahead for this group of churches. We already know of John Smyth and Jonathan Fletcher. Even now, some reading this will say “Surely they know about so and so” and they will all be thinking about different church leaders.

If the men in these videos don’t have the courage to name an abuser, why would they demand that victims should *tell the truth?*

In Monday’s post, the three amigos chose not to name the abuser because they were attempting to be *pastoral.* Yet in Achensen’s post on spiritual abuse (or lack thereof) he stated:

As Christians, we are committed to a belief that Jesus entrusted to us, which is that by telling the truth we are all potentially set free. We must hope that some of Jonathan Fletcher’s victims will find the courage to tell something more of the truth and so find greater freedom for themselves and each other; and that the Church of God might do what it humanly can to put things right.

These gentlemen cannot ask the victims to do what they will not do themselves. If they wish to be leaders, they must provide comfort and care to the victims, first. Think of it this way. I once witnessed  a car accident in which a drunk driver smashed into a care carrying to elderly people. The drunk driver was fine as were his three little children. The elderly couple were in severe pain and in need of attention. I spent my time caring for them and another lady cared for the children until the EMTs arrived.  I explained to the police what I saw, including the fact that empty bottles of beer fell out of the car and that the drunk driver appeared incoherent.

I pointed my finger at the drunk driver and consoled his victims. I didn’t choose to protect the driver. I chose to comfort the victims. I’m sure some nice chaplain will give him spiritual counsel in prison.

These men must understand that the victims need their help and support. They need to stand with victims and provide solace so that maybe one day the victims will find their strength and come forward in their own time, not the time frame of the leaders.

Church leaders and influencers must be willing to educate themselves about the implications of such abuse.

There is no question that such revelations will lead to further loss of membership in the church. It has happened to the Catholic church and it is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention. Sexual abuse of children, teens, women and men is universally reviled by those inside and outside of the church.

There is an interesting discussion within the video in which they discuss they discuss that Fletcher may have been teaching his victims that God wanted them to paddle each other on their naked bottoms because of the need be punished for their sins. They bemoaned the fact that the victims and Fletcher appeared to ignore the fact that Jesus had taken care of their sins on the Cross as they launched into a discussion of penal substitutionary atonement.

Once again, I believe that they are proving my point. There is such a thing as spiritual abuse and Fletcher engaged in it while also sexually, physically and psychologically abusing these young men.


Comments

It’s Time for the Conservative, Evangelical Wing of the Church of England to Get Up to Speed in Dealing With Abuse #Istandwithfletchersvictims — 138 Comments

  1. Great post as usual!

    But–the term “church influencers” makes me very afraid. Surely the Holy Spirit would be the only “Influencer” that we’d want in our lives?

    Scary how many ways people can be seduced away from the simple truth of the gospel of our Lord.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  2. It is a true shame when a professing Christian’s political beliefs make them incapable of admitting to obvious truths. Politics makes liars out of all who embrace it too closely.

    Yes, obviously there is spiritual abuse. If the reason you cannot recognize it is because you are afraid it will be used to promote “progressive culture” then your political fears have rendered you unable to see clearly. Christ does not require us to conform to a political platform. In Christ alone, we are free to call the shots as they are, to be the little child who can freely see “the emperor has no clothes on.” The truth will never divide neatly down political lines. You will see it here and you will see it there. One’s conscience should be free to own it wherever it is seen. Let God deal with the rest. He doesn’t need your protection. Don’t assume you know what His goals are.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  3. “What does “Chacun voit midi à sa porte” in the title mean? … Everyone sees noon at his doorstep … it is “useless to argue,” since every man feels he is right … Basically, it means *we all have our own way of looking at things.*”

    Of course, that is psychology not truth. Scripture puts it this way:

    “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs and examines the hearts of people and their motives” (Proverbs 21:2)

    “They are a law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14)

    “Woe (judgment is coming) to those who call evil good, and good evil;
    who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20)

    Preachers who proclaim that “we all have our own way of looking at things” are not in touch with a Holy God who sees it only one way. When a preacher leads folks astray in this manner, he will not see noon at his doorstep – he will see judgment.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  4. SiteSeer,

    Thank you for this challenging comment. I have to admit that I can see Achensen’s point – what a can of worms if you allow so-called church authorities or the secular government to begin judging what is or isn’t ‘spiritual abuse’. Will I be declared a spiritual abuser if I teach my children that God created them, male and female? How about if I believe in a literal 6 day creation, or any other once commonly held belief that has since been rejected by modern society?

    I’m not even addressing whether or not any particular belief is true – the question is, is it abusive to share your genuine beliefs to another under your authority, be they daughter, son or intern? Even if you are wrong – which, in all honesty, I believe we all are in part – is it abusive to believe and share your beliefs if they don’t align with the majority consensus?

    Or is the abuse in improperly taking advantage of authority and power to codify one’s personal or cultic beliefs? It is not so much abusive to believe, as an individual woman, that you should remain barefoot and pregnant, as it is to force such concepts upon trusting children or a submissive congregation through the power of influence and/or authority.

    Is this ‘spiritual abuse’ or is it the abuse of authority, whether a parent, pastor, teacher or government official? I have freely used the former term, but I will certainly be pondering the correctness of its usage in the future.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  5. Breakaway groups often promise purity, but they do not consistently deliver it. This network of abuse seems to have grown up in the evangelical movement within the Church of England, isolated from all that is right and wrong with the C of E.

    ACNA has parishes in the US that broke away from the Episcopal Church over the acceptance of women clergy and gay clergy, as well as simmering old arguments about prayer books and hymnals. ACNA itself is now fighting about the ordination of women.

    AMiE, where Bishop Andy Lines has oversight, includes congregations inside and outside the Church of England. Lines’s fellow churchmen are hassling him to provide details so they can, ahem, understand the problem.

    Anglicans Online maintains a list of Anglican groups “not in Communion” with the worldwide Anglican Communion: http://anglicansonline.org/communion/nic.html

    Variety in Christendom is a wonderful thing. Angry schism and the proliferation of concealed abuse, not so much.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  6. Molly245: the term “church influencers” makes me very afraid. Surely the Holy Spirit would be the only “Influencer” that we’d want in our lives?

    “Influencer” is a term commonly used in New Calvinist ranks. The new reformers call folks like John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, etc. their “influencers.” And, Lord, do we know how those characters have influenced the direction of the American church!! Whew!

    Yes, the Holy Spirit should be the only influencer in a believer’s life. Certainly, we all listen to men and their interpretations of Scripture, how we should experience the Christian walk in belief and practice, etc. … but the Holy Spirit has been given to all believers to lead us unto Truth. When the Holy Spirit is cut out of the equation, we are left only with the influence of mere men … and look where that has left us in many corners of Christendom!

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  7. I think I see the concern Ashenden is expressing; he appears to want to limit the meaning of “spiritual” to be an adjective that refers to “of, by, through the Holy Spirit,” sort of the way one reads it in Paul’s letters. Within that restricted meaning, “spiritual abuse” is an oxymoront because no abuse is ever “of the Spirit”. The “subtle power” sense refers to “abuse of various kinds by people who claim spiritual authority”.

    I’m not sure this is a point worth arguing over.

    But perhaps he would be comfortable with wording such as “abuse under cover of spirituality/spiritual authority.”

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  8. Max,

    Speaking as someone functioning in the “secular humanist” world, “influncers” is a newbuzz word in the “marketing world”, especially using the adjective “social media” “ influncers”. In fact, people that “influncers” are getting paid to endorse said product/service/style/look/music/extra..

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  9. Max: “Influencer” is a term commonly used in New Calvinist ranks.

    In social media, beauty influencers and style influencers are all over the place. They build wealth by showing up at product launches. Then they launch their own products. After awhile they get into celebrity beefs, and often get arrested for assault, child abuse, fraud, etc. If their online followers abandon them, the influencers “go silent,” and then “break their silence” in teary-eyed videos in which they bravely wear no makeup (men and women, btw).

    I started out thinking this was a tangent, but it looks a bit like the local mega, eh?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  10. Friend: In social media, beauty influencers and style influencers are all over the place.

    Influencers in New Calvinism take on an entirely different dimension. “Indoctrinators” would be a better word. They take young minds and fill them with aberrant faith under the guise of restoring the gospel that the church has lost. Some of these young reformers turn out to be pastor-rebels who takeover non-Calvinist churches like bulls in china shops. The “influence” they received caused them to be arrogant, aggressive, militant, and passionate … but it’s a misplaced passion. Sad to see so many church youth being drawn into this madness by Pied Piper and other “influencers” like him.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  11. Jeffrey Chalmers: “influencers” is a new buzzword in the “marketing world”

    It makes sense that the New Calvinist movers & shakers would employ this technique … it’s all about marketing their brand, increasing their market share, and selling error for a profit. (see my response to Friend in this regard)

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  12. “Ashenden’s concern regarding the use of the term *spiritual abuse* and/or *spiritual manipulation””

    Pastors are to be spiritual leaders. When they depart from that mission to take advantage of those who trust them, they become spiritual abusers. Manipulation, intimidation, and domination are not gifts of the Holy Spirit … another spirit is at the root of such behavior.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  13. TS00: Is this ‘spiritual abuse’ or is it the abuse of authority, whether a parent, pastor, teacher or government official? I have freely used the former term, but I will certainly be pondering the correctness of its usage in the future.

    I think this is one of those things where the term has already been coined, is in usage, and it’s kinda pointless to worry about it now.

    For example, some religious historians hate the term “New Calvinism”, because apparently another earlier group was called that. But people still use “New Calvinists”, partly I think because the New Cals make such a big deal about Calvinism, and partly because that term was coined for them in a bunch of newspaper articles.

    Language changes and people will use the terms that they feel work the best. While people who disagree with the usage of the term might have a point, it’s usually already in use and too late. And sometimes the change would be to the detriment to the actual discussion of the topic, as I think the case is with “spiritual abuse”, as Ashenden didn’t offer a good substitute, because I don’t feel like psychological abuse quite encompasses the mix of psychological abuse with faith. I also feel like Ashenden was using a straw man argument there to avoid talking about some of the real problems.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  14. ION: Sport

    Serena was in imperious form at Wimbledon today, beating Barbara Strykova in under an hour; Simona Halep was almost as dominant in her win over Elina Svitolina. So, Serena v Simona it is for Saturday’s final. Could be a cracker. I kind of want them both to win, but history (not to mention the rules of tennis) says that’s not going to happen. Serena, the official GOAT of women’s tennis and one of the GOAT’s of sport, fullstop, is the favourite, though.

    Cricket:
    After a very mixed group stage, England finally performed like tournament favourites at Edgbaston today against Australia. Despite losing the toss, we dismissed the visitors for 223 inside the 50 overs and reached the total for the loss of just 2 wickets with 18 overs to spare. Indeed, had England’s progress with the bat not been interrupted by the small matter of winning the match, they were well on course for a score of 400.

    Yesterday, the rain-delayed first semifinal concluded in dramatic fashion as India finally ran out of both wickets and overs to leave New Zealand as the winners, by 18 runs. In an extraordinary match, India began their innings as favourites after tight bowling restricted the Kiwis to 239; but when the Indian top order collapsed to 5-3 in the first four overs, New Zealand looked certain victors. Indeed, slow progress by the Indian middle-order buttressed this suspicion until a magnificent 77 off 59 by Jadeja put India within striking distance. Jadeja’s innings was the highest in any World Cup knockout match by anyone batting lower than 6 – in fact it was the first half-century – but when he was caught on the boundary after failing to middle an attempted six, the writing was on the wall. I have several Indian colleagues at work and one is particularly into cricket, so – if I’m honest – both she and I were a little distracted yesterday afternoon.

    So, it’s England vs New Zealand at Lords on Sunday.

    IHTIH

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  15. Friend: ACNA has parishes in the US that broke away from the Episcopal Church over the acceptance of women clergy and gay clergy, as well as simmering old arguments about prayer books and hymnals. ACNA itself is now fighting about the ordination of women.

    I know someone who was ordained a deacon in her diocese in ACNA. She resigned her ordination at the beginning of the year. Last month she announced on her Facebook that she’d been baptized into the Mormon church a few months previously. To say that I was completely gobsmacked would be an understatement. I’m still trying to figure it out.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  16. Max: They take young minds and fill them with aberrant faith under the guise of restoring the gospel that the church has lost.

    The Founders state that here on this article they reposted this morning: https://founders.org/2016/11/07/what-is-founders-ministries/

    In short, Founders Ministries has been committed to the recovery of the gospel of God’s grace and the biblical reformation of local churches from our beginning.

    But they could not get much traction until the YRRs came on the scene with bands, smoke machines, and money.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  17. TS00: is it abusive to share your genuine beliefs to another under your authority, be they daughter, son or intern?

    My take: teach your children what you believe, with love and without threats of eternal condemnation. Allow them to question, and to disagree with you as they grow. Teach tolerance, so they do not bully.

    Subordinates are in a different legal category. Your intern has already heard of Jesus. You will be a more persuasive witness through deeds than through words.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  18. Ken F (aka Tweed): The Founders … could not get much traction until the YRRs came on the scene with bands, smoke machines, and money

    Yes, The Founders may not agree with the method and message of their neo-brethren, but they put up with them since they are accomplishing what the old boys could not after decades of trying with their “Quiet Revolution” … Calvinization of the SBC.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  19. Samuel Conner: But perhaps he would be comfortable with wording such as “abuse under cover of spirituality/spiritual authority.”

    I could get behind that definition. It is no good pretending that spiritual leaders cannot abuse in the guise of spiritual leadership.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  20. TS00: I have to admit that I can see Achensen’s point – what a can of worms if you allow so-called church authorities or the secular government to begin judging what is or isn’t ‘spiritual abuse’.

    Well, maybe I misunderstood him if he is talking about the secular government setting up laws regarding spiritual abuse to charge people with and enact penalties. I don’t see that happening. I am referring to the reality of those who claim to represent God using their position and authority to abuse those of faith; as Jonathan Fletcher appears to have done.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  21. Max,

    “Preachers who proclaim that “we all have our own way of looking at things” are not in touch with a Holy God who sees it only one way. ”
    +++++++++++++++++

    well, i don’t trust preachers at all. but moving on, here’s what i think (which may be a disqualifier from the getgo):

    i don’t think God sees it only one way. i think truth on a God-level is a many-sided variegated thing. but none of it is cruel or unkind or unjust.

    i think there are square circles on God’s level, that humans are incapable of seeing, incapable of comprehending. but humans do comprehend shades of it all.

    if any of these shades of human understanding of God is cruel, unkind, or unjust by any normal human standard, i would say there are things distorting and blocking the transmission.

    human beings across the world understand kindness and cruelty, things that build up and are life-giving and things that tear down and are life-taking. i believe this is the deposit of God in them. God’s image in which/whom they were made.

    God’s truth and shades of it simply will not be cruel, unkind, or unjust. if one is required to take something on faith that is any of these things, something is wrong.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  22. elastigirl:
    Max,

    “Preachers who proclaim that “we all have our own way of looking at things” are not in touch with a Holy God who sees it only one way. ”
    +++++++++++++++++

    well, i don’t trust preachers at all.but moving on, here’s what i think (which may be a disqualifier from the getgo):

    i don’t think God sees it only one way.i think truth on a God-level is a many-sided variegated thing.but none of it is cruel or unkind or unjust.

    i think there are square circles on God’s level, that humans are incapable of seeing, incapable of comprehending.but humans do comprehend shades of it all.

    if any of these shades of human understanding of God is cruel, unkind, or unjust by any normal human standard, i would say there are things distorting and blocking the transmission.

    human beings across the world understand kindness and cruelty, things that build up and are life-giving and things that tear down and are life-taking.i believe this is the deposit of God in them.God’s image in which/whom they were made.

    God’s truth and shades of it simply will not be cruel, unkind, or unjust.if one is required to take something on faith that is any of these things, something is wrong.

    Just curious as I read your response to max, I am fairly sure I have read somewhere and sometime on here that you have children, if I am correct, can I assume that possibly through your children’s eyes and understanding at the time of a mom being a mom, could they have possibly viewed a decision by mom to be unkind?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  23. elastigirl: God’s truth and shades of it simply will not be cruel, unkind, or unjust. if one is required to take something on faith that is any of these things, something is wrong.

    Katharine Bushnell said pretty much the same in her landmark work God’s Word to Women:

    If we find even in the Bible anything which confuses our sense of right and wrong,
    that seems to us less exalted and pure than the character of God should be:
    if after the most patient thought and prayerful pondering it still retains that aspect,
    then we must not bow down to it as God’s revelation to us, since it does not meet the
    need of the earlier and more sacred revelation He has given us in our spirit and
    conscience which testify of him.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  24. Benn,

    “can I assume that possibly through your children’s eyes and understanding at the time of a mom being a mom, could they have possibly viewed a decision by mom to be unkind?”
    ++++++++++++

    most definitely. but i don’t kill, maim, trick or deceive to teach them a lesson or guide them in the right direction.

    as far as comprehending a big picture: it’s funny, though, because little kids easily grasp information that adults don’t notice, have difficulty processing, or are resistant to.

    i think you sell human beings, truth, goodness, and God far too short.

    good is as good does.

    but then it gets very complicated on the human plane. things like ‘doing something bad for the greater good’.

    for example, i’ve marveled over how well-intentioned governments have intelligence agencies who employ assassins — people skilled in killing in secret. and how a government leader/decision maker who is a good, decent, human being (who may even be in a sound bible study and earnestly pray daily) can give the order to take someone out. ‘for the greater good’.

    but going back to the God plane (the highest of governments, so to speak), the problem of evil is difficult, certainly. solving it by making God the doer of evil means good = evil, evil=good.

    if good = evil, and evil = good, i think the chaos would prevent even matter from holding together.

    i think things like goodness, truth, & kindness are what hold the physical world (& intellectual, psychological & spiritual worlds) together.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  25. Muff Pottter: “If we find … anything which confuses our sense of right and wrong, that seems to us less exalted and pure than the character of God should be … then we must not bow down to it as God’s revelation to us, since it does not meet the … sacred revelation He has given us in our spirit and conscience which testify of Him.” (Katharine Bushnell)

    That, in a nutshell, is my problem with New Calvinism. There is much in the movement, from its message and messengers, which does not ring true to the holy character of God as recorded in the whole of Scripture. What is in my knower, I can’t unknow; thus, my spirit rejects that which is a misrepresentation of Him.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  26. So, “spiritual abuse” by a church leader can be defined, in part, when he or she:
    1. Has a distorted view of respect;
    2. Demands allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ;
    3. Uses language of exclusivity;
    4. Demands blind servitude of their followers, but lives prestigious, privileged lives;
    5. Buffers him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader.
    6-10. Etc.

    Without diminishing in any way the horrible pain inflicted on the victims of abusive church leaders, when considered through a slightly different lens, I think Ashenden might have a point worth considering.

    Consider De Muth’s definitional categories of “spiritual abuse” as applied to current American politics. There are millions upon millions of good-hearted tax-paying American citizens and legal residents who believe with all their heart that President Donald Trump fits every one of those categories by the way he behaves and the way he governs. Millions of citizens and legal residents in America are convinced that members of the president’s party are complicite by giving him a pass on his awful behaviour because (a) his political success seems to translate into their political success, (b) his economic policies seem to “be keeping the trains running on time” so far as the American economy is concerned, and (c) he appoints the sort of judges and justices that his party favors.

    (Comment by Dee) Normally, I would not approve a comment regarding politics.However, I will let this one go through since it appears necessary to the commenter’s argument.I would ask that any response to this comment not become a treatise on politics—please

    So, is Donald Trump “spiritually abusing” these millions and millions of American citizens and legal residents who see in him the definitional categories laid out by Dr. De Muth? Or, to follow the logic of Arrenden’s concern, there is nothing new under the sun–e.g. demagoguery, authoritarianism, misogyny/misanthropy, favoritism, power abuse, greed, corruption, sexual abuse, etc–the effects of which can cause, among other things, spiritual anguish and pain.

    Perhaps within the context of counseling and group therapy, the relatively new term “spiritual abuse” is proving helpful to victims. That is a good thing.

    But if we are trying to teach churches to see abusive church leadership for what it is and encourage churches to take immediate and decisive action to stop it when it comes to light, existing categories quite easily define the crimes and abuses without having to couch them in new victimhood terminology.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  27. I’m not totally in agreement with Dee here, at least in terms of differentiating from Ashenden. I think much of what can be described as spiritual abuse does in fact involve power relationships and Dee and Ashenden would agree on most incidents

    But Ashenden is surely wrong to dismiss the possibility of spiritual abuse. Assume I am a leader of a church. I get a call from a somebody outside my leadership circle to say that a decision I have taken on a matter that is adiophora has condemned me to hell without possibility of salvation. That is not abuse of power, it is not sexual abuse. It is spiritual gaslighting and spiritual abuse. The sole object is to make me think that I am an inadequate Christian. Call it harassment, call it bullying. But it is abuse. And the internet makes it easier

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  28. Hmm…my two cents on spiritual abuse from the place of experiencing it.

    For me, it crosses the lines from just abuse of power to spiritual abuse when the abuser is a person in a position of spiritual authority (legitimate or not – mostly not) who uses spiritual methods to manipulate people. A former pastor used the ‘God said’ factor to manipulate the women who came to him for marriage counseling to get them to do his will. He took already vulnerable (emotionally and spiritually) women and twisted them up with prayer and ‘God told me’ until they were in total fear if disobeying God if they went against the pastor. And uless you have been in that vulnerable position, you cannot understand the devastating effect it has on the spirit of a person.

    And to touch on something mentioned earlier in the thread, the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit there is. Spiritual abuse can happen – there are other spirits, including the human spirit.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  29. See baby not bathwater,
    When Christians are conditioned/groomed to expect such abusive behavior as not only normal but Godly, why would they not carry it over into politics as well as pastors? The abusive pastors exposed on this and other blogs groomed them for not only accepting this behavior as Christian, but fanatically supporting/defending it. Add a chance to Win the Culture War and it just transferred over.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  30. elastigirl:
    Benn,

    “can I assume that possibly through your children’s eyes and understanding at the time of a mom being a mom, could they have possibly viewed a decision by mom to be unkind?”
    ++++++++++++

    most definitely.but i don’t kill, maim, trick or deceive to teach them a lesson or guide them in the right direction.

    as far as comprehending a big picture:it’s funny, though, because little kids easily grasp information that adults don’t notice, have difficulty processing, or are resistant to.

    i think you sell human beings, truth, goodness, and God far too short.

    good is as good does.

    but then it gets very complicated on the human plane.things like ‘doing something bad for the greater good’.

    for example, i’ve marveled over how well-intentioned governments have intelligence agencies who employ assassins — people skilled in killing in secret.and how a government leader/decision maker who is a good, decent, human being (who may even be in a sound bible study and earnestly pray daily) can give the order to take someone out.‘for the greater good’.

    but going back to the God plane (the highest of governments, so to speak), the problem of evil is difficult, certainly.solving it by making God the doer of evil means good = evil, evil=good.

    if good = evil, and evil = good, i think the chaos would prevent even matter from holding together.

    i think things like goodness, truth, & kindness are what hold the physical world (& intellectual, psychological & spiritual worlds) together.

    Why would you say I sell human beings short?

    It’s hard for all of us to see the completed picture/puzzle/tapestry that God is working on.

    I remember reading an article about one of Michelangelo’s teachers, and the teacher asked him why he painted a lot of his subjects in the nude,and Michelangelo said, because I want to see them as God sees them, his teacher replied, But your not God…..

    I have taught an apologetics class from time to time spanning over ten years, and regardless of size, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, economic status, and most likely any other qualifier we can think of, I ask the class to write the most important question that they can think of. And every time, every time, by a huge margin the question is the same……

    If there is a God, how can he allow evil?
    Second place is never close.

    So to some people God allowing evil to exist/continue go seemingly unpunished, is an act of God being unkind.

    Not trying to pick at you, they way you phrased your response gave me a flashback….

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  31. Max: That, in a nutshell, is my problem with New Calvinism. There is much in the movement, from its message and messengers, which does not ring true to the holy character of God as recorded in the whole of Scripture.

    Man-o-Manischewitz have they got some clobber verses for you, which all basically say the same thing:
    No Soup For You!

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  32. Muff Pottter,

    ‘Too bad for them they were not chosen’, wiping mouth with a contented sigh.

    Except, the typical Calvinist does not really see that the reason people sin, suffer and are condemned – according to Calvinist theology – is because God did not ‘choose’ them. Instead, a completely deceitful picture is made with doublespeak, giving the false impression that people are condemned for their individual choices to sin. Rather, people’s individual ‘choices’ to sin are due to not being ‘chosen’ and eternally fated for condemnation.

    Yeah, I have a problem with that.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  33. Max: Preachers who proclaim that “we all have our own way of looking at things” are not in touch with a Holy God who sees it only one way. When a preacher leads folks astray in this manner, he will not see noon at his doorstep – he will see judgment.

    God’s way of seeing things is likely much more nuanced than we human beings see things.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  34. Thank you so much for bringing this to light! As an orthodox Anglican, your efforts are extremely welcomed, appreciated, and applauded. Leaders need to grow up and exercise the maturity necessary. Thank you for all you do!
    #EnoughIsEnoygh

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  35. TS00: Except, the typical Calvinist does not really see that the reason people sin, suffer and are condemned – according to Calvinist theology – is because God did not ‘choose’ them. Instead, a completely deceitful picture is made with doublespeak, giving the false impression that people are condemned for their individual choices to sin. Rather, people’s individual ‘choices’ to sin are due to not being ‘chosen’ and eternally fated for condemnation.

    Yeah, I have a problem with that.

    Calvinist confessions try very hard to say that God knows the end from the beginning and who he foreknew, so did he predestine, but that Hod is not the author of evil. I don’t think they’re very successful at it.

    What I do know is that if the Calvinist “god” is the one on charge, “he” is the author of great evils, is completely unworthy of worship and I’ll bite anyone who tries to get me to kneel to that monster. Thankfully, I don’t think the god of John Calvin is in charge.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  36. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Calvinist confessions try very hard to say that God knows the end from the beginning and who he foreknew, so did he predestine, but that Hod is not the author of evil. I don’t think they’re very successful at it.

    TGC timing is impeccable – here is what they posted today: https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/detrinitate/christians-say-god-predestines-people-hell/

    By definition, the eternal destinies of the elect and non-elect must fall under God’s foreordination and control. Yet Scripture does not directly state that God predestines people to hell. Instead, it continually emphasizes that God elects to eternal salvation.

    Calvinists contort and mangle words to deny what they affirm in order to make it not sound as reprehensible as it actually is. It would be like having all three of your kids fall overboard and cboosing only to rescue one even though all three could be easily rescued. And then justifying it by saying they all deserved to fall overboard and die because of their disobedience. No jury in the world would acquit such a parent, but we are supposed to love a god who does exactly this.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  37. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: What I do know is that if the Calvinist “god” is the one on charge, “he” is the author of great evils, is completely unworthy of worship and I’ll bite anyone who tries to get me to kneel to that monster. Thankfully, I don’t think the god of John Calvin is in charge.

    In my comment a few minutes ago I noted the impeccable timing of TGC. But Founders also reposted something on this earlier today: https://founders.org/2016/11/29/the-nature-of-gods-eternal-decree/

    Some say that if God decrees sin, then God must be the author of sin. The confession, however, says that God decrees every act of human sin, “yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein” (2LCF 3.1). In another place, the confession says, “… His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men … yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (2LCF 5.4). Therefore, while God decrees sin, He is not the author of sin.

    How can an otherwise intelligent person state or believe such a blatant contradiction?!?!?

    I fully agree with your statement that I quoted here. You stated it better than I could have.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  38. Ken F (aka Tweed): It would be like having all three of your kids fall overboard and choosing only to rescue one even though all three could be easily rescued.

    Actually, the Calvinist view of god is much worse than this. It would be like the dad pulling one son out if the water and then pointing to his siblings and saying something like, “Son, I meticulously planned this day long before you were born. I knew that all of you would disobey my instructions and rightfully fall to your doom on this day. But I arranged to be there to pull only you out of the water so that I could prove to you how much more I love you than them! Now bask in my glory for saving you and passively not saving them. Aren’t I great?”

    A kid in this situation would be traumatized for life. But when god does it it brings him glory? The Calvinist reply to me: “you just don’t understand Calvinism.”

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  39. Bridget: It is spiritual abuse because a person’s supposed “spiritual leader” is the one perpetrating it.

    Indeed! TWW continues to report on various manifestations of spiritual abuse by church leaders. When a spiritual leader betrays the trust in any way between pulpit and pew, he is committing spiritual abuse. Authoritarian control, manipulation, intimidation, and domination expressed in various forms are spiritual abuse. Such things are not fruit of the Holy Spirit, they are from another spirit which is not holy.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  40. Ken F (aka Tweed): Now bask in my glory for saving you and passively not saving them. Aren’t I great?

    Related to this: it’s common for Christians to give God credit for saving one person after a building collapse claimed 50 lives, or for saving one Bible after a church fire. I have done this. We experience relief. We like to see signs. But when we think this way, we turn our backs on suffering. God weeps with those who died, and with those who are trying to move ahead after the fire.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  41. Bridget: Unless we know the entire mind of God, which no one can claim unless they believe that His Entirety is found in a book.

    “So to whom will you compare me, the Incomparable? Can you picture me without reducing me?”
    Isaiah 46:5‭ The Message

    This is a verse that highlighted this to me a few years ago and thoroughly and permanently dislodged the notion that any of us could ever have a handle on the totality of God…

    I think the verses that follow kind of describe their view of Calvin, his institutes, and T.U.L.I.P.

    “People with a lot of money hire craftsmen to make them gods. The artisan delivers the god, and they kneel and worship it! They carry it around in holy parades, then take it home and put it on a shelf. And there it sits, day in and day out, a dependable god, always right where you put it. Say anything you want to it, it never talks back. Of course, it never does anything either!”
    Isaiah 46:6‭-‬7 The Message

    At least, that’s how it appears to me…

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  42. Jeannette Altes: “People with a lot of money hire craftsmen to make them gods. The artisan delivers the god, and they kneel and worship it! They carry it around in holy parades, then take it home and put it on a shelf. And there it sits, day in and day out, a dependable god, always right where you put it. Say anything you want to it, it never talks back. Of course, it never does anything either!”
    Isaiah 46:6‭-‬7 The Message

    Good description. It is no different from those who thew their children into the fire, or mouth of Molech, in order to gain safety and prosperity for themselves. So, a few billion people are destined for hellfire – what’s that to me, as long as I was chosen in eternity past to escape? Nothing could be more contrary to God’s love, and his sending of his Son to draw all men to himself.

    Really, the trusting pew rarely thinks of God deliberately condemning countless numbers to destruction. They have been deceived by the doublespeak which adopts the language of scripture, pretending that people perish because of a personal choice – the sort that Calvinism expressly denies is possible. A whole lot of having your cake and eating it too in Calvinism.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  43. Friend: Related to this: it’s common for Christians to give God credit for saving one person after a building collapse claimed 50 lives, or for saving one Bible after a church fire. I have done this. We experience relief. We like to see signs. But when we think this way, we turn our backs on suffering. God weeps with those who died, and with those who are trying to move ahead after the fire.

    For every person who excitedly shares that God heard their prayer and saved their loved one from disease or accident, there are so many others whose prayers accomplished nothing as they watched their loved one die. I know people don’t think about this when they are rejoicing but there are people listening for whom it is twisting the knife in a painful wound.

    My personal opinion is that some people (of every faith and of no faith) recover from illnesses and accidents and others do not. I know this will bother a lot of people but I don’t see prayer making a difference in that. That’s just my observation.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  44. Ken F (aka Tweed): Some say that if God decrees sin, then God must be the author of sin. The confession, however, says that God decrees every act of human sin, “yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein” (2LCF 3.1). In another place, the confession says, “… His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men … yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (2LCF 5.4). Therefore, while God decrees sin, He is not the author of sin.

    How can an otherwise intelligent person state or believe such a blatant contradiction?!?!?

    It makes you wonder about peoples’ need to define things that are never revealed to us, even down to precise points. Why do they feel this need? They want to define who is ‘saved’ and who is ‘lost’? They want to feel they understand the infinite God? They want to figure out what they are supposed to make everyone do and think? It is bound to be a bunch of rubbish, given our limited perspective and intellect. It’s such presumptiousness, in my opinion.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  45. TS00: Really, the trusting pew rarely thinks of God deliberately condemning countless numbers to destruction. They have been deceived by the doublespeak which adopts the language of scripture, pretending that people perish because of a personal choice – the sort that Calvinism expressly denies is possible. A whole lot of having your cake and eating it too in Calvinism.

    A few years ago, when I was wrestling a lot of this stuff out after exiting ‘that cult,’ I got into a bit of a kerfuffle with a calvinist on another blog. He had just condemned to hell another other commenter who expressed doubt in her belief.

    I challenged him and asked him if he believed that a child being raped and murdered was ‘ordained of God.’ He hemmed and hawed, but eventually came out and said that yes, that was ordained by God and would bring him glory. I was so angry. I told him that a god like that did not deserve worship and that, thankfully, the God I knew was NOT like that. He told me I was deceived and in danger of blasphemy and hell if I didn’t accept his god. Bleh…

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  46. “Spiritual abuse” as used by Gavin Ashenden in the Anglican Unscripted video has a specific meaning within the context of Anglicanism and the Church of England. In 2017 the General Synod of the Church of England denounced “spiritual abuse” in the context of pastoral and prayer support for those living with gender dysphoria, saying it was spiritual abuse to pray for a person dealing with these issues. However, the synod did not define what it meant by “spiritual abuse”. It has since become a catchall phrase to criticize unpopular prayers or praying — and is used as a means of oppression by the hierarchy. It is nothing more than church political correctness.

    It should be kept in mind that the broadcast Anglican Unscripted is for a target audience of Anglicans to whom many of the phrases and concepts have a denominationally specific meaning. The definition of spiritual abuse offered by this blog is one that all three commentators on Anglican Unscripted would support — we would just not use that phrase because of its Anglican connotations.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  47. See baby not bathwater: So, is Donald Trump “spiritually abusing” these millions and millions of American citizens and legal residents who see in him the definitional categories laid out by Dr. De Muth? Or, to follow the logic of Arrenden’s concern, there is nothing new under the sun–e.g. demagoguery, authoritarianism, misogyny/misanthropy, favoritism, power abuse, greed, corruption, sexual abuse, etc–the effects of which can cause, among other things, spiritual anguish and pain.

    Perhaps within the context of counseling and group therapy, the relatively new term “spiritual abuse” is proving helpful to victims. That is a good thing.

    But if we are trying to teach churches to see abusive church leadership for what it is and encourage churches to take immediate and decisive action to stop it when it comes to light, existing categories quite easily define the crimes and abuses without having to couch them in new victimhood terminology.

    I see spiritual abuse happening on a more personal level than with the sort of mass influencing in your example, but since you brought it up, I could see it as spiritual abuse if religious leaders use their position of spiritual authority to insist that their followers must disregard their own eyes, ears and reason, and accept a certain political position as coming from God, when it is really a matter of opinion and personal convictions. If that leader accuses them of sinning or fighting against God if their own convictions lead to a different conclusion then, yes, I would call that spiritual abuse. I do think that some of them have done this in some circles.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  48. Jeannette Altes: I challenged him and asked him if he believed that a child being raped and murdered was ‘ordained of God.’ He hemmed and hawed, but eventually came out and said that yes, that was ordained by God and would bring him glory. I was so angry. I told him that a god like that did not deserve worship and that, thankfully, the God I knew was NOT like that. He told me I was deceived and in danger of blasphemy and hell if I didn’t accept his god. Bleh…

    I’m sure the priests of Molech said the same thing.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  49. Jeannette Altes: He told me I was deceived and in danger of blasphemy and hell if I didn’t accept his god.

    This is a classic example of a Calvinist not believing his own Calvinism. If Calvinism is true, there is no “risk” or being “in danger” with reapect to going to hell because god determined all of that in eternity past. It does not matter what a person does one way or another because the eternal decree cannot be changed. Almost no Calvinist really believes this, but they all should in order to be consistent. The real reason he argued with you is because he fears he is not among the elect – it’s easier for him to verbally assault other people than face his own fear of being on the wrong list and not being able to do anything about it.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  50. Ken F (aka Tweed): the eternal decree cannot be changed. Almost no Calvinist really believes this … he fears he is not among the elect

    I haven’t met a young reformer yet that feels secure in his salvation. I suppose they figure if they keep hanging out with other reformed rebels – to persevere with the saints – they will get their ticket punched to heaven. It’s such a strange belief system; these folks are always under a tension to have the correct theology and many of them miss Truth altogether.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  51. If this was brought up earlier I missed it: Jonathan Fletcher is connected with New-Calvinism through Proclamation Trust (https://www.proctrust.org.uk/). I thereforefor suspect it’s unlikely that the “Conservative, Evangelical Wing of the Church of England” will “Get Up to Speed in Dealing With Abuse” until New-Calvinists do the same.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  52. I need to apologize for being absent from this comment stream. In the last two days I’ve been dealing with the situation surround Shana Johnson.

    Yesterday also involved another situation. After speaking with those who are going to tell a story on TWW in about two weeks, I believe that there is going to be a serious explosion when their stories with documentation are revealed. My heart hurts for lots of women who have been seriously harmed by a well known church. My heart rejoices that there are decent people who come forward, even though it will be difficult.

    This one will hit the media.

    Sometimes, these things take time and since there is only one of me I am pulled.

    I appreciate all who have commented and I will work my way through all the comments. I still remember hoping that maybe 20-30 people might read what I had to say and join together in discussion. Things happened.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  53. George Conger,

    Thank you for commenting. Since you are a new commenter, you comment got held as it does for al first time comments. Thank you for being patient with me.

    George Conger: In 2017 the General Synod of the Church of England denounced “spiritual abuse” in the context of pastoral and prayer support for those living with gender dysphoria, saying it was spiritual abuse to pray for a person dealing with these issues. However, the synod did not define what it meant by “spiritual abuse”. It has since become a catchall phrase to criticize unpopular prayers or praying — and is used as a means of oppression by the hierarchy. It is nothing more than church political correctness.

    Thank you for clarifying this wording. I am not surprised that groups would attempt to redefine what that means. However, that happens in other areas of abuse as well. For example, I would imagine psychological abuse would be used in exactly the same way. Yet, we would still claim the term as useful.

    The term is important for those who have been deeply harmed within the context of the church. If you look at the content of this blog, you will see an E Church which is posted weekly. I started that because so many people have been hurt in churches that they have walked away. I wanted them to have a place to hear a good sermon by a Baptist pastor whom I admire although I am Lutheran (conservative).

    Did you know that there are a number of readers on this blog who hale from the UK? Some of those who have been deeply wounded since some churches in the UK have elected to go with some of the individuals in the US like Sovereign Grace Ministries(now churches) and the New Calvinist movement which stresses authoritarianism in the extreme.

    Because of what I have read, I believe the term *spiritual abuse* deserves a place in the Anglican world. Perhaps, when used appropriately, one could define if carefully as opposed to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To say there is no such thing as spiritual abuse is confusing and I bet it is confusing to those in the Anglican world who have experienced such abuse.

    Let me tell you my own experience with abuse in the Anglican Church. My husband and I left our Reformed SBC church over what we believe to be a mishandling of reports of bizarre sexual activity by a seminary student. We believed that they ignored it. In fact, I had quite a chuckle over one of the Fletcher comments in which he described the activity as *light hearted forfeits.” here in North Carolina this pedophile’s activities were classified as *locker room humor.* The pedophile is now in prison, having molested over 13 young teen boys in the church.

    My husband (a cardiologist at Duke University) and myself threw ourselves onto the mercy of an Anglican Church down the street. At the time I believe it was AMIA. Sadly. while there, I saw anther pedophile carrying coffee near the children’s area. I knew he had just gotten out of prison because he was the husband of a teacher at my children’s Christian school and it was well known throughout Raleigh.

    I wrote the pastor a note and told him he should beware of this pedophile. Her seemed irritated and said that the man was not dangerous. This is a man who molested a bunch of kids over 30 years. he said he was told that this man *was not dangerous.* I begged him. to reconsider. Well, needless to say, when it came time to join the church, he told us we could join until we had *reconciled* with our previous pastor. You can read my story was featured on the cover of the Washington Post. I did not know that my former pastor and the Anglican pastor were. friends.

    My husband handled the situation with the previous pastor and we were then invited to join the church. We knew what we were up against and went on a journey that finally led to a wonderful resolution in our current church situation., did not join, and went on a journey and landed in the Lutheran camp.

    Oh, I almost forgot, that pedophile was allowed to continue his wanderings. He eventually got thrown out of the church because *something happened.* You can read about it here in the local news.

    https://www.wral.com/news/local/video/11416866/

    Apparently, the church now no longer allows convicted pedophiles to have similar access so maybe our ordeal counted for something.

    There is no question in my mind that we endured *spiritual abuse* which involved name calling, telling the entire church we were liars (Baptist) etc. However, even my former Baptist church admitted to the Washington Post that not they would report similar *locker room humor* to the police. So, once again, the abuse counted for something.

    It was these incidents that led me to starting this blog, a blog which I thought no one would read. God had other ideas on the matter and I’m still trying to figure out how to handle it.

    If you wish to read the story in the Washington Post here is a link.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/06/03/feature/the-crusading-bloggers-exposing-sexual-assault-in-protestant-churches/?utm_term=.f5a7bb6f9676

    I want to thank you for your thoughtful comment which helps to clear things up. I would urge you to reconsider the use of the term. Why should the world get to define a term? Take it back.I bet some hurting people would be thankful.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  54. Friend: Variety in Christendom is a wonderful thing. Angry schism and the proliferation of concealed abuse, not so much.

    Sadly, churches behind to what their won once they have achieved the independence that they’ve sought. With in the SBC, you see groups like The Founders who are dedicated to rooting out evil and heresy in the midst. They have Gond after Beth Moore and even wrote a piece going after Wade Burleson.

    If groups like The Founders succeed in getting rid of all the supposed *heretics* they will then turn on themselves.It makes for easy stories to write about and a blogger but it sure make me sad.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  55. Samuel Conner: Within that restricted meaning, “spiritual abuse” is an oxymoront because no abuse is ever “of the Spirit”. The “subtle power” sense refers to “abuse of various kinds by people who claim spiritual authority”.

    Yet, as Christian we acknowledge things in the spirit world that are not the *Holy Spirit.* Demons for example- the powers and principalities stuff. Even with possessing the Spirit as Christian, we are positionally holy but still functionally sinners.

    We also acknowledge that all people have a spirit which goes to be with Jesus (or not) after death. So there is a place for spiritual abuse- that which affects that spiritual part of us.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  56. SiteSeer: My personal opinion is that some people (of every faith and of no faith) recover from illnesses and accidents and others do not. I know this will bother a lot of people but I don’t see prayer making a difference in that.

    Having prayed my way through several life-threatening illnesses, I agree. People around me were dying. My survival did not happen because I am extra special to God, or because I still had things to do and people who needed me.

    I did pray to survive (I have things to do! People need me!). The answer I got was composure to face whatever came my way. For my recovery, I am grateful to God, health insurance, and a platoon of doctors and nurses. Here is one of the most useful prayers from those times:

    This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  57. Jeffrey Chalmers: In fact, people that “influncers” are getting paid to endorse said product/service/style/look/music/extra..

    I am reading a dystopian fiction about a world in which everything is related to business ownership. There are people who are *Product Placers* who invade the residences of the *Influencers* and place their product in their homes, hoping to have the Influencers push it. The Influencers are given all sorts of valuable perks and become richer as those on the bottom of the economic rung end up in a spiral of progressive poverty.

    Much of it is silly but the theme has caused me to think a lot about how this applies to the church.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  58. Max: Pastors are to be spiritual leaders. When they depart from that mission to take advantage of those who trust them, they become spiritual abusers. Manipulation, intimidation, and domination are not gifts of the Holy Spirit … another spirit is at the root of such behavior.

    I agree. We go to church and expect to be *spiritually fed.* When that is used to mislead the people and the pastor gets his psychological needs met by hurting others, it is spiritual abuse.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  59. ishy: For example, some religious historians hate the term “New Calvinism”, because apparently another earlier group was called that. But people still use “New Calvinists”, partly I think because the New Cals make such a big deal about Calvinism, and partly because that term was coined for them in a bunch of newspaper articles.

    I was so tired of being corrected, I invented the term *Calvinista* which, IMO , is not a bad descriptor.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  60. Ken F (aka Tweed):
    If this was brought up earlier I missed it: Jonathan Fletcher is connected with New-Calvinism through Proclamation Trust (https://www.proctrust.org.uk/). I thereforefor suspect it’s unlikely that the “Conservative, Evangelical Wing of the Church of England” will “Get Up to Speed in Dealing With Abuse” until New-Calvinists do the same.

    Todd Wilhelm saw your comment and tweeted about it today. I want to speak with him about maybe doing a post on this.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  61. dee: I have a feeling that folks like you will not be stunned when this comes out

    I’m beyond stunning! 21st century church has been getting along without God for so long, both pulpit and pew don’t miss Him. In the absence of His presence, anything is possible.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  62. George Conger: The definition of spiritual abuse offered by this blog is one that all three commentators on Anglican Unscripted would support — we would just not use that phrase because of its Anglican connotations.

    Thank you for joining us from Anglican Ink, where I believe you publish Ashenden and tweeted out a link to the Three Amigos video. Please forgive me if I am confused.

    It has been said that the US and Britain are two nations divided by a common language. You assert that concern about the term “spiritual abuse” is about political correctness and praying about gender dysphoria in the C of E. But Ashenden wrote this over at archbishopcranmer.com (cited by Dee on July 5):

    the term ‘abuse’ has its roots in the world of you which sees the driving human dynamic as one exercising power. This is not a Christian perspective, but it just certainly a current secular one. It has roots in both Nietzsche and Marx.

    So which is it—assuming you trust the feeble Yankee mind to take in subtlety? Does the term “spiritual abuse” come from Marxists, nihilists, secularists, the PC, the gender dysphoric, or those who would pray for or against certain ideas about gender dysphoria? Exactly how should we disqualify the term and those who use it?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  63. George Conger: spiritual abuse … we would just not use that phrase because of its Anglican connotations

    Most TWW commenters aren’t concerned about the connotation of words/phrases when it comes to abuse of the pew by the pulpit. We, on this side of the big pond, prefer to call it like it is … and whenever the clergy strays outside moral boundaries to take advantage of the laity in any way, we call it abuse … and when committed by a spiritual leader, spiritual abuse.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  64. Jeannette Altes: I told him that a god like that did not deserve worship and that, thankfully, the God I knew was NOT like that. He told me I was deceived and in danger of blasphemy and hell if I didn’t accept his god. Bleh…

    I too am one of the countless thousands of good people going to hell.
    You’ll be in good company!

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  65. George Conger,

    Outside of the CoE, most Anglicans outsidethe CoE (myself included) won’t recognize the CoE’s definition of spiritual abuse, nor the CoE context. Thus, for the sake of constructive feedback, I encourage you to define the term and provide specific context should this subject be discussed on future podcasts. Clarity is always productive.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  66. dee: As a follower of sports in the UK, what did you think about Meghan wearing jeans to the event?

    I’d’ve thought it was a bit warm for jeans. But hey; whatever works.

    Today, of course, it was Simona Halep who was in imperious form, beating Serena in under an hour. And it wasn’t that Serena played badly; Halep just played a blinder.

    Tomorrow it’s England v New Zealand in the laddies’ cricket, and Novak vs Roger in the laddies’ tennis.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  67. Benn,

    “Why would you say I sell human beings short?…

    …And every time, every time, by a huge margin the question is the same……

    If there is a God, how can he allow evil?…

    …So to some people God allowing evil to exist/continue go seemingly unpunished, is an act of God being unkind.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    hi, Benn.

    i’m on a vacation, and the change in routine is making it harder to think and process deeply. (my kids watching stupid TV shows in our small quarters filling my ears and my brain isn’t helping)

    but let me see if i can get back to my train of thought, and see if it still makes sense to me…

    you seemed to imply that God could/would cause something bad/harmful/evil in order to ‘parent’ us, to teach us a lesson, to guide us.

    perhaps abuse? assault? perhaps disease? injury? all manner of health problems? famine, starvation? catastrophic disaster? relationship disaster? financial disaster? career troubles?

    (and this is what follows in the argument i am used to hearing and reading:) anyone who does not embrace these bad/harmful/evil things as coming from God in his love for us to teach us something, and who does not give thanks to God for them, is someone who is spiritually immature with no real faith to speak of.

    (you may have different conclusions / convictions)

    but to me, this makes evil = good, a God of love = a God of callous cruelty, and people as numbskulls who can’t figure out how to tie the shoelaces of their lives without “the right” theology.

    so, this is what i mean by selling human beings short — but i was responding to the argument i’m used to hearing, and assumed that is the argument you were making.

    i’m sure i’ve made assumptions here.

    ….my goodness, how unsuccinct i am today.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  68. Max: I haven’t met a young reformer yet that feels secure in his salvation. I suppose they figure if they keep hanging out with other reformed rebels – to persevere with the saints – they will get their ticket punched to heaven.

    I’ve long believed that the shrill More-Points-Than-Thou and Perfectly Parsing Utterly Correct Theology is the YRRs trying to PROVE to themselves that They Are Elect. Because didn’t Calvin inerrantly write that God can send “false assurance of election” unto the Reprobate, a False Election indistinguishable from Election until the Great White Throne?

    They are desperate to PROVE they are Really Truly Elect, and now grasp at Perfectly Parsed Theology as a metric to prove it.

    And the One-Upmanship? “I don’t need to outrun the bear; I only need to outrun YOU.”

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  69. Headless Unicorn Guy: Because didn’t Calvin inerrantly write that God can send “false assurance of election” unto the Reprobate, a False Election indistinguishable from Election until the Great White Throne?

    And did he not also describe it as “an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate”? How can anything God does be inferior?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  70. Paige Rogers,

    There appears to be some confusion as to what Anglican Unscripted is. AU is an insider’s discussion of the theological, spiritual and political currents within the Anglican world. It is a chat show, not a news show. It discusses news, theology, pastoral issues without a prepared script. That is part of its appeal, while also the source of its shortcomings. Mistakes and misstatements will be made. Items will not be clearly defined or explained, and for a person new to the show the use of church shorthand or slang for organizations, issues and people can be confusing. But over 500 weekly episodes this is how the show developed and what is audience likes. I have a parish of 600 members in North Central Florida. Perhaps one or two watch the show. And maybe a dozen know that I record these programs. It is not pitched to the 598 but to the two. All are welcome to watch and comment, but the format seems to work as it is the most widely watched Anglican themed show on the internet. We realize that is a limited potential audience, but are happy with what we do.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  71. Friend: This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

    This is beautiful, thank you. I do think this is the real place of prayer.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  72. George Conger,

    I understand that vocabulary discrepancies between denominations can often cause misunderstandings. I understand this from first hand experience, being an Anglican writer often read by Christians outside my denomination. One thing I have learned, somewhat clumsily, is that brief explanation on the front end proves valuable in lessening denominationally-induced vernacular misunderstandings.

    Examining the logistics, let me ask you this… How much time was spent in your initial comment below this TWW article? If, as you suggested in that first comment below this article, contextualized vocabulary may have led to a misunderstanding, wouldn’t a 60 second explanation at the start of the blog segment have been, at minimum, logistically advantageous?

    Whether you realize it or not, your audience just broadened. People will be watching, especially closely, future commentary on the abuse issue (including the July 12 episode). The Anglican response to such heinous acts of betrayal and abuse is now set before the world. I realize this is much to consider.

    In love and humbleness, I pray you will reflect on this new load of responsibility and demonstrate grace in leadership and in communication with the broader audience, and, at minimum, consider the value of front end clarity. Peace be with you.

    Paige

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  73. dee: I am reading a dystopian fiction about a world in which everything is related to business ownership.

    dee: The Influencers are given all sorts of valuable perks and become richer as those on the bottom of the economic rung end up in a spiral of progressive poverty.

    Sure it’s just dystopian fiction?
    It sounds like real life in present day America.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  74. GMFS

    An observation on terminology, as there has been some discussion here about the specific words “spiritual abuse”, what the phrase does/doesn’t mean, and what might be better.

    I first heard of the term “spiritual abuse” via the title of the seminal book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse“, by Jeff VanVonderen and David Johnson. The book is subtitled: “Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church“. I don’t know whether this is the first use of the term, or perhaps the first to bring the term to popular attention. But at least in this case, I think the term is pretty unambiguous and cannot be confused with an attempt to pray for someone with gender dysphoria.

    The term “heavy shepherding” became widely used here in the UK in the 1990’s, in both christian circles and the secular media (to the extent that secular media are interested in christian circles here). It was generally applied to the aggressive micro-management of junior members’ lives practiced – indeed, practically mandated – by the then-new house church movement.

    Wotevahhh. Heavy shepherding is a strange thing; I’ve seen a lot of it first hand, and my experience of it is very clear. It was a practice that drew in, deceived, and corrupted a lot of genuine, well-intentioned people. For bullies, sociopaths and the power-hungry, it was christmas come early. But an instance of a paid churchman sexually abusing church members would in most cases have been called sexual abuse.

    One specific event clinched our leaving the cult/business we were enmeshed in in Glasgow in the 1990’s. It was the only thing that happened, but it was the aha-moment. It was a conversation about: spiritual authority. The CEO stated that his fundamental issue with me was that I didn’t understand spiritual authority. His advice to me, on any subject whatsoever, was NOT to be weighed and considered, but submitted to, obeyed and followed unconditionally. Because there was authority from God behind his advice that was ordained for my blessing. When I challenged him on a specific recent instance where I had followed his advice, against my own wishes, to disastrous effect, he looked down his nose at me (literally) and said: I don’t have to give account for that to YOU (emphasis his, not mine). That was when I realised he was nothing and nobody, and we were quite free to walk away from him. His followers would hate us for it, of course, and some of them were our friends; but God would not.

    Apologies for the length of this comment. But spiritual abuse does exist.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  75. Paige Rogers: Thank you so much for sharing this!

    I found the connection on this site when I did a search to see if Fletcher is a Calvinist: http://www.newcalvinist.com/proclamation-trust/. I normally avoid that site because it’s main complaint is the New-Calvinists are not conservative enough. But the information on the Proclamation Trust website confirms their connection with New-Calvinist leaders.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  76. Fae the post, and quoting Mr Ashenden:

    I find that I strongly disapprove of the term ‘spiritual abuse’. It is a euphemism and one that is going to be used oppressively by the progressive culture against the Church. It should neither be endorsed or adopted by us.

    Abuse is usually psychological, sexual or physical. There is no such thing as ‘spiritual abuse’. Abuse may have spiritual implications but that is not the same thing.

    I suppose this is a bit of a tangent, but if he thinks there’s no such thing as spiritual abuse, is he claiming that there is no spiritual reality? IOW, that “spiritual” itself is just a metaphor (or “euphemism” if you prefer) for psychological, emotional, ethical, philosophical, moral, or similar?

    If it can’t do any harm, it probably can’t do any good, or indeed any thing. (I often think of Isaiah’s challenge to the wood and stone idols of his time: … indeed, do good or evil, so that we’ll know you are gods.)

    Although I agree that psychological abuse, and the use of counterfeits and deceptions, can have knock-on effects on a person’s attempts to pursue a relationship with an invisible (but, perhaps, nonetheless independently real) God.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  77. “I find that I strongly disapprove of the term ‘spiritual abuse’. It is a euphemism and one that is going to be used oppressively by the progressive culture against the Church. It should neither be endorsed or adopted by us.

    Abuse is usually psychological, sexual or physical. There is no such thing as ‘spiritual abuse’. Abuse may have spiritual implications but that is not the same thing.” (Mr. Ashenden)

    Would Mr. Ashendon prefer the term “Religious Abuse”? While abuse can be “psychological, sexual, or physical”, when it occurs by spiritual leaders under a religious/spiritual umbrella what would Mr. Ashendon call it?

    When a spiritual leader misuses his position of power and influence to manipulate, intimidate, and dominate those entrusted to him … when he exercises spiritual authority over the lives of others for selfish interests … when he uses his spiritual office to take advantage of folks … what the heck would you call it?

    Yep, “Spiritual Abuse” would be a good fit, IMO.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  78. Brian,

    A great deal. The Episcopal Church is farther along than most secular institutions in this regard. It has long provided training in abuse prevention, detection and support for those abuse. Its national body has waived the statute of limitations in abuse cases under church disciplinary laws in the Episcopal Church and a national focus on cleaning house that has been underway for many years. In my parish, no person (lay or ordained) is permitted to serve as a church officer or to engage in ministry among children, youth or vulnerable adults until they undergo abuse prevention and training and have successfully completed a police background check. There are over 40 Anglican churches worldwide and perhaps another dozen or so affiliated churches so one cannot say there is a single policy. But I can attest to the fact that the mindset is in place to address these issues — one Episcopal bishop was dismissed from office for failing to act appropriately when he had knowledge of abuse when he was a priest 25 years ago (he did nothing after learning of an affair between an adult youth minister and a teenaged girl).

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  79. https://www.proctrust.org.uk/about/

    under “History”

    How it all began
    In the summer of 1981…a conference on ‘expository preaching’ that Dick Lucas, then Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate and Jonathan Fletcher his curate (recently retired minister of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon) held

    in 1984 it was decided to hold a larger conference, which became known as the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA)

    In May 1986 The Proclamation Trust was formed officially

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  80. Proclamation Trust’s big annual conference the Evangelical Ministry Assembly regularly flies in speakers from America, most with ties to American Calvinist fraternity The Gospel Coalition.

    A Mark Dever lecture there on “Staying Clear” from a few years ago:

    https://vimeo.com/71725675

    Other names TWW readers know well have been featured at the conference: John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, Bruce Ware, Kevin DeYoung, Don Carson.

    Also Sinclair Ferguson and David Robertson aka The Wee Flea.

    CJ Mahaney was scheduled to appear at Proclamation Trust’s Evangelical Ministry Conference this year but ‘cancelled’ some months ago. How awkward would it have been had he been there when they revealed this about Fletcher?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  81. Max: When a spiritual leader misuses his position of power and influence to manipulate, intimidate, and dominate those entrusted to him … when he exercises spiritual authority over the lives of others for selfish interests … when he uses his spiritual office to take advantage of folks … what the heck would you call it?

    When a spiritual leader commits psychological, sexual or physical abuse it is the worst form of abuse that can be committed by a human being to another human being, IMO. When the victims are laity and the abusers are clergy, spiritual abuse is a gross sin before Holy God who takes the shepherd/sheep relationship seriously … it is a disqualifying failure of ministry … it is an act of disobedience by a spiritual leader which will result in harsh judgment on that day.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  82. Jerome: Proclamation Trust’s big annual conference the Evangelical Ministry Assembly regularly flies in speakers from America, most with ties to American Calvinist fraternity The Gospel Coalition … Mark Dever … John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, Bruce Ware, Kevin DeYoung, Don Carson …

    Yep, a mixture of “New” and “Old” Calvinists from this side of the big pond. Proclamation Trust and The Gospel Coalition appear to be linked at the theological hip. (The Gospel Coalition = The Calvinist Coalition)

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  83. George Conger: In my parish, no person (lay or ordained) is permitted to serve as a church officer or to engage in ministry among children, youth or vulnerable adults until they undergo abuse prevention and training and have successfully completed a police background check.

    Thanks for this information. Will you please let us know who does the training at your parish? Some certification groups protect the church by thwarting alleged victims. If a member of your parish came to you to report an assault by a parish employee (lay or ordained), what steps would be taken?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  84. An Observation – Ostracisation and Outcasts (Spiritual Abuse in the Church)
    I speak as a victim of spiritual abuse, both long ago and more recently. This abuse has taken various forms, some more obvious than others. However, one thing I will say, both from my own experiences of spiritual abuse and of others who’ve shared with me, that one is often in denial that it is happening. One desperately tries to justify it to oneself and to make excuses for the perpetrator(s). This is the case even when people try to point it out to you. You don’t want to believe it, so you don’t. Deep down, you know it’s happening, but you try to convince yourself that it isn’t, and very largely succeed.

    I list the hallmarks of spiritual abuse here:

    Strong, control-oriented leadership (sometimes the leader is put on a pedestal by the members and does nothing to discourage this).

    Guilt, fear, and intimidation are used by the leadership to manipulate members and keep them in line.

    Followers are led to think that there is no church like theirs, and that God has singled them out for a special purpose (elitism). Other churches are portrayed, subtly and not so subtly, as being less “holy”, of not yet having come in to a full understanding, etc. etc.

    Subjective experiences, especially individual and group testimonials which cast the church in a good light, are encouraged and emphasised, sometimes even coached, by the leadership.

    Areas of members’ lives, including the sex lives of married couples, are closely observed and scrutinised.

    Rules, rigidity, and legalism abound.

    Mixing with other Christians outside the church or group is discouraged, subtly or not so subtly (exclusivism). Members are prevailed upon to separate themselves from family and friends.

    Members not following rules established by the leadership (or threatening to expose the abuse and manipulation) are labelled “rebellious” and “agents of satan”, and are dealt with harshly, e.g. being disfellowshipped (publicly put out of the church). Members are instructed to ostracise and ignore them, and even treat them as dead.

    A church has one leader, to whom all look for guidance and instruction. There is a lack of accountability and transparency.

    It has been my experience that spiritually abusive churches are also often KJV only. They use the KJV to beat you round the head with (I once literally had this done to me; a so-called “pastor” hit me with one).

    There are more, of course, but these are the ones I have personally observed and experienced. This list is by no means exhaustive.

    I would also like to say, in common with other victims, that sadly, spiritual abuse is the elephant in the room where much of the Church is concerned. The Church is loath to acknowledge that it exists, much less discuss it or provide help and support to the victims, who, having extricated themselves from spiritually abusive churches and practices, then find there is nowhere to turn. They are left floundering and bewildered; some lose their faith, whilst others have mental breakdowns or become suicidal. Very regrettably, some have succeeded in ending their lives, such is their torment.

    I have experienced spiritual abuse in several churches and most recently, at the hands of a particular individual. To read now of what is happening with this latest revelation of spiritual abuse at the hands of Jonathan Fletcher is very painful for me, as I know it will be for other victims also; it has the effect of re-opening our wounds. I describe my experiences as spiritual abuse because they happened in a spiritual setting.

    I thank Dee for providing this platform where I know that I and others will get the acknowledgement that what we have experienced is real and the effects both damaging and long-lasting. It is actually far more than a platform, it is a refuge in which we are lovingly and prayerfully supported.

    It IS a long journey out of spiritual abuse , and not an easy one, but the Lord is with me and has given me good friends to help and support me and assist me on my journey; meanwhile, I try and use my experiences to help and comfort others.

    I have also had ongoing counselling from a specialist counsellor in spiritual abuse, which has been a huge help to me; the counsellor has helped me address what it is that makes me a victim, and with hindsight, I can say that I was targeted. This counsellor is still there for me, and has told me I can contact him day or night. He is based here in the UK, and I am so grateful for the good friend who put me in touch with him in the first place.

    I will also say that don’t think I would be here without this counselling as, such was the impact of my most recent experience of spiritual abuse that caused me to contact the counsellor in the first place, that I was having suicidal thoughts. I was absolutely desperate; the counsellor threw me a lifeline.

    Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  85. Max: When a spiritual leader commits psychological, sexual or physical abuse it is the worst form of abuse that can be committed by a human being to another human being, IMO.

    Not if the spiritual leader once said something that, if taken in isolation, indicates that he believes the bible to be the Word_Of_God.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  86. George Conger: ey undergo abuse prevention and training and have successfully completed a police background check.

    I have heard that the Episcopal Church in the US (perhaps worldwide) implemented safety measure years before groups like the Southern Baptist Convention even began admitting that they might have a child sex abuse problem.

    I am glad to see that you combine both training as well as background checks. Sadly, background checks should be done even though they do not include, of course, anyone who has never been convicted of a sex crime. Some say that it only catches about 10% of predators.

    The training is essential in teaching people how to spot a problem in the making. Far too many churches in various denominations rely solely on the background check and use that as an excuse when a predator is caught in their churches. The most famous example of this recently is NewSpring Church which had a number of little boys molested by a volunteer. Believe it or not, they had cameras that recorded the incidents but no one in the church ever reviewed the recordings.

    Now they are trying to get out of their lawsuits by saying they did *everything they could* and couldn’t help it if the guy wasn’t on the *list.* Sadly, this guy had been at other churches which had thrown him out and never reported the incidents.

    I believe we will be seeing more and more Jonathan Fletchers in the years to come. These will cause us to take a hard look at how we all turn blind eyes when it comes to those *nice* people who are obviously trustworthy. The Gospel should inform us that pervasive sin will be found in the church and that it is not limited to overeating at the church gathering.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  87. Nick Bulbeck: One specific event clinched our leaving the cult/business we were enmeshed in in Glasgow in the 1990’s. It was the only thing that happened, but it was the aha-moment. It was a conversation about: spiritual authority. The CEO stated that his fundamental issue with me was that I didn’t understand spiritual authority. His advice to me, on any subject whatsoever, was NOT to be weighed and considered, but submitted to, obeyed and followed unconditionally. Because there was authority from God behind his advice that was ordained for my blessing. When I challenged him on a specific recent instance where I had followed his advice, against my own wishes, to disastrous effect, he looked down his nose at me (literally) and said: I don’t have to give account for that to YOU (emphasis his, not mine)

    Ahhhh the old authority gambit. This is not only seen in churches but in various business entities. For years, nurses were subject to the whims and bad actions of supervising physicians. That is until nurses not only formed pushback groups but also there was a shortage of nurses. My daughter told me that physicians are routinely punished in hospitals and even lose their jobs if they insult a nurse.

    Times are slowly changing for the better. Today I read a report of the continuing decline of church attendance in the US. I have a feeling that some church leaders may be forced, in coming years, to play nice or lose their income. I recently heard a story to that effect in North Carolina.

    Its really sad when church leaders must be forced into playing nice due to the decline in tithing members. It would e better if they followed the Scripture which commands us to love.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  88. Brian: Its really sad when church leaders must be forced into playing nice due to the decline in tithing members. It would e better if they followed the Scripture which commands us to love.

    And how! But it’s even worse than that. Cruel behavior in one church gives other churches a bad name. “Try us, we’re nice” does not sound very persuasive, especially to people who have been excommunicated, shunned, and otherwise mistreated.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  89. dee: My daughter told me that physicians are routinely punished in hospitals and even lose their jobs if they insult a nurse.

    Unless, the hospital has an old school administrator who protects male physicians at the expense of female nurses.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  90. On a slight tangent, I just googled ‘ “picnic at hanging rock” rubbish’, but there were surprisingly few takers. I absolutely can’t stand Picnic at Hanging Rock, panpipes or no panpipes.

    IHTIH

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  91. Friend,

    Two answers to your question based on historic abuse and current abuse allegations. I have dealt with both kinds in my parish.

    A parish member came to me stating that he believed a man was abusing his adolescent child. Immediately at the close of the meeting, I wrote down the substance of the complaint and contacted: the bishop’s office in Orlando, the church’s insurance company in New York, and Florida Children and Family Services. It does not matter whether I believed the accusations were groundless or true, there is a clear and strict protocol I must follow. I assume it was a false complaint as no action was taken by the authorities. An Episcopal priest is not permitted to conduct his own examination in these matters — it must be handled by the state when involving children or vulnerable adults, and the church hierarchy when an incident occurred on church property or on a church organized/supervised trip, or if the accused holds a position or office (lay or ordained) in the church.

    In historic abuse — meaning a case that occurred long ago — the protocol is essentially the same. As a reporter I spoke to a victim of abuse at the hands of a senior evangelical minister in the Church of England. This is the subject of the video’s linked in the story above. As a reporter I pursued this story by questioning witnesses and so forth — and as a priest I passed on the substance of the complaint to the safeguarding officer of the diocese in the Church of England where this happened. At this stage I have shared what I know with the church, and published only what I can substantiate. I am not under any legal obligation to the Church of England, but it is the right thing to do. Where a parishioner to come to me with a complaint about a clergyman from another denomination I would pass the complaint information onto their church’s relevant bodies.

    It is really quite simple and straight forward. If I have knowledge or suspicions, it is my Christian duty to act.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  92. George Conger,

    Thank you for such a solid answer. It suggests a process that other churches can follow, and that current or prospective church members can ask about.

    Will you please clarify “it must be handled by the state when involving children or vulnerable adults, and the church hierarchy when an incident occurred on church property…”? Do you mean that you would notify both the the state and the church hierarchy in the latter case? This is an important issue here, because many churches try to handle criminal matters completely in house.

    If you don’t mind, I also have a question about confession. What would you do if someone told you during private confession that he or she had committed sexual abuse? I have read that Episcopal priests would end the confession immediately and report the crime, and would not be bound by the seal. Is that correct?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

Leave a comment - Click here for our commenting rules

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *