Monday, June 06, 2005

sad tales of spiritual abuse

I ran into her over the weekend. I had not seen her for a long time, probably several years, though she lives less than a mile from our house. She hadn't changed at all, still her smiling self, happy to see me, friendly and wanting to know what all of our grown children are now doing.

As we talked, her tone became serious as she told me that she had not been to church in years. She and I had attended the same church at one time and both of us had moved on, me because I found myself changing dramatically in regards to doctrine, she because she could no longer take the abuse.

She did not use that word, however. It was me who first introduced the concept to her after she told me her story. As I did I could see relief roll over her face. "You mean there is actually a word for it? They actually call it abuse?"

"Yes," I told her. I went on to explain that those who had ministered to former cult members began to see remarkable similarities in those who had left what they now call abusive church situations. Though I know some people would say this borders on psychobabble and defies "church authority" I contend that the concept of church abuse is very real and is a growing phenomena.

I have come to the conclusion that there are many who walk in the valley of spiritual abuse. There are those who have rejected the Church and have turned their backs on a relationship with Jesus because of how they have been treated by those who walk under the banner of being Christ's disciples. Some have been mistreated by fellow church members, others by pastors and elders or others in authority.

You often hear the phrase "there is no such thing as a perfect church and it wouldn't be perfect if I went there." This is a true statement. However, it cannot be an excuse for refusing to recognize and hold accountable those who are called to feed the sheep. I am hoping to begin a blog that, Lord-willing, will address the concept of spiritual abuse from a Biblical perspective. While much has been written about this idea from a sociological and psychological viewpoint, offering research and a literal Mt. Everest of personal stories, I have not found enough that offers a sound, Biblical solution to what I believe is a growing problem within the church today.

Several years ago I remember the epiphany I had regarding spiritual abuse. World Magazine offered a comprehensive article on sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. As I read, a light went on...this isn't about sex. This is about power and control. I went back and re-read the article from that perspective and began to think about all the instances where I had known people personally, sometimes pastors, sometimes even entire congregations, where the sword of "church authority" had been weilded as a cover for abuse of power. In the family of God, this becomes known as spiritual abuse.

In the 25 plus years that my husband has been a salesman and has traveled throughout several states, he has met dozens of people who were once active members of a local body of believers. These people will profess to be Christians and many of them are living godly lives. But they refuse to ever again be involved in a church situation. As he has listened to them, they have stories to tell that would make you weep. One man was excommunicated because he disagreed that his wife was "called" to head their church. Another fellow spent 30 years outside of a local congregation because of how his family had been treated by church leaders.

So many of these grieving brothers and sisters in Christ are devastated because they have grown children who have refused to hear anything of the Gospel of Jesus. They cannot see past those who claimed to be acting on God's behalf but in reality were abusing the flock and beating the sheep.

Last week, providentially, as I began a plan for my newest blog, The Bruised Reed, I came across this series of articles at the Whittenberg Gate. Dory and I are on the same page regarding the need for a Biblical response to this issue. She says that she has been unindated with personal e-mails since she published those articles.

I hope you will come into my blog spot and share your stories. Posting anonymously is welcomed and you can also e-mail me at

Let's work together to find a solution to this black mark on the body of Christ.


At 10:13 AM, Blogger MTG said...

Hi Prairie Girl,

As a reformer married to an ex church of christ I can really testify to the abuse that the coc heaps upon its members. I atended the coc for 2 + years with him and had to get out and get back to the reformed tradition. I would like to contribte in any way I can and there are others out there with stories that will break your heart.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Hi Morgan,

I will look forward to your stories and insights as well as those of others. Check out the blog at

I have watched this movement for over 20 years and have heard the stories my dad told me as a child. There are many things to look at and I hope to hear from those who have found solutions to these situations.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Canopy said...

You might want to check out this blog

It's my favourite satirical Christian site, written by a guy who came out of Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute.

Your title Bruised Reed reminds me of a book by Max Lucado based on the verse. Its title is "He Still Moves Stones".

At 6:08 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Hi Canopy,

I, too, love x-ati guy's blog. Our family also came out of the ATI program, about 11 years ago, so we laugh hysterically at his humor...he nails it every time!

I gave the name Bruised Reed to my blog from not only the scripture passage (Isaiah 42:1-3) but also because I love the book by the same name written by Puritan pastor Richard Sibbes and first published in 1630. You can get a reprint of his book from Banner of Truth Publishing.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Canopy said...

Now that I recall, I first came across your blog from a link at X-ATI guy. Silly me.


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