It doesn’t matter the denomination I serve in, spiritual abuse is a possibility. It is being exposed in my current denomination, the ACNA, in a diocese that is different in operation than my own… which is proving to be a bigger problem overall.
Scot McKnight offers some insight into what spiritual abuse looks like, drawing from the work of Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys, Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating healthy Christian cultures:
(1) Spiritual abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse.
(2) It is characterized by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context.
(3) Spiritual abuse can have a deeply damaging impact on those who experience it.
(4) This abuse may include:
manipulation and exploitation,
censorship of decision making,
requirements for secrecy and silence,
coercion to conform, [inability to ask questions]
control through the use of sacred texts or teaching,
requirement of obedience to the abuser,
the suggestion that the abuser has a ‘divine’ position,
isolation as a means of punishment,
and superiority and elitism
I am grateful our own diocese is reinforcing policy that is in place and checking on clergy and churches concerning their practices. Leadership here also has a key voice in the province as they move forward toward a more uniform policy across the entire organization.
Lord, we are broken. It is heartbreaking to hear these stories. It is gut wrenching to see arrogant leaders double down on their own blindness. Save us, O Lord. Help to HEAR the voices of those oppressed.