ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Going Back to Church Again, Leaving the Church, Recovery Process, SPIRITUAL ABUSE RECOVERY

Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


Spiritual Abuse, Recovery, Pastor Ken Garrett

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Pastor Ken Garrett and his beautiful wife, Sharon


Now this is a great story! Some long-time readers will probably remember how I met Pastor Ken Garrett, a good friend of mine and of SSB. After I got sued by my pastor in 2012, I received an email from another pastor in Portland. This guy was Pastor Ken Garrett. My suing church was Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Ken’s church: Portland Grace Bible Church. So similar!!!

My story was broadcast in the Portland news, nationwide, and internationally. Some people mistakenly thought Ken was my suing pastor. His blog site had an increase in hits and he received nasty phone calls condemning this man who sued mothers and their adult children. Poor Ken!

Ken sent me an e-mail to let me what had happened (after a good laugh), and then shared about his experience with spiritual abuse. We became fast friends and have met in Portland from time to time discussing the topic that has greatly impacted our lives, spiritual abuse.

When I first got to know Ken, he mentioned that he was going back to school for his doctorate. I’m thrilled to share that Ken has completed his doctorate. His dissertation is entitled: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

This is a topic that has not received much press, but one which has affected many lives. I hope Ken’s work will benefit many, especially pastors, church leaders, therapists, and frankly anyone who wants to understand and support those in this kind of pain.

There is a link to Ken’s dissertation here. I hope Ken’s work gets distributed far and wide and is a great help to the church and the spiritual survivor community:  Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

Bravo, Ken!

20 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery”

  1. Great resource, Julie. I started reading it and he sounds very similar to my experience. Looks like it will be a big help to expose the problems and help people guard against spiritual abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read all the pre chapter one pages and I will finish this book/dissertation. I think it will be a very good read and resource. Looking forward to reading about this topic from the point of view of someone that has been there and that has done the research. Congratulations to you Dr. Ken Garrett. Ya done good!


  3. Right at the very beginning Dr. Ken Garrett lays it out so clearly:

    “…spiritual abuse is defined as the use of deception, manipulation, and undue influence by a pastor or leader over a member of a church or Christian organization in order to appropriate the member’s material, physical, or emotional resources.”

    Ain’t it the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have not read this yet, but I have looked at the first few pages and see two acronyms that I am VERY familiar with: ICOC and ICC–International Churches of Christ and International Christian Churches.


  5. Noticed something on Page 2 of the Prologue:

    “As a former paramedic…”

    i.e. He was out in the Real World with the Jobs instead of bubble-wrapped in a Seminary between 18 and graduating into a pulpit with Job’s Counselors.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good point, HUG. Yes, he was definitely in the thick of things as a paramedic. And it makes sense why he would be comfortable as a pastor right smack downtown Portland.

    Every time I’ve gone to visit, I have to pass a wide variety of people in various states (mental, physical) of conditions. Ken and Sharon are beautiful people and know how to care for those that many of us would not want to even make eye contact with. They are the real deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Read it, and it rings true–the spiritual abuse I had was not as bad as many have, but Ken does a great job noting that there are (at least) two definitions of cult. His means a group that is controlling, where Walter Martin’s (“the Kingdom of the Cults”) is of a group which maintains some appearance of Christianity, but not Nicene doctrine. It’s important to understand the difference in this dissertation.

    My take is that anyone anywhere on the evangelical spectrum, including the fundamental wing, can read this and profit by this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting point from Headless-Unicorn-Guy. I do wonder if the best pastors are the ones who worked in various fields before getting into seminary. Or even who worked customer service or fast-food or retail in the summers in between. One of my pastors did tree-planting and construction, for example. Another used to work in sales, and another did that in between pastor-ships, and found that it made him better when he did return to ministry. Something for search committees to keep in mind?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I re-blogged Ken’s dissertation on my blog and posted it on Facebook pages that I manage. It’s so helpful that he gets spiritual abuse and has lived through it and recovered from it.

    And like others have noted up the thread, that Ken worked a real job in the real world as a paramedic and he had diverse and supportive colleagues.


  10. JPU, I think you’ve got a point there, and it’s worth noting that 1 Timothy 3 notes that the elder ought not “be a novice”, which would imply they’ve had other jobs to make ends meet prior to the pastorate. For that matter, the character qualities for a pastor or deacon in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are also established over time, and over that same time, one would at least hope that the negative character traits Ken describes would become obvious.

    Not a gimme, as smart people could (and should) point out to me that many corporate and political leaders are older men whose narcissism has been obvious for a while, but at least time gives us a chance to suss these things out.


  11. I didn’t know if this could be of help to anyone here (this is posted on my Miss Daisy blog):

    Regarding Moral Injury


    Does it apply only to soldiers?

    Not at all. In times of stress, people can act against their moral code. A poverty-stricken mother abandons her children; a drug addict commits a crime to support a habit; an office worker fabricates documents for fear of losing a job.

    How is it different from PTSD?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder is fear-based. Moral injury is not.

    The treatment for PTSD often involves reliving the traumatic incident in a safe environment to defuse the fear. But that very same therapy, Brock points out, can sometimes agitate moral injury…


  12. HUGE CONGRATS Ken!!!

    I know you put a lot of work into getting all the course work done and completing the dissertation. That is a huge accomplishment that you can be proud of.

    I have been enjoying getting some time to read your dissertation. You tackle the definition of ‘cult’ which is something that I also had to wrestle with in doing my dissertation on spiritual abuse and recovery.

    It is important to raise awareness about this issue and blaze a trail for others to follow. I will enjoy reading the whole document and may give you some feedback.

    All the best!!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Read it; he’s the first other guy to notice what I noticed during my time in-country:

    Christainese cult-watch groups of the time defined a CULT entirely by their theology and doctrine, not repeat NOT by their abusive control-freak behavior. While the cult-watchers were parsing theology letter-by-letter, these abusive not-a-cults would come under the radar (not even sneaking) and abuse their people.

    Of course, it helped that the abusive not-a-cults were the same theology and doctrine as the would-be cult-sniffers: BornAgainBibleBelievingEvangelicals(TM), which at that time and place meant Calvary Chapel crossbred with Jack Chick with a side order of Hal Lindsay.


  14. Congratulations on your accomplishment, Ken Garrett!

    The first thing I think a person must do is recognize that spiritual abuse is a reality. I say that because just this week someone I was having a discussion with dismissed that there even is such a thing as spiritual abuse. He had absolutely no compassion for victims. He called people who remain in an abusive church environment “dumb” – implying they are responsible for what happens to them because they don’t just leave. When I proceeded to explain the tactics of those who spiritually abuse, by using the trust these Christians place in their leaders to manipulate and control them, he told me I was being “dramatic.” When I went on to give him examples of spiritual abuse from Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church and C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Church Network, he had nothing to say. He had no interest whatsoever in acknowledging that spiritual abuse is quite common in many church environments. We have a lot of work to do to educate people.

    *Julie Anne: I hope to email you in a few days. I’ve been busy helping my daughter make plans for her wedding.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thanks so much for sharing this, it is a much needed work. The details covered as I read through it are so important. I will be sharing this with the many who have been recovering from the effects of Gospel for Asia aka Believers Church India. So many have departed over the last two years due to a number of issues there. We are all at different places of recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ken, in looking at your study on Jude, you provide a number of reminders from this NT book how to discern false teachers.

    I came across this link from a number of years ago critiquing John Piper’s view. This author’s insights are rather enlightening when you consider them in light of Jude’s words.


    A few quotes:

    “A redefinition of faith! And therefore a denial of justification by faith alone!

    If Piper is correct, then we will never properly be assured of the forgiveness of our sins and God’s love for us!

    Far from encouraging true delight in God, Piper’s doctrine of assurance destroys the comfort of believers and thereby prevents them from rejoicing in the God of their salvation and doing good works accordingly.

    This terrible doctrine goes against the whole testimony of God’s Word and is nothing but the Romish doctrine of assurance (or rather, of doubt).

    Everywhere Scripture commands us to look to Christ for our assurance (Num. 21:8-9; Isa. 45:22; John 3:14-15; 6:40) not to ourselves.

    Piper’s doctrine of assurance is nothing but mysticism.”

    Liked by 2 people

  17. The link goes to Grace Church Portland and not to a dissertation. I would very much like to read this work. Can you fix?


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