Negative Google Reviews are Still Keeping People Away from My Spiritually Abusive Church 6 Years after Lawsuit

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Spiritual Abuse, Negative Google Reviews, Defamation Lawsuit


 

The other day, I got a call from my good friend, Michelle, who used to attend the cult/church we attended. Her husband used to be on staff at the church (Beaverton Grace Bible Church) and was fired. That led to a big shakeup where we got to see our ex-pastor’s true colors, and we eventually left.

Fast forward a few years, I was still reeling about the spiritual devastation that many of us experienced after leaving the place. I was especially concerned about the percentage of young adults who turned their backs on Christ and were headed down dangerous paths sexually after sitting under his oppressive and legalistic teachings. It was because of this harm done to many of our families that I decided to leave a negative Google review on the church’s Google page. I did not want any more families to go through what our families had faced.

Somehow, my ex-pastor was able to talk Google into removing my negative Google reviews, so I started a blog, and within a week, I was served a subpoena. He sued me and 4 others for $500,000 in a defamation lawsuit.

After the defamation lawsuit he filed against me went viral, literally hundreds of people left negative Google reviews (some challenging him to sue them!). It was amazing to get so much support considering our church had about 100 members at the most!

Over the years since winning the lawsuit, Google has removed some of those old reviews, but others still remain.

I was thrilled when Michelle texted me this:

 

Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Chuck O'Neal, lawsuit, spiritual abuse, cult


So . . . . leaving negative Google reviews do work!  But you might get sued if you leave one. If you get sued, it will probably get dismissed in court. But I cannot guarantee that.

 

 

Another Sad Church Story

church-1398784_1920

 

This story is not over yet, but I figure I better check in before people start wondering what’s happening with me. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have read about my pastor and church. It’s a long story, and one I hope to tell one day, but for now, I am grieving another difficult church experience. It has wiped me out physically – probably because of all the emotions. I feel betrayed, deceived, sad, angry, confused, and who knows what else!

In this case, it is my pastor and his family who has been harmed, and in the process, many people from church also have been hurt because of how it was handled. My pastor was forced to resign from his position. He’s been in full-time ministry for 25 years and senior pastor for over 15 years.

Our elders did not communicate well with the congregation about this, and many of us were led to believe he would be back in the pulpit. I spoke with different elders each week asking tough questions. I don’t think that restoration to his pastoral position was ever part of their plan, sadly.

I’m still kind of stunned. The Sunday before last, our pastor gave his resignation. Last Sunday, the elders had an informational meeting where they shared a timeline of events and had a time for questioning. Our pastor never had an opportunity to share his side. In fact, we’ve hardly heard anything from him that didn’t include words that the elders wanted inserted. I have a problem with this. A big-time problem.

And now the question is: what next? Ugh!

 

Sovereign Grace Church Leaders Remove Wife from Women’s Small Group Leader Position after Couple Asks Questions

***

Both Jeff Owens and his wife Sarah recently sent out a thread of tweets regarding a recent experience they had at their former (unidentified)  Sovereign Grace church. I think these tweets deserve a wider audience.

What you will read is not healthy at all, and people need to understand the dismissive and bullying behavior employed by Sovereign Grace church leaders when they are encouraged or questioned about having an independent investigation of the decades-old sexual abuse allegations involving many children, many churches, and the mishandling of these cases by church leaders.

Sovereign Grace leaders are still using the same tactics that we’ve heard from personal accounts for years: no one gets to question authority or criticize authority without repercussion. Folks, this is spiritual abuse. Let’s call it what it is.

I have copied the tweets below for easier reading, but if you would like to see the original tweet threads, click on the hyperlink in Jeff Owens’ tweet below, or Sarah’s link within his tweet.

In the tweet thread, there is a reference to Rachael Denhollander. If you are unfamiliar with Rachael Denhollander and her experience in exposing Sovereign Grace ministries mishandling of sex abuse cases, here’s a good article to start:  My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.

Before we get to the tweets by Jeff and Sarah Owens, I wanted to share a section of the Sovereign Grace Local Church Polity with you. I have bolded parts pertinent to the communication by congregants to elders and leaders: Continue reading

A Personal Story and a Sad Conclusion When Pastors Failed to Respond Appropriately to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, Church response, Rob Porter


Continue reading

Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence

Continue reading

First #MeToo, Now #ChurchToo: Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Mishandling in the Church

#MeToo, #ChurchToo, Sexual Abuse, Harassment, Church

delete***

The hashtag #MeToo has been trending for quite some time on Twitter. Women who have been sexually harassed or abused have been identifying themselves as survivors of sexual harm, indicating it with the hashtag, #MeToo. But now, there is a new trending hashtag, #ChurchToo. The stories that you can read in one little tweet are heartbreaking.

I wanted to share some here, and also invite those who have been on Twitter to feel free to share more here if they like.

If you are new to Spiritual Sounding Board, this is a blog that deals with abuse in church or church groups. We have dealt with all kinds of sexual abuse: sex abuse of children, sexual abuse in marriage, sexual abuse by clergy, wives of pedophiles, church leaders who have failed to report sexual crimes, church leaders who have blamed victims for sexual crimes, and also spiritual abuse which often occurs when a church leaders are involved in any capacity (perpetrator, counselor, spiritual advisor).

If you have been harmed sexually, this is a safe place. If you would like to share your story in more detail, you can in the comments, or to me privately: spiritualsb@gmail.com. Please feel free to comment using a pseudonym. This is your place to use your voice where it will be heard.

~Julie Anne Continue reading

Dr. Dan Allender: Trauma, Our Personal Stories, and Recovery through Music

Dr. Dan Allender, Trauma, Music, Spiritual Abuse Recovery, Personal Stories


***

small_4548380653

Those who have been reading here for a while know how important I believe it is for survivors to tell their abuse stories. It took a while for us to believe the lies our church leader(s) told us about who we are and who God is. Eventually, through manipulation and deceit, we then told ourselves those lies. These “recordings” played over and over in our minds until they were perceived as normal. This is all part of thought reform, patterns of coercion, manipulation, and control, that cult leaders use to keep us emotionally and spiritually bound to them and their teachings.

When we are finally in a place where we can identify truth from lies, we still have to wrestle with the recordings that play in our minds that attempt to shift us back to the dangerous teachings we heard. I strongly believe that hearing ourselves speak the truth when we tell our stories will eventually override the old and damaging recordings in our mind.

I believe this is why many survivors have a need to tell our stories over and over again. It doesn’t mean we are living in the past. No. I believe it means we are validating our experience and further pushing that false and destructive narrative out of our minds.

Telling stories is empowering. It gives us strength to stand on our own two feet and use our critical thinking skills. We own our stories, even though they are negative. But now, as we tell our stories safe from our abuser, we are in control, not our abusive spiritual leaders. We speak not as one who remains stuck as a victim, but as a survivor who can incorporate the negative experience into the fabric of our bigger life story in a positive way. It shapes us, it softens and humbles us. It still hurts at times, but we can become more resilient and intentional with this trauma behind us.

May we never tire of listening to the stories of survivors. When we do listen, we validate them and help them to become whole. Also, if we are survivors, may we never tire of telling our stories without apologies. It may be just what a listener needs to hear.

Lately, I’ve been reading about our body’s response to trauma, and this 2-minute video is fascinating. In it, Dr. Dan Allender helps us to understand the power of music used as a healing agent in relation to trauma. Continue reading

Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 2

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


***

Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

Ok, here we go, plowing through Pastor Ken Garret’s dissertation about spiritual abuse. I used the word plowing intentionally. For some of us, it will be work. It is not enjoyable to be reminded about difficult experiences. However, some push that pain under the rug and haven’t been able to process it in a safe environment. If you feel ready to do that, come along and join us. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can still read. And for those who have never experienced spiritual abuse, I’m grateful that you are reading, too. Having compassion and understanding is so important in helping someone who has gone through spiritual abuse.

Just an FYI, Ken has removed his dissertation from his blog because he plans to publish it into a book. Ken has graciously allowed us to continue using his original dissertation for this series. (Thanks, Ken!!!)

Well, let’s dig in. Here is the very meaty paragraph we will start with this week:

Abusive churches, past and present, are primarily characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes.

Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members’ lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who do not follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly.

Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult, with seemingly few who understand the phenomena of spiritual abuse.

Continue reading

New Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


***

As I was reading through Ken Garrett’s dissertation, I had to stop and soak up what I had just read. It took time to process and I felt like if I continued reading, I might miss something. It made me want to reflect on how his words matched my spiritually abusive experience.  Mind you, Ken and I have spent hours talking/texting about spiritual abuse, how it has affected us and others. So, his words were nothing new to me, but they made me stop and think. We both have a heart to take what we have learned to help others. It dawned on me that Ken’s dissertation might be great for a series here, so I asked him if this was something we could do here at SSB, and he graciously agreed. (I knew he would because that’s the Ken that I know.)

Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett – Somewhere in Italy on vacation recently after submitting his dissertation: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery, and earning his DMin.

So, my goal is to do a post once a week, using portions of Ken’s dissertation as the jumping off point. It was in reading blogs about spiritual abuse that I realized I was in a spiritually abusive church. Reading personal stories that mirrored my own story made me feel like I was not going crazy, that what I was experiencing was real, and it was harmful. Ken’s dissertation is perfect for this venue. He’s a spiritual abuse survivor, he’s studied spiritual abuse in an academic setting, and he’s also a pastor downtown Portland, Oregon.

If you know of someone who has been harmed in the church, please pass this post along. If you know of church leaders who could benefit from learning about spiritual abuse from someone who has done academic research and is a pastor, this might be good for them as well.

Spiritual abuse like other forms of abuse doesn’t just go away. It becomes part of who we are. Does it mean that we have to abandon our faith? No! But it might look different than it was. And we will discover that that is okay.

The goal of this series is to interact, to learn from each other, to support each other. We’re going to start off with the Prologue from the dissertation. If you want to read ahead, feel free to do so. You can find Ken’s dissertation here.

~Julie Anne


PROLOGUE: A HOUSE OF MIRRORS

Continue reading

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

 

Spiritual Abuse, Recovery, Pastor Ken Garrett


ken delete

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!

A Father Shares the Fallout His Family is Facing after Being in a High-Controlling Church

Spiritual abuse, children, mental health, high-controlling church, NAR, New Apostolic Reformation


***

Special note:  I am in Chicago until 11/5 and would love to get together with survivors or those interested in helping survivors. If you would like to meet up, please contact me and let’s see if we can arrange a gathering.  spiritualsb@gmail.com   ~Julie Anne

***


 

Today, we are going to read a brief personal story from Andrew. Andrew shares with us the harm his family faced and is still facing after being in a high-controlling, abusive church for 15 years.

There are a number of thoughts that struck me when reading his words.

  • First, Andrew seems to have a good understanding of what he and his family endured, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes this process can take years.
  • Secondly, he is not minimizing or trying to move past the current emotional and mental state of his family. It appears that he is appropriately addressing each conflict or bump in the road right now. Many times when people are in a spiritually abusive church, they want to move on so quickly (understandably), that they forget to take care of themselves and get their wounds healed.
  • Thirdly, Andrew is aware that this healing process is a journey. He’s taking a realistic look at where he’s been, what is happening now, and the work ahead, and knows there is no quick fix.

I believe there is a recovery process to get to wholeness after spiritual abuse. Process is the key word. It doesn’t work well to close the door to spiritual abuse and act like it never existed. It did exist and it did have an impact on lives. If we are quick to put it behind us without doing the necessary recovery work, we are likely to fall into similar traps.  When we go through recovery, we gain knowledge, understanding, have a new fresh perspective on who God is and how He relates with us, and we learn to forgive ourselves.  ~ja Continue reading

Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


 

“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults

***

I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

The Gift of Standing in the Trenches with a Survivor

 

 

***

“Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David Augsburger

The other day, a spiritual abuse survivor and friend I met last year in Moscow, Idaho, posted the following quote by Dr. Diane Langberg on her Facebook wall. Please read it slowly and carefully. Knowing and understanding this could be the very gift you use to help propel a survivor in a positive direction towards healing. Continue reading

If Being Hurt by the Church Causes You to Lose Faith in God . . .

 

This meme was posted on Facebook. For those who have been harmed by church leaders/people, what does this message say to you?  I’d love to read your first impressions of this meme.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.53.48 PM.png

Tullian Tchividjian and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Discussion: “He demanded that people be loyal to him.”

Continue reading

Four Primary Conditions that Result in People Leaving Abusive Churches and Cults

Continue reading

Spiritual Abuse: What Was the Last Straw That Caused You to Leave Your Abusive Church?

Continue reading