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.

I don’t know about you, but I can identify with 100% of this paragraph. There were so many things that resonated with me when reading it. Let me share my personal experience jumping off of these following two sentences from Ken’s dissertation:

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.

The doors of Grace Bible Church, the church where Ken pastors. It is the 2nd oldest church in Portland, Oregon .

Julie Anne’s experience: My ex-pastor came across as if he had the correct and only true Gospel message. He had us all convinced that there were no other churches that taught the true Gospel message in all of the Portland and surrounding area. He prided himself that there were a couple of regular attenders who drove from 45 minutes away because there was “nothing else out there.” Not only did we hear that the Gospel message was the most correct from the pulpit, the congregants echoed these sentiments.

Everybody was convinced that we were at the best church and any other church would be inferior. So, ultimately, this meant that if you left for any other reason besides a distant job transfer, to take care of your ailing parents in another locale, etc, you were being rebellious and not allowing “God” to work in your life. Whoa! So, imagine the pressure we felt to remain there. 

I remember various families leaving after being there for a few months and asking Pastor Chuck why they left. Every single case (except the move for a job), someone left because there was something wrong with their faith, or they were in rebellion, according to Chuck’s response. It was never any fault of Chuck’s, or anything wrong at BGBC. The blame was on “them.” And “they” were talked about negatively, you know, the “let’s pray for them because they are being led astray,” prayers.

I often wondered why Chuck didn’t not seem to be friendly with other local pastors. In fact, he criticized pastors (except John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, and a few others who weren’t local). Having been in the military and moving a lot, we experienced many churches and I never heard of a pastor who put down other local pastors/churches like Chuck O’Neal did.

This might be confusing, but I need to say up front that I never liked going to BGBC. I tried to like it because my husband liked it so much. But . . . . I did get sucked in to some degree – not as much as others, but I truly drank the Kool-Aid so much that I felt sorry for other people in Portland area who were not getting this good teaching and were missing out. I even had some thoughts that perhaps some of my “Christian” friends may not have been truly Christian because they were not getting the full message that we were getting. I prayed for their souls. (Little did I know, some of my friends were praying for my soul and for us to get out!)

There was truly a sense of elitism and pride among the congregants, and at times I went along with it, thankful that we were finally getting the truth and we were so privileged. Interestingly, when I see this kind of elitism and arrogance from others trying to claim that theirs is the only correct doctrine, Gospel, belief, etc, I am repulsed. Blech! I want none of that arrogance.

How about you? Does the excerpt resonate with you and your church experience?

Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

How our Pastor’s Biblical Interpretation Can Affect Our Understanding of Scripture and God


This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.


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

Is this normal?

I’ve been out of commission a bit this week, having out-of-town visitors, and a quick trip to Portland for a wedding.

I had to drive down Walker Road a few minutes ago to pick up my son, and drove by my old church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church. As I drove by the church, I  noticed something that seemed odd. I couldn’t find the sign that shows the name of the church. I also did not see any sign listing the time for church services.  Continue reading

Pastor Chuck O’Neal Badgers and Berates an Abortion Clinic Escort about His Manhood

Continue reading

The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Pastor Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church Taught Parents to Spank Adult Children

Continue reading

Phil Johnson Claims the Main Trouble in Churches are the Sheep, not Wolves

Continue reading

Some Pastors Think They Get to Control the Details of Your Lives, Even the Colors of Clothes You Wear

*** Continue reading

Tony Miano’s Ministry of Honor, Genuine Love, and Righteousness by Truthful Speech? Or Not?


Does Tony Miano’s ministry show kindness, genuine love, truthful speech and honor, or is he heralding slander instead of God’s Holy Word?

*** Continue reading

When Your Pastor Speaks Humility, but Shows Pride Instead

*     *     *

Spiritual abusers are often self-absorbed, preaching humility, but exhibiting pride.  Pastors who draw attention to themselves and their accomplishments and self-importance are not servant leaders.

*     *     * Continue reading

Learn to Discern: Doctrinal Statements and Spiritual Authority

*     *     *

We can learn a lot about the spiritual health of a church and how they function by reading their church governance bylaws and doctrinal statements of faith.

Continue reading

Question for Tony Miano: Did Joni Preach?

*     *     *

Tony Miano, author of Should She Preach?, attended John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference at Grace Community Church, along with Pastor Chuck O’Neal (suing pastor who had minister’s license revoked and currently in discipline), Phil Johnson, Dr. Steve Lawson, all of whom contributed to Miano’s book.

Continue reading

Strange Fire Conference: John MacArthur, “Reformed Theology is not a Haven for False Teachers”

*     *     *

I apologize in advance for the length of this post.  Please read the Facebook status slowly and let it sink in, would you?

*     *     *

Continue reading

Beaverton Grace Bible Church’s Pastor Chuck O’Neal: Your Past Will Find You

*     *      *

Today, Willamette Week, a Portland news outlet, published their third recent article on Pastor Chuck O’Neal, my former pastor who sued me and four others for $500,000.  The first article dealt with his protesting at a local abortion clinic and how civic leaders were looking into whether any civil codes were being violated.  This particular situation got additional coverage beyond Willamette Week’s reports: and

Continue reading

The Legal Rights of Christians vs Mercy and Love of Christ

*     *     *

Personal disclaimer:  I was alerted to two local news articles this morning and struggled with whether or not I should share them with you because of the personal connections as you will soon see.  After conferring with others and checking my heart, I am going to share them. If I did not know the individuals involved, I would have done a post on this topic anyway, as this is something that has been touching my heart lately with regard to what is going on in “churchianity” or religiosity vs Christianity.

Continue reading

Chuck O’Neal’s Minister’s License is Revoked and Warning to Readers!

Hey folks, we took a trip for a few days and have been chill-axin’ a bit after a 10-hour-drive in adverse road conditions yesterday, but this needs to be addressed.  During my time away, I became aware that Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries wrote an article announcing that my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, had his minister’s license revoked.  I’m not sure when this took place, but you can read about it in the link below.  Most of the article is old news to most of my regular readers, the new info is at the bottom of the article.



Wayback Machine link of the article is here

I would like to share what I know.
A pastor in the group affiliated with BGBC contacted me in early in June.  He became aware of the lawsuit when someone heard about it from the media and asked him about it.  After reading the blog, he then contacted me via the blog e-mail address to find out if Chuck O’Neal had given any notice or indication of dropping the lawsuit.  I told him that as far as I knew, O’Neal had no plans of dropping the lawsuit.  He was was genuinely sorry to hear about the lawsuit and said he was praying for me and all involved.  
Now, some six months later, I found out that Chuck O’Neal’s minister’s license was in fact revoked.  I do not have any information specifically why O’Neal’s license was revoked.  

My Story – Key Blog Posts


I  began this blog in Feb. 2012 after noticing that the Google reviews I had posted of my former church were being removed. Days after the commencement of this blog, I received a legal summons suing me and three others for defamation to the tune of $500,000. The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told. People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by abusive pastors who use bully tactics;  we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal. I will not be silenced. 

On May 21, 2012, we had our first court hearing.  Two of the original 4 defendants were voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, leaving Hannah and me.  Later, Meaghan was added to the lawsuit, plaintiffs claiming her comments on my blog were defamatory.  

I believe the lawsuit is an extension of the spiritual abuse we incurred.  A key part of spiritual abuse is control and especially controlling what people can and cannot say, in this case, months and years after leaving a church.  When Chuck O’Neal and BGBC decided to sue us in the legal court system, they challenged the rights of free speech for everyone who shares their stories and opinions online.  This story should be of grave concern to all in the United States, especially bloggers, opinion and review sites, political sites, etc.     July 13, 2012 is the court hearing at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The time is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The judge’s decision could have a profound effect on those who use the internet to express their thoughts and opinions. 
UPDATE:  On July 28, 2012, Judge Fun dismissed the entire case.  We won!  Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church had to pay all court costs and attorney fees for the prevailing defendants – approximately $60,000.  

Legal online sites are acknowledging the threat.  Here is one from Citizen Media Law Project, including court documents.

Here is  my court declaration.

A few people have asked for a condensed version of “my story”.  My story is not written out like that, but in bits and pieces as posts for the blog.  So, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to have one post which includes links to the key posts to my story so readers do not have to wade through all of them.  ~ja


How Dare You Leave Our Church!– – – In this article, I describe the atmosphere presented at the church – that our pastor proclaimed our church to be the best. This was an unhealthy elitism.  I also describe a pattern that I noticed of families staying for 4-6 months and then vanishing without ever mentioning them again.  This was one of the first clear signs of something amiss.  
False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid Church Members – Pastors who twist scripture are doing so for their own personal gain.  This shocking article is about how some pastors twist scripture and Mark and Avoid church members/former members by the very painful and destructive practice of shunning.  This method is used by cults.  

You Won’t Find a Better Church  – This article discusses more of the elitism we were taught.  No church could ever measure up to our church.  What are the implications of that kind of thinking?

The Lawsuit – – These are my thoughts after I received the subpoena (Mar. 2012)
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part 1 – Extra-biblical rules (men shouldn’t wear pink) 
You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part 2 More extra (women shouldn’t wear dark “manly” colors)
Chuck O’Neal Secretly Recorded Private Conversations – – -This discusses both Meaghan and my experience of the pastor/elders coming to our homes unannounced and recording (or attempting to record) our private conversations without our permission.
Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor – -The pattern we observed was that all children/teens would be brought to the pastor’s office for discipline issues at one time or another.  These intense meetings represented the underlying tone we experienced.
Children’s Church – In the 2 yrs 2 mos we attended the church, the children only covered Ephesians 1:1-17.    Weeks and weeks were spent on one verse at a time.  How much of the Bible would have been covered by the time they became an adult at this rate?
Youth Groups? Not at Our Church! – In the pastor’s attempt to have an elite church, he expressed great disdain for modern youth groups.  While our former church had no official youth group, the youth most certainly did meet and the “fruit” of the “unofficial youth groups” was far worse than I’ve seen in conventional supervised youth groups.  
The Bully Pulpit  We found the pastor frequently used the “bully pulpit” to preach to the congregation when someone was caught in sin.  It’s not a pleasant environment when you have been caught in sin and the pastor uses the teaching time to address your sin from the pulpit.  You know he is talking about you the whole time.  This sometimes happened for several weeks in a row – and many times was on the topic of sexual immorality.
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here?  Part 1… – We discovered a pattern of scriptures used in reference to people who he felt was being divisive and labeling them as “Korah”.  This is an example of  hyper-authoritarian behavior which created a very uncomfortable church atmosphere.
Baptism:  Was It Genuine or for Show? – We saw evidence of baptism being more of a show, rather than a genuine act of obedience in faith.  This was very disturbing.    Some were not even convinced of their salvation after being baptised – they did it because of feeling pressure.
Evangelize When it Looks Good – There was a strong emphasis on evangelism at this church, but why was there no willingness to go after my “wayward” daughter or other “tough cases”?  Evangelizing only when it’s easy or looks good?  Maybe.
Manipulating Reviews Yet Again – Here I document how BGBC congregants flooded the Google reviews to bury a negative review.  It’s all about the image.  
Damage Control – How Do I Look?  After the lawsuit, we saw the church go into “damage control” mode on their church website, making it a softer, gentler, family friendly site.  Again, it’s all about the image.  
Lawsuit Update:  New Information!! – Meaghan V. was added to the lawsuit after posting a comment using her real name (most other members feel the need to post anonymously because they don’t want to be sued).  I reference 3 of the pastor’s sermons on submitting to State authority.
Dare to Leave:  One Family’s Tragic Account – Very few people want to publicize their story.  They are afraid of repercussions.  This person dared to share.
Legalism:  Do Not Expose Your Thighs! – What is it like living in a church with legalistic rules about where the hem of shorts should land on your legs and you have a son who is 6’8”?  
In Honor of Hannah – This post is the most popular post on the blog.  So much of we experienced is difficult to describe in clear facts.  This describes the emotional part of what I dealt with in a very real way – when our adult daughter abruptly moved out of the home because of the intense emotional/physical pressures she was facing by the demands of the church in addition to her busy life as a student/nanny.  This was very difficult to write.  
Walk the Talk! This post discusses the hypocrisy (and once again image) I saw at the Steps for Life walk in Portland year after year (a pro-life walkathon).   Publicly showing/walking/praying that you respect life, even the life of the unborn, yet failing to get in the trenches with people in real need at your own church seems hypocritical.  
Do I have an unforgiving heart? – – Reader asks this question which generated a lot of conversation.
Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 1  This is the beginning of a 3-part series on hyper-modesty which I believe led to a preoccupation with body parts and sexualizing.  Sexual immorality was a big problem here, much more in any other church I attended and I would attribute it to the legalistic/high authoritarian teachings.
 It’s the Same Message No Matter How you Mix it!  This is a 3-part series on repetitive sermons.  I started timing the sermons after comparing my notes and realizing that the pastor was using the basically the same sermons and mixing the order up with only 10-15 minutes of new material (in a 60-min. sermon).    In our 2-years there, he covered only Romans 12 to Romans 13:7.    In this series you will get to “experience” what it felt like for many of us 🙂  Be sure to read all three parts.  You may go crazy.  I did when writing it 🙂
Creepy Pastors and Churches Using Creepy Stalking Control Tactics Pastors who spend an exorbitant amount of time searching their names, former members’ names, current members’ names on the internet seem to have a different agenda than the Biblical model we see of pastors/shepherds.  This is/was our reality.