Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery
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.
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
Bill Gothard, Advanced Training Institute (ATI), Institutes in Basic Life Principles (IBLP)
When I was in Chicago visiting my daughter in the fall, I met with Jake Youngman who had contacted me weeks earlier about the cult of Bill Gothard, Institutes in Basic Life Principles and ATI. He wanted to interview me based on my knowledge of cults and the culture of this group, why I viewed it as a cult, and why it caused/causes harm especially to girls and women.
My background: I remember hearing about Gothard’s program in the 70s which was then called Basic Youth Conflicts. Many Christians and their families from various denominations attended their seminars. My family went through the Basic and Advanced seminars in the 90s, when it was called Institutes in Basic Life Principles. Our children went to the Children’s Institute. Others continued further with the program and joined the ATI (Advanced Training Institute) homeschool program, and even sent their kids to some of the “training” facilities throughout the country and the world.
Bill Gothard’s training was sold as a program to help Christian families to be successful if we just followed his formula. He had answers to all of life’s problems.
The reality is that he didn’t. Not only do his teachings harm women/girls, they also harm men/boys because they teach that men are to rule over women, that women cause men to stumble sexually, etc. That is only one of many problems, but one that I know about most because of listening to the stories of victims who were harmed by Gothard.
When reading over his teaching materials on sex abuse, it occurred to me that Gothard’s teachings is essentially grooming material for young men/men to sexually abuse girls and get away with it, blaming girls instead: for dressing immodestly, for having unconfessed sin in their life, etc. The blame is consistently shifted to the victim, with no responsibility placed on the perpetrator. (The Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting used this curricula and is it any wonder Josh Duggar got into so much sexual trouble?)
A couple of years ago, I contacted Bill Gothard himself and asked him pointed questions. He danced around the questions I asked regarding repentance and asking forgiveness from his victims. Instead, he tried to shift the conversation to his latest program, just like a used cars salesman. The man is evil. He should have no place in ministry.
Here is the documentary that was made by Jake Youngman about cult leader, Bill Gothard.
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Boy, oh boy, it’s been FIVE years today since the beginning of my blogs, and tomorrow marks five years since being served with the lawsuit by my ex-pastor Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church. It’s a good milestone moment to update the legacy.
Here was my profile summary from the original blog (on Blogspot): Continue reading
This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.
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,
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
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
A guest post by brad/futuristguy.
Today marks the four-year anniversary of what turned into a five-plus-month lawsuit by Charles O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) against Julie Anne Smith and four other defendants.
Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse
Pastor Chuck O’Neal claims Portland-area police officer is threatening his First Amendment Rights. This is the same pastor who sued 4 former church members $500,000 for speaking out publicly against him.
Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church to host Jeremiah Cry Ministries “The Soul Winner” conference. O’Neal will be speaking as well as Open Air Preacher Tony Miano.
Church Membership is being pushed in The Gospel Coalition’s recent article. Whose rights are protected?
Christina Holcomb, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), 5 Actions Churches Should Take in a Changing Legal Culture, which was published today.
I can’t help but perk up and take notice when I read about churches and legal counsel after having been sued by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, and the church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Please note that both my former pastor and the church were plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. Here are a couple of screenshots from this lovely document that altered the course of my life:
Ms. Holcomb summarizes the new threats she sees in our current culture as it relates to religious rights and freedoms:
These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church’s freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith.
She gave a brief paragraph for the following points:
1. Adopt a written statement of faith about marriage.
2. Establish religious employment criteria.
3. Create a facility use policy.
4. Establish a written marriage policy.
It is the last point, “Adopt a written membership policy,” where I would like to focus. Here is what she wrote:
5. Adopt a written membership policy.
Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them. As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline. Churches are encouraged to adopt a written membership policy that explains the procedure for becoming a church member, procedures for member discipline, and procedures for rescinding church membership.
Of course, this recommendation does not mean that a church should adopt a form of church government to which it does not subscribe. Churches can still have designated members who affirm they are committed to and part of a church body, even if there is no voting or say in church practices.
Okie-dokie, I have a couple of thoughts:
Notice in the first sentence: Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them
When you become a member, you are agreeing/consenting to the church’s authority over you.
Ok, now take a look at the second sentence: As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline.
Look again closely. Who has the protection? The member or the church?
Also please note that she’s encouraging all churches to adopt a written membership policy.
Christiana Holcomb lays it out for us pretty clearly. She says the church must protect themselves first.
But when abusive church leadership has the law on their side and they don’t agree with you, a covenant-signed church member, you could be hosed.
I was sued without being a church member (despite the fabrications you read elsewhere by Chuck O’Neal). We never signed any documentation, never went before the church body to say we were formally agreeing to be members. I have a copy of the bylaws and know what membership entails and we were not official members, but my daughter and I were still sued.
Imagine, however, being in an abusive church in which your church membership is hung over your head and you are reminded that you signed the dotted line. You may have forfeited some of your legal rights. Please think very carefully about church membership. It is not a biblical mandate. It is a modern cultural trend.
Edited to add: It looks like Dee at The Wartburg Watch blog also had a strong reaction to this article and wrote a blog post. There are some real practical helps here: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/04/09/further-proof-you-are-signing-a-legal-contract-not-a-membership-covenant-courtesy-of-the-gospel-coalition/
Mark Dever, 9Marks, and other pastors using language to control and coerce members to not engage in outside activities without church endorsement
This will keep me smiling all week:
Spiritual abusers can sometimes be excellent speakers. They can use that “gift” to abuse.