Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are you covering for a spiritually abusive pastor?

Signs you may be covering for a pastor who abuses the flock spiritually:

  1. You've noticed a pattern of people leaving the fellowship, but you hesitate to ask your pastor about it and don't like to delve into the reasons behind the exits.
  2. You've seen your pastor act in retribution for slights or criticism by removing people from ministries, publicly or privately shaming them or refusing to listen to them.
  3. You excuse your pastor's wrong behavior: He's young (or he's old), he doesn't understand the people who are unhappy, he has a little trouble relating to people, he'll grow out of it, I'm probably not seeing the whole picture, God will show him his weaknesses and he'll handle things better soon, no pastor is perfect in every way, he's such a good preacher that we can overlook the other parts of his calling.
  4. You find yourself blaming victims. You justify harsh behavior by your pastor by focusing on the sins or weaknesses of those who are shamed or shunned or criticized or punished.
  5. You feel that to protect the name of Christ in your community you need to keep secret the alarming behavior by your pastor or leaders in the church.
  6. You feel it's your duty to think the best of your pastor, no matter what charges are brought against him (but you don't extend the same courtesy to those who feel they've been abused or harmed).
  7. You feel it's okay for your pastor to build up your church by criticising other churches with "inferior" doctrines or practices, but it's not okay for anyone to question decisions by church leaders if it looks like criticism.
  8. You enjoy being flattered by your pastor and seek to please him often. You spend a lot of time in church flattering and seeking approval from your pastor.
  9. You are frequently in fear of being criticized by your pastor or having your ministry in the church taken away.
  10. You've seen your pastor flatter those he can use and then later turn on them or ignore them.
  11. You would feel uncomfortable asking to see financial records of the church, and you are willing to just assume that they are being used in a godly manner.
  12. You feel constant pressure to help more in church or to give more, or both.
  13. Going to church often seems like a burden, but you don't want anyone to know you feel that way.
  14. You have criticized other churches or individuals with your pastor.
  15. You like the feeling of being in the "inner circle," and you sometimes feel you have the pastor's confidence in a way no one else does.
  16. You often feel a little bit superior to Christians who don't witness as much as you, or who don't practice their faith as well as you, or who don't emphasize certain doctrines as much as you do.
  17. You feel that no one quite understands the scriptures, delivers sermons or reaches out to the weak and poor like your pastor does.
  18. You spend much time defending your pastor, either in your own mind or to others
  19. You don't like to admit it, but you often spend more time thinking about your pastor or leaders than you do about God (whether positively, negatively or both).
  20. You are exhausted.
If many of these items speak to you, it might be a good idea to evaluate what your role in your church really is. Are you providing a constant stream of "narcissistic supply" for your pastor? Is your main role to make him look good? Do you equate making him look good with powerful ministry in your community? You can serve many years believing you are doing good in your church by covering spiritual abuse for your leader, while really doing great harm. Check out the signs of spiritual abuse. If they look familiar, and you feel you may have had a hand in perpetuating it, all is not lost.
You can recognize the harm and turn from it, even if it's been a long time coming.
An interesting blog post on this subject, from South Africa, is The Bereans: The enablers or the persecutor's last line of defense.
Another post, Predators in the Pulpit, on that same blog, mentions a new doctrine called "covering your father's nakedness," and it allows enablers of abusive pastors to think they are doing a good thing when they are perpetuating abuse. "When a spiritual son happens to witness his dad in a sinful act, he needs to treat the incident as a divine test of his own loyalty and must promptly cover dad’s nakedness." That is the thinking behind this despicable practice of covering up for abusive pastors. The post is well worth reading.

13 comments:

Leona Obbrace said...

I attended BFM where the pastor is Dr. Myles Munroe for over 15 years. I worked there for the last 2 years. I think my situation is different here corruption is endemic & justice rare. People protect their leaders. Leaving the church did not solve the problem. It is a small community.The members have friends, money & influence everywhere. Myles is a member of the Hospital Authority Board. I am not welcomed in any church.
He was the first TBN.I was in love with & proud of my church.
The first criticism against me was that I did not dance vigorously enough in worship service. I had to put my foot down & tell them I was not dancing for them, I was praising God.
The message from Myles talked of my being accepted & valuable. Whiles I was volunteering behind the scenes I ignored the groping that went on between unmarried men & women.
The pressure was constant to give into these men. I was troubled by this.
I asked questions about the money that was donated every year. I kept stating what the bible said whenever Myles said something contradictory.He called those who excelled in business ‘higher quality people’. That infuriated me!
Everyone got angry with me, they wanted to think they were getting ‘new revelation’ as Gods’ chosen people. I was told angrily that Myles was the leader.
I started working with some school girls , I became very upset with the married men who began touching them. I reported it but Myles preached men needed sex like a car needed gas, it was not merely something they wanted. If a married man looked outside the home you have to check with the wife because she is not satisfying him. I was their supervisor they were told to complain about me & not to do what I asked. All the pastors began throwing remarks at me. Whiles I was working in the sanctuary they heckled me.
They spread the message I was a lesbian & that is why I was celibate. They brought in a psychologist to walk through the building & tell them that I was mentally retarded that was why I did not have a mature relationship.
Pastor Debbie Bartlette slapped me when I went up for prayers. I started to fall apart emotionally. When I went home I tried to commit suicide. Debbie was standing there when the ambulance arrived. The same lies were spread at the hospital to explain why I tried to kill myself. I felt God had abandoned me.
The story is today that I fought against pastor Myles. That I am therefore cursed. I heard he has said I will die on the streets. I have been homeless twice. I have been harassed off jobs with similar treatment that I got at BFM. I have been harassed out of efficiencies & my families’ homes.
The police surrounded me when I was trying to ask for help to get something to eat one evening & one threatened to shoot me if resisted arrest for soliciting. He said by doing so he would solve Myles problems.
Two years after trying to take a landlord to court after going through the same ridiculous treatment repeatedly; meeting the room door open, my clothes cut up, belongings missing; the police picked me up a week before the trial to carry me to the hospital to verify me as a mental patient. The doctor asked if I thought people who did not believe like me were going to hell. They carried me there saying I had a visit from a nurse who used to give me a shot & I beat her up. They said I was violent. This never happened. The landlords’ daughter is a member of BFM.
I could not get one lawyer nor the man from amnesty to help me. When I was on the street the police walked around telling people I was a prostitute. Now they tell people I have not worked for 3 years because I do not want to work. So the story is I’m a lazy woman. I have been described on the talk shows so people could be warned about giving me money to help me. I know or have met most of the talk show personalities. It is a small island.

Provender said...

Leona, that is one of the most wretched stories of abuse I have heard. I keep thinking I have heard the worst accounts of spiritual abuse and then something like this comes along. It is common for abusive pastors to contact an escapee's current pastor to badmouth the person to the new pastor, but to have an entire community blacklist a person from church is corruption at its deepest level. At this point, are we even really talking about the church, or is it all counterfeit? Heartrending.

Leona Obbrace said...

This community depends on pastors for references for jobs, especially government jobs ;letters to banks for approval for loans & pastors help offenders of serious crimes to get their records expunged. They are known to be corrupt but since calvinism what most people adhere to in this very immoral society this only serves to make the drug pusher, liars & sexually immoral comfortable in their sins. Therefore most still regard all who are religious leaders as Gods' anointed & it is wrong to 'touch' them. Every single pastor I've talked to have told me that my problems will go away once I forgive Myles, refuse to say anything negative about him & go back & submit. "God will lift you up & deliver you", they say.
I was feeling sort of shaky & your info & others that I've found on the web has strengthened me. I only use to see sites about cults.

Provender said...

Leona, if you could email me at cnnathepoet@yahoo.com, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Mr. PSb said...

My prayers go out for you Leona, may the Lord pour out his grace on you.

Doug said...

Leona,

I hope your still reading this forum.....

I want to tell you I believe your story 100% because something very similar happened to me after I exposed a minister for viewing PORN on our church's computer system.

That minister happened to be the SR Pastor's son.....and he was the 2nd in command (Chairman of the Executive Committee) for the GBC in GA.

It is a long detail story but the bottom line is once you expose these monsters within " the Religious Mafia", you'd better have a backbone and prepare for HELL on Earth....

But you as a person can come back, just turn to GOD,pray and seek his discernment and he will direct your ways...I did and it works!

Proverbs 3: 5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.


If you, or anyone else, would like to speak with me please feel free to contact me at

doug@dougpittman.com

I think Provender knows of me :)

Following Christ, Not Man;
Doug Pittman

bishopswife said...

I could relate to almost all of these points. This is common behavior among the church we were on staff with for years. Thankfully we got out...but many that we love are still covering for a very abusive man...leading thousands with false doctrine and abusive behavior.

Lisa said...

Leona's story is heartbreaking.

I covered my pastors, Jacob Aranza and Edwin Ennis, for years, and they were spiritually abusive. The problem is that they are still spiritually abusive.

I've since left the church, and began to blog about my experience, but it's been a traumatic experience leaving and trying to open up.

The more open we all are about this, the more educated people will (hopefully) become and less abuse will occur.

Anonymous said...

I also went through a similar traumatic experience that severely tested my faith.
In the church the Pastor used to encourage the flock to come for counselling. However in disclosing secrets to him was my (and others) mistake. Telling someone your deep triumphs and struggles obviously requires an effort of trust which you hope will be reciprocated by confidentiality. However this Pastor would would use that trust as a form of spiritual and emotional blackmail against his flock. He would threaten, ridicule, mock and sometimes insult those that he knew were bound to him by their trust and fears. Imagine the Pastor singling out a grown married man and telling the congregation that "If it wasn't because of my prayers and faith as pastor, this adulterous man would be dead with HIV!
The flock was literally bound with fear because it was taught " touch not my anointed".

Leona said...

Wow!

What a blessing to see people respond. What a blessing to read comments from people who understand & did not ask - "What did you do to cause this reaction from people."

Please pray that I would be able to leave the Bahamas. God bless you all, especially our host.

Anonymous said...

Leona,

I am really shocked with what you wrote. I have been listening to BFM for some time now and I really like the preaching but it is disappointing to hear stories like this. I hope they clean things up. I would like to ask you some more questions. This is very concerning to me as a tree is known by its fruit. Write me at crossclaim@gmail.com if you can. Thanks.

Provender said...

Lisa, I'd like to link to your story on Provender also. I just found it online. If, for some reason, you don't want Provender to link to it, contact me at cnnathepoet@yahoo.com and I will remove it. Thanks.

The Blog bites better than the Bullet. said...

Wow- dead on. This was me ten or so years ago before I left that one- the whole "inner circle" thing is something I just wrote about in describing what happened then, before I read this.

By the way, I am sorry for my lack of blog etiquette-am new at this-, but some of your articles express my thoughts exactly, so I have linked to them without contacting you first.

Please let me know if there are any problems with me linking to your site, otherwise thanks so much for some excellent and helpful resources.

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What is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse. It can happen in big churches and small. It can happen in churches that at first seem sound, biblical or healthy. Certain signatures define spiritual abuse: authoritarian leadership, claims that the group or leaders have a special calling or gifts, inability of leaders to handle criticism, harsh treatment of those who question or try to leave. These are just a few. Though the manifestation of abuse differs in externals, underneath are similar traits, repeated in abusive groups. Become familiar with spiritual abuse in a variety of churches and you will soon see how these leaders manipulate and control.

Are you covering for a spiritually abusive pastor?

What's happening to my church?

A message to culty group defenders

Cult Next Door posted this excellent response to those culty-group defenders -- who lambaste victims on blogs exposing spiritual abuse. These folks see nothing wrong with the abusive leader, defend the hurtful practices and blame the one exposing the tactics. They needle victims, and pile on blame. They excuse the harm of abusers, and belittle the pain of victims. Provender wishes every blog on spiritual abuse would have a little message like this for these folks.

Sometimes, they apologize

Every once in a while, church leaders in these situations apologize. A Florida blogger, FBCWatchdog, was kicked out of church and given trespass warning documents after being outed as a church blogger critic, and later was branded a "sociopath" by the pastor of his large, Florida church, in the local paper. The blogger eventually brought suit. After the ruling (and likely as part of the settlement), the pastor publicly apologized. There is much more to the story, but these are the highlights.

Using words to manipulate

It can be subtle, or it can hit you head on. When spiritual abusers are cornered, certain techniques crop up again and again. Here are some samples.

What does elitism have to do with spiritual abuse?

Does your church think it's special? What does it think of other churches? Elitism is a big sign your church or group could be spiritually dangerous. CLICK HERE for more

Misusing Scripture to Abuse

Check out The Cult Next Door's interview with Provender on twisting scriptures.

Stories of abuse and survival

Links to stories of spiritual abuse:

Longtime church member asks questions and is told to stay away

She had to choose between church or daughter

When he wanted to move out of state, the pastor of this Kansas UPC church said he'd be going "down, down, down."

This cult church made a virtual slave of one blogger -- 15 years of misery

What is it like to lose your son to a spiritually abusive church? One mother's story.

Her husband gave up law practice to give his all to church, and the whole family ended up shunned by order of the leadership.

Cruel stepfather is also pastor of a California "Bible-based" church (a Calvary Chapel). His children suffered beatings meted out by this pastor/stepdad. Church leaders would not disassociate themselves, only minimize and cover up the pastor/dad's violence.


This pastor said God gave instructions on how to roll and fold toilet paper properly. Soon the TP police were on the job Also, edicts on not smashing pennies!

They told her terrible things would happen if she left, and no other church would help her.


The man behind the curtain

Church blogger critic experiences wrath of abusers (including fake letter-of-resignation sent to employer) and major harassment with few attempts by church leaders to stop the abuse.

Caught in a Bible-based cult for 13 years

Holey coverups

Abusive voices remained in her head after she left the cultish group

A good blog on spiritual abuse, and some great links in the sidebar also.

This sad story includes 15 signs of abuse

This woman left the frying pan of one cult for the fire of another

Parents of woman who cut off baby's arms blame pastor 's influence for taking her to the edge

College senior trapped in abusive group for years finally escapes

Many, many stories mostly from UPC members

An SGM pastoral intern finds leaving isn't all that easy

When husband beat her after worship service, this mom sought help from church only to be abused further

Hedged in at her Canadian Baptist college, this young women had few places to turn, but managed to survive.

When humility is not humility

After divorcing for verbal abuse, this woman was disfellowshiped from a Baptist church with a message on a large screen in front of the church that read: CONDUCT UNBECOMING A CHILD OF GOD

His family chose the elders and shunned him

"Untouchable, unaccountable, unknowable, and alone"

Abusive pastor destroys congregation he was "called" to serve

Check main site

Make sure to check out the main Provender site

Contact Provender

If you have found an especially helpful site on spiritual abuse, please email Provender and we'll see about adding it. If you need to tell your story, you can also email Provender. We'll always keep your story confidential unless you wish to post it in the case studies section.

Also, if you notice broken links on this site, please contact Provender: Click Here

Featured link: The Web of Narcissism

Provender's guest posts

A Sense of Futility on Quivering Daughters blog

Spiritual Abuse is Hidden Trauma on The Cult Next Door blog


Are you covering your pastor's nakedness?

In Predators in the Pulpit, Chris Efinda discusses the covering nakedness doctrine. Enablers of spiritual abuse justify cover-ups of abusive pastors using this pseudo-scriptural approach. Efinda says that the spiritual "sons" of abusive leaders feel that hiding the wrongdoing of abusive pastors becomes a divine test of their own faithfulness. If you are acting as a go-between, or "filtering" what comes from your pastor and to make it seem more acceptable to others, are you trying to cover your pastor's nakedness? It's very likely.

Also see, Are You Covering for a Spiritually Abusive Pastor

A word from Ezekiel

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."

Ezekiel 34:1-6

A message to abusive pastors from Jeremiah 23

Woe to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.

Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, says the LORD.

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.

And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, says the LORD. ...

For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, says the LORD.

... for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.

Thus says the LORD of hosts, Do not listen to the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

They say still to those who despise me, The LORD has said, You shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

...I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

...I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.

How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the LORD.

Is not my word like as a fire? says the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.

Jeremiah 23

Tell your story

The Cult Next Door blog invites those who have been spiritually abused to tell their stories. This can be a healthy exercise for victims of abuse, especially those living under a "can't talk" rule.

Follow the leader, but with care

An editorial on how easy it is to fall into the trap of following dangerous leaders.

Search Here

To search Provender (or to see the latest additions to Provender), CLICK HERE

Order of Posts

I like to keep the list of helpful sites on Spiritual Abuse at or near the top because providing links to the best resources on this topic is the main purpose of this blog. If a post seems to disappear, you can usually find it below the first post.

Psalms for the Oppressed

A glimpse into life under the thumb of controlling church

Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel by Shari Howerton details life under the thumb of an oppressive church.

Spiritually abused woman needs prayer, help

How they use words to manipulate and abuse

Spiritual Abuse Quote of the Month

Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to be questioning...Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts -- new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology. -- Step 5 of MargaretSinger's Six Conditions for Thought Reform, found on ICSA

Covering and Manipulation

Two sites I want to emphasize:
The site Covering and Authority ends up buried and hard to find because it was a late discovery, so I thought I'd make a handy sidebar link to this page on the concept of covering or theology of covering. This site includes many scriptural references refuting the idea of human responsibility for the sins and behavior of others.

Also, a Rest Ministries page on manipulation and spiritual abuse disappeared when Geocities closed its sites in October. Before it disappeared, I preserved part of it and now have it linked HERE. This site exposed, in vivid detail, techniques abusers use to get followers to do their bidding. Very insightful
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Additional resources

Dr. Barb Orlowski has provided these additional resources she came across in the course of her research. Thanks, Dr. Orlowski.

 

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