As noted in a prior post, I have begun a new blog series—called “Bully Pulpit”—on the growing problem of spiritual abuse in the church. Before we get too far down the road, we have to pause and define exactly what we mean by spiritual abuse.
We begin by noting what we are not talking about. First, we are not talking here about any kind of physical abuse, such as hitting or striking someone.
Second, we are not talking about sexual abuse—whether that involves physical touch or inappropriate sexual conversations or solicitations.
Third, we are not talking merely about emotional abuse (though there is definitely some overlap). Emotional abuse can happen outside of a Christian context—such as in a marriage or in the work place—and does not necessarily involve spiritual/ecclesiastical authorities.
Spiritual abuse, then, is when a spiritual leader—such as a pastor, elder, or head of a Christian organization—wields his position of spiritual authority in such a way that he manipulates, domineers, bullies, and intimidates those under him, as a means of accomplishing what he takes to be biblical and/or spiritual goals. Let’s explore several features of this definition. [Read more…]