Archive for June, 2014

This is a fascinating list. As I read through it, I was amazed at how many of the points fit the treatment that I received in my church. Some quotes that leapt off the page:
*”you can never tell what the standards or requirements are, or when you can expect resolution.”
*”They make sure you know you shouldn’t do that . . . by ignoring you”
*”Take undue credit for work that other people produced”
*”Refuse any personal responsibility for conflicts, but blame or shame others as the responsible party.”
*”Assign jobs and perks and influence based on nepotism (giving preference to family members) and cronyism (giving preference to personal friends) instead of by any objective process . . . ” (The senior pastor’s wife was “unpaid staff,” at least one son had a summer job at the church, and his brother has been on staff for over a decade – most recently promoted to a pastoral position.  Other staff members family members also receive preferential treatment when it comes to jobs with children often being employed part time or in summer time positions.  Many of the staff are selected based on who they are in the community, how affluent they are, etc.)
*”Put into or keep in roles of influence, responsibility, and/or authority people who are UNqualified” (many people have repeatedly failed at the job they were assigned so they were shifted over and over to new positions.)
*Put into or keep in roles of influence . . . people who have proven themselves to be DISqualified from public ministry . . . ” (This is true for some but not for others. As a general rule, those who go through a divorce while involved in leadership are expected to step aside, but the exception is if you happen to be, say, a close friend of one of the pastors. Also, close friends who flirt with or outright have affairs have been allowed to remain in leadership – even becoming the top lay leader in the church government.)
*”Block or remove from holding roles of influence . . . people who are qualified . . . ”
*”Talk about people behind their backs . . . ” (One example: the senior pastor told me about a woman who complained about a friend of mine.)
*”Conduct ‘church discipline’ in ways that are anti-biblical . . . ” (Read my story. Enough said.)
*”Use ‘church discipline’ or other forms of threat of expulsion from the community or censure as a way to instill fear of reprisal for going against church authorities” (I was not to tell anyone – not even my husband.)
*”Refuse to conduct church discipline with someone who has demonstrated significant, ongoing harm . . . this person who happens to be a protege.”
*”Misuse leadership structures to avoid personal involvement in conflicts or difficult relational/personnel issues by sending someone lower down in the ‘chain of authority’ to deal with the situation . . . ” (Again, enough said.)
*”Do not follow through . . . stop talking to you if you challenge them . . . ”
*”high level of turnover shows a capricious commitment to the leaders’s vision and programs instead of a gracious covenant to people and organizational viability.”
*”Split their public persona from the behind-the-scenes person who is very different . . . ”
How about you? If you have been the victim of a spiritually abusive situation, which of these descriptors fit your experience?


January is Spiritual Abuse Awareness month, and I plan to post several articles on related topics. A full listing and links for my posts on this topic appears in this Index.

Summary. This post offers a list of specific actions by people who attempt to manipulate, control, or directly harm individuals and/or organizational systems. Because various kinds of abusers typically use very different approaches to getting their own way, many items on this list seem to contradict each other. But, these actions serve as indicators to warn us of both probable perpetrators of spiritual abuse and those who act as protectors of perpetrators.

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As I have been sharing my story for the past few months, a common response has been, “He didn’t think you would stay.”

The pastor didn’t think I would stay after being told that I couldn’t participate in music.  My guess is that his experience with musicians is that they want to be on the stage, in the limelight, front and center.  What he didn’t anticipate is that I am not one of those kinds of musicians.  I don’t have a deep burning need to be up front or for others to even hear my voice.  I enjoy singing and playing various instruments, but mostly in my own living room or in my car or in my kitchen when I am home alone.  I am more a teacher – one who enjoys recognizing the gift of music in others and helping them be the best singer, player, performer they can be.  And since I do that 180 days out of the school year, my appetite for teaching is pretty well satiated.

The pastor didn’t think I would stay after being told I couldn’t attend the final spiritual gifts class – the one where we would sit with a church leader and discuss our top three gifts and how they could be used in the church.  Again, the assumption on the part of the leadership was that my top gift was music and if I couldn’t use it, I would be out of there.  Music ended up number 5 on my gift list and, as a teacher – and at that time as a teacher and team trainer in a Bible college – my gifts were being used far beyond anything I would have done in the church.  No worries.

The pastor didn’t think I would stay after being told I couldn’t do ANYTHING in the church except attend services.  What he didn’t plan on is my tenacity.  My faith is tenacious.  I believe in loving people through, and in spite of, and no matter what.  I believe in grace and forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.  I believe that God works everything together for good and that given enough time, and the opportunity to talk, one day, all would be well.

The pastor didn’t think I would stay if this decree, this judgment, this ostracism went on long enough.  It was a stare down.  Who was going to blink first?  I didn’t blink.  For more than a decade, I didn’t blink.  And neither did he.

The pastor didn’t think I would ever be so bold as to challenge the abuse I had been experiencing in a public forum.  So when I stood up in front of more than 300 people at a Journey to Wholeness conference and declared that I was the victim of a lack of forgiveness on the part of the church, that must have been stunning.  But not stunning enough for him to initiate a conversation with me about my plight.

The pastor didn’t think I would be so bold as to ever share, even privately, on my blog the full and complete story of my shunning and ostracism.  Because when you are shunned and ostracized, you must have done something truly awful.  Churches just don’t shun and ostracize people for no good reason, they think. And no one wants to consider the fact that the “good reason” might just be because the pastor simply doesn’t like being held accountable.  Nor will they ever speak out loud that the person being ostracized simply doesn’t have the right last name, doesn’t live in the right neighborhood, doesn’t make or give enough money, and therefore, doesn’t deserve to be there and, since it doesn’t affect them, they really don’t care.

The pastor didn’t think I would wait to leave until I was flat out told to go.  He thought that I would take the hint with that very first meeting with the Personnel Committee.  And then with the ostracism.  With his lack of response as he ignored my pleas for answers and for help.  He didn’t plan on someone who truly believes all that he was preaching about.  Someone who would not be easily offended.  Someone who is long-suffering because they will know we are Christians by our love.  Someone who believes that if Jesus never leaves or forsakes us, why would I leave or forsake the church?

And finally the day came when he blinked.  The stare down was over.  But it wasn’t the God-glorifying Jesus is Lord ending.  It was the Pharisaical “you’re not good enough and we don’t want you here” ending that he always wanted – message finally delivered in no uncertain terms.

Still, I believe.  In grace. In forgiveness. In reconciliation. In restoration.

Still, I have not blinked.



Because I know you follow my blog, Kathie, I think you should read this:

For years my husband and I would go over the many and varied coincidences that happened.

One blatant example is that I would send an email to the pastor asking for help or for an explanation of why I was being ostracized and I would immediately get an email from a woman in leadership asking to have coffee. In fact, it almost became a joke around our house.  My husband and I would compose an email together and then count the hours/days until the expected coffee date request would come.

Recently, the church announced the candidates for elder and deacon positions in the upcoming election later this month.  Interestingly enough, several of those in the running are people with whom my husband and/or I have had warm friendships. They are also people whom we thought just might reach out to us.  Some have been guests in our home and have gone to dinner with us several times.  Some have been in classes with us – as teachers, as classmates, as students.  Some have had us as guests in their home.  One once said that due to age, she would never serve as an elder again. She also once told me that if she had known about my initial ostracism, she would have gone to the senior pastor and demanded answers.  But, by the time she found out about it, her son was on the staff and so she wasn’t going to say anything that would jeopardize his position.  She is the same person who emailed me right after we were tossed aside and asked what had happened.  Though I replied asking her to call me, I never heard from her again, despite a follow-up attempt to communicate with her.

As I think about the one who had lunch with me only days after we were told to never return, and how she worried that she might be in serious trouble if the associate pastor’s daughter, who was sitting only feet away from us, might report on her, I cannot help but think that this is all much more than a coincidence.

Here are people whom we counted as friends, yet they have not made any attempt to communicate with us.  Here is at least one person who was afraid that contact with me would bring wrath from the associate pastor.  Here is at least one person who would not speak up for fear that her son’s employment in the church would be jeopardized.  Here is at least one person who was expecting my husband to continue to be involved in his small group.  Yet not one has communicated with us and every one is now on the ballot for elder leadership.

My husband and I are convinced that there is more going on here than coincidence.

In a church where it was made crystal clear that there is reward for “good behavior,” I can’t help but believe that people are being rewarded.

And as I write this and glance up at the picture of Jesus that sits above my desk, I hear “Ellen, this is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  And I am reminded that there are kings with kingdoms and there is a King with a Kingdom.  One will never leave me or forsake me.  He is not like them. And they are not like Him.