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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