Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse
Creating Healthy Christian Cultures
'Authority and rigour ... great generosity and gentleness. The authors diagnose a critical problem in the church and offer practical advice on how to fix it.' Andrew Graystone, theologian, broadcaster and communications consultant
'Every time he wanted me to do something, he would quote scripture... I couldn't argue with scripture, it was like arguing with God.'
The term 'spiritual abuse' is widely used across the Christian community. But what is it?
Sometimes spiritual abuse involves leaders misusing their position, but ministers can also be the victims. Common factors include control through misuse of scripture, claims to divine authority, pressure to conform, and enforced accountability. Individuals may be isolated, and compelled to secrecy and silence.
Drawing on a combination of extensive research, individual testimonies, and years of hands-on experience, Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys describe clearly the nature of spiritual abuse, and the best ways of countering it. Recovery is possible.
But - how do we prevent spiritual abuse in the first place? What can leaders do to create safer places? Is there a link between theological ideas and harmful behaviours? How can leaders create opportunities for spiritual and emotional flourishing?
Dr Lisa Oakley has researched spiritual abuse in the Christian faith in the UK since 2003. Justin Humphreys is chief executive of the safeguarding charity thirtyone: eight.
Dr Lisa Oakley has researched spiritual abuse in the Christian faith in the UK since 2003. She was awarded a doctorate for this work in 2009. In 2012-13 Lisa conducted the Church experience survey with Dr Kathryn Kinmond at Manchester Metropolitan University. This investigated some aspects of spiritual abuse and results were disseminated via conferences, a journal article and the text ‘Breaking the silence on spiritual abuse’ published by Palgrave MacMillan. She has written and spoken on this topic extensively. Notably delivering a keynote address this year at an Evangelical Alliance conference in Germany.
Lisa is Chair of the Task and Finish Group for Spiritual Abuse at the Church of England. She is chair of the National Working Group for Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief. She is also chair of the learning group for the past case review in the United Reformed Church.
In her role as Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University she has developed further research into spiritual abuse in partnership with Justin Humphreys at thirtyone:eight. Lisa is an Associate with thirtyone:eight.
Recently Lisa has acted as an advisor to an ESRC (European Social Research Council) project entitled "Justice, Inequality and Gender Based Violence" at Bristol University. She has also acted as external advisor for the ‘MA Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence’ at Worcester university.
Until August 2017 Lisa was Programme Leader for the only undergraduate course in Abuse Studies in the UK at Manchester Metropolitan University. Lisa is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Justin Humphreys is Chief Executive at thirtyone:eight (formerly CCPAS); the first and only independent Christian safeguarding charity in the UK, established in 1977. His career to date has spanned over 25 years working in a variety of youth work, social work and related settings in both the statutory and voluntary sector, predominantly focused on children, young people and their families. Justin has also spent a number of years in local church leadership and governance in a thriving City church in the South West of England. He is currently the Chair of the Christian Forum for Safeguarding (a UK-wide, inter-denominational body of safeguarding professionals established by CTBI) and a member of the National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief. Justin is an activist and advocate for issues of justice and the protection of vulnerable people. His research to date has included Safer Recruitment Practices in the Christian Church (2014), Safeguarding Adults within the Christian Community (2015), Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief (2017) and Spiritual Abuse in the Christian Community (2017). He is also author of the UK Government guidance for the wider children’s workforce - ‘Recruiting safely: helping keep children and young people safe’ (CWDC, 2009). His writing interests include all areas of safeguarding practice in faith contexts and particularly the integration of good leadership and safer organisational cultures. Justin holds a Master of Science in Child Protection and Strategic Management, a Bachelor of Science (with honours) in Social Work Studies and a Diploma in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy.