2019-02-21 Sessions Relevant to Spiritual Abuse

Manchester, UK

Sessions Relevant to Spiritual Abuse

Adjustment Difficulties after Leaving the Bruderhof

Esther Kiszler

The prevailing view in literature describes the experience of adjustment difficulties after leaving a high demand group. Up to date, very little data has been collected on one such group, those who leave the Bruderhof Communities. In an attempt to shed more light on the current situation, this presentation will explore the speakers personal experience as well as that of her peers, acknowledging obstacles and resources discovered during the transition process. Information collected in an online survey with 176 participants will be included to present a wider perspective. Awareness of adjustment difficulties as well as their origins, but also of the resources leavers have can facilitate an easier transition and alleviate psychological distress.

Comparing Black Gang Initiation Rituals to Spiritual Abuse Grooming Techniques in Black Christian Families and Churches

Dylesia Barner

Gang-related organized crime continues to be an issue of increasing concern across the United States and England - so does religious trauma caused by spiritual abuse. Similarly rooted in power and control, gang membership and religious indoctrination are related. This presentation will explore correlations between the two phenomenons within the context of Black participants, juxtaposing relevant literature and news on gang initiation rituals with mixed methods data from surveyed Blacks who have experienced spiritual abuse grooming in their families and churches. Data about the appeal of gang and extremist religious group membership, risk factors that increase propensity to join, and how gangs and coercive ministries are formed will also be provided. The presenter will lastly facilitate a discussion with attendees designed to process thoughts and feelings regarding the presented information and explore prevention and intervention methods that can be employed by community members.

Exploring Spiritual Abuse in the Christian Faith in the UK and Recommendations for Policy and Practice Development

Lisa Oakley, Kathryn Kinmond, Justin Humphreys

This paper will report the findings of the largest survey into spiritual abuse in the Christian faith in the UK to date. The research upon which the paper is based was conducted in 2017 with the aim of identifying people’s understanding of spiritual abuse, asking those identifying as survivors for recommendations for a good response to a disclosure, for policy, practice and training in this area.

A mixed methods online survey of Christians, Church attendees and members of Christian organisations was conducted in 2017. In total 1591 participants completed the survey of which 1002 self-identified as having a personal experience of spiritual abuse. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, thematic and content analysis.

The findings demonstrated coercive and controlling behaviour as key characteristics of the experience of spiritual abuse. They also illustrate the coercion and control many individuals encountered when disclosing their experiences. They reflect the need for a clear definition of spiritual abuse and development of policy, practice and training in this area in order to facilitate prevention and effective response. The paper will explore these findings and the recommendations made in the research. It will also consider the controversy, discussion and contention around the term spiritual abuse in the UK currently and the implications of these for effective policy and practice development.

First Century Cult Counseling in the Ancient Near East: A New Testament Case Study in Coercive Persuasion

Anna Kitko

There is historical and Scriptural evidence for Coercive Persuasion being the basis for why Paul's letters to Timothy in Ephesus counsel him in such specific and pressing ways. This paper will argue that the source of the Coercive Persuasion is a very specific movement in the first century that maintained every element of our modern BITE model: the Cult of Simonianism.

'Institutional Narcissism'. How Narcissism Undermines the Integrity of Religious Institutions

Stephen Parsons

When the expression ‘Acquired Situational Narcissism’ (ASN) first appeared in the literature around 2008, it was an attempt to describe a social aspect of narcissistic behaviour not covered by the mainstream psychoanalytical approaches. ASN is a useful descriptive term to describe the way that narcissistic behaviour is found in many settings where self-promotion is common – entertainment, politics and religious groups. Those who study cultic behaviour will find such tendencies among the leaders of most of the groups they study.

This paper is an exploration of the hypothesis that it is not only situations that can activate narcissism in people. The experience of holding high office in any hierarchical organisation is a source of prestige and this can lead to narcissistic attitudes and behaviour. The established Church of England with its roots in the Establishment of the UK offers high status to its leaders. Narcissism is sometimes found in this group, revealing the classic traits of failure of empathy, grandiosity and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. We designate this behaviour among church leaders, when it occurs, as institutional narcissism.

The paper will examine this phenomenon of institutional narcissism among church leaders, using as a case study the perspective of survivors of sexual abuse within the Church of England. Bishops and other leaders in the Church have sometimes responded to these individuals with rejecting, ignoring or bullying behaviour. The paper will suggest that these responses are indicative of narcissistic traits which have been incubated and fostered by the high status of the episcopal role that they occupy. A common aspect of these negative responses to survivors is the hyper-defensive behaviour on behalf of the Church. The high status these individuals enjoy within the institution makes them extremely sensitive to any perceived threats to its organisational reputation. The failure to deal properly with sexual abuse survivors, in part due to institutional narcissism, is currently threatening to do considerable damage to the good name of an otherwise decent organisation - the Church of England.

Opus Dei Then and Now

Eileen Johnson

This talk will address methods still used by Opus Dei to attract and recruit bright young Catholics from adolescence onwards. Eileen seeks to illustrate techniques of deception and manipulation commonly used by this powerful organisation. She is actively concerned about Opus Dei's infiltration of the Roman Catholic Church and its refusal to take accountability for the serious damage it has inflicted on many former members and their families.

Religious Fraud

Linda Demaine

The proposed talk will address fraud perpetrated by organizations claiming to be religious in nature. A preliminary topic will be the fundamentals of the law of fraud, in order set the stage for considering their application within the specific context of religion. Within the religious realm, the talk will explore how fraud law is applied to both mainstream and minority religions. Types of fraud, such as faith healing, financial fraud, and fraud in recruitment, will be distinguished. The psychological aspects of fraud, particularly as they manifest in the religious context, will be explored in order to enhance understanding of why harms occur and the nature of these harms.

The talk will bring together representative primary sources, particularly statutes and case law. It will also provide an overview of the legal and behavioral science literatures on religious fraud, representing different opinions in order to arrive at a nuanced and balanced view of the tactics employed by the groups, the psychological mechanisms invoked within targets of the tactics, and the extent to which the legal system’s approach to fraud effectively addresses the harms inflicted. While domestically focused, the talk will also look to how other countries address religious fraud to provide perspective on the U.S. experience.

The Implications of Research into Spiritual Abuse in the Christian Faith for Counselling Policy and Practice

Kathryn Kinmond, Lisa Oakley, Justin Humphreys

This paper will explore the implications for counselling policy and practice of the findings from a research study into spiritual abuse in the Christian faith in the UK. Spiritual abuse is currently neither well researched, nor much taught in counsellor training programmes or continuous professional development (CPD). Indeed, there is a general paucity of work around religion and spirituality in counsellor training programmes and evidence suggests that counsellors feel ill equipped to work with religious clients in practice and would like more training input on religion and spirituality.

The findings from the mixed methods online survey of Christians, Church attendees and members of Christian organisations conducted in 2017 provide further evidence for the necessity to address the issue of spiritual abuse in counselling training. Of the 1591 participants who completed the survey 1002 self-identified as having a personal experience of spiritual abuse. Analysis of the data illustrated that victims of spiritual abuse would suggest counselling as a referral pathway for support following this experience. They provided clear guidance for how they would wish to be responded to. However, there were also obvious challenges noted these included: - lack of understanding about spiritual abuse and lack of focused training on this for counsellors. A further complexity was the impact of the counsellor’s personal faith on their ability to understand and support a victim of spiritual abuse. The implications of these findings and recommendations for counselling policy and practice will be explored within this paper.

The Spiritual Abuse Meetup: A Model of Care and Outreach to Survivors of Spiritually Abusive Churches and Religious Groups

Kenneth Garrett

Two of the most powerful, beneficial experiences for those who have recently left spiritually abusive churches and religious groups is to participate in friendly, relaxed discussions with other survivors regarding their experiences and to begin an education process regarding the phenomena of the thought reforming techniques of spiritually/psychologically controlling groups and their narcissistic leaders. A spiritual abuse meetup is an informal gathering, to which a broad, open invitation is extended to all who would simply like to explore their experiences in churches and groups that they suspect or believe are abusive, and who desire to connect with people who share similar experiences. A meetup easily serves as a precursor to the more formal, structured therapy that a survivor may need, but is not yet prepared to pursue. Facilitators of the meetup do not ask for continued attendance, charge no fees, and do not presume to engage in a formal counseling process. A model of a spiritual abuse meetup will be presented that has proven to be helpful to survivors of spiritually abusive churches, cults and religious groups in the region of Portland, Oregon, USA.

What to do When a Cult Makes my Humpty-Dumpty Faith Falter? No Easy Answers to Cradle Faith Crisis

J. Paul Lennon

This paper responds to a very deep need in the presenter, which may be shared by others. It seems that ICSA made efforts in the past to broach the issue of what happens to our mainstream religion cradle faith after we are cult involved. The difficulties, immensity and perplexities of the project seemed to drain the brave participants. What do we do when we leave an abusive group and may want to rescue -or not!- some of our original faith which has been in one of the “Great Religions” such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism… ? A simple questionnaire shared with former members of the cult-like Catholic religious order, Legionaries of Christ, received a wide panoply of responses. In this case, the focus was narrow: what does a cradle Catholic do when he has been abused in a Catholic religious “order”? Broadening the horizon allows us to reach out to other members of mainstream religions who have been through the cult mill. What was your experience? Have you found peace in your present choice? What are your question, suggestions and solutions?