Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | January 9, 2011

Seekers from Abusive Churches

Are Episcopal (and other mainline) parishes considering the needs of seekers who once attended abusive congregations in other groups? This may seem like an odd question, but it’s one that should be considered. After all, someone who’s casually visiting a church who has been in these situations might not feel comfortable opening up to someone they’ve just met.

I’ve highlighted a few concerns that people I’ve talked to have when finding a new church. I’m hoping this will help generate some discussion about how these issues are dealt with.

1. Too little emphasis on Scriptural justification for beliefs-A lot of abusive groups discourage Bible study or expect their leaders to provide answers to every question. While no healthy church wants their beliefs “forced” on visitors, too little emphasis on Scripture can cause visitors to look elsewhere, even if their other choice doesn’t teach orthodox theology.

2. Too much pushing for involvement-abusive groups put pressure on members to be overly involved. Being invited to take part in too much at once can seem like they’re being pushed into something.

3. Extreme resistance to new things-this is a problem found equally in both healthy and unhealthy congregations. Even a small group of people not willing to make room for new ideas can cause a lot of misery for a congregation.

How do your parishes cope with these types of issues?

Comments are welcome, but must conform to the following guidelines:


  1. I’ll tell you what’s abusive: Forbidding usage of the 1928 BCP in once-thriving parishes that have been declining for over 30 years now. Once the proudest denomination in America – now the last refuge of the 1960s draft dodgers and hippies. Ruining what was the Church of Beauty is abusive!

    Note from Blog Owner: Hi all,

    Just a note that the purpose of this post is not to generate a 1928 vs. 1979 BCP firestorm. My comment about “abuse” specifically referred to people coming from Christian groups commonly regarded as cults and some of the issues that they may face.

    If there’s interest in a separate discussion regarding the 1928 BCP issue, please visit this link for a new discussion that I started. Thanks!

  2. For a little more perspective, here are some thoughts on what a spiritually abusive group is from a former member of one (shared with permission): “I guess I’d say change doesn’t mean there’s abuse, even if the changes are undesirable to some. When one group or even one leader mocks, labels, or shuns another, or when a group is told they’re going to hell or are “bad” for believing something or doing something a certain way, then they have faced a form of abuse. What about a spiritual abuse checklist:…teristics.html
    Since there’s a chance that some newcomers might come from backgrounds where such practices were a regular occurrence, I think we should be considering whether we’re equipped to handle their needs or not.

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