Saturday, April 12, 2008

Abusive Churches

I encountered this book many years ago. In the last post, we mentioned that you can really get hurt in the least expected place, in church. Often, abuse happens from the top leaders of a church.

BTW, sometimes, also, in well meaning environments, the one that gets abused is the pastor itself, and the pastor's wife feels this more than we can ever appreciate. Just be aware of that, that they do get abused too.

In Enroth's book, as I recall in reading it, one will find characteristics of churches that abuse. One example I can think of is when a member leaves. In the circle I was in, shunning either explicitly or implied happens. That is, the withdrawing of friendship or good will. Some church groups consider it a personal insult to them, that you are leaving them for another church. The puzzling thing is that when one leaves a church and transfers to even the same denomination, I have seen shunning still happens! This is just an example of an abuse in the social direction.

Enroth mentions cult like behavior in some churches. IMHO, some cultic churches are masking inside mainstream evangelical denominations. In other words, they are really cultic in behavior and belief but they go undetected simply because they belong to a mainstream denomination. In my observation, local churches can be cultic even though they reject cultic beliefs. Sure they may affirm the Trinity , affirm the Scripture, affirm all the nice points and appear even orthodox, but in the social aspect, they really are operating as a cult. One example is the way they handle dissent.


Kurt Onken said...

Hey, LPC...I didn't quite understand your last statement here. Am I missing something? What did you mean by "descent"?

Xan said...

I'm pretty sure he's meaning "dissent".

L P Cruz said...

OOPs, my bad ;-)

I will correct that spelling now, I was in a hurry.

Yes I meant dissent. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Interesting...I think this can even occur in confessionally reformed circles. As you know, in the reformed (and presbyterian) traditions Church Discipline is a third mark of the church. As such Elders are called not just to govern the doctrinal integrity of worship but the moral behavior of the parish as well.

Of course, since in the reformed tradition elders are elected to a certain term of years, you get an ongoing situation where a group of untrained people are exercising Christ's kingly office. The results can be disasterous, and without solid strong leadership from the Pastor can often develop a cult-like character where that particular local church/congregation (where perhaps even the word is rightly preached) takes prescedence over Christ. It could start as trying to "force" people to "fellowship" together and result in major emotional harranging should anyone decide to transfer to another church. The one I experience was even quite tough on those transfering to other confessional presbyterian denominations! Crazy.

Anyway, I haven't heard of this book before and am intrigued. I think this might help explain some of the patters I witnessed in that environment.

L P Cruz said...


Very good points. You gave a bit of a spice on my thinking.

Indeed, the culticness can and do often come from the eldership. I have first hand experience of this to some extent too. But more importantly the elders are suppose to be there to do justice and mediate conflicts. My comment on how they handle dissent is pointed at that.

There are people in eldership who promote the shunning of former members who have dissenting opinions, a soft form of persecution you might say.

I say that what you experienced in that leadership is cult like behavior, and is cultic. They are out there, they are members of synods/conferences/presbyteries hidding in the mask of respectability.