A NEW guide for tackling spiritual abuse in Evangelical churches is be published next spring, as part of “starting a conversation” about the issue.
The guide, titled “Challenging Leaders: Preventing and Investigating Allegations of Pastoral Malpractice” is being produced by Affinity, an organisation that is in touch with more than 1200 Evangelical churches.
An event to launch the project was held in Westminster Palace on Monday, supported by Janet Daby MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Communities.
The director of Affinity, Graham Nicholls, began the event with a statement: “Abuse of power by leaders and of leaders is happening. It’s wrong, and we need to deal with it compassionately and biblically.”
He suggested that it was important to recognise the reality of abuse, and that it is sometimes wrongly dismissed as part of a “secular victim culture”. At the same time, he said that it was important for churches to approach the issue through a biblical lens, “not so much in the secular terms of power imbalance, but in terms of the authority placed on leaders in the Church”.
Mr Nicholls, who is a pastor at Christ Church, Hayward’s Heath, explained that recent cases of malpractice and abuse within evangelical churches were an impetus for the production of the guide.
He cited the case of Emmanuel Proprietary Chapel in Wimbledon. In 2021, an independent safeguarding review found that there was an “unhealthy culture” in the church that allowed allegations of abuse to go unchecked (News, 23 March 2021).
The guide aims to combine pastoral and procedural advice, and will cover how best to respond to those who have been hurt, even when the conduct falls below the criminal and safeguarding levels.
“Conservative Evangelicals are perhaps the worst for pushing the wounded out of the way,” Mr Nicholls said.
The focus now was on starting a conversation, of which the upcoming book would be just one part: “The book will be imperfect, it will be incomplete . . . but it won’t be the end of the conversation.”
To this end, Affinity is releasing resources online before the publication date, and hopes to establish moderated forums for discussing issues surrounding spiritual abuse.