Thursday, March 1, 2012

Authoritarianism in the Church

Candidacy for Spiritual Abuse: Don’t Develop Your Independent Thinking Skills


In my family's personal story at BGBC, after the abrupt firing of a staff employee, the pastor had a church meeting and mentioned that if anyone had questions, he and the elders would be available to answer questions.  My husband and I set an appointment because we had huge concerns with the handling of that firing and other issues.  We had 11 hours worth of meetings that week.  Tough questions were asked.   Some of the questions were regarding the firing of the staff employee, but there were other questions as well.  

A few days after those meetings, we were told we were no longer welcome at BGBC.  Not only that, it was brought to our attention that the church body was told that we were in church discipline and they were not have no contact with us whatsoever.  (See member Stephanie's review where she publicly posts that we are currently in church discipline.)  When I later saw members at Costco and a grocery store parking lot, they turned the other way and even sped away in their vehicle.  I tried calling someone and they said they couldn't talk and hung up.  Several years of relationships - relationships I had with fellow moms were abruptly stopped.  Relationships my children had with other children ended - some that had several years of history prior to coming to this church - all down the drain. My daughter was in the midst of a high school biology class that met in our home with the child of a member.  That particular high school child was not allowed to continue the class and my daughter was left to continue her biology schoolwork by herself.    

There was no love demonstrated here.  It seemed like a clear attempt by the pastor to control information to protect his image.  He knew that the information that we had about him was a threat to his position because we had witnesses.   In order to keep things under wraps, he was forced to fabricate a lie that we were under church discipline.  Sadly, the sheep submitted to his orders of shunning.  Most likely they submitted so they wouldn't have to endure the shunning treatment that they had seen so many other families endure.  

This is a great article on authoritarianism in the church by Wayne Burleson.  
Here is an excerpt:
How does one know if the Christian community or church to which he or she belongs is following Christ's teachings on leadership or is a reflection of the pagan's understanding of authority? What are the signs imperial authoritarianism in the church? The following are ten indicators:

(1). There is never any freedom to question the leader.
(2). The leader often makes claims of having special insights from God, insights that the laity are unable to possess.
(3). Disagreement with the leader is deemed a sign of the devil's influence in one's life.
(4). Events are designed to bring attention and praise to the leader rather than equipping others to do the work of the ministry.
(5). Any concept of equality is immediately labeled rebellion or the end result of a "liberal" denial of the Bible.
(6) Authoritarian leaders are only comfortable around like-minded leaders; thus, there is an unofficial 'speaking tour' where only imperial, authoritarian leaders share the platform with each other.
(7). The measure of success becomes the number of people who follow the leader ("It must be of God! Look at how many come to hear me speak!")
(8). If a person leaves the community or church, the problem is always in the person who leaves, not the leadership.
(9). Leaders who wrongly perceive themselves as those "with authority" insulate their lives by demanding absolute loyalty through giving large financial benefits to their closest 'advisors.'
(10). The ultimate end of this kind of Christian leadership is always more; more money, more power, more followers, more publicity, more, more, more...


  1. I'm sorry your family was treated like this. I know you weren't the first and probably won't be the last. Unfortunately some pastors think they weild all the power and will try to silence any dissenting voices. Fortunately the LORD is sovereign and what one sows one reaps!

    Any word on the disgraceful lawsuit?

    You and your family are in my prayers. God bless you.

    1. Sadly, I think you are true. If one person is able to see the truth and be free from spiritual abuse, to God be the glory.

      No word on the lawsuit. My mail has been kind of boring lately.

  2. Greetings,

    Glad for your site and highlighting aspects of spiritual abuse in the local church. Yes, quite discouraging. It is important to be aware of spiritual abuse.

    You might be interested in my doctoral research and book: 'Spiritual Abuse Recovery.' It is a welcome resource for those who have faced spiritual abuse. It gives voice to this issue in the church. My book looks at how others recovered from their devastating experiences in their home church.

    Check out my website:

    We have just launched a new website re abuse issues.
    Check out:

    All the best,
    Dr. Barb Orlowski

    1. Dr. Orlowski: Thank you so much for reaching out to me. Sometimes it feels like a lonely place when one is abused because people are more inclined to believe a pastor over a congregant. Your comment here is validating and much appreciated. I will check out your resources and add the website to my sidebar so others can benefit, too.

      Thanks again!

  3. LOL!!!!! Thank picture is worth a thousand words!

  4. Oops, I meant THAT picture is worth a thousand words! LOL!

  5. Yes, you are right. Many people who are in the middle of these devastating church issues feel so alone. There is so often no one who they can turn to in their church or in their denomination. They are already branded as 'the troublemaker' so other church pals stay away from them. They feel abandoned and alone.

    If loyal church attenders are labeled as 'causing strife' or 'dissenting against the leadership' and scriptures are used as a weapon against them, then they are further branded and marginalized.

    What works for people who have been wounded by church leadership is connecting with others on the internet. There are a host of people raising the awareness about their disheartening church experience of spiritual abuse. People find that they are not alone and they are realiziing that they have become part of a huge dysfunction in the Body of Christ. Take heart, there are many who understand. Yes, this picture is a winner.

    Barb Orlowski, D.Min.

  6. Hi,
    Just got referred to your blog. On the road right now but will be back to absorb everything. WELCOME TO THE FAMILY !!!


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