Bullying: an issue the Church needs to address
Sir, I would like to applaud Pete Myers’ article on bullying (27 January). I agree that this is an issue that needs a lot more attention in Christian circles.
In three separate churches I, and others, have experienced serious spiritual abuse from power-hungry leaders, and lower levels of manipulative behaviour in other churches too. Sadly, this issue is not confined to Anglican Churches.
Those holding secondary levels of authority eg Deacons, Churchwardens, Ministry team leaders etc., are equally guilty when they refuse to take seriously the genuine concerns of vulnerable Church members who complain about over-aggressive treatment from their Minister, or indeed if their approach to their own role becomes an excuse for dominating other people.
Church should be a “safe” environment. I believe that spiritual abuse is just as damaging as sexual abuse in that it undermines the very foundation of people’s lives and leaves them emotionally and spiritually damaged with nowhere to go for support - perhaps never to recover in some cases.
Jesus’ warning in Matt. 18:6, though not addressed specifically to this issue, could I believe equally apply here.
It is time for churches to take this issue seriously. Personal growth and self-awareness need to be addressed during ministerial training, and once trained and in ministry, an absolute requirement for personal accountability needs to be built into the Minister’s life - in the same way that counsellors accept the need for supervision. His/her support team needs to be chosen for their courage, honesty and willingness to challenge abusive behaviour when it becomes clear that this is needed.
This is a very serious issue that seems to have had little attention from the church at large. I really hope that it will be given much greater prominence. Rosemary Pearson, Via email