Bul­ly­ing: an is­sue the Church needs to ad­dress

The Church of England - - CHURCH OF ENGALND -

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

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