Churches that Abuse book cover.
Churches that Abuse


Recovering from Churches that Abuse

Recovering from Churches that Abuse book cover.

Are you now or have you ever been part of a group that was taught that it is causing division to disagree with its leadership? That to ask for accountability when there has been wrong doing by the leadership is rebellion against God? Are you afraid that leaving that group will cost you your salvation? You are not alone. Down through the centuries there have been men and women who have used this type of spiritual intimidation to gain and maintain control over sincere seekers of God.

Dr. Enroth, professor of sociology at Westmont College, has researched and interviewed many people who were drawn into groups that eroded away their ability to take responsibility for their own decisions. The case histories that he presents in "Churches that Abuse" reveal characteristics that these leaders and groups have in common:  "a profile of pastoral and spiritual abuse will emerge. Abusive churches, past and present, are first and foremost characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes. Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members' lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who don't follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly. Excommunication is common." 

He points out that it isn't doctrine that causes the damage from abuse, but rather the mind control exerted by the leaders. One of the ways that control is exerted over members of these groups is the restriction of information from outside the group. Leaders of abusive churches react strongly and defensively against "any media criticism of their organizations."  He records the spiritual, mental, emotional, and sometimes physical damage done to the victims and the difficulty that they have in recovering once they do leave. People who remain in this environment for a long period of time face a long and difficult recovery. Dr. Enroth doesn't claim to give easy answers, but he has written about real people, real situations, and the very real suffering.

The sequel, "Recovering from Churches that Abuse", is intended (in Dr. Enroth's words) "to persuade a few readers that some churches do hurt people and that it is possible to recover from such abuse." He states that his purpose is "to describe the processes of recovery, the obstacles encountered on the way, and the factors that inhibit or retard a satisfactory recovery."

If you or someone you know is now or ever has been involved in such a group, this set of books will give you an insight that will help you to understand the seriousness of spiritual abuse. What is spiritual abuse? Dr. Enroth quotes Juanita and Dale Ryan's definition as "Spiritual abuse is a kind of abuse which damages the central core of who we are. It leaves us spiritually discouraged and emotionally cut off from the healing love of God." Those who seek healing from spiritual abuse may find in the pages of these books information that can facilitate that healing. If any of this sounds familiar, these books will interest you.

Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: "Churches that Abuse" and "Recovering from Churches that Abuse"
Author: Ronald Enroth
Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, 1994
ISBN  0-310-53290-6 (Churches that Abuse); 0-310-39870-3 (Recovering from Churches that Abuse)

`Webmaster's Note: These two books are no longer in print. You may find them worthwhile to read if you should run across a copy.