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Publication Date: 18 Apr 2019
Publisher: SPCK Publishing
Words: 60000
Page Count: 192
Author: Lisa Oakley|Justin Humphreys
ISBN-13: 9780281081318, 9780281081325

Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse

How to create healthy Christian cultures
By Lisa Oakley, Justin Humphreys
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ISBN: 9780281081318
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Summary
Spiritual abuse - the abuse of power by those in positions of trust within religious bodies - is widespread but under-recognised. It is not easy to define: Where do you draw the line? When does guidance become control? It can be experienced by anyone, including clergy and leaders.

Through a combination of extensive research, years of hands-on experience through the work of thirtyone:eight (formerly CCPAS), and individual testimonies, Oakley and Humphreys describe clearly the nature of spiritual abuse, and the best ways of countering it.

Understanding the characteristics of spiritual abuse is important simply so we can recognise it, but it is also the first step in allowing those who have experienced it to have their stories acknowledged. So, what are we looking for? Quotes from those who have experienced spiritual abuse help to explore the key features of this form of abuse.

What is the impact of spiritual abuse on individuals, including the effect on the personal faith journeys of individuals and their sense of self? The authors detail the challenges faced in responding well to stories of spiritual abuse and draw on recent research where those who have experienced this offer suggestions for the best ways to respond to personal accounts.

A road to recovery is possible. The journey through spiritual abuse is painful, and for many there is not a ‘quick fix’ to recovery. Oakley and Humphreys explore how people have found their way to a positive outcome and the factors that make this more likely. They suggest how churches can support those who have had this experience.

How do we prevent spiritual abuse in the first place? The authors explore the role of leadership in creating safer places as a preventative measure, and in creating clear opportunities for effective learning. What is the relationship between theological ideas and justifications for harmful behaviours? Effective communication plays a vital part in both good and bad leadership styles: how can leaders create opportunities for spiritual and emotional flourishing?

Good health requires safety. What does a “safer” culture look like and how does this establish healthier contexts to work and worship in? How can leaders recognise and foster a healthy, safe environment and culture?
About the Author
Dr Lisa Oakley has researched spiritual abuse in the Christian faith in the UK since 2003. She was awarded a doctorate for this work in 2009. In 2012-13 Lisa conducted the Church experience survey with Dr Kathryn Kinmond at Manchester Metropolitan University. This investigated some aspects of spiritual abuse and results were disseminated via conferences, a journal article and the text ‘Breaking the silence on spiritual abuse’ published by Palgrave MacMillan. She has written and spoken on this topic extensively. Notably delivering a keynote address this year at an Evangelical Alliance conference in Germany.

Lisa is Chair of the Task and Finish Group for Spiritual Abuse at the Church of England. She is chair of the National Working Group for Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief. She is also chair of the learning group for the past case review in the United Reformed Church.

In her role as Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University she has developed further research into spiritual abuse in partnership with Justin Humphreys at thirtyone:eight. Lisa is an Associate with thirtyone:eight.

Recently Lisa has acted as an advisor to an ESRC (European Social Research Council) project entitled “Justice, Inequality and Gender Based Violence” at Bristol University. She has also acted as external advisor for the ‘MA Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence’ at Worcester university.

Until August 2017 Lisa was Programme Leader for the only undergraduate course in Abuse Studies in the UK at Manchester Metropolitan University. Lisa is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Justin Humphreys is Chief Executive at thirtyone:eight (formerly CCPAS); the first and only independent Christian safeguarding charity in the UK, established in 1977. His career to date has spanned over 25 years working in a variety of youth work, social work and related settings in both the statutory and voluntary sector, predominantly focused on children, young people and their families. Justin has also spent a number of years in local church leadership and governance in a thriving City church in the South West of England. He is currently the Chair of the Christian Forum for Safeguarding (a UK-wide, inter-denominational body of safeguarding professionals established by CTBI) and a member of the National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief. Justin is an activist and advocate for issues of justice and the protection of vulnerable people. His research to date has included Safer Recruitment Practices in the Christian Church (2014), Safeguarding Adults within the Christian Community (2015), Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief (2017) and Spiritual Abuse in the Christian Community (2017). He is also author of the UK Government guidance for the wider children’s workforce - ‘Recruiting safely: helping keep children and young people safe’ (CWDC, 2009). His writing interests include all areas of safeguarding practice in faith contexts and particularly the integration of good leadership and safer organisational cultures. Justin holds a Master of Science in Child Protection and Strategic Management, a Bachelor of Science (with honours) in Social Work Studies and a Diploma in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy.

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