How You Start to Heal from Spiritual/Clergy Abuse

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good-shepherd iconSource: Seeds of Hope

Spiritual/Clergy abuse occurs when a person in authority fosters a sense of guilt in people in order to manipulate or control them. If a person in ecclesiastical authority has a false sense of himself, his poor self-esteem gets expressed through a distorted understanding of his role and position.

Jesus warned us about this. We read in Matthew 20:25-26 these words:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”

When a Church leader is confused about his role and sees himself as a ruler instead of a servant, then he will use his office in improper ways. People who trust him for leadership can become confused and think that their internal resistance to manipulation and control is wrong. A place of guilt can arise especially when the leader implies the resistance is a moral failing.

What can Seeds of Hope offer you? Talking to us is a first step, we understand this type of behavior. Seeds of Hope can offer you guidance and insight about ways to deal with this exploitation. As clarity comes, any guilt will be revealed for what it is and will lose its power over you. Seeds of Hope will be a self-reflection to your reconciliation including a restoration of your soul and body.

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  1. Ashley Nevins on

    Hopefully, this is good news for Orthodoxy in America. The issue of spiritual abuse of power and control is something the evangelical church has been writing about and openly dealing with since the late 80’s. No church is immune. All churches are susceptible to this thinking, attitude and behavior. In the Orthodox world this type of outreach is cutting edge. It is the standard norm today in the evangelical church. So, the Orthodox it would seem are now only about 35 years behind in their organization of this type of an outreach. As a practical business matter if this is a payment counseling service it is not going to run out of clientele and most likely will see financial success. The spiritual abuse of the Orthodox is on a massive scale.

    If find it interesting that they differentiate between ruler and servant and when all of Orthodoxy calls its structure and system of authority RULE. The structure of Orthodox authority rule is top down centralized inside of a closed and isolated system that has an exclusive ‘We are Gods only true church’ thinking, attitude and behavior about itself. It is an authoritarian structure and closed system of rule power and control. That in itself is spiritual abuse of power and control and at the very least is it the perfect set up for it like no other structure and system of church authority is.

    The issue of top down centralized authoritarian power and control inside of an exclusive closed and isolated system is how it by design of structure and system is self centered upon itself and what is self centered in power and control is self protective in its power and control. That authoritarian self centered self protection keeps the church from being transparent and what is not transparent is not accountable. That in itself is spiritual abuse of power and control without even leveling it against anyone abusively and because all authority in power and control is centralized with an exclusive mind set about itself that exclusively sees itself as above transparency and accountability. After all, these are Gods only true rulers who are the direct spiritual line of the Apostles, right? That exclusive mindset of superiority is the set up for victimizing spiritual abuse of power and control. You are expendable to their power and control. You are game pawns on their religious corrupt game board that they by spiritual abuse of their power and control manipulate play you on and in ways you do not see for being indoctrinated by this as an acceptable norm. You are an object of manipulation and not a person created in the image of God and you being seen as nothing more than an object is what spiritually abuses you. We alone are exclusively God right in our authority is the set up for spiritual abuse of power and control like nothing else is in a church is. The religious codependency of this kind of rule and rulers creates defines you and not God and so you are easily abused by what defines you and that is not of God. If you have been defined by a systemically abusive church you will be easily spiritually abused by its authority. God in His defining us does not by religious addiction authoritarian power and control turn us into religious codependency that is easily manipulated and spiritually abused. His authority does not abuse us to stay in power and control. Period.

    If you merge the exclusive claim with the authoritarian structure and closed and isolated system you have the perfect church internal environment for the practices of spiritual abuse of power and control. The church environment is really its culture and that culture indoctrinates its authoritarian power and control and closed and isolated system. That indoctrination itself is spiritual abuse of power and control. Why do I say that?

    The answer to the question is simple. The more top down centralized the authority structure and the more closed and isolated the system of rule the more it creates a unhealthy dependency upon it. That dependency is religious codependency. The authoritarian power and control is religious addiction that creates the internal church culture of religious codependency. The religious codependent is an enabler of the spiritual abuse of power and control and is also spiritually abused by it. In other words the more the religious addiction rule power and control the more religious codependency is created as a church culture and that church culture indoctrinates religious codependency. It indoctrinates those in it to accept spiritual abuse of power and control as a church culture norm.

    A church culture of religious addiction rule and laity religious codependency is the church in a state of idolatry. If you understand religious addiction and religious codependency you understand they are idolatry and idolatry is spiritual abuse of power that results in spiritual abuses.

    The dangerous issue with top down centralized authoritarian power and control in a closed and isolated system is that its power and control pushes down on the church as a whole system of church. That push down mold indoctrinates the church into the mindset, attitude and behavior of what is pushing it down. It molds the church by authoritarianism. Christ is not this. He comes under us and raises us up by transformation. Molding is spiritual abuse on a massive system wide scale. It is very subtle, but its outcome is powerful in how it pushes the church down and holds it back. Christ confronted His opposite in the Gospels and His opposite was top down centralized authoritarian power and control in a closed and isolated system that had an exclusive ‘we alone are God right’ viewpoint of itself. Jesus is not that, but He is this, Philippians. Anyone can see He came to us opposite to what He confronted to make the stark and undeniable comparison between their different kinds of authority. Jesus is humble servant and He confronted proud authoritarianism that was spiritually abusive on a massive system wide scale.

    The book discusses what it believes is the cause of the spiritual abuse of power and control as basically as an individual clergyman who has a wrong viewpoint of his authority and his role, the psychology of such a clergyman. That is often the case but in Orthodoxy it is also the case that its structure and system of authority is systemically corrupt. The authors do not discuss the real cause of systemic spiritual abuse of power that is the state of Orthodoxy and why it is in that state. Systemic corruption is spiritual abuse of power and control that spiritually abuses and so the more systemically corrupt the church the more spiritually abusive it is.

    I do not see them addressing how the structure and system of Orthodox rule can influence how individual clergyman see their authority and position and when it is obvious that Orthodoxy is systemically corrupt through its corrupt structure of authoritarian rule power and control. Systemic corruption corrupts everyone in the system in ways they do not see by its culture of systemic corruption that indoctrinates. The corruption I see is religious addiction and religious codependency idolatry. The dependency is not upon Jesus it is upon the corrupt structure and system of authoritarian power and control that has an exclusive viewpoint of itself.

    Exclusiveness by itself is spiritual abuse by how it closes out, isolates and therefore alienates. It leads to systemic pride, arrogance and self righteousness that spiritually abuses in ways it does not see and that are tolerated by those made religious codependents to the authoritarian power and control indoctrination that abuses them. The humble servant Jesus is inclusive and who is about dependency upon Holy God and not man in his corrupt authoritarian power that closes and isolates to stay in control. That is the state of Orthodoxy in the objective real world. It is not the state of Jesus in the Gospels.

    This is a good starting point for the Orthodox to address issues of spiritual abuse of power and control. However, I would suggest that anyone interested in this topic or who has been spiritually abused to read the following resources to gain a more in-depth understanding of this issue that is systemic in Orthodoxy:

    1. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (Book)
    2. Toxic Faith (Book)
    3. Shame based church systems (Google search)
    4. The Christian cult church (Google search)
    5. John 8:31-59 (The Gospel)

    All signs and symptoms of centralized authoritarian power and control closed system spiritual abuse of power and control and their solution is found with Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus confronted religious codependency/addiction spiritual abuse in the Gospels and when He did it spiritually abused Him. They made Him the problem for pointing out their problem. He told them who was in true rule over them and what the cause of their spiritually abusive thinking, attitude and behavior came from in John 8:42-44. He told them who the idol god they follow is. He told them they were idolators and He showed them how they were. They then picked up stones to kill Jesus.

    Spiritual abuse kills Jesus in the church and what kills Jesus is the John 8:42-44 liar, thief and murderer rule that kills the church by his character of death and shame. Freedom in Christ is not this kind of authority that authoritarian power and control spiritually abuses. Jesus confronted not just the individual He confronted the whole corrupt system of spiritual abuse authority. He confronted systemic corruption that systemically spiritually abused. John 8:31-59 is a comparison of the system of Jesus in conflict with the system of spiritual abuse. To say that the problem is just individual clergy problems in the church is completely missing the real world cause of the spiritual abuse that is the system state of Orthodoxy.

    Yes, there are large churches that have a few individual clergy in them that have a distorted view of their authority and position. However, that is different than a entire system of church being systemically corrupt and therefore systemically spiritually abusive. Two different things. What I am saying is that there is a much larger system picture of what is causing spiritual abuse inside of Orthodoxy and I believe it is being missed again. I have experienced Orthodox spiritual abuse of power and control and it was not an individual I experienced it from alone. It was the entire system of spiritual abuse that I experienced. My family experienced the systemic corruption of the GOA hierarchy and its monasticism through elder ephraim. For instance, to see the problem in the GOA as individual clergy and not as an entire system of authority is not going to address the entire hierarchy and monastery authority as spiritually abusive authority and the systemic problem of spiritual abuse will remain.

    Long before we ever came into contact with the GOA I was directly involved in the design, development and leadership of church ministry that dealt with issues of abuse in the church. That goes back 25 years.

    The safe and healthy functional church of the living grace and mercy Jesus that is a bottom up and open system transparent and accountable church of healing will have this kind of abuse healing ministry in it on the local church level and if it is a larger church organization of many churches its administration will have such a ministry to the larger church that do not have this ministry in its local churches. In other words, the church authority recognizes the need and develops this ministry inside of the church and not para-church outside of it and at the same it will be accepting and inviting of a para-church ministry of this kind working with the church on the local level.

    This raises a question. Is this organization jurisdiction sanctioned or part of a jurisdiction under its authority? If it is then it will run into exactly what I am talking about due the state of the jurisdictions. It really needs at this point in time to be outside of the church ministering into the church to better avoid what it will face but still will face but not at the level it would if it was under a systemically corrupt jurisdiction authority. This kind of an outreach when in-reaching into a systemically corrupt church will be spiritually abused by that church. Its only a matter of time before it is.

    It is excellent to see some Orthodox Christians use the example of Christs authority in the Gospels in comparison to what is not His true authority when it spiritually abuses, Matthew 20:25-26. There are other Gospel scripture that tells us why and how they spiritually abuse. The only comparison is Jesus and Gods Word. That is Gods authority in authority when such comparisons are made. It is submission to Jesus and His Word first over corrupt authority. That is outstanding and I commend it. Its long over due. This could potentially be the starting point catalyst of paradigm shift change in thinking in regards to authority in Orthodoxy that is systemically corrupt and therefore systemically spiritually abusive. Praise God if this is what it really states itself to be! Nothing like this existed when we were dealing with a systemically corrupt GOA that has a monastic cult leader and cult inside of it and who were both spiritually abusive by being of the same systemically corrupt system that spiritually abuses. It will be interesting over time to see how this outreach deals with such situations and the rulers who cause them. This outreach will be seen as divisive division among those rulers who are of this systemic corruption that systemically spiritually abuses, but only if it truly is what it says it is. I promise and all of my promises to the Orthodox come true. All of them.

    If it isn’t what it says it is then it is an enabler of spiritual abuse no matter what it pro-ports itself to be. If it is what it says it is then it is saying, we are healthy division from sin like Jesus was. The spiritually corrupt who are not healthy and are involved in spiritual abuse of power and control sin will see this health as divisiveness. They are unity by corruption and abuse rule and this outreach represents unity by humble servant Jesus who heals. Two different things that are in contention with each other like they were in the Gospels. What this outreach is if it is what it says it is, it is Jesus alive walking in midst of your church. That is a good sign considering the dying demographic state of your church in America due to the issues about it I raise here. It is authoritarian closed system power and control pushing the church down and right out of existence in America by systemically corrupt RULE. It is top down crushing the Jesus life right out of the church by this push down authoritarian power and control rule that is systemically corrupt.

    Let me prove this by asking a question of the Orthodox, Orthodox in the OCA and GOA do you feel you are being raised up or pushed down as a church by their real world outcomes of your jurisdictions that are corrupt, failed and dying? (Yes, I know, many Orthodox do not like the questions I ask them.)

    The issue is not a few clergy individuals in Orthodoxy causing the problem. It is authoritarian power and control in an exclusive closed and isolated system that is the systemic corruption that spiritually abuses the entire system of the church.

    I wonder how these Orthodox who represent this outreach would council the spiritual abuse victims of Astoria, NY in how to address the church and the EP on that abuse? Will this group be making public statements about rulers by name who spiritually abuse? Will it expose their corrupt authority that spiritually abuses? I hope they realize that there is two sides to this type of an outreach, expose’ and healing. The victims must expose in public who abused them. They must do it themselves. That would be all in a systemically corrupt jurisdiction that systemically abuses and that has victimized everyone in the system by spiritual abuse and in ways many of them do not see. Yes, helping individuals abused is important, but if you really want to stop the abuse you deal with the structure and system of rule and its mindset that abuses to really solve this problem in a church. This is an obvious first issue that must be addressed and because of the obvious corrupt, failed, incompetent, abusive, cultic and dying systemic state of Orthodoxy in America says this is not just a few individual clergy problem. Just saying it like I just did can lead to my being spiritually abused and it has.

    I will say this about this outreach, it looks like to me at the very least it is a passive back door way of dealing with spiritual abuse in Orthodoxy. I just hope it is not so passive that it does not create advocacy among abuse victims to take the risk, pay the price and make the sacrifice to pro-actively expose and confront this spiritually abusive behavior in the church. My observation of the majority of Orthodox is that they are passive and not pro-active. An authoritarian closed system does not want you to be pro-active, but instead wants you to passively submit to its authoritarianism. That kind of authoritarianism creates a church culture of passivity and not pro-activity. The passive will submit to authoritarianism. Those of Christ’s pro-active that is Jesus pro-active in the Gospels will not submit to corruption in rule over them, they will not follow it or do what it tells to think and do. Christ did not submit to them or obey their thinking. You don’t have to either. That is, unless you want to be spiritually abused and the passive are abused and in indoctrinated in ways they do not see. Indoctrination that makes you passive to spiritual abuse authoritarian power is spiritual abuse indoctrinating you so it can stay in power and control over you by spiritual abuse. Its mind control coerces, intimidates and threatens systemically and that means the entire system of church has be systemically spiritually abused and is in need of recovery from that abuse, but the church of this spiritual abuse cannot bring that recovery to them and because if people get wise to what is really controlling them those who are controlling them will have their power and control over them threatened.

    The indoctrination by this type of structure and system of authority makes it very difficult for victims of abuse to not only recognize the abuse but to come forward with it. Fear really rules this kind of a structure and system if you really understand how authoritarian rule really works. That fear shuts up, covers up, keep secrets and lies. It is the result of an authoritarian structure of rule that is systemically coercive, intimidating and threatening and those things create FEAR. That fear and all that causes it and motivates it is SHAME BASED. What they are doing is helping all of you recognize the abuse as they try to make a safe place that you can come forward in without fear and shame. I hope it works.

    Orthodox authoritarianism indoctrinates passivity that is apathy, indifference, powerlessness and religious codependency. That is the systemic state of its laity that lives under systemic authoritarian power and control spiritual abuse. In spite of this mind state of the laity that makes it extremely difficult for them to come forward with their issues of being abused I hope those abused find this to be a safe and shame free place to come forward in to be healed. My Christian passion for the majority of my Christian life has been in the church developing into a safe and healthy church culture of healing that no one fears coming forward in with their issues and no matter what the issue is someone may struggle with. That is probably close to what those who have this outreach desire also.

    If this is truly what it says it is then in my not Orthodox Mind it is the most astounding thing I have seen take place among the Orthodox in America since the first day my family was spiritually abused by them years ago. If this is what it says it is then it is the mind of Jesus bringing healing to the minds of the abused in your church. That is outstanding, Orthodox! First time I ever told you that and for good reasons why I didn’t before. Finally, something positive! I just hope it lasts and grows huge among you all. Looks like there might still be a Remanent of the Grace and Mercy of God left in your church that has the potential change the state of your abusive church into a healing state of church. It will if the majority of you get behind it, but the question is, will you?

    Are there any bishops or metropolitan’s in support of it? If there are will they direct the abused to it? If it were to happen that a bishop or metropolitan in support of it is later found out by a victim of his abuse to be an abuser of some kind will that authority come clean, humble himself and repent? It would seem to me any authority of that kind might want to make sure his own house is in humble servant Jesus order and not spiritually abusive. A repentant hierarchy can lead a jurisdiction out of this but one that is not repentant cannot. If the rulers of this kind of a structure and system of corruption have profound respect for each other that self protects them it will never happen. Respect, no matter what the position held, is earned and not authoritarian fear enforced or demanded. If you respect known corrupt authority it will not respect you by it spiritual abuse of power. It wants to steal your power to prop itself up with and to hold you down with and that is spiritual abuse. I would say that Orthodoxy is ruled over by this. What would you say?

    Yes, I have concerns. I know how to develop this kind of a healing and recovery restoration outreach and have developed it more than once both inside and outside of the church and I know what can kill it in a church, but I like what I see so far.

  2. Anthony Carris on

    Mr. Ashley Nevins, Christ is in our Midst! First Can you tell me your Baptized or Chrismated name? It sets for me a more at ease dialogue with a name that I am familiar or comfortable with….I started to read your Harvard type essay and became lost for it was too puffed up in intellectual jargon . Sorry for my lack of intelligence, then again I am not sure The Elder Paisios of Mount Athos would have understood your writings. What My creator did give me is common sense . At these Holy Monasteries with a heritage of Saint Anthony the Great they have existed and will exist just as they were and are. They are growing and growing and growing with a pace no one understands….possibly The Holy Spirit or just a blessing from The Elders and Saints we celebrate every day and especially Sunday’s. Leave your anger home and come and learn to worship as Orthodox have since JESUS Christ…Third time I ask you to dialogue with this simple man, let us talk and understand our humble faith…Anthony Carris

    • Carmelita Visagio on

      I am in agreement with Anthony. Perhaps you do not have a proper understanding of Orthodoxy, or maybe you need help understanding. May the Lord help you!

    • George D. Karcazes on

      Hi Anthony,
      Christ is in our midst.. He is and ever shall be. I am not familiar enough with what some refer to as the “Ephramite theology” espoused in these monasteries and apparently spreading out to some of our clergy, to form, let alone express an opinion. I don’t know whether this is a healthy expression of Orthodoxy or an unhealthy, cult-like phenomenon. I have read the published report that the Vice-Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese delivered to the Archdiocesan Council in which he referred to this movement as a serious problem within the Church that needs to be investigated, and that a committee was appointed to conduct the investigation. I have further heard that the investigation has not enjoyed the cooperation that one should expect from a Christ-centered entity that has nothing to hide.

      In your post you state that these monasteries.. “are growing and growing and growing with a pace no one understands..” Since I assume that they are all 501(c)(3) entities, enjoying tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code I would expect that their growth, at least with respect to physical assets and liabilities, income and expenses, etc., would be something that everyone should be able to see and understand. I hope that you agree that transparency and accountability in the governance of any institution, but especially Church related institutions that look to support from the faithful, is essential. Monasteries in America should not be exempt from the duty of disclosure to the faithful.

      • Anthony Carris on

        My Dear Brother and fellow warrior in Christ George, You have so overwhelmed yourself with Bishops who are not in sink with Christ that you are becoming confused with Spiritual Reality. You George quote the Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council of the GOA as if he was an authority on Monastacism and of the Church…you know better. You quote the 501c Tax codes for non profit…as if the Monasteries have no idea on compliance…I give testimony to the fact they do understand and comply to Ceasar and the American Greek Orthodox Church; Ask Jerry Demetriou if they comply…You need to spend some weeks not hours at our Monasteries in America and learn what I have learned…be humble and loving to all who are faithful or seeking God. Until you spend this time of Spiritual enlightenment say or express little and be George of the past…Your Friend, Brother, and Fellow Warrior for Christ…Andoni

  3. Your response to our article on http://www.orthodoxchristianhealing.com was most thought provoking and we appreciate your sincerity.

    Be assured, as a founder of SEEDS of HOPE, Orthodox Christian Healing & Counseling is an independent, Laity driven 501 (c)(3) organization. We are not affiliated, financially or supported by any Orthodox Jurisdictions.

    Initially, let me say unequivocally, there are many Faithful, Dedicated Orthodox Ecclesiastical Leaders and Priests who humbly serve their congregations. “True Physicians of Our Souls”. They are supportive of our mission, and recognize clergy abuse affects an entire Church with the potential of ripping a congregation apart for years if not handled proper and in a dignified manner.

    Abuse by Clergy manifests in many ways ~ financially, sexually, emotionally. SEEDS of HOPE, Orthodox Christian Healing & Counseling is here to support and guide those who’ve been harmed by this grave betrayal of trust. Taking their spiritual journey through a healing and reconciliation process is no easy feat but they have licensed Orthodox therapists, coaches, counselors, and volunteers to support them. We are Orthodox Christians using our experiences and expertise helping our Sisters and Brothers shattered by devastation. One day hopefully, they can come back to Faith, Freedom, and maybe back to the Church.

    Ashley, we welcome any further dialogue. Our article next week will expound further on our Mission. We ask for your prayers.

    CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST,
    Sonya “Susan”, SEEDS of HOPE, OCHC

  4. Fr. Paul M Jannakos M.Div., MA., LPC., NCC on

    It makes me sad that Ashley Nevin’s experience of Eastern Orthodoxy was limited to Florence Arizona, and that he has based his view of Orthodoxy and it’s hierarchy (GOF-SF) on this experience alone. Having been a priest for over 30 years and a professional counselor for over 15 years, I believe his view is quite myopic. Yes, there are Bishops and Priests who abuse. But to paint with such a WIDE brush that the Orthodox Church as a whole is systemically corrupt because of its “top-down” ecclesiology is extreme to say the least. Orthodoxy is not “top down” in the same sense that the Roman Catholic Church is; rather, it is uniquely apostolic in that the Bishops rule and guide their flock according to the conciliar tradition – clergy and laity working together for the upbuilding of the entire Church. I have worked with men and women in the Church who have been abused by other clergy, and know that healing and reconciliation can and does happen by God’s grace. And to be fair, I have also worked with many faithful priests who have, alas, been just as abused by the corrupt laity in their parishes through slander and persecution, because these priests were true to the teachings of the gospel by preaching against greed, worldliness, etc.
    I would also remind Ashley that in my counseling office I have counseled scores and scores of men, women, and children, who have been abused by their protestant pastors, who, sadly have conducting this abuse in a “bottom up” eccesiology of the church. Evangelical protestantism is filled with abusers who pass from one “free congregation” to another because there is no hierarchical system to keep watch over them.

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