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UK evangelical groups developing guide to help churches respond to 'spiritual abuse' allegations

by Chantalle Edmunds

Ministry leaders from conservative evangelical groups across the UK are developing a resource to help churches assess and respond to abuse allegations.

Gathered together by Affinity, a network of gospel churches, the group is aiming to produce a booklet and videos in the autumn to provide a tool box for churches. 

It will suggest robust processes to ensure that allegations of 'spiritual abuse' and 'pastoral malpractice' are taken seriously and addressed properly by the local 

Graham Nicholls, director of Affinity, told Premier the guide is to help individual churches engage with pastoral malpractice wisely when allegations are first made: "There does seem to have been a bit of a phenomenon in a few high profile cases, and maybe some that are a bit more under the radar, where perhaps spiritual leaders have abused their power in a way that's not Christ-like, that's not biblical. 

"And the idea of this guide is to try and give churches and church leaders some tools, some prompts to think through both the culture of the church, but also the procedures for how we deal with those kinds of accusations. There's a danger that on the one extreme, you become complacent and say, leaders are sort of untouchable, that they're appointed by God, no one should ever critique anything they do, or on the other hand, thinking that they're always culpable and that they're always abusing their power, and that they lose their spiritual authority. So, it's trying to help people navigate through that."

He added how the resource will differ from other materials currently available.

"I think the difference from any kind of safeguarding resource is to say there is wisdom that's in the world about safeguarding type of issues. But this is not a simply a safeguarding issue. This is a spiritual leadership issue and if you just take a policy kind of off the shelf from another charity or another big organisation, what you're doing is you're missing out on all the brilliant biblical teaching there is about leadership and about one another in churches. 

"And so it's taking wisdom that's there in the world for us to use, but it's actually putting it under the authority of Scripture and saying we know how organisations work and we know how power works. Everyone knows some of the bad things that happen, but what's a biblical view? So that will be the distinctive thing about it."

The project draws on expertise from Affinity members around the country. The group also includes safeguarding professionals and experts in ministry to trauma victims. 

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