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Friday 3rd September 2021

10:00 - 10.15: Welcome: Lisa Oakley, Dawn Llewellyn, Wendy Dossett

10.15 - 11.00: Plenary: Contextualising Spiritual Abuse Lisa Oakley

11.00 - 11.30: Break

11.30 - 13.00: Parallel Session A

13.00 - 14.00: Lunch

14.00 - 15.30: Parallel Session B

15.30 - 16.00: Break

16.00 - 17.00: Parallel Session C

17.30 - 18.00: Launch

18.00 - 19.00: Networking Event

Saturday 4th September 2021

09.00 - 10.30: Parallel Session D

10.30 - 11.00: Break

11.00 - 12.30: Parallel Session E

12.30 - 13.30: Lunch

13.30 - 15.00: Parallel Session F

15.00 - 15.30: Break

15.30 - 17.00: Parallel Session G

17.00: Close and Final Reflections


Venue: Microsoft Teams    

Friday 3rd September 2021

10.00 – 10.15


 Lisa Oakley, Dawn Llewellyn, Wendy Dossett


10.15 – 11.00

 Lisa Oakley   Contextualizing 'Spiritual Abuse' 

 Chair: Wendy Dossett

11.00 -11.30


Parallel Session A

11.30 – 13.00


 PANEL: From Guru to #MeToo: Sex, Abuse and Yoga

  1. Somatic Dominance: Embodied Ethnography and Embodying Survivors
    Theodora Wildcroft
    Matthew Remski
  2. Institutional Responses to the Satyananda Yoga Case Study 21 of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse
    Josna Pankhania
    Jacqueline Hargreaves
  3. Spiritual Abuse in Modern Yoga Contexts:        Definitions and Delineations
    Amelia Wood

 Chair: Theodora Wildcroft

 Gender, Marriage, and Purity

  1. Breaking the Silence: British Muslim Women Tackling Spiritual Abuse
    Maryyum Mehmood
  2. Devadasi System – A Cultural and Religious Abuse in India
    Amit Anand
  3. “Cheapened and Tainted”: Purity Culture and the Legitimation of Spiritual Abuse
    Katie Cross

Chair: Dawn Llewellyn

13.00 – 14.00


Parallel Session B

14.00 – 15.30

 Secrets, Shame, and Conscience

  1. Experience-Based Narrative: The Hidden Spiritual Abuse in Chinese Churches 
    ‘Pastor P'

        2. The Abuse of Conscience in Roman Catholic Settings 

             Samuel Fernández

Chair: Lisa Oakley

 Gender, Sexuality, and Spiritual Abuse

  1. Beyond the Headlines: Developing an informed understanding of ‘Gay-Conversion Therapy’ and Christian Deliverance
    Naomi Richman
  2. Empowerment and Abuse: The Complexity of Gender Dynamics in Religious Groups
    Sarah Harvey and Suzanne Newcombe
  3. Supporting LGBT+ Survivors of Abuse Linked to Faith and Belief (Galop)
    Catherine Bewley

Chair: Naomi Richman

15.30 – 16.00


Parallel Session C

16.00 – 17.30

Thinking Theologically Panel withdrawn. 

 Impact and Intervention

  1. Impact of Abuse by Imams / Religious Teachers on Muslim Individuals
    Rahmanara Chowdhury, Farooq Mulla, Belinda Winder, Nicholas Blagden
  2. Fundamentalist Religion, Counsellors, Mental Health and Wellbeing
    Gill Harvey
  3. Counselling Psychologists’ Experiences of Working Therapeutically with Clients’ Spiritual Crisis and Abuse: A Qualitative Exploration
    Rebekah Woodhouse
    Kevin Hogan

Chair: Kathryn Kinmond

17.30 onwards


 Networking and Socialising 



Saturday 4th September 2021

Parallel Session D

9.00 – 10.30

Perspectives from Australia and New Zealand

  1. Soul Murder: The Role of Public Inquiry in Understanding Spiritual Abuse
    Kathleen McPhillips
  2. Everyday Spiritual Abuse in Roman Catholicism: Gen X Australian Women’s Experiences
    Tracy McEwan
  3. Responses from Abused Nuns
    Rocio Figueroa Alvear  

 Chair: Sarah-Jane Page

 Cases and Concerns

  1. ‘Doing the Devil’s Work’: A Critical Study of the Historic ‘Bash Camps’ with Regard to Spiritual Abuse:
    Peter Sanlon
  2. ‘Spiritual Abuse’, Religious Liberty and Neo-Erastianism
    David Hilborn
  3. “I am Your father in God”: John Smyth QC as an example of Conservative Evangelical Mechanisms of Coercive Control
     Andrew Graystone

Chair: Paul Middleton 

10.30 – 11.00


Parallel Session E

11.00 – 12.30

 Hidden Populations

  1. Rethinking Religious Conversion in Austerity: Service-user Experiences of Faith-based Alcohol Treatment
    Andrew Williams
  2. Ostracism and Shunning as Spiritual Abuse
    Stephen Parsons  
  3. Apostates as a Hidden Population of Abuse Victims
    Hari Parekh
    Vincent Egan

Chair: Dawn Llewellyn


Spiritual Abuse in Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness

  1. Seeking Truth: Challenges and Opportunities in Responding to the Sivananda Yoga Abuse Crisis
    Jens Augspurger
    Angela Gollat
  2. The Enabling, Minimising and Whitewashing of Abuse within so-called Buddhist Sects
    Michelle Haslam
  3. Buddhist Ideology and Meditation as Methods of Social Control and Spiritual Abuse
    Willoughby Britton

    Chair: Wendy Dossett




    Parallel Session F

    13.30 – 15.00

     Children and Families

    1. The IICSA Inquiry and the Jehovah’s Witnesses: Sin, Crime and Parental Responsibilities
      Sarah-Jane Page
    2. Names and Nobodies: Forced Re-naming within Ireland’s Magdalene Institutions
      Chloe Gott
    3. The Role of Preaching in Addressing Domestic Abuse in UK Evangelical Christianity
      Susanna Harris

    Chair: Dawn Llewellyn

      Lived Experiences

    1. Life After Spiritual Abuse: Reflecting on My Own Experience
      Franciso Prochaska
    2. Hidden in Plain Sight: Coercive Control in the      Apostolic Society (1946-2001)
      Renske Doorenspleet

    Chair: Lisa Oakley 

    15.00 - 15.30


    Parallel Session G

    15.30 – 17.00

     Structures and Systems

    1. A Political Economy of Spiritual Abuse: Church Structure, Cash Flows and the Reification of the ‘Personal Belief’
      Francis Davis
    2. Cultural Betrayal
      Douglas Davies
    3. Perilous and Promissory: Exploring the use of Theopoetics, Wound-work and a Theology of Remaining as a Methodology for Addressing Spiritual Abuse.
      Malcolm J. Duncan

    Chair: Dawn Llewellyn


     Exploring Professional Practice

    1. Safer Faith Safer Followers
      Tom Wilson
    2.  Non-confessional Clinical Spiritual Care as a Way of Identifying and Countering Spiritual and Religious Abuse in a Québec Mental Health Institute
      Pierre Alexandre Richard 

    Chair: Lisa Oakley


    Close and Final Reflections

    ABSTRACTS (Alphabetical order by speaker) 

    Rocío Figueroa Alvear: Responses from Abused Nuns

    This paper is based on qualitative interviews with three adult female survivors of past sexual and spiritual abuse. The women are from Argentina, France and Germany and were abused by priests whilst living as nuns in Catholic religious orders. All of them have since left their orders. The interviews were conducted in 2019, after the sexual abuse of women in religious orders by priests was acknowledged by the Vatican and received widespread media attention. This paper will try to examine their perceptions of systemic factors and the spiritual abuse within the Church which make women in religious orders more vulnerable to sexual abuse by priests. The dynamics of sexual abuse and spiritual abuse—and the ways that these can reinforce each other—deserve more attention and further research. 

    We find very few studies about abused nuns. Durà-Vilà et al. (2013), interviewed five contemplative nuns who were sexually abused by priests and explored the spiritual journeys that followed. They discussed the impact of abuse, which included: shock and distress; self-doubt; anger and mistrust. Lembo Makamatine (2019) completed a psychological and qualitative study of nine Africa Sub-Saharan nuns abused by priests. Lembo’s research underlined relational dynamics and the asymmetry of the pastoral relationship between subordinate and superior, in which the priest by his identity and role is responsible for any sexual misconduct. But there are no studies regarding the spiritual abuse of nuns. Whilst spiritual abuse is clearly distinct from sexual abuse, the interviews suggest that spiritual abuse can be a key factor in enabling sexual abuse since it promotes a harmful sense of obedience.

    Many dioceses and congregations in the Catholic church are implementing safeguarding policies regarding sexual abuse but so far very little has been done regarding other abuse of power or spiritual abuse. In November 2020, The German Bishops Conference and Catholic Academy organized a conference on Spiritual Abuse. Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers considered it necessary at an institutional level to ‘think about the creation of interdiocesan standardized mechanisms for reporting, documentation, processing and compensation’  for those affected by spiritual abuse, as had been already accomplished for those affected by sexual abuse.

    This paper will ask the participants to explore whether their vocation and identity as a person of faith influenced how they responded to abuse.

    Amit Anand: Devadasi System – A Cultural and Religious Abuse in India

    “Of course, there are times when there is pleasure,” Rani Bai said. “Who does not like to make love? A handsome young man, one who is gentle . . .” 

    She paused for a moment, looking out over the lake, smiling to herself. Then her face clouded over. “But mostly it is horrible. The farmers here, they are not like the boys of Bombay.”

    “And eight of them every day,” her friend Kaveri said. “Sometimes ten. Unknown people. What kind of life is that?”

    “We have a song,” Rani said. “‘Everyone sleeps with us, but no one marries us. Many embrace us, but no one protects.’”

    The practice of “marrying” young girls of lower castes to gods and goddesses is one of the oldest cultural practice in India. This practice is called the Devadasi system in which minor girls are sexually exploited by temple priests and other high caste men in the name of religion. The term ‘Devadasi’ is a Sanskrit word which means ‘female slave of God’. The Devadasi system is also seen as religious sanctioned prostitution in India. Note that, despite the practice being abolished by various state legislations in India, there are approximately more than 48,000 devadasis in the country according to the data by the National Commission for Women, New Delhi.  This paper therefore aims to highlight the cultural and religious reasons behind this social evil which stands in violation of both domestic and international laws protecting the rights of young girls and women. 

    Jens Augspurger & Angela Gollat: Seeking Truth: Challenges and Opportunities in Responding to the Sivananda Yoga Abuse Crisis

    This paper investigates the challenges and opportunities which arose in response to public allegations of abuse and coercive control within Sivananda Yoga. Exploring the discourses as they are mediated through a variety of voices and worldviews, it seeks to address the difficulties in navigating collective (community) processing which traverses potential insider/outsider dynamics characteristic to cultic spaces. Informed by the authors’ experience as organisers of Project SATYA, a survivor and solidarity community responding to the Sivananda Yoga abuse crisis, this paper problematises the negotiation of credibility and the dislocation of discourse from survivor experiences, which further silences historically subjugated voices.

    Reactions to the abuse allegations against the late guru-founder of Sivananda Yoga and his disciples have included denial, victim-shaming, threats, I-got-mine-ism, and DARVO (deny-attack-reverse victim and offender), while some also provided opportunities for survivor-centred empowered activism. Further, whereas some have dismissed the teachings as corrupted due to the guru’s harmful actions, others have attempted to ‘separate the teacher from the teachings’, or sought to replace the once-beloved teacher with another ‘saintly figure’. Others still appear to acknowledge the guru’s wrongdoing but interpret abusive behaviour as a trivial transgression through the lens of a self-sealing ideology, therefore, disregarding the wider legal, ethical, and moral implications.

    Although ethical and moral values are presented at the core of Sivananda Yoga, they have often been taught by alleged perpetrators and enablers, and have been translated into rigourous rules. It is notable, however, that many students have recommitted to the teachings without reliance on an external (spiritual) authority, mobilising the concept of satya (truth) in their efforts to seek accountability. 

    Willoughby Britton: Buddhist Ideology and Meditation as Methods of Social Control and Spiritual Abuse

    Qualitative data for this study came from interviews and focus groups from three sources. The first were 60 Buddhist meditators and 32 meditation teachers from either Theravada, Zen, or Tibetan traditions who were part of the Varieties of Contemplative Experience study[1-6]. The second cohort was an international sample of meditators who sought support from the non-profit organization Cheetah House, for meditation-related problems and/or trauma from participation in meditation communities, including secular mindfulness programs, and apps. The third source were publically available written products, including books, websites, and social media posts from community members, and app moderators.

    Specific ideological elements within and surrounding meditation practice instructions promoted loss of autonomy, agency and power of the meditator, and acted as “dissent suppressing mechanisms”.

    Nonjudgmental acceptance, a staple of mindfulness meditation, could encourage compliance, and discourage dissent, by labeling forms of noncompliance as “resistance” aversion, “ignorance”, delusion, or craving, which are also known as the “Three Poisons.  Meditators reported having difficulty expressing judgments or asserting their needs because they thought it made them “judgmental”, “unmindful” and bad meditators.

    Similarly, the doctrine of no-self (anatta), which asserts the self or ego as an illusion and the source of suffering, discouraged assertiveness and confrontation, and encouraged “surrender”, submission, and dissociation. Many meditators were praised for reporting that they did not feel like they existed or had any desires or preferences. Conversely, other meditators were told scolded for having too much ego when they questioned the teacher or institutional actions or decisions.

    Negative responses to disclosure of meditation-related harm mirrored common responses to sexual assault disclosure, including DARVO and institutional betrayal . Common forms of DARVO were victim-blaming—or causally attributing symptoms to pre-existing psychological deficiencies, or improper practice—, and “bright-siding” — or pressuring the meditator to describe harm in positive terms—were particularly common. Institutional betrayal included subtle forms of retaliation against disclosure, ranging from denial, dismissal and lack of institutional action or corrective measures, to more active forms of punishment, including aggression, loss of privileges or status (deleting posts/accounts from apps).

    Rahamanara Chowdhury, Farooq Mulla, Belinda Winder & Nicholas Blagden: Impact of Abuse by Imams / Religious Teachers on Muslim Individuals

    The abuse of individuals by religious authority figures has generated considerable political, civic and media attention. To date, much of this focus has been on Catholic and Anglican priests, although instances in the Buddhist community have also emerged: there is currently research . This paper presents an analysis of the experiences of individuals (n=6) who were victims of abuse by Imams (Muslim leaders) and/or Muslim faith teachers. Participants were interviewed and their accounts analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Two superordinate themes that emerged from the rich data set: (i) Toxicity of silence and (ii) Barriers to the acknowledgement of abuse. This paper will focus on the specific impact on faith for Muslim individuals who experienced abuse by Imams/ religious teachers, within this faith context. Findings and implications of the research are discussed in relation to understanding the impact of faith-based abuse and facilitating the reporting of abuse perpetrated by religious authority figures in the Muslim community.

    Katie Cross: “Cheapened and tainted”: Purity Culture and the Legitimation of Spiritual Abuse

    In this paper, I will examine the phenomenon of Christian purity culture and the way that its rhetoric and practices have created a climate in which spiritual abuse thrives. With the rise of the #ChurchToo movement, purity culture has become part of a wider conversation around sexual and spiritual abuse. In conservative evangelical Christian contexts in both the US and the UK, the central tenants of purity culture include (but are not limited to) the restriction of all sexual activity to heterosexual marriage, an emphasis on modesty and sexual purity, and abstinence-only education. Those who do not adhere to these rules risk being accused of “sexual impurity” and marked as “cheapened” or “tainted.” This language is theologically loaded, creating a culture of blame in which those who suffer sexual abuse are said to do so because of their perceived spiritual faultiness and “sinful” nature. Within this climate, I argue that further spiritual abuse is thus theologically legitimised. In this paper, I draw on a qualitative research study with women of diverse sexuality, race and gender identity who have experienced purity culture. I will explore the spiritual abuse that they have suffered, in the form of ritual shaming, withdrawal of support, and the equation of sexual abuse and rape to “God’s anger.” I will consider the ways in which purity culture has been complicit in and has legitimised the spiritual abuse that they have suffered. In doing so, I will draw on trauma theory and theology, using the work of Shelly Rambo and Bessel Van Der Kolk to frame purity culture as a form of spiritual abuse that becomes embedded within the body. The consequences of this reveal a pressing need to challenge purity culture and hold to account the ways in which it harbours and legitimises spiritual and sexual abuse.

    Douglas Davies: Cultural Betrayal

    This paper sets the issue of spiritual abuse within the wider theoretical frame of a social theory of cultural betrayal.  Addressing the widespread absence of a social theory of betrayal, I would like to offer a preliminary version of my own, developing foundational issues of trust, deceit, and the emotional dynamics of identity as framed by pre-existing cultural / professional code of ethics involving promises, vows, and oaths.  Key figures of clergy and medical doctors play an obvious part here as personnel within institutions possessing formal codes of conduct, with explicit, ritual-symbolic, and covenant-style vows and promises. It is just such vocations in medical and clerical professionalism that makes their contravention a distinctive form of abuse or, in more anthropological terms, an abomination. Much the same applies to legal, judicial and political life. 

    This then raises betrayal within personal relationships that may, or may not, be framed by promises and /or marriage vows. Here the theoretical interface of formal promise and personal choice is explored against the background of ideas of personhood; calling into question the widespread individualist theory of postmodern selfhood, and contrasting it with that of the dividual or composite sense of personhood that, essentially, underlies communities of trust. 

    Developing Max Weber’s notion of mood (or gesinnungsethik) I will portray some moods of cultural betrayal, and its sub-set of spiritual betrayal, and argue that an understanding of ‘spiritual abuse’ requires a prior sense of, or mood of, spiritual trust. There is also a biblical-theological element to all this viz., betrayal in the narrative of the life of Jesus and the early Christian sect; something played upon by St Paul in his notion of grace as he claimed apostolic status. I will end by speculating as to whether institutions ‘hosting’ notions and ritual of both sin and grace are advantaged or disadvantaged by that very fact.

    Samuel Fernández: The Abuse of Conscience in Roman Catholic Settings

    The present paper focuses on defining a specific type of spiritual abuse, namely, abuse of conscience in Catholic setting, which is rarely discussed in academic literature. Although Pope Francis has named it as a crime, there is neither official definition nor canonical legislation on the subject. In the last 30 years, important research on spiritual abuse has been undertaken. Some of these studies are based on empirical investigations conducted using the methods of the social sciences. The results they obtained are immensely useful in understanding abuse of conscience. However, they cannot be applied mechanically to abuse of conscience for several reasons. These two kinds of abuse are similar phenomena, but they are not identical. Besides, studies on spiritual abuse have been developed in non-Catholic Christian communities, whose institutional conditions differ from the Catholic context. Furthermore, data from the social sciences cannot be automatically integrated into a theological work, because the theological notion of conscience differs from the psychological one. Thus, in order to propose a definition of abuse of conscience in Catholic context, the paper exposes the relevant features of moral conscience, the legally protected good. Then, the abuse of conscience is set in the wider context of abuse of power, distinguishing the abuse of juridical power and that of spiritual power. Thereafter, the paper highlights the religious and institutional dimensions of this kind of abuse. Finally, the conclusion offers a definition of abuse of conscience in the Catholic setting and proposes that canonical legislation should establish the crime of abuse of spiritual power as well as that of abuse of conscience

    Renske Doorenspleet: Hidden in Plain sight: Coercive Control in the Apostolic Society (1946-2001)

    Between 1946 and 2001 thousands of Dutch children grew up in a hidden, parallel world. They were part of a community with around 30,000 aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and one Father. The group had daily meetings, its own (meaning of) words and expressions, an intensive youth programme, specific rituals and rules. During the day, the children functioned in the normal, visible life in the Netherlands. In the evenings and during the weekends, they lived in a world that was invisible to outsiders. The children learned they had a special mission but shouldn’t tell anybody. They were told to change the world without being noticed. Nobody knew, nobody knows. 

    Till recently, information about this group (Apostolisch Genootschap/ Apostolic Society) was very scarce. Nothing was been written about the group: neither by journalists, nor by academics. Information was kept within the group, and ‘outsiders’ knew nothing. In April 2020, I published a book, in Dutch (‘Apostles’ Child’) which has broken the silence. In the book, I interweave archival material with my own memories about growing up in this group, which started in the United Kingdom in 1830, and moved to the Netherlands in 1863. My family joined in 1901, and I decided to leave the group in 1998, when I was 24 years old. 

    In this conference paper, I share my knowledge in a different way: not in Dutch but in English, and not for a general audience but for academic experts. My first task is to answer a basic question: what is the Apostolic Society? I will describe the historical background and the key characteristics of this group, while focusing on the period till 2001. My second task is to formulate questions which need to be raised based on my book project, and which deserve attention in future research. 

    Francis Davis: A Political Economy of Spiritual Abuse: Church Structure, Cash Flows and the Reification of the ‘Personal Belief’

    Some Theology, much social work and the heart of religious studies have developed trends in their analysis and their practice which emphasise individual ‘beliefs’, ‘values’ and ‘choices’. Concurrently political economy and development studies have been helping us rediscover the interplay between beliefs, values, ideas, institutional design, resource accumulation/allocation  and social force. In the context of Christian responses to intense vulnerability this paper will argue that a political economy framework helps shed new light on the emergence of spiritual abuse where uniquely religious and values based explanations struggle to be comprehensible to mainstream professions most especially where theological and individually framed ‘belief’ frameworks help powerfully to distract from the sources and impacts of abuse.

    Drawing on desk researched cases in Southern Africa , and new field interviews with elderly people in Rwanda’s poorest post-genocide communities,  the paper will explore the interplays  - in the emergence of extreme elder financial abuse - between the social position and spiritual authority of the pastor, the funding model and governance of the denomination,  the needs and expressed spiritualities of respondents and the theories of organisation (qua theologies of the presence or absence of institutionality) for recognising and addressing spiritual abuse.

    In doing so it will both draw out lessons for the African context but also for a variety of settings where local religious manifestations are associated with intense ‘believing’ , ideations of the divine/sacred or which discount institutionality  as  a factor of interpretation not least when  fragile religious bodies coincide with fragile firms, families and states. 

    Malcolm J. Duncan: Perilous and Promissory: Exploring the use of Theopoetics, Wound-work and a Theology of Remaining as a Methodology for Addressing Spiritual Abuse

    Addressing issues of power and coercive control around spiritual abuse not only involves considering the challenges of leadership structure, power, community dynamics and cultural conditioning, but also requires addressing issues of theological and pastoral posture, methodology and language. The presentation will explore how the use of constructive narrative theology in general, and theopoetics in particular, might provide an effective and liberative vocabulary and milieu for addressing spiritual abuse without the attendant dangers of attempting to over-simplify the issues that surround it. Drawing on the work of Shelley Rambo, I will explore ways in which a theopoetic approach could enable an open and attentive pathway to walking with victims of spiritual abuse without seeking to ‘fix’ them, treat them or minimise their journey. I will argue that traditional motifs of healing or restoration can serve to accentuate the suffering and silencing of victims of spiritual abuse, whilst investigating ways in which a theopoetic approach might create spaces for more effective listening and understanding of the issues faced by victims of spiritual abuse. I will argue that Rambo’s work can be employed by those seeking to make sense of their own journeys through spiritual abuse as well as being beneficial for those who seek to support and facilitate a pathway for others who are coming to terms with it. I will locate my conclusions around the efficacy of my reflections in three ways in relation to my own journey: firstly in my own experience of being spiritually abused; secondly as a pastor seeking to support others in their individualised journeys through spiritual abuse, and lastly as a leader responsible for developing a healthy culture of openness and honesty in local churches. Outlining the possibilities and the challenges of the approach will conclude the presentation.

    ‘Pastor P’: Experience-Based Narrative: The Hidden Spiritual Abuse in Chinese Churches

    Have you ever come across stories of Chinese churches being described as unhealthy or spiritually abusive? Probably not. I am a systemic spiritual abuse survivor of a Chinese church and I seek to tell the hidden and often untold story of spiritual abuse. I was one of the pastors of a British Chinese church that consisted of first generation Chinese with a more Eastern worldview and second generation Chinese with a more Western worldview. As a second generation Chinese, I did not fit into the model pastor myth and that led to numerous misunderstandings and being labelled, over the years, as unteachable, rebellious and difficult to work with by members who, in my experience, prioritise Confucius hierarchy of relationships, conformity, face management, and filial piety over vulnerability, authenticity, transparency, truth-seeking, and reconciliation. 

    I plan to describe the journey of insidious coercion, control, and the deeply psychological, emotional, and spiritual attack that I have experienced which includes the anonymous complaints against me by members with influence, how leaders with seniority sided with them, the nature of secrecy and chronic conflict avoidance, how my voice and story were not believed in my community, how the originating event led to a serious team dysfunction, the departure of all of the younger leaders on the team, being scapegoated as causing disunity and division, my subsequent mental health breakdown, resignation from the church, and finally being falsely accused of breaking GDPR concerning the anonymous complaints less than two weeks prior to my departure and having the opportunity for appeal retracted without reasonable cause after being granted.

    I will also seek to explore how spiritual abuse could be prevalent but hidden in Chinese church communities as a result of the role of guanxi, face management, the lack of transparency in decision making, the unquestionable trust and submission given to people with authority and seniority, the conformity and silence of the individual voice and agency in a collectivist environment, and the misuse of scripture to legitimise and reinforce cultural norms.

    Chloe Gott: Names and Nobodies: Forced Re-naming within Ireland’s Magdalene Institutions

    Being stripped of one’s name has a long history of use as a dehumanising punishment; for example, prisoners are often identified by numbers rather than names. Within Irish Magdalene institutions in the twentieth century, the practice of forced re-naming was frequent, as part of a wider set of disciplinary processes designed to produce a docile, productive self. Many women who had been incarcerated within these institutions report having their names changed, often to that of female saints; and many describe it as a painful, traumatic experience.

    This paper will explore the use of forced re-naming as a practice for control within the laundries. Using extracts from the oral history interviews taken with survivors of the Magdalene institutions, I will consider the ways in which this practice had a significant impact on survivors’ sense of self. I will also consider the ways in which survivors have pushed back against these practices, reclaiming a sense of agency over their names after leaving the laundries. 

    Drawing on other resources, such as official government reports and the statements of the religious orders, I will also think about the various stated reasons for this, and how they fed into a wider ideology of ‘vicious paternalism’ which underpinned the operation of these institutions in twentieth-century Ireland. 

    The Magdalene laundries represent a valuable context in which to explore spiritual abuse, because of the type of space they represent: a carceral religious space, one of physical confinement. By placing the practice of forced re-naming within a framework of spiritual abuse, I wish to consider how these processes of control impact upon the religious subjectivities of those incarcerated. 

    Andrew Graystone: “I am your father in God” - The Case of John Smyth QC as an Example of Conservative Evangelical mechanisms of Coercive Control

    John Smyth QC abused young men and boys by beating and spiritual manipulation from the mid-1970s to his death in 2018.  He recruited them through the Conservative Evangelical Iwerne network of camps, of which he was chair.  Many of his UK victims were drawn from Winchester College and Cambridge University. When his abuse became known in the network he moved to Zimbabwe and then to South Africa, where his abuse continued in slightly different forms.

    Smyth’s UK victims were all young privileged conservative evangelical men, who subjected themselves to his beatings on the promise of spiritual advancement. This paper examines how Smyth selected and groomed his victims on the basis of their spiritual and emotional vulnerability. It describes how he used and abused scripture and other religious texts to legitimise his activities, and considers how the exclusivity of a Christian network enabled him to sustain the initial phase of his abuse between 1976 and 1982. The paper identifies Biblical literalism, religious deference, and commitment to an exceptionalist Christian eschatology as key enabling factors for Smyth’s abuse, and asks whether those factors are common to other loci of spiritual abuse in conservative Christian settings.

    Susanna Harris: The Role of Preaching in Addressing Domestic Abuse in UK Evangelical Christianity

    Data suggest Christians are no less likely to be victims or perpetrators of Domestic Abuse than the general population across the world.  The long history of patriarchy in the Christian Church, and attitudes regarding submission, continue to affect Church culture. This contributes to a silencing about Domestic Abuse, whether by victims themselves, the church workers approached to hear disclosure, or more largely on a cultural scale of the church community or network.  This can cause additional suffering to the abuse in terms of damaging women’s spirituality.  

    There is significant concern internationally over the ways that biblical texts have often been taken out of context to justify the physical, sexual, financial, emotional and spiritual abuse of women by their male partners, and how victims themselves may use scripture to excuse the abuse to which they have been subjected.   Studies also show that there are significant training needs for clergy around lack of knowledge and understanding of Domestic Abuse, as well as harmful assumptions, practices and inaction.  The 2018 ‘In Churches Too’ paper found that there is an urgent need amongst some UK Evangelical denominations to do more, or even to start to address Domestic Abuse.  

    Evangelical Christians place a high value on the concept of the ‘sufficiency of scripture’, and on the task of preaching.  Therefore, public teaching in Evangelical contexts on how Domestic Abuse is contrary to Christian values and teaching is a crucial part of addressing this issue.  

    This mixed-methods study seeks to bring understanding to the variety of factors which contribute to the choices UK Baptist ministers make about whether to or how to preach about domestic violence, the associated opportunities, barriers and outcomes. 

    (The study is due to be completed September 2021 and is undertaken as the dissertation element of an MA at the University of Worcester in Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence.)

    Gill Harvey: Fundamentalist Religion, Counsellors, Mental Health and Wellbeing

    The focus of this research is on counsellors’ understandings of the influence of a fundamentalist religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood. Fundamentalism, distinct from radicalisation or extremism, refers to religious tradition based on literal interpretation of the Torah, Bible or Qur’an. Numerous studies suggest that childhood relationships and environment, are influential to mental health and wellbeing however, there is sparse UK literature on the research topic. Additionally, findings indicate that counsellors can feel ill equipped to work with religion and would like further training in this area (Christoudoulidi, 2011; Hofmann & Walach, 2011). This qualitative study utilised a reflexive, relational-centred, collaborative narrative approach (Arvay, 2003; Etherington, 2004; Finlay & Evans, 2009). The focus was on hearing, gathering, and representing the unique stories of counsellors, and some of their clients, around the possible influence of growing up in a religious environment, on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood. Co-researchers were drawn from the Abrahamic traditions and it is important to acknowledge that participants from other religions may have produced different results. Following advertising, much interest was expressed in possible participation, with twenty counsellors undergoing online preliminary interviews during Summer 2019. Purposeful sampling was then used to gain diversity of representation across the Abrahamic religions. Eight co-researchers proceeded (one later withdrew) to data collection stage being via face-to-face, unstructured interviews. Following transcription, co-researchers separately analysed the transcript prior to an interpretative interview taking place which produced a ‘pen portrait’ (Hollway & Jefferson, 2000) for each co-researcher. In a similar way to other contributors, Francesca Alexandra and Maya recognised some benefits of their upbringing for example, knowledge of religious matters from a young age and a sense of belonging. However, both have suffered symptoms potentially suggestive of undiagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder as adults. This is a small-scale qualitative study and therefore has limited generalisability. However, research on this topic is much needed with psychoeducation for professionals being regarded as crucial. Word count: 349 words 1 Pseudonyms used to protect co-researcher In a similar way to other contributors, Francesca Alexandra and Maya recognised some benefits of their upbringing for example, knowledge of religious matters from a young age and a sense of belonging. However, both have suffered symptoms potentially suggestive of undiagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder as adults. This is a small-scale qualitative study and therefore has limited generalisability. However, research on this topic is much needed with psychoeducation for professionals being regarded as crucial. 

    Michelle Haslam: The Enabling, Minimising and Whitewashing of Abuse within so-called Buddhist Sects

    There are a growing number of testimonies that detail indoctrination and abusive experiences within so-called Buddhist groups. Due to the mindfulness movement and ‘meditation on prescription’, mental health professionals are at risk of recommending that people with complex trauma investigate Buddhist groups. Beliefs on the importance of destroying the ego or ‘self-cherishing’ mind and ‘equanimity’ practices often involve dissociation from the body and spiritual bypassing of emotional pain. Survivors report that ‘crazy wisdom’ and karma beliefs were later used to gaslight the victim, and deflect attention from the perpetrator. In addition, the aggrandizement of the leader and the protection of the reputation of these sects has resulted in the denial and whitewashing of abuse. Survivors are now beginning to overcome these barriers and testimonies are reaching the media. Some have been threatened and character assassinated as mentally ill in order to discredit their testimonies. Many former members suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, exacerbated by difficulties they have had in understanding the abuse and disclosing it. Due to the likelihood that researchers and clinicians will continue to recommend mindfulness and meditation, it is important that they are made aware of the methods used to silence abuse and resulting trauma within these groups.

    Kristian Hewett: Developing ‘Healthy Church Cultures’ in Christianity

    In early 2018, interest in the topic of spiritual abuse in Christian communities in Britain increased dramatically after an Anglican minister was for the first time formally reprimanded for committing spiritual abuse, and a survey suggested two-third of Christians could be victims of this type of abuse. Much debate around the topic emerged in Christian media, with many voices highlighting the difficulty of separating spiritual abuse from questions of theological difference. What do we do, many asked, when the concern to protect people from spiritual abuse seems to conflict with the right to express and exercise freedom of religion?

    In response to these criticisms, proponents of the concept emphasised the theological neutrality of the category of spiritual abuse. A paper from the Churches Child Protection Agency Service (now thiryone:eight) stated that “holding a theological position is not in itself spiritually abusive” and that spiritual abuse is rather an issue of how a theological position is “shared and practiced.”  Spiritual abuse was reimagined as, primarily, a problem of coercion and control in a religious setting.

    Whilst this move has helped restore trust in the neutrality of the concept of SA, my argument as that something very significant to the essence of spiritual abuse has been lost in this development. Research into spiritual abuse has long emphasised that many of the distinctive features of spiritual abuse relate to is operation on a spiritual/ theological level (for example, the fear of spiritual consequences and the misuse of scripture). These features may be aided and abetted by coercion and control, but coercion and control is often not the whole story. A deep engagement with the issue of spiritual abuse, I argue, cannot leave questions of theology untouched.

    Alongside the attempts to ensure the theological neutrality of the concept of spiritual abuse, the most contemporary publications on the topic have also indicated a change of approach in tackling the phenomenon of spiritual abuse. This approach focuses on building up “healthy church cultures,” in which spiritual abuse is less likely to take root because transparency, confident questioning and accountability become social norms. Considering, as I do, that spiritual abuse is never an entirely theologically neutral area, I suggest that the promotion and establishment of “healthy church cultures” will require a robust and deliberate theological rationale and underpinning to ensure its success as an approach tackling the on-going problem of spiritual abuse.

    David Hilborn: ‘Spiritual Abuse’, Religious Liberty and Neo-Erastianism

    This paper will problematize the proliferation of ‘Spiritual Abuse’ (‘SA’) as a term reserved specifically to religious people and groups. Tracing its evolution from Van Vonderen (1991) to Oakley & Humphreys (2019), it will contend that however well-meant, ‘SA’ discourse has come to present significant challenges for civic theology and religious liberty. Echoing critiques of ‘religious hatred’ legislation by Garton Ash (2016), it will argue that those challenges are by turns surprising and paradoxical. Surprising because they risk exhuming an Erastian-like statutory prohibition of specifically theological convictions – a prohibition deeply at odds with secularized law. And paradoxical because they would require an otherwise plural democratic state to dispense distinctively theological judgments that, precisely because of such secularization, it is less equipped than ever to dispense. 

    While ‘SA’ was coined as a definition of harmful practices more typically assumed to require ecclesial healing and sanction – practices like ‘heavy shepherding’ and enforced tithing – this paper will show how the term’s difficulties have grown with wider use, and most particularly as it has become subject to proto-legal mission creep. Drawing on the author’s own work on Evangelical Alliance’s study of ‘SA’ discourse (EA 2018), this paper will also draw on the seminal research of Figgis (1900) to highlight the ecclesiological and jurisprudential incoherence of latter-day Erastian projects, and by extension, of recent attempts to promote ‘SA’ into statutory guidance and criminal law. Through close reading of Oakley & Kinmond (2013), Harper & Wilson (2019) and others, it will be shown that distinguishing abuse as ‘spiritual’ is both imprecise and potentially discriminatory compared to application of the existing legal category of Emotional and Psychological Abuse to contexts more cautiously yet more rigorously defined as religious. Thus, while recognising that ‘SA’ has functioned for some victims as a placeholder, this paper will propose that better terminology is available for better diagnosis and support.  

    Sadia Kidwai: The Challenges of Addressing Spiritual Abuse: Perspectives from a New Initiative for British Muslim Communities

    In recent years, a number of high-profile cases of Muslim religious and community leaders engaging in spiritually abusive behaviours have come to light. These cases have sparked much-needed and long-overdue conversations within British Muslim communities about the issue of spiritual abuse. 

    What has become clear in these conversations are the gaps that exist in British Muslim communities and their institutions to address spiritual abuse. Examples of such gaps are: the lack of community awareness of what might be defined as “spiritual abuse”; a lack of institutional capacity, such as safeguarding mechanisms, to prevent, mitigate, or respond to sexual abuse; and a dearth of research about the nuances, understandings and manifestations of spiritual abuse in British Muslim communities.

    A new initiative hopes to address these gaps, with plans to:

    • Conduct research around spiritual abuse in British Muslim communities.

    • Deliver training and capacity-building for British Muslim community institutions to improve their overall safeguarding policies and practices, and their capacity to prevent, mitigate and respond to spiritual abuse. 

    • Offer training and capacity building for counselling and helpline services to better support victims of spiritual abuse.

    • Raise awareness within British Muslim communities about what spiritual abuse is, how it can manifest, and what standards of behaviour, support and accountability they should expect from community institutions.

    Early conversations with community stakeholders, as well as desk-based mapping exercises have identified a number of challenges to creating these much-needed resources and services. These include, amongst others: the question of how to define spiritual abuse; the radically diverse needs of British Muslim communities (depending on geography, socio-economic status, theological stances, and cultural backgrounds); and broader fears of such initiatives inviting negative attention to communities that already feel under siege. This paper will explore the complex challenges faced when attempting to tackle spiritual abuse within British Muslim communities.

    Pierre-Alexandre Richard: Non-confessional Clinical Spiritual Care as a Way of Identifying and Countering Spiritual and Religious Abuse in a Québec Mental Health Institute

    The identity of spiritual care in Québec has been changing particularly since 2011, when the (mainly Catholic) pastoral mandate was dropped as a requirement to hold a position in the health care system. A new form of non-confessional, clinical spiritual care has since then started to be implemented in hospitals. A few years in, we are starting to see some of the impacts of this reform.  

    In the context of his work as one of these clinical spiritual care professionals in a psychiatric institute in Montréal, Québec, P.A. Richard began noticing that many patients – either inside the hospital or followed by one of the many outpatient clinics – were being targeted by destructive religious groups and cults, and that this form of abuse more often than not went undetected by psychiatrists and other professionals. Alarmed by these cases, and by how easy it was for malicious individuals and groups to gain access to patients using spiritual pretenses, P.A. Richard wanted to learn more about spiritual and religious abuse, the techniques used by groups to target vulnerable and isolated people, listen to survivor stories, but also ex-pastors and cult leaders who used to preach such practices. He also wanted to learn more about the possible impacts of such practices on people’s mental health and symptoms, and see the ways in which his practice could help create a safer environment for the mentally ill population as they receive treatment and care.

    His conclusion is that the non-confessional spiritual care model that is now applied in Québec hospitals represents an essential clinical tool in creating a safe spiritual environment for mentally ill and isolated patients. Furthermore, trained spiritual care professionals must be part of multidisciplinary teams that are involved in assessing a patient’s mental health so that potential spiritual or religious causes of stress, anxiety or other symptoms can be covered in the evaluation. 

    The Douglas Mental Health Institute’s spiritual care service is now used as a reference in all adult departments when spiritual or religious abuse is suspected to have occurred, and leads staff and manager awareness on the matter.

    The presentation will cover case examples of spiritual abuse and how they were discovered by the spiritual care service, how destructive religious groups and cults target mental health patients (even on hospital wards), how the service was able to demonstrate to clinical teams its efficiency in detecting this kind of abuse, and the non-confessional spiritual care approach that creates a protective shield against religious abuse, in the hospital but also later on for patients, once they’ve left the ward.

    Tracy McEwan: “Everyday” Spiritual Abuse in Catholicism: Gen X Australian Women’s Experiences

    In interviews conducted as part of my PhD research on Gen X Catholic women in Australia, participants articulated the pain they deal with day-to-day as they negotiate material and structural inequalities in Catholicism. In particular, women told stories of the psychological harm of being silenced and oppressed as they live out the effects of kyriarchal practices and teachings around gender and sexuality. In sociological literature, David Hall (1997) and Meredith McGuire (2008) have developed the notion of lived or everyday religion to theorise how religious and spiritual identities, beliefs, and practices are experienced in daily life both in concert with and in opposition to authoritarian discourses. The term spiritual abuse has been used to name the harm that occurs when religious authority is distorted and repressive strategies are engaged to silence, control and devalue a person in the name of “God”. This paper will bring together the central concepts of lived religion and spiritual abuse in order to explore the everyday experiences of abuse women grapple with in Catholicism. Using experience-based narratives from my research and the case study of a women’s consultation event held by the Australian Catholic Bishops conference, I will examine the harm women encounter as they manage the gap between Catholicism and their everyday embodied reality. Furthermore, I will argue that encounters that involve spiritual abuse are so commonplace in the context of Catholicism, that they have been normalized as an ordinary and quotidian part of Catholic women’s lives.

    Kathleen McPhillips: Soul Murder: The Role of Public Inquiry in Understanding Spiritual Abuse

    The term spiritual abuse has recently become increasingly helpful in describing patterns of harm occurring in faith-based organisations (Oakley & Kimond, 2013). A significant contributor to the development of a lexicon in spiritual abuse and trauma has been the public inquiry. Since the 1990s there have been hundreds of public investigations into religious organisations across the world aligning with the escalation of accounts of systemic, organised child sexual abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults. Where new religious movements have historically been the normative site of disclosures of trauma and abuse, significant evidence from inquiries demonstrates that mainstream faith traditions have failed to protect children and adults including Buddhist, Anglican and particularly Catholic communities.

    While the focus of public inquires has largely been on institutional responses to the sexual and physical abuse of children and vulnerable adults in religious organisations, plenty of evidence has emerged to support patterns of spiritual abuse and subsequent harm (McPhillips, 2018, Pargament, 2008).  This paper takes a methodological approach and focuses on the role of public inquiries in alerting attention to and building knowledge about the phenomenon of spiritual abuse and the social construction of narratives of spiritual abuse by victim/survivors as public testimony. The paper will consider evidence of spiritual abuse from the recent public inquiry in Australia: The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and examine how public inquiries are re-shaping the field of spiritual abuse and trauma. 

    Maryyum Mehmood: Breaking the Silence: British Muslim Women Tackling Spiritual Abuse

    Spiritual abuse is the misuse of religious edicts and precepts by those in positions of power to control, coerce and manipulate vulnerable believers into thinking and behaving in ways that are harmful to them. It is a highly overlooked yet deeply insidious problem disproportionately affecting women in Muslim spaces. Very little is known about it, and some, quite wrongly, equate it with possession or sorcery. Though, this is slowly shifting thanks to a handful of Muslim women leading global campaigns of awareness and advocacy. This paper centres around the journey of these women in confronting spiritual abuse which underpins many social ills such as grooming, radicalisation, subjugation of women and queer Muslims. Given that abusers and their enablers normally include religious leaders, male figureheads and those dominant and in control of overwhelmingly patriarchal community spaces, Muslim women campaigners are often dismissed, demonised and slandered, putting them at the receiving end of further spiritual abuse. Thus, the consequences of nonconformity and breaking their silence on spiritual violence often leads to ostracization, isolation and social boycott of survivors and their allies. Such pressure and vilification have severe ramifications on the mental health and emotional well-being of survivors. By situating campaigners and survivors at the focal point of our analysis, we explore the manner in which they navigate their advocacy work and the challenges they face in their quest for justice. This paper concludes with a suggestion to bolster accountability and transparency processes in British mosques and community spaces in order to safeguard vulnerable women and children.

    Peter O’Kane: “There are too many things of which we do not speak, too many secrets, too much shame” (Call the Midwife): Abuse and Coercive Control in Roman Catholicism

    “There are too many things of which we do not speak, too many secrets, too much shame.” This quote comes from an episode of Call the Midwife, offering an insight into the horrific reality and problematic challenges posed by the revelations of abuse and coercive control experienced by members of the Church, especially within the Roman Catholic tradition. This disclosure has begun to throw light on a shocking dark period of history, spanning the living memory of people. In particular, stories have emerged of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of clergy, coupled with Church and State reaction to unmarried mothers and their babies. Yet beyond the horrific details of these revelations, a deeper stratum is discovered relating the detrimental effect and destructive consequences on the spiritual life and faith of these victims.

    This paper will offer a reflection on how the Catholic Church in these islands has responded to the allegations of abuse, especially spiritual abuse, over the last twenty years. Imperfect and lacking as this response of Church authority began, there has been a developing and more constructive approach in responding to disclosures and real accounts of spiritual abuse. Looking specifically at the context of the Catholic Church, an exposition of the first efforts will be offered with a critique, identifying how Church authority has responded, intervened and engaged with victims of abuse. Issues to be considered include the seal of sacramental confession, upheld by canon law but challenged by civil law when involving either the place where a person experiences spiritual abuse or the place where a person discloses their story of abuse. 

    The paper will also consider the development of safeguarding strategies and policies for clergy, ministers and people, specifically with regard to the areas of spiritual direction and the sacrament of confession. This development is founded on a renewed theological reflection on ministry, authority and power as lived within the faith community. Only then will the Church be as brave as those who have disclosed their stories, so that we will no longer live in secret, shame or silence. 

    Sarah-Jane Page: The IICSA Inquiry and the Jehovah’s Witnesses: Sin, Crime and Parental Responsibilities

    The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) based on England and Wales has explicitly focused on religious organisations. While initial hearings examined larger organisations such as the Anglican and Catholic churches, a later strand (starting in March 2020) was broader. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were subject to a day-and-a-half of hearings, including testimony from a Jehovah’s Witness spokesperson. This paper is based on a thematic analysis of the IICSA testimony relating to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    The attention the Jehovah’s Witnesses received was brief, but the testimony revealed pertinent details which raised specific questions about the policies within the organisation and a lack of appetite for change. While other Christian groups under examination offered an apology to victims of abuse at the outset, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were notable in their absence in this regard. The resulting testimony revealed a lack of willingness to take responsibility for organisational failings; parents were blamed for not being vigilant enough in protecting their families from CSA. Meanwhile their internal justice systems are set up to manage and regulate sin. However, given CSA is a crime, there was a demonstrable lack of commitment to mandatory reporting. Broader issues raised related to how judicial committees are conducted and the requirement for two witnesses to a wrongdoing, all of which have far-reaching implications for the safety and wellbeing of children within the organisation (Royal Commission 2016). 

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses are not unusual in being a religious organisation having major child safeguarding failings. But while other Christian traditions have made attempts to address the issue, the IICSA account demonstrated unwillingness to engage with secular-derived safeguarding processes. Such resistance can be linked theologically to their belief that they are ‘in but not of the world’ (Holden 2002: 1). This paper will theoretically utilise Gordon Lynch’s (2012) notion of sacred forms to understand these dynamics, examining the sacred commitments of the Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding sinfulness and the status of the child. This will contribute to a broader discussion regarding institutional regulation, gendered power dynamics and the extent to which children are accorded citizenship status (Page and Shipley 2020).

    Hari Parekh & Vincent Egan: Apostates as a Hidden Population of Abuse Victims

    The term “apostate” describes the term used by the religious to describe individuals raised within religious families who once identified as religious, but who have ceased to believe in the existence of God, gods or follow their religious belief, and now identify as non-religious. Given the strong feelings families can have about the rejection of their shared faith, and the difficulty that police forces may have in identifying and understanding the complexities of violence toward the apostate, this study sought to examine the possibility that apostates represent a hidden population of abuse victims within religious households. We recruited 228 persons (102 males, 119 females) from an online survey with the support of “Faith to Faithless”—a service within Humanists UK, which supports people that leave their religious faith. Individuals were screened using a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scale to quantify their experience of assault and negotiation. It was found that persons who identified as apostates experienced more assault (i.e., harmful violence) than non-religious persons. Within this sample, Muslim apostates were significantly more likely to be victimized than Christian apostates. Disclosure of being abused for identifying as an apostate within a religious household to law enforcement was extremely uncommon, thereby preventing detection or prosecution of abusive acts committed by family members and limiting public awareness of this issue. These results are discussed in the context of the broader culture of honour-based (izzat) violence, which occurs across the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa, and is also seen in some Protestant Christian subcultures, and common to all Abrahamic religions, rather than Islam alone. This study highlights that within a multicultural society, there remain hidden populations of abuse victims who are vulnerable due to religious, cultural, and traditional constraints made by abusive family members.

    Stephen Parsons: Ostracism and Shunning as Spiritual Abuse

    Among the many forms of spiritual abuse, one is summed up by the words ostracism or shunning.  In summary, a Christian leader feels that, as part of his role, he has the power exclude from the community anyone who does not submit to his spiritual authority.  There are a number of Scriptural passages that appear to support such a attempt to control members of a congregation in this way.

    Within social psychology there is a branch of the discipline known as social exclusion theory.  This area of study has been the preserve of a relatively small number of scholars, beginning around the turn of the millennium.  It is associated with the name of Kipling Williams, an Australian scholar now in the States.  Interestingly the scope of this study, focussing on the experience of being shut out from social groups, has not delved into the religious realm.  There is in the literature passing references to the behaviour of Amish communities but other more blatant shunning groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, do not seem to have attracted the attention of these social psychologists.

    The proposed paper will be an introductory review of social exclusion theory with an attempt to place well documented examples of Church shunning within its purview.  Three aspects on shunning behaviour make it particularly savage as an abusive action.  The first is that ostracism in a Church context is thought to be not only a social act.  It also touches on the state of one’s immortal soul.  The second part of the cruelty of this behaviour is in the way it is used as a constant threat.  The fear of exclusion is as powerful an abusive tool as the practice.  Third, the exclusion practices of some churches and cults involve family as well as fellow members of the church.  This deprivation of the human need to belong is an attack on the deepest levels of human identity.

     Francisco Prochaska: Life after Spiritual Abuse, Reflecting on My Own Experience.

    The present paper reflects on my experience of 30 year being a follower of former Roman Catholic priest Fernando Karadima.

    I will share a brief journey of my personal experience about being captured and reborn after 30 years of abuse. The presentation combines my actual life experience with the most recent definition of spiritual abuse and the key characteristics of it described by Dr Lisa Oakley and Justin Humpreys in their Book “Escaping the maze of spiritual abuse”. Confronting life experience with academic concepts brings light to both experience and concepts.

    Peter Sanlon: ‘Doing the Devil’s Work’: A Critical Study of the Historic ‘Bash Camps’ with Regard to Spiritual Abuse

    Many senior leaders in the Church of England today were converted and formed by attendance at the holiday camps established by Eric Nash - nicknamed ‘Bash.’ Though he died in 1982, loyalty to him remains strong. The title of this paper comes from a senior minister who served on the camps under Bash. He wrote to me saying that critiquing Bash was ‘doing the devil’s work.’ 

    Notwithstanding this warning that his work should be beyond critique, in light of the widespread problem of spiritual abuse, the time has come for an analysis of ways the historic Bash camps formed future church minsters, such that they would struggle to adequately respond to spiritual abuse. There have been a number of high profile cases of serious abuse linked with Bash camp leaders – most notoriously, John Smyth and Jonathan Fletcher. This paper is not about them; it examines the power structures of the Bash camp system more widely, with a view to learning appropriate lessons about reasons people can overlook or condone the danger of spiritual abuse.

    The encomium published to commemorate Bash was titled ‘A Study in Spiritual Power’ (1983). This paper takes its cue from that book - exploring the nature of ‘spiritual power’ insofar as it was deployed and institutionalised by the Bash Camps. 

    Two research approaches are deployed to further understanding of the role of the historic Bash camps in forming ministers:

    1.       The content of the ‘officer’s handbook’ from the 1980’s Bash Camps is studied in terms of its significance as a piece of material religion and in terms of its instructions to leaders. Issues such as the approach to leadership selection, prayer and secrecy are explored.

    2.      A series of interviews with people who went on to ministry, and were on the Bash camps in the 1980s, are considered. The positive lessons they learned for ministry together with the things they felt needed to be unlearned are outlined in their own words.

    Naomi Richman, Sarah Harvey, Suzanne Newcombe & Robert Wright: Gender, Sexuality and Spiritual Abuse Panel

    Although anybody can become a victim of spiritual abuse, the shape this abuse takes is often linked to beliefs around gender, sexuality and human relationships. Spiritual abuse can map onto gender dynamics. It also might be grounded in spiritual accounts of the human and of human difference. In addition, understandings of morality, and in particular sexual morality can heighten the impetus behind spiritual abuse as well as serve as justification for it. As a result, developing a robust understanding of spiritual abuse in a particular context requires investigating the gender ideologies, sexual morality and power dynamics at play, as much as it requires attention to specific gender/sexual identities alone.

    In this panel, we draw on our backgrounds in academic research, policy-work and safeguarding to explore the intersections of gender, sexuality and spiritual abuse. This interdisciplinary and cross-sector conversation is designed to foster deeper understandings of spiritual abuse that are informed by the variety of perspectives and insights we bring to the table. This discussion, we hope, will serve to highlight practical knowledge and guidance on this area for the benefit of researchers. In tandem, it will present empirical data and fine-grained analysis of particular manifestations of spiritual abuse within a range of specific religious settings, for the benefit of practitioners dealing with spiritual abuse ‘on the ground’.

    Trigger warning: These talks will examine distressing examples of spiritual and sexual abuse and assault in religious movements.

    Panel participants:

    1. Beyond the Headlines: Developing an informed understanding of ‘Gay-Conversion Therapy’ and Christian Deliverance
    2. Empowerment and Abuse: The Complexity of Gender Dynamics in Religious Groups
    3. Supporting LGBT+ survivors of abuse linked to Faith and Belief (Galop)

    Theo Wildcroft, Matthew Remski, Josna Pankhania, Jacqueline Hargreaves & Amelia Wood: From Guru to #MeToo: Sex, Abuse and Yoga Panel

    In 2004 there were estimated to be 2.5 million yoga practitioners in Britain alone, and numbers are still rising today. A diverse profession that is strongly resistant to official regulation has facilitated both physical and psycho-spiritual healing for many. But threaded through the history of modern yoga is a darker history of abuse, failure of care and institutional silence. Recent years have seen a rapid growth in public accusations of abuse by prominent yoga teachers, leading to the downfall of once-beloved figures and even entire schools of practice. There are now no prominent lineages of postural yoga that have not been marked by scandal.

    The prominence of Yoga Studies as an academic subfield is also growing, and numerous scholars are now (re) considering the history and practice, teaching and culture of modern yoga in light of this previously hidden history. In this panel, we would like to invite such scholars to share papers discussing the hidden stories, the risks and rewards, and the signs of resilience and reform within modern yoga culture, teaching and practice.

    1. Somatic Dominance: Embodied Ethnography and Embodying Survivors
    2. Institutional Responses to the Satyananda Yoga Case Study 21 of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse
    3. Spiritual Abuse in Modern Yoga Contexts: Definitions and Delineations
    Andrew Williams: Rethinking Religious Conversion in Austerity: Service-user Experiences of Faith-based Alcohol Treatment

    Budget cuts and growing pressure on frontline workers (probation, GPs, alcohol workers) has led to faith-based alcohol treatment services becoming increasingly significant service providers in the sector. Drawing on mixed-methods study of faith-based alcohol treatment in England and Wales, including 40 interviews with staff and service-users, and ethnographic placements in 5 case-study organisations, this paper makes two contributions to research on spiritual coercion. Firstly, it highlights how wider political-economic changes become enfolded into the potential for spiritual coercion. Austerity blurs the boundaries between mandatory and voluntary engagement with faith-based treatment in a context where resource rationing, probation requirements, changing eligibility, and funding reductions in residential treatment restrict the recovery pathways of people seeking support. Secondly, by foregrounding the experiences of service-users in a subset of faith-based alcohol treatment providers, the paper offers a critical insight on the ethics of religious conversion and makes recommendations for policy and practice. 

    Tom Wilson: Safer Faith Safer Followers

    Safer Faith, Safer Followers is the St Philip’s Centre’s best practice guide written to help faith communities understand and respond to issues related to spiritual abuse. The contents is as follows: an introduction and definition of spiritual abuse; case studies of possible spiritual abuse; case studies involving poor practice in relation to volunteers and paid staff that may, or may not, constitute spiritual abuse; and suggestions for how to promote a healthier and more open culture within a faith community. 

    The presentation will discuss Safer Faith, Safer Followers under four headings. First, the background and context of the Centre and the work, including the working relationship with thirty-one: eight, Replenished.Life, the NSPCC and the Faith Workers Branch of Unite, will be explained. Second, the working assumptions and method used by the guide are outlined. Safer Faith, Safer Followers take a primarily case-study based approach, believing that stories and problem solving are the primarily pedagogical tools for enabling individuals and groups to increase their capacity and professionalism when addressing questions of safeguarding. The rationale for this decision is explained and examples of the case studies used are explored. Third, reflections are offered on the process of developing the guide, focusing particularly on three workshops, held between March and June 2020, where Safer Faith, Safer Followers was piloted. This section will evaluate the effectiveness of the case-study based approach and explain what modifications, if any, were made to the guide as a result of the workshops. Fourth, the process for disseminating and sharing the guide will be outlined.

    Rebecca Woodhouse & Kevin Hogan: Counselling Psychologists’ Experiences of Working Therapeutically with Clients’ Spiritual Crisis and Abuse: A Qualitative Exploration

    Whilst the positive effects of spirituality on wellbeing are well documented (Koenig, King & Carson, 2012), a growing body of research suggests that there are negative spiritual and psychological impacts of some aspects of religion and spirituality, including spiritual abuse (Oakley & Humphreys, 2019; Ward, 2011). Furthermore, there is a developing understanding that the therapeutic space might be the first time that clients explore the consequences of spiritual abuse (Hobson, Enroth, Langone & Giambalyo, 2012). However, therapists may be impeded by limited research into working therapeutically with spiritual and psychological distress resulting from the experience spiritual abuse.

    The focus of this study was Counselling Psychologists’ subjective experiences and perceptions of working therapeutically with spiritual abuse, therefore, a qualitative design was employed. Ten trainee and qualified Counselling Psychologists were recruited using purposive and snow-balling sampling. The participants completed a qualitative survey, from which, two participants self-selected for in-depth, semi-structured interviews.

    Thematic Analysis of the findings generated two overarching themes: Firstly, Counselling Psychologists sensed that spiritual abuse creates profound ruptures for the clients in their relationships with the self, the Divine and their community. Secondly, working with spiritual abuse was viewed as professionally and personally challenging for Counselling Psychologists.

    Whilst not all participants had explored spiritual abuse with clients, participants had a grasp of the features of spiritual abuse. Some participants reported that clients explored the psychological and spiritual impact of spiritual abuse in therapy. However, these problems were often not the reason that clients presented in therapy. Spiritual abuse was viewed as causing significant psychological and spiritual distress for the client. Participants reported drawing on their therapeutic foundations to work with clients and the use of trauma-informed methodologies to support their clients.

    These findings offer important implications for understanding spiritual abuse and developing enhanced sources of therapeutic support, including the need for practitioners to be aware of the psychological and spiritual impact of spiritual abuse. Furthermore, safe therapeutic places in which spiritual abuse and its effects can be explored is important for both Counselling Psychologists and clients. These can be further facilitated by increased awareness in Counselling Psychologists training programs and professional supervision.