Narcissism Notes is a futuristguy blog series sparked by content in Chuck DeGroat’s book, When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse (InterVarsity Press; 2020). Book available as of March 17, 2020.
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As a survivor who’s helped people process experiences of spiritual abuse, I see three problem areas:
- “Troublesome congregants” controlling things from the pews.
- Malignant leaders exerting control through pulpit and pen.
- Toxic organizational systems that emerge as a result, enabling sin, evil, and sometimes even crime.
I’ve done enough research and case study work to know Chuck DeGroat’s conclusion in Chapter 1 of When Narcissism Comes To Church is accurate: Abusive leaders and enabler systems show up “across all theological spectrums.” Documented toxic situations arise in at least four dimensions.
1-Every THEOLOGICAL STREAM: Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant (Reformed, Lutheran, Anabaptist); charismatic, evangelical, fundamental, liberal, Pentecostal, and progressive.
2-Every form of POLITY/AUTHORITY SYSTEM, whether denominational or associational: congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and franchise.
3-Every ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEM TYPE: centralized / hierarchical (including multi-campus), decentralized / distributed (including flat-structure or informal network).
4-Both complementarian and egalitarian APPROACHES TO GENDER ISSUES in congregation, family, and community.
Rummage around “survivor blogs” and talk with enough abuse survivors, and I think you’ll arrive at similar conclusions. This is why I appreciate that Chuck has extensive experience in pastoring, counseling, teaching, church planting, and assessing plant leader candidates.
Multiple lenses of expertise give him a needed big picture of how narcissistic patterns work their way out for a range of individuals and institutions. I’m confident his nuanced perspective and the concept frameworks and tools it implies will equip us for engaging in the processes noted in the subtitle of Chuck’s book: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, and I look forward to his “spiritual MRI” composite on narcissism’s destructive impacts on everyday disciples, leaders, systems! Good journey ahead …
** Questions and Case Studies to Consider **
If you’re interested in some do-it-yourself research on those 4 factors, Gordon-Conwell Denomination Information and Chart is a great framework resource. It includes formal denominations and less formal associations, and describes distinctives. They update periodically. Most recent is May 2018.