A “Systems Approach” and Some Historical Background on Dealing with Abuse and Violence

To deal with “systemic abuse,” we must understand systems, victimization, and what makes individuals and institutions vulnerable.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

In the previous post, I gave a brief preview of key features for The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide from a systems perspective, and listed other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In this post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal and historical perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide, by Boz Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits

Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:

How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.

In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

Opportunity to Participate in Research Study on Clergy Misconduct

I occasionally hear through the survivor community grapevine about academic-level research being done on issues related to survivors of spiritual abuse. When I do, I encourage people to participate. The resulting research data and descriptions have proven valuable to our communities. Here is an opportunity to respond to a doctoral research project on clergy misconduct.

This research focuses on clergy misconduct of a nonsexual nature. Case study participants are needed for a detailed online survey about what they experienced. It’s an anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey, and participants from any country worldwide are welcomed!

The requirements for participants:

  1. At least 20 years old.
  2. The person had something happen that reflects wrongdoing by a specific pastor (misuse of authority, breaking confidentiality, crossing boundaries, something financial, etc.).
  3. The wrongdoing was not sexual.
  4. It happened more than one year ago.
  5. The church where this happened was Protestant (Lutheran, Baptist, Alliance, United, Pentecostal, etc.).
  6. The person was a member of the church or a regular attender.
  7. The person was an adult when this happened.

The SurveyMonkey link for the study is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N5D8N2W.

The opening pages explain more about the survey, its purposes, and its length.

The study is being done by Marlis Krueger through California Southern University. Results will be accessible on the university website in approximately six months.

Thanks for considering participation in this important study!

~ brad/futuristguy

Five Reasons Why *5Q* by Alan Hirsch is a Need-to-Read Book

NOTE: The beginning section of this review is cross-posted on the Amazon site for 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, by Alan Hirsch (2017; published by 5Q).

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I know it’s not normal to write a review before finishing the book. However, in this rare case of Alan Hirsch’s *5Q*, I am. That’s because I’ve read enough to know that I WILL finish it, because the first quarter of the book (preface, intro, and first two chapters) provided more than enough threshold details for me to recommend specifically why I believe you should read it, too.

In a nutshell: I am convinced from a combination of constructive and destructive experiences in 40-plus years working with non-profits, church plants, and social change activism that applying paradigm systems theory is essential to successful, sustainable transformation. And, the way I see it, *5Q* provides a conceptual framework for identifying deficiencies in our system compared to the revealed ideal, and a set of practical skills and tools for filling in gaps and filing off excesses in our systems.

This means 5Q can drive both context-based intervention when things have gone toxic, and prevention of problems in our start-up and sustainability efforts. So, 5Q is valuable to those working in situations that focus on Kingdom embodiment and personal discipleship: churches, church plants, social transformation endeavors, community development, missional impact metrics, and spiritual abuse survivor advocacy.

For those not yet acquainted with the core concepts of 5Q, here’s the kernel of the system. Ephesians 4:11-13 specifies a fivefold structure of giftedness in the Body of Christ. Using the acronym of APEST, these are: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. The APEST giftings are meant to work together. Christ manifests all five and they are key to the Church universal’s genetic code. As with any genetic aberrations, a deficiency or duplication of any fivefold chromosomal element can lead to chronic illnesses, sterility, or even premature death of a body.

*5Q* is an intermediate introduction to Alan’s lifetime work in missional ministry. In it, he presents (1) the revelational and incarnational bases for the APEST typology as the Body of Christ’s genetic system, (2) practical outworkings of the system for individuals and organizations, and (3) solutions for addressing related problems. Additional component trainings and tools are available from “5Qcentral,” making this a robust, holistic system for context-sensitive ministry movements.

Here are my five observations from the first 25% of the book that convinced me to read the rest. I hope you’ll find reasons to read it in these as well! Continue reading

Response to Ben Reed’s Article on “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder”

Introduction

One of my long-time friends who is a serial survivor of spiritual abuse in churches, contacted me about Ben Reed’s article on ChurchLeaders, about “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder.” He asked me what I thought about it. This post is the result of my spending the morning, working through the article.

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Overall Impressions

Since 2007, I’ve written extensively on spiritually abusive systems. This portfolio includes a dozen case studies (for links, see the navigation sidebar, 2 CASE STUDIES AND ARTICLES), content analysis of books on abuse and personal recovery, sets of indicators for identifying malignant leaders and toxic systems, and practical how-to’s for when rehabilitation is/isn’t appropriate. I’m currently completing the first of four volumes in a training course on how to deal with toxic systems and how to set up healthy systems (see Futuristguy’s Field Guides site).

Toxic systems are complex phenomena that can involve multiple sources (e.g., malignant leaders, troublesome congregants, toxic infrastructures) and sequels (staying when you should leave, leaving when you could stay, PTSD, “nones, dones, and gones”). In comparing Ben Reed’s article at ChurchLeaders on “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder” with those categories, I found some helpful points, but felt it was more problematic than not.

I do believe the article embodies his well-meaning attempt to address some very real problems in churches, and it does include some accurate indicators of sick leadership. However, in my opinion, Mr. Reed oversimplifies both causes and correctives. He also mixes up categories of people involved; there is a significant difference between a “troubled” congregant (who is being crushed by those in leadership) and “troublesome congregants” (who are attempting to override those in leadership). He seems to put the weight of change on those who genuinely experience misuse of power/authority in a Christian church or ministry context – rather than on those responsible to remove unqualified and disqualified leaders.

And, from all I’ve personally experienced and heard from other survivors of spiritual abuse, that flip of the responsibility script will inevitably bring more harm than help to congregants. I’m concerned that his article can easily leave conscientious people feeling guilty, as if they’re causing dissension in the church, when in fact they’re discerning overlording by those who should be removed from leadership in the church.

Also, Mr. Reed apparently recommends that people stay and try to change themselves and the toxic church they’re in. However, in my long-term readings of books and blogs on recovery from spiritual abuse, the overwhelming pattern suggests the wisest general course of action is to leave a church where there are indicators of overlording leadership. Here are details on my conclusions and why I find this article problematic … Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Four – Challenge #1

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Four: Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.

Introduction

Part of what I do in research writing focuses on analyzing paradigm systems. This means I am looking at multiple parts, how they work together, gaps and excesses that create inherent problems that turn the system toxic or otherwise prevent health and sustainability for the individuals and institutions aligned with that paradigm.

The aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections and the rancorous social media fights that ensued left me asking more questions than usual about social media. (And I have in mind primarily Facebook, Twitter, and blogs here.) I believe a series of generic problems can limit the usefulness of these communication forms. And, some of these flaws tend to get amplified in survivor blogging.

So, for this final topic in this series, I will present what I see as the general problem and then some of the ways this can work out to be more difficult in survivor communities posts. And, as I noted in Part Two, I’m speaking here at the big-picture level, which means there are likely many individual exceptions to the generalizations.

I’ll be splitting Part Four three segments, with one challenge in each:

  1. The problems of working with words.
  2. The natural limits of crowd-sourced fact gathering.
  3. The lack of a civil and conciliatory society.

Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Three

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Three: Positive Trends in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.

Introduction

Most of these trends are relatively brief. I’m seeing what I interpret as enough points of evidence to sense that something important is going on, even if the trend is still emerging from the fog and the direction it’s heading is uncertain.

The challenges, on the other hand, seem clear enough from a longer stream of online incidents. It also seems like they will always be with us in survivor blogging. Recent events that I mentioned in the Introduction to Part One have brought a few particular challenges to the forefront.

So, here are what I see as positive trends, for your consideration. Because a number of the cases I’ve drawn from involve behind-the-scenes activities, I won’t be mentioning specific details for them, or for the continuing challenges in Part Four. Continue reading