We live in a society in which admitting one’s own sins is seen as a sign of weakness.
Church leaders and theologians shared experiences and a biblical perspective at a 4-day conference in Spain. “The final result of spiritual abuse can be summarised in one word: destruction.”
From May 4-7, the XIV Seminary of Pastoral Theology and Psychology, organised by the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE) took place in Tarragona, Spain. The conference aimed to talk and reflect about spiritual abuse, a problem which affects many churches, the organisers argued.
During the conference, many perspectives were offered. Speakers came from different denominations “to talk about such a dark and difficult topic”, as one of the speakers said.
Pastors, experts, and other participants shared the Word and their own experiences, to remember that the church suffers as humans suffer, because Christian communities are part of society. Codes of pastoral ethics need to be established to facilitate relationships between pastors, and between them and the church, the conference concluded.
EVANGELICAL PASTORAL MISSION FOR THIS CENTURY
Julio Díaz, rector of the Baptist University of Theology in Spain, talked about the positive aspects of pastoral mission.
According to Diaz, the pastoral mission, in the 21st century, consists in several aspects: a) the recovery of the biblical and global sense of the pastoral mission; b) a close pastoral work; c) development of creative pastoral models; d) recovering our evangelical tradition; e) the affirmation of our doctrinal identity; f) a pastoral work for specific groups.
LOOKING AT THE EXAMPLE OF JEREMIAH
The bible expositions, under the title “Jeremiah, facing up spiritual abuse”, were carried out by Andrés Reid, professor and coordinator of the Evangelical Theology School’s Continuous Education Program, and the national coordinator of the interdenominational ministry “Preaching Workshop”.
Reid explained that we could find clear examples of abuse in the chapters 22 and 23 of Jeremiah, when he denounced the abuse of pastoral authority.
“He was talking about the kings of that time, but that can be applied to those who exercise the pastoral authority today, in a multiethnic, international boy of Christ. The abuses Jeremiah denounced included the claim that people should serve the king, instead of the other way round”, he said.
THE DANGERS OF PASTORAL ABUSE
Psychiatrist, author, and international speaker Pablo Martínez, talked about the dangers of spiritual abuse, stating the importance of dealing with this because “it is a necessity, our moral duty, to know, to expose and, as far as possible, to correct a problem which is a sin.”
“When someone knows what is right and does not do it, it is a sin. Therefore, we should not remain silent about something that could greatly affect the people God gives us to shepherd”, Martinez commented. “The purpose is not to condemn others, but to look inside us with a humble spirit, and to recognise our own mistakes, so that we can see what we need to change in our ministry, and even confess it if it is necessary”, he added.
Martínez was even clearer when he talked about the consequences of abuse: “the final result of spiritual abuse can be summarized in one word: destruction. Those who are lost spiritually, could leave the local church, and that facilitates a crisis of faith”, he concluded.
COUNSELLING OR MANIPULATION?
Marcos Zapata, pastor and family therapist, spoke about manipulation, which can happen in counselling. He emphasised that people have dignity, not a price, and they are in charge of their own lives. That is why it is so important to have a solid pastoral training.
“It is alarming that in Spain, the pastoral work has not been judicalized yet”, Zapata said.
During the seminary, there were many other topics discussed, like the Prosperity Gospel, a “heresy that needs to be confronted, working and praying together, so that those who are victims of that abuse, are able to escap and set free”, said the rector of the Spanish Assemblies of God Seminary, Jesús Caramés.
The theology of Prosperity, according to Caramés, is a “school of thought which is not theological, its god is not the revelaed God we find in Scripture, but the human 'me', which is deified to claim and posess everything one desires. It is not an evangelical theology, because it does not proclaim the message of the redepmption which is found in Christ; it only uses Christ's name to defend a collection of false doctrines."
There was also a roundtable about how to confront spiritual abuse in the local churches, and all participants had the chance to meet in small groups. Universities, editorials and Christian organisations and ministries, had stands available for the attendees, to inform them about their work.
The theologian, author and international speaker, José de Segovia, closed the event with encouraging words, remembering that the real problem of men is sin, and that is for believers and non believers alike.
“All we need is God in the person of Jesus Christ. The true disciples are focused in His Word, and our only hope is in his liberating word”, he said.
“Where His Word is, there is His spirit too. And we need both. Lets not be a church that confuses those who look at us”, Segovia concluded.