The language of abuse

Abuse is becoming an all too common news headline, happening in a variety of settings. Sadly, this includes the church. The recent case involving a Church of England vicar and a survey by CCPAS have highlighted the need for more action in this area.

Dr Tani Omideyi, chair of the Evangelical Alliance board commented: "We know that churches have not always been the best at dealing with abuse and we must help them do better.

"At the Evangelical Alliance, we are committed to helping churches be healthy communities where people, including those who are vulnerable, are encouraged to flourish. Indeed, we are holding a major conference on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 called Above and Beyond, to make sure churches and charities can be well run for the glory of God.

"Compassionate care should be afforded to those who have experienced, or are vulnerable to, abuse. People in positions of power should be supported to be transparent and accountable. Healthy churches need the support of robust safeguarding language, legislation and training.

"The Evangelical Alliance is committed to encouraging churches to take safeguarding issues seriously, putting everything in place to ensure that Jesus can be made known throughout our communities."

Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy commented: "We are aware of concerns that have been raised about the language of 'spiritual abuse'. This term is clearly problematic because it is so difficult to define and so easy to misuse. Safeguarding expert Professor Keith Brown has noted, 'As it stands, the term 'spiritual abuse' is open to all sorts of interpretation, and thus is not a helpful term; though clearly many have felt they have been 'spiritually abused', and we must accept this and respond to this appropriately.'

"We agree with Professor Brown that we must respond well to victims but that the ambiguity in terminology is unhelpful. Indeed, there is a risk that dividing abuse into special categories may do more harm than good.

"Let's be clear: coercion, exploitation, and the abuse of power is wrong in every context. The setting is relevant, but does not define the abuse. The current legislation is clear and robust, ensuring abusive behaviours can be identified and dealt with.

"We are working with other agencies to more clearly define psychological and emotional abuse, coercion and control in religious contexts, and to ensure that a robust safeguarding approach is developed. This will help the church prevent abuse from occurring, deal well with it when it arises, and model what good church discipleship should look like."

About the Evangelical Alliance

We are the Evangelical Alliance. We join together hundreds of organisations, thousands of churches and tens of thousands of individuals for the sake of the gospel. Representing our members since 1846, the Evangelical Alliance is the oldest and largest evangelical unity movement in the UK.

We love Jesus and we want everyone in the UK to be given an opportunity to know Him.

We love His church, and we will do all we can to unite evangelicals, building confidence in the gospel and speaking as a trusted voice into society to see it changed for Him.

Working across the UK, with offices in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast, our members come together from across denominations, locations, age groups and ethnicities, all sharing a passion to know Jesus and make Him known.