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'Spiritual abuse’ term is wrong, says Revd Dr David Hilborn

SPEAKING OUT: (Photo credit: Gerald Herbert, Associated Press)

A NEW report issued by the Evangelical Alliance Theology Advisory Group (TAG) has highlighted that there are risks in adopting the term ‘spiritual abuse’ which it regards as a vague and incoherent terminology.

The EA represents more than one million Christians and says that though the term ‘spiritual abuse’ may be a well-intended one, it is not fit for purpose.

Revd Dr David Hilborn, Chair of TAG, right, said: “We are deeply uneasy about increasing usage of the unhelpful and potentially misleading term ‘spiritual abuse".

“We believe the existing legal frameworks of emotional and psychological abuse are sufficient and need to be enforced in religious contexts, as in other contexts.


PICTURED: Revd Dr David Hilborn

“However, creating a special category of ‘spiritual abuse’ just for religious people potentially singles them out for criminalisation. As such, it carries the risk of religious discrimination, and threatens social cohesion.”

The report critiques the methodology of the recent study, ‘Understanding Spiritual Abuse Christian Communities’ published by CCPAS. It also reviews the recent decision of a Church of England Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal to cite ‘spiritual abuse’ as a specific aspect of misconduct warranting sanction under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

The report urges all churches to reject the term ‘spiritual abuse’ and instead apply the existing legal terminology of emotional and psychological abuse in religious contexts.

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