Today I had my first, and probably only, visit to the House of Lords for the book launch of “Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse” co-authored by Dr. Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys. It was a real privilege to be there.
Lisa, a member of our church, had very kindly sent me a pre-release copy which had given me the opportunity to read and reflect on it.
It is a powerful book, meticulously researched, very accessible but also one that explores a difficult and painful subject. It raises the issue of those who have suffered spiritual abuse, the damage this has caused and continues to cause, and challenges those of us who worship, serve and lead in faith communities as to how we are going to respond.
At times it is hard to read as the stories of some victims of abuse are shared – and I applaud the courage of those who were willing for their stories to be told.
The book outlines what the authors mean by “spiritual abuse” (and they recognise the term might need to change), some of its key characteristics and the impact it has (in many cases, totally life-changing in a negative way).
It asks questions about how faith communities should respond to disclosures of abuse, how leaders can act appropriately and helpfully, how leaders themselves need to be protected, and how we can develop places of safety and healing so that people can be restored. It doesn’t only highlight the issue but makes practical suggestions as to what can be done.
Throughout the book we repeatedly see Lisa’s and Justin’s heart for God, their care and compassion for victims, their love for the church, their belief that things can be better.
As they raise this vital issue – for faith communities and for victims – the challenge for us is how we will respond.
The book is currently on pre-order and is available from Thursday 20 June.