Spiritual Abuse within NewFrontiers
"Toxic faith" at workThere are several terms to describe what I experienced that overlap to some extent. Spiritual abuse, moral harrassment, mobbing, toxic church and toxic faith are just some.
I've noted down a few symptoms of such behaviour below. If you've been through any of this,
you'll probably recognise some or all of what follows.
Update February 2007:
No court of appealWhen the crisis point came, I realised that NewFrontiers had no room for seeking outside help to solve the problem. They were judge, jury, and court of appeal, because they had the "apostolic anointing".
Refusal to take responsibilityThe apostolic delegate was clearly behind much of what happened in my situation. When confronted with this, he denied all responsibility, saying "I only ask questions and make suggestions". I'm sure the people he was commanding didn't see it that way.
Misappropriation of management techniquesWhen I look back at our experience I realise that NewFrontiers used motivational management techniques in reverse in my case. They had too much knowledge of the techniques for this to have been unintentional. The apostolic delegate I was involved with at this time had a self-employed management consultant on his team who was the author of several books on leadership and management that were promoted regularly at NewFrontiers events.
For instance, over a period of several years my horizons in terms of ministry were systematically reduced, always with vague references to my shortcomings and never for concrete reasons. This is a sure-fire way of reducing someone's motivation.
TrianglingWhen someone from higher up wanted to pass on a message, they almost never did it directly. I would get a phone call from someone else along the lines of "so-and-so was very unhappy with.../thinks you should.../would like you to...". This is a great destabilising technique and leaves you unable to dialogue adequately.
Pseudo-spiritualityThe accusations made against me sounded highly spiritual (a "spirit of Jezabel"). If the people involved had actually believed this, that would still be serious. To my mind the real drama is that this was not something the accusers really believed. This vocabulary was deliberately used to trouble the church while the real objective - my removal - was achieved.
No past, no futureWe were constantly being told we were "on the verge of major breakthrough". This kept us investing in every way in the movement. After ten years and no major breakthrough, it was tiring to keep on hearing this.
Meanwhile, the past was rewritten as necessary. Leaders who fell out of favour were "unpeopled", not to be mentioned.
Life was lived on the uneasy edge between these two perspectives.
RuthlessnessEverything in the Bible points to the need to confront the sinner in private, work to restore them, and so on. Even if my accusers had believed their charges, their systematic attack on me was totally unjustifiable. Once they had decided I had to go, I was pursued relentlessly with not a shred of compassion.
BetrayalI had worked in a team with my co-elders for seven years. Until the very last, I had thought we were a united team. I had defended them many times. I could not believe that they had been discussing my "demonisation" and how to "tackle" it behind my back for months.
SystematisationAt first I thought there must really be something wrong with me. Then I began to ask around a little, and discovered virtually identical situations. I have spoken extensively to two former NFI leaders who have gone through the same thing, and they and others know of many more. Some of them have left the ministry, others are still apparently unable to come to terms with what has been done to them.