Here are words of introduction when the Blog was launched in October 2013
This blog is a continuation of Surviving Church, an online newsletter which appeared in June and September 2013 for subscribers. The newsletter itself was in response to a letter sent to the Church Times by Chris Pitts and published on June 13th 2013. This letter recounted Chris’ experience of abuse within the evangelical circles that had attracted him as a young man. After the letter some 50 people contacted him recalling similar experiences and sharing their concern over this issue.
The editor of this blog is Stephen Parsons, the author of Ungodly Fear, a study of abuse within the Church. The book was published in 2000 by Lion. Stephen is now retired from full time Anglican ministry and lives in Cumbria. Chris and Stephen are cooperating in agreeing the topics covered in this blog but Stephen is doing the actual writing and management of the site with help from Dick Davies . You are welcome to respond to anything covered by this blog and we hope that our discussion may prove helpful to anyone who has faced or is facing abuse, shunning or being marginalised by Christian groups. Chris himself has a particular concern for those in society who are most vulnerable to this kind of harm, the poor, the ill-educated and those who live on the edge of society. While we will be exploring many aspects of this problem of abuse, theoretical as well as practical, we hope to retain an awareness of the needs of these vulnerable individuals who are let down by the Church.
Further comments added in January 2014
The past three months have included numerous phone calls between Stephen and Chris and Stephen in his writing the blog posts has tried either to reflect the issues discussed or take them a stage further. In short the whole blog is a kind of conversation between two people. On the one side there is Chris, who represents a vast number of people who have passed through the hands of fundamentalist groups who have been left confused, sometimes battered and certainly full of questions. Stephen on the other side represents a reasonably well-informed, liberally educated clergyman who has had a concern for victims of religious abuse for many years. In this blog he is able to use his reading and educational background as a means of teaching and encouraging people like Chris who are looking for a way forward. Stephen’s liberal background suggests that it would be wrong for him to suggest that he is going to exchange one set of answers for another. Rather Stephen wants to suggest that more important than answers is the ability to live with questions. This is not an easy place to be but it allows for growth in the future.
In the blogs posted we have a variety of topics connected with this living with questions. We have several blogs directly connected with the text of the Bible. Stephen would claim that liberals so far from ignoring the Bible actually care passionately about it and this passion means that they study it at depth and do not read into it things that are not there. One blog deals with the ‘substitutionary atonement’. This indicates that the claim to present this as the definitive doctrine for Christians does violence to the text of Scripture. Other articles reflect Stephen’s interest in psychology and he attempts to explain various theories for the vulnerability of Christians who come under abusive leadership. Sometimes to have a theory that accounts for irrational behaviour on the part of another person who is abusing you is definitely empowering.
Every single one of the blog posts are written with the aim of strengthening individuals who have found the church to be ‘bad news’ rather than ‘good news’. Whether or not these survivors are still holding on to faith or are embracing agnosticism for the time being, illumination and understanding are being offered to them. Whatever the course of their own personal journey, we hope that these individuals will find something to help and support them through this blog. Please let us know if we can help in any way.
Added August 2014
This Blog has now been functioning for 10 months and in that time over 100 blogs have been posted. I am pleased to say that we get a fair number of visitors but it is hard to say how many stick around after finding us for the first time. As editor and chief writer I am happy to keep posting material for discussion. There has been a slight shift in recent weeks in the nature of the topics covered. When I began I had a number of issues that were close to my heart and I shared these with my small band of followers. These included the results of my reading over the years and my observations about certain issues in the Bible. Now that most of these have been explored, I find myself at present responding to issues that come from reading the news. My blog posts in some ways have become more ‘political’ but I trust I have not left behind the basic issue of facing to the problem of the inappropriate use of power by the Church. My conversations with Chris still provide material for reflection and this means that I never stray too far from ‘real’ issues. I firmly believe that the material which can be shared is not going to run out soon. As long as I am reading, reflecting and studying, there will always be topics to share with the blog. I hope that you, the reader, will continue with us on this journey of exploration and in this process we will be providing material to help strengthen individuals who have been damaged by ‘bad’ Church.