Reviewed by Malcolm Cox
I am grateful for my friend David Kaner recommending the book Challenging Leaders, edited by Graham Nicholls. I can't recommend it enough. This book tackles the crucial issue of spiritual abuse within religious settings, shedding light on its impact and consequences.
As Graham points out, "In our experience, clear moral failures are usually dealt with swiftly, but issues of ungodly character and conduct are often allowed to continue." How do we decide in what way to handle different types of abuses? It is not only the outward actions that need assessing, but also matters of the heart.
Challenging Leaders introduces alternative terms like 'pastoral malpractice' and 'abuse of power' to help us better understand and address these problems. Graham’s definition of spiritual abuse as "a form of emotional and psychological abuse [that is] characterized by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behavior in a religious context" provides a clear and concise explanation. It helps us grasp the severity of its consequences on individuals and
"A healthy church will develop a culture where questions can be raised about its leaders, without offense being taken or defensiveness displayed," writes Nicholls. This quote emphasizes the significance of fostering a safe environment within religious communities, where open dialogue about leadership is encouraged and met with understanding.
I believe Challenging Leaders is a crucial read for anyone interested in promoting a healthy and nurturing environment within their religious community. It is of particular significance for church trustees and boards as well as leadership teams. It's an eye-opening book that calls for positive change and provides valuable insights on building accountable and caring relationships between leaders and their congregations. ORDER