I have thought a lot about this before deciding to post anything like this on the web. The fact that I am saying what I am saying here will probably shock some people. For those who still attend Dr. Morey's church and/or ministry, they will immediately think that this is an angry rant of slander borne out of bitterness, envy, and pride. For the many who have been victims of Dr. Morey's abuse, it will be like a cool breeze and a glass of lemonade on a blistering day.
What I am actually posting is an article written by Philip Rosenthal (on his blog "The Voice of Reform"), titled: HOW ABUSIVE MINISTRIES DEFEND THEMSELVES. You can find it and more at: http://voiceofreform.blogspot.com/2006/01/how-abusive-ministries-defend.html. But first before you read it I would like to say a few words about my experience there.
I attended Dr. Morey's church, Faith Community Church, in Irvine, for about 5 years. I was also involved and helped his ministry Faith Defenders as well as worked for a short time at his California Biblical University and Seminary where I helped create syllabi for undergraduate courses. My wife and I served faithfully and tithed faithfully to the church and ministry. We were in charge of running the kids ministry. I was a deacon and also publicly ordained by Dr. Morey as a minister of the gospel. I preached numerous times for him on Sunday mornings when he was gone; I also taught his Monday night apologetics course at times. I was a regular teacher for the Sunday Seminary classes that took place before the main service. I taught courses in Evangelism, Hermeneutics, and Greek. I was also involved with four other men in an eldership program/think tank there. I oversaw a men's discipleship cell in the South County and I preached to all the men on the importance of discipleship at the men's retreat. I only say all this to help what I am saying have some inside knowledge and credibility. I learned a lot of good stuff while I was there under his teaching. I wish that were the whole story. I eventually left the church with my family because I lost all respect for Dr. Morey as a man and even to a large degree, as an honest scholar.
Dr. Morey is a gifted teacher, communicator, and thinker who has produced a ton of helpful works. Yet this is one of the main things that blinds people to the abuses, deceptions, and outright lies that he does (to name just several problems). It is very easy to overlook, ignore, or justify such abuses because of all the good that one gets while there. Anyone who tries to confront him or question him on any of these issues eventually gets it flipped on them, kicked out of the ministry, and labeled as a bad seed. The rest of the church is then commanded to have no communication with such people. They are effectively blacklisted. My wife and I were. While I was there I saw several blatant instances where Dr. Morey burned people so bad that some of them still have not fully recovered.
I realize that I am being quite general here and not getting into specifics. Believe me I can and I have. I have much documentation to attest to what I am saying, not to mention the dozens and dozens of broken souls and families from that man and his ministry. He is accountable to no one. The church has existed for 8 or so years, is about 200 or so people, and there are still no elders in the church. He is the sole leader. There are two reasons why I have decided to speak out about him. First, just recently there was another mass exodus from the church (I was part of another one a couple years ago, and there were more before me). The top leaders of the church, most of the deacons and about 40 other people have recently left. Dr. Morey accused two of these leaders of plotting to take over the ministry and of stealing funds from it also. I know these two men well and nothing could be further from the truth. They were devoted disciples who built his biblical school from scratch and who counseled full time people in the church. He has tried to demonize them. This has angered me and I feel compelled to speak out and warn others who either go there or might consider going there.
The second reason I now feel compelled to speak out is because when I initially left the church, I did so silently. My main motivation and concern was the people at the church who knew nothing, but were getting fed good teaching (for the most part) on Sunday mornings. At that time I wrote Dr. Morey a 10 page letter listing all the reasons for why I was leaving. I heard from several sources there that he never read it but just mocked it. If he had read it, he would have learned that I pleaded and asked him not to attack my character or reputation or even my family. I had seen him do this many times over to people who tried to leave so I assumed he would do it to me. I said in the letter that my only course of defense against him doing this would be that I would release the 10 page letter to the public. This blog entry is not that letter, that may come later if there is expressed interest. Amazingly, he attacked my character and reputation to at least two people (there is probably more). The first time I was involved and speaking at a Worldview conference where he called the lead organizer, a good friend of mine, and not only did he invite himself on the lineup as a speaker, but when he heard that I was there he tried to tell my friend what a bad person I was. I was furious when I heard this. However, I still at that time did not release my letter (which would be damaging). The second time he called my pastor and told him that I was unstable and dangerous. Thankfully, his lies were seen for what they were. If you think that exposing scandelous sins of Christian leaders is itself a form of sinful gossip or slander, I would encourage you to also read the following article written by Philip Rosental: http://voiceofreform.blogspot.com/2006/01/why-we-shouldnt-cover-up-scandal.html
In the below article by Philip Rosenthal he says in one place: "Christians should be taught to beware of abusive and unethical leaders and hold them accountable rather than blindly following authority." Thus I am passing this on to try to do just this, to teach people to beware of abusive ministries in general and of this man in particular. Again, Rosenthal says, "The are many other tools abusive leaders use to defend themselves against accountability, but the abusive interrogation is one of the most powerful. This practice needs to be attacked and stopped, because if is successfully stopped, then the entire abuse system of abusive ministries will collapse – rather like how the Soviet Union fell apart once they stopped the government killing people and exiling them to Siberia for speaking up." This again is what I am trying to do by posting this.
This article amazed me because it describes EVERY tactic that Dr. Robert Morey uses against people who dare question his sin. The articles hits it on the epicenter.
HOW ABUSIVE MINISTRIES DEFEND THEMSELVES
25 Jan 2006.
When one hears news of unethical behaviour in some ministries, one may wonder how the leader managed to avoid being held accountable. Many such ministries have developed sophisticated mechanisms to defend themselves from accountability. Often these methods have become part of the senior leadership culture, but no one else knows about them. Thus they can catch people by surprise. Unsuspecting enthusiastic young Christians involve themselves under the authority of a dynamic and successful ministry leadership – not realising that the leader and his organisational hierarchy is itself not subject to proper authority checks and balances. We all like to think that the ministry to which we belong is spiritual and in the will of God, but multiple scandals have to force us to sober up and consider what we can do to protect our own ministry against falling into such behaviour.
THE 'KANGAROO COURT', 'GANG UP' OR 'ABUSIVE INTERROGATION'
One of the most effective methods is the ‘Kangaroo Court’, otherwise known as the ‘gang up’ or ‘abusive interrogation’. The person raising an objection is invited to a meeting, to discuss his concerns. He is not allowed to bring any witnesses, as the meeting is supposedly a 'friendly one'. He is also asked not to take notes at the meeting, since it is 'friendly'. On arrival he finds four to six senior leaders in the ministry waiting for him. Nevertheless, the issues he has come to discuss will not be discussed. The meeting has one purpose only - to neutralise the person trying to hold the ministry accountable – by any means possible.
The abusive leader may has usually developed something of a ‘personality cult following’. Some loyal yes-men may participate in such behaviour with the best intentions, believing they are protecting the ministry from a ‘troublemaker’ or ‘division’.
Sometimes the leaders will be introduced in a grandiose manner, in an effort to intimidate the objector - using big titles and bloated achievements. Then the accusations begin. The leaders attack the objector with any type of accusation they can think of. The objector may try to defend himself, but this will not be allowed. If he tries to do so, another leader will accuse him of disrespect. At this point it becomes evident that the meeting is an ambush and is not a friendly discussion about concerns with the ministry. There is no logical or fair discussion. The leaders know that if they were to allow this, they may lose, so they don't allow it. They just attack. The abusive leaders take turns to attack and may interrupt each other to add to the abusive accusations.
HOW TO FIND ACCUSATIONS AGAINST AN INNOCENT PERSON
How do the leaders find the accusations? Anything in the objectors favour is reversed in these attacks. For example, if he has raised the same concerns with other leaders, then he is accused of 'slander'. If some of the other leaders agree with him, then he is accused of 'divisiveness'. An objection to the ministry raised at the meeting becomes evidence of 'disrespect'. If he wanted to bring a witness or wants confirmation of records, then he is accused of 'not trusting the leaders'. If he doesn't bring a witness, then he can be accused of 'acting alone'. Raising problems in the ministry is 'troublemaking'. If the objector is part of the ministry leadership, he can be accused of 'unsubmissiveness'. If he is not part of the leadership, then he can be accused of 'lack of accountability' or 'not being a leader' and thus having no right to raise objections. A general accusation that can be levelled at anyone raising objections to a ministry' behaviour is 'a bad attitude', since this is unprovable. If he is disagreeing with the ministry tradition, then this must be evidence of 'pride'. An objection to a policy of the ministry is 'hurtful' to the leaders of the ministry. All of the above require 'repentance'.
The leaders may try to attack the status of the objector. A technique is to make them wait a long time outside. Then they can be attacked for any reason e.g. marital status; lack of ordination or leadership status within the ministry; spiritual maturity; sanity etc.
Most of all, however, the leaders aim to attack the character of the person raising the objections to the ministry.
Another source of items to attack is issues totally unrelated and irrelevant to the current issues in question. Take trivial past incidents and blow them up into big issues trying to prove guilt. This practice is know as ‘manufacturing offence’ and is related to bearing false witness against ones neighbour – a violation of the 9th commandment, with the intention of undermining or destroying his reputation.
If the abusive leader doesn't know anything against the objector, then he can at least in some ministries use his 'spiritual gift of discernment'. i.e. Pretend that the 'Holy Spirit' has shown him all kinds of problems in the life and background of the victim/objector.
Efforts are made to get the objector to 'confess his sin'. If he does so, this can be used against him and he may feel legitimately guilty. Trying to get the objector to do this is a clever manipulative trick, because:
If he does not, he can be accused of lying or covering up because everyone sins so often (1 John 1:8; James 3:2). The objector may then be accused further of ‘obstinacy’.
If he does confess, then the abusive leaders can distract the focus of the meeting from the serious sin of the organisation or leader to whatever has been confessed. The confidence of the objector may also be weakened.
During the discussion, the abusive leaders may try to legitimise their authority through dubious theology. Any attempt to debate this or other ethical issues related to the objection will not be tolerated. The objective of the meeting again is not to find truth, but to silence the objector.
Another tactic is for the interrogators to provoke the objector to anger with false accusations and then accuse them of being angry. If the objector shows signs of frustration, he may be accused of ‘bitterness’.
By attacking the objector personally, mistreating and slandering him, rather than discussing his concerns, the abusive leaders lay the groundwork for more potential further accusations. The objector must now show even more restraint in raising his objections, lest he be accused of ‘taking revenge’ for personal reasons, rather than those of the public good. The leaders move attention off themselves and onto the person making the objections. Hence the saying ‘the best defence is a good offence’.
THE THREAT AND ULTIMATUM
At the end of the meeting, which may last several hours, the objector will be given threats and an ultimatum to shut up or leave the ministry. The ultimatum may include methods to control the objector, that will have been agreed by the leaders beforehand. The abusive ministry leaders want the objector to come under their control. They can do this for example by setting up a structure which they invite the objector to join or alternatively demanding that he 'be discipled' or 'counselled'. Obviously, the point of such a 'structure' or 'discipling' or 'counselling' is to change his mind or alternatively intimidate him into shutting up.
If the objector at a later time tries to clear his name either by explaining or apologising for whatever accusations have been made, this will be fruitless. The issue is that the ministry leaders are not interested in the truth. They just want to silence the objector. The abusive leaders may be too busy to meet again. Alternatively, the objector must waste his time trying to meet with each of them individually. The point is that the ministry doesn't want to know the truth, because that might be painful and cause them to have to change their behaviour. The only thing they want is for the objector to withdraw his objections and shut up.
By this time, the objectors mind will be focused on defending themselves rather than the original purpose of the meeting, which was to discuss his objection. He is now in a vulnerable position to agree to shut up.
Now most people have no idea that the leaders they respect and look up to can be manipulative and abusive. But these things happen in ministries as with some families and also romantic relationships. So, unprepared the victim/objector may be in a state of shock and think that they may truly have done something wrong - which they need to try remedy.
An easy threat is that the leadership will publicise the abusive false accusations. Others, not knowing that they are from an abusive ministry or otherwise in denial may believe them.
ALTERNATING TO FLATTERY AND CONCILIATION
If the above approach does not work, and the objector is not intimidated by the abusive behaviour but persists with objections, then the abusive leaders may either escalate the abusiveness or alternatively shift to conciliation and flattery. This is similar to an abusive husband who beats his wife and then the next day tries to romance her so that she forgives him.
After such abuse, the objector/victim will often be so relieved by the shift to conciliation that he will accept anything rather than re-raise his issues of objection. The issues can thus just be sidelined by evasion and doublespeak without the need for the use of additional threats. The objector may be offered some benefits from the ministry in exchange for dropping the issue.
Nevertheless, if the objector does persist, the 'Good cop-bad cop' manipulation technique will shift back to abusiveness. If they cannot silence the objector then they will have to find a way to discredit them (using true or false accusations) or otherwise evict them from the ministry.
Now there are serious ethical problems with the above approach:
It is deceptive to invite someone to a 'friendly' meeting, which is actually an ambush.
It is manipulative to forbid bringing a witness. This then gives the abusive leaders two further tools of manipulation. Firstly they can deny their abusiveness at the meeting; and Secondly, they can later accuse the objector of anything having happened at the meeting, for example being 'disrespectful' - and then use this to institute disciplinary procedures against him.
It is unfair to criticise without giving a person the opportunity to defend themselves.
It does not follow any biblical disciplinary or grievance procedure.
It is clearly aimed at frustrating biblical procedure being used to try to hold the leaders accountable. Because of this it can be manipulated and also the victim cannot legitimately proceed to the next stage of church discipline, because they have no witness to the discussion. Thus the abusive leaders are protected, while the objector is vulnerable.
It frustrates the opportunity to resolve the concerns of the objector in a reasonable way. In this way, either it will be suppressed altogether – or alternatively escalated if he decides to pursue it. Either method is usually unhealthy.
The above methods are classic abusive manipulation techniques developed by the communists to try to break people who dissented with communism. With the communists they were usually successful. This is classic brainwashing methodology. Communist methodology should not be tolerated in Christian ministries.
An atmosphere of ungodly fear develops in the ministry, and less courageous people learn that they should not challenge the autocratic leadership. Then more hypocrisy and abusiveness is tolerated.
It is a way of 'finding out' more information from the objector so that any future real disciplinary or grievance procedure can be frustrated by cover up or false accusations against the objector.
The goal of silencing the objector can be achieved by the following mechanisms:
The objector genuinely is convinced by the abuse of the leaders that he is in the wrong and needs to repent. (brainwashing)
The objector leaves the ministry.
The objector is intimidated into silence.
The objector agrees to participate in the recommended leadership structure, counselling or 'discipleship', by which he is then further manipulated.
All of the above constitute unethical manipulation.
The abuse of trust of position as a ministry undermines respect for the office of other good ministry leaders.
Such false accusations can do serious psychological damage, especially to an emotionally weak person.
The leaders are de-facto judging their own case, where they have a conflict of interest. Effectively, the disciplinary process is inverted and reversed. Rather, if it cannot be resolved privately, outside mediation should be brought in.
The leaders have pre-determined an outcome which they want to manipulate the victim/objector to accept.
The biggest problem with the above is that most of the time it is effective. Once all objectors are silenced and the ministry is in denial, then all types of hypocrisy and abusiveness can flourish. The climate has been created where scandal can fester and grow.
WHY DO OTHERWISE GOOD LEADERS BEHAVE LIKE THIS?
Many people will have a difficulty with understanding how leaders who are otherwise often nice people can use such manipulation and thus not want to believe it. One must understand that in abusive families, the father is usually outwardly a nice person, but sometimes something triggers his abusiveness, for example alcohol. The dynamic is similar in abusive ministries. In this case, the trigger is a threat to power. Abusive leaders are driven by a love of power. Any attempt to take it away will elicit a violent reaction. To those who don't threaten their power, they will be nice people. Abusiveness on various levels can become part of a culture of a ministry.
So-called Christian ministry driven by a lust for power, fame, money, success or anything else worldly is actually idolatry. Leaders can shift from good spiritual motivation to worldly motivation without realising it.
There is also the issue of presuppositions. All denominations read the same Bible, yet their members come to different conclusions from it – because they start with different assumptions. Usually one of those assumptions is that my denomination is right - or alternatively that the error is not important. A hunt is made for scriptures seeming to defend the denominational position and those against it are ignored. In the same way, most people in abusive ministries assume the leader is right. Thus any evidence showing the leader is wrong is ignored or trivialised. A hunt is made for evidence to discredit the objector and the evidence he presents is ignored.
Nevertheless, beyond this, there is a culture of denial. Ministries don't want to admit they or their leaders have behavioural problems. It leads to fundamental painful questions. It is much easier to pretend nothing is wrong. In the same way most alcoholics refuse to admit they are alcoholics. The first step in coming right is to acknowledge they have a problem.
False accusations repeated often start to be believed. The abusive leaders are likely to have previously discussed the issue in the absence of the objector. Any number of stories or accusations or half-truths can be raised at such meetings without the objector having opportunity to know them or defend himself. The leaders want to believe these, because it is much easier than considering the possibility that their ministry is unethical/hypocritical etc.
Elitism in many ministries creates a spiritual blindness. Anyone below the level in the hierarchy is simply ignored or at best treated like a child. Their concerns are treated as personal worries rather than real problems with the ministry.
Such ministries develop a culture where leaders are obligated to defend each other rather than investigate the truth.
In most ministries, leaders use the senior leader as an ethical guideline, thus no one questions his behaviour. If invited to such an abusive interrogation, they just assume the procedure is acceptable and that the objector is a troublemaker needing to be 'sorted out'.
There is no moral feedback to the abusive leader, and he becomes more and more like a problem child who never matures due to lack of discipline.
As with abusive families, also, there is usually a culture of silence. The whole family knows, but they want the family to stick together and keep their social reputation - so they say nothing. Often the abused are financial dependent on the abuser. The same in ministries. Money is used as a tool to manipulate and control people. Anyone who breaks the 'no talk' rule, will in both abusive families and abusive ministries be usually accused of insanity.
As with abusive families, most abusive leaders have been mentored by another abusive leader – and thus think that the behaviour is ‘not so bad’ or even legitimate.
Similar tactics of trying to discredit a witness are commonly used in law courts - often successfully. Lawyers will interrogate a witness to try to get him to admit something that will discredit him. Nevertheless, in a law court, both parties have access to lawyers and the judge tries to be objective. In a church 'kangaroo court'/'gang up'/'abusive interrogation', there is no one being objective and no support for the objector.
If anyone thinks this is far fetched, look at the behaviour of the Pharisees and priests at the trial of Jesus - when he challenged and undermined their religious power.
Most people will not be brave enough to confront authorities that behave in the above manner - or even get near such a meeting. Thus any type of hypocrisy and abusiveness can flourish in the ministry.
The above techniques and many others have been well documented by those helping people from abusive ministries and I have seen variations on these techniques more than once first hand myself. The organisation 'Rape Action' has recommended that sexual accusations against people in ministry should be taken directly to the secular courts and not dealt with internally within ministries – citing the abuse and manipulation of church discipline. At the time, I argued against them. Unfortunately, I now think they have a point.
To read more on these abusive methods in the discipleship context go to
And do a search for books on ‘spiritual abuse’ at www.amazon.com
The are many other tools abusive leaders use to defend themselves against accountability, but the abusive interrogation is one of the most powerful. This practice needs to be attacked and stopped, because if is successfully stopped, then the entire abuse system of abusive ministries will collapse – rather like how the Soviet Union fell apart once they stopped the government killing people and exiling them to Siberia for speaking up.
To try to prevent abusive interrogations and other abusive behaviour:
All ministries should have a policy to ban the practice of kangaroo courts/ abusive interrogations. There should be proper channels and procedures in every ministry for dealing with both discipline and grievances in a fair way. Try to create a culture of openness.
Any leaders who have been part of such practices should repent to their victims.
Ministries which have covered up sin in this way need to repent both of covering up sin and for the sin itself.
All Christians should be taught their rights and the proper discipline and grievance procedure to follow in terms of Matthew 18 and Acts 6.
Anyone who discovers they have been invited to a ministry 'kangaroo court''/ 'gang up' or abusive interrogation should walk out immediately. There is no benefit in dialogue in such circumstances. Anything a person says may later be used against them. They should then re-convene the meeting at a later date with witnesses.
Christians should be taught to beware of abusive and unethical leaders and hold them accountable rather than blindly following authority.
Christian leaders should avoid symbols and behaviours of spiritual elitism, which make them unapproachable and thus their ministries unaccountable.
Leaders should withdraw support from other leaders who behave in an abusive manner.
If you are raising an objection to the ethical behaviour of your ministry, you must chose your witnesses from outside of the salaried employees of the ministries. Financially dependent people will almost always defend their employers (otherwise they lose their job stupid!). Preferably chose a witness from outside the ministry.
Anyone who has been a victim of spiritual abuse in the above or other ways or is otherwise interested in trying to combat it should contact me and I will email you some literature that will help you.
If you are a leader:
Consider whether you may have defensively used or participated in such methods in the past – possibly without realising it. If this is the case, you need to repent. You will not get away with it forever. Remember Jesus warnings of God’s judgement against abusive religious leaders (Matthew 23).
Examine your own heart, motivations and life to see whether you have developed the fear of man (Matthew 10:28), turning aside from your first love (Revelation 2:4) and the love of money (1 Timothy 6:11).
Missionaries going to communist countries or other hostile governments should practice the skills of combating abusive interrogation before leaving - as the techniques are the same.