Ex-cult members speak out over abuse
Former cult members have spoken out to warn others of a Brisbane church they say is emotionally abusing its followers.
Former followers have told ABC’s Four Corners program, to air tonight, the Brisbane Christian Fellowship, in the north Brisbane suburb of Stafford, was ripping apart families under a veil of secrecy.
They said elders, including leader Victor Hall, made all members’ decisions and drove wedges between couples, siblings and parents and children to create fear and control followers.
Followers are banished if they disobey directions.
The church is linked to others worldwide, including the Melbourne Christian Fellowship, and has been operating under different names in Australian since the 1950s.
Former member Helen Pomery, who was expelled for refusing to shun her excommunicated daughter, said she had considered suicide during her time with the group and had to travel to a deprogramming centre in the USA after she left.
“I was very sick emotionally, mentally, and I was at the point of suicide and I knew if I didn’t get help then I would probably suicide… but if anything that infuriated my husband and the elders even more that I should go outside of the home for help,” she told Four Corners.
Ms Pomery said the emotional abuse was dished out as a way to control people.
While she was disciplined for things such as cooking too much food or making the bed the wrong way, her husband had obeyed orders so that he was not responsible for his family’s damnation, she said.
– Source: Ex-cult members speak out over abuse, AAP, via News.com.au (Australia), June 23, 2008
Social worker David Ward has told ABC TV’s Four Corners program that the church and its affiliates around the country are doing more harm than good.
“In an age where the government talks a talk about funds and resources and mental health issues and yet there are thousands in Australia suffering in silence from mental health issues as a direct result of these groups,” he said.
“That suggests to me that there’s a a silent epidemic in Australia that we’re unaware of.”
– Source: Call to probe Brisbane church over abuse allegations, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 23, 2008
TV Program: The God of Broken Hearts
CHRIS MASTERS [Reporter – RNB]: Tonight on “Four Corners” a small outwardly civilised church causing extraordinary harm and a big question: In a civilised nation where all forms of penalties apply to perpetrators of grief and harm, how does a house of God get away with this?
MORAG ZWARTZ, Author: The level of pain and cruelty is just, is just incredible.
(On screen text: “The God of Broken Hearts”; “reporter: Chris Master”)
CHRIS MASTERS (to David Ward): On a scale of one to 10, when you consider the level of abuse that we know about through the world, where does BCF rate?
DAVID WARD, CULT INFORMATION SERVICE, QUEENSLAND: Look I’d, in terms of emotional abuse it would be a solid eight.
CHRIS MASTERS: What little we see of the public face of the Brisbane Christian Fellowship and its broader church is on the surface welcoming.
CHRIS MASTERS: A powerful recruiting aid has been the music. The Brisbane Christian Fellowship and related churches such as the Melbourne Christian Fellowship have a wealth of song.
The word is also alluring. Their “unto perfection” doctrine has it that if members abide by the discipline of the elders and achieve a state of sinless perfection, they alone will be saved.
CHRIS MASTERS: The “unto perfection” doctrine is preached in around 25 churches, mostly in Australia, under a broad umbrella known as Restoration Fellowships. As explained in their literature, not all groups using Christian Fellowship are aligned with BCF.
– Source: Transcript, The God of Broken Hearts, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 23, 2008
Resources for victims of spiritual abuse
The Four Corners program website includes documents, links to cult information and counseling organizations, as well as other resources.
Among the websites referred to is Brisbane Christian Fellowship: Tales from the Crypt:
So many members of religious cults are too frightened to speak: while they are in the cult, and after they come out. The cardinal rule all abusers enforce on their victims is “Don’t talk”. For if we talk, we assert ourselves against the abuse, and reveal it for what it is.
The internet gives an amazing freedom to those recovering from abuse, spiritual or otherwise. It gives anonymity, and it also gives solace. There are others like us who have faced our worst fears, and have found our faith again. This blog is intended to give a voice to those who have not been able to speak for a long time . We who are survivors of a cult in Australia known as Brisbane Christian Fellowship need to hear ourselves speak. These pages contain our stories, and links and resources for others who have been damaged by spiritual abuse in fundamental christian cults.
Apologetics Index also provides research resources on abusive churches and spiritual abuse.