Spiritual Abuse
Is there such a thing?

How is it manifested, and How does one recognize it?

(List of resources at the bottom)

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is happening more and more, and as the end grows nearer, it will continue to show itself more prominently.

My husband and I (Dec. 1999) had just gotten out of (Houston Church) led by an internationally known minister, Phil Arms, who was for years on radio and TV.

What we noticed at first, but didn't think a lot about, but should have, was the lack of elders and deacons... Phil did have a "prayer counsel", but it was basically people who rubberstamped almost anything he wanted to do. Another thing we noticed, was that there was not a published church directory, nor was there any public financial statements made available to members on any regular quarterly, yearly, or "as requested" basis.  We began to notice that listening to other radio pastors was discouraged, and Phil had the audacity to write and call other radio ministers to task for meaningless infractions that did not "measure up" to his high standard of church ethics....

There were other things we noticed also. Phil demanded unquestioned loyalty, and obedience from all his church members; threatening to shun members who didn't agree with him, voice their opinions in opposition to his, or heaven forbid - merely asking questions or clarification on any issue. He considered these people to be troublemakers.

As time went on, his behavior became more and more erratic. He would preach, then practically run off the stage before anyone could talk to him. He would then come to dinner with the few of us that knew him better, and appear to be almost drunk.... he seemed very out of it. No one suspected anything, until MUCH LATER.

As we were very involved in the church, and performing labor intensive tasks, Phil became very rude and obnoxious, condescending, and incredibly hostile. Some of the things he would say were downright inappropriate for any man to speak to a woman, much less a pastor. When we tried to make an appointment to make things right, or apologize for what seemed to offend him, he played hard to get.... making it almost impossible to make any type of appointment with him. Later, after writing letters, and trying to make some semblance of sanity out of the situation, I began receiving hostile, aggressive letters, threatening shunning and dis-membership from the church body.

I made this a subject of aggressive prayer, and quoted God's Word back to Him, I told the Lord I really needed Him to make His Word a reality in this situation. What was happening in this fellowship was not at all what His Word said Should Happen, and the entire church body was at risk here. People were experiencing severe depression; becoming suicidal, entire families falling were apart, and spiritual delusion was rampant. I prayed and asked my Heavenly Father to make His Word come alive in this painful situation.

A couple days after I prayed this prayer, we left town to work out of state. We learned when we returned, that a week after praying this prayer, the youth minister began noticing that a man would come in every week with a package under his arm, walking past the church secretary, and go without knocking into the pastor's office. This was very unusual, as Phil did his best to make himself unavailable to everyone. This youth minister began praying, that God would reveal what was going on, and felt very strongly this "pastor" was on drugs.

After confronting a couple other associate pastors with this revelation, together they confronted the pastor's wife, and she agreed to help them put together an evidence package. Together, they put together an evidence package of several hundred dollars weekly in black marketed prescription drugs, which were sold to Phil without prescription in bulk pharmaceutical quantities. He went so far as to steal ("borrow") money from the offering to pay for his habit.

It all came to a head at the first of the year, 2000, when the group of associate pastors confronted Phil Arms personally.

The associate pastors all agreed to resigned as a stipulation by Phil for his willingness to resign himself. Why this was a stipulation, I'll never know. I do know that Pride, Control, and Manipulation were key components of Phil's "ministry".... and he was very well versed at manipulating affairs. He did check himself into the hospital for a couple weeks, but he never did confess his sin to the congregation. This in turn, caused rumors and infighting within the body, causing the church to disband. Confusion continued to be rampant. His friend from Austin and his brother Joe Arms came into the situation, to control things in Phil's direction, to prevent Matthew 18: 15-17 from being put into action, which would have encouraged repentance and reestablished fellowship - once repentance and forgiveness had taken place.  None of this ever happened because of these two men's interference.

Because this evidence and situation was never completely brought to light, Phil Arms has continued to hope that he would be able to return to the "ministry", and resume business as usual.  Sadly, we didn't realize that this was the Third time this situation had occurred.  I pray to God that this will have been the last repetition in the series of Spiritual Abuse at the hands of Phil Arms and the many Battered Sheep who have repeatedly been abused by his ministry.  When Phil was right with God, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he was one of the most powerful evangelists that we had ever experienced. Unfortunately, he was never called to be a pastor; That was NOT his gift. Phil was a powerful evangelist - when in the hands of the Holy Spirit. In the later part of  Phil's ministry, he was working in the power of pride, which although seemingly an "acceptable" sin, was the Original Sin that brought about Lucifer's downfall....and as such is NOT such a harmless sin after all. The most recent thing we have heard is that Phil is pursuing purchasing a church building in Sugarland, Texas that another church outgrew, in hopes of starting up again.  My prayer in disclosing the full story here is that until Phil truly repents, and makes things right between God and those he has hurt, that God will prevent this from happening yet a fourth time.

One thing that really helped me was a book on Spiritual Abuse called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by authors David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen. The ISBN # is 1-55661-160-9 . I also found several articles here on the web that helped sort things out immensely, as there are so many issues that are very hard to understand in a situation like this.

I would like you to read some of the following articles if this is something that you are dealing with, as these may help you sort things out for yourself. I know they did for me.