Leading GAFCON bishop says he was victim of spiritual abuse

Andy Lines was consecrated as a missionary bishop for Anglicans in Scotland, the UK, and Europe in 2017.Anglican Church in North America

A leading GAFCON bishop has revealed he went through months of counselling after being the victim of spiritual abuse. 

Andy Lines, GAFCON's missionary bishop to Europe, said "it took considerable time before the light went on" and that he has since required extensive counselling and support.

"Those with spiritual authority are like all in authority. All authority is open to abuse or manipulation," he said in a statement issued through Anglican Mission in Europe (AMiE). 

"I have been coming to terms with elements of spiritual manipulation in my own life. It has been a very hard and painful process requiring months of professional counselling for me to come to terms with what I have experienced."

He continued: "However, I now realise the nature of what was happening. I have come to realise that this can happen to strong as well as vulnerable people. I have become aware that the particular manipulation and control I have experienced has been experienced by a number of others."

He went on to say that "external coercion" should not be seen as a means to encourage spiritual growth and that Christian leaders who rely on such a method need to acknowledge their sinful and show repentance. 

"I am grateful to those who have reached out to me in support. As I pray and think about my own experience, I trust that I will be able to share with and help other survivors," he said.

Lines was investigated by the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which has oversight of his ministry in Europe, and was cleared to return to his duties. 

Archbishop Foley Beach, ACNA Primate and Chair of the GAFCON Primates' Council, and Archbishop Ben Kwashi, GAFCON General Secretary, have both expressed their "full support" for Lines in the wake of the revelations. 

"The betrayal of trust by a mentor is a terrible wound, and when things like this take place in the Church it only increases the pain," said Archbishop Beach.

"Bishop Lines is a survivor who has shown the willingness to do the hard spiritual and emotional work of coming to grips with the actions of an abusive father-figure.

"He has my full support as he works to support other victims and cares for those churches leading the reformation of Anglicanism in Europe."

Archbishop Kwashi said: "Bishop Lines has immense gifts for ministry, and through this difficult personal trial has shown himself to be a leader of character. He has my full support, and I look forward to working beside him in the years to come."

In its own statement, AMiE said that it was supporting Lines in a gradual return to ministry after a "traumatic and difficult period of counselling and recovery". 

Following ACNA's investigation, AMiE said it had "become apparent that Andy had been a victim of abuse in the form of spiritual manipulation and control". 

"The Trustees and Mission Director of AMiE have worked with the leadership of ACNA and GAFCON to care for Andy through what has been a traumatic and difficult period of counselling and recovery," it said.

"As Andy has made clear, this recovery is ongoing. We fully support him in his gradual return to ministry, including his desire to care for victims of similar abuse.

They added: "We deplore all abuse in all its forms and we expect all AMiE churches to serve and support survivors of abuse."