Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church

By Fiona Gardner

A powerful and revealing account of how the Church of England failed to come to terms with the child abuse scandal within its own ranks.

ISBN: 9780718895624


Given their rhetoric on safeguarding, the response of religious organisations to abuse by the clergy – sexual, physical and spiritual – has been inept, thoughtless, mean, and without any sense of urgency. Sex, Power, Control explores the underlying reasons for the mishandling of recent abuse cases.

Using psychoanalytical and sociological insights, and including her own experiences as shown in the BBC documentary ‘Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret’, Gardner asks why the Churches find themselves in such a crisis, and how issues of power and control have contributed to secrecy, deception and heartache.

Drawing on survivor accounts and delving into the psychology of clergy abusers, she reveals a culture of avoidance and denial, while an examination of power dynamics highlights institutional narcissism and a hierarchical structure based on deference, with defensive assumptions linked to sex, gender and class.

Sex, Power, Control is an invaluable resource for all those in the church or similar institutions, and for anyone concerned about child abuse.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 211

 |   | 

Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Fiona Gardner is a writer and spiritual director. She has worked as a diocesan safeguarding advisor in the Church of England for six years, and prior to that as a social worker and psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her previous publications include Taking Heart (forthcoming), The Only Mind Worth Having (2015), Precious Thoughts (2011), The Four Steps of Love (2007) and Journeying Home (2004), as well as books and articles on psychoanalysis.


Foreword by Stephen Parsons

1. Introduction – Stripping away the Veneer
2. Survivor Accounts
3. The Mind of the Abuser
4. How the Church Has Responded
5. Surface Awareness – Policies, Guidelines and Training
6. Dynamics of Power and Control in the Institutional Church
7. Charismatic Power and Contro
8. The Influence of the Public School Ethos within the Institutional Church
9. Sex and Gender
10. Spiritual Abuse, the Spiritual Sickness within the Church and Signs of Hope




Endorsements and Reviews

Fiona Gardner’s analysis is brilliant and shines a light into the dark recesses of the Church of England. She explains complex phenomena in clear language. It is a masterpiece and will be turned to again and again by those who crave insight into the mismanagement of abuse within the Church of England.
Ian Elliott, Independent Safeguarding Consultant

This book brings together many facets of abuse and shows how they are interrelated. Fiona Gardner is fearless in naming issues that the church avoids, arguing convincingly that change will only occur when we acknowledge the breadth of the problem and resolve to tackle it in the round rather than piecemeal. She shows how theology, sexism and homophobia combine to create an environment where sexual and spiritual abuse are perpetuated. Read it, weep and then resolve to be part of the change.
Revd Canon Rosie Harper