Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership

kinnon —  February 10, 2015 — 13 Comments

UPDATE May 15, 2015: I have been notified by Julie McMahon that she has been asked in an emailed correspondence, to ask me to remove this post. That’s not going to happen. In my never humble opinion, this is simply a further working out of Tony Jones’ self-admitted Narcissistic Personality Disorder (admission on Pg 10 of pdf). Only an NPD could believe this to be a reasonable request.


This is from a series of tweets of mine this morning — Tuesday, February 10, 2015 (with a few tweet responses from fellow Canadians, James Forde and Michael Bells) beginning here — note I’ve done some editing and made additions for clarity to the Tweets.

We need to acknowledge that narcissistic & yes, psychopathic leadership is a problem in the Church — and figure out how to deal with it. This requires educating ourselves to the realities of psychopathy and NPD.  Books by Robert Hare & Kevin Dutton are good places to start.

If you’ve been an unintentional co-conspirator with an NPD/psychopath or a “commender” as my friend Futuristguy Brad Sargent puts it — admit it, apologize & make restitution — learn from your mistakes.

If you aren’t a book reader, then at least read this on NPD and this on psychopathy.

Too many Christians are now “dones” because of the actions of leaders with NPD &/or psychopathic traits. This needs to change.

Too many NPD/psychopathic leaders have been protected because of the size of “their ministries”. A trail of broken bodies is NOT the Church.

Too many narcissistic/psychopathic theologians have been protected because of their supposed “insights”. Victims be damned.

Again, if you’re a leader in the church, and have actively promoted an NPD &/or psychopath — acknowledge & repent for the sake of the Church.

James Forde: Most people get swept up in the star gazing that happens and don’t see the leader for what they are & end up as a silenced victim! Then when they have the courage &/or support to come out and bring things to light they are either accused of being jealous or nuts and those either under the spell still (or who stand to gain financially or in power) do what they can to protect the leader.

Read this 2009 NYTimes article on Mark Driscoll and ask yourself how rational Church leaders could support this man.

Go to Tony Jones’ #WhyTony Scrib site, where he admits he’s NPD, and ask yourself how these other “leaders” continue to support him while demonizing Julie, ToJo’s ex-wife. (I’m intentionally not linking to ToJo’s site.)

The celebrity-driven church actively promotes narcissistic/psychopathic leadership. This is NOT the church of Jesus. Not even a facsimile.

Michael Bells: That “model” is only a cheap plastic ‘copy’ of the real thing – it’s not even close to Jesus’ way, 🙁

I am not suggesting all Church leaders are NPD/psychopathic. I don’t believe that for a moment. However, far too many are, even if only 1% — that 1% figure is the recognized percentage of psychopaths in society. As well, according to Kevin Dutton’s research the #8 position psychopaths end up in is clergy.

And let me end this Tweetablog with an edit of this tweet of mine from yesterday,

Do not be surprised the Church is plagued with many narcissist leaders. Narcissists are attracted to power. This is a problem with the church that promotes “powerfilled” leaders — directly contrary to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 20:25:

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (MSG)

Updated at 1:57 PM EST February 10, 2015

This post was first published by Bill Kinnon @



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

13 responses to Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership

  1. Bill

    “…narcissistic & yes, psychopathic leadership is a problem in the Church.”

    In my experience with having been ordained, in “Leadership.” And…
    In my experience with the “Title/Position” of **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader,”

    “Titles” become “Idols” ………….. “Idols” of the heart – Ezek14:1-11 KJV
    “Pastors” become “Masters”……..A big No, No. Mat 23:10 KJV, Mat 6:24 KJV
    “Leaders” become “Deceivers”….Isa 3:12 KJV, Isa 9:16 KJV, Mat 15:14 KJV

    “Titles” – An “Idol,” an addiction, difficult to lay down, hard to walk away from.
    Because, **Today’s** “Titles” come with something “A Little Bit Extra.”
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Reputation, Recognition, etc…

    All those things Jesus spoke against.
    All “Idols” of the heart. Ezk 14:1-7. Now God speaks to you according to your “idols.”
    All those things that are highly esteemed among men.
    But, is abomination in the sight of God.

    Luke 16:15
    …but God knoweth your hearts:
    for that which is highly esteemed among men
    is abomination in the sight of God.

    Today, Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Reputation, Recognition,
    “Are highly esteemed among men.”

    Especially among those found in the…
    501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax Deductible, Religious Corporation, the IRS calls church.
    Should His Disciples call an IRS Corp – The Church of God?

    Job 32:21-22 KJV
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give *Flattering Titles* unto man.
    For I know not to give *Flattering Titles*;
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

  2. I don’t normally comment (“First time commenter, east of the Rockies”) but here I go. There is two problems with NPD leaders and I think it comes from above and below.

    From above it starts with this not being dealt with early by a seminary professor, mentor, or denominational leader. Statistically most churches and denominations are in decline (you see it even out here in the Bible belt). Churches, Bible Colleges, and even denominations are giving up and no one really has found a solution that works. So they see someone with first potential and then results and charisma and instead of looking at it objectively, they see the stats and the acclaim and they want to be a part of it hoping it is the next big thing.

    When it gets too big, then the generally don’t get involved because they won’t win the battle or they will be tainted with it. They become enablers.

    The other side of it comes from the congregation. People get excited when they are apart of something big and the language of the church includes, “God is with this” and “we are blessed”. So now you are not only questioning the pastor and leadership but also God. It’s a hard place to have a conversation.

    One pastor I know who was involved with crooked business deals, lied constantly, and openly defied accountability structures was defended to the end because of his gifts of evangelism and “look at the size of the church, he must be blessed”.

    Finally, I think it happens to a lot over time. I spend a lot of time interacting with and writing about politicians and they change from a “us” mode when they are first elected to a “with me or against me” mode later on. For some it takes days, others it takes a couple of terms. Of course as someone who’s part time gig it is to call them on their crap, they respond in the same way. Instead of God, it is the electorate that makes them infallible.


  3. My mother was a women’s pastor and deacon and elder. Unfortunately she is also a psychopath and narcissistic sociopath, and broke up the church I grew up in because of her manipulative behavior, right on top of my wedding, in order to keep attention on herself. I can’t even count how many lives she’s covertly damaged, and I barely survived being raised by her. But sociopaths and psychopaths know how to leverage people’s deepest desires and fears to get what they want, so it’s not easy to convince people to face this kind of problem. It’s way too scary for most of them, and when you add on top of that the fact that they’re being manipulated according to their weaknesses, it’s just the sort of thing where all you can do is raise awareness for those who can face it and are in enough pain to need to find those answers. It took me almost 20 years of searching to find answers for my chronic health problems and anxiety, only to watch what I thought my family and life story were melt in front of my eyes. Nothing but an illusion, and the truth was horrific, though it validated my experience in way that was undeniable. No other explanation fits the facts of my life. I’m grateful to people like you who put this information out there, so it will hopefully be easier for other victims to find answers in the future. There is a growing awareness of the symptoms of narcissistic and psychopathic abuse in the mental health community now, and that gives me hope that even if people still have to leave the Church to find answers, they are now available.

    • This lady is brave & many reading her ‘life’ event facts will be encouraged to address this destructive & ‘controlling’, yet seemingly, covert abuse. Bravo!

  4. Thanks Bill for your great blog.

    Just a note for concerned and caring folks that Dee and Deb at The Wartburg Watch in North Carolina have set up a fundraiser to help raise funds (family law attorneys’ fees, court costs, and living expenses) for Emergent leader Tony Jones’ ex-wife Julie M.
    Tony Jones left Julie and their three young children so he could take up with another woman, also married.

    Folks, please donate any amount (large, medium, small) to help out Julie M; here:
    link to

    Spring is almost here and you can get creative to help Julie. For example, declutter your home and have a yard/garage sale. Think about giving all or part of the proceeds to Julie.

    This is what real Christians and good folks are supposed to do: Help one another. This woman needs our help!

    (The Emergent Christian leaders have NEVER helped Julie M and the children. To the contrary, they have defended Tony Jones’ immorality, his leaving his wife and young children for some other woman (ONLY A BUM DOES THAT!), and didn’t tell him to step down from Christian ministry and fire him entirely. Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren and other Emergent leaders FAILED! All they have done is add to the woes of this dear woman Julie and threaten anybody who broke this story, including David Hayward at The Naked Pastor in Canada.)

    I don’t know Julie M personally, but I am thankful to Bill for telling this story, David Hayward at The Naked Pastor, Dee and Deb at The Wartburg Watch, Julie Anne at the Spiritual Sounding Board and other good people.

    Blessings to all from California.

    • UPDATE: 5/15/15

      Given Tony Jones’ (and his attorney’s) latest attempts to silence his ex-wife Julie, her Free Speech Rights, and the Free Speech Rights of supporters in countries throughout the world who have blogged about this (Canada, the United States, and LivingLiminal in Australia), I have:

      *contacted Free Speech civil rights’ groups in all of the U.S. states where bloggers live and the national organizations and written them about these attacks on Free Speech by Tony Jones and his attorney;

      *I have previously contacted Canadian Free Speech groups about Tony Jones and his attorney trying to silence David Hayward at The Naked Pastor and Bill Kinnon; and

      *I am filing a complaint with the Minnesota Supreme Court against Tony Jones and his attorney and I am asking The Court to mark Tony Jones as a vexatious litigant and to take actions against Tony Jones’ attorney’s law license and the judge who signed the Order.

      *If you would like to write the Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice please address your correspondence to her and The Court as follows:

      link to

      Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea
      Minnesota Supreme Court
      Minnesota Judicial Center
      25 Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
      St. Paul, MN. 55155

      • One more thing, since Tony Jones doesn’t like the Free Speech rights in the United States, here are the United States’ government’s directions on how he can leave our country and renounce his U.S. Citizenship. (Which country – one with ZERO Free Speech Rights – do you suppose that Tony Jones will move to?)

        U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs website:

        “Renunciation of U.S. Nationality


        Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)) is the section of law governing the right of a United States citizen to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship. That section of law provides for the loss of nationality by voluntarily

        “(5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state , in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State”


        A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship:
        1.appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer, a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
        3.sign an oath of renunciation

        Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. Because of the provisions of Section 349(a)(5), U.S. citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. In fact, U.S. courts have held certain attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below


        A person seeking to renounce U.S. citizenship must renounce all the rights and privileges associated with such citizenships. In the case of Colon v. U.S. Department of State , 2 F.Supp.2d 43 (1998),the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Colon’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to approve a Certificate of Loss of Nationality in the case because he wanted to retain the right to live in the United States while claiming he was not a U.S. citizen.

  5. Thank you for this post.

  6. Way to go Bill!

  7. What a terrible state of affairs – when many of God’s people don’t know, understand, or maybe even care what they are supporting in leaders like this. I think the worst of it is the protection these guys get from other leaders around the world. It is a good old boy club based on power and loyalty, and “numbers” that speak so loudly to too many because it represents something they want.

    I just don’t see this form of leadership in the Bible. I don’t even see empires like this built by the disciples or the apostles. This part of Christianity wasn’t touched in the Reformation. We carried along the priest and cathedral idea from RC and then built on it. It pains me to think about all the money that has been wasted on buildings and empires these men have built over the years that could have been spent to spread the gospel rather than to create the spectator religion that we have today that makes certain men rich so they can jet set around the world and “be somebody”.

    With all the teaching and all the voices speaking to us, the church grows weaker, smaller, and less significant. It’s an ugly picture and America seems to be the center of it, leading the world down a path of spiritual powerlessness with a gospel that presents God as a pauper as these men beg for yet more and more money to build their empires.

    Perhaps people prefer to stay asleep.


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