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Free Church Pastors in Germany – Perceptions of Spirit Possession and Mental Illness

Michael Grossklaus

This book focuses on Free Church pastors in Germany and their perceptions of spirit possession and mental illness. To explore Free Church pastors’ understanding of spirit possession and mental illness is critical in light of the overlap of symptoms. Misdiagnosis may result in a client receiving treatment that may not be appropriate. Interviews with Free Church pastors were conducted. The results were analysed and four themes were identified. Based on these interviews conclusions could be drawn which ultimately made it clear that the German free church pastors’ theological training needs to be supplemented in the area of psychology and that the pastors are unable to cope in the area of «spirit possession or mental illness».

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This research work with the PhD as a goal had a beginning. This beginning lies several years back in the past. In order to understand the motivation and appreciate the intention of this thesis, some history will be briefly referred to. How did everything begin that was to end with the PhD?

One Saturday evening in 2004 I received a telephone call. A helper from a free church youth group called me to say I should come as soon as possible as there was a lady whose behaviour was very strange. He didn’t want to go into any more detail on the phone, but I should immediately go to the church where she was.

At that point in time I was pastor of this free church and since I knew the caller I drove to our church immediately after the call. There I saw the woman cowering in a corner on the floor and when I spoke to her she turned her head to me. Her look was totally misplaced and I was more than shocked when she spoke to me with the voice of a young boy. I looked at the youth worker and he just said: That is what I couldn’t tell you on the phone.

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