Former members of a Mansfield Woodhouse church have exclusively revealed how ministers and a self-proclaimed prophet, who claims to hear the voice of God, ruled their lives through fear.
For the past 20 years, pastors at the Bethel Interdenominational Church have urged their congregation to shun close family, donate thousands of pounds and devote their lives to the church led by prophet Syro 73-year-old grandmother Jean Spademan.
Devotees are subjected to what they describe as deliverance rituals at the hands of the church hierarchy who claim God has told them of their lustful and violent thoughts.
Speaking to Chad this week, one of the countrys leading experts in new religious movements, Dr Martyn Percy of the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society
has described some of the practices of the church as religious abuse and warned it has cult-like tendencies.
Dr Percy said: It seems to me to be a fascinating form of religious control exercised on people. If you really think people know what you think, you just dont dare step out of line. It becomes intolerable.
He added: What is absolutely unique about this church is a woman being not just a figurehead, but the prophetic leader of it.
Intense feelings of guilt and fear prevent many of those who worship at the church from questioning the leaders actions, according to past followers who, speaking out for the first time, have revealed to Chad the devastating effect of the churchs extreme teachings.
I have been robbed of 12 years of my life from my teens until when I left socially and religiously, said one ex-member.
Another added: They want you to give up your free mind to God. I suppose its a form of brainwashing.