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Demons and Satanic Ritual Abuse: Some Posthumous Notes on Bill Subritzky

At the website of Moriel Ministries, Jacob Prasch casts a sour eye over the legacy of New Zealand-based international evangelist Bill Subritzky, who died at the end of last year:

We all have horror stories. I recall a young Kiwi believer named Colin who after being saved for only 7 weeks was taken by a friend to a Subritzky meeting in Palmerston North. Subritzky claimed a ‘word of knowledge’ that Colin’s father was a homosexual pedophile who molested him as a baby and that Subritzky needed to cast 7 demons out of Colin. In fact, when Colin was a baby his dad was in a body cast physically and sexually dysfunctional.

Prasch and Moriel represent an austere form of Christian conservatism that rejects the “signs and wonders” associated with neo-Pentecostalism. However, the story is plausible: in 1985 Subritzky published a book called Demons Defeated, which abounds with stories of how God had given him supernatural insight into people’s backgrounds. Some of these “words of knowledge” were voyeuristic and prurient:

Other forms of sexual perversion are demonic. For example, there are various forms of oral sex. I have frequently been approached by women who have tremendous problems, and I have seen this spirit upon them. I have seen a vision of the male sexual organ in front of their mouth. I have asked them whether they have participated in this activity. They have confessed…

Subritzky also promoted the idea of the discovery of Satanic Ritual Abuse through recovered memory:

We quite frequently find that as a result of satanic ritual abuse or severe prolonged trauma in childhood or severe shock, that various personalities can manifest within the one person…The traumatised person retreats into their shell and these other personalities, which in my view are demons, begin to manifest…

One of the most common of these demons is the spirit of memories. As ministry takes place, memories which have been suppressed by this spirit come back to the person’s recollection.

Subritzky’s ministry was endorsed by Derek Prince, an influential British evangelist whose own ministry emphasised the supernatural and the need to be aware of demonic forces. Subritzky’s memoir, The Cutting Edge, shows him in a number of international settings, including Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Detroit (with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International), Hungary, and Tonga. Subritzky was especially close to Tonga’s leaders, and King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV wrote a foreword for the book.

When not casting out demons, Subritzky pursued his aims by more worldly means: he was one of the founders of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a Christian Right lobby group. As well as his evangelising work, he was the senior partner in a law firm and a successful property developer.

In his later years, Subritzky endorsed the ministry of T.B. Joshua, a particularly controversial Nigerian evangelist dismissed by Prasch as a “pseudo Christian witchdoctor”. As I have noted previously, Joshua makes extravagant claims to supernatural powers of prophecy in relation to global and African news events. In most cases, Joshua’s supposed power is demonstrated through heavily-edited videos promoted after particular incidents; T.B. Joshua Watch shows that deceptive editing methods are employed. Many evangelical figures shun association with Joshua, and Joshua has heavily promoted Subritzky’s enthusiasm.

Subritzky in the UK

Subritzky also visited the UK, and @SAFFtweets suggests that the suicide of Caroline Marchant – a troubled young woman who had been persuaded that she had been an SRA victim, along lines inspired by Lauren Stratford’s bogus memoir (discussed here) – directly followed her attendance at an event in which Subritzky was a main speaker.

Marchant took a fatal overdose on 16 Februrary 1990 (although she lingered on for more than two weeks afterwards) while staying at the home of Reverend Kevin Logan, author of an evangelical Christian paperback called Paganism and the Occult. In the same month, Subritzky was a speaker at an event in Brighton called “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”, although I haven’t been able to confirm the exact date. For some reason, SAFF mistakenly gives a 1989 date and Southend as the location.

The event was organised by Ellel Grange, a centre for the “deliverance ministry”, and held at the Brighton Centre. The journalist Andrew Brown was in attendance, and he recalled the event in 2010, when there was a controversy over a Conservative Party election candidate who had reportedly previously performed an exorcism on a gay man. In his assessment:

The New Frontiers church to which Philippa Stroud belongs and where her husband is a major star is the fruit standard of fruit loopiness among English evangelical Christians. It was at a New Frontiers church in Brighton that I once went to hear the New Zealand evangelist Bill Surbritzky [sic], a man who believes that not merely homosexuality but smoking and swearing are caused by demonic infestation.

Following Subritzky’s death, Andrew recalled further on Twitter that

I shared a taxi through Brighton with Surbritzky once. All I could think of was his theory that there are demons of nicotine. I wanted a cigarette very badly [1, 2]