Tag Archive: Sexual Abuse

Abuse and Alienation: In The Church, Away From Yourself

alienation

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

In a previous essay, I wrote about the conservative blue-collar community in which I was raised. Although it was in one of the world’s major cities, it very closely resembled, in many ways, a small town or village.

For one thing, everyone knew everyone else—or so it seemed. Also, nearly all of us were living at the same social and economic level, and our parents and grandparents had similar backgrounds. Most of them even came from the same places: the grandparents, and in some cases the parents, of just about every kid I knew, were immigrants. They came, not only from the same country, but from a group of towns and villages within a circle of 100 kilometers or so.

That meant we shared the same culture and, if we didn’t speak English at home, we spoke the same language—actually, the same dialect. In my earlier essay, I mentioned that nearly everyone had the same attitude about the Vietnam War, which claimed young men from my neighborhood. Well, there also wasn’t much diversity of opinion when it came to other issues of the day, as well as political figures and other famous people. Even someone like my uncle, who regarded Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero, believed—like most of my family and neighbors—that “Hanoi” Jane Fonda was a traitor or worse.

One more way in which my community resembled a small town in the South or Midwest (or even in the more rural areas of my Northeastern home state) is that on Sunday, nearly everyone went to the same church. While the churches in those far-flung villages and hamlets were, as often as not, Baptist or Presbyterian or of some other mainstream Protestant denomination, ours was Roman Catholic. But the effect it had on us was not unlike that of those small-town denominations on their congregants.

For one thing, going to the same church inculcated us with attitudes and values that some of us still hold to this day. (So, for that matter, did attending the Catholic school I attended along with many of my peers.) Perhaps even more important — at least for a child, especially the sort of child I was — it gave me a sense of belonging that I could find nowhere else. I made some of my first friends in the church, and being an altar boy was really the first experience I had of male camaraderie: not only did we practice and prepare together for the masses, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies in which we served, we also went on picnics and other outings, including ball games, together. It was, I just recently realized, my first attempt — however doomed it was to fail — to forge some kind of male identity.

You see, in the neighborhood in which I grew up, there weren’t many other ways to meet your peers while engaging in positive (or, at least, socially approved and legal) ways besides church. For that matter, it was difficult for people a bit older than myself to meet potential dates or get any sort of guidance about life without going to church, or someone connected with the church. And for adults, there weren’t many other things to do after a day or week of work, paid or unpaid, besides going to the church—or a bar.

That means, in such an environment, that if you are not part of the church, you are not part of the life of your community. It means that you will probably have few or no friends, and may find yourself alienated from family members. Ironically, not having the relationships most people take for granted — or, purely and simply, people to talk to — is just as detrimental to someone who is different and who is bound to leave one day as it is for someone who could, and wants to, be wholly integrated and raise his or her children in such a place.

I came to understand the way alienation — caused by sexual abuse from a priest — affected my own development as a transgender woman only recently, when by chance I found myself talking, for the first time, about my abuse with other survivors—and hearing their stories. One is a gay man from an insular community deep in the center of America. He told me that because he couldn’t talk about the attacks he endured from his parish priest, he essentially couldn’t talk — or learn — about his mind or body. He therefore couldn’t understand, until many years later, why his body reacted as it did even though, as he said, he didn’t feel any sexual attraction to the priest. And it took him even longer to know that there was no contradiction between feeling repulsed by that priest and being attracted to men. Why, even his first therapist told him that because he didn’t enjoy (or consciously elicit) what that priest did to him, he couldn’t possibly be gay.

It took him two more therapists and a failed marriage to understand, finally, that he is gay. Not coincidentally, he came to terms with it only after he was able to talk about his experience with that priest with someone who understood.

As you can imagine, I cried while listening to him. I finally started to clarify, for myself, my own gender identity and take steps to live by it after I told someone about my abuse. Until then, I couldn’t make any sense of how my body responded, involuntarily, to his, and how it — or his actions — had nothing to do with whether I was a girl or boy, or gay or straight, or anything else. Until then, I’d gone through my life trying to live as a gay man — something unsatisfying to me — or asserting a kind of masculinity some would call toxic but which, deep down, wasn’t any more mine than a same-sex attraction to men.

Of course, in the place and time in which I grew up — and in the world in which I’ve lived until recently — sex and gender identity issues weren’t discussed as openly, much less understood as broadly, as they are now. But even by the standards of my schools, communities, workplaces and other environments, I did not talk freely (actually, at all) about my own identity or inclinations. Because the priest who abused me swore me to silence — and because I knew that even if I could talk about it, I wouldn’t, because I would probably be disbelieved or blamed — I learned that talking about such things was not merely taboo: it could end my life. Or so it seemed.

So I kept quiet and, probably as a result, had a roof over my head, food in my mouth and the opportunity and means to an education. But I lived in isolation from all of those people who could talk with their friends, families and others about the issues that, as it turns out, almost everyone faces at some time or another. They learned what it was like to meet people, to form bonds and to support, and be supported, emotionally. Or, through interacting with other people, they realized how and why they were different and figured out what they needed to do before embarking on courses of study, careers, marriages and other relationships — including relationships with themselves — that were bound to fail.

In brief, when your church is the center of your community’s social life — whether in a rural village or an urban enclave — being alienated from it (even when you’re still participating in it) makes it much more difficult to define yourself, whether by or against or outside of it. For people like me and the gay man I’ve mentioned — and, I’m sure, many others who grew up in church-centered communities — that is what is so damaging about being abused by priests or other authority figures — or, more precisely, being sworn to silence and secrecy about it.

The Far Reaches of Sexual Abuse

i believe you

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Awareness of sexual abuse seems to be at an all-time high. Whether the stories are from the entertainment industry, religion, politics, or your neighbor next door, it seems that more and more people are telling their stories. For some people, this is the first time they have felt safe to tell their stories. It is not uncommon for people to have tried to bury their stories deep within themselves for years, decades even. Now some people are ready to open up, and it seems that sexual abuse has lain just below the surface for decades, centuries, millennia perhaps, and now it is erupting to the surface. So many of my friends are coming out with their stories, and even if they are not ready to tell the whole story, they are saying “something happened and it traumatized me.” “Hear me.” “Believe me.”

This is not my story, but it is my mom’s story, and I believe that I owe it to her to tell it.

My mom died from metastatic breast cancer in November, 2014, at the age of 71. A couple of years before she died, she told my brother, my sister-in-law and me that she had been sexually abused when she was 5 years old. She said she had told only one other person – my stepfather, who had also been sexually abused as a child. That means she waited over 30 years to tell someone (my stepdad) and over 60 years to tell anyone else. We were stunned, but a lot of things about my mom and how she raised me made a lot more sense after this revelation. (I asked my mom why she waited until after her uncle’s death to tell us, and she said she was afraid I would call the uncle and rip him a new orifice; she was not wrong in her assessment).

My mom’s abuser was her 14-year-old uncle. While my mom said he never penetrated her, he forced her to touch him and he touched her. She didn’t go into detail about the experience – I suppose that even 60 plus years later she didn’t wish to relive it. He threatened her that if she ever told anyone, everyone would think she was a bad, dirty, filthy girl. He told her that people would think she was a liar. He also warned her that if she told her parents that her daddy would kill him and that it would be my mom’s fault if her daddy went to jail. As a 5-year-old, those were scary reasons that sealed her silence. She told us that she didn’t understand what was happening but instinctively she knew that it was bad.

Growing up, my mom buried herself in books, in schoolwork, and in learning. Books were her escape from reality. I remember my mom habitually reading 2 books of fiction and one book of nonfiction at any given time, and I was amazed that she could keep them all straight. As a voracious reader myself, I can only handle either one book of fiction and one of nonfiction, or two works of nonfiction. As a high school student, my mom excelled and was one of the few female students put into advanced science and math classes. In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a push to pursue excellence in mathematics and sciences in order to compete with the Soviet Union’s advances in those fields, particularly in regard to the space program. My mom tied with another student for salutatorian in her graduating class of about 300 students, so the school gave both students a test to determine the salutatorian. As my mom was painfully shy and terrified to give a speech at commencement, she purposely answered questions wrong so she would not become salutatorian. I asked her why she didn’t tell her guidance counselor that she did not want to give a speech instead of going through the testing, and she said she never thought of that as she always tried to do what was expected of her. My mom’s parents had not graduated from high school, though her dad had completed refrigeration training courses through the G.I. Bill and her mom got her GED just because she wanted to. My mom’s guidance counselor suggested that my mom should go to college, so as a good girl, my mom did what she was told and enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University. She completed 5 semesters before dropping out and getting married.

Everyone always remarked about my mom’s intelligence but how quiet and sweet she was. As a teenager, my mom developed ulcers. She was terrified of going out in public, especially in any situations in which she might be alone. She told me that it was torture for her to walk past the college dining hall because she had to walk past all the windows where people looking out might see her. As she grew older and needed to work, she became better at managing her extreme shyness and fear of people, of being seen, but she never outgrew it completely. When I was planning my wedding, I told my mom that I did not believe in having someone “give me away” as I was capable of making my own decisions and did not want to promote an archaic system whereby women had to be “given away” in marriage. She thought I should not buck tradition and suggested that I should ask my uncle to walk me down the aisle. Knowing her shyness, I told her that if anyone should walk me down the aisle, it should be her. She didn’t bring up my walk down the aisle again, and I happily strolled alone as a symbol of my autonomy as a human being.

Unlike the parents of most of my friends at the time, my mom taught me about sex at a very early age. For as long as I can remember, she told me to fight, run away, and tell a trusted adult if anyone ever tried to touch me in my “private” areas. We even had an identification code for which adults she trusted and which ones she didn’t; if she referred to someone as Mr. Will or Ms. Betty, those were trusted adults, but if she referred to them as Mr. or Mrs. Smith, then they were not on the approved list. My mom explained sex to me with all the appropriate body part names and where they were located when I was 6 or 7 years old. She told me that I should not tell the other kids because their parents should tell them. I was repulsed by what she was telling me, but I knew that it must be true because I had witnessed dogs copulating. After my mom told us about her sexual abuse, suddenly it made sense why she had taught me about sex with the correct terms for body parts when I was as young as I was. I don’t know if she had similar conversations with my brother, but she may have.

Other things about my mom made more sense as well, like how she seemed to be afraid of so many things. She was easily startled by sudden or loud noises. She was terrified to walk anywhere alone. Her doctor prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, both of which helped take the edge off her irritability. My mom was in poor health most of her life, suffering from arthritis since she was in her mid-twenties in addition to a plethora of other ailments as she aged. My mom would not allow me to play sports or go too many places with friends, though there were 3 families at church with girls my age whom she trusted. She had two failed marriages, the first that lasted only a year and the second to my father, lasting only 4 years due to his emotional and psychological abuse. (In his next relationship he fathered 6 more children, and his abuse escalated from verbal to physical and sexual. None of his children has contact with him today). When my mom married my step-dad, she became the bully who verbally abused my step-father for the 25 years they were married until he passed away. My mom used books, food, religion, interest in politics, and craft and jewelry making as ways to derive enjoyment (and probably escape) during her life.

The only time my mom talked with me about the abuse was when she told us. She said that she had forgiven her uncle (I have not, but as he has passed away, I suppose the issue is moot). He was a retired chief master sergeant in the US Air Force, and he and his wife lived in Destin, Florida, near Eglin Air Force Base which was his last posting. The uncle and aunt used to visit his mother, my great-grandmother who lived with us, while she was still alive. I did not like this uncle, and I don’t know if I had picked up on cues from my mom or if I just did not like him generally. I asked my mom why she allowed this uncle around me when I was a child, and she said she knew that she was always watching and she observed that I did not like him and would not get too close to him. That is true — as a child I thought he was a jerk.

My mom coped the best she could. Who am I — someone who has never suffered from sexual abuse — to determine whether she handled things the right way or not? Each person handles it with whatever coping mechanisms he or she has. Would my mom’s life have been different had she not been sexually abused? I have no doubt that it could have been quite different.

Forgiveness is Not Enough, When it Comes to Healing for Sexual Abuse Victims

interceding virgin mary

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Much has been made of the smaller-than-expected audience and sometimes-hostile reception Pope Francis encountered during his visit to Ireland. While commentators noted the contrast with the more enthusiastic greeting that awaited Pope John Paul II when he arrived in 1979, they did not make the connection between something Francis said and young Irish people’s drift away from, or even outright rejection, of the church.

At the Marian Shrine of Knock, he begged for forgiveness of the sins of members of the Church of Ireland who committed abuse of whatever kind and asked the blessed mother to intercede for the healing of survivors and to never again permit these situations to occur.

One can say that, although he did mention young people who were robbed of their innocence and children taken from their mothers, his appeal was still too vague. And, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, I feel that he placed too much emphasis on “forgiving” the “sins” of the perpetrator and not enough on the healing for the victims.

Then again, it may be that neither he nor the Church can do otherwise. For one thing, addressing the plight of survivors in a more specific way would open up the Church to even more scorn and more lawsuits than it already faces. But more to the point — at least from the point of view of survivors and the general public — clergy members, from parish priests all the way up to the College of Cardinals, simply are not equipped to help survivors move on from the abuse we have suffered.

What they, and the Pope, don’t seem to understand is this: those of us who have been sexually abused as children were traumatized. This is not the same as simply having one’s feelings hurt by a thoughtless word or some quotidian misdeed. It means that we have been changed, irrevocably, in fundamental ways. We lost our ability to trust, not only priests and the Church, but other people, even those with whom we have (or should have) our most intimate relationships. That is because, as modern research has shown, the stress caused by trauma affects our brains: It sensitizes the “reptilian” parts, which is more impulsive, and restricts the “limbic” area, which helps us record our memories and form our judgments from them. And, of course, that stress affects the body, manifesting itself in a number of health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

So, while “forgiveness” of “sins” might give the perpetrator a clean slate, it does nothing to alleviate trauma and its effects in victims. If anything, asking (or, more precisely, guilt-tripping) a victim to “forgive” a perpetrator only re-traumatizes that victim. I know: whenever I’ve been asked to “forgive” someone who has caused me real harm — whether that priest in my childhood or an abusive ex-spouse or partner — it’s like another blow to my body, not to mention to my mind and heart.

As I’ve said, the Pope and most priests, as well-intentioned as they might be, simply don’t understand the difference between being sinned-against and being traumatized — and that the latter happens to children who are sexually molested by priests or taken away from their mothers. I think most of them can’t, in part because they don’t have the training that would allow them to do so. But even those who have such training, I believe, still operate under the belief that, when the victim forgives, he or she heals along with the victimizer. Too often, it just doesn’t work that way.

Really, all one can do after abuse is to prevent it from happening again. That doesn’t happen through “forgiveness” or “redemption.”  Only taking away the opportunities for abuse, for inducing trauma, can do that: priests (or any other adults) who abuse children must not be allowed access to them. And the abuse from my ex-partner stopped, not through “forgiving” him (as he begged me to do), but after an order of protection and the loss of his career.

Still, trauma remains. I work through mine every day. No amount of “forgiveness” can change that. I am sure other survivors could say the same — and feel exasperated or enraged, or both, by the Pope’s plea, even if he could not have acted in any other way.

Sexual Abuse Victims Have the Right To Be Heard — Whenever They Are Ready

catholic church sexual abuse problem

Cartoon by David Reddick

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

When I heard about the Pennsylvania grand jury report on children sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, my reaction was, “Only 1,000 kids? Only 300 priests? — over 70 years?”

I am not a lawyer or any sort of expert on laws regarding child sexual abuse (or on any other kind of law, for that matter). But I do know that in most states, it’s all but impossible for anyone over the age of 30 to bring charges against a priest or church for abuse suffered at age ten, fifteen or even twenty. Depending on the state, a victim can only file a suit up to a certain age or, perhaps worse, a certain number of years (usually five to ten) after the abuse.

This all but prevents most victims from bringing their perpetrators — or the churches or other institutions that harbored them — to account. I know; I am one.

More than three decades passed from the times I was sexually molested by a priest in the parish where I was an altar boy until the time I finally told someone: my partner at the time, as we were breaking up. Until then, I had experienced a failed marriage, a bunch of other failed relationships, difficulties with supervisors and other authority figures, substance abuse, suicide attempts, financial ruin and general confusion about my sexual orientation and gender identity — the latter of which I began to resolve only after telling my now-ex-partner about my abuse.

The abuse I suffered — or, I should say, the experiences of abuse I can recall most vividly and terrifyingly — occurred when I was nine years old. I had received my first holy communion about a year and a half before that, and I was confirmed only a few months after the last of those incidents. The reason I recall those incidents most clearly and terrifyingly, I believe, has to do with the priest who committed them and the time in my life in which he victimized me. I will not get into either of them here; instead, I will try to answer the question of why it took so long for me to talk about them — and why the statutes of limitations regarding such abuse needs to be lengthened.

A Culture of Authority

That priest took advantage of my vulnerabilities — I was in a new school and didn’t have a very supportive home life — half a century ago, in the late 1960’s. That time is often associated with the Sexual Revolution and other changes in society, but those things could have just as well happened in a different world from the one in which I grew up. It was a milieu (a word nobody in that environment would have used) in which authority was to be, if not entirely trusted, then unquestioningly obeyed. Young men did not protest being drafted to fight in Vietnam; some even volunteered to go. Anyone who dared to question, let alone resist, fighting in the war was branded as a coward or traitor — or with the most damning epithet of all: Communist.

(My uncle, who was even more progressive than I am now on issues of race relations, gender roles and sexuality, nonetheless refused to watch any film, television program or other show in which “Hanoi” Jane Fonda appeared. He kept up this embargo until the day he died.)

Most of the men in my world — my own father, uncles and grandfathers, as well as those of nearly every kid with whom I grew up — were blue-collar workers.  Many had fought in Korea or World War II; nearly all had military experience of some sort. And just about all of us were children or grandchildren of immigrants who believed that their gratitude for what America offered them could be expressed only as unquestioning obedience, which they conflated with loyalty. I did, too, for a long time.

Most of them were also Roman Catholics, and their attitudes toward secular authority made them all-but-perfect candidates to follow the flock of their Good Shepherd — or, more precisely, his representatives on Earth. If you are of my generation and raised Catholic (I went to Catholic schools), you were taught that your parish priests, and even more so the bishop of your diocese, were just that: your connection to God, as it were. That, in a church, where the Pope is considered infallible.

You may not have known about that last doctrine (officially defended under Pius IX, but asserted long before that) as a kid, but you probably knew — or, more importantly, felt — the weight of the trust and authority granted to your priests and bishops. It was even greater than any power your parents, teachers or other elders held over you. When you are living under such an imbalance of power, you realize early on that if you speak up against someone who is held in as high esteem as your principal, let alone your priests or bishop, your credibility cannot hold a candle to theirs.

That is, if you can even explain what happened to you.

Human anatomy, let alone sex education, wasn’t part of the fourth-grade curriculum in my Catholic school — or most others, I imagine — in 1967. Or, for that matter, most kids’ homes, including mine. Even today, many parents avoid talking with their kids about the body’s processes, let alone sex, for as long as possible. In many families, even today, that discussion never takes place. I know it never did in mine.

So, when our parish priest molested me, I didn’t even know the names of the parts of my body he was touching. It almost goes without saying that I had no vocabulary, or any other way, to describe the ways in which my body reacted: I had not experienced anything like it before. I also did not have words, let alone expression, for the unease I felt: I knew that what he was doing wasn’t right, but I didn’t know why, and I never could have defended myself against those who would have blamed me for it. (Remember, this was at a time when the usual responses to rape were: What was she wearing? What was she doing there, at that time of day/night?) I am sure others abused by priests when they were children could say something similar.

Given the repressive conditions I’ve described — one in which authority is not questioned, church leaders have absolute authority and children do not learn about their own bodies, let alone how they can be used against them — is it any wonder that most victims don’t recount their abuse by priests to anyone but themselves — if, indeed, they ever do — until they are well into adulthood? Or that some never speak up about it? One reason, I’m sure, that the Pennsylvania report didn’t name more victims is that some have taken their stories to their graves. Needless to say, some are in those graves by their own doing. And, I’m sure, many priests parted this vale of tears before their victims could confront them. Mine did, about two decades before I told anyone, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Whenever they are ready.

Thus, as long as there are implicit as well as explicit rules and forces that enforce obedience and silence, particularly among children, victims need the freedom and the space to discuss their molestation whenever they are ready — whether at 20 or 40 or 80. Whenever it is, we can only hope that it’s before marriages fail, jobs are lost, families are broken up, substances are abused and lives are ended prematurely. Victims deserve the right to repair or reclaim their lives; there should not be a time limit on that.

IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Explains How He Excuses Sex Crimes and Adultery

the-hyles-rule

Bob Gray, Sr. is the retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. Gray has spent his clerical career defending and standing behind men accused of all sorts crimes, malfeasance, and inappropriate conduct. One need only look at Gray’s resolute support of adulterer Jack Hyles (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles and The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters.) and his sexual predator son David Hyles (UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored and Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?) Gray, a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, believes, as did his god Jack Hyles, that if you didn’t see something, it didn’t happen. (Please read If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) In his mind, unless there are two or more witnesses to Pastor Johnny fucking his secretary at the Motel 6 or Youth Pastor Billy Joe having sex with a church teen in his office, then they are innocent of all charges.

Today, Gray took to his blog to defend Catholic Brett Kavanaugh of all charges. I find it hilarious that Gray — who hates Roman Catholicism as only a Baptist can — is defending Kavanaugh. Much like the “liberal” Evangelicals he condemns, Gray has sold his soul for a mess of political pottage. All that matters to Gray is that Republicans continue to control the government and that right-wingers dominate the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? Abortion. It’s always about abortion. That, and those damn queers who dared to come out of the closet and demand equal justice and protection under the law. Gray, as a man, has been reduced to being a shill for the Republican party, a man willing to defend all sorts of vile behavior if, in doing so, the desired political objective is gained.

According to Gray, all these women hurling accusations against Kavanaugh, President Trump, and countless other men, are a sign of the coming end of the world. Gray writes:

In recent days we have seen those who oppose Christian values use a very potent weapon against those who stand for what is right. It is a weapon that has been used since the beginning of time. It is a weapon Satan mastered and taught throughout the ages. It was first used in the garden of Eden against God. It has continued to be used throughout history. The Bible tells us that a sign of the times is the increase of the use of this weapon. What is the weapon you ask? It is a powerful weapon of accusation.

In our political arenas we have watched as the liberals have used accusation over and over again in an attempt to discredit an individual with whom they disagree. In recent days we have seen it used against politicians, Supreme Court nominees, and others who stand for conservative principles. Unfortunately we have also seen it used among preachers and Christians. Many an individual has been damaged permanently by an accusation that has been made against them. Political contests have been determined by accusation which were made. Nominees for positions in the president’s cabinet have been altered because of accusation. Accusation can literally alter the course of history.

In the Garden of Eden Satan began his attack on God by accusing him of not telling the complete truth. Joseph was placed into prison and stripped of his position because of an accusation. Our Saviour was hung on the cross to be crucified because of those who accused Him.

Gray goes on to list nine things Christians should do when hearing of accusations against someone:

1. Accusation must never stand alone.

Please follow that statement carefully. Accusation must always be accompanied by several things.

It must be accompanied with the proper presentation. The Bible clearly tells us that we are not to bring an accusation against an elder. The presentation of accusation should not be in the public forum. Accusation should be presented in the proper fashion.

It must be given to the proper person. When we accuse someone publicly we are not looking for justice as much as we are looking to influence opinion. A public accusation does not fix a problem. A public accusation creates a problem because it changes public opinion without justice being carried out. We must only accuse to the proper authority or person who is responsible for finding truth behind the accusation.

2. Accusation should not be assumed as true.

There was a day when we all believed that a person was innocent until proven guilty. We are now living in a society where guilt is assumed until innocence is proven. A person’s reputation is destroyed because we assume them to be guilty based upon what seems to be a credible accusation. In some cases we assume it to be true even if the evidence is by an unreliable witness. We seem to like assuming guilt. It is wrong to accept accusation as truth.

3. The accuser should be on trial as much as the accused.

This is critical. People who have been accused are often times judged while the person who accuse them is allowed to freely make the accusation without scrutiny. When an accusation is made the first person that should be scrutinized is not the one accused. It should be the one who made the accusation. What was their motive for making this accusation? What was their agenda in making this accusation? Did they make the accusation to the proper person in the proper manner? These are questions we should be asking when someone accuses.

4. Public accusation should never be considered reliable.

A person who makes a public accusation almost always has an ulterior motive. It is foolish to believe that someone who would use accusation to destroy a person’s reputation should be trusted.

….

5. We should not allow a person’s reputation to be changed by accusation.

Someone who has done much good is accused and suddenly we think bad of them. We don’t know the facts. We don’t know the reason they were accused. We know nothing other than what we have heard. To change our opinion of the one being accused merely because there is an accusation made is foolhardy.

….

6. Do not be the judge or the jury when you hear of an accusation made.

In fact, don’t be the private investigator either. May I just simply put it this way? Mind your own business. If it’s not your business to carry out justice then keep your nose out of it. You are doing no one a favor by deciding that you are going to be the one who investigates the person who has been accused. Do not make a judgment unless it is your area of judgment.

7. Defend the accused.

This is not popular, but it is the right thing to do. A person who has been accused should be defended until they have been proven guilty. Tragically we are cowards when it comes to this. Someone with whom we have had a friendship with for years is accused and we get as far away from them as we can to protect ourselves. What a cowardly way to behave. Stand by your friends when they are accused. I would rather be wrong in defending an accused friend, than to be right in having attack them before knowing the truth.

8. Apply Philippians 4:8 to all accusation.

It commands us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Most accusation would not stand up to that criteria so therefore we should not even entertain it in our thoughts. One reason to avoid receiving accusation is the danger of allowing your mind to think on the wrong things.

9. Never Never NEVER spread accusation.

If you spread accusation you are as guilty as Satan of accusing one of your brethren. Satan is the accuser…not just the false accuser. He is the accuser of the brethren.

….

10. Identify yourself with the accused.

This is one that I wish every Christian would follow. I would rather be identified with someone who has been accused than someone who is guilty of being an accuser. I run to the side of the accused. I identify myself with the accused. Christ was accused and I identify myself with him.

….

Well, there’s a load of bullshit. Is it any wonder, given Gray’s ten rules, that he repeatedly has defended adulterers, child molesters, pedophiles, and even murderers? Why, Jesus was falsely accused and so are good men who are having their lives ruined by accusations of sexual misconduct. I wonder what Gray thinks of pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump’s “alleged” rapes, sexual assaults, and adulteries. Just an innocent man falsely accused by women who want to destroy God’s chosen ruler?

Men such as Bob Gray, Sr. disgust me. His words reveal that he knows nothing about sexual assault and the sheer bravery required of women for them to go public with their accusations. And he sure as hell doesn’t know or doesn’t WANT to know, that very few of these allegations are later proven to be false. In other words, Bobby, you ought to be standing with these women. Instead, you defend and support their abusers and attackers. Shame on you for doing so.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

John

blood of jesusMy mom’s parents, known to me as Grandma Rausch and Grandpa Tieken, divorced in the late 1940s. By all accounts, their marriage was an alcohol-fueled, violent brawl which caused untold heartache and pain to their two children. My mother, in particular, faced the indignity and shame of being sexually molested by her father, a deep wound she carried all the days of her life.

My grandfather’s name was John. My first recollections of him come from when I was a young child. On Christmas day, both sets of my grandparents would come to our home, often arriving at the same time. Instead of figuring out a way to avoid family conflict, both John and Grandma Rausch were determined to be the grandparent of choice. Every Christmas, they would square off, each in his or her own corner. The bitterness of their divorce carried over into our family. As a child, I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. All I knew was that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t like each other. As I got older, my grandparents finally figured out it was best if they steered clear of one another, so every year we had two Christmases and two Thanksgivings.

I saw a lot more of Grandma Rausch than I did Grandpa Tieken (John), and she became my favorite grandparent. My dad’s Hungarian parents died in 1963, weeks apart. I was six when they died, so I have very few memories of Grandpa and Grandma Gerencser. (Please see My Hungarian Grandparents, Paul and Mary Gerencser.)  Grandma Rausch, on the other hand, was very much a part of my life, all the way until she died of cancer in 1995. She bought me my first baseball glove and took me to my first baseball game, and she was the only grandparent to ever attend my Little League and Pony League games. I remember to this day hearing Grandma screaming at the umpire, telling him in no uncertain terms that the pitch to her grandson was NOT a strike. Not that it mattered. Strike or ball, I was a terrible batter, so it unlikely that I would have hit the pitch. Grandma Rausch, a stickler for proper grammar, would write me letters during my preaching days. I loved getting letters from her. I always appreciated her interest in my life and support of whatever it was that I was doing at the time. Grandma Rausch had her faults. She was an alcoholic until age sixty-five, when, due to health concerns, she quit cold turkey. Warts and all, I never doubted Grandma loved me.

I can’t say the same for John or his third wife Ann. (Please see Dear Ann.) I would love to write of my grandfather’s love and support, but alas I can’t remember a time where he told me he loved me or unconditionally supported what I was doing. On those rare occasions he “supported” my work in the ministry, there were always strings attached or criticisms heaped upon me when I didn’t meet his expectations.

I have two good memories of John, and that’s it. I am sure there were more, but I only remember two. Perhaps other good memories were drowned out by John’s violent temper and frequent criticisms of my mom, dad, and me personally. John, a pilot and mechanic, was the co-owner of T&W (Tieken and Wyman) Engine Service at Pontiac (Michigan) Airport. My first fond memory of John was when he took me up in a twin prop cargo plane he had just overhauled. My other fond memory dates back to the summer of 1968. For my eleventh birthday, John took me to watch the Detroit Tigers play the Cleveland Indians. This was the year the Tigers won the World Series. On this day, I felt close to my grandfather. Just a grandfather and his oldest grandson enjoying their favorite sport. Alas, this would be the first and last time we did anything together.

John married Ann in the late 1950s or early 1960s. She had a son by the name of David from a previous marriage. Dave was my uncle, but only a few years separated us age-wise. Dave was an avid fisherman and played baseball for Waterford Township High School. One summer, I remember us sitting around the dinner table eating and Dave saying something his stepfather didn’t like. All of a sudden, John stood, doubled up his fist, and hit Dave as hard as he could, knocking him onto the floor. Dave said nothing, but the message was clear: No one back talked to John Tieken. Dave and I became closer when I moved to Pontiac to attend Midwestern Baptist College. Dave was married and worked as a foreman for General Motors. I have fond memories of Dave helping me put a clutch in my car — he the teacher and I the student. Sadly, Dave was murdered in 1981.

Ann attended Sunnyvale Chapel, a generic Evangelical church. In the early to mid-1960s, John got “saved” and began attending church with Ann. He soon became a Fundamentalist zealot who was known for his aggressive witnessing. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it was to watch John corner a waitress so he could tell her the “truth” about Jesus and her need of salvation. John loved the Christian gospel. In his mind, when Jesus saved him, all his past sins were washed away and everything became new. He believed that whatever he did in the past was forgiven and forgotten. Forgotten by God, perhaps, but for those who were psychologically and physically harmed by him, no forgiveness was forthcoming. And John didn’t care. Jesus had forgiven him, and that’s all that mattered. My mom, late in her life, confronted her father over him sexually abusing her. She hoped he would at least admit what he did and ask for forgiveness. No admission was forthcoming. John told his daughter that his sins were under the blood and Jesus had forgiven him. Jesus may have forgiven him, but my mom sure hadn’t.

There’s so much more I could share here, but for the sake of brevity, I want to fast forward to 1980s. From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. John and Ann were quite proud of the fact that their grandson was a pastor. In their eyes, I, unlike my mother, father, and siblings, was doing the right things: serving the Evangelical God, preaching the gospel, and winning souls to Christ. For a time, they even financially supported me through donations to the church. These donations abruptly stopped when they didn’t get an annual donation statement when they thought they should have. That was the Tiekens. Much like their exacting God, displease them and judgment was sure to follow.

John and Ann came to visit the church twice in the eleven years I was there. One Sunday, John thoroughly embarrassed me in front of the entire congregation. The building was packed. This was during the time when the church was growing rapidly. After I preached and gave an invitation, I asked if anyone had something to share. John did. He stood and told the entire congregation what was wrong with my sermon. I wanted to die.

The last time John and Ann came to visit was in 1988. We were living in Junction City at the time. After church, we invited them over for dinner. In the post Dear Ann, I describe their visit this way:

Grandpa spent a good bit of time lecturing me about my car being dirty. Evidently, having a dirty car was a bad testimony. Too bad he didn’t take that same approach with Mom.

After dinner — oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday! — we were sitting in the living room and one of our young children got too close to Grandpa. What did he do? He kicked him. I knew then and there that, regardless of his love for Jesus, he didn’t love our family, and he would always be a mean son-of-a-bitch.

A decade later, John died. Upon hearing of his death, I had no emotions; I felt nothing. I had no love for the man. After all, his wife a few years prior had called to let me know that I was a worthless grandson. In fact, according to Ann, the entire Gerencser family was worthless. My sin? I couldn’t attend John’s seventy-fifth birthday party. Ann’s vicious and vindictive words finally pushed me over the edge. I told her that I was no longer interested in having any contact with them. And with that I hung up the phone. Whatever little feeling and connection I had for John and Ann Tieken died. I learned then, that some relationships — even family — aren’t worth keeping.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Another Day, Another Willow Community Creek Church Sex Scandal

robert sobczak jr

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. The church’s board also resigned after their colossal mishandling of the Hybel’s scandal. And now, Fox-32 reports that Willow Creek paid out $3.25 million to settle two civil sexual abuse lawsuits.

Robert Sobczak, Jr. a volunteer at Willow Creek, was convicted of sexually abusing an eight-year old church boy. He is now serving a seven year sentence for his crime. Sobczak, Jr. was also convicted of sexually abusing another church boy and given probation. The parents of these boys sued Willow Creek. The church settled the two lawsuits, paying  $1.75 million dollars to one family and  $1.5 million to the other.

Fox-32 reports:

At the time, we’re told Robert Sobczak Junior was a volunteer for the Barrington church. He’s now 24 years old, and serving a seven-year sentence for reportedly sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy.

He also pleaded guilty in 2013, the paper reports, for sexually abusing another disabled boy and received probation.

The Tribune reports there were warning signs about Sobczak, but the church failed to act. They have since settled two civil lawsuits with the boys’ families — one for $1.75 million dollars and the other for $1.5 million.

Willow Creek did not respond to FOX 32’s request for comment, but did pass along a statement calling the experience “heartbreaking” and insisting they’ve made changes.

“We have worked with law enforcement and security experts to learn how this happened and how we can ensure it never happens again,” the church said.

….

A November 2017 Daily Herald story says:

A Cook County judge has allowed an attorney to seek additional financial damages in a lawsuit against Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington on behalf of a special-needs boy who was molested there by an adult volunteer who admitted the sexual abuse.

Lawyer Kevin J. Golden’s case on behalf of the now 13-year-old Fox Lake boy against the church and Robert Sobczak, the volunteer in question, began in Cook County circuit court in February 2014. His client has autism, ADHD and a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge syndrome.

Golden said the case has dragged on long enough.

“The church has fought this from Day One and has not taken responsibility,” he said. “We look forward to our day in court.”

Willow Creek issued a statement on the suit Tuesday.

“As this is a pending legal matter, we respect the privacy of the parties involved and are limited in what we can comment about at this time,” the statement says. “However, Willow Creek Community Church has done everything it can to assist in this investigation and litigation. We take very seriously the safety of children entrusted to our care and hope to have the opportunity to work to reach a resolution in this case.”

The suit alleges Willow Creek was negligent by not properly supervising Sobczak, 24, who records show remains in Graham Correctional Center in downstate Hillsboro for other sexual abuse convictions not involving the boy in the lawsuit. The former Hoffman Estates man received probation in December 2013 after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse against that boy.

….

Court documents say the boy’s mother placed him in Willow Creek’s Promiseland program for special-needs children when she attended a church service on Feb. 17, 2013. The suit alleges Willow Creek did not enforce a rule that two adults were to be with the children at all times, leading to Sobczak’s removing the boy from a class and molesting him in a sensory room.

….

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Bible Teacher Robert Browning Accused of Child Sex Crimes

robert browning

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Robert Browning, a Bible teacher at Cedar Creek Christian School in Jacksonville, Florida — a ministry of Cedar Creek Baptist Church — was charged today with lewd battery, lewd and lascivious molestation, and transmission of material harmful to a minor. Allegedly, Browning allowed a minor church girl to give him a blow job inside Cedar Creek Baptist’s building.

News 4 reports:

The victim’s father said he discovered the inappropriate relationship when he checked his daughter’s cellphone and found she and Browning were exchanging nude photos and lewd text messages.

“I found everything,” the father said.

….

According to the arrest report, the girl said she performed consensual oral sex on Browning at the church while he touched her inappropriately.

The father said he is furious and feels betrayed by someone who was supposed to be a mentor to his child.

The girl also said she performed consensual oral sex on Browning at the church, while he touched her inappropriately, police said.

According to the report, investigators found text messages between Browning and the girl about the incident.

Pastor John Montgomery of Cedar Creek Baptist said the school took swift and immediate action, terminating Browning immediately.

Montgomery said Browning, like all employees, was fingerprinted and checked with the FBI when he was hired six years ago.

“Of all people, I would have never ever thought that something like that could have happened,” Montgomery said. “We live in a fallen world, and people do things that absolutely shock you.”

 

Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo Victor Monteiro Accused of Sexual Abuse

victor monteiro

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Malo Victor Monteiro, former youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California and former assistant pastor at Menifee Baptist Church in Menifee, California, stands accused of sexually abusing numerous children over a twenty year period. The Press-Enterprise reports:

A youth pastor in Wildomar was arrested Friday on suspicion of sexually assaulting children over a nearly 20-year span.

Malo Victor Monteiro, 45, of Colton, was booked into Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of intent to commit rape, mayhem or sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts with force on a child under 14, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, distributing harmful matter and sexual penetration by force, according to the Riverside County jail log.

Today, a woman publicly accused Monteiro of sexually abusing her while she attended Faith Baptist, ABC-7 reports:

A woman came forward Monday to describe being sexually abused and how her former youth pastor Victor Monteiro groomed her.

“It was little by little, but then he would tell you, ‘You’re really cool. You’re special to me,'” April Avila said. “He would punch you on the shoulder, you know, be the cool youth pastor. Then it became caressing and touching your butt.”

Monteiro was arrested last week on numerous felony charges related to sexual assault on children that spans two decades. Avila said she came to know Montiero when she and her family attended Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar.

“The more involved I was, that’s when things began to escalate at church and away from church,” she said.

Avila is just one suspected victim, and there are others. Another suspected victim of abuse is suing Faith Baptist Church, accusing church administrators of knowing about the allegations and covering up for Monteiro.

In the lawsuit, it claims the church was aware of another youth pastor, who is suspected of having an inappropriate relationship, but the entity ignored it. In doing so, it allowed Monteiro to prey on his victims.

“He knew very well what I had gone through,” Kathy Durbins said.

Durbins is Monteiro’s sister-in-law. She said she was involved in an inappropriate relationship at Faith Baptist when she was a teenager. She said her brother-in-law used his knowledge of the church’s cover up to hide his own crimes.

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. There was no law enforcement called. So basically it was a big cover up,” she said.

….

Faith Baptist Church is pastored by Bruce Goddard. Menifee Baptist Church is pastored by Pat Cook. Both congregations are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. I previously wrote a post about Bruce Goddard titled, Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics.

Black Collar Crime: Highpoint Church Gives Chris Conlee a Standing Ovation

wtf

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Last week, I wrote a post titled, Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal. I detailed the fall out from Andy Savage’s admission that he sexually assaulted a church girl twenty years ago. Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, received a standing ovation from congregants after he oh-so-humbly admitted the “sexual incident” twenty years before. Savage later resigned after public outrage over his tone-deafness and lack of true repentance and sorrow.

Yesterday, Savage’s fellow pastor Chris Conlee (who resigned last week) had an oh-so-touching parting moment with his church. Afterward, Conlee received a STANDING ovation, thus proving that the entire Highpoint congregation is deaf and blind, oblivious to how such crass behavior appears to outsiders. It’s evident that Highpoint and its leaders do not take sexual abuse seriously. Had they done so, they would have never hired Savage — the church new about the sexual abuse allegation when they hired him — and after hiring him anyway, the church should have fired Conlee for giving Savage cover. Instead, both men received ovations. Yes, both Savage and Conlee are gone, but there’s no sign from Highpoint that they understand their own culpability in this sordid story of sexual abuse and cover-up.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: Savage and Conlee will resurface somewhere, ready to shear more sheep on their road to personal fame and glory.

Why Southern Baptists Aren’t Serious About Sexual Abuse

just kiddingThe Southern Baptist Convention recently held its annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Baptist luminaries such as Paul Pressler and Andy Savage, and Paige Patterson’s indifference towards victims of sexual abuse, SBC leaders and messengers came to Dallas prepared to admit that they had shown crass indifference towards women and sexual abuse. With great humility and repentance, they offered up and passed resolutions that called on Southern Baptist pastors to keep their dicks in their pants and demanded SBC churches and colleges pay attention to sexual abuse allegations from congregants and students — mainly women. Wearing sackcloth and ashes, Southern Baptists promised to do better by treating women with respect, recognizing that they play an important part in the lives of SBC churches. And then, quicker than a blink of an eye, Southern Baptists showed everyone who is paying attention that they are not serious about sexual misconduct by pastors and congregants alike. Southern Baptists proved yet again that they can talk a good line, but when it comes to implementing procedures and practices to put an end to the sexual abuse stench rising up from their midst, messengers can’t be bothered with acting morally and ethically. In other words, after days of meetings, the SBC remains a good old boys club in which women are treated as second-class citizens.

One resolution reminded convention attendees that the SBC is committed to complementarianism; that women are weaker vessels whom God commands to submit to their husbands. Women remain barred from church leadership positions, including the office of pastor. As far as the SBC is concerned, it’s still 1950, and women, by God, should know their place! Southern Baptists can try to spin this any way they want, but the fact remains that women are considered inferior, in need of male protection, and it has to be this way because, well, God said so.

Messengers were asked to create a denomination-level, nationwide database of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, and people with positions of authority who have been accused of sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault, and child abuse. This database would allow churches to investigate prospective pastors and church leaders before hiring them. This seems like a no-brainer to me, yet people such as Christa Brown have been demanding such a database for over a decade, without success. What possible reason could Southern Baptist leaders give for their inaction? At the Dallas meeting, church leaders professed their commitment to putting an end to pastor sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, yet when it came time to pass a resolution to establish this database, messengers punted it to a committee, delaying for another year any serious denominational action on sexual abuse.

Two main arguments are given for their inaction. First, people are demanding that abusers be placed in the database based on allegation alone. Shouldn’t these alleged abusers be treated as innocent until proven guilty? The short answer to this question is hell no. The purpose of tracking allegations is to look for patterns of abuse. Since most abusers and predators go unpunished — often for years — it seems to me that it is unwise and naïve to only track pastors and other church leaders who have been convicted of criminal behavior. I would think churches would want to know if candidates for their open pulpits had been accused previously of sexual misconduct. A single allegation might be dismissed if there is not credible proof, but when a so-called man of God has been accused several times of crimes against women or children (and in a few cases men), at the very least churches should consider the maxim, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It is highly improbable that a pastor would be accused of similar crimes at several different churches without him being guilty. While women and children can and do make false allegations, such falsities are rare. The reason for this is simple. When women, teenagers, or children make allegations against a church leader, their lives are opened up to scrutiny and criticism. Sadly, Southern Baptist churches, along with their Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) counterparts, are well known for covering up abuse allegations or making victims think they are to blame for what happened to them. Few women would be willing to expose themselves in this way if their allegations were untrue. The Black Color Crime Series focuses on clergy sexual misconduct. Almost five hundred stories have been posted, yet only a handful of the allegations have not been proven true. When a church woman or teenager says, my pastor sexually abused me, it’s a safe bet that she is telling the truth. Playing the innocent-until-proven-guilty game is just another way for the SBC to avoid having to come to terms with their horrible mistreatment of and indifference towards sexual abuse victims.

Second, Southern Baptists opposed to establishing a database argue that because each SBC church is independent and governs itself, the denomination can’t require them to provide data for the database. While this is certainly the case, it is within the power of the denomination to change its ways. Maybe it’s time to change church polity, and demand that if churches want to be members in good standing then they must report all allegations of sexual misconduct to the denomination. If congregations are expected to report membership numbers, attendance, baptisms, and total offerings, surely denominational leaders can demand that they provide the names of church leaders and congregants who have been accused of criminal behavior. I would think that the major insurance companies that provide insurance for SBC churches could demand database participation in order for churches to receive insurance coverage. Besides, the SBC has booted churches out of the denomination for all sorts of reasons — polity be damned — so is within the realm of possibility for the SBC to establish the database in question and discipline and/or excommunicate congregations who refuse to participate.

As it stands now, the Southern Baptist Convention is providing cover for abusers and predators. No one should expect the denomination to change until they stop their silly games and establish a national database. While doing so will not eliminate sexual abuse and predatory behavior in their churches, it will cut down on offending pastors and congregants moving on to new churches during the dark of the night.

I am not optimistic that the SBC will establish such a database. I’ve had a good bit of interaction with Southern Baptist churches, including pastoring an SBC church in Claire, Michigan. In 2005, I candidated at several SBC churches in West Virginia. The level of dysfunction found in these churches far surpasses that which I experienced in non-SBC churches. One church had a family who had fled from another state over allegations of sexual misconduct. The church took this family in without seriously investigating the allegations against them. Church leaders said, Brother and Sister So-and-So are fine, upstanding Christians. They told us the allegations levied against them were just a BIG misunderstanding. This couple was given free access to young, vulnerable congregants. Most SBC churches are quite small, attendance-wise, so when someone volunteers to “help,” church leaders are quick to accept their offers. Sexual predators count on easy access to new victims. They know how to play the church game. They know how to look the part and say the right things. And once they are given freedom to “minister,” these snakes-in-the-grass slither through the church, misusing and abusing vulnerable adults, teenagers, and children.

The Southern Baptists are worried — panicked, is a better word — over continued decreasing attendance. While the reasons for their decline are many, one obvious reason is that SBC churches are no longer considered safe havens. I am of the opinion that if parents plan on attending church, they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight. And since many of the sexual abuse scandals revolve around youth pastors and youth workers, parents should not allow their teens to attend youth meetings or entertainment activities. Church leaders can no longer be trusted to do the right thing. Congregants should stop providing their children as sacrificial lambs for predators. Just because a church conducts background checks on its employees and ministry leaders doesn’t mean that there is no risk for abuse. Many churches only conduct a criminal background check one time. This is why a national, denomination-wide database of abuse allegations is so important. The existence of a database forces congregations and their leaders to be accountable for what goes on in their churches. And at the end of the day, accountability is all that matters. Families deserve a safe place to worship their God, and churches who refuse to provide such safety should be outed, ridiculed, and banished. Surely Christians will agree with me when I say that churches who don’t protect the most vulnerable among them don’t deserve continued existence. As far as the Southern Baptist Convention is concerned, the ball is in their court. It will be interesting to see what they do in the coming months to address clergy sexual abuse and sexual misconduct in general. Past experience tells me nothing will be done. Why? Because politics, the culture war, and internecine fighting over Calvinism, women preachers, and LGBT congregants are far more important than protecting the least of these. If Southern Baptists can’t protect church children and teenagers, then perhaps it’s time to put a millstone around said Baptists’ necks and cast them into the sea. Perhaps, then, their floating, rotting, bloated corpses will provide an object lesson to other sects and churches of what happens when church leaders turn a blind eye to abuse.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Henry Clarke Admits to Sexually Abusing Boys in the 1960s

black collar crime

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Retired Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor Henry Clarke found himself with some explaining to do after it was reported that sexually abused three boys in the 1960s. Clarke admitted his crimes, saying that he abused the boys, but after moving from Ireland to Canada in the 1970s, he has not abused any children.  I assume Clarke was not prosecuted for his crimes, not an uncommon outcome in the 1960s.

The Interior News reports:

Henry Clarke, who served in the Christian and Missionary Alliance church for over 30 years, admitted in interviews with BBC North Ireland and CTV Saskatoon that he had abused three young boys in the late 1960s.

Clarke claims the abuse took place in his home country, and he has not abused any children since immigrating to Canada in the late ‘70s.

He moved to Smithers in 2001 and served at the former Alliance church until 2006, when the district shut the church on Upper Viewmount Road down due to “internal disagreements.”

….

He moved to Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, where he now lives in retirement.

Documentation of a confession Clarke made to the North Irish authorities in 1985 resurfaced in 2016, and BBC North Ireland tracked him down to his Saskatchewan home in March of the following year.

“They arrived at my door without any warning and handed me a letter and… you know, I had already spoken to the [North Ireland] police in the 1980s, and was quite surprised about the way the thing was handled,” Clarke told The Interior News.

“I mean, I said yes,that I had behaved in such a way. But the [BBC North Ireland] interviewer put his own slant on the whole story. He had suggested that I’d used coming to Canada to run away from everything; that was not true at all.”

….

“I put in over 30 years as a pastor, and I believe that I’d done an honest job. It has been difficult. Certainly there have been those that have been very supportive, and there have been a number of people who have not been supportive. But I belong to a very supportive church here, and the community here has been very supportive.”

“I’m surprised that it’s well over a year now that this is coming up again, you know? I certainly am very sorry that I’ve hurt anybody, but I certainly take responsibility for my behaviour, which is over 50 years ago,” Clarke said.

“I mean, it’s one of those situations in life, if you had it to live over again you’d know better, but … that’s where I’m at, and I’m trying to live my life now the best I can.”

Only Clarke knows whether he has abused children since the initial report of abuse. At the very least, Clarke should have told the churches he pastored about his past, and he should never have been permitted to be around children. What I want to know is this: Did the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination know of Clarke’s past? If they did, I would love to hear their explanation for allowing him to pastor.