Tag Archive: Sexual Harassment

Black Collar Crime; Evangelical Pastor Bill Hybels Accused of Inappropriate Misconduct

bill hybels

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 South Barrington, Illinois, stands accused of inappropriate conduct with several women. While none of the alleged behavior is criminal, I decided to make this story part of the Black Collar Crime series because I believe it reveals a pattern of sexual harassment by Hybels of women involved with the Willow Creek church. Either these women are working together in some sort of vast conspiracy to destroy Hybels, or it is likely that Hybels behaved in ways toward women that should be roundly condemned by Willow Creek and the Evangelical community at large.

Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Cohen, reporters for The Chicago Tribune, write:

Last October, the Rev. Bill Hybels stood before worshippers at his packed sanctuary and made a stunning announcement. After 42 years building northwest suburban Willow Creek Community Church into one of the nation’s most iconic and influential churches, Hybels was planning to step down as senior pastor.

“I feel released from this role,” he said, adding that he felt called to build on Willow Creek’s reach across 130 countries with a focus on leadership development, particularly in the poorest regions of the world.

fter introducing his successors, he invited church elders onstage at the expansive church to lay hands on them and pray.

What much of the church didn’t know was that Hybels had been the subject of inquiries into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation — including employees — allegedly spanning decades. The inquiries had cleared Hybels, and church leaders said his exit had nothing to do with the allegations.

An investigation by the Chicago Tribune examined those allegations and other claims of inappropriate behavior by Hybels, documented through interviews with current and former church members, elders and employees, as well as hundreds of emails and internal records.

The alleged behavior included suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms. It also included an allegation of a prolonged consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim about the affair was not true, the Tribune found.

Elders of the church — appointed members who oversee Willow Creek’s administration and pastor — had conducted the reviews after claims about Hybels came to their attention more than four years ago.

Pushing for the investigation were two former teaching pastors and the wife of a longtime president of the Willow Creek Association, a nonprofit organization related to the church. Some of those pressing for more scrutiny say the church’s prior investigation had shortcomings in their opinion and at least three leaders of the association’s board resigned over what they believed was an insufficient inquiry.

….

Hybels sat down with the Tribune for a lengthy interview this week and at times grew emotional as he flatly denied doing anything improper and dismissed the allegations against him as lies spun with the intent of discrediting his ministry.

The pastor said he has built his church with a culture of open conversation, strength and transparency, and said he could not understand why a group of former prominent members of his church — some of them onetime close friends — have “colluded” against him.

….

In the case of the alleged affair, the wife of the association’s outgoing president said the woman confided in her, expressing regret and misgivings. She later denied the alleged affair when contacted by an elder investigating the matter, according to internal documents and interviews.

Hybels also denied the alleged affair during an initial inquiry in 2014. The elders said they believed him.

Last year, elders retained a Chicago law firm that specializes in workplace issues to look into allegations against Hybels involving three women. According to communications from the law firm reviewed by the Tribune, that investigation was also to include any other evidence “of sex-related sin, whether conducted or condoned by Bill Hybels,” and be limited to his time as a church minister.

So far this year, two women have told the Tribune that they had been contacted by an elder to participate in a review. One of those women, Vonda Dyer, declined to participate, citing concerns about the process. Dyer, a former director of the church’s vocal ministry who often traveled with Hybels and whose husband also worked at Willow, told the Tribune that Hybels called her to his hotel suite on a trip to Sweden in 1998, unexpectedly kissed her and suggested they could lead Willow Creek together.

….

Many of the women who spoke with the Tribune were loath to come forward for fear of betraying a man who had encouraged their leadership in a way that no other pastor had before and undermining a ministry that has transformed thousands of lives. But when they heard there were other women who had similar stories to tell, even in the last year, they said their silence could not last.

“That was a bit of a tipping point for me,” said Nancy Beach, the church’s first female teaching pastor and a prominent leader in the evangelical community. She recounted more than one conversation or interaction she felt was inappropriate during moments alone with Hybels over the years.

In 1999, he asked Beach to tack two extra days on to a European trip and meet him on the coast of Spain to coach a church, she said. With two young children and a working husband at home, Beach didn’t want to extend the trip but said she also didn’t want to disappoint her boss.

But during their two days there, work took a backseat to leisurely walks, long dinners and probing personal conversations, she said.

Over a three-hour dinner, she said he told her that she needed to loosen up and take more emotional risks. He asked her what her most attractive body part was, then told her it was her arms, she said. It also wasn’t the first time he talked about how unhappy he was in his marriage, she recalled.

“I’m thinking, ‘As a good friend, I’m going to be a sounding board for him,’ which is totally inappropriate on my part, but I didn’t see it that way at the time,” she said. “I knew him since I was 15. He was my pastor. In all those years, nothing inappropriate had happened with him and me.”

But something had changed, she recalled.

After dinner, Beach said Hybels invited her to his hotel room for a glass of wine. Before she left, she recalls him giving her an awkwardly long embrace.

“He would always say, ‘You don’t know how to hug. That’s not a real hug.’ So it was like a lingering hug that made me feel uncomfortable. But again, I’m trying to prove that I’m this open person.”

The next day, Beach recalled, Hybels didn’t seem happy. They didn’t have any more long conversations and flew separate flights home. A week later, he asked Beach to stay after a management team meeting and suggested they not tell anyone about what happened in Spain, she said.

“I was so embarrassed. I was like ‘Oh, no. We’re fine.’ And I never did,” she said. “I didn’t tell my husband until recently when all this stuff came out. I just put it in the category of ‘That was really strange.’”

She did tell church elders in 2016 about the alleged incident but later declined to cooperate with an inquiry that she believed didn’t meet the criteria of a truly independent investigation.

In the years to come, Hybels occasionally invited Beach to his house after midweek worship services to catch up, she said, adding that she stopped going when she realized he invited her only when his wife was away.

….

Raised in rural Iowa in a conservative Christian community that eschewed the idea of women in the pulpit, Vonda Dyer discovered a whole new world at Willow Creek when she came east to attend Wheaton College.

She was immediately drawn to Willow’s contemporary sound and approach to evangelism and volunteered on the vocal team. She eventually became a full-time employee in 1997. She met and married her husband, Scott, a youth music pastor also at Willow.

Both became part of Hybels’ travel team and accompanied him on more than a dozen trips. But Vonda Dyer said she made it into Hybels’ inner circle and accompanied him on more trips.

Since Hybels spent most of his summers at a second home in South Haven, Mich., he occasionally took Dyer and others out on his sailboat, Dyer said. On one such excursion with another female colleague, she said he joked that any woman who drops the winch handle had to give the men on the boat a “blowjob.” Dyer told her husband at the time, an account that he confirmed recently to the Tribune.

On one international trip, Hybels invited Vonda Dyer alone to his hotel room with explicit instructions to exclude her husband who was there too, the Dyers said. On another trip, Hybels called her up to his room and answered the door, freshly showered, wearing slacks with no shirt and just staring at her, she said. He made a casual remark, she said, before she returned downstairs, wondering why she had been called there in the first place. Her husband remembers being told by Vonda about that as well.

“It was these situations that were not enough to say that it crossed a major line,” she said, “but enough to make you go, ‘Whoa, what was that?’”

Hybels denied that alleged incident occurred.

Vonda Dyer said Hybels did cross a line in Sweden in February 1998.

Dyer was getting ready to go to bed when Hybels summoned her to his room. Her roommate at the time said in an interview with the Tribune that she remembers picking up the phone and relaying Hybels’ message.

Dyer recounted that she went to Hybels’ room where he poured wine and invited her to stretch out on the couch while he sat in a separate chair. She said she presumed it would be a quick chat when he told her that he had taken Ambien, a sleep aid.

The conversation quickly turned uncomfortable, she said, when he started complimenting her appearance and criticizing her husband, and suggested they lead Willow together. She said he came over, put his hands on her waist, caressed her stomach and kissed her.

“He told me what he thought about how I looked, very specifically, what he thought about my leadership gifts, my strengths,” she said. She recalled Hybels told her she was “sexy.” “That was the night that he painted a picture of what great leaders we would be. We could lead Willow together.”

You can read the entire long form Chicago Tribune article here.

Baptist Church Sign Says How Women Dress to Blame for Sexual Harassment

emmanuel baptist church jeffersonville

This sign pretty well tells you all you need to know about Emmanuel Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The church’s pastor says he didn’t give permission for the message to be put on the sign, and it has since been taken down. Sure, pastor, sure.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Jonathan Mills Accused of Sexual Harassment

pastor jonathan mills

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.

Several female members of Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, have accused their pastor, Jonathan Mills, of sexually harassing them.

WAVY-10 reports:

The North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church has confirmed that four women have made sexual harassment complaints about Pastor Jonathan Mills of Kitty Hawk Methodist.

Conference communications director Derek Leek says Pastor Mills is suspended for up to 90 days as part of the complaint process, effective December 19.

Kitty Hawk police say no one has filed any criminal complaints against Mills.

Mills has been pastor at Kitty Hawk United Methodist since July of 2016.

It’s unclear how many of the women who have complained are Kitty Hawk Methodist members, but Leek says he believes they do attend church there.

Church officials say the Bishop’s office in Raleigh is handling the investigation of the claims of sexual harassment, and is working toward “a just resolution with healing and accountability.”

Leek says they are currently trying to determine the nature of the alleged behavior and whether the allegations can be substantiated.

When we tried to reach Reverend Mills by his church email and phone to get his response to the claims, we got this response instead from the North Carolina Conference:

“Due to the complaint process, Reverend Mills is not allowed to talk to anyone at this time. This creates a time of safety for the complainants, for Reverend Mills and the church.”

….

Quote of the Day: Why Are Women Rarely Accused of Sexual Harassment? by Maria Puente

In the fire-hose torrent of sexual harassment scandals we are staggering under these days, one thing stands out as a common factor in all the cases: The accused are men.

“One of the reasons it is men who harass women, and sometimes other men, is that this is about power and overwhelmingly (workplace) upper management is male, so the positions of power are disproportionately occupied by men and the bottom is disproportionately occupied by women,” says Abigail Saguy, professor of sociology and gender studies at UCLA and author of the 2003 book, What is Sexual Harassment?

You may be thinking at this point… well, duh, this is something we all know instinctively. Women don’t do this kind of thing — grope, talk dirty, assault, sexually coerce, even rape their work colleagues. It’s a Y chromosome kind of thing, right?

But not so fast. Franklin Raddish, a South Carolina Baptist pastor with a nationwide following, last month declared, as a means of supporting Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (who lost Tuesday), that accusations of sexual harassment against men in politics and Hollywood amounted to a “war on men.”

“More women are sexual predators than men,” opined Raddish. “Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC.”

He provided no evidence of this because, well, there isn’t any.

Still, there are exceptions that prove the rule: On Friday, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Kansas dropped out of her race after The Kansas City Star found out she had been accused in a 2005 lawsuit of sexually harassing and retaliating against a male subordinate who rejected her advances when she was a corporate executive.

….

Which leads to the question: What are the numbers on women accused of sexual harassment? Has anyone conducted scientific surveys and found some? What’s the reason why it appears the vast majority of people accused of workplace sexual harassment are men?

And what’s the reason few men ever file formal complaints?

“Pride gets in the way,” says Todd Harrison, a partner in a California firm that handles thousands of employment-law cases per year. “Most good plaintiffs attorneys who handle discrimination and harassment claims take on female-to-male harassment and the same (laws) apply. It’s just a matter of whether the men who are victims want to come forward.”

There are few numbers available about women sexual harassers, and some of the numbers available are more than a decade old.

“It is extremely rare — it does happen but it is extremely rare,” says Genie Harrison, a Los Angeles-based attorney who specializes in workplace sexual-harassment cases. “Men can be victims and women can be abusers, and I’ve represented victims where a woman was the harasser, but I would say it’s at best a 99.9%-to-.01% ratio.”

Various government agencies, such as the military, the federal employee system or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, keep track of complaints of workplace sexual harassment but they generally focus on the accusers, not the accused.

— In the most recent data available from the EEOC, there were 6,758 complaints of sexual harassment allegations received by the commission in 2016, and a little more than 16% were filed by men. But the data don’t say who did the harassing — a woman or another man.

Moreover, EEOC data do not provide a comprehensive picture of the entire country. Plus, the agency estimates that most people, male or female, who have experienced harassment (more than 80%) never file a formal complaint about it.

….

Emily Martin, general counsel and vice president for workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, who handles workplace sexual harassment issues, agrees that women harassers are a “minority of cases” because women are less likely to exercise power over men at work.

“I’ve never worked with a client where a woman was the harasser; we’re a women’s-rights organization so the individuals who tend to reach out to us are women,” Martin says. “And women who target other women (for harassment) is an unusual fact pattern.”

Jennifer Berdahl, a professor in the business school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver who studies the harassment of men, says harassment is also about gender and how society defines it. Males learn a sense of superiority over females from the time they are children, she says.

Being a man means being superior to a woman and dominating women sexually or otherwise; sexual harassment is taking that (thinking) to an extreme,” Berdahl says. “It’s possible there’s a rare woman who might get off on dominating a person like that but men are socialized from the age of 3 to think of themselves as being ‘a real man,’ defined as dominating women.”

In her research, she says, she’s found that the most common way a woman would harass a man is to question his manhood. For many men, she says, being scorned as “feminine” or “weak” is too humiliating to report.

Another source of limited data on women harassers: Law firms that specialize in employment law and sexual harassment cases, such as Perona, Langer, Beck, Serbin, Mendoza & Harrison in Long Beach, Calif.

Todd Harrison, a partner in the firm, estimates he handles about 150 cases of employment law a year, and about 65% of them are sex harassment cases. Of those, 10% — or less than 10 cases per year — involve women as the accused harassers, he said.

“Sexual harassment is not just about sexual innuendo or jokes or pats on the butt, it’s about power and intimidation, so the cases I’ve handled (involving women harassers), it’s normally a woman in a control position and using that power to intimidate men,” Harrison says.

“Sometimes there are sexual overtures, inappropriate touching without consent, offers for quid pro quo or sex for promotion,” he added. “A lot of times it’s a powerful woman in an organization who will talk down or treat a man different from his female counterparts.”

But men can be reluctant to  come forward to complain due to fear of mockery, he says. Men may also buy into the notion that female-on-male harassment isn’t even possible.

“Embarrassment is always an issue,” Harrison says. “Societal norms say men are supposed to be able to handle this. But we have men (clients) who say, ‘It’s just not fair. We’re always accused of it, here’s a situation where we’ve been victimized by a person in authority.’ ”

….

— Maria Puente, USA Today, Women are Rarely Accused of Sexual Harassment, and There’s a Reason Why, December 18, 2017

Presbyterian Pastor C. Ernest Williams Blames Baby Boomers for Sexual Harassment Culture

make love not war
Ernest Williams, a retired Presbyterian minister, blames the current spate of sexual harassment allegations on baby boomers. According to Williams, the free-love generation threw Christian morality to the wind, leading to all sorts of sexual perversion and misbehavior. Ironically, Williams is a Trump supporter. Evidently, helping to elect a pussy-grabbing, serial sexual predator to the highest office in the land is okay, but using coarse language, viewing pornography, and fucking contrary to the Intercourse Rulebook® — the Bible — is not.  Williams is the textbook example of a hypocrite. Williams, as many of his ilk do, pines for a return to the glory days of the 1950s; days when women knew their place, gays were deep in the closet, and Christianity and its moral prohibitions ruled the land.

Here’s what Williams had to say in an opinion piece for The Paris Post-Intelligencer (Paris, Tennessee) titled ‘Cultural shift’ in Public Attitude Toward Sexual Morality Took Place 50 Years Ago:

We’ve been battered for weeks now with allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

Add to those the smell of scandal surrounding a growing number of Hollywood personalities.

The media are talking about a “cultural shift” in the public’s attitude toward sexual morality.

Shock is being professed that leaders in the worlds of politics and entertainment are seeing the ends of their careers over the abuse of women in the workplace.

Of course, we recognize that such hanky-panky has been going on as far back as we can research.


The other reason is that the “cultural shift” which the media are just now discovering happened in the 1960s and ’70s.

It was in the ’60s that I became a seminary student, and saw some of the changes occurring on the campus of a top-rung Ivy League university (Princeton).

I was not naive. I had been in the army, and was familiar with the sexual immorality which was flaunted by my fellow barracks-mates, and by the underground pornographic material which they mysteriously found somewhere despite its illegality.

But something new was happening.

This kind of immorality had been confined to the businesses that had constantly to keep a low profile and to bribe the authorities in order to operate.

But now it became open, visible and eventually mainstream.

When the movie, “Deep Throat” created a stir about 1970, it did not appear in an XXX-rated shack in a back alley, but in a first-run theater on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

From that point, Hollywood increasingly purveyed the world-view of a whole new generation of producers whose heroes were people like Helen Gurley Brown and Hugh Hefner with their zeal for unrestricted sex-play.

There was an openly declared purpose to change our society and create a cultural shift.

Walk into a college classroom, or even your local middle school, and listen carefully, and you’ll see how successful they were.

The old norms of what was naughty and what was nice are gone.

The cultural shift took place some 50 years ago, and it blew away the cultural expectations for decency in language and sexual behavior that had been considered normal, even though some had always flouted them.

What the big mainstream media, whose professionals are part of the changed culture, have not realized is that there has always been about half the population who did not make the shift back then, and have continued to stand for traditional American values.

They are outraged to see obscene words, if not printed, then clearly indicated with initials and asterisks, on their TV screens.

They are outraged to see their elected officials engaging in conduct that they do not want as examples for their children and grandchildren.

They are outraged to see a man refusing to stand for the national anthem, or to be urged to do their “holiday shopping.”

And they are tired of being regarded as uneducated hicks who are hopelessly out of the times and out of the culture which for the elite has become normal.

These elite just couldn’t believe it when Donald Trump was elected U.S. president on a platform that seemed to them to appeal only to a few remaining and aging survivors of the old order.

The “cultural shift” they see now is not a shift at all for the Trump voters.

It is just the ongoing American tradition and people are thankful to the God in whom they still believe that they finally have someone in the White House who understands and shares their love of America.

It is those reared by the culture of the ’60s who consider “making love instead of war” to be normal, who can’t understand what is going on.

They see the rotten fruit of their culture in these celebrities, and not knowing that it was produced by the rotten tree of the sexual revolution, wonder where it came from.

….

There ya have it, baby boomers. Yet another cultural malady is that is your fault.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

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Female by Keith Urban

keith urbanWhat follows is a video of the Keith Urban singing Female. The song fits well with the current national discussion about women and sexual harassment.

Video Link

Lyrics

When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?

Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo, mother
Nature, fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, holy water
Secret keeper, fortune teller
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter
Technicolor, river wild
Baby girl, woman child
Female

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just ’cause she was wearin’ a skirt
Oh, is that how that works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make Eve second best
Or did He save the best for last?

Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo, mother
Nature, fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, holy water
Secret keeper, fortune teller
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter
Technicolor, river wild
Baby girl, woman child
Female
Yeah, female

She’s the heart of life
She’s the dreamer’s dream
She’s the hands of time
She’s the queen of kings

Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo, mother
Nature, fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, holy water
Secret keeper, fortune teller
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter
Technicolor, river wild
Baby girl, woman child
Female
Mhm, female

Pastor Jeff Harris’ Doublespeak on Whether Women are to Blame for How Men Treat Them

modesty

Jeff Harris, pastor of Grace Point Church in San Antonio, Texas and founder of Missional Association, says that a man’s sin is never the fault of a woman, yet he turns right around and says scantily, “sinfully” clad women are indeed culpable when horn dog males act inappropriately towards females.  Here’s what Harris had to say on the subject:

Sexual harassment fills the headlines of our culture and the discussion is long overdue.  It is good that those who’ve been harassed now feel empowered to name those who have perpetrated unwanted advances, groping, and even rape.

Let me be clear—a man’s sin is never the fault of a woman. A provocatively-dressed woman doesn’t make a man sin. A sensuously-acting woman doesn’t cause a man to sin. The issue is that, in our culture, we don’t look at provocative dress or sensual acting as sin. This is not blame-shifting, because an individual’s sin is their own. But, it does take place in an environment we are all responsible for. I believe there is a facet of this complex, multi-faceted issue that needs to be part of the larger conversation.

We live in a culture where the Supreme Court deems porn as “the right to freedom of the press” Ha! We live in a culture where women wear yoga pants and bra tops as everyday fashion, seemingly unaware of the tenuous balance between dressing for style or comfort and dressing attractively (as in, “to attract”). Think about the word for a moment: “attractively.”  Attracting what?

In 1 Timothy 2:9 in the Bible, we read this instruction:  “Likewise I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.”

Modesty is lost in our culture. The intersection of sexual objectification and sexual allure results in all kinds of distorted behavior. We have legalized the objectification of women and socialized provocation of men.

Sin is sin! Men who objectify women have distorted and diminished women as conquests for their own gratification. Women who dress immodestly turn themselves into an idol to be sought after and adored. When the two are left unabated in a culture, you get a combustion of sin.

I’m glad we are talking about harassment and the vile practice of using fame, power, or position as a platform to foist oneself upon a colleague. I also think if we called immodesty sin the discussion would be far more common and the culprits would be far more numerous.

Most women I know would be shocked by the way their dress is seen as sexual by the men around them. They are unaware because they have been desensitized by an immodest culture. Modesty is not old-fashioned; it is common sense. Men who sexually harass are called “Predators” but you don’t often hear of the sexually-provocative referred to as “Prey.” At some point, the sexual revolution gave women a free pass. They want the same rights as men but not all the responsibility.

A man should be responsible not to harass a woman just because he has power, position, or fame.  A woman should be responsible to present herself in a way that doesn’t scream “want me,” “watch me,” “be attracted to me.” Saying it’s a man’s problem if he glances at the yoga pant-wearing soccer mom at the dentist office is simply naïve as well as disproportionate responsibility shift. The man has the responsibility to guard his heart and eyes. The woman has the responsibility for modesty (to not draw idolatry-like attention to herself).

….

Now, as the accusation of harassment is enough to ruin one’s career, don’t be surprised if some guard rails are put into place. This is not to say harassment is caused by provocative dress; it’s not. A man has to own his own sin. They do coexist within the same environment and a woman must own hers. But first, our culture must acknowledge it.

Harris wants it both ways. He rightly wants to hold men accountable for their behavior, but he also wants to hold women accountable for men’s behavior too, while, somehow, someway, ignoring how men (and women) view and process women dressed in attractive ways. Harris chooses to parrot the Puritanical, anti-human Bible as justification for his pronouncements on the matter instead of demonstrating a basic understanding of human biology and nature.

Women wear what they do for many reasons, as do men. One reason even the good pastor should understand is that humans dress in manners that make them attractive to the opposite sex (or the same sex). When women dress in ways that call attention to their beauty and physicality, they are playing their part in a dance that has been going on for thousands of years. I don’t know of a man who married his wife for her ugliness. Why, out of the all the young women at Midwestern Baptist College, did I set my affection and desire on a dark-haired, shy pastor’s daughter? Her sewing skills? Her typing skills? Her cooking skills? No, I knew nothing of those things when I first met Polly Anne Shope some forty years ago. What I “saw” was a beautiful, attractive woman, a lady who quickly became the love of my life, and remains so to this day.modesty 2

I am not a woman so I can’t speak to the motivations of women when it comes to their wardrobes. Women are free to dress as they please, and men such as Harris have no business shaming them into dressing in ways that make men feel “comfortable.” If a man finds himself sexually attracted to a woman, it is one hundred percent his responsibility to act appropriately. Honest men will admit that they find other women besides their wives, partners, or girlfriends sexually attractive. Duh, right? Looking (not leering) is a healthy, normal male response to women whom men find attractive. What is not appropriate is sexually harassing women, physically assaulting them, or taking advantage of them. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and all-around creepy behavior is never appropriate even if a woman is standing stark naked in front of a man.

Men are expected to own their sexuality and behave appropriately. There’s nothing wrong with a man expressing interest to a woman, but when she says, no thanks, that’s the end of the discussion. Continuing to pursue a woman who has said “no” is harassment. And it goes without saying that using one’s position of authority and power to take advantage of a woman is morally reprehensible and culturally frowned upon.

Evangelical pastors have been blaming women for male ill-behavior for as long as I can remember. Using the Bible as justification for their pronouncements, pastors teach women that they are gatekeepers given the responsibility to ensure that men don’t “sin” with their eyes (ignoring the fact that women can be and often are just as visually driven as men). How about we go all Biblical on weak, helpless, lustful Christian men and pluck their eyes out. Jesus said in Matthew 18:9:

 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

It’s time for men, Christian or not, to own their sexuality. Men are totally responsible for how they act and respond to women, regardless of how they may be dressing or behaving. No man is so helpless that he cannot control his behavior. Offenders choose to blame women because doing so allows them to continue treating women as objects, and not fellow human beings worthy of respect.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

“On High Alert” From a Woman’s Point of View

guest post

Guest post by ObstacleChick

With the recent flood of high-profile sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Roy Moore, and a variety of others, there is a tremendous amount of conversation regarding sexual abuse. While it is despicable that these people abused others, it is good that so many victims have felt empowered to speak up, creating more awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse. A little over a year ago, the conversation came to the forefront in the running community when 3 women in 3 separate states were attacked and killed while they were out running. This excellent in-depth article from “Runner’s World” sums up what women would like for men to know – please read it. There is some good information about harassment in general that will benefit male and female readers alike

Prior to the “Runner World” article, I had not realized that unless I am inside my home or in another place I consider safe, I am always on alert. I am always cognizant of who is around me, whether they look threatening, and locations of my possible escape routes. There’s always the realization that I could become a target of someone with nefarious intent. People have told me that I walk very confidently, with a don’t-mess-with-me attitude. My mother used to joke that she felt sorry for anyone who tried to kidnap me because I would fight like a tiger despite my small stature.

My grandfather was a World War II combat veteran, and he taught me to always be alert in public and how to fight if I ever was attacked. One tip he gave was to carry your keys in your fist with the sharp keys sticking out between your fingers so you could punch someone in the face with the keys. He said to aim for the eyes to inflict most effective damage. If I was walking without keys, he instructed me to pretend to like the guy and touch his face to take him off guard, then to jam my thumbs into his eyeballs, grab his head near the ears, bring my knee up and jam his face into my knee as hard as I could, and then run like hell to a public place. He said to do whatever I needed to do to fight, and to yell “fire, fire” to get people’s attention. He said people might not be interested in an attack, but they would be interested in a fire.

While I have been very fortunate to have never suffered a physical attack, I have been cat-called on many occasions. Once when I was out running on a Sunday morning, someone in a windowless delivery van slowed down to follow me on a less-populated road around a reservoir. I promptly turned around and ran in the opposite direction back toward the homes, church, and police station on the road. I got the license plate number and reported it to the police station. People should not assume that women are only “checked out” when they are wearing something skimpy – this was in the winter, and I was wearing long pants, a jacket, a hat and gloves, and I was still followed — followed for being female while running. In fact, every time I have been cat-called while running, I was mostly covered. The time I was least-covered when I was cat-called was when I was wearing a long t-shirt and long shorts, and I was visibly pregnant. When a cyclist called out “nice ass” as he passed, it was winter and I was covered head to toe. Regardless of what we are wearing, women should not have to hear unsolicited comments like “nice ass” or “hey, hot stuff,” or “hot mama,” and we certainly shouldn’t be followed.

I have reminded my teenage son countless times that cat-calling is unacceptable behavior. The vast majority of women do not like it, and what do guys really think the outcome is going to be? Do they actually believe that if they tell me I have a nice posterior that I will say, “hey, baby, pull over that car and let’s go get it on”? Maybe some women will, but the vast, vast majority will not. And every time someone cat-calls me, it makes me angry. Some people have told me, “oh, that’s a compliment,” or “at your age, you should be glad that someone still thinks you’re hot” (I’m 48). NO! I do not consider it a compliment, I consider it unwanted attention that could be a precursor to something worse. It’s a situation in which I have to evaluate whether I need to flee, fight, or call the police.

Last year when the running attacks occurred, I had discussions with men about always being on alert. Even the most empathetic among them cannot understand what it is like to be on alert like this. Some men thought I was being overly dramatic. Others accused me of having a victim mentality. And yet others thought I was being paranoid. The only people I found who genuinely understood were other women or men who had been sexually assaulted.

Men can definitely be sexually assaulted, and I know of several who have been, but usually the abuse occurred when they were children or teens. Sexual assault is generally an act of control – someone who is stronger or in some way more powerful is exerting sexual control over another person. The recipient may be physically weaker, or they may be in a position of subordination (as in employer toward an employee), or the recipient may be below the age of consent. There may be a combination of these factors. In any case, the recipient is in a disadvantaged position. For example, the accusers of Roy Moore were either below the age of consent or they were young teens propositioned by a prominent attorney – someone with influence in the community. Each girl was at a disadvantage.

How can we as responsible adults make a difference? While I do not pretend to know all the answers to that question, I have identified some things that I can do personally. I can teach my children what sexual abuse means. I can teach them that they can and should say NO in any situation in which they are uncomfortable. I can teach them ways they can protect themselves, both in terms of fighting an attacker and in surveying a situation in which attack could occur. I can teach them to encourage their friends to speak up whenever they encounter sexual abuse. I can teach them to be supportive of others who report sexual abuse and not to automatically blame the victim. Even asking “what was she wearing?” or “was she out alone?” are subtle implications that the victim shares in the blame for someone choosing to assault another human being. Is it wise for women to be on alert, to walk with someone else rather than alone, to perhaps carry pepper spray? Indeed, these ways can help in the immediacy. In the long term we as members of society need to be discussing what sexual abuse means and creating a culture in which victims can come forward and not be immediately doubted and dismissed or considered culpable. We need to stop making excuses for abusers. We need to stop glamorizing and dismissing sexual assault in movies. For example, in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” Han Solo forcefully kisses Princess Leia while she is trying to fix equipment even though she has told him multiple times and in no uncertain terms that she isn’t interested. Fast forward to “Return of the Jedi” when they are a couple. This teaches boys that no doesn’t mean no, she doesn’t really mean it, she wants you to kiss her and she will fall in love with you even though she seems mad at you right now.

No, that behavior is not OK. It is assault.

I hope one day our society will teach our children to use their voices to protect themselves. I hope that they will not feel afraid or like they are being mean by vehemently saying “NO” to someone who wants touch them or convince them to do an act with which they are uncomfortable. I hope that we as a society won’t automatically seek ways to blame the victim or to excuse the acts of a perpetrator. Until then, I will remain on alert.

Hugging Women (and Men) in Church

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Last Christmas season, I had an interesting interaction with a female stranger at one of my oldest granddaughter’s high school basketball games. As you know, I have a white beard, ruddy complexion, and a portly figure. As a result, people often think I am Santa Claus. Children give me long stares, whereas adults tend to tell me that they have been real good this year, so they are expecting lots of gifts from me. As I was leaving the aforementioned basketball game, I heard someone say, “Look, Santa’s a Bengal’s fan” (I had my Cincinnati Bengals hat on). The woman came down from the stands and asked if she could take a selfie with me so she could show her husband that Santa roots for the Bengals. I said, sure. I thought that we would stand next to each other as she snapped the smartphone photograph. Instead, she put her arm around me and drew me close, acting as if we were best friends. I am certain the woman meant nothing by her warm, affectionate embrace, but it sure embarrassed me and made me feel uncomfortable. I quickly exited the gym, glad to be free of the woman’s perfumed embrace.

The sexual harassment of women has been in the news lately. I, for one, am glad that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. Part of the sexual harassment discussion has to do with understanding boundaries and treating others with respect. We should never lay our hands on people without their permission; even if we are innocently doing so. We should never behave in ways that cause others to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

This got me thinking about all the women (and men) I have hugged in church over the years. I hugged hundreds of people during my time as an Evangelical pastor. I viewed the hugs as a sign of love. Hugging is a common practice among Evangelicals. I suspect most former Evangelical readers know what I am talking about. It was assumed that everyone was okay with being hugged by non-family members. After all, the church was viewed as our real family, and families hug each other, so it was deemed appropriate for congregants, without permission, to hug one another. I wonder, in light of current discussions about sexual harassment, if it might be time to take a closer look at hugging in church.

I am not overtly emotional in public. I don’t hug my children, nor do I tell them that I love them every time I see them. My family knows I love them, not because of words or outward displays of affection, but because I am there for them no matter what; because, when they need help, I am always available; because when they ask me to do something for them, I always say “Yes.” I am, emotionally, very much like my parents. This drives some people crazy. People who are clap-happy seals needing verbal pronouncements of love tend to think I am uncaring or indifferent. For a long time, I felt guilty about not being emotionally exuberant when it was “expected” of me. Finally, I reached a place in my life where I realized that it was okay for me to be who and what I am; that the clap-happy seal crowd doesn’t have the right to demand from me certain emotional responses.

I hugged people in church because I thought it was expected of me. I never felt comfortable doing so, but I viewed hugging as part of my job description. I now wonder if there were congregants — especially women — who felt as I did. I wonder if these women felt they were being sexually harassed/assaulted in Jesus’ name. At the very least, the hugging violated the personal space of others. People should have the inviolate right to not be touched by others without first giving permission. While most church hugging is benign, I have no doubt that there are some men who are sexually stimulated when hugging female church members. I wrote about his several weeks ago in a post titled, Beware of Deacon Bob.

We have reached a place culturally where people have a right not to have their persons violated. In the case of women, in particular, many of them have had to endure inappropriate touching out of not wanting to make a fuss in public. Perhaps, it is time to make a fuss. Perhaps, men need to be taught how to properly interact with the fairer sex. The rules are quite simple: no physical contact without permission. Want to hug someone? Ask first. Years ago, when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we were repeatedly assaulted by well-meaning Christians who were way too familiar with us — people we had never met before. From hugs to interrogations about where we lived and worked, we often felt we were being mugged. On more than one occasion I wanted to tell the person interrogating us, I’m sorry. I don’t have sex on the first date. Of course, I was too polite to say this. I wonder if I am alone in feeling this way. I suspect I am not, that many readers have had their personal space violated time and again by well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) people. How about we all agree to respect each other enough to keep our hands to ourselves. If you want to hug people you don’t know, ask them if it is okay for you to do so. If they say “Yes,” then, by all means, hug them, keeping your hands where they belong and not hugging them in a way that turns from friendly to sexual. In other words, learn what boundaries are and practice them.

Did you attend a hugging church?  Were you hugged without permission? How did this make you feel? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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: Youth Pastor Sues Bryan Stamper and Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church Over Sexual Harassment

pastor bryan stamper

Dawn Neldon, formerly the youth pastor at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego, California, is suing Pastor Bryan Stamper and the church for “for sexual harassment and for terminating her after she complained to church administrators.”

Dorian Hargrove, a reporter for San Diego Reader, reports:

Dawn Neldon was hired in 2008 to serve as a youth minister. After a number of years working for the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, Neldon was promoted to a “minister of missions and serving” position inside the church.

In March 2017, the church named Bryan Stamper, a pastor from Texas, as its new head pastor. That same month Neldon and Stamper, along with other church staffers, took a bus to a conference in Irvine, California. During the ride, Stamper sat next to Neldon. He told Neldon about a former parishioner, an older lady, who, according to the complaint, liked to grab “his butt every time he saw her.” He said he was happy to give her that little thrill.

The story, in addition to his flirtatious behavior, made Neldon uncomfortable. Later at the conference, Stamper addressed Neldon as “honey, baby, and sweetheart.” During the ride home Stamper approached Neldon and compared his body to a “Lamborghini” that “couldn’t be kept in the garage.”

According to the complaint, Stamper’s comments made Neldon uncomfortable.

The alleged harassment continued. Examples include Stamper asking Neldon to dance with him in front of the entire congregation during his first official sermon, commenting on her clothing, kissing his biceps and calling them “pythons.”

In another incident, Stamper ran up to Neldon singing a song from Grease and trying to dance provocatively with her. Neldon would raise her arms in order to avoid touching him.

In May 2017, after numerous other inappropriate interactions, Neldon filed a formal complaint to church administrators. She approached Stamper with her complaint. According to the August 7 lawsuit, Stamper offered a “meager apology” but did nothing to correct the behavior.

In August 2017, Neldon was placed on administrative leave. Days later, after nearly ten years as a youth pastor, she was forced to resign.

Neldon is suing Stamper and the church for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and failure to prevent retaliation and harassment.

Neldon’s attorney Dan Gilleon says the church needs to be held accountable, “Like many of my female clients, Minister Neldon is working in a male-dominated industry that, in many ways, is no different than other employers who simply refuse to accept that discrimination is illegal in America. It’s a shame. You’d think a business that claims moral superiority would behave better. Minister Neldon will pay a price for speaking out, as is the case for many women who blow the whistle. But, true to her word, my client is thinking of the other women out there who might benefit once it finally sinks in for employers that civil rights will be enforced in the courtroom.”

The church has issued a press release:

Dear Church Family,

We would like to inform you, our congregation, about some recent events that have taken place.

A former employee, through her attorneys, has filed a lawsuit against RBCPC, San Diego Presbytery, Presbytery USA and our Lead Pastor.

We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. We care about all parties involved and are praying for a quick and Christ-centered resolution.

The Church, Presbytery and our Lead Pastor are working with their respective legal counsel. Please understand we cannot discuss these matters beyond acknowledging them nor can we provide any additional information beyond that which is public record.

However, we are committed to keeping you informed and at ease as we navigate this situation. Please pray with us for all parties involved.

Sincerely,

The Elders of RBCPC