Andrew Jackson, youth pastor for The Victory Tabernacle of Hot Springs United Pentecostal Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas was convicted Thursday of rape. Jackson could face up to eighty years in prison for his crimes. Steven Mross with the Hot Springs Sentinel Recorder reports:
A former youth pastor accused of raping two teenage girls in 2014 in Hot Springs was convicted Thursday after a four-day trial in Garland County Circuit Court and could face up to 80 years in prison.
Andrew Lee Jackson, 31, who lists a White Hall address, was found guilty of two felony counts of rape, with the eight-man, four-woman jury recommending a sentence of 40 years on each count. Jackson, who was taken into custody after the verdict and is being held on zero bond, is scheduled to be formally sentenced April 11. Judge Marcia Hearnsberger will decide at the sentencing hearing whether to run the sentences concurrently or consecutively.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Jackson guilty and less than 30 minutes to recommend the sentence. Lawrence noted Hearnsberger did not instruct the jury to decide on consecutive or concurrent and would be making the decision herself.
Jackson was originally charged with 13 counts of rape, with 10 involving one victim, who was 16 at the time, and three involving the younger victim, who was 13 at the time, one for each incident of rape, but Lawrence said they amended it to two counts, one for each victim, before the trial since each count is punishable by up to life in prison.
The jury heard three days of testimony beginning Monday, including testimony from both victims, Garland County sheriff’s investigators, the girls’ therapist, Jackson, his wife, and his pastor from childhood during the guilt phase.
Lawrence said they also presented cellphone evidence involving text messages sent between Jackson and the two victims that corroborated the victims’ allegations, and she noted that she felt it was a significant factor in the jury’s decision.
They also presented witnesses who “saw various things” which also corroborated the victim’s story, including one who “walked in” on Jackson and the 16-year-old “under the covers” and another who testified about being involved in a three-way phone call with Jackson and one victim.
She said the victims, who each went through three years of counseling and therapy, were both “able to take the stand and talk about what happened to them,” and it was clear the jury believed them.
While the charge involving the 13-year-old was based solely on her age at the time, Lawrence said she used a different approach with the 16-year-old, arguing Jackson was essentially her guardian because she was living with Jackson and his wife at the time the rapes occurred.
“Even though he wasn’t her parent or foster parent, he still qualified as her guardian because she had moved in with him and his wife,” she said, noting that under the law he was then guilty of rape if the victim was younger than 18 years old.
She told investigators she would often spend the night at the Jackson home, sleeping in the living room with Jackson and his wife on a sectional sofa separated into three pieces. She said at one point Jackson told her he “felt like a monster” for what he had done, although she was uncertain what all happened during the encounter because she was asleep.
She said she knew she and Jackson first had sexual relations about a week before the start of school in August on the sectional in the living room while his wife was asleep on the other section.
Jackson was arrested on Dec. 22, 2014, and charged with three counts of rape.
The victim’s sister, 16, was interviewed at that time about any possible sexual contact she had with Jackson, but initially denied anything had happened between them.
The sisters shared a cellphone and had both communicated with Jackson on the phone. In reviewing text messages from the phone, investigators felt confident the 16-year-old was also a victim of sexual abuse.
On Sept. 21, 2016, the sister was interviewed again at Cooper-Anthony and disclosed she had sexual intercourse with Jackson “at least 10 times,” beginning in August 2014 and continuing through October 2014.
She stated the rapes occurred in a bedroom at Jackson’s home and the first time he had covered her mouth while he raped her. She punched him at one point during the rape trying to get him off her. She said Jackson threatened her, telling her if she told anyone he would burn up her family’s house with her and her family inside.
She said Jackson continued to have sex with her almost weekly for nearly three months and that she was scared what he might do if she told anyone.
When questioned, Jackson confirmed he and his wife would sleep in the living room on the sofa sections, but denied the victim’s accusations and insisted his only relationship with her was that of youth pastor.
Wright noted that in mid-December 2014, he viewed “inappropriate text messages” extracted from the victim’s phone, which indicated Jackson had “much more than a youth pastor relationship” with the victim.
In the texts, Jackson made such comments as “I love you so much” and “I missed you this weekend terribly” and “I’m sorry I can’t be with you.”
Why is it that many Evangelical Christians have a hard time believing that pastors, evangelists, parachurch leaders, Christian university presidents, and other notable Christian leaders commit crimes such as sexual assault, rape, child abuse, murder, and fraud or otherwise engage in behaviors deemed by faithful Christians to be sinful? Every time I write a post about a pastor or some other Christian leader committing crime or behaving in ways that make them out to be hypocrites, I end up getting comments and emails from people objecting to my publicizing the story. Often, these objectors leave comments that suggest that they have some sort of inside knowledge about the matter, and once the “truth” comes out the accused will be vindicated. Other objectors will take the “they are innocent until proven guilty” approach, subtly suggesting that these kinds of stories should not be publicized until there has been a trial and a conviction. With righteous indignation they attack me, the messenger, for daring to publish anything about the stories, warning me that God is going to get me for causing harm to his servants and his church. And when the trials are over and convictions are handed down, do these same people return to this site with heads humbly held low, confessing that they did not know these men and women as well as they thought they did? Of course not. If anything, they will demand forgiveness for the offender. After all, we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, right?
Last year, I remember a number of people getting upset with me over my publicizing on Facebook their pastor’s criminal behavior. He didn’t do it!. I KNOW this man! I’ve been friends with him for 20 years! He led me to Jesus! It’s just the word of a confused teenager against the word of an honorable, devoted man of God. It was interesting to watch all these outraged people disappear once multiple girls came forward from several churches and said that this pastor had taken sexual advantage of them. Why is it these church members had a hard time believing that their pastor committed felony sexual crimes?
When Jack Schaap was accused of carrying on a sexual affair with a teenage girl he was counseling, scores of outraged members and supporters of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana came to this blog and declared Schaap’s innocence. These are the same people who, to this day, believe that Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, never carried on with his secretary, and these same people, while not condoning David Hyles’ heinous crimes, demand that he be given favorable treatment since God has forgiven him. Who are we to condemn, if God has forgiven him, they said. He that is without sin let him cast the first stone! Judge not!
Bob Gray, the one-time pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville Florida, was accused of sexually molesting young children. Countless Gray supporters said that their pastor could never do such a thing, yet we now know that it is likely he had been a sexual predator for most of the fifty years he spent in the ministry. How is it possible that a pastor who was considered by many, including myself, to be a Holy Ghost-filled man of God, could, for decades, sexually harm children, yet no one know about it (or at least was willing to report it)?
Last week, Justin White, pastor of First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana was arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Come to find out, White was a heroin addict. I found myself asking, how is it possible that a man could preach three times a week and lead a large church while on heroin? Those must have been some pretty awesome and inspiring sermons. Did church leaders know that White had a heroin problem? It seems likely that they did. In 2015, White went out of state for thirty-two days to a rehab center, returning clean to a none-the-wiser church congregation. If news reports are to be believed, White’s recovery was short-lived, resulting in him committing insurance fraud to pay a $11,000 debt he owed to a drug dealer. Despite the evidence and White’s subsequent resignation, there are congregants who believe that their pastor is innocent of all charges. Why do these church members, and others like them, have such a hard time believing that the man who stands in the pulpit on Sunday can be someone other than who he says he is?
These same people have no problem believing that non-Christians commit all sorts of crimes. When newspapers report the crimes of unbelievers these followers of Jesus shake their heads and say, if they only put their faith and trust in Jesus all things would become new for them. In their minds, Jesus is an antidote for bad and criminal behavior. And, to be honest, he often is, or least the idea of Jesus is an antidote for behavior deemed sinful or unlawful. Countless alcoholics and drug addicts clean up after having a come to Jesus moment. While I could write much about why this is so, the fact remains that in some instances having some sort of conversion experience leads people to change their ways. If Jesus really is the antidote for sin and the answer for what ails us, why then do so many Christians fall (or run) into behaviors that are considered sinful or criminal? Why is there no difference behavior-wise between nonbelievers and believers?
The reason then that Evangelicals have a hard time believing their pastors could ever commit the crimes they are accused of is because they think — despite evidence to the contrary — that people are protected from moral and ethical failure by their Christian salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside them. This is why the Black Collar Crime series is so important. The series is a public reminder of the fact that religion, in and of itself, does not make anyone a better person. It can, and perhaps at times does, but there are countless people who are nonreligious or who are members of religious sects Evangelicals have deemed false who live exemplary lives. Religion is not a prerequisite to goodness. And because Evangelicals refuse to understand this, they find it difficult to accept that the men and women they hold up as pillars of morality and virtue can really be perverts and criminals in disguise.
While we should generally trust people, we should not do so blindly, and therein lies the problem for many Evangelicals. They are taught to obey those that have authority over them. They are reminded that gossip is a sin and that church members should not believe an accusation against an elder (pastor) unless it can be firmly established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Jack Hyles was fond of saying, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Countless Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers have used this very line to turn back whispers about their sexual infidelity or criminal behavior. You keep your mouth shut now. If you didn’t see it happen, you have no business talking about it. I’m sure former IFB church members can remember blistering sermons about gossip and about the dangers of speaking badly about the man of God. Remember those boys who mocked the man of God in the Bible? Why, bears came out of the woods and ate them. Best keep your tongue quiet, lest God send bears to eat you. How often do Evangelicals hear sermons about not touching God’s anointed? Mind your own business, church members are told, and let God take care of the preacher. If he is sinning, God will punish him. But here is the problem with this kind of thinking: God doesn’t punish sinning preachers. They just keep on sinning and sinning and sinning. They will keep on molesting little boys and girls, raping teenagers, and sleeping with vulnerable congregants until real flesh-and-blood human beings make them stop.
Think of all the times that church leaders heard rumors or reports about clergy misconduct, yet did nothing. They were more concerned about the testimony of the church than they were the victims. Think of all the times that church leaders heard rumors or reports about clergy misconduct, conducted their own investigations, and once finished, buried the accusations or elicited a promise from offenders that they would never, ever do again that which they were accused of. After all, since Jesus has forgiven them, shouldn’t the church? The short answer to this question is HELL NO! When clergy commit criminal acts that harm other people, they must be held accountable. This is why states have mandatory reporting laws. When church leadership hears of reports of possible criminal sexual misconduct they are required to immediately report these actions to law enforcement. It is not their responsibility to investigate or mete out punishment. We have a legal system that is responsible for investigating crimes and bringing offenders to justice. I wish more churches would be prosecuted for failing to report. If a handful of church deacons or elders had to spend time in jail for not reporting or covering up crimes, perhaps this would put an end to these men and women placing their religious institutions reputations above the welfare of those who have been victimized.
I spent twenty-five years in the ministry. From the time I was fifteen to the age of fifty-one, I was a member of the preacher fraternity. I know what went on behind closed doors. I know about scandals, sexual affairs, fraud, and suspected criminal behavior. I know where the bodies are buried. I know the real story behind Pastor So-and-So’s abrupt call to a new church. I know why certain missionaries had to come home from the field, never to return. I know that preachers are not any different from the people they pastor. Yes, most pastors are good people. Yes, most pastors generally desire to help others. What is also true is that some pastors are lazy and see the ministry as a way to make a quick and easy buck. It is also true that some pastors watch pornography and have sexual affairs with people in and out of their churches. People are people, and the sooner that church members understand this, the better. Stop putting pastors on pedestals. Stop thinking that pastors and their families are in any way better than anyone else. They are not, and I wish that pastors would stand before their congregations on Sundays and be honest about this.
The reason they don’t, of course, is because few congregants want honesty and transparency. Instead, they want pastors who are victorious over sin. They want pastors who are above the fray. They want winners! They want men and women they can look up to as examples of moral purity and virtue. Years ago, I remember admitting in a sermon that I knew what it was to lust after a woman. My objective was to let congregants know that I was just like them, that I was not in any way morally superior to them. After the service a man came up to me and told me that he was upset over my confession. In no uncertain terms, he let me know that he didn’t want to hear about my sins or failures. He wanted a pastor who was a shining example of holiness and righteousness. In other words, he wanted me to be God. Needless to say, this man did not last long in our church. He quickly found out that I was, like the apostle Paul, the chiefest of sinners.
Have you ever attended a church where the pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or some other revered leader in the church was accused of criminal behavior or sexual misconduct? How did the church respond to these accusations? Were some of the members unwilling to believe that the accused could do the things he or she was accused of? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
Seven months ago, Ken Adkins, pastor of Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Georgia was arrested and charged with “three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.” Adkins defense rests not on his innocence, but his contention that the victim was an adult when he sexually took advantage of them. Right victim, wrong year.
Pastor Ken Adkins, who has been in a Glynn County jail for seven months on charges he molested a teenage boy six years ago, turned down a plea deal Friday.
Prosecutors offered Adkins a sentence of five to 30 years if he were to plead guilty to child molestation, but his defense team turned it down. Adkins has said he is innocent of all charges.
Adkins, 56, a pastor of the Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship, was denied bond in September on child-molestation charges, and indicted by the Glynn County grand jury last month on three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a young man told investigators that Adkins molested him in 2010 when he was a member of Adkins’ church as a boy younger than 16.
Prosecutors said they not only have explicit text messages and photos sent from Adkins phone, they also have a young woman’s testimony in which she makes allegations of sex crimes. The woman, who was in the youth ministry at Adkins’ church at the time, said that Adkins watched her and a teenage boy have sex in a Brunswick hotel several years ago.
The woman says after the incident, Adkins touched her inappropriately.
Adkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, argued that the alleged incident didn’t take place in 2009, but instead a few years later, when the boy called a victim in the case was an adult.
“The charges set forth in the indictment allege that the crimes took place when he was under the age of 16, so the timeline is very important to this,” Gough said. “He has maintained his innocence, and we look forward to his day in court.”
A judge said he is also taking into consideration the account of a police officer, who interviewed the victim and the young woman and Adkins during his investigation, before he makes a ruling on what evidence will be admissible when the trial begins April 3.
In Georgia, aggravated child abuse is considered a capital crime. While the death penalty is not considered likely, Adkins could face up to life in prison if convicted.
You might remember that Adkins is one of the pastors who said the Pulse Club victims got exactly what they deserved.
Jose Aboytes, assistant pastor of Palabra Miel Hispanic Church in Decatur, Illinois was charged yesterday with “seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.”
Jose Luis Aboytes, a former pastor of a church on the city’s east side, was charged Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court with seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.
Aboytes, 58, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $250,000 bond, is facing one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, punishable by six to 60 years in prison, two counts of criminal sexual assault and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The victim told police she attended the Palabra Miel Hispanic Church, 3434 E. Wabash Ave., where Aboytes “began to sexually abuse her in an office in the church” about Sept. 16, 2015, said a request for an arrest warrant by Decatur Police detective Erik Ethell. …. The victim said the abuse “began with Jose touching her leg and progressed to sexual intercourse,” said the court document. The victim said that during choir practice “Jose would call her into his office,” where he would fondle and abuse her. She reported that the abusive conduct occurred during a period of several months. The adolescent girl told police she “took numerous cellphone photographs of her naked body and sent them to Jose’s phone.”
Detectives received more than 10 letters from the girl, in which Aboytes “expressed his love” for the victim, “in addition to knowing her age,” Ethell wrote in the court document. Aboytes “frequently asked (the victim) to destroy the letters after reading them.”
An intellectually disabled teen girl also reported to police that she had been abused by Aboytes, said the warrant request. She said that Aboytes would call her into his office, hug her and fondle her on top of her clothes. She told detectives that “Jose told her not to tell her parents about the conduct.”
According to the Daily Local News, Jacob Malone, one time pastor at Calvary Fellowship in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, plans to “enter a guilty plea to criminal charges brought in the case of a teenager he allegedly raped and impregnated. The Local News article states:
The former pastor at a Uwchlan megachurch intends to enter a guilty plea to criminal charges brought in the case of a teenager he allegedly raped and impregnated, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Assistant District Attorney Emily Provencher of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit told Common Pleas President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody in court that Jacob Matthew “Jake” Malone had made it clear through his attorney that he would plead guilty and be sentenced.
Malone, 34, of Exton, is charged with rape, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors, and endangering the welfare of children. He has been held on bail in Chester County Prison since his arrest in January 2016 after returning to the United States from Ecuador.
According to police, the victim reported that she had met Malone at a church in Mesa, Arizona, when she was approximately 12 years old. Malone was a pastor at the church that the victim attended. Several years later, in June of 2014, Malone contacted the then 17-year-old victim and invited her to stay with him and his family in Minnesota, where he had become a pastor at a local church.
While in Minnesota, police said, the victim alleged that Malone began trying to have inappropriate contact with her. In July 2014, Malone moved his family to Chester County, where he was starting a new position as a pastor at Calvary Fellowship, a non-denominational church off Route 100. Malone again invited the victim to live with him and his family, and he even registered the victim in a local high school.
The victim, according to police, reported that Malone began sexually assaulting her in the fall of 2014 while she was living at his residence in the unit block of Atherton Drive in Exton and attending Calvary. She was 18 at the time.
The victim reported that Malone provided alcohol to her on two occasions, and that during one of those incidents, the victim alleged that she became highly intoxicated and was molested by Malone.
Amazingly, Malone views his future criminal prosecution and incarceration as an “opportunity” to serve God. Please listen to the following video of Malone’s plea for prayer and understanding in light of the fact that this loving father and man of God got a female church member drunk and had sex with her.
Based on conflicting information, Calvary Fellowship did indeed report Malone to the police, but they may have investigated his victim’s allegations first before reporting him. Once again, let me say, it is NOT the responsibility of churches or pastors to investigate anything. They have one duty and one duty alone — REPORT THE ALLEGATIONS! (Please read How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)
This screenshot from the church’s Twitter feed leads me to conclude that they investigated FIRST before calling law enforcement. As I told one complaining church member who was upset because my posts make the church look bad, it matters not if they waited two hours, two days, or two weeks. Church leaders, upon hearing the allegations made against Jacob Malone, should have IMMEDIATELY contacted the police; immediately as in 9-1-1-like speed. That Malone was able to flee the country before a warrant being issued for his arrest, leads me to believe that there was a delay in his crimes being reported to the police.
You can find more information about this case here.
Authorities have arrested a 47-year-old pastor after searching his Pine City home and a Cottage Grove church during a child pornography investigation.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says William Leonard Helker was arrested Wednesday at his home on the 15000 block of Copper Canyon Road in Pine City.
The arrest came after BCA agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed search warrants on October 26, at Helker’s home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, where Helker is a pastor.
Helker was arrested without incident and was booked into the Pine County Jail on suspicion of possessing pornography involving minors, the BCA said.
Members of the church say they found out about the arrest via email Wednesday night.
They say Helker worked with kids conducting first communion and confirmation classes, but worked with adults as well.
“Is this pretty startling to hear this? Oh yes, oh yes. I’m really shocked, really shocked. He’s an up front guy, has always been since he started preaching there, and I really liked him, really like him. I see him at social events too, he comes to social events we have through the church,” says church member James Corbin.
All Saints Lutheran Church released a statement saying, “We are aware of the arrest of William Helker and he was placed on administrative leave yesterday. We are concerned and ask prayers for all affected and will cooperate fully with law enforcement. We are committed to providing safe spaces for all children and youth at All Saints and in the community.”
Today, Helker pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography, including photographs of church children. KSTP Channel 5 reports:
A former Cottage Grove pastor pleaded guilty in federal court to distribution of child pornography Thursday.
Forty-seven-year-old William Leonard Helker of Pine City was arrested in October at his home. The arrest came after Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a search warrant at his home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.
The agency was tipped off by Facebook and Instagram that a user was suspected of possessing child porn.
Investigators said they found Helker communicated with a man in Finland, planning to trade images of preteen and teenage girls, according to the criminal complaint.
The photo involved two pre-pubescent girls as young as 5 and a pubescent man engaging in sexual acts.
According to court documents, Helker admitted in his plea he had conversations about his sexual interest in children, had more than 900 child porn images and 300 child porn videos in his possession, “including images of prepubescent minors under the age of 12 and depictions of sadistic and masochistic abuse.”
Helker admitted to investigators he took the photos of four minors who attended church events and edited their photos on to adult porn images. He said the photos he created were “in the hundreds.”
A former youth pastor from Cottage Grove is sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for distribution of child pornography.
William Helker, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography in March. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Helker to 150 months in prison last week, along with 15 years of supervised release.
A youth pastor out of Cottage Grove will serve a federal prison sentence after distributing child pornography. William Leonard Helker, 47, pleaded guilty on March 3, to one count of distribution of child pornography. On July 27, United States District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz sentenced Helker to 150 months in federal prison and 15 years of supervised release.
“Helker is a dangerous child predator who disguised himself as a youth pastor. Instead of providing guidance to young people, he used his position as a trusted leader to prey upon them,” said Assistant United States Attorney Katharine Buzicky in a statement.
“This child sexual exploitation case originated in Finland with the arrest there of another child predator,” said J. Alex Khu, special agent in charge of HSI Saint Paul.
According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, on October 22, 2016, Homeland Security Investigations and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension received a cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that a Minnesota man exchanged child pornography with and individual in Finland.
The cybertip was listed as “Priority 1” because NCMEC assessed that children were currently in danger. Through a joint investigation, BCA and HSI agents were able to identify the Minnesota man as William Helker, a youth pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.
For many years, especially during the decades the church was pastored by Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana was the spiritual home for countless sexual predators and con artists. Most evaded detection thanks to cover-ups orchestrated by the fearsome, loyalty-demanding Hyles.
The scandals and stories are many, yet to this day more than a few Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB) unquestionably believe that most of sordid tales are lies manufactured by those who hate Jack Hyles and have it out for the church. No amount of evidence will convince them otherwise.
Personally, I have given up trying to talk sense to Hyles’ loyalists. When Hyles himself was accused of sexual and ministerial misconduct, his sycophants wore buttons that said 100% HYLES. Today, the thinking that led to the buttons remains alive and well. The nastiest commenters I have ever dealt with on this blog are the followers of Jack Hyles. No matter how many sick stories emanate from the darkest corners of First Baptist in Hammond, Jack Hyles, who paved the way for his preacher son to prey on church women, his pastor son in-law to take sexual advantage of a church teen, and for deacons, Sunday school teachers, bus workers, and Hyles-Anderson preacher boys to sexually assault children and vulnerable adults, remains, in the eyes of many, above reproach. For whatever reason, the devoted followers of Jack Hyles are unable to make the connection between Hyles — their demigod — and the doctrines, beliefs and practices that facilitated criminal behavior
Almost twenty-five years ago, well-known First Baptist deacon A.V. Ballenger was convicted of sexually molesting a seven-year-old church girl. Three other women testified at Ballenger’s sentencing that they too had been molested by him. Tamiko Grace was one of the women who testified.
Tamiko “Tammy” Grace told The Times last week it was the grace of God that allowed her to forgive the former church employee she said molested her when she attended First Baptist Church in the mid-1970s.
Grace, a 44-year-old mother of three children, said she was molested when she was 5 years old by A.V. Ballenger, a former church deacon convicted in March 1993 of molesting a 7-year-old girl in 1991 during a Sunday School class at the Hammond church. …. Grace was one of three women who testified they were abused as children by Ballenger at the former deacon’s sentencing hearing in June 1993, according to The Times archives.
Grace told The Times last week that Ballenger groped her repeatedly when he was a school bus driver for the church. “I didn’t know it was wrong,” she said. “I was so young, I just thought it was love.”
Ballenger maintained his innocence at the sentencing hearing and claimed the women, one of whom was his own niece, testified for sympathy and attention, according to the archives.
Grace said she instead testified due to the guilt she felt for not coming forward sooner. She was 22 years old and had a young child when she finally reported the incident to authorities. She feared she could have saved other girls from abuse if she had reported it sooner.
“This was my chance to make the wrong right,” she said.
Ballenger was sentenced to five years in prison, court records state. The 81-year-old now lives in Alabama, according to the state’s sex offender registry. He could not be reached for comment.
Grace said she struggled for years to deal with the shame she felt as a result of the molestation, but she attended therapy and continued to find strength in God.
David Boyd, pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Center (link no longer active) in Wheelwright, Kentucky, was arrested and charged with “distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.” LEX18.com reports:
The former pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Church has been arrested and charged with distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.
David Boyd was arrested Friday morning at 9:08 a.m.
Boyd is still listed as the Director of Wheelwright Baptist Church, but we are told that he recently stepped away as pastor. Neighbors say that he stepped down around the time they saw police raiding his home and taking computers.
According to the Wheelwright Baptist Center website: (link no longer active)
David and Stephanie Boyd are the new directors of the former Kentucky Baptist Convention-owned ministry center in the Floyd County community of Wheelwright. A native of Wheelwright, David Boyd said his “spiritual mentor” was longtime center director and NAMB missionary, Charles Wilson. The Appalachian headquarters of World Servants, a ministry with its roots in Youth for Christ, will be headquartered at the ministry center. Stephanie Boyd directs World Servants Appalachian initiative
Wheelwright Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Last week, Benjamin Nelson, pastor of Peoria Baptist Church (link no longer active) in Hillsboro, Texas was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. The Star-Telegram reports:
A man who leads a small Baptist church and is attending seminary in Waco was arrested Monday and faces child sexual assault charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 28, was arrested at his home and booked into the Hill County Jail. He was being held Sunday on two charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct, according to Whitney police.
Whitney police told Fox4News a mother found Nelson in a car with her underage daughter in a Whitney shopping center late Sunday. Police said the deadly conduct charge stems from Nelson driving recklessly near the teen’s mother as he left the scene.
According to Nelson’s Facebook page, he is married, is pastor of Peoria Baptist Church and is attending George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.
A local pastor who was arrested by the Whitney Police Department Monday, February 27, on charges of sexual assault of a child is facing two new charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 27, of Waco, who was pastor of Peoria Baptist Church at the time of his arrest, was initially facing two charges of sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct.
On Thursday, March 2, Whitney Police filed two new charges on Nelson.
Whitney Police Chief Chris Bentley said that charges of indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor were added.
Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bonds totaling $755,000 on Nelson on the initial charges.
Bonds totaling $50,000 were added on the two new charges.
Bentley said that additional charges are pending, and Nelson’s electronic devices have been sent to a Waco facility for investigation.
The chief added that police are concerned Nelson may have had contact with other children online.
As of today, Nelson is still listed as the pastor of Peoria Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. According to Nelson’s about page: (link no longer active)
Rev. Ben Nelson was born and raised in deep east Texas, behind the pine curtain, in Center, Texas. He was dedicated, baptized, licensed, married, and ordained by the First Baptist Church of Center, where he met his wife Casey. Ben earned undergraduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, and Casey earned undergraduate degrees at Baylor University.
From 2011 to 2016 Ben served as a Campus Pastor with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Texas A&M University. He’s preached revivals, coordinated evangelism campaigns, led overseas mission trips, planted new Bible studies, and equipped generations of college students to follow Jesus faithfully for the rest of their lives.
In 2016 Ben and Casey felt the Lord calling Ben to begin in the pastorate and begin coursework on his Masters of Divinity degree at Baylor’s Truett Seminary. He came to us in view of a call in August of 2016, and he’s been preaching the Word to our congregation ever since.
Ben serves as a leader among equals, and works alongside the deacons and the congregation to see Christ’s Kingdom come, and Christ’s will done in our church and our community.
A Rhode Island pastor who also is chairman of the Republican Party in Providence has been accused of molesting a boy over six years.
Roy D. Bolden Jr. was arraigned Wednesday on child molestation and sexual assault charges. Providence Police Sgt. Philip Hart says the 33-year-old pastor, an apostle of the Legions of Christ Ministries, will likely face more charges after the case moves to the attorney general’s office.
Messages were left seeking comment from Bolden’s Providence church.
City Police Maj. David Lapatin says a 21-year-old man told police Friday that he met Bolden at the church and that Bolden began sexually molesting him when he was 12 years old.
Lapatin says police are distributing a photo of Bolden and meeting with church members to determine if there are more alleged victims.
Orick is accused of three counts of aggravated statutory rape, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure after a 16-year-old girl who lived with him for three months in Jacksboro reported incidents to her mother. According to the report, the girl has audio recordings of at least one of the alleged encounters.
Columbia Road recently found itself the center of attention after its youth pastor — Brian Mitchell — was accused and convicted of four counts of sexual battery. Mitchell was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes. A 16-year-old female member of Columbia Road sought spiritual advice from Mitchell, only to find herself a target of his sexual advances. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
The girl [said] in a letter to the judge that she looked up to Mitchell, and that she sought him out to learn how to live a more spiritual life through religion.
Mitchell began sending her text messages that became more and more frequent. Someone brought it to the attention of church leaders and the texting stopped for a time.
He started up again, and the girl said the tone of the messages quickly turned from innocent and fun to serious. She said he complained about his wife and their marital problems.
She wrote that she wanted the texts to stop but felt scared to say anything because he was a powerful figure in the church and in her life.
One day, he drove to her home and told her to come out to his car. He kissed her and told her he wanted to see her again.
The next time he drove out to her home, he had sex with her in his car. Another time he had sex with her at her home while his wife was out of town, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Kristen Karkutt said.
“I did not give him permission,” the girl wrote. “I clearly said ‘no, didn’t want to.’ I felt like he tricked me.”
Mitchell directed her to delete text message exchanges between the two and told her never to tell anyone. He picked her up during her lunch break from school. He sent her flowers for her birthday, then asked her mother at church if she knew who sent them.
Normally an outgoing teen who played sports and worked two jobs while going to school, she found herself unable to get out of bed. She struggled in school.
The girl wrote that she still has nightmares and displays what Corrigan called textbook symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This is a perfect example of the psychological damage caused by these types of crimes,” [Cuyahoga County Judge Peter] Corrigan said.
Friedman said Mitchell acknowledges that he betrayed the girl, her family, his own family and the church.
“The whirlwind two or three months of Snapchats and texts and the secrecy involved created an adrenaline- and lust-filled situation where he felt like there could be a future,” [defense attorney Ian] Friedman said.
According to the Plain Dealer, once Columbia Road Baptist leaders were made aware of the matter, they reported it to the police. What I want to know if this:
When did the church find out?
How much time expired between finding out and reporting it?
Did the church investigate the matter first, before reporting it to law enforcement?
Did the church consult a lawyer or their insurance company before reporting it to law enforcement?
The reason for asking these questions is that IFB churches routinely try to handle allegations of sexual conduct in-house, hoping to minimize damage to their “testimonies” (reputations).
According to the victim’s mother, Columbia Road church leaders asked the victim to apologize to the sexual predator youth pastor’s wife. In fact, according to the mother, they were told they could not come back to church until they did so. For those of us who investigate, report, and/or follow the foibles of the IFB church movement, blaming victims of sexual assault is far too common. In this case, I suspect the church believes — as many members did when Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual assault — that a 16-year-old church girl enticed or came on to the their fine, upstanding, married, father-of-three youth pastor. Surely, Pastor Mitchell would never, ever have had sex with this girl had she not batted her eyes, showed a bit of cleavage, and led him on.
This is nothing more than what is commonly called slut-shaming. IFB churches promote the false notion that women are responsible for weak, pathetic male church members — including pastors, youth directors, deacons, bus workers and Sunday school teachers — “falling” into sin. This line of thinking is reinforced every time women are reminded that if they don’t dress or behave a certain way, their brothers in Christ will find themselves unable to resist throwing them on the church pew and savaging them while the congregation sings What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
In typical fashion the victim was blamed, and youth pastor Mitchell received dozens of letters which were given to the judge, telling him what an awesome, loving, God-fearing man he is. While I can understand Mitchell’s mother might write a letter on his behalf, it is beyond belief that church members would make any attempt to support a man who sexually assaulted a minor who had been placed in his trust. Ohio law is clear. Mitchell had a professional relationship with the victim. He was obligated to act morally and ethically, meaning that in no circumstance could he have an intimate relationship with the victim. Simply put, she was off-limits, as were every male and female with whom Mitchell had a professional relationship . This is the law. Every pastor, doctor, dentist, social worker, and psychologist knows this — Mitchell included.
According to Columbia Road’s now-disabled Facebook page:
According to Columbia Road’s senior pastor elect (2018) Bill Giallouraskis:
I was not privy to any information where church leaders asked that of the mother. There was to my understanding, a time when the wife of Brian and the mother talked together and the wife suggested that it would do a lot to heal the relationship with the young lady ’cause of course she was involved with the youth as a mentor as well, being Brian’s wife. That it would do a lot to help, that if they could make amends with each other. Perhaps the mother misunderstood that to be more than it was.
When asked if Mitchell’s wife felt betrayed by the victim, Giallouraskis said, “I can tell you we were all very surprised. We were all very grieved, we all felt very betrayed.”
Giallouraskis also said:
We have a pretty rigorous process that we put all of our workers through especially any of our workers who are going to work with children or youth. We run background checks, we also have an interview process that we go through that asks some pretty poignant questions about whether there are issues going on in the lives of the people” like sexual immorality or pornography.
I guess the difficulty with Brian was that there have been no prior incident that would have ever come up on a background report. He has a very good recommendation from the previous church that he worked at…He married into a family that has been in our church for four generations. There was just no red flag that came up in our process.
Surely Giallouraskis is aware that criminal background checks only show if someone has been convicted of a crime. Just because Mitchell was well thought of and came from a “good” family doesn’t mean he has not, in the past, preyed on, vulnerable teen girls. As his criminal conviction shows, he has at least preyed on one church teenager. Was he a predator virgin? Time will tell. Virtually every day there are news reports about Evangelical pastors being accused/charged/convicted of sex crimes. I could spend the next hour detailing stories about IFB preachers who were convicted of sex crimes or were caught committing adultery. Giallouraskis ignorantly thinks that by asking prospective employees and volunteers if they are committing fornication/adultery or watching porn that they have done their due diligence. In what setting would a prospective pastor/volunteer ever say, Yo, I like having sex with teenagers and I love watching porn. Never!
For those of us who have spent much of our lives wading in the cesspool called the IFB church movement, the youth pastor’s sexual assault of a church girl and the mother’s claim that the church asked for an apology sound all too familiar. Circling the wagons, protecting the clergy, and blaming the victims have, sadly, become standard operating procedure. In classic IFB-fashion, Columbia Road Baptist Church, instead of making a full disclosure, disabled their social media accounts and posted the following on their website: