Read This Verse
Jeremiah 5:26 (The prophet speaking for God):…” for wicked men are found among My people…they set a trap, they catch men.” Then, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority.” (vv. 30-31)
Jeremiah 6:13-14 For from the least of them to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially saying, “Peace. peace,” but there is no peace.
(special thanks to The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen)
We are continuing with our series on The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, written by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. “Unspoken words” is the third characteristic of a spiritually abusive system. According to Johnson and Van Vonderen, the most powerful of all unspoken rules is the "Can't Talk" Rule. They explain:
"The "can't talk" rule has this thinking behind it: 'The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change so it must be protected behind the walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem. In some way you must be silenced or eliminated.' … The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don't cause them, they expose them… The "can't talk" rule, however, blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence." (p. 68)
According to the authors, here's the real problem with the "Can't Talk" rule. "If a Christian who feels violated stops talking, then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his behavior. And the victim will have to "freeze up" the pain and anger of being spiritually abused." (p. 69)
Johnson and Van Vonderen then provide this thought-provoking comment: "Though some in authority would love to never be questioned or opposed, the fact of the matter is that such a system is a trap and a downfall for any leader. If noticing problems is labeled disloyalty, lack of submission, divisiveness, and a challenge to authority, then there is only a facade of unity and peace. It is impossible for wounds to be healed, and abuse will one day escalate. If authorities are not accountable, then you have built a system that is in opposition to the freedom that is in Christ. You are ignoring James 3:1, which says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment." (p. 68)
Since last fall we have been following two blogs that are sounding the alarm about a "family of churches" called Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). They are sgmsurvivors.com and sgmrefuge.com. Here's an example of how the "Can't Talk" rule is being played out within SGM.
On April 21, 2009, a mom who to the best of our knowledge has never posted anything against SGM before, wrote the following heart-wrenching comment. Here are both the link and her comment.
April 21st, 2009 at 8:13 pm
Did they know my son was raped??????? Why was nothing said???? 11 years old. Richmond VA.church. Virgina BEACH. South side church knew something and said nothing???????????? We find out when he was eighteen, if I knew when he was sixteen I think I could of helped him, I know I could of helped him. Moved to Virginia beach 1989, left 1994. What more can I say, I just live with this, maybe e-mailing this WILL just make me feel a little better, JUST THAT I HAVE TOLD SOME OF THE STORY.
The next day, "A Mother" (the name she goes by on the blog) posted the link to the Virginia State Police web site which provides a registry of sex offenders in their state.
April 22nd, 2009 at 9:06 am
Who were they protecting? this man, the victims or themselves?
When you click on this sex offender link and type in the verification number at the bottom of the page, you will immediately see the photo and stats of the man who repeatedly raped her son. His name is Barry A. Albert, and his registration ID is 3705. He is white, 55 years old, 6'3", brown hair, blue eyes, and weighs 264 pounds. His sex offender conviction record is provided, and his initial registration into this database occurred on December 17, 1998.
On April 28, 2009, "A Mother" posted another comment on the SGM Refuge blog which can be found at the same link provided above. Scroll down and read the expressions of love and concern written by others who are trying to console this heartbroken mom.
Here's a summary of this mother's testimony. Her son was born in 1977 since she states that he was eleven years old in 1988. Her family belonged to the SGM church in Virginia Beach, which we believe later moved to Chesapeake, Virginia.
In order to understand the connection between the "Richmond church" which is now called KingsWay Community Church (located in Midlothian – a suburb of Richmond), it's important to understand that SGM labels itself as a "family of churches". There are often strong ties between SGM congregations, particularly when they are located in the same state. Richmond and Virginia Beach are only about 100 miles apart (estimated driving time 1 hour 15 minutes).
Barry Albert, who is currently in prison near Richmond, served in the KingsWay youth group according to the boy's mother. Barry met and befriended her son at "Celebration East 1988". "A Mother" writes:
"This man used this other little boy as a reason to have my son come and visit him in Richmond. He was 'helping' care for this other boy and would ask for us to allow our son to visit them in Richmond. Up until that time my son was an innocent young boy, only 11. They, the pastors and police, knew of no reason why we shouldn't allow the friendship and I don't challenge that."
Prior to this statement she explains: "I did do what I thought was right in protecting my son, I contacted the local police in Richmond and the pastors of the Richmond and Virginia Beach church to find out if they knew of any reason why I shouldn't allow my son to spend time with this man." She confirmed that Barry did attend the Richmond church, now known as KingsWay Community Church.
She continues: I don't believe they (the pastors) knew at this point who this man was. This all took place between the year 1988 and 1994ish, way before Megan's Law. I can't say that the church could have prevented what happened to my son but they did nothing to find all potential victims once this monster was revealed. Who in their right mind wouldn't find and contact everyone known to be involved with this man?"
This mother states that she and her husband "didn't find out about any of this until 1998 and then quite by accident!" It's important to note that this is the first time she realized her son had been repeatedly raped, and her son did not reveal his rapist's identity. She then explains that her family moved back to their home state (unspecified) around 1994 and that KingsWay never informed the SGM church they attended in Virginia Beach of this pedophile situation. She asks "Why?"
Her sad lament continues: "I was in contact with the Richmond church in 1995 and '96 after my son was injured, I wanted to get in touch with Barry, the now convicted felon. My son had been injured and was seriously hurt. I wanted to let this man know that he could be praying for him."
"A Mother" innocently called KingsWay in the mid-1990s to try and obtain Barry's contact information, thinking that he would be a good support for her son. Obviously, she had no idea it was Barry who had seriously hurt her son when he was between the ages of 11 and 16. As had been previously stated, she didn't discover the truth until 1998. Barry's conviction record shows he was sentenced with "aggravated sexual battery" on December 7, 1995 and on February 20, 1996 as well as "Forcible Sodomy" on February 20, 1996. The church staff at KingsWay obviously knew what Barry had done when "A Mother" called them. Apparently, her son was so traumatized that he never identified the man who repeatedly raped him.
The following comment written by "A Mother" clearly demonstrates the "Can't Talk" Rule explained previously. Again, this is the most powerful of all the unspoken rules in an abusive religious system. Here we will see that extremely important information was withheld from those who most needed to know it.
"A Mother" writes:
"Now this was all after he (Barry) had been charged, but did the church secretary or Gene Emerson even then try to contact us to let us know about the charges that had been brought against this man? NO! Even then I explained who I was and this man's relationship to our family and my son. We had lived in Virginia Beach and my son would spend weekends, and later lived with this man for a short period of time. I say this to say the leadership and other members of that church knew my son, as well as my husband and me. They also knew that my son was exposed to this man and they never tried to find us. My son was part of the youth group in Richmond and attended the church, this man served in the youth group."
Gene Emerson, whom "A Mother" mentions, continues to serve as Senior Pastor at KingsWay Community Church. Here's the link:
KingsWay was founded in early 1989 in the Emerson home. Apparently, Barry met this mother's son at a large SGM celebration in 1988, shortly before the Richmond church was established. It's interesting to note that two years after KingsWay began, they sent several families to help plant a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, which became Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, NC. They also helped establish a SGM church in Roanoke, Virginia. As a point of clarification, the SGM church in Midlothian was called "Southside Church of Richmond" from 1989 to 2002 when it changed its name to KingsWay Community Church. Just last month (April 2009) this church sent families from their congregation to Fredericksburg, Virginia to plant another SGM church. All of this information can be verified by clicking on the above link.
Based on the brief history of KingsWay Community Church, it's not difficult to discover the primary focus of Sovereign Grace Ministries — church planting. Not only do they "plant" churches, but they "adopt" existing congregations into their "family of churches". Based on this mother's testimony, it appears that the needs of the established flock are secondary to expanding the ministry of SGM.
"A Mother" then writes these gut-wrenching words:
"All that I am saying is when it all came out, my son was still of age when we, his parents, could help him or at least try. We were robbed of any chance to press charges or seek help for our son." In her testimony, this mother explains that they finally found out about what truly happened to their son in 1998, two years after Barry was convicted. If Barry was first convicted in December 1995, surely the KingsWay staff knew of his horrible crimes against their youth when this mother called.
It's difficult to read the painful words of "A Mother" as she writes:
"My motivation for leaving the link (to Barry Albert's page on the sex offender's web site) and screaming out, for the first time, was for some understanding, my heart is still breaking. My son recently was released from the MENTAL WARD at a hospital. The emotion and betrayal that I feel and that I am sure he feels are more than I can ever express in words."
Lest you think that this is an isolated case in Sovereign Grace Ministries, perhaps you would like to read an extremely detailed account written by Noel, the mother of a three-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by a 15 year old boy caring for SGM children while their parents attended a leaders meeting. After the SGM pastors knew of the boy's crime, they allowed him to work in the church nursery. The rapist is now married with a child and continues to be a member of the church. His father committed suicide shortly after the crime was discovered. Throughout this outrageous circumstance, the church leaders implemented the "No Talk" Rule to conceal a horrendous crime. However, Noel and her husband Grizzly have FINALLY broken their silence. Here's the link to their unbelievable story:
SGM Survivors is chock-full of testimonies from both current and former members of Sovereign Grace Ministries who are reporting that there is something terribly wrong in this "family of churches". This blog only began in November 2007. SGM Refuge began in June 2008. It's time for the body of Christ to WAKE UP!!!
When a church is more interested in self-preservation than the spiritual health of its members (especially the young), you can be certain that Almighty God is taking notice. There are many revered Christian leaders who have turned a blind eye to the horrendous abuses taking place within SGM. Some even want to model their ministries after the authoritarian structure of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Rest assured that our Sovereign Lord is watching, and we believe that one day His judgment will fall upon those leaders who are acting irresponsibly with His children.
Silence is definitely not golden, and that's why we choose to speak out!
There seems to be a growing AUTHORITARIANISM within some evangelical churches which has us deeply concerned for our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who are young in the faith. That's why we are so dedicated to researching and reporting significant trends within Christendom. We are sounding the alarm! Do YOU hear it?
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42 ESV)