“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Kahlil Gibran
Cat's Eye Nebula-Hubble Telescope
I am leaving to bring my final child off to college. It is a bittersweet time. I wanted to continue in the series on psychology and the church but I have received some correspondence and would like to do some more reading in order to adequately present the various forms of "Biblical" counseling. So, we have decided to do this post instead.
People ask us, "Why SGM?" We follow their story with fascination because we believe that it offers all churches, in this day of the post evangelical thicket, many lessons. This group has ties to the old shepherding movement which did not die but merely changed it's theological shell. This story involves authoritarianism, hubris, pedophilia, spiritual abuse and hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies left in the dust while leaders sought more and more recognition on the world stage.
Well, once you hit the stage, you have to be able to stand the perspectives of those viewing your play. You cannot say "Look at this" and "Don't look at that." People look and they see what is obvious to them. You cannot control them so it is important that you are able to stand the scrutiny. If you feel you need to hide it from observation, then you probably shouldn't be doing it.
One of the most bizarre statements that I have ever read is this. When people have quizzed their SGM pastors for answers to legitimate questions they are dismissed with this statement. "You are sinfully craving answers."
What? Is not Jesus the Truth? Did He not put in us a desire for the truth? This has to be one of the most bizarre and abusive statements that I have ever read. And I have a suggestion. Run, as fast as you can from any man who says this to you!! This is not Christian, it is the words of men who believe they are above questioning. It is a statement left over from the shepherding movement. It is abusive and wrong. Such men do not belong in the pastorate. Period!!!
Once again, i ask our readers to understand the trials that these families has been put through at the hands of men who appear to this writer to have a low emotional quotient. Such people should not be allowed to pastor a church. Rule Number One: Find a pastor who understand the heart of Jesus. Ask yourself this. Would Jesus have ever responded as some of these men have responded?
Warning: there are some statements in here that may drive people to extreme anger. I am still coping with it myself-you will see a couple of editor's comments. I couldn't help myself
All men who address the church are pastors and part of leadership in this SGM church.
Wallace’s response (speaking on behalf of the others included in the first statement) to the Fairfax family meeting on 7/24/11…
If there’s anyone who would attribute charges made by us and other voices on the internet to gossip and slander… then you’ve only heard half the story.
Words in italics are direct quotes from the meeting. Bold words are Wallace's responses.
“Some time ago, we made a decision to stop having family meetings because they weren’t being particularly well-attended. And so, I think we’ve discovered the secret: just a little controversy, crisis…great family meeting opportunity.”
Speaking for Happymom, Noel and Grizzly, we were outraged by Mark’s choice of words. Considering the severity of two child molestations and the rape of a third child Mr. Mullery, we did not find your opening statement amusing.
It appears that Mark is referencing the controversy inside his church. However, apologetic pastors who elicit public sympathy whereby key elements of the truth are obscured is the greater controversy.
“Sadly – and it breaks my heart to tell you this – sadly, in seeking to care for them, we became part of their trial.”
Mark paints a deceptive picture here. They never cared for us at any time during our confrontation with them. From October 2007 to February 2009 we didn’t hear from anyone from the Fairfax staff until our son contacted CJ Mahaney. During the following months, their efforts were directed towards convincing us that their assessments were the correct ones.
“We lost sight of the victim. These are complicated moments. In the swirl of all the other things to think about, we lost sight of the simple fact that an innocent victim had been grievously sinned against and was in need of constant care.”
Mark and his fellow pastors also lost sight of Noel’s daughter and my son. In fact, their sights were never set on the victims. But in the swirl of all the things to think about they remembered to call their attorney’s. Also, constant care was not what we expected from you and your staff Mr. Mullery. All we wanted was honest answers to our questions.
“We should have followed up more and over a longer period of time.”
Mark’s statement seems to suggest that some type of pro-active benevolent follow-up was taking place. This simply isn’t true.
“We weren’t trying to cover anything up, but we did want to protect the identity of the victim.”
Protecting the identity of a victim would suggest care and concern. Their actions don’t line up with their words. Fairfax protected the identity of the perpetrators in both our children’s cases because of the family’s status… they were not prepared to deal with a potential scandal in 1998 and then again in 2007. In 1998 our son’s case was given to a pastor primarily concerned with protecting the reputation of the perpetrator’s father. The 2007 incident would have been a significantly bigger issue had it been exposed.
“We’ve been accused of not getting it. Guilty as charged. We didn’t get it. I’m so sorry.”
You still don’t get it Mr. Mullery. This is not about you and your staff putting on an emotional show to convince your congregation how sorry you are for the way we had been treated. Picture someone running you over with a truck and then apologizing to an audience of bystanders…as you lay there in a ditch.
Much of what Happymom and I had to say during the year and a half we labored to be heard was ignored and invalidated during the process. Therefore, we consider any public apologies from you and your staff to be self-serving and lacking any real substance.
“I deeply regret my impatience, self-righteousness, pride, hard heartedness. These things compounded their suffering instead of easing it.”
Mark forgot to include, ignoring many of our emails, ignoring our hard questions, and protecting a deceptive pastor.
“We reached out to Noel and to Wallace and their spouses and families. It pains me to say, that our attempts to be reconciled to them have not proven successful so far. Please pray that this might happen.”
With reference to our family, this is an outright lie. There were no attempts to be reconciled, only legally advised defense measures to protect the reputation of the church. Mark and his crew were more concerned with protecting themselves and had no choice but to deal with us after CJ Mahaney became involved.
“We can’t agree with everything that’s written about us on the blog’s, but we’ve tried to go to school on what we can agree with.”
Mark Mullery presumes to act as Judge and Jury by choosing what to accept and what not to accept from the blogs. Tell us Mark, what has been written about you and your staff that isn’t accurate?
“We’ve tried to learn from our mistakes. We’ve tried to learn from these experiences and to make substantive changes in response.”
Do these mistakes include allowing members of your staff to twist facts and omit key information to protect the church’s image?
“We failed in our care for these victims.”
Although Fairfax made this the dominant issue, lack of pastoral care in no way adequately describes our experience with them. We had forgiven the pastors numerous times for lack of care, poor leadership, etc. We forgave them for what they had apologized for. Their non-descriptive apologies however, became a smokescreen that obscured tougher issues. They used this approach in the family meeting to extract sympathy from the congregation and we found this offensive.
Vince goes on to speak about 32 years of sex-abuse free leadership, and sex-abuse Free Church property. The issue that no one wants to talk about is sex-abuse committed by minors away from church property.
He further states:
“As Mark mentioned, in the Noel story, the two families involved were family friends. They were neighbors. They were in the same care group. But there was no cover-up of these crimes. The boy’s crime was reported to the police and Social Services by the victim’s parents within 24 hours of disclosure at the urging of one of our pastors. And, over time and not soon enough, people from three different care groups in the area where these people lived were involved and knew about the situation.”
If the boy’s crime had not been reported to the police would you have reported it Vince? His last sentence is vague and misleading. Does Vince mean care group leaders, or was everyone in the three groups given this information? Which begs the question, was the identity of the perpetrator made known to people at risk…close friends of the family who interact on a social level?
Vince failed to mention that Fairfax disagreed with parts of Noel’s story. This was never resolved. Mark Mullery told Noel and her husband they had inconsistencies in their story. Mark uses the word “inconsistency” as a substitute for “lie.” Do any of you on staff in Fairfax have the guts to say Noel was lying if this is what you believed? Noel asked what the inconsistencies were but no answer was given. Is this one of the mistakes Mark Mullery learned from? Will he now go back and get this right with Noel and her family or does he still think its ok to not answer questions he doesn’t like?
In reference to our son’s case in 1998, Vince said: “This situation was never reported by the parents to the police.”
It’s not clear why Vince included this bit of information. Was this statement meant to make us look bad in some way Vince? However, we regrettably failed to report the crime because we thought the church would handle the situation scripturally. Instead, we were instructed by a Fairfax pastor on how great the father of the perpetrator was and Steve Shank blasted us for our sin.
Our daughter’s case:
“And also, we just want to clarify one thing, that two days before the trial, two pastors on our staff (Dave Hinders and Steve Whitacre) were served with subpoenas. Both pastors appeared in court at the appointed date and time and were ready to testify if needed. They had never been asked by anybody to participate in that part of the process directly. However, it should also be noted that the perpetrator pled guilty, so they were never called to testify.”
Vince neglected to mention that I asked them to participate…The subpoenas were hand-delivered one day before the trial. Vince Hinders was well aware of the fact but also failed to mention that two days before the trial I was on the phone with Dave Hinders pleading with him to come to the courthouse with Steve Whitacre.
What prompted my phone call to Dave was a prior phone conversation with the detective assigned to the case. She told me it would be a “good idea” for the pastors who heard the confession to be there ready to testify if necessary. However, Dave made it clear to me they weren’t coming. During our long heated discussion Dave told me, “I have my church’s reputation to consider.” I then called our detective and asked her to issue the subpoenas.
In a future meeting Steve Whitacre said he would have personally escorted the perpetrator to the police station if he had declined turning himself in. We did not have this information at the time and we forgave Steve for not telling us. In the same meeting Dave said he didn’t remember saying these things to me during our phone conversation and we forgave him for this.
“In both stories, as appropriate, we fully cooperated with the police and the Social Services.”
Concerning our case, either the Fairfax County Police Department lied to us or Vince Hinders twisted the truth a little. Our detective expressed frustration with the Fairfax pastors and told us they were “uncooperative.”
“But the big question that people have is…Are our children safe? Is it okay to have our children here?”
Vince then goes into an impressive litany of how well protected children are in the church with the new programs in place. But the big question people should have is, “Are our children safe outside the church?” Unless the leadership discloses the identity of sexual predatory minors in the church the issue of safety remains unresolved. People at risk need to be informed particularly when it involves minors. If not, young sex-offenders in social settings outside the church, away from church property will be undetected.
During the initial stages of our ordeal with Fairfax, we revealed the identity of the perpetrator to a family with young children in the church. The family was very close to the perpetrators family and was completely unaware of the circumstances. The young man was a twice-convicted sex-felon.
Happymom presented this question to Mark Mullery concerning minors: “Why don’t you inform people at risk of a known sex- offender in the church?” His response: “That perpetrator could grow up and sue us for defamation of character.”
“One resource that we have found is a book by Diane Langberg. It’s called On the Threshold of Hope.”
Vince neglected to mention for some reason that Happymom was the one who recommended the book to the pastoral staff. She received emails from Dave and Mark thanking her for the recommendation.
Vince Hinders speaking for Lou Gallo
“Lou and Lisa have attempted to resolve these relational conflicts with their relatives in a humble and biblical way, most recently through an independent, professional Christian conciliator here in Fairfax. Sadly, the situation hasn’t improved over time and has, in fact, deteriorated. The other family withdrew from the mediation process, contacted the pastoral team, and made a charge against Lou that he has engaged in a pattern of deception which is still current and could possibly disqualify him from being an elder.”
We did not create this relational conflict. It remains unresolved because Lou lied to us on multiple occasions and refused to answer our questions face to face. He has a long history of turning things back on us when confronted.
We spent a year and a half trying to address this but Fairfax protected Lou by consistently invalidating our claims. Contrary to Vince’s statement, the lying issue did not suddenly emerge after the mediation process but, in fact, had been something we labored to communicate to the pastoral staff from the beginning. And we did not withdraw from the mediation process as Vince also stated. We were there for both meetings totaling 9 hours.
As a follow-up to the mediation process, Fairfax set up a meeting to give us their final conclusions based on the mediator’s assessment. We asked Vince if we could ask Lou our questions in this meeting and he said no. Given this, there was no point in going so we declined the invitation.
The mediator’s conclusion was…
“There was nothing apparent in Lou’s responses or conduct during the mediation that, in what we observed, reflected a current attempt to avoid accountability or clear himself of any wrongdoing. Rather, there was clearly apparent conviction and heartfelt grief.”
During the meetings Lou avoided our hard questions and was deceptive in some of his responses to us and the mediator as well. He was extremely relieved when I asked the mediator this question after 5 hours of frustration: “Why do we desire to have our questions answered?” His reply was, “because you are sinfully craving answers according to James 4.” (Editors Comment:Egads, where do they train these guys?) With this announcement Lou began to weep. The mediator had confused heartfelt grief with extreme relief…Lou was now off the hook. At this point, we told Lou and Lisa that we had forgiven them.
“We have spoken at length with Lou and Lisa, and we believe that they have provided reasonable, humble, and honest answers and responses to the questions that they’ve been asked by their relatives.”
Vince’s statement is deceptive. Lou may have answered our list of questions but we weren’t given the opportunity to hear his responses. In fact, Fairfax blocked every attempt we made to ask Lou our questions face to face with a Fairfax pastor present. They claimed Lou had answered our questions (behind closed doors) but refused to tell us what his responses were. And the one question we did ask him in private was answered with an outright lie.
“When this conflict emerged, Lou and Lisa offered to meet with the other family’s pastor to get help with mediation because Lou and Lisa knew that they distrusted Sovereign Grace Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries. So, they said, hey, we’ll go to your pastor. We’ll go to your place. Sadly, the other family declined.”
Either Vince is truly ignorant of the facts or he purposely created a deceptive picture. Yes, we declined going to our pastor however; it was our strong desire to meet with Lou and one of his fellow Sovereign Grace pastors. (Vince was aware of this) When I suggested this to Lou, he said, “that aint happening.” And Fairfax backed him up on this.
We made two separate appeals to Vince Hinders and Kenneth Maresco for their participation in a meeting with Lou and they both declined. We were never given a reason why as they both ignored the question when we asked.
“…he has repeatedly reached out and gone to these family members in person. He has written letters and e-mails of apology…”
After not hearing from Lou for 10 months he appeared at our front door 2 days before a scheduled meeting with CJ Mahaney to apologize to our daughter. When asked, he could not tell us exactly what he wanted to apologize for and would not answer a few other questions we had. I told him it would not be in my daughter’s best interest at this time.
The second time Lou came to our house was after the mediation process. He apologized to our children for “not being there” and told them I was a wise man for asking that question in the mediator’s office – the question that was answered with James 4.
Lou’s two apology letters were filled with deceptive statements however; he did apologize in both letters for not being there. We tried bringing the deceptive apology issue to the pastor’s attention numerous times and they ignored us each time.
“In late 2010, the pastoral team sent a letter to the family who made the charge against Lou, and told them of our decision. Sadly, they told us, “The church will hear the truth, regardless of any conclusions you come up with on your own.”
Yes Vince, the church is now getting the opportunity to hear the truth.
“And at one point, we invited one of the bloggers from the Refuge blog – the one who manages that site – to actually come here to the church and sit in on our mediation meetings with them. We didn’t have anything to hide. We want to be reconciled to them.”
This is entirely false. Jim from the Refuge blog came to Virginia on my invitation. He came as a friend. When I informed Fairfax that he would be there for the meeting, I was questioned on what his role would be. The fact is they didn’t want him to be there. And Jim was at one meeting only, not multiple meetings as Vince seems to be indicating in his statement.
“As it was similar to other breaks in our relationship that have occurred over the past 18 years, I wanted very much to understand my contribution as to why this kept happening. Over the course of the next months and years, I made several attempts to own my sin and to ask for their forgiveness.”
The breaks in our relationship were the result of Lou’s dishonesty and failure to acknowledge specific sins beyond not caring for us. His attempts at owning his sin were selective: “I confessed to them that I was proud and selfish.”
“As I began to understand the things they were bringing to me, I confessed to them my deficiencies in caring for them and that I did not love them like Hebrews 13:3 states.”
“Deficiencies in caring for them” can more accurately be described as “family abandonment.”
“At two significant times in this family’s life, I allowed my fear of health issues Lisa faced to cloud my judgment…”
During the time leading up to my daughter’s court case, Lou made a deliberate and calculated decision to back away from our family. He was instructed by SGM lawyers to tell his wife not to discuss details of our daughter’s case with Happymom.
Lisa was not covered under the clergy-privilege statute and therefore could have been called as a witness to testify on our daughter’s behalf had she been given knowledge of any details. Lou endeavored to avoid this possibility and then lied about it when we confronted him. We had given him our daughter’s court-date months in advance, and a few days before the trial Lou told me they couldn’t be there because he had a scheduled meeting with Vince and Lisa had a doctor’s appointment.
I pleaded with him to come for our daughter’s sake. He came for a few minutes before the trial and then left. Lou’s explanation of this to the Fairfax church on 7/24 was that he allowed his fear of health issues Lisa faced to cloud his judgment.
The other issue Lou is referring to occurred in 1993 and it involved circumstances surrounding the funeral of our baby and a church split. Lou protested the funeral because we sided with the portion of the church that opposed him.
He said to Happymom at the time, “This church split is sick and you don’t see it. You’re the enemy’s trophy and they’re going to shine you up and put you on their mantle and we’re not coming to your baby’s funeral.” (Editors comment: I am barely able to contain myself-How could they??!!!!)
For 16 years Lou maintained that Lisa’s health issues were the reasons for not coming to the funeral. In his 2010 apology letter he said, anger and hard heartedness were the reasons. (He never admitted the reasons why he was angry) But Lou currently states that his fear of health issues Lisa faced clouded his judgment. Which is it Lou?
While Happymom was recovering in the hospital a day after giving birth to a dead baby, Lou called and yelled at her over the church split.
This particular issue was somewhat addressed in a 2003 meeting with Vince but never completely resolved. Lou did not own up to these things. In this meeting he said, “I don’t remember saying those things, but given the frame of mind I was in at the time, I could have said those things, and if I did, I’m sorry.” Happymom had forgiven Lou for this mostly out of a desire to end the break in the relationship with her family.
“Sadly, I stand here tonight, and we have not been reconciled. We have had a short time of reconcilitation after meeting, as Vince mentioned, with the third party impartial mediator that both of our families agreed to. Forgiveness was extended, and that very night Lisa and I went to their home and asked their children’s forgiveness, and of our niece in particular. We enjoyed a wonderful and tearful reunion as families.”
“The pastoral team and a representative from Sovereign Grace Ministry received an e-mail from this family sharing the news that they had forgiven us and our relationship had been restored. After three weeks of relating again as families, the relationship suddenly deteriorated and, sadly, we find ourselves here tonight.”
Yes, this is true; we did forgive them for the things they had apologized for. But Lou forgot to mention that we had discussed getting together to work out the unresolved issues face to face. Happymom and I were eager to do this as the thought of getting all this stuff behind us was very much in our hearts.
As mentioned above, the problem occurred when I expressed the need and desire to meet with a Sovereign Grace Pastor. We believed it was important to have one of Lou’s fellow pastors witness his answers to our questions so that he might be held accountable …but Lou said, “That aint happening.…” And again, Fairfax backed him up on this.
In an environment where the accountability standard is top priority, and if godly reconciliation was truly Lou’s goal, why would meeting with a SG pastor present a major problem?
Our questions still remain unanswered.
If there’s been a 32 year history of no molestations occurring on church property then the issue of safety on church property has never been the real problem. People at risk need to know the identity of underage sex-offenders in the church so that children will be safe in social settings away from church property. It is the pastor’s responsibility to inform people at risk.
Fairfax leadership relinquished their responsibility in dealing with a pastor who had lied to us. They relied on the testimony of a complete stranger who knew nothing of our family history and ultimately turned it all back on us. Fairfax protected Lou from having to answer our questions directly and minimized the situation by calling it a “family disagreement.” They also referred to the issue as a “difference in interpretation of the facts.”
Will they publicly confess to the charges made in this response? Will anyone step down from public ministry for integrity’s sake? And will there be restitution made to the families involved?
No amount of tears can make something right that is clearly and undeniably wrong.
“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
Lydia's Corner: 2 Kings 3:1-4:17 Acts 14:8-28 Psalm 140:1-13 Proverbs 17:22