We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love – first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage. Albert Camus
A Plea to the World-Wide Church to Change “Business as Usual"
We are desperately trying to start a conversation about pedophilia and the church. We know that most churches have criminal background checks these days but that does not protect us from the undiscovered pedophile. These pedophiles have molested, on average between 80 and 140 times prior to their first arrest. You can read a post we did about pedophilia here.
Most of you, who are reading this post, have an unknown pedophile (s) in your midst. I don’t care how careful you are. They are there and they are wreaking havoc on today’s churches, leaving broken victims, devastated families and hurt churches.
We must start a conversation. Frankly, it is usually the victims and the victims’ families who talk. Most church leaders clam up. Why? In many instances, they have made profound mistakes in dealing with a pedophile incident in their churches.
Unless church leadership opens up and becomes vulnerable about their missteps, this cycle will go on and on and on, leaving devastated churches and families. That is why I want to start this post by explaining that I spoke with two church leaders who were intimately involved with the Schneider situation. They could have easily ignored me, like the pedophile, but they chose to speak with me.
In those two conversations I learned a lot about their views on what happened and gained some insight into their theology. One of them spoke openly about his mistakes. This is unusual. Deb and I were involved with this situation in a former church. The leaders clammed up, never copping to any mistakes.
If we are going to get to the bottom of this issue, some people will have to put their pride on the back burner and begin to share openly about why these things occur.
So, I am grateful that these two men threw caution to the wind and spoke with me. Our readers will find reasons to be irritated at their responses. But, I would ask that we discuss the issues that were raised. On Monday, I plan to use these two posts to outline mistakes churches make when confronted with pedophilia. Although I have some profound theological differences with these two men and I disagree with how they handled the issues, I do believe that they exhibited transparency in our conversations and I have some hope that others will follow in their footsteps as we seek to honestly deal with this blight on the church.
My first conversation was with one of the leaders of the Household of Faith Fellowship of Churches headquarters. He asked that I not reveal his identity. In the interests of keeping the main thing, the main thing, I acquiesced. I am glad that I did. I learned some things.
He made the point that the central leadership has no authority of the member churches.
At first he objected that what I was telling him was hearsay. When I made the point that the act of pedophilia is usually limited to the two individuals involved, it ends up always being hearsay. This is why courts exist, and in this instance, Patrick Rojas did plead guilty and was convicted. He agreed that hearsay, particularly in this instance, was not relevant.
He went on to express concern for the two elders that dealt directly with this situation. He stressed that they are human beings who make mistakes and emphasized that they are not paid workers of the church and were not trained in the ministry. I noted that trained pastors screw up this situation as well.
He told me that both of these men are the “godliest men you have ever met. They are precious.” He stressed that they, along with himself, deeply love the people that they serve.
At this point he expressed how shocking it was that the pastor fled with his family. He had a hard time believing that such a thing could occur.
He objected to the blog written by Danielle Schneider, claiming that the church was being maligned. I asked him to expose anything that he believed was untrue. He did not answer this question but claimed that the family refused “input.” He would not elaborate on this.
At this point, I tried to emphasize that a blog is a way to deal with unresolved pain and issues with the church. He didn’t answer so I asked him if he knew that Gregg Harris visited the church in the midst of the crisis. He did, so, I asked him to comment on Danielle’s account that Gregg would not listen to a report of the psychosexual evaluation because “women are easily deceived.” He said there was no way Gregg said such a thing so I pushed the point. I believe that this “doctrine” can contribute to a culture of silence and coverup in the church because women are marginalized and ignored.
I asked if his organization believed that women are easily deceived. He said that it is in the Bible and so it must be true. He emphasized that their churches only teach what is Biblical. I asked him to tell where it is found in the Bible but he said he didn’t have a Bible with him and so could not answer me.
I asked him what he would say if there were conservative theologians who disagreed with this particular designation for women. He said that Christians of good will could disagree with such a belief and still be Christian.
At this point, I noted that he had not mentioned the victim in our conversation. The emphasis had clearly been on defending the elders. So, I asked if his organization would be willing to give money to the family so that the victim could receive counseling. He said they would be willing to do so.
I decided to leave him with some food for thought. I emphasized that a national organziation which deals with abuse says we should always focus on the victims when confronted by this situation. In many instances, it is our kneejerk response to “protect the church” and we forget that God is the one who does that. We must respond like Jesus, always protecting and caring for those hurt.
We ended the conversation and he asked to pray for me, which he did. No matter our differences, I was glad to see that he was willing to pray. He also gave me the telephone number of the elder, Jim Cameron. I decided to concentrate on him since he was involved from the start.
Jim was willing to speak with me at length. He started off by saying that never, in over 50 years, had he encountered such a situation. He said he is still trying to sort it out in his head. He admitted to making some mistakes and wished he could have a “do over.”
He emphasized that he is not a righteous man and he hopes that, over time, people could forgive him.
He claimed that he had not read Danielle’s blog but he did not agree with her depiction and he felt it was skewed. When I asked him for specifics, he declined.
He said that Patrick Rojas had worked for him for a long time. Jim and Patrick would spend lunch hours praying, discussing and studying the Bible together and both enjoyed listening to Christian music. He said he thought he knew Patrick and now realized that he did not.
He did confirm that he knew of the extent of the abuse early on, just as Danielle reported. He said that a lawyer told the church that they could be in trouble if they breached pastor/penitent privilege. He says he regrets this but believed they were doing the right thing at the time.
He also agreed that he did not tell the church the extent of what had happened in the meeting of the heads of households. He said, at that time, he was trying to protect the child’s identity and there were only two female children of the same age in the church. Once again, he stressed he felt he handled this poorly but not from ill intent. He said that he dearly tries to be a “man of integrity.”
He confirmed the meeting with Gregg Harris. When I asked him if Gregg had said that woman are easily deceived, he became uncomfortable, telling me I should talk with Gregg. He then emphasized that he does not believe that such a statement is true and that he would believe his own wife if she made such a statement. He also made the point that their particular church does not hold to the “women are easily deceived” doctrine.
Once again, he expressed regret that the psychosexual report was not discussed in the meeting. He had not seen it and did not know what was in it. He said, in retrospect, that God had allowed that report into the open and he believes he should have dealt it at that point.
He said that when he finally read it, he could not believe what he was reading. He was in a state of shock over the extent of the confession. To make matters worse, Eddie Rojas had fled the country with his family and he could not speak with him about the details. He emphasized that he realizes that the flight of the Rojas means that there is much more to the situation but one that will not be resolved until Eddie Rojas is caught, if then.
He made an important observation. He said that he had always put leaders up on a pedestal. He now regrets that and says his view on this is in transition.
I asked him if Eddie Rojas had been disciplined or excommunicated from the church. Apparently, Eddie had resigned by the time that he has fled.They do not discipline people retroactviely.
I then asked him if Patrick Rojas had been “disciplined.” He said that he had not been disciplined because Patrick had repented and was receiving counseling. He said that they asked him to move to another HOFCC and had met with the church to warn them. He emphasized that HOF churches always have the children with their parents during any church gathering. They are never alone with other adults.
I asked him why he believed that Patrick was repentant. He said that Patrick was faithful with his counseling and expressed remorse. I asked what kind of counseling he was receiving and Jim said it was nouthetic counseling. In the past, TWW has expressed grave reservations about the effectiveness of this sort of counseling and wrote a post on the issue here. Our reservations may be validated by this particualr situation.
(These)“counseling techniques (are)called Biblical Counseling or Nouthetic Counseling or NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors.). I need to make a distinction here. There seems to be a difference in Biblical counseling and NANC terminology. From what I can tell, NANC, the most recognized group within conservative churches believes that "Biblical" (read non-NANC) counselors often employ secular psychological techniques and are, therefore, caving to the sinful beliefs of the psychological establishment.”
When I asked him how Patrick was faring, he said that he does let his sons go bowling with him because he believes that Patrick is doing well. I then asked him why a repentant man would further victimize his victim and her family by suing them. And, I added, that most churches that believe in a strict, literal reading of the text, do not believe in lawsuits. He became quiet when I warned him that Patrick was not acting like a repentant man.
When I mentioned that I had called Patrick, Jim said he was sure Patrick would call me back. As we ended the conversation, he prayed for me. He prayed that I would learn things that would help all churches to better deal with and understand these issues. I am grateful for that. I need all the prayers I can get in this blogging business!
Has Household of Faith lost track of Patrick?
This is serious warning. First, Patrick did not return my telephone call. I then called Danielle to ask her the name of the church that Patrick was currently attending. She said that when she received the documents for the lawsuit last year, Patrick claimed he was attending Mars Hill, not another HOFCC church. I could make a quip about his choice but the subject is too serious to do so. Suffice to say that all roads seem to lead to Mars Hill in one form or another. (6, 5 or 4.74 degrees of separation are in play). We hope that the elders might warn Mars Hill if this is true.
We urge all of those involved with this situation to use extreme caution. Crocodile tears, protestations of repentance and nouthetic counseling do not guarantee the Patrick is on the straight and narrow anymore than a lightly taken sinner’s prayer guarantees that one is saved. Do not be deceived yet again.
Lydia's Corner: Amos 7:1-9:15 Revelation 3:7-22 Psalm 131:1-3 Proverbs 29:23