You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. We are all scandalised by the sins and failures of some of the Church's members. Pope Benedict XVI link
Notice: Alleged Victims to appear on WJLA- ABC -Channel 7 in Washington DC, Thursday 5 PM
Note to attorneys-put the word "alleged" in front of every word of the post!
The Second Amended SGM lawsuit has created a firestorm. The word "horrific" is the descriptor that shows up in posts, reactions and tweets. Today I want to look at the particulars of the story of Heather Thompson Bryant(beginning at #56 in the amendment) and then respond to some concerns that have been raised about her testimony.
Heather's dad was a SGM pastor. When she was 3 years old, in 1984, Stephen Griney, a kindergarten teacher and head of the Children's Ministry program at CLC, began to victimize her. This continued when she became a kindergarten student in his class as school. These acts would take place in a school coat closet and in the stage curtains in the gym.
In 1986, Griney, along with his wife, Denise, began to host sleepovers at their house. Heather was given a drink which made her groggy. He carried her downstairs, stripped off all of her clothes, except her underpants, and tied her to a pole. Mark Hoffman, a Child Ministries teacher entered the room. They (both) stripped off her panties and performed oral sex on her, while alternately screaming at her and then saying she was a good girl.
They placed a feather boa and pearls on her and made her pose for them. At this point, light flashed, as if a camera was being used and there appeared to be a third person in the room. Griney then raped Heather and, along with Hoffman wiped her off and carried her back upstairs to go to sleep.
Hoffman became a babysitter for Heather, and continued to molest her. The next year at school, Griney's wife, Denise, became her teacher. She allowed her husband to remove Heather from the class during the day. During these times, he would molest her and told her she had to obey him because he "owned" her. When Heather repeated 1st grade at home, Griney and Hoffman had access to her through the Children's Ministry program and continued to victimize here.
In 1988, the Thompson family traveled to Indiana for an SGM conference called Celebration. Heather was taken from her room to a room with 15 children and some adults wearing masks. The names of some of the children present are being withheld until a ruling from the judge. During this time, she was raped by Griney and Hoffman while other children yelled at her.
When she returned to second grade, the victimization by Griney and Hoffman decreased. Heather believes that they preferred girls in kindergarten and first grade. She reports that she was brought to a band room in which some boys were told to push her and humiliate her because boys should dominate girls.
Dave Mayo, an assistant to the pastor for New Members babysat for her and victimized her. At the age of 10, she was once again victimized by Hoffman. It was during this time, she formed her first suicidal thought. (ends at #85).
Speculations on Heather's emotional well-being
At this point, I want to make a few remarks. I have been reading some comments around the Internet which cast aspersions on Heather, basically accusing her of being "unstable." My thoughtful, well-trained answer to that is "Well, Duh!" Most children form their basic attachments and security by the age of 5 years old. Assuming that the "alleged" accusations are accurate (and I believe that they are for many reasons), Heather began to be victimized at the age of 3! Read that again, 3 years old! She had her first suicidal thought at the age of 10! This is a child at high risk for all sorts of struggles. To disparage her in any way is callous and thoughtless. I beg all people to treat her with love, kindness and respect while eschewing the role armchair psychologist.
I want to say this loud and clear. Heather is normal because she struggled. She would be considered abnormal if she floated through life after such a rough start. Today, I spoke with an individual who knows her. She says that she is a beautiful, strong and well-spoken women who freely speaks of her troubles and how she overcame them through counseling. Apparently she is going to be a fine witness and I would be shaking in my boots if I were one of her alleged victimizers.
A number of people have expressed disbelief that certain pastors could ever commit such heinous acts. I find it interesting that people who believe in the "total depravity of man" doubt that such depravity can be found in "nice" people. At the end of the post, I have included the You Tube video of a neighbor of Ariel Castro, the man who imprisoned 3 women for 10 years. This neighbor was in shock because he used to "eat ribs" with Castro.
I think it is hard for us to contemplate that we were wrong in our assessment of a person. Many of us, myself included, believe that we have some special insight into the heart of people. Surely, we should be able to spot a monster. A monster could never be a pastor, especially one who spoke out against all sort of sins and who I admired and followed. It is a little difficult to look at a pile of notes that we took while listening to a gifted preacher, only to later discover that he was a charlatan.
Folks, we are not infallible. We can be duped. Pedophiles target trusting, nice people. They can smell them a mile away. They seek out those who will let them have access to their kids so they volunteer to babysit (a big factor in this lawsuit) or to lead children's ministries. They hang out in schools and at kids sporting events. They love to do sleepovers and summer overnight camps. Some of them like to be clowns that perform at children's parties.
In fact, Mark Hoffman, one of the alleged victimizers of Heather, moonlights as a clown.
5/16- update The clown company verified that Hoffman is one and the same and have removed him from their site so the original post is now restored.
Here is a self description that was posted by Kris at SGM Survivors link. I find it chilling.
Hi! It’s Mark Hoffman, Oops the Clown and Mr. Funnyman. I have been performing stage shows and doing children’s entertainment for 25 years. When I started I was emceeing, creating and performing skits, giving object lessons and puppet shows for large events up to 600 kids. About 15 years ago I began doing parties, shows, and corporate events as Oops the Clown or Mr. Funnyman (festive costume, balloon hat, no make-up). I perform in Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC.
I believe I have been given a gift to make people (especially children) laugh. Of the many gifts I have, the one I think that has the most effect on my entertainment is my gift of discernment. I have a very strong ability to read people, and be able to adjust my style accordingly Give me a few minutes with most kids and I can win them over, no matter what makes them tick. They will be smiling and maybe even laughing hard by the time our interaction is done. When I am making a balloon or painting a face, I don’t want anyone to walk away with just a balloon in their hand or their face looking cool. I want them to have had a special experience with someone who they now feel a connection with. I want them to leave the event or party saying “That was the most fun I have ever had at a party!”
The events where I can connect with another person are my favorite types of events. It gives me a big rush and it motivates me to get more of that reaction. So, if you want a balloon or a kid face painted and that’s all, call someone who throws on a costume or does those things only to make money. If you want the kids (and adults) at your event to have their own special moment of laughter and joy, think about having Oops the Clown or Mr. Funnyman come to your event. Also know that my experience with About Faces is that they strive to bring on only the entertainers like me. So, if I am not available, check out some of their other fun characters. Many of them are my friends and mentors.
Here is another comment at that same link about Griney "The Tickle Monster."
May 15th, 2013 at 5:21 pm
Another tidbit about the defendant “Mr. Griney”. As a kid and growing up, we were always told that Mr. Griney was the “tickle monster” and that he would come tickle you all over your body if you were wearing a striped shirt(or were not not wearing a striped shirt…it was one of the two, can’t remember exactly). Kids would always be scared that you were going to be “tickled” by mr. griney if you saw him. I remember seeing many instances of him tickling little kids all over because of this “fun rule” he had. In fact, I myself was tickled by him on 1 or 2 occasions.
All these accusations against him are now very fitting and make sense from my memories of him. Very disturbing to say the least.
TWW unashamedly stands with the alleged victims in this lawsuit.
We must be careful when we openly doubt children who claim to have been abused. Most children do not lie about such things. By expressing disbelief, we can contribute to the pain and turmoil of the victim. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Most predators lie about their activities. Link. It is also important to take into consideration the claims of many victims within a given environment. In my opinion, there are similarities in some of these accounts that cause me to believe the victims.
As we have seen, SGM and CJ Mahaney have received widespread support from the supposed leaders of the Neo-Calvinist movement. Few of them have expressed any concern for the pain of the victims. Since they have seen it fit to appear at SGM and other conferences with SGM pastors, speak at SGM churches, and extol their books, I have decided that TWW will do just the opposite. We stand firm with the victims and choose to believe them. If any of them are reading this, know that Deb and I pray for you, defend you and believe you.
TWW's Prime Directive: A Review
In light of the pain of the alleged victims and, in anticipation, of criticism of the victims, we will be diligently applying this directive in the coming days. If any comments disparage the alleged victims, we will delete them without warning.
The Prime Directive: This is the most important term on our blog. Violators of this directive will be looked upon as ideologues, pumping up their particular idol- be it theological or human. This directive states the following: All commenters must acknowledge the pain some people have experienced at the hand of pastors and churches which overemphasize a particular doctrine or which apply harsh and capricious discipline or cover up child abuse. TWW exists, in part, to provide understanding in this area. We are dead serious about this (even though it is based on a concept from Star Trek).
A Crack in TGC's Silence
Today, Jared C Wilson, a TGC blogger, tweeted the following:
The allegations in the newly amended SGM lawsuit are horrific. Let's remember the state does not wield the sword in vain.
Perhaps some consciences are being pricked? Hopefully he will not stand alone. This lawsuit is becoming larger and more horrific as time passes. There are a number of Neo-Calvinist men who have made all sorts of glowing statements about the fitness of CJ Mahaney as a leader. In the same breath, many of them have disparaged concerned bloggers as troublemakers who dislike strong leadership. In the days to come, many people may have cause to question the discernment skills of the self-proclaimed leaders of this movement.
Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 7:1-8:18 John 14:15-31 Psalm 119:33-48 Proverbs 15:33