"The news prompted an #IStandWithSGMVictims hashtag which SGM critics attempted to use to flood TGC's social media presence. (The hashtag generated about 1,500 tweets and did reach trending status in the U.S. on Friday—for about five minutes.)"
I am sitting in my hotel room, staring out at the beach, trying to make sense of all that is happening. I am not really clever enough to weave all of the threads into a perfect braid. Instead, I shall try a segmented approach.
To all of you who have bravely told you stories and pursued justice, both within SGM and outside in the courts, I want you to know that you are amongst my first thoughts in the morning and part of my whispered prayers each night. May the conviction of Nate Morales bring a glimmer of hope to your soul that justice is sometimes possible in this world.
My Twitter Discussion with Joe Carter
Over the weekend, a firestorm erupted on Twitter. #IStandWithSGMVictims was started by Zach Hoag. A number of people sent tweets to The Gospel Coalition which promptly blocked a number of people using the hashtag. Folks were intently discussing their banishment from @TGC; your prevailed upon blog queen, Dee, being one of them. All during the weekend, tweets were flying as Joshua Harris discussed his situation and TGC appeared to drop Mahaney from their council lineup. At one point, I had 100 twitter notifications within an hour. That, for our website, is huge.
Joe Carter is the editor of The Gospel Coalition. I was excited when he, @joecarter, joined a Twitter discussion with me @wartwatch. I hoped to build a bridge between TGC and the victims. TGC has appeared to support SGM and CJ Mahaney throughout the civil lawsuit. Even on Tuesday, while the SGM abuse victims were testifying in court, TGC posted a puff piece on Carolyn Mahaney's new book True Beauty. This action appeared to demonstrate a lack of concern for the seriousness of the abuse charges.
My discussion with Carter didn't work out as I had hoped. I encourage all of our readers to view the exchange between Carter and myself on 5/16-17. Carter claims he is neutral in the SGM matter. Hoping that might be the case, I offered to broker a meeting between Carter and one of the victims. I thought it would make a very cool picture: a member of TGC sitting with a victim. It could have provide a balancing counterpoint to this picture of Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Piper and Kevin DeYoung sitting with CJ Mahaney.
However, much to my dismay, Carter began to accuse me of smearing and slandering. He hinted about legal action, inappropriately putting a smiley face next to one of these comments. It was not funny in the least. He did not quote anything that I had said and I would urge you to read my tweets on the matter. At that point, I had to stop participating in the conversation since it is never wise to continue after lawsuits get mentioned. Carter went on to go after Julie Anne Smith and who knows who else after that.
Then, Carter calls my very faith and ethics into question. Please look at my exchange and see if I did the same to him.
To top it off, one of the gospel™ fanboys compared TWW to Planned Parenthood.
Perhaps this brings us back to our posts regarding spiritual abuse. The person who brings forth the problem becomes the problem. This exchange was observed by many. However, there is a bright side. There were many who came to our aid: Janet Mefferd, Zac Hoag, Tim Fall, Bill Kinnon, False Wayne Grudem, Father Bryan and so many others. Thank you all for caring about us. In the end, it does not surprise me that those who believe in pastorcentric authoritarianism respond in such a manner.
CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris removed or resigned from The Gospel Coalition Council.
On Sunday, an alert individual noted that Mahaney and Harris' names were removed from the TGC council. Interestingly, Joe Carter, Editor for TGC and supposedly an expert on all things TGC, immediately jumped into Twitter to say they had NOT been members of the council. Google cache, at the hands of @warwraith, quickly proved him wrong. Then Carter said they had "resigned" from the council over the weekend. Carter did not say why he said they had not been members of the council. (Could the purge have begun; Mahaney who?)
This development is significant, given the revelations in the Nate Morales trial, especially when paired with this next piece of information.
Josh Harris, head pastor of Covenant Life Church, former flagship of SGM , appears to be taking a paid leave of absence from the church.
You may listen to Joshua Harris' emotional sermon from this past Sunday at this link. Harris appears poised to take a paid leave of absence. He claims that this probable action should not be misconstrued as an admission of guilt. He seemed to indicate that he believes his action might be of benefit to the internal investigation that he claims is ongoing at CLC. However, it is of note that he took this action after the rather disturbing allegations made by Grant Layman under oath this week.
Of significance, Harris discusses 2007 which will come up again in the next section. Remember this.
The events related to 2007 are a significant issue for us and they are going to be fully addressed and accounted for by us. I can’t say any more than that.”
“This week, I requested, I asked the other pastors, the board of elders, that I be placed on administrative leave until this issue can be fully addressed. The three other men who had any connection to handling the Nate Morales issue are ready to do the same thing. This is me, Kenneth [Maresco], Corby [Megorden] and Robin [Boisvert].” link
The Nate Morales Trial: What could this mean for the future?
In this section, I will be reviewing the relevant testimony which is the basis for my speculation. I will not be reviewing the horrendous acts perpetrated on Morales' young victims. They were despicable and my heart goes out to each and every person who was harmed by this monstrous pedophile.
The following comments are taken from Brent Detweiler's transcript of the trial.
The first witness called to stand was Samuel’s and Daniel’s mother, Grace Charlene Bates. Of greatest importance, she testified they went to Grant Layman in 1992 and told him about the sexual abuse of Samuel. This fact was not disputed by the Defense. Grant was a pastor at Covenant Life Church. C.J. Mahaney was the senior pastor.
Brian told an older adult, Bob Rosencrantz about Morales’ abuse in late 1991 or early 1992. Bob then told his parents, Dick and Marsha Wolohan. Dick went to one of the pastors at Covenant Life Church to tell them about the alleged abuse. He could not remember which pastor specifically. This led to a meeting with Morales in a park behind the Wolohan house with Dick and Grant Layman or Robin Boisvert. Dick couldn’t remember which one. Morales denied the sexual abuse of Brian at this time.
Grant Layman was sworn in next. Under oath he told the jury he did not report the crimes told him by Scott and Charlene Bates in 1992 that were committed by Morales against their son, Samuel Bates. He also stated that within one year, he learned of the sexual abuse of Brian Wolohan and did not report it to the police either.
Under cross examination by the Defense Attorney Alan Drew (which was surprising), he was asked “Did you have a responsibility to report” the crimes committed against Samuel Bates and Brian Wolohan. To this Layman said, “I believe so.” Drew responded, “Did you report" to police? Layman answered, “I didn’t do it.”
It should also be added that Scott Bates, the father of Samuel and Daniel Bates, contacted the Covenant Life pastoral team again in 2007 when he learned that Morales was a pastor in Las Vegas, NV. The entire pastoral team talked about how to handle the situation with Morales. Layman was given the assignment to contact Morales. Layman talk to Morales by phone. During this conversation Morales admitted to the sexual abuse of boys but claimed he couldn’t remember the details. None of the pastors at Covenant Life Church reported this confession of sex abuse to the police.
Samuel talked to Grant Layman about the abuse of Jeremy. Layman assured Samuel that “They [the pastors] would take care of it.” Yet under oath, Jeremy said Layman “never talked” to him about the abuse. Under cross examination, Defense Attorney Drew asked Jeremy, “To the best of your knowledge did they [the pastors] take care of it” [i.e. report it to the police, etc.]. Jeremy responded with a firm, “No.”
Now, let's take a look at the report of the trial by WJLA . Pay particular attention to the State Attorney's comment @1:40 minute mark. Also, listen to Pam Palmer's(Involved in the civil lawsuit) comments as well.
As you know, Nate Morales is being tried today on another count and will be tried again in approximately 3 weeks. I believe the testimony will add more information and we will be posting any additional thoughts as they arise. Remember, the testimonies by the victims and Layman were made under oath. If they lied, they would be guilty of perjury. Therefore, I take what they say very seriously.
1. The Bates family reported Morales' abuse in 1992 to Grant Layman. Grant was a pastor at CLC, working under CJ Mahaney, who was the senior pastor. The Defense did not dispute this report. It is my opinion that the CJ Mahaney was a strong leader who ran the show at CLC. Is it not reasonable to assume that his brother in law, Grant Layman, might have discussed this with him? Doesn't the "buck stop" with Mahaney? Or did Layman decide to keep this all a "secret" from his brother in law? Did he keep it a secret from him in 1992 and in 2007 when Mahaney was the leader of SGM and also officed at CLC?
2. It is evident from the trial that Layman knew about the proclivities of Morales in 1992. Yet Morales was never reported to police. Even worse, it appears this was never reported to the people attending CLC. When Morales left, it appears that no attempt was made to contact the churches and organizations that hired Morales. This evidently led to further victims. Look at a comment made by Jeff Cole, the stepson of Nathaniel Morales on Brent Detweiler's Facebook page. I believe that anyone at CLC who knew of Morales' abuse, and did not report it, is morally responsible for subsequent abuse.
Jeff Cole If these so called men of God did what they were supposed to way back when they would have saved my mom 18 yrs. of marriage to this monster and my brothers from being victims and the countless others in MI, NV, OK possibly Puerto Rico and Mexico. I have almost lost my faith because of this man and all the other men of God (said with as much sarcasm add possible) who knew about it and covered it up. ******* hypocrites!!!!!!!!
3. Layman admitted that he learned (@ 1992-1993) of Morales' abuse of both Bates and Wolohan and did not report either. He also admitted that he believed he should have reported this to the police.
4. It appears that in 2007 the pastoral team were made aware of the abuse of Bates and reportedly discussed how to handle it. They did not, however, report it to the police.
5. In the above video, the state attorney makes an interesting comment. He implied that law enforcement used to have to wait for the victims to report their abuse. Then he says that they realize that this is no longer the right way to deal with these sorts of matters. Some believe he meant that churches should report these matters. I think he might have meant something very different.
First thought: Could a criminal investigation into CLC/SGM be in the works?
I believe that it is entirely possible that the state attorney's office will open up a criminal investigation into how CLC handled child sex abuse allegations within their church. Layman's testimony was devastating. He admitted that he knew Morales' abuse should have been reported and then admitted that he did not do so.
Even more striking is how Layman's testimony was elicited. The above televised report was wrong in one area. It was the Defense Attorney who got Layman to admit this under oath. It is also interesting that the prosecutors(who work for the state attorney) spent quite a bit of time ascertaining who in CLC was told of the abuse and when they were told. It seems to me that this information was not strictly needed to get a conviction of Morales.
Instead, could it be that the prosecution was setting up for a possible criminal investigation into CLC/SGM? I find it very interesting that both Mahaney and Harris resigned from The Gospel Coalition Council this post week and that Joshua Harris is contemplating a leave of absence from CLC. Certainly, Grant Layman's testimony was devastating.
Second thought: Could the civil lawsuit be back in play since a conspiracy of silence appeared to be hinted at in the testimony?
Atty Susan Burke argued that the statute of limitations that were applied to the civil lawsuits needed to take into account a conspiracy. From our post on the lawsuit
We (the victims and the lawyers) all knew about the statute issue at the outset. But fighting for justice means doing so even against known obstacles. We had a conspiracy theory to overcome the statute but the Court rejected it. The victims are all brave and courageous people whose willingness to fight against evil has already made a difference in the world. Also, please realize going forward with a civil lawsuit does not in any way prevent criminal actions – perhaps may even make it more likely. And please keep praying, as we think the Court erred, and will be appealing her ruling.
When this occurred, I was under the impression that, if a conspiracy existed that prevented a crimes from being discovered, the countdown to the statute commences at the time of discovery of said conspiracy. Of course, the judge did not listen to that line of reasoning since no conspiracy could be proven.
Guess where I am going…I believe that the Nate Morales trial has actually uncovered the very real possibility of a conspiracy of silence between certain members of the CLC leadership team. From my view in the cheap seats, it seems to me that the civil lawsuit might well be back in play since the Bates family reportedly made sure the abuse was reported to pastoral team in 2007. Therefore, it seems that a conspiracy was uncovered during trial last week! So, could the actual statute of limitations problem be overcome now?
Final Thought: The Buck Stops at the Feet of Authority
There is no question in my mind that Sovereign Grace Ministries holds to a high view of pastoral authority. The pastors are the leaders. Also, they believe in strict gender roles. Only men can be pastors. In their system, men should be strong leaders who lay down their lives for their churches. As one who is looking in from the outside, there appears to have been a grave breakdown in leadership within SGM. It would seem to me that "real men" would believe that vaunted leaders should take responsibility for consequential failures in an organization. The buck stops at the feet of the leaders of CLC and SGM. Who were they in 1992 and in 2007?
Sometimes, the church can give Love a bad name. I dedicate this song to, well, if the shoe fits…
Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 35:1-36:38 James 1:1-18 Psalm 116:1-19 Proverbs 27:23-27