"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do." ~ Dwight L. Moody (Amy Smith's favorite quote)
Many of our readers have been abused at the hands of authoritarian religious leaders. Others have been sexually abused by pastors and youth leaders who were supposedly God's men. The evangelical church, until recently, has been able to cover up abusive behavior in church leadership by imposing some sort of made up spiritual crime. These include: do not speak ill of the church; don't gossip; leave it up to the elders, etc.
The supposed goal seems to be to protect churches from having their dirty laundry aired before the public. Whoever thought this was a good idea obviously missed the Gospel-the real one. He is the Living Word of the Gospel who came to earth as a baby and grew up to die on the Cross for the sins of mankind. Honest believers know that men and women who profess the faith are still capable of sin against others because they understand why Jesus came.
Because they supposedly understand the Gospel, church leaders should be the first to declare that sin(and a crime) has occurred in their midst. They should be the first to go to the police and report child sex abuse. They should be the first to comfort those who have been deeply wounded by abuse perpetrated by church leaders because they get it. They know they sin. Jesus said so. Instead, they hide it "under a bushel," accuse outsiders of being sinners and hang sparkly lights around their congregation in an foolish attempt to hide the dark corners of sin and pain.
The lowly pew sitters are the object of public church discipline while church leaders are quietly moved aside or continue to be embraced by others of the inner circle. Such stories include a seminary leader who divorced his wife and came out of the closet; a pastor who kept a paramour and, after a brief respite, is appointed to lead a ministry; pastors who never apologize to victims, and churches which hide behind lawyers over issues of sex abuse in their churches.
Jesus was born in a stable, not a palace. His birth was announced to shepherds, not the Pharisees and it is pretty easy to guess why. The Pharisees and the Roman Emperors had it all: power and money. Why would they want to risk that for a baby who would preside over a different kind of empire: one based on humility and love for the poor in spirit and destitute. Jesus loved the prostitute, the tax collector, the fishermen. They got it. The leaders did not. Today, we remember the Apostles who were fishermen. We remember Peter who denied Jesus and died a martyr. We do not remember the plethora of Joe Pharisees who were arrogant and judgmental. Those apostles carried out the true Gospel not a gospel™.
The beautiful stories of hope and courage of today are found in the lives and stories of our friends and acquaintances who do not appear in the news like certain celebrity leaders who pontificate on the latest slight against Christians. These stories involve people who suffered rejection and pain and have gone on to reach out and care for others who have been similarly affected.
Kim Frank: a mother of abused children
Kim is the woman who organized the GoFundMe for the two little boys link who were hurt by convicted pedophile Greg Kelley. Unfortunately, a church has been sympathetic to the convicted pedophile, supporting those who are trying to prove his innocence. I have been following this story on Twitter for months and have watched as Kim Frank consistently came to the defense of these little boys. Unfortunately, some of the defenders of Greg Kelley have been loud and foulmouthed, attacking those who stood up for the little boys. I often wondered what motivated her. Recently, I learned her story on Amy Smith's Watchkeep. Here is a excerpt from a letter she wrote to Greg Kelley's supporters.
You guys need to stop this. Have you ever looked your child in the eye as they confessed to you that one of the most horrific crimes imaginable was committed against them? Have you ever sat there, internally pleading with God that what your precious baby is saying isn't true? Have you experienced the horror of learning that you unknowingly placed your child in harm’s way, exposing him to someone like Greg, someone who seems so good and trustworthy? No?
Well I have. And let me tell you, that if 15 years ago while I tried to put the pieces of my children’s innocence back together, a group of people like you stood and publicly called my children liars and made it very clear that they were not believed, not supported, and in fact the cause of putting someone unjustly in jail, I would have moved away. I would have left all my belongings behind and moved my children far away from people like you.
This is horrible what you’re doing to not only these precious little boys, but their families, and families like mine who are survivors of sexual abuse. You’re creating an environment where it’s not safe for a young child to confess abuse because you will all rally against them. You’re making it seem much easier for children to suffer the life-long (and it is very much life-long) damage of sexual abuse in private because the pain of the backlash from crying out is more than their little minds can handle. Is that what you are trying to do?
Because Greg is guilty so I can’t think of any other reason your groups would continue on with this pointless charade. You are not a martyr, Jake. You’re not going to save the world by giving the appearance of freeing an “innocent” man. He was identified by two young boys who gave detailed accounts of their attacks. And don’t tell me you believe the kids “may” have been abused, but not by Greg. BS. My children were the only witnesses to their molestation just like Greg’s victims were the only witnesses to his abuse.
Don’t you see…child molesters don’t molest in public. The victims will almost ALWAYS be the only witness unless they are caught in the act and that’s very rare. I don’t know how you can all read the facts and still doubt Greg’s guilt. I’m just blown away by that. I understand that you don’t want to believe Greg is capable of this. We never want to believe anyone could be capable of such a terrible crime against a child.
But the fact remains that child molesters are all around us. A quick search on the internet will sadly confirm that you are surrounded by them. I’m sure the friends and families of all the child molesters in your neighborhood didn’t want to believe their guilt either, but sooner or later you have to accept it.
Child molesters are fathers, brothers, uncles, clergy, babysitters, teachers, doctors…friends. They clothe themselves in humble, trustworthy skin while underneath, unseen by those closest to them, their blood runs cold. They can go undetectable for years, but eventually they get caught.
…Greg molested two sweet little boys and THAT'S why they said the things they said…not because they were coached. They are the victims. And their families are victims of added cruelty at your hands by being made to feel like they are not believed or supported. My children and so many of my adult friends who are survivors of sexual abuse are being so negatively affected by this group I can’t even tell you. You are not helping Greg. You are hurting our community. You've had your shot at a retrial and it was denied. The facts are clear and what you have presented is exaggerated and skewed so it's over.
Please pray about what you’re doing and let this end for the sake of those little boys. I’ll be delivering donations to Victim Services next week for these sweet boys. If anyone would like to contribute, please let me know. Thanks for reading this.
Kim and her family are heroes. In the midst of their continuing pain, they are reaching out to educate those who do not understand the ramifications of child sex abuse and to comfort those who have been directly affected.
Amy Smith: rejected by her parents
While she was in college her youth choir director and close friend to her family left their church abruptly in 1989 without explanation.
There wasn’t really any way to know, however, until the Internet came along. Smith found out her former minister was working at another church in another state and also in the local school system. She set out to inform both the school and church about the minister’s past.
As a result of internal pressure, the man eventually confessed to his church of “indiscretions” with younger males decades ago. That prompted several men to come forward claiming as children they were victimized by the man who babysat for their parents while he was in college and ministering in their church.
…John Langworthy, former longtime associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., pleaded guilty in January 2013 to five felony counts of gratification of lust. He received a suspended sentence of 50 years, meaning no time in prison, in a plea bargain offered in part because it took so long for the allegations to surface that prosecutors feared the charges might not stand up in court due to an ambiguous statute of limitations.
…Smith said after Langworthy left Mississippi in the 1980s, the same pattern started all over again at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, where she happened to be serving on staff at the time as a college intern.
…“But because he wasn’t reported he was able to escape prosecution, go back to Mississippi and then for decades was completely unexposed, until mounting pressure behind the scenes of me calling and trying to get the truth out there with the help of an investigative reporter in Dallas,” she said.
Prestonwood Baptist Church has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but Amy Smith continues to fight for the truth to be told. This has resulted in the rejection by her parents who had considered Langworthy, the pedophile, a family friend.
From the TWW post:
Recently, my parents stated in writing that they are going on with their lives without me and want no more contact with me. In their own words, they insist that I went on a "witch hunt." They still stand by and defend John Langworthy saying "he didn't molest anybody," though he has confessed publicly from the pulpit at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in August 2011. They have also demanded that I apologize to Jack Graham and Neal Jeffrey at Prestonwood.
This rejection continues. To this very day Amy's parents refuse to see Amy or her children. It hurts. Today she said:
It's been a difficult few days for me. Pain of knowing my parents are alive but hate me. Holidays and my girls' birthdays are the hardest.
In spite of this rejection, she continues on.
I will not apologize for the truth. It is the light of truth and knowledge that is our greatest tool to protect kids.
Amy is a hero. She has tolerated the rejection by her parents in order to fight to expose the truth. How many religious leaders on the circuit are willing to give up their friends to defend the victims of abuse? Would they be willing to risk book deals, rubbing elbows with the celebrity pastors, and the conference circuit to care for those who have been hurt? What action best represents the Gospel that they like to talk about so much?
In the end, I think that it is the courage of those like Amy and Kim who best represent the kingdom of God. Far too many of the religious leaders support their own kind, willing to overlook or hide the sins of one another in the name of *protecting* the church. They are missing the Gospel with this behavior. They do not perceive that it is Christians like Kim and Amy who are living out the Gospel by recognizing sin and pain, while bringing hope, courage, and love to those who have been let down by religious leaders and *nice* Christians.
To those of you who have experienced abuse, please know that Jesus focused his ministry on those who were marginalized and abused by the religious and governmental system. And guess what? He was then abused by both the religious authorities and the government. He's been there.
Here is a challenge. When you have begun to heal, share you stories boldly. You are not alone. Your story and understanding will be a gift to others who feel isolated and abandoned in their suffering. Let TWW know if you ever want to tell your story here. We care!
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 46:1-47:31 Matthew 15:1-28 Psalm 19:1-14 Proverbs 4:14-19