“I feel that some people have a hard time with the truths around us, not only the sexual abuse by priests, but all bad things. I call it chosen ignorance. This modified form of ignorance is found in people who, if confronted with certain truths realize that they have to accept them and thereby acknowledge evil, and that scares them. Opening up and letting the truth in might knock them off their perceived center. It is too hard, period.” ― Charles L. Bailey Jr., In the Shadow of the Cross link
Peter Newman Mug Shot
Is Fellowship Memphis an unsafe church for adults and children? We'll let you decide. Today's story calls into question the leadership at Fellowship Memphis in regards to their decision to hire a pedophile awaiting trial.
Information from an anonymous source
I know the name of the individual who has given us this information. He is a most credible source, having been present at the church for much of what we discussed in our last post as well as this post. We have decided to redact his name for the sake of privacy. However, if the church attempts to discredit the information provided by this individual, he will come forward with his name, gladly!
Contract worker, volunteer or direct hire: Makes no difference
Before we get into the heart of this story, I think we should clarify something. Churches that get caught in difficult sexual abuse cases usually try to downplay their relationship with the accused offender.
A former church that I attended, in which the pedophile is serving 13 years, claimed that the molester wasn't hired by the church. He was merely a volunteer from the seminary. At Fellowship Memphis, the leadership has allegedly asserted that Newman was merely a contractor.
I don't care whether the abusers were volunteers, contractors, or direct hires, the church still bears responsibility for its actions. The church will look bad no matter what the molester's or voyeur's job title was. Churches – "Stop knocking yourselves out to distance yourself and let the buck fall at your feet where it belongs."
-This post is focusing on Peter Newman due to his relationship with Fellowship Memphis. Kamp Kanakuk also had another pedophile incident which you can read about here: Former Kanakuk Counselor Lee Bradberry Sentenced To Ten Years For Sex Crimes Involving Young Boys.
– Everything to do with Kanakuk is spelled with a "k" which is a Kanakuk thing.
Kudos to Eagle and Amy Smith
There are some bloggers who keep each other informed about coming stories. Eagle has written a number of excellent articles at his blog Wondering Eagle on this situation as has Amy Smith at Watchkeep. I would not have known about this situation if those two hadn't been keeping an *eagle* and *watchful* eye on this story. Thank you!
Thank you to the brave informant
Coming forward and trusting others to write your story is difficult. You are brave. Thank you for caring about the children.
Peter Newman: Long time abuser/molester of campers at Kamp Kanakuk
What is Camp Kanakuk?
Kanakuk located in Branson, Missouri, has been long known as the premier Christian camp in the United States and abroad. In an effort to be completely honest, Dee got sucked into the hype for this camp and two of our children spent a few summers there. (I have repented!) Well known Christians send their kids there and parents like to stand around, pointing out the celebrities on Parents' Day. It was around this time that Dee was in the process of changing her views of much of this stuff.
Kanakuk describes itself here.
Since 1926, Kanakuk has been the Christian summer camp for over 300,000 youth. As a world leader among Christian summer camps, Kanakuk provides children with fun, safe and professional outdoor youth camping experiences that grow them spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially. Our leadership programs, rigid hiring procedures, and low staff turn-over rates allow us to hire summer camp staff that are leaders in their schools, churches and communities. Learn more hereabout customizing your child's summer camp experience.
…Our summer camp staff includes over 1,800 dedicated, kid-loving, Christ-following, fun-producing college students. Full-time leadership staff train and prepare them in five areas: Readiness to serve in a Christ-like manner; Coaching skills and Kamper safety; Core Kanakuk philosophies; Activity based application of Biblical principles; Creating an uplifting, fun and encouraging environment.
Joe White: CEO
Some of you may have heard about Joe White who has spoken at conferences such a Promise Keepers, etc. Here is how he is listed in Wikipedia. Note the highlighted portion.
Joe White is a speaker, author, and current CEO at Kanakuk Ministries.
…Kanakuk Ministries is a holder of numerous ministries, most notably Kanakuk Kamps, a large Christian sports camp based in Missouri that has been operating since 1926. Joe graduated from Southern Methodist University, and was an assistant coach at Texas A&M University before taking the reins of Kanakuk. Additionally, Joe has started several ministries including Kids Across America, a sports camp for underprivileged kids, Kanakuk Haiti, Men At The Cross, Pure Excitement, and After Dark.
He currently resides in Branson, Missouri, with his wife, Debbie Jo.
Joe and his camp, Kanakuk, have been sued by Multiple former campers claiming that he and the camp knew that former employee Pete Newman was abusing children on camp grounds from 1999-2009.
Peter Newman and Camp Kanakuk
I remember the day that I received notification from Kanakuk that my children had attended the camp when Peter Newman was a counselor. As I would discover, he was only interested in boys and only my daughters spent time at the camp. Newman was a long time employee of the camp but, under his family man, jovial, Christian exterior, there lived a monster. (He is married and has children.)
Newman was discovered to be exhibiting sexually inappropriate behavior in 1999. Joe White was reportedly made aware of the situation and decided to keep him on staff.
According to Red Dirt Report in Sandusky-like camp director arrested in Missouri – what did Kanakuk's "godlike" Joe White know?
“At least as early as 1999, Defendant Joe T. White, Kanakuk Ministries and/or Kanakuk Heritage, Inc. knew that Newman, in the nude, was riding four-wheelers at the ‘kamp’ with nude ‘kampers’ who were minor children entrusted to the care of Defendants. In response to this sexually inappropriate behavior, Newman was placed on probation.”
Despite these revelations, White would keep Newman “on staff in easy reach of his future victims.”
Newman continued his heinous activities and was finally arrested in 2010.
According to the Branson Tri-Lake News in Kanakuk named In lawsuit over jailed counselor, even though Joe White allegedly knew about the problems in 2003, he allowed Newman to have contact with children according to a lawsuit petition.
“In February 2010, Peter Newman pleaded guilty in Taney County to several counts of statutory sodomy and child enticement involving child abuse of a boy on Kanakuk property between approximately 2005 and 2008,” records state. “In 2003, defendants White and Kanakuk had actual knowledge that defendant Newman continued to engage in activities with children at Kanakuk camps that involved defendant Newman and the children becoming naked together.”
Why would Kanakuk give Newman a promotion and allow him to have access to boy kampers if they knew about his activities? $$$$$
The Branson Tri-Lake News had this to say.
“Defendants Kanakuk Ministries and Kanakuk Heritage chose to protect the sexual predator rather than the children,” the petition states.
The documents state that the defendants’ motivation for continuing to employ Newman was financial “in his reputation among kampers was such that it engendered return visits to kamp and more money for” the defendants.
The report states that Kanakuk did not limit Newman’s access to boys.
“Instead, Kanakuk promoted Newman inside the camp and to the world as a good, inspiring, Christian role model who developed deep connections to boys,” documents state. “Newman’s inappropriate nudity and private sleepovers with boys were not disclosed to the public, including John Doe IX’s parents until after Kanakuk was sued by one of Newman’s sexual abuse victims in 2011.”
With knowledge of three separate events, the result should have been Newman’s dismissal, documents state.
*Warning: short, graphic section dealing with the activities of Newman to give readers an understanding of his crimes.*
What were some of the alleged activities?
–Kanakuk promoted Newman as a "camp director, devoted husband, loving, beloved friend and mentor to youth" long after being made aware of sexual misconduct allegations. Camp officials also allowed Newman to "continue to promote himself all over America as an expert on teenage sexual purity."
-Newman had one-on-one Bible studies with boys in his hot tub.
-Newman used his unrestricted access to Kanakuk facilities to lure underage boys to the facilities during the off-season for sexual purposes.
-Newman bombarded the plaintiff, referred to as "John Doe, J. G." in the petition with phone calls and letters and engaged in phone sex with him.
-Newman had sexual relations with boys in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. (Not mentioned was Colorado)
-At a "Purity Conference" in Memphis, Newman engaged a group of boys in sex talk, telling them what it was like to "have sex with a woman now that he was married."
-Newman invited the plaintiff to a conference in Oklahoma where he tried to get the boy to engage in sodomy, was turned down, and finally convinced him to engage in a mutual masturbation session.
According to the petition, the plaintiff was first seduced by Newman on Feb. 7, 2003, and then again the following day at K-Kountry in Taney County, at an area known as "The Pit," a foam pit next to the gymnastics equipment.
In the summer of 2003, the petition says, Newman lured the children with a yellow jeep into "spending time with him on Kanakuk property."
According to another source
Newman admitted he betrayed the trust of underage boys and their parents when he held naked bible study in his hot tub, where he performed masturbation with/or on the boys, performed oral sex with the young men and played naked basketball with the youths.
*End graphic material*
Newman goes to prison.
The Crime Scene reported Newman Sentenced To Two Life Terms Plus 30 Years.
Peter "Pete" Newman pleaded guilty in February without a plea agreement to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, and three counts of enticement of a child.
…Every available seat (at least 100 in attendance) in Judge Mark Orr's courtroom was occupied by victims of 34 year-old Newman, their families or supporters of Newman's.
It is obvious that the judge realized the extent of Newman's crimes by the unusual length of the sentence. This judge gets it right!
Judge Orr retired to his chambers to decide Newman's fate for a little over 40 minutes, when he came back and delivered the verdicts it seemed that both side were a little stunned. Merrell said, "I'm satisfied, but there's always a sense of gravity when someone is sentenced to life. Adding, "I have never seen consecutive life sentences in all my years of practice."
Kanakuk is now being sued by the victims, and they are casting doubt on the severity of harm on the victims (Despicable!!!!- I cannot contain myself.)
I would sue if I were in the position of these families. I find this response on the part of Kanakuk reprehensible!
My two daughters traveled on those buses from NorthPark Center which are mentioned in the story.
In court documents filed in February 2013, Kanakuk says it will present testimony from expert witnesses that will cast doubt on the severity of the harm John Doe suffered as a 12-year-old sexual abuse victim. That testimony is expected to include the suggestion that John has "false or distorted recollections" of his encounters with Newman as a result of "external suggestion."
Kanakuk has been granted a motion for an independent medical exam of John and plans to call on a medical professional who believes that the child does not suffer from "a major depressive disorder." Kanakuk will also call on the CEO of a camp consulting firm to testify that the 2003 streaking incident was handled appropriately and that "there is no evidence of gross negligence or malicious conduct by Joe White or camp management."
The new suit says Newman “developed a deeper and more trusting relationship” with the boy, identified only as John Doe III, by “phoning him directly at his home in Texas, by emailing him at his home in Texas, and by sending cards and letters to John Doe III at his home in Texas.” The suit alleges this was part of Newman’s “grooming” process and “led John Doe III to more completely trust and believe
Defendant Newman.” Says the suit, which is below, “These acts continued throughout the abuse,” some of which was alleged to have taken place in the boy’s Dallas-area home.
Kanakuk has long been popular with Dallas families, in part because NorthPark Center is one of the stops on its charter-bus route.
In 2009, Fellowship Memphis apparently decided that Peter Newman would be a wonderful person to hire!!!!!
I want to thank the former attendee of this church for revealing the following information. Unfortunately, it seems to indicate that Fellowship Memphis does not take either child sex abuse or voyeurism seriously.
Due to previous friendships and employment, there was supposedly a connection between Fellowship Memphis and some of the folks at Kanakuk. For example, David Newman, Peter Newman's twin, who spoke out on his behalf, is a pastor at Antioch Church of the Y which is part of Fellowship Associates as is Fellowship Memphis. (We will be discussing this group in the near future.)
The following is the alleged timeline as best as our informant can remember.
- Spring 2009: Peter Newman leaves Kanakuk.
- Summer 2009: Newman is hired by Fellowship Memphis as a curriculum writer and is given a place to live.
- June 2009: Newman produces a written confession of his crimes.
- September 2009: Newman is arrested & then released on $50,000 bond along with a court order not to be around children but he continues working at the church.
- January 2010: Newman finally leaves the church to stand trial.
Our informant, having heard about the Newman situation, questioned Bryan Loritts about Peter Newman's position at the church. Loritts allegedly responded "It was just some skinny dipping thing." As far as our informant knows, the church attendees were not informed of Peter Newman's serious issues. Newman allegedly had full access to the church which, of course, has children.
Fellowship Memphis appears to have no problem exposing their congregation to a child sex abuser.
Peter Newman was hired by Fellowship Memphis. They had connections at Kamp Kanakuk and could have easily made a call to learn the issues surrounding Newman. Since they are supposedly intelligent men, I will assume that they checked this out. That leads me to believe that the church leaders at the time, including John Bryson and Bryan Loritts, did not take crimes of a sexual nature seriously, especially if the person involved has friends and family connections.
Unless there has been a radical change in how this church does business in the areas of abuse and voyeurism, then I believe that the church is unsafe for children as well as any adult. Here is my bottom line for all churches and parachurches:
Churches and Ministries: stop making your uninformed church members and attendees the guinea pigs for your gospel™ experiments with pedophiles and voyeurs.