“They like to use those fancy words. They don’t like to say “raped,’” he said. “They say “misdeed,’ “inappropriate touching,’ “mistake.’ That’s insulting. I’m not a mistake.”
― Charles L. Bailey Jr., In the Shadow of the Cross
The email that says it all.
I will refer back to this email from time to time in the post. The following post will give the context to this communication. In particular, I would like to call your attention to the dates mentioned and highlighted as well as the written admission that the church received Mary Fakhoury’s November 2018 communication.
I have highlighted certain words in the correspondence. Those are my highlights, not the highlights of Daniel Fusco or Diana Blaser.
Daniel Fusco <email@example.com>
Mon 1/21/2019 1:04 PM
Dear Ms. Fakhoury,
Thank you for your follow up email regarding the original letter you sent electronically on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Please note, we did in fact receive your letter.
The concern you shared about the safety of our church body is of sensitive nature and is in fact taken seriously. We appreciate your heart and openness pertaining to Pastor Peter, as well as also we pray you do not have fear nor trepidation once you sent the letter.
Again, we thank you for your letter and pray God will bless & guide you.
Executive Assistant to Pastor Daniel Fusco
Crossroads Community Church
The email is unsigned and appears to be written by Blaser, an assistant, as well as Fusco whose name is at the top of the email. Or did he even look at it?
Lead pastor, Daniel Fusco, wrote an OP Ed published in USA Today, expressing his concern for those impacted by the #metoo movement
Daniel Fusco is the lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, Washington. This is a large church with three campuses. Here is a link to his bio on the church website. (Click on his picture and the bio pulls up.) He has planted three Calvary Chapel churches and founded the Calvary Church Planting Network.
Due to the church’s association with Calvary Chapel, one may assume a top heavy authoritarian structure known as the Moses Model. The Phoenix Preacher has written extensively on this subject as have others.
In this model, a board of elders is established, but many critics charge that they often answer to the pastor or serve as stamps of approval.
As a model or idea, the Moses model is not wrong, though it does lend itself to autocratic rule. Detractors must take care, however, not to condemn every church leader using the Moses model as some work well and other models are also susceptible to abuse of power.
Here is a link to his 2017 OP Ed in USA Today: What Jesus could teach chefs, celebrities and a president about masculinity.
Here are some quotes from the post.
When we hear these stories, our hearts break for the victims. As a person of faith, this concern extends as well to the oppressed and marginalized. I am grateful that moving forward, men using their positions of power and influence to harass, demean or objectify women will be unacceptable. The “boys will be boys” idea, or whatever ways people try to justify this behavior, is finally seeing its long overdue demise.
…Any time a person is abused or harassed, it is wrong. And it’s even more alarming when abusers leverage positions of power as opportunities to prey on people.
…Far too many men feel that an oppressive, objectifying and demeaning view of women is just how we are — when the whole time Jesus is there, serving as the ultimate example of masculinity, for us to understand and emulate.
…I am hoping we will look at him with fresh eyes this Christmas and ask God how we can take on more of the qualities of Jesus. A heart to stand in the gap for other people, to see them in whatever state they are in, and push away any other thought than: God, how do you see this person, and how can I bless them today?
… I am not recommending any get-out-of-jail free cards for anyone who has perpetrated these evils that are being exposed. But we cannot forget that all of us are in need of forgiveness.
Are all sins equal or are some sins worse and deserving of worse punishment?
However, I see a red flag at the end of the piece. He says:
I am not recommending any get-out-of-jail free cards for anyone who has perpetrated these evils that are being exposed. But we cannot forget that all of us are in need of forgiveness.
I wish he had expanded on this concept. Some sins can also be crimes. Some sins are abusive when a person uses his hierarchical power to overcome a subordinate. Pastoral sex abuse involving a church member or subordinate is an abusive use of pastoral privilege. Surely Pastor Fusco is not equating the abuse of a young woman who was Johnsen’s subordinate to the sin of disobeying the speed limit? Perhaps this perception is what led to his tepid, almost cruel response (or lack thereof) to Mary.
If one carefully reviews Scripture, one can see that even God commanded different punishments for different sins. Jesus said it would be better to tie a millstone around one’s neck and jump into the abyss as opposed to abusing little ones (which can also apply to those in a subordinate or unequal position of power.) Matthew 18:6.
What happened to Mary Fakhoury?
The following is the story of what happened to Mary. She sent this to Pastor Fusco, assuming that he’d be understanding to her story, given his *compassionate* Op Ed. Sadly, she was wrong.
Since the previous church where Mary’s abuse occurred has responded in a sufficient manner, I agreed not to name the church in this post with Mary’s support. Mary has both expert legal representation as well as excellent counseling support.
The following is the letter that she sent to Pastor Daniel Fusco in November, 2018. I think most readers will agree that Mary was transparent and vulnerable as she reviewed her history with Peter Johnsen who she discovered his now serving as a pastor al Crossroads.
I’m writing to you today to share my response to the article you wrote for USA TODAY last December, the one on masculinity and Jesus. It’s been weighing on my heart a lot lately. My heart was feeling so heavy as the topic of almost every station at this time was sexual assault, because, yet again, another celebrity had come forward to share their story of pain and heartache. I couldn’t help but feel so angry. How could this happen again? Your name came up and I was so intrigued about what you had to say about masculinity.
I wanted to know more about what you were going to teach us on this topic knowing full well who Crossroads had hired a few months prior to this. I read it and my heart stopped for what felt like a few long minutes. I was so angry because how could a pastor write something like this knowing that someone on his staff was guilty of the very thing you wrote about. Then it dawned on me, Daniel probably doesn’t know. I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that Peter told you about his abusive past. I wanted to believe that he was mature enough to do this but judging by the article, that didn’t seem to be the case.
Daniel, I too, am part of the #METOOMOVEMENT you spoke of in your article. You mention in your article that “you are grateful that moving forward, men using their positions of power and influence to harass, demean or objectify women will be unacceptable.” You also mention, “Any time a person is abused or harassed, it is wrong. And it’s even more alarming when abusers leverage positions of power as opportunities to prey on people.” I’m so grateful that you have educated yourself on the topic of abuse and abuse of power. I’m am grateful that you are aware of your power as well as challenging others.
Pastor Peter Johnsen did this very thing to me. Pastor Peter used his position of power to harass and demean me to get what he wanted when I working for him at another church. He did this by holding my job over my head every chance he got. As my boss, he criticized my work constantly frequently letting me know that my job was in danger, but never offering a plan or encouragement to improve. He reminded me of my mistakes almost daily and didn’t let me forget. This was a way for him to break down my defenses, groom me, and force me to depend on him. He would tear me down, telling me that I wasn’t good enough for my job and then turn around and asked me for sexual favors knowing what he was doing.
At one point, Peter told me that no one cared about me and he was going to help change that by showing people what he saw in me. He preyed on me at my weakest moments and used his position of power to get what he wanted. The very person hired by Crossroads to lead people to Jesus did the unthinkable. Peter stole my virginity in his church office under severe pressure. I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late.
Peter wouldn’t take no for answer. He would often text me into the early hours of the morning asking for sexual favors. Even if I didn’t respond, he would continue to text me until I did respond. Often times, just to make him stop, I felt like I had to answer or give in to what he was asking. No matter how many times I would say “no,” he didn’t listen. He persisted until he got what he wanted. Peter liked to remind me that “he needed to have sex at least 3 times a day because his wife wouldn’t do it for him”. Peter would often cry and apologize afterwards, but instructed me to not tell anyone for fear of losing his job and family. This served to instill a sense of responsibility and shame on my part, which caused me to feel trapped and unable to disclose what had happened, and become the guilty party.
During our last encounter of sexual intercourse, I had specifically said “No, I don’t want to have sex” but he persisted, pushed my hands away and proceeded. Afterwards, he offered the excuse, “I’m sorry, I just really needed it.” I was left feeling so hurt and confused as to what had happened. I said “no” but he didn’t listen. Peter had raped me.
Peter Johnsen was nothing short of abusive. He groomed me, pushing the boundaries of what is appropriate, tearing me down, and then using me at my weakest. As a victims of Peter’s, I bring this to your attention because, in my opinion, a man like this has no place in ministry. I believe that he poses a great danger to the church and others. I think Peter is a hurting man who needs a lot of help. I believe being in ministry intensifies his brokenness because of the pressure that it brings. In fact, his sexual advances were almost always done in moments of stress or after fights with his wife. I have no desire to be vengeful or hurt Peter or Marjie. I would prefer that everyone’s best would be considered
I write this letter with fear and trepidation and the hope that God’s will prevails. I humbly leave this situation in your hands.
The police report overlooked the problem of hierarchical abuse.
I believe that the police erred in their judgement that this was merely a “He said/She said.” Mary decided not to press the situation because Peter left the ministry.
Peter admitted to having frequent sex with Mary but claimed it was consensual in spite of the fact that he had authority over her in the church hierarchy. This is the abuse of power. At the very minimum, Peter Johnsen had frequent sex with a subordinate.
In the police report, it is clear that Mary was fearful of losing her job if she didn’t comply with Johnsen. I believe that it is quite difficult for those outside the church to understand the power that a pastor can exert on church members/staff. In many cooperations today, such behavior on the part of a boss would be grounds for dismissal and lawsuits. After such an event, that boss would be a pariah and viewed as a risk to other companies.
I believe that law enforcement may have erred in their judgement in this situation and that the DA should reconsider reopening this case. I plan to help Mary pursue this matter if she is up to the task.
Why did she write this letter to Crossroads?
She told me that she was concerned that Peter could continue to act in a similar manner in this church. If you will note, he is the Pastor or Emerging Generations which might raise some eyebrows.
She wondered if the church had notified the congregation of his past. I believe that those who attend this church should be fully apprised of Johnsen’s past. Remember, he did admit to frequent sex with a subordinate.
What response did she receive from Daniel Fusco?
None. Please refer to the email I posted at the top of this post. You will see that Fusco/Blaser admit that her email had been received and I guess they didn’t get around to it.
She waited two months and sent a followup email to see if they had received the email. Again, in the referenced email, you will note that they said they received her email and then proceeded not to respond directly to her concerns.
The sentence structure was confusing although the letter appears to acknowledge that they knew she was concerned about Peter. It is claimed that her concerns about Peter were taken seriously by an anonymous someone but there was no mention of action except to wish Mary “God’s blessing.” I’m sure she was grateful for this *thoughtful* expression of sympathy…I am grateful that she reached out to Jules Woodson and me.
This response to her email did not seem to match Pastor Fusco’s expressed concern for victims in his OP Ed. The response appeared demeaning and hardly expressed a *heart that is breaking* for the victim. To me, this email appeared to say. ” Too bad, so sad, and get lost.”
What happened when I called the church?
The person who took the call had no idea about the emails so I am not going to call him out by name. Apparently, Pastor Fusco was in a meeting. However, this gentleman claimed to be some sort of communications person. I communicated to him that I was a Christian in order to let him know that I get the lingo. I told him I had reviewed the Op Ed and that I was intending on writing a post from Mary’s perspective as well as notifying USA Today. I thought the juxtaposition of what Pastor Fusco wrote and how he actually responded a year later was fascinating.
The individual claimed that he did not know what happened but he said that Pastor Peter was in a process of being restored. At this point I interrupted him since I knew then that he knew something was wrong with Peter. I explained the I did not believe this man should be restored to the pulpit and that restoration in the Bible is referring to restoration to the body of Christ. In other words, if he shows he is truly repentant and humble, maybe he could sit in the pews and take communion.
I told him that I would have this post up late on 5/28/19 and if Pastor Fusco had anything to say, he was welcome to do so. This is when he made a big mistake. He was irritated that I only gave them “24 hours” since this is a very busy church. I said that, in fact, they have had 6 months to respond since receiving the first email and that 24 hours was more than sufficient.
I gave them my phone number and suggested they could contact Mary at her email address since they have responded to her one time. As of this afternoon, Mary and I have not received any messages. Given their paltry response in January, this is no big surprise. However, if they ever stop being really busy and are willing to say something more than *God bless,* I would be happy to print it.
I will be contacting USA Today with this post as a response to Pastor Fusco’s embarrassingly poor actions to the victim of pastoral abuse.
Given that Johnsen is now back in the pastorate, I plan to urge the DA to consider reopening the case. Rape and abuse of clergy privilege should never blown off as a *He said; She aid.” Think about it. If he had been a counselor, he would have been arrested for sex with a client. So a pastor, who holds the sacred responsibility of caring for a church member/subordinate gets a write off?
Sadly, the way that Calvary Chapel works is the lead pastor is the main dudebro with little accountability to others. Hopefully, members of this church will see this post so they can ask some badly needed questions as well as keep an eye on things…
How should Pastor Fusco have responded to Mary?
It appears that he needs further training in how to deal with sexual abuse in the church. It’s one thing to say that he cares about #metoo victims and it’s another thing, far more difficult, to actually care for victims. That takes time. A victim should NEVER have to send two emails to provide a response.
You are indeed victims. You have suffered and we do not want to add our silence to that suffering. Once again, one of God’s shepherds used his position of authority, his gift of words, his intellect, and personality to draw you in when you were vulnerable and in need of care. All power belongs to Christ. Any power we have is derivative and sacred and to be used only for His glory and the good of His people. Anything less is an abuse of that power. You have been victims of the gross misuse of power God intended for your good. We grieve with you. We stand with you in the light. You have courageously exposed the deeds of darkness. Thank you, for we, as the Body of Christ, need your voices. Now that the light shines, a failure to respond on our part means we have turned from the light you turned on.
We pray for you, knowing full well that each and every one of you has a hard road ahead as you seek newness of life, healing, and a restoring of your souls. We pray that the failure of a shepherd will not lead you to forsake the Good and Great Shepherd who turns tables over and cracks whips when those in His Church rob His sheep and distort the truth of who God is. We also pray that God will multiply the fruit of your hard labor, to cause the greater Body to step into light and examine itself regarding the many silenced victims that live in its midst.
Pastor Daniel Fusco, you blew this situation in more ways than one. It’s time to regroup and maybe join me in saying #IStandwithMary #metoo #churchtoo