Two 2001 images show a dramatic change as Mars is cloaked in a global dust storm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.” ― Bertolt Brecht
Have you heard of Bethlehem Baptist Church?
This is the church John Piper pastored until quite recently. If you wish to learn more about this church, here is a link to what the church calls their *DNA.*
Although not excplicitly spelled out in this document, the church practices a hard core 5 point Calvinism.
Within the linked document we learn that the church:
- practices church discipline as a function of church membership
- practices Christian hedonism- a term dreamed up by John Piper in which joy and happiness is found solely in the pursuit of God
- heavy emphasis on small groups in order to carry out the *accountability* of the church member
- effective biblical counseling which believes in the absolute sufficiency of Scripture to deal with psychological issues
- a tight handed grasp of strict gender roles within biblical™ manhood and womanhood
Although John Piper has stepped down from the pulpit, one can assume that his DNA is all over the various statements of belief and practical applications of that faith.
The church adheres to strict biblical leadership as found in the elders who oversee the flock and guards them from all falsehood.
The church covenant which is a legal contract,
This covenant is stressed immediately, front and center, in the About Us section of the website. It is fairly typical. It’s important to understand this document as we discuss the child sex abuse situation within the church. It is my opinion that this legal contract is viewed within the church as a method for ensuring the safety of the children in their programs. I will explain why I believe that this naive shortly.
*Note to Bethlehem Baptist members: Your church covenant is a legal contract. If this wasn’t explained to you prior to your signing, then the church has been remiss in their duty to fully inform you of the legal consequences of your signature.
You can read about the implications of signing this contract posing as a covenant in Attorneys Boz Tchividjian and Mitch Little Help a Sex Abuse Victim in Her Quest to Hold Matt Chandler and The Village Church Accountable
We acknowledge that implicit within this covenant is the consent to be governed by the Relational Commitments* that have been officially adopted by the church and that address peacemaking and reconciliation, accountability and church discipline, marriage and divorce, counseling and confidentiality, and the protection of our children.
The preaching and vision pastor of Bethlehem Baptist is Jason Meyer.
Although the church is not a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, Meyer received his training in that denomination.
Jason holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree awarded in 2007 and a Master of Divinity degree in 2002—both from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The church is a member of the Baptist General Conference which is now known by the catchy, millennial name as *Converge.* (Maybe that will stop the decline …)
A small child was molested by a juvenile volunteering in the Early Childhood Center of the church in 2018
Subsequent quotes will be taken from The Letter from the Elders
last year, an incident occurred in which a juvenile engaged in sexual misconduct against a child in our Early Childhood Ministry at a Bethlehem campus (ed. note:The church has multiple campuses)
Good: The church immediately notified the police.
This is exactly what each and every church should do upon hearing of such an incident.Slowly, church are getting the message.
When a Bethlehem leader learned of the situation through a letter sent by the victim’s parents, he immediately called law enforcement, which began an investigation.
According to Bethlehem Baptist, they informed by law enforcement that this was an isolated incident.
The statement is somewhat vague. Was it only an *isolated incident* at Bethlehem Baptist or only an isolated incident anywhere involving this juvenile? I wrote about the problems with teen molesters who target kids more than 5 years younger than them which is the case in this situation. The following section is from that post.
Begin quote from post
Can a teen be a molester?
I have included just one article in this section but read about 10 others. Although there is some disagreement about the effectiveness of treatment and recidivism, all articles agree that teens molest and, in particular, teens who show interest in a much younger child (like in this case) may have developed a serious problem. Juvenile Sex Offenders: When Your Teenager Is the Offender.
Sexual interest in much younger teens or even younger children is a red flag, says Ballantyne.
The concern here is not with typical teenage romances, even if there is some age difference or one party is under the age of consent (which is at least 16 in every state). It’s more about age differences that suggest a developmental and power differential, like a 16-year-old showing interest in a 12-year-old.
“That would send up red flags,” says Ballantyne. “For one thing, if there is any follow-through, that is clearly illegal. If we’re talking about a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old, that’s a really concerning age span.
“Those who feel powerless [in other areas of their lives] may try to gain power in ways that are not acceptable, and included in that would be sexual activity with somebody much younger.”
End of quote from post.
Good: The juvenile was, at first, allowed to attend the church with an adult chaperone but was eventually asked not to attend the church.
A molester should NEVER be allowed to be in the same church as the abuse victims and their families. This is dangerous for victims as well as painful to those who have been harmed. Thankfully, the church leadership corrected their initial action.
Good: They alerted the new church of the offender’s history.
Sadly, many churches neglect this step.
Bethlehem is working to ensure that appropriate precautions are taken so that the offender is not a threat to the church body at the offender’s new congregation.
Naive and worrisome: Only the families whose children were in the ministry area as the abuser were notified.
It is assumed that the juvenile did not have contact with any other children in the church. For example, did the juvenile abuser ever use the restrooms in others parts of the building? Did he have access to unused classrooms. This abuser was adept enough that people in the same room with him (who were supposed to be watching him) did not know he was molesting a child. (More on that in a minute.)
I believe that all families who had underage children in the church should have been alerted.
If you have not been contacted, our records showed that your child was not in the ministry area in question.
Needs clarification: Was only one child involved or were there more?
Read this statement in the elder letter. Once again, I believe that all parents of children should have been notified unless the juvenile was observed 24/7 in all areas of the church. It is possible that the plural word *children* was used to describe both the molested child and the juvenile offender but that makes little sense.
The word *juvenile*is confusing. My guess is that a child would not be allowed to work in the young children’s area. So, does juvenile mean *teen* or *middle school age* or what?
Because of this, and since the incident involved children, we did not believe we should immediately make the incident known beyond those immediately involved.
Bad: This molestation took place while adults were in the room and no one seemed to notice.
- It is our policy that volunteers are never alone with children. The juvenile was not alone with the young child. Bethlehem has allowed juveniles to serve in the ministry area in question when adults are present. This juvenile filled out an application, had an interview, and was approved to serve in the ministry area……We have been unable to determine how this incident occurred unnoticed while other workers were in the room.
Could it be that the adult volunteers were not doing their job? Maybe they were overwhelmed by the number of children? Maybe they were all eating Betty Lou’s famous pound cake and were distracted from their number one priority which is the safety of the children. Yes, that priority is even higher than presenting Doctrines of Hedonism for Pre K.
Naive: Screening should catch the potential abuser.
Although each of these things are nice, they will not catch a person who is determined to abuse a child unless they have already been registered as a sex offender. Offenders are charismatic individuals who are willing to misrepresent themselves in order to get access to children.
They will sign *membership covenants,* have great references from friends and only 10% of offenders are ever registered. This is why people working with children must be urged to do their jobs and make safety of the children their priority, even if it means shortening the lesson plan.
Currently (as in the past), all adult workers are screened through an application process, interview, background check, reference checks, and a signed ministry covenant.
Good: They have engaged GRACE to teach them how to protect they children and youth.
We have engaged GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to help us to continue to fulfill our priority of protecting the next generation and to help us find any ways that could better safeguard the children of Bethlehem. GRACE will provide training for our leadership on Saturday, August 3, and for the entire congregation on the weekend of August 10/11 at each campus. We pray that God will heal those affected by this situation, especially the young victim, and help and guide our congregation as we move forward.
Suggestion: Insist that all parents read and sign the policies for these acitvities.
Parents, do your job. Protect your kids and don’t assume that church leaders will do it for you. Not only should you review the procedures, I would suggest that you consider being a chaperone to these events. No one protects kids better than the parents who love them.
Along with written guidelines and policies for our regular ministry, we have specific guidelines for our All-Church Winter Retreat and Summer Camp. GRACE is currently reviewing these policies to help us further strengthen them. We would be glad to share these policies with parents or with others who desire to review them. Each campus is also able to provide details on the precautions they take for their specific events and retreats. We welcome you to contact your campus’s youth leadership to request more information.
Bad: Why in the world didn’t Jason Meyer give more support to the family?
There is something concerning going on out there when it comes to large churches with well- known pastors, especially of the authoritarian kind.
When a bunch of teen boys were molested income of my former churches and the seminary student volunteer arrested by the police, the senior pastor refused to comment back from his Sabbatical. He left it up to his subordinates and refused to apologize.
Now, take a look at Matt Chandler’s loathsome response to the family of a girl who was raped at a church camp: Attorneys Boz Tchividjian and Mitch Little Help a Sex Abuse Victim in Her Quest to Hold Matt Chandler and The Village Church Accountable.
Instead, she watched on Jan. 20 as Mr. Chandler rose to address the congregation. She still had barely heard from him. He had mailed a short handwritten card to the Braggs back in July, apologizing for not being in touch. When Mr. Bragg suggested coffee, Mr. Chandler’s assistant offered a time that was months away.
In my discussion with victims, I have begun to see a pattern emerge. The senior or designated celebrity pastor will not meet with the victims or their families, often designating lower lever pastors to take care of *it* for them.There are all sorts of excuses made. For example, “It happened at one of our satellite churches and it’s a long drive for me.”
I believe that this is a tactic used by these churches to protect the lead pastor. Unfortunately, its not working and it’s time to bring this unbiblical practice into the light and call if for what it is. The senior or lead pastor is a wuss who hides behind the skirts of his underlings.
Sadly, it appears something similar happened at BBC. Here is a comment from someone who was present at the church this past Sunday.
Jason Meyer repented publicly in this morning’s sermon that he wasn’t personally directly involved from day 1, and that the elders regret they weren’t in as much contact with the victim’s family as they should have been during the process (he said they have asked for forgiveness which the victim’s family graciously gave them).
This person said:
“If you can’t clear your calendar to take care of something like this, your church is too big.”
I would add that your church has no heart and is far more interested in applying church discipline to the members (not the pastors) than caring for those who have been hurt.
Yeah- the family *graciously* forgave him. Now, what will Meyer do the next time? Sadly, I think we will see this pattern repeat itself, both at BBC and other like-minded churches.
I think that the *elders,* or maybe the members in this case, should apply church discipline to ALL of the pastors and elders who didn’t surround this family with love and support. That would give me hope for real change in the church. I believe Meyer knew about this situation since some time in 2018 and didn’t apologize until this past week. Maybe he should be disciplined for his hard heart that lasted for months and maybe as long as a year?
Or is this trend of ignoring victims some sort of a legal gambit? Protect the lead pastor in case the church gets sued? If so, the church has lost its way.
Join me in praying for the victim and the victim’s family. I’m so grateful that GRACE involved in this situation. It gives me hope that truth will be told and lessons will be learned so that no further children will be harmed in the children’s program.