The Wounded Angel-Hugo Simberg
“Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel’s song, which had lost its way and come on Earth, and sang on undyingly, smiting the hearts of men with sweetest wounds, and putting for the while an angel’s nature into us.”- Frederick William Faber
I have two more non-designated survivors whose stories need to be told. I’ll try to get them in next week.
I was standing with survivors, advocates and supporters who gathered at “For Such a Time as This Rally” and so I got to thinking. Why are some of the most well known victims of abuse within the SBC standing outside while others, some who were not abused in the SBC or well known, being featured inside? It made no sense to this observer of all things evangelical.What was their selection criteria? Or better yet, what was their deselection criteria?
I am no longer a member of the SBC, having found a home within a conservative Lutheran church. However, I feature sermons by Wade Burleson, an SBC pastor, for the weekly EChurch@Wartburg. I left the SBC over my former SBC church’s handling of a pedophile situation. It had become difficult from me to attend the Baptist churches in my area. Frankly, I am grateful that this experience pushed me to look for another church denomination and am thankful for where I have settled.
I continue to closely watch the SBC because it was a Baptist church which opened my eyes to how poorly sex abuse can be handled by churches.
The faith problem
Does the victim have to hold the proper, local church membership and maybe even lead Bible studies in order to be recognized by the SBC leadership as being *appropriate?*
Several victims have said that the faith problem has not been well addressed by the SBC. Many people who have been abused walker just drift away from the faith. Being abused by a pastor is not just sexual abuse. It involves a betrayal of the spiritual kind. Those who were supposed to be role models of the faith either abused or covered up abuse and didn’t *care well* for victims. “I thought my pastor was supposed to be godly but he molested me. This is all a farce.”
To make matters worse, many victims are treated as the bad guys because they should still *follow Jesus* even after suffering the horror of being sexually abused. “Be a nice victim, go to church and keep evangelizing.”
I am glad that some victims seem to have no problem with their faith when their godly leader betrayed them by sexually abusing them or covering up their abuse and demanding their obedient silence. So long as it’s true and not stuffed down deep inside so that one is recognized as being a *good* Christian when all they really are are people pleasers. They could one day wake up and realize they haven’t fully dealt with the pain.
I contend that many more victims just silently drift off. In fact, I suspect that it is a relief for some pastors and leaders who were able to quickly forget about the *incident* and go on to more important topics like *Should our building be 50,000 or 60,000 square feet?*
All abuse is horrific but abuse that takes place in churches can have a profound effect on the victim’s spiritual life.’ I suspect that there are many in leadership who don’t want to deal with this fact. Instead, they fall back on *comforting* doctrines like: “If they were real Christians they wouldn’t have left or drifted from the faith.” “Once saved, always saved so I guess they weren’t saved in the first place.” “I always knew that they weren’t that committed.”
You see, I think there is more to repent of beyond the actual abuse. Do the pastors and leaders out there understand their complicity in this matter? Jules Woodson drifted from the church almost immediately and her pastors all went on to lead big and cool churches, never once indicating whether they ever thought about her.
There are quite a few leaders in the SBC, some who will be attending the Caring Well conference, who bigly supported CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Have they ever considered how their stance was perceived by those who were profoundly hurt? Do they even care?
Do they repent merely for some of the sexual abuse and not repent for the pain and loss of faith by those molested? How many of them have reached out to those they know have been hurt or do they play Tim Challies game? He certainly didn’t want to break into his routine to understand if people were being abused How courageous! I think many pastors function in similar ways.
For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much. I have had to question my motives, especially since I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of scathing criticism for not using my platform to speak out against Mahaney. I have chosen to read the news stories, to understand the basic facts, but conscience compels me to stop there. To do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management, and it may not be loving toward those who are involve
So, Challies did what the others did. They dreamed up an excuse for the inexcusable. He was able to pretend it was not up to him to do anything because he needed to stick to the gospel of good time management. I wonder. Will he be proud of this stance as life goes on? My guess is he will never think about it just like so many leaders rarely think about those who have moved on and away from church. I wouldn’t be surprised if the boys at 9 Marx would support church discipline for those who, having been molested, left their gospel™ care.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.-Edmund Burke
The SBC leaders should feature of at least one of those who have left the faith because of their abuse. The leaders as well as all of us, need to sit there and listen to the story. Maybe they’ll start feeling a little uncomfortable…or will they revert to platitudes to placate themselves. (Are they platitudes or doctrine? Sometimes I can’t tell the difference.)
The VIP problem
What happens when well known SBC church leaders get caught in sex abuse or covering up for the abuser? Take a look at the churches featured in the Houston Chronicle’s Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms.
What happened to Houston’s Second Baptist Church? Weren’t heads going to roll? They didn’t. 2nd Baptist is too big and too important to get the boot. “After all,(say loudly), it’s Ed Young! You know, THE Ed Young!”
The SBC hired *Armani Ronnie Floyd* (he’s actually called this by some) to take over the Executive Committee to *look into all of this stuff.* He’s paid really, really well. So do you think he cares about this? Or is it a political job?… Let me remind you that one of the members of the Executive Committee actually decided to cause some waves at the For Such a Time as This Rally.This leg me to believe that getting the Founders president, Tom Ascol, elected as SBC President was far more important than victims since it is always and only about the gender thing. Get them women submitting and abuse will melt away. Problem solved!
Could it be that some pastors and leaders are just too important to get the boot? Yes, and they will be kept around so long as they play ball with the power brokers. I bet some will say “Hey, Dee, they got rid of Paige Patterson.” Yep they did. I called for his resignation 10 years ago but I did so purely on the basis of his awful treatment of women who were abused. Then there was the Paul Pressler dustup. (He whose name must not be spoken.) Some of today’s power brokers attended the dedication of Patterson Hall at SEBTS. I wonder if any of those who were *oh so concerned* about Patterson statements (made in 2000 at a CBMW conference that some folks attended so they already knew about knew about it and did nothing) spoke out against him back then or did they just slap backs? Was it all too threatening for their ministry?
Back then, I was a bit naive. I wondered why everyone didn’t see what I saw. Now, Dee has been taken to school. Patterson was not part of the inner crowd nor did he adhere to some of their doctrinal slants. His SWBTS wasn’t doing so hot with the numbers either. So, he was a convenient pawn to demonstrate (this should be said with a loud voice) “We support victims.”
I contend that there are some VIPs who will never be called out by today’s supposedly kinder and gentler SBC. For example, they have to deal with the fact that clean steak entrepreneur and Village Church celebrity Matt Chandler, is overseeing a lawsuit against his church for a rape of a 12 year old girl at a christian camp. Matt is so important that he couldn’t get off his duff to call this family. I predict that since Chandler is a VIP, he will get cover from the boys.
On that note: CJ Mahaney and SGC Louisville still touts their membership in the SBC His was one of those church mentioned in the Houston Chronicle. It appears his head didn’t roll either, even with Mohler’s decision not to be CJ’s good buddy any longer.
Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville also partners with the Southern Baptist Convention for the purposes of training and gospel mission.
If someone was unfortunately molested in one of the VIP churches, one will not be featured at an SBC function to learn how to begin *caring well.*
I’m not sure i will be able to give you an answer to the title question but I want to give you some thoughts by two victims.
Just about everyone knows Jules’ name these days. Interestingly, her story resulted in both Andy Savage (who molested her) and Chris Conlee (his co leader) stepping down. During this time, their church Highpoint, left the SBC. I was told that the church itself would have asked to be removed from the list because the SBC wouldn’t do that secretly. After all, it was a megachurch and therefore “important!”(Say loudly.)
Jules is now a nationally sought after speaker. She has spoken on CBS and Dr Oz. She has been quoted by untold numbers of media outlets and did a video Op Ed with the New York Times. She has some amazing offers for the coming months. She is also an excellent speaker, something I discovered the first time she spoke with CBS a few days after her story was posted here.
I watched her speaking to a group of SBC pastors on the street near the Rally.She was so sincere and well spoken that a group of them gathered around her and laid hands on her to pray. At that point, I seriously began to question why she wasn’t invited to speak inside. Why wasn’t she asked to speak at the Caring Well conference? She and I spoke and here are some of her thoughts on the matter. Remember, we are not saying these things are the reasons. Only those in power know. However, her thoughts made sense to me.
- Her story led three current SBC pastors to resign. Is this threatening?
- The lead pastor, Steve Bradley, who did not do anything to help her when she was molested under his watch, continues to be the head pastor at Stonebridge Church (the name was changed) which is a megachurch in Houston. Bradley is now a bigwig who refuses to speak to Jules. He has NEVER spoken with her. Maybe the EC doesn’t want to deal with a VIP? Read her letter to Bradley. He has never responded. Awkward!
- Jules has consistently said that Ministry Safe asked her stepfather for her medical records during the time they were working with Andy Savage and Highpoint Church after Jules came forward.This is a violation of trust as well as HIPPA. After all, Jules was an adult! Consequently, she doesn’t support Ministry Safe which is tightly tied into the SBC. Must victims support this organization in order to be *acceptable?”
- Jules drifted from the church after her molestation. However, she never fully lost her faith but she isn’t one of those “I love the local church and I signed their membership covenant” type of person. She understands how one’s faith can be squashed when molested by a pastor. Must she pretend that all is well and state “I love the church” in order to be acceptable by the gospel™leaders?
- She is attending a church in a different denomination than the SBC. is this a problem? And no, she is not going to say which one. If that must be known, why? Does it make a difference? I think it might.
- She named her abuser and he was part of the SBC. Do they not like having SBC VIP molesters named?
There is no question that Jules has accomplished much in the eyes of the media, the church and the nation. Far more than some of the participants. So, why was she not approached? Is she an unacceptable™ survivor? If so, why? This makes no sense to me.
Any SBC conference on abuse should include Christa Brown. I read her famous blog, Stop Baptist Predators, before I started blogging. Her website listed the pedophile from my church as well as every last Baptist molester she could find. She was abused by SBC leadership and local pastors for her work. She was called every name under the sun by godly™ SBC leaders. Wade Burleson told me at the Rally that the abuse she verbally received is beyond imagining. Yet, through it all, she kept blogging and listing all the Baptist predators she could find. All of us who blog or who support victims owe a debt of gratitude to her life’s work.
Although she gave up her blog in 2017, she keeps her research up and available. She also updates her website with relevant information. ‘It is interesting to me that Christs Brown’s book has not been pushed by the ERLC which is supposed to be *Caring Well* these days. This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang was groundbreaking. She wrote before just about anybody that you will see on the stage at the conference.
Christa is an attorney. She was also abused by her Baptist youth pastor. The following is her story which the SBC seems to ignore.
Open letter to Tommy Gilmore, the Southern Baptist pastor who sexually abused me as a kid:
Have you ever felt any remorse for what you did to me? That’s the question I always wonder about.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately because I’ll be speaking on June 11 at the For Such a Time as This Rally outside the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham, urging that the denomination institute better safeguards against predatory pastors like you. The horror of what I experienced from your abuse and from the keep-it-quiet cover-up responses of church and denominational leaders ultimately launched a long period of advocacy efforts on my part, because no child should ever experience the horror of what you did to me, and no adult should ever have to go through such a nightmare to try to expose a child-molesting minister.
The most difficult part of this kind of advocacy work is that it sometimes resurrects horrific memories. I did an interview with a reporter just the other day and, when she asked if I could talk a little about what happened to me as a kid, my mind was suddenly a jumble of disjointed flashbacks, and there it was again, that urge to vomit and run.
I remember how, in the beginning, when I balked at what you wanted, you said you would pray for me, so that I would come to accept that this was God’s will for my life. To this day, when someone says they’ll pray for me, it feels in my body more like a threat than a comfort.
I remember how you drove me out on that long dark road near the Addison airport – to do what you wanted and what you insisted God wanted.
I remember how you told me that God had called me to be your “helpmeet” in your holy work for God’s kingdom.
I remember how you quoted the Bible, instructing me to “lean not unto thine own understanding.” You said it was a sin for me to even try to understand and that I was supposed to just trust.
I remember the time you told me it was your 30thbirthday and you were feeling old and needed “special help” to feel better. Now I know that you didn’t even tell the truth about something as simple as your age. It was just one more ruse to get what you wanted.
Was there ever anything you said that was true and genuine? Or was every bit of it just some religiously-fueled set-up of a con-job for sexually abusing me?
I remember how, each time when you were finished with me, you would always say “God loves you, Christa.” I can still hear your voice. Do you know how much I hate those words – “God loves you”? I can’t even hear about God’s love without wanting to vomit and run.
I was a girl who would have done anything for God.
I remember how you shoved a beer in my hands there in the old parsonage on Dixiana and laughed at my reluctance about drinking alcohol. “Brother Hayden preaches against it,” I protested. But you said it was just another one of those rules for “lesser believers” and that it didn’t apply to us.
I remember how you insisted I take a shower at that parsonage, yelled at me to not get my hair wet, and when I started to get out, demanded that I clean myself better “down there.”
I remember how, after I flat-out broke down one day at a piano lesson in the church sanctuary and told music minister Jim Moore about the abuse, he instructed me to never speak of it again. Years later, I was shocked to learn that, even before I broke down, he had actually learned about the abuse from you. He said you had told him that you were afraid a congregant had seen you in “a compromising position” with me. Yet, Moore did nothing and your abuse of me escalated.
By the way, just as you faced almost no real consequences, Moore too never faced any consequences for his role in the cover-up. Even years later, when the church learned about it, and after Moore so-wrongly labeled your abuse of a kid as “consensual,”the church still kept him as music minister and, after his retirement, it even honored him for his work with youth choirs by establishing the “Jim Moore Concert Series.” Of course, I was a member of one of his youth choirs when he was covering up for your abuse. But I digress….
I remember how you dragged me into your office and made me apologize to your wife, Sue. As if I were the one to blame. So, as a 16 year-old-girl, I blubbered and begged for Sue’s forgiveness. She offered a stony “I’ll pray for you.” (There they are again – those words that now make my stomach clench.)
I remember how you made me kneel in your office for what seemed like forever while you stood over me endlessly praying that God would cast Satan from me. I was terrified. I truly believed that I had harbored Satan, like you said, and I didn’t know how I had ever let Satan in.
I remember a lot of the rest as well – too much. They’re memories that to this day I can hardly bring myself to speak of. I’ve had lots of trauma therapy – at my own expense of course. No help from you.
You destroyed so much of the girl that I used to be. I’ll always wonder what my life might have been if I hadn’t encountered you.
Are you even aware of how destructive you were? You ripped my whole world asunder and sullied my very soul.
You twisted faith itself into a weapon against me. You weaponized Bible verses, God, and everything I held holy. And for what? For your own sick and criminal desires.
If I could turn back time, I would run from you just as fast as I would run from someone welding a knife or a gun. But back then, how was I to know that the faith I held in my own heart could be perverted into such a powerful weapon against me?
You should have faced jail time, but you didn’t. Thanks to the fact that music minister Jim Moore and senior pastor Glenn Hayden kept things quiet and didn’t report you to the police, you were never criminally prosecuted. I figure the deacons knew about it too, eh? I remember how confused I felt when Bill, a boy I had known since I was 9 years old, suddenly told me that his dad wouldn’t let him ride bikes with me anymore because he was afraid I might be a “bad influence.” His dad was a deacon.
I remember how, after months of abusing me, you moved on to a bigger church, First Baptist of Tyler, Texas. I guess that, despite what you did, FBC-Farmers Branch must have given you a good reference. But I’m curious – how did you rationalize that you were “above reproach” and still qualified to be a pastor?
I remember how the church threw you a going-away reception with a big pot-luck supper and how Brother Hayden praised you from the pulpit as a great man of God. What was I to think? You were a man of God and I was a girl who incomprehensibly had harbored Satan. It was all so terrifying.
It took me decades to put together the pieces of trauma and understand the horror of what you and the church put me through. And then, of course, I encountered the trauma of so many others in Baptist life who tried to silence me all over again. Did you know that the church threatened to sue me when I first started talking about all this? That was like a preemptive nuclear strike in my head, and it nearly did me in.
But ultimately I rallied, and with enormous re-traumatizing effort and pain, I gathered the proof of what you did. I obtained a sworn affidavit from Jim Moore, and with sweat of blood, I finally prodded the church to sign an apology letter acknowledging your “very serious sexual abuse” of me and to send it by certified mail to all the churches where you had worked.
Did it make any difference? I don’t really know.
The Orlando Sentinel wrote that, when they began asking questions at one of your prior Florida churches, you resigned. But recently I noticed that, on your LinkedIn profile, you listed working as a “minister of preschool education, consultant” in “Southern Baptist churches” for a period that lasted four more years after that Orlando Sentinel article and after FBC-Farmers Branch sent out those certified letters and after the Baptist General Convention of Texas said that it had entered your name in its file of “known offenders.” That was pretty distressing for me to see. And I’ve wondered whether allowing you to work as a “consultant” was just another way for churches to help “hide” you by keeping you off church staff registries. In any event, not only did your ministerial career continue for decades after FBC-Farmers Branch knew about your abuse of me, but apparently it still continued even after I exposed you. No one in SBC life gave a hoot.
For years, you worked as a children’s minister at First Baptist of Atlanta, the church of former SBC president Charles Stanley. Did you tell the church about what you had done to me as a church girl in Farmers Branch? I’m betting you didn’t. But after all I’ve seen, I could also believe that the church knew and just didn’t care.
Various media outlets have written about your abuse of me, including the Austin American-Statesman, Ethics Daily, and the Christian Science Monitor. I also wrote a book about it. But despite my best efforts, there was never any significant reporting about it in Atlanta where you spent much of your career. That’s too bad because I think congregants who had kids under your ministerial care should know the truth about you.
How many other victims did you have? An anonymous woman once wrote me saying she had experienced something similar with you, and based on the time-frame she described, I figured it had probably happened when you were in Atlanta. She said you had apologized. But she also said that she too didn’t think you should be allowed to be a minister.
And what about Kaye Maher? All that sexual harassment stuff when you were at FBC-Oviedo in Florida? Did you ever apologize to her? Or was all of that just good-old-boys fun for you?
I sometimes wonder how I would feel if you were to apologize to me. Truthfully, I can’t even imagine it. I’ve lived with the calculated brutishness of what you did for a very long time.
I’ve noticed that, in your real estate business, you trade on your “45 years in the Ministry”as though that renders you trustworthy, and you claim to have “retired” from ministry. So I guess you don’t tell people that you actually had to resign from a church when questions were raised about your sexual abuse of a church kid.
I’ve also noticed that you named First Baptist Church of Orlando as a “church partner”for your real estate business. It certainly appears as though you received a great deal more support from Southern Baptists than I ever did.
And I nearly gagged when I saw your stated desire that, because of you, “every client will have a deeper understanding of God’s love.” Suffice it to say that I certainly did not gain a “deeper understanding of God’s love” from my interactions with you. To the contrary, I can hardly even bear to hear those words. For me, your version of “God’s love” was evil incarnate.
And so I’m still wondering … do you ever feel a shred of remorse? Are you even capable of remorse?
How would you feel if someone did to one of your grand-kids what you did to me? Does that thought ever cross your mind?
Still trying to understand,
Thoughts on Christa’s story.
- Abused in the SBC.
- She documented the despicable number of SBC pastors caught in abuse.
- She is well known to media and other advocates and survivors.
- She is an attorney
- She’s write a book on SBC abuse 10 years ago!
- She has spent more years than most of the victims combined in speaking out against SBC abuse.
- She did this alone, with little support, especially not from the SBC, which makes me feel sick.
So why isn’t Christa speaking?
- Was it because she discussed the secret file of SBC offenders?
- Was it because her SBC abuser is still around?
- Was it because Charles Stanley is mentioned?
- Was it because she would not meet alone with SBC leaders without a professional third party present to be sure the truth was told.
- Was it because she documented abuser after abuser in the SBC? Is that awkward?
- Was it because some of those folks mentioned on her website are still running around the SBC, being famous SBC leaders?
- Was it because she named her abuser and he was in the SBC? Perhaps non-named abusers makes it more conformable for the leaders?
I would love to hear from anyone who has other ideas. I can say this for sure. Some survivors are acceptable and are designated to speak and others are not. I hope that survivors and speakers who are at the Caring Well conference will be able to find out why two of the more nationally well known SBC victims were not *designated* by the leadership to speak. I think it looks bad, really bad.
I’m sure Jules and Christa won’t mind me calling them *undesignated* survivors. They both got what I meant the first time around but then again, they’ve been out here in the trenches.
I leave you with this song. I think it may be time to bring back TWW’s Fellowship of the Wounded. We need one another.