“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” ― Albert Einstein
I don’t get to do this very often. Given the past couple of weeks, this came at a good time. I’m often asked by well meaning folks how I can continue with my faith when I cover so many cases of sex abuse in the church. They often seem to understand when I explain that pedophiles and molesters usually go wherever there are children and teens along with adults who will trust them. The same thing has happened for the Boy Scouts, schools and youth sports.
However, the first (and wrong) response of churches, when they discover that there were possible incidents of sex abuse within the church, is to hush it up quickly. That is their first mistake which usually leads to more coverups and eventual discovery and condemnation.
I don’t know anything more than what is said in this statement. However, if the statement is truthful (and I believe it is at this point), then it appears that this church is doing it right. I don’t remember hearing of this church before I saw this statement today.
For what follows, the italics are the words of the church and the bold words are comments from me.
The title itself tells us of the honest and openness of this church. They have already contacted the premier third party, autonomous investigation group which was started by Boz Tchividjian. if this group is involved, they will leave no stone unturned and no undue influence will be allowed to interfere with their investigation.
May 6, 2020
As a pastor, I find enormous delight in proclaiming the good news of Jesus. In these days of global pandemic, there is a lot of bad and sad news that is very hard for us all. Sadly, I write to you now with very hard news about the effects of sin in a broken world.
In June 2019, an inquiry concerning potential past sexual abuse by an individual previously associated with LMPC came to me. Immediately, I formed a small committee, which was soon approved by the Session, to investigate further. After careful internal investigation, we learned of multiple incidents of alleged abuse from a summer youth intern over 35 years ago who was also a volunteer during the school year. The alleged offender, whose name is Paul Warren, is now a member of a Presbytery in another state, within our denomination.
This was a confusing situation for the church because it appeared the activity may have happened about 35 years ago. Also, there was an inquiry as opposed to an accusation. This church notified the Session and started to look into what may have happened. They learned the worst. It appears that there were multiple incidents that had occurred and that these could be traced to one summer intern.
Better yet, the church named the alleged offender, Paul Warren, who is still involved in this denomination in another state.
Well done!!! So many of these incidents are downplayed by a pastor and the name of the perp is protected because “it was just alleged.” This is dangerous when it comes to a potential molester who could still be involved in similar activities. Also, by coming forward with the name, it encourages others who may be victims to come forward.
Churches, this is how to respond. They cared more about protecting the potential victims rather than protecting themselves.
I was able to meet with the alleged victims to listen, to offer pastoral support, and to provide professional counseling assistance should they desire it. As is common among victims of abuse, they had never reported the abuse to anyone outside their circle, and they asked that I keep their identities confidential. I have honored their request.
The church even met with the victims offering them support which included professional counseling. Many churches, including one I know very well, refuse to offer professional counseling since their families “can afford it.”
They also did the right thing by not releasing the names of the victims, at the request of those victims, which is the right move. Many of these victims had never spoken of their abuse which is quite typical and the emotional pain is significant as this process begins. Kudos to this church which made them feel safe to speak of their abuse.
Our Actions as a Result of the Meeting
We immediately sought counsel as to our legal reporting requirements and followed the counsel we were given.
We asked the alleged victims to give us a written report, and we submitted a summary of the abuse allegations to the alleged abuser’s Presbytery.
We contacted GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) to discuss next steps. In recent years, GRACE has worked with various Christian institutions and abuse survivors in addressing allegations regarding sexual misconduct and abuse. As a result of conversations with them, we contracted with them in early October to conduct an independent investigation. That investigation is currently ongoing. We are fully cooperating with GRACE in their investigation and are following their lead and advice on any further steps we need to take.
Notice their actions. They proceeded in a manner that they understood to be legal. They sent a copy of their findings to the church where the alleged perp attends. The following makes it all come together. They contacted G.R.A.C.E and asked them to come and make sure they did it right. In others words, they will willing to lay their cards on the table and open their church to scrutiny.
Three Primary Goals of the Investigation
to discover if there were any more alleged victims;
to decipher what, if anything, the church leadership knew at that time and determine if it acted upon any knowledge; and
to give a report to the alleged abuser’s Presbytery.
Again, this shows their openness to the truth, something that many churches have been willing to fudge when the going gets tough. Not this church!
As always, our deepest commitment is to glorify God as we seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness. We believe the best way to glorify God in this is to have our primary commitment to be the care of the alleged victims. We want to fully acknowledge what happened over 35 years ago, and to express sorrow for these incidents and contrition toward the victims and their families. Before the face of God and according to his Word, sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable. We want to say, to any and all victims of any and all sexual abuse: we grieve with you.
Wow-good theology. They believe they glorify God by having their primary commitment be directed to the care of their alleged victims. This also includes acknowledging what happened so long ago and expressing sorrow for the pain of the victims. They even reached out to all victims of abuse by saying they grieved with them. For some reason, I think this may be possible with this situation.
Second, we are committed to discovering what we may not know for the sake of redemption and healing. Therefore, we invite anyone who may have been sexually abused at LMPC, or anyone who has information regarding such abuse at LMPC to contact GRACE in confidence. The investigation is being led by Danielle O’Malley with GRACE and she can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact her associate on this case, Larry Shorter, at email@example.com. Please be assured that any contact with these two individuals would remain completely confidential.
The want any victims or those who have information to contact G.R.A.C.E. They are seeking the truth, even if ii is painful or difficult.
Finally, if we discover that church leadership at the time of the abuse was aware and did not act, we are committed to confess and repent publicly. Please do be assured that no current or recent staff members were previously aware of the alleged abuse or the alleged abuser.
Our Current Child Protection Policy
We want to reassure you that our current Child Protection Policy is rigorous, and that any changes we make to it will only strengthen it further. Our Child Protection Policy has been in place for over 20 years and is updated almost annually. At our request, GRACE reviewed our current policy, and we have already begun the process of making improvements based upon their review. Please know that we consider it one of our greatest callings to make every effort possible to ensure the safety of minors while they are in our care.
They even opened their child care policy to GRACE. I know they got good advice.
Questions and Concerns
We understand that this letter will probably raise many questions. In that light, we have scheduled a Town Hall Meeting on May 17, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. which we will hold virtually via the digital platform Zoom. You will soon receive an email with a registration link for the Zoom meeting. Throughout this process, I (Brian Salter) will be your only point of contact. However, please understand that until the independent investigation is complete, we will be very limited in information that we are able to share, and we will always protect the alleged victims in every way, including their request for complete confidentiality. Please also know that we will hold a follow-up, in-person meeting after the investigation is complete and after we are able to meet publicly. You will be able to ask any questions you may have at this meeting.
They are keeping the communication lines open with their church members even if information is limited until the investigation is complete.
Our Hope and Need
I know that the weeks and months ahead will be challenging for our church family, but our God is a strong refuge and risen Redeemer. He will hold us fast! Together may we rest in his loving, sovereign care and also trust in his powerful, redeeming work.
Please make a commitment to pray faithfully and consistently for this difficult process. Pray for healing, repentance, justice, wisdom, and discernment. Through this turbulent storm, may God grant us strength to live by faith, with hope, and in love because of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tearfully and prayerfully,
To Brian and the leaders,
Thank you for your actions which give me hope that there are churches that are trying to do the right thing when it comes to abuse. I shall pray for you as you go through this process. I’m kind of hoping that you might do a followup when the process is completed. If you do, I will write about it. Well done!
Folks: This letter from LMPC should be shared with your church leaders if they need advice on how to do it right.