“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” Spotlight link
A personal experience with a church and a pedophile.
Before we started this blog, we were involved in a situation in which a group of us confronted church leaders regarding the way they handled a sex abuse scandal. A number of young teen boys were severely sexually abused (the details are pretty horrendous, the worst I have heard.) A couple of pastors had received a report, as told to us by a young man and his family, a year previous to the arrest of the pedophile who was a seminary student. This report was blown off by the pastors who later denied they received the report.
Be that as it may, a year later this despicable pedophile was discovered abusing a boy by the police. He was tried and convicted and sent away for 13 years. At a meeting that I attended when this all came to light, the youth pastors told us all not to try to discover the names of the boys (there were a number of them) since they needed their privacy which sounded reasonable to me. We were assured that the boys would receive counseling, which again sounded reasonable to me.
Except the counseling never happened. We found this out a year later when the parents of the boy who made the original report confided in a small group of us. Not only that, the boys allegedly received little attention. When we asked that the church leadership investigate this, we were appalled at how a couple of leaders questioned the boys. "Didn't you know what you did was wrong?" "Why didn't you report this to the church or your parents?"
Of course, our group was made out to be the bad guys for questioning the leadership. The only good that came out of the situation is the church was forced to finally offer counseling to the boys – over one year after the church leadership said the boys were getting counseling. Oh yeah, the leadership said the police told them not to talk about what had happened due to the *investigation.* Consequently, the boys were alienated from people who could have been of support to them.
Complicity and Spotlight
There is no question that some in the hierarchy of the Catholic church were complicit in concealing the sex abuse. For example, Cardinal Law was transferred to the Vatican after he resigned during the aftermath of the Boston Globe exposé. The allegations were numerous. Law had transferred credibly accused priest from parish to parish. It was obvious that a number of people outside the hierarchy were aware of the problem but kept quiet in order to maintain the status quo.
However, it ran even deeper than that. One of the Spotlight team members admitted to receiving a list of names of abusive priests years before but had sidelined it. Perhaps the most poignant statement in the movie was made by a lawyer representing some of the victims who said: “If it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to abuse one.”
The village, in this instance, consisted of priests, friends of the church, church leadership, attorneys, the media, and even members of some of the parishes who decided it was better to keep quiet than to stand up for the children.
Complicity upon the part of the village
In my former church, complicity was the name of the game. Not only were the pastors and elders to blame for responding inappropriately (in our opinion), but members of the church bear some of the blame. Let's start with me. In spite of my background in monitoring abusive families, I took the word of the pastors that they would "do the right thing". Did I ask the pastors if the boys were doing well? Did I ask if they received counseling? I learned a great deal from that experience and will never fully trust church leaders again.
Many people in that church took the attitude of a woman who said to me "God has not told me that I should be concerned about this situation." It is a whole lot easier to play the game so that one is not labeled a troublemaker as Deb and I were. However, those folks are just as complicit as the pastors if they decided to ignore a group of abused boys or, if they merely believed that prayer was sufficient. The words of one church volunteer still ring in my ears – "Well, we prayed for them each week."
After the Karen Hinkley debacle at The Village Church, I was personally stunned that no one outside of Matt Chandler and another leader apologized to Karen. So many of the members spouted off about Karen's responsibility to stay married to her kiddie porn loving husband. Not one of them ever owned up to their complicity in this debacle. In this case, it truly took The Village to abuse one hurting woman and that Village hasn't responded.
All of us who sit in our churches and keep silent, refusing to ask the necessary questions when children are being abused, are complicit in the abuse. Without putting church leadership in the hot seat, abuse will continue, and many leaders will continue to cover it up. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to hold our churches accountable.
My thoughts on how church members should respond to the Fellowship Bible Church statement to insure that they are not complicit in an abuse situation.
Yesterday, we reported on a lawsuit filed against Fellowship Bible Church due to the rape of a 3 year old child by a teen volunteer. The volunteer was convicted, so this is not one of those "he said/she said" which is adored by recalcitrant churches. Now FBC has issued a statement. I will reprint the entire statement here assuming that FBC wants this statement to be read in its entirety. Please read the statement carefully, remembering my situation at a former church that I discussed at the beginning of this post. I have bolded certain sections of this statement for discussion.
I am writing you and all the members of Fellowship about a very serious matter. You may have seen news reports over the past 24 hours about a lawsuit that was filed late yesterday arising from an outrageous crime—a sexual assault—that was committed on our premises against a young child in our congregation.
We are outraged that this heinous crime occurred. It came to our attention when the victim’s family advised our staff, and we immediately reported it to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and that same morning contacted officers from the Brentwood Police Department. (The authorities asked for our cooperation in keeping the matter confidential so that they could complete their investigation, and, of course, we agreed). I can tell you that the alleged perpetrator is a young teen and the child of a volunteer teacher in our children’s ministry, and both parent and child were immediately removed from their volunteer positions in our church pending the police investigation.
Toward the end of the investigation, a formal delinquency charge of a sexual nature was subsequently filed by the authorities, and at that time we met with all the parents of children in the classroom where this young teen was volunteering. The juvenile status of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator preclude anyone from identifying them or details of the case.
In our cooperation with authorities and our communications with parents, there has been nothing to suggest that this was more than a one-time, isolated event.
We have also endeavored to work with the victim’s family, offering counseling and any other assistance they might find helpful. They have chosen, instead, to file a lawsuit.
Fellowship is committed to supporting victims of abuse in our community. We take any allegation of abuse very seriously. We have no tolerance for anyone who seeks to harm a child in a physical, sexual, or emotional way.
I am distressed that statements in the news media, quoting from the lawsuit, have been so erroneous—that we denied anything had happened, that we claimed the victim had “lied” and urged the family not to pursue criminal charges, that we don’t take child safety seriously and have no proper policies and procedures, and that we sought to hide the truth from other families. All of these statements are untrue.
Please know that we are personally sickened by this crime and will strive to do all in our power as leaders to prevent this grotesque criminal behavior from occurring again.
I want to make sure that we answer any questions you may have, to the extent we can.
Please know we love these families, and we love God’s church.
Teaching Pastor & Organizational Leader
On behalf of the Elders
1. Find out if the church did report the crime to authorities when they say they did. Ask when the parents reported it to the police. Compare the dates. These records are public. Do not "take their word for it".
2. This incident took place in 2014. It is now almost 2016. Was the church supposed to be totally silent all this time?
3. The church obviously was not silent. Why did they report the incident to all the families of the children in that one classroom if they were supposed to be silent? Wasn't that teen running around the church in general? Could there be other victims who have not spoken up?
4.The church states that there has been "nothing to suggest that this is more than an isolated, one time event." Oh really? Has the church investigated the statistics regarding the average number of molestations by a pedophile? This statement, in and of itself, speaks to the dangerous naivety of the pastoral staff. They need to be trained in how to keep children safe from predators.
Molesters of boys (at the time of their arrest) have molested over 150 victims. Read that again and contemplate that fact.
Yet, somehow this pastor knows there are no more victims? That is worrisome.
Abel Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study
This study found that pedophilia molesters average 12 child victims and 71 acts of molestation. An earlier study by Dr. Abel found that out of 561 sexual offenders there were over 291,000 incidents totaling over 195,000 total victims. These are enough victims to fill 2 ½ Superdomes! This same study found that only 3% of these sexual offenders have a chance of getting caught.
“In his study of 561 sex offenders, Dr. Gene Abel found pedophiles who targeted young boys outside the home committed the greatest number of crimes with an average of 281.7 acts …m molesters who targeted girls within the family committed an average of 81.3 acts…
•The typical offender is male, begins molesting by age 15, engages in a variety of deviant behavior, and molests an average of 117 youngsters, most of whom do not report the offense.
– Dr. Gene Abel in a National Institute of Mental Health Study
• The behavior is highly repetitive, to the point of compulsion, rather than resulting from a lack of judgment.
– Dr. Ann Burges, Dr. Nicholas Groth, et al. in a study of imprisoned offenders
Pedophiles have a strong, almost irresistible, desire to have sex with children. The average pedophile molests 260 victims during their lifetime. Over 90% of convicted pedophiles are arrested again for the same offense after their release from prison.
Many clinical settings currently are witnessing a dramatic increase in the number of adolescent offenders who have committed sexually aggressive acts against other children.
– Conte, Jon R., 1986
5. The pastor claims to have offered counseling to this victim, along with other help. Ask some hard questions. What kind of counseling? Was the church willing to pay for it? Which counselors? What other kind of help did they offer? My former church claimed to have offered counseling and did not actually do so until we confronted the issue over a year later.
6. The pastor appears to imply that the family filed a lawsuit after the church did everything right. Right? I find this statement a little hard to believe. This is a family that was very involved in their church for 12 years when this incident happened. I believe that the leadership handled this situation in such a way that the family felt a lawsuit was the only way to get their attention. There is definitely more to this story, and I suppose we will hear about it at trial if this isn't settled outside of court.
7. The church makes a bad move with the line that begins with "I'm distressed". They claim they never said the child lied about the rape, right? But now they are claiming that all of these statements made by the family in the lawsuit are *untrue.* In other words, they lied! Seriously bad juju here. Advice to pastors: stay away from words like *lie*, *libel*, etc. They tend to come back and slap you upside the head.
Well, what about the lawsuit? $35 Million? Aren't they in it for the money?
One person on our blog questioned why these folks needed so much money. This statement demonstrates a probable lack of understanding as to what is going on here. It is also a way to appear to be complicit with the abuse that occurred. Let's go back to the movie Spotlight for an explanation. The RCC was settling a number of claims outside the court system prior to the exposé. These payouts were subject to a confidentiality clause. There was some indication that there were settlements involving 20 priests. One settlement was for @$20,000. Let's assume a number of these payments were occurring.
The RCC was not at all threatened by these measly sums of money. In fact, it was business as usual, and the priests kept on offending. It wasn't until the story broke and great attorneys like Jeff Anderson started suing the church that things began to change. There is an estimated 100,000 victims with settlements of $2.2 billion in the United States alone.
Guess when the RCC started paying attention? When they started to sell off properties and close schools to pay the victims. Today, the Vatican is desperately trying to make significant changes regarding how they deal with abuse. But it took courageous victims, an independent media, as well as lawyers suing the RCC out the wazoo.
I believe in supporting victims and their families. We know this child was victimized. Denizens of The Wartburg Watch also know that there is a serious and huge problem with child sex abuse in the evangelical church. Ask yourselves a question. Assuming this family used to love their church, why would they sue it for such a large sum? They, too, have been initiated into the world of the child sex abuse with its concomitant horrors. Perhaps they now understand that a little payout from a settlement will not make the problem any better in the evangelical church as a whole. So, they are going for the sting.
I bet that evangelical church leaders would be on their knees praying that they wouldn't get hit with a $35 million lawsuit and maybe, just maybe they will then take this problem seriously. Goodness knows that the gospel bros have shown not much more than an occasional "Gee, child sex abuse sucks." But they still get together with those in ministries with a horrendous record of child sex abuse.
A statement from a member of The Gospel Coalition Council.
FBC is a member of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). So are SGM churches. I know who said the following statement but I will be nice, just this once. This is regarding CJ Mahaney. This council member denies that he knew anything about these lawsuits until recently but doesn't believe them anyway.
I may be a naive friend, but I believed him then and believe him now. Dr. Akin had no reluctance to have him speak at the conference, nor following his preaching for us did several other highly reputable Christian leaders: John Piper, Bruce Ware, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem and Thabiti Anyabwile, to name a few who invited C. J. to preach. I hold each of these men in the highest regard and would never for one moment categorize them as those who would overlook serious allegations in order to cover up evil in any form.
In the same document, this individual said that he trusts TGC's Council to vet their members. I guess he is overlooking Mark Driscoll, who was beloved by most of The Gospel Coalition Council. The Gospel Coalition has not once posted a story by one of the victims of SGM. The celebs all visit CJ Mahaney's church: men like John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, etc. I wonder if any of them ever wonder about those who have been abused. There is no question, by their actions, they have dismissed all of the victims of abuse and have embraced their BFF. How gospelly.
Churches which band together with churches that hide sex abuse are complicit.
Each and every church that is a member of TGC has a spiritual obligation to investigate whether TGC truly cares about those who are abused at member churches. How can anyone sleep at night knowing they are deliberately partnering churches which cover up child sex abuse? I guess once elect, always elect is a great soporific. It truly takes a community to abuse a child.
Report a TGC Church
This probably won't go anywhere, but it appears anyone can fill out a form to report a church which is a member of TGC and is involved in injustice. So even you can report a church to The Gospel Coalition.
4. Report a church that doesn't align with TGC's Foundation Documents. If you find a church that doesn't seem to be in alignment with TGC, we ask that you'd let us know. You can do so by clicking the “Report” link next to each listing. We value your input since TGC is not able to personally review each church in the directory.
Here is a link to the form to report a church to The Gospel Coalition. Here is a link to the page on which you can see whether the church is a member of TGC. Let us know if you fill out a form and get a response.