“I thought that, if only Baptists understood the extent of the problem, they would surely choose to implement clergy accountability systems similar to those that exist in other major faith groups. I was wrong.” Christa Brown
Do you know who Christa Brown is? If not, you should. She has been the shining light behind Stop Baptist Predators for years. She was blogging while I was merrily skipping along in the evangelical world, not realizing the extent of sexual abuse in my tribe.
Although the site is no longer adding stories, it is being maintained so researchers can find the wealth of information contained therein. This was the first blog I visited to get a picture of the ongoing abuse in the SBC. She posted the news release of the predator in my former church who was arrested and convicted.
Christa endured serious pushback for her website. She didn’t have a network of likeminded writers when she started blogging Also, since that time, many people have become aware of the abuse problem due to #metoo #churchtoo #sbctoo. So there is more broad support for those exposing abuse. She powered on with little support and a lot of downright abuse.
Next week, Christa is going to be honored for her pioneering work by those attending the *For Such a Time is This Rally* outside of the SBC convention. It is rather fitting that the SBC refused to allow this rally inside of their hallowed halls. It is the same response that Christa received when she started writing. *Not allowed.*
The following is her story of abuse. I am deeply grateful for her dedication in spite of the trauma she endured. She is a hero.
I want to challenge those of you who attend any of the churches mentioned in this story to approach your church leadership and give them a copy of Christa’s story. I plan to email copies of it to the mentioned churches, challenging them to reach out to Christa.
Also, does anyone know the required ethics of licensed realtors? I’m thinking about checking into this. Can you imagine this guy is selling real estate?
Finally, how many of you know about the secret Baptist file of known predators? I didn’t. Click on the link in the story.
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 Street 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, 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 you 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 Sentinelarticle and after FBC-Farmers Branch sent out those certified letters and afterthe 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? A woman once wrote me an anonymous blog comment saying she had experienced something similar with you, and based on the time-frame, 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,