“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The following is a story that the SBC leaders and *Caring Well* do not want you to know. They only featured speakers whose abusers were not in the SBC, not reported to law enforcement, or who had died. They even featured a speaker from outside the SBC whose subsequent actions have been a cause for concern by some advocates, The leaders, in my opinion, deliberately excluded victims who had reported their SBC abusers. This is not the fault of the speakers chosen. It falls to the leaders to bear this responsibility.
Why is this important? Some of these abusers still attend SBC churches and are even promoted as leaders of ministries. What does this mean? Abusers abuse and the victims, many who are children, are at risk of being harmed.
But admitting this would mean that the current leaders in the SBC, who claimed to really, really care about victims, would need to do something about it. One look at the ridiculous sham that masquerades as the Executive Committee provides little hope that anything will be done to SBC churches which continue to protect molesters and abusers in spite of all the hoopla of *Caring Well.* Meanwhile, JD Greear hired Bryan Loritts, sending a message to all those still paying attention that he is on to bigger and better things.
Christa Brown’s story is infuriating. It is an early warning system that abusers have been protected and promoted in the SBC and the leaders who said they really care, don’t really.
Today I had an opportunity to speak with Pastor Danny DeArmis of First Baptist Orlando. We talked about pedophilia and how it is a lifelong struggle. This means that a person will suffer from this compulsion for the rest of his/her life. Pastor DeArmis expressed his concern and compassion towards Christa and I believe that he meant it.
I asked if the church had promoted Tommy Gilmore, who attends FBC Orlando. He believes that the church has strong safety measures in place. He believes that over 100 people in various ministries know of Gilmore. He said that to his knowledge the church had not promoted Gilmore. But he asked me to find out if Christa knew of anything. I discovered the following article, written by Gilmore, posted on the FBC website- Healer Of Hearts. Here is a quote.
And then, as I stepped out of His way and entrusted my family to God, an amazing thing happened. I was finally free to begin my own healing process.
Can you see how this might feel to Gilmore’s victim? Gilmore has begun his own healing without mentioning the one he despicably used so many years ago?
Then, his name appears under Financial Peace University as a local provider. Again, it is easy to see how this could be confusing to victims.
And then the church is named as a church partner with Gilmore in his real estate business. Ouch!
However, the person that I am most concerned about is Tommy Gilmore. Does the fact that he is going to church mean that he is repentant? Do you want to know one way to find out if Gilmore or any other pedophile/molester is being truthful when they say they are sorry for what they have done? Jesus gave us a clue on how to discover this in Matthew 5:23-24 NIV.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Ask Gilmore if he has found a way to express his sorrow to his victim. Better yet, find out if he has offered to pay for the years of counseling that she has needed. Sadly, the answer is, “No.” According to Christa, he has never attempted to make restitution for his assault of her as a child. He’s had 50 years to do it. Gilmore is existing in the fake bubble of *cheap grace” and he needs his pastors and churches to call him on it. This quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up my message to all churches who ask about my view of grace in regards to molesters.
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Christa, it is an honor to post your letter to FBCO. May those who have ears, listen.
Begin Christa Brown’s letter to FBCO.
In a recent blog post on abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, Cheryl Summers of the For Such a Time as This Rally pointed out that First Baptist Church of Orlando now promotes Tommy Gilmore as a financial planning provider for the church’s “Financial Peace University.”
“The hits just keep coming,” I thought.
Despite being a documented clergy predator who sexually abused me as a kid, Tommy Gilmore has had 50 years’ worth of care, cover-up, and career advancement within the SBC, and the support for him obviously continues to this day.
Meanwhile, I’ve been shamed, blamed, bullied, intimidated, ignored, threatened, and vilified by Southern Baptist leaders – lots of them. The contrast is stark and painful.
When I first began working to expose the truth about Tommy Gilmore, what motivated me was the certainty I felt as a mother in knowing that, if I had a child in a church with Gilmore, I’d want to be warned about the fact that he had sexually abused a kid. So, it is in that same spirit – as a mother – that I now write to you, the people of FBC-Orlando, to warn you about Gilmore. I expect your church leaders already know about his dreadful deeds – lots of other SBC church and denominational leaders do too – but I wondered whether you, the people in the pews, had ever been told.
At First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch, Texas, where Tommy Gilmore worked as a youth and education minister and where I was a naïve, trusting, faith-filled 16-year-old church-girl, Gilmore molested, abused, assaulted and raped me. These horrors happened in the sanctuary, the choir loft, his office, the parsonage, and his car. And they happened often – at least once a week, and sometimes more, for nearly 8 months.
Each time, when he was done with me, he always ended by saying, “God loves you, Christa.”
I hope you will try to imagine the kind of harm that would cause in the life of a young girl – more than 32 sexual assaults on me committed by a full-grown adult married minister who had a child of his own.
And knowing that you all are likely people who value your faith, I hope you’ll also try to imagine how much his conduct affected mine. Whenever someone wants to tell me about “God’s love,” I feel a visceral urge to vomit and run.
Imagine a person who was repeatedly tortured while Beethoven’s Fifth played in the background, and years later, merely hearing Beethoven’s Fifth will set him on edge. So it is with me. Talk of “God’s love” transports me back to the horror of all that Gilmore did to me.
Those 32-plus assaults were just the worst of what he did – the penetrative and sometimes coerced assaults that remain almost unspeakable. But there was also a lot of handsy gropey stuff that happened when I was younger, before I even got the metal braces off my teeth. Mentally, I tend to minimize the handsy gropey stuff because, as abusive as it was, everything that came afterwards was so much worse.
But still, I want you to try to understand how things progressed. An arm around my shoulder became a hand massaging my neck. Ordinary hugs became longer, pressed-in hugs. Holding hands in group prayer circles became holding hands in solitary prayers. Then came quiet talks in his office, purportedly to counsel me, which devolved into isolated talks in the church basement. Then came a hand goosing my butt when I got a drink at the water fountain, and then a hand on my knee, and then a hand going up my thigh. And then things went really downhill when he began to tell me it was God’s will for me to serve as a “helpmeet” for him. And then came the barrage of Bible verses, wielded like weapons to convince my balking teen self that I was being sinful if I resisted what God wanted of me. “Lean not unto thine own understanding.” That was one of his favorites, but he weaponized many other verses as well.
“Grooming:” it’s the word people use to describe the kinds of things Gilmore did before the full-on sexual assaults began. But it’s a word that doesn’t even begin to convey the premeditated malfeasance of what actually happens. Strangely, it’s a word that carries a connotation of care. You might imagine someone tending to a horse and giving attention to its coat. But with a horse, there is no ulterior motive in the grooming process; by contrast, with the grooming of a human child, there is profound conniving evil.
Eventually, after many months of “grooming,” there came a long drive down a dark road near the old Addison airport north of Dallas. He pulled over, and because I felt afraid, I got out of the car. But it did no good. With me pinned between that baby blue station wagon and his hard-pressed body, he sexually assaulted me. The girl I was died then and there, and after that, the assaults escalated in severity.
“Think of Abraham, Noah, and Moses,” he said. “Do you think what God wanted made sense to them?” Repeatedly, he urged me to simply “live by faith,” and he chastised me when I balked. After all, he said, “where would we all be if Mary hadn’t trusted God even when her special role was something she couldn’t understand?”
Such despicable blasphemy, and yet God makes for a powerful weapon when used by a pastoral con-man.
He twisted all of it – Bible verses, prayer, God’s will, and God’s love – into weapons for his own unholy ends of molestation and rape. For a faith-filled kid like me, taught from toddlerhood to be trusting of pastoral authority, they were as effective as any knife could have been for gaining my compliance. And now, because it was my faith that made me prey, faith has become a fraught terrain filled with land-mines.
When Gilmore was finally through with me – because I made an outcry to another minister who then told Gilmore that he would take it before the church if he didn’t leave — Gilmore made me kneel in his office while he stood over me, gripping my shoulder and praying long and loud for God to cast Satan from me. He insisted that I was the one at fault for having harbored Satan, and as a girl, this flat-out terrified me. He also insisted that I apologize to his wife, Sue, and so I stood in his office blubbering and begging for Sue to forgive me. All she said was “I’ll pray for you.”
Church leadership instructed me to never speak of it, and they allowed Gilmore to simply move on to a larger Southern Baptist church, and he continued his career in children’s ministry at prominent churches in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. He had connections to prominent SBC leaders (including having gone to college with Paige Patterson), and you can see a list of the churches he worked at here: They include First Baptist of Atlanta, the church of former SBC president Charles Stanley (which tried to run off leaf letters with information about Gilmore’s abuse), and First Baptist of Oviedo, the church of former Florida Baptist Convention president Dwayne Mercer. When Gilmore was at FBC-Oviedo, a church secretary reported him for sexual harassment, and she too was treated terribly.
If Gilmore had been a Catholic priest instead of a Southern Baptist pastor, he would surely be listed on a diocesan registry of “credibly accused” clergy sex abusers where congregants could more readily find out about him. But Southern Baptists don’t bother with that kind of denominational record-keeping.
Officials at the Baptist General Convention of Texas emailed me years ago to inform me that they had put Gilmore’s name in a file of “known offenders,” and under the BGCT’s published policy at the time, this would have required a confession or “substantial evidence of abuse” based on information received from a church. Unfortunately, the BGCT kept that file confidential and didn’t pro-actively warn churches about its listed offenders. So the burdensome task still remained to me to try to warn people about Gilmore.
After my childhood church threatened to seek legal recourse against me if I kept talking about it, I fought back and ultimately mustered still more substantiating documentation, including: (1) A written court-filed apology letter from FBC-Farmers Branch for the “very serious sexual abuse” that minister Tommy Gilmore inflicted on me as a child along with its acknowledgment that another of its ministers had known about the abuse, and the letter was sent to multiple SBC churches; (2) A Southern Baptist minister’s sworn statement attesting to his knowledge that Gilmore sexually abused me as a child, to the fact that Gilmore himself had talked about it with him, and to the fact that I had reported it at the time; (3) The sworn statement of a third-party attesting to another SBC minister’s description of the abuse as “consensual” despite the fact that I was a child at the time — mere “legalities” he said. All of it, and more, corroborated my account of Gilmore’s sexual abuse of me as a child.
Gilmore has never shown a shred of remorse.
Because the church covered up for him, allowing limitations to run, he never had to face criminal prosecution, and he hasn’t even faced any serious consequence within the faith community. Over and over, it seems SBC leaders believe me – given the body of evidence, it would be almost impossible not to – and yet no one has ever seemed to think Gilmore’s repeated rapes of me as a kid mattered – at least not enough to do anything about it or to even warn people in the pews. I’ve been told he sometimes teaches Sunday School – I pray it may no longer be so – and I saw that First Baptist of Orlando was shown as a “church partner” for his real estate business (in which he now uses talk of “God’s love” to sell houses). It appears the church stands behind him and gives him credibility.
It is credibility he does not deserve. As a mother, I plead with you to safeguard your children … because I know first-hand the sort of soul-murdering deception and barbarism that Tommy Gilmore is capable of.
If you want to read more, below is a list of news articles and other sources that talk about Gilmore’s sexual abuse of me as a kid. And if you want to read still more, you could check out my book, This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang.
https://ethicsdaily.com/sbc-president-questions-motives-of-snap-says-sex-abuse-everywhere-cms-8863/ (re allegations of Gilmore’s sexual harassment of an adult congregant)