Kamp Kanakuk Survivors Wonder Why There Has Been No Change in Leadership

When I read story after story of mishandled claims—all occurring against the backdrop of the thunderous success of the [Liberty] university’s fundraising and enrollment—I was reminded of a different powerful Christian institution, Kanakuk Kamps, which ignored red flag after red flag that it had a superpredator in its midst. After all, he was so successful. He was so appreciated. The applause for him was thunderous.
-David French, “The Moral Collapse of America’s Largest Christian University. The light goes out of Liberty.”


“Pete Newman is the most thorough relationship builder with kids in Kanakuk history,” Kanakuk chief executive officer Joe White once said. “This guy has a raging love for God and it spills over constantly to the kids at kamp.”
-The French Press, “They Aren’t Who You Think They Are -The inside story of how Kanakuk – one of America’s Largest Christian camps – enabled horrific abuse.”


Raging love, indeed. Newman was a man whose actions showed he had no love for God or others. His driving force in life was grooming 10-15 year-old boys so he could sexually abuse them. He is now serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison.

That Joe White would make a statement like the one above shows, in my opinion, that he either lacks any discernment or was more intent on protecting the brand than he was in protecting children. Either way, that White remains as chief executive officer of Kamp Kanakuk is a travesty.

I encourage you to watch the video below. It is an excellent 17 minute documentary of victims and parents of victims of those abused by Pete Newman fighting for justice and truth by bravely speaking out.

There were many speakers through the years at Kamp Kanakuk and apparently no one questioned what was going on at the camp. Included in this number was Alex Himaya, the Senior Pastor of BattleCreek Church in Tulsa, OK.

Alex Himaya’s best friend, David Nasser, who up until this past April was the Special Vice President for Spiritual Development at Liberty University, is shown in this video, taken in 2015, praising Joe White as he introduced him at a chapel service at Liberty University.

It’s my opinion that people in leadership positions, whether it be in churches, para-church organizations, or Christian education, need to closely examine a man prior to praising him as a legendary Christian. A classic case in point is when Vice President Mike Pence spoke in glowing terms of Ravi Zacharias at his memorial service.


“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays


Comments

Kamp Kanakuk Survivors Wonder Why There Has Been No Change in Leadership — 59 Comments

  1. When I pass on, I want people to remember me as annoyingly obsessive about the things I care about and willing to use foul language to get things across in the most pointed way possible. Oh, and needing frequent naps to reboot my overactive brain. And I’m a slob. I’m sure I can come up with other things, but right now I need one of those frequent naps to reboot my overactive brain.

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  2. On Kamp Kanakuk, I’m just going to say that I don’t know anyone who could afford something like that. $2575 (2 weeks) to $4800 (4 weeks)? Seriously? This is definitely for elite Evangelicals (as David French says). Oh, and I would have hated to have been sent off to a camp like this. No chance to be alone for two/four weeks, ouch. But that’s just me.

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  3. I will note that many of the stories here are about gay men abusing boys. That is a lot of stories for such a small minority. Either there is a lot higher rate of abuse or you clearly have a bias against LBGTQ+ what every you want to add to the abbreviation. So which is it? The liberals swear that all of these are good people. I am just wondering…

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  4. Mr. Jesperson: a lot of stories for such a small minority

    The monsters, whomever their preference, are collectively always small in number.

    The issue is never their percentage of humankind. The issue is their utter devastation of lives.

    A Dear Leader is a one-off who has the potential of lethal destruction, (sometimes in the millions). History bears witness.

    A monster selects his/her victim demographic.

    The question is: Do “the rest of us” walk by, on the other side of the road?

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  5. Mr. Jesperson,

    I have such respect for your deep faith, your musical talent and your intellect, but I am going to disagree with something you said.

    Pedophiles with an attraction to boys are not ‘gay’.

    There are fixated and regressive pedophiles – a fixated pedophile is repulsed by adults and will more often than not target male and female children. A regressive pedophile will target children during times of stress. They are more often heterosexual in adult relationships.
    Do homosexuals target male children? Yes. By definition, a homosexual is age appropriately attracted to someone of the same sex.
    It is a myth that gay people target children more than heterosexuals.
    Girls are more likely to be abused 2:1.
    Pedophiles are attracted to prepubescent children and hebephiles to adolescents below the age of consent. Not all child sexual abuse is committed by pedophiles and hebephiles, bisexual men may also target children (regressive) though they prefer adult females.
    A Denver hospital study involving 352 charts of children who were abused found 1% were abused by a lesbian or gay.
    Study after study debunks the myth that men who molest boys are gay. The term homosexual molestation doesn’t help because it is male on male. That does not mean the molester is an adult homosexual.
    Yet, the religious and political right particularly in the US has used gay men as boogey men in their agenda and discussion of child sexual abuse.

    A child abuser who targets boys is more likely to have more victims because boys are less likely to report. (1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys tend to report molestation even though 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18).
    Boys and male adolescents who have been abused are afraid to report for fear of being labelled gay.

    Pete Newman was married. Heterosexual? Bi? Homosexual? Pedophile? Hebephile?
    Fixated? Regressive?
    Has any adult male come forward to say they had a relationship with Newman?
    None that I’m aware of.

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  6. Mr. Jesperson,

    These crimes are about power. No point in getting into this further.

    Suffice it to say that some strains of Christianity continue to be “wasting away again in Deuteronomy” – apologies to Jimmy Buffett.

    If your “old testament” were written today it would be classified as barbaric and would be illegal under the law.

    But christianity wants it both ways, the loving Jesus and the smiting lord.

    It creates a dichotomy that leads to much of the power issues discussed here.

    Mr. J. It’s got everything to do with power. No “message from God” required.

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  7. “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays

    IMHO, the greatest pastors in America are those you never heard of. They minister in obscurity with the love of Jesus. They’re not in it for the money, they don’t abuse others in any way, they don’t steal sermons, there are no scandals posted about them in the blogosphere. If you have a pastor like that, you have found a needle in the haystack, a rare & endangered species, a treasure buried in the field. Go “All In” to support them!

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  8. “Vice President Mike Pence spoke in glowing terms of Ravi Zacharias at his memorial service”

    The good had been canceled by the overwhelming bad – it was frontpage news by the time RZ’s memorial service was held. Just because you reach one of the highest offices in this land, doesn’t mean you have any discernment (particularly spiritual discernment).

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  9. Joe White should have resigned years ago. Apparently, the Kanakuk Board of Directors didn’t think so … 3 of 7 directors are White family members. Perhaps Coach Joe’s reluctance to do the right thing has something to do with a “suspicious” pattern of self-dealing between Kanakuk and founder “Coach” Joe White and his family.”

    https://ministrywatch.com/kanakuk-financial-statements-reveal-suspicious-pattern-of-self-dealing/

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  10. My two daughters attended Kanakuk. My son refused which speaks to his intelligence. He was the right age for Pete the pedophile.

    They attended a private Christian school in Dallas and lots of their friends were going. The Dallas connection to Kanakuk is so strong that they send buses to bring the kids from Dallas to the camp.

    My daughters liked the camp and both did well. However, Joe White would meet with the parents at the beginning of their time. I remember being underwhelmed but I thought it was just because he was trying to relate to the kids.

    Recently, I recalled that Joe pushed to have the kids come for 4 weeks or more to get the “optimal” experience. My daughters just stayed for two.

    I was caught in the melee. My kids went to the “right” Christian school. Over time, I became worried that they would become Dallas princesses. I was so grateful that Abby got well. We took that opportunity to get out of the Dallas Christian scene and the ever-demanding “do this, do that.”

    As I look back, I learned a whole bunch.

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  11. Bene D,

    Agreed. Predation of minors is not a feature of any sexual orientation. Sexual assault in general is about power, not attraction. Whatever people’s beliefs about what is and is not OK between consenting adults, it’s completely unfair to tar LGBTQ community with this brush.

    I’m curious where you found the stats, esp about boys being less likely to report. That is an incredibly sad thought.

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  12. There are two private schools (both religious) and a major university in my city that have been affected by their lack of attention to pedophiles on campus. They are all in the process of being sued. Another private school in the city took swift and decisive action when an accusation arose. They contacted the authorities and had the offender arrested on campus the same day the complaint was made. There was one newspaper article, and that was it. The other schools/university have regular press coverage about how their situations are playing out, years after they occurred.
    Moral of the stories: Sexual offenders will always be attracted to places where they can get away with their crimes. Kanakuk, unfortunately, has been one of those places. I wouldn’t send a kid of mine there if they were scholarshipped for the entire month.

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  13. Linn: Moral of the stories: Sexual offenders will always be attracted to places where they can get away with their crimes.

    Moral of the story: most churches are in that category with cheap grace, silencing of victims, applauding predators, and unending reinventions and rebrands for criminal religious leaders. (Ref: Houston Chronicle’s “Abuse of Faith” database of hundreds of public records… criminal clergy.)

    HBO’s “The Tale”, written by Jennifer Fox dramatizes when she was groomed by her coach during middle school. The coach has a Ghislaine Maxwell as his recruiter. The film succeeds in revealing how evil happens and how a child figured it out and ended the violation.

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  14. Linn: Moral of the stories: Sexual offenders will always be attracted to places where they can get away with their crimes.

    Christian organizations are easy hiding places for sexual offenders. Churchgoers are too trusting of everyone in their midst. You simply can’t afford to do that … TWW and other watchblogs have documented that the enemy can sit in the pew, preach in the pulpit, lead the music, volunteer to teach your children. Pray for discernment and keep your eyes and ears open; never blindly trust church leaders … “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

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  15. I am a long time reader here, but rarely post. I do feel the need to say something here though… I worked at Kanakuk Kamps in the summer of 1997. As a college student, I met and worked with Pete Newman that summer. Of course none of us knew he was an abusive monster at that time. We were all more ignorant on the topic of abuse and more trusting in those days. I’m sure that includes Joe White too. I’m sure the above quote about Pete Newman comes from before any of us new about his true character. Honestly, I cannot get on board with people continuing to come after Joe White or Kanakuk Kamps. He really is a dedicated lifelong Christian who has spent most of his adult life trying to serve and bless others in ministry. It is so sad that he, like so many of us, was duped by a charismatic yet predatory monster named Pete… but honestly, he is not the villain of the story…

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  16. dee: We took that opportunity to get out of the Dallas Christian scene and the ever-demanding “do this, do that.”

    As I look back, I learned a whole bunch

    Life and circumstances can propel us to be seekers. Unfortunately, “Christian” do this & that is simply static or noise, so we learn and move on.

    Patty and Jerry Wetterling explain how, in their own extreme circumstances, they took every phone call, and listened to even a number of crazy quacks over the years until their case was solved. Their story helps us to understand how seeking answers plays out in real life. People are honestly seeking as life presents very challenging circumstances.

    [Baran, Madeleine (2016). “In the Dark”. American Public Media; Podcast. Interview with the Wetterlings.]

    Thank God, Dee, your son refused the camp. Thank God, you expose this evil monster and his enablers here at TWW.

    The enablers are complicit, and should NEVER be trusted. All of the good of the camp becomes the Trojan Horse for monsters preying on children.

    “Church” and “Christian” and “Evangelical” as Trojan horses need to be destroyed before they destroy more people. Participants beware.

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  17. Max,

    Thx, Max; ever grateful for you, TWW, Dee, Todd, all commenters, and post contributors. God love you all. Blessings.

    Sidenote:

    Done means done with Trojan Horse orgs and networks. This type of Done brings us ever closer to Jesus and the Body of Christ.

    Jesus was the 1st “Done”; His followers were and are today also done with religious nonsense and predation.

    Every time our family has changed churches, we were Done with something there.

    As one of our sons has put it, see something, say something, they may do nothing, or even worse they may gaslight the whistleblowers, so DONE with that Dog and Pony Show, which translates Move On. Done.

    See, tell, wait, assess, then do right following Jesus right outta thar, when/if the org falls short of their Jesus commitment and responsibility.

    Do the right thing. Follow Jesus and let the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, over and above the preacher and the BFF social network, be one’s guide.

    Bottom line, Jesus is THE BFF.

    Sometimes we don’t see the Trojan Horse but something or someone sends us in the right direction. I love how Dee’s son said, “No” to camp and she LISTENED!!!

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  18. RHM,

    I think there is more to that story, Rachel. I believe there is more to the Joe White story and his relationship with Pete. In my own experience, I have found that many Christian leaders, especially the older ones, can turn their backs on things that they hear, allowing monsters to continue to be predatory.
    In this situation, there are some that do believe things were not dealt with as they should have been.

    It is very hard when we hear that one of the people who were admired has feet of clay. I have been there. I know how you feel. My transition to the conservative Lutheran church has been a great help to me in understanding that we are simultaneously saints and sinners. That sin can be deeply disturbing to us but it is real, nonetheless.

    I’m sure Joe White is grateful to you for your support. But is it warranted? That is something you will discover for yourself over time. I urge you to carefully read the entire saga of this mess. Join me in praying for those possibly hundreds of boys who were molested and whose lives have been deeply changed forever. In my experience, there is rarely a “Jesus will make it go away” moment.

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  19. dee: God sent me some wonderful people to walk through my journey with me as well as to challenge me when I get off track.

    That’s what the Body of Christ does: “in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, encourage with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2) … it’s part of loving one another.

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  20. dee: many Christian leaders, especially the older ones, can turn their backs on things that they hear, allowing monsters to continue to be predatory.

    What about the public records of criminal clergy assembled in a database by other clergy leadership who care and follow Jesus… JUST KIDDING!!! The Houston Chronicle did the database from public records.

    No Christian leadership or org has done this!!!!

    Business as usual is a way of life for those who do church as business. Nothing about Jesus except pretense and posing.

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  21. Ava Aaronson: Business as usual is a way of life for those who do church as business. Nothing about Jesus except pretense and posing.

    The Christian Industrial Complex has largely replaced the authority and influence of Jesus. Mere men, with systems and procedures, are now on the throne in the American church. Religion has become a business, with no room in the inn for Jesus.

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  22. Max: Mere men, with systems and procedures, are now on the throne in the American church.

    Pays the bills, which is #1 where there are salaries and buildings hungry for $$$.

    Amass a following that pays dues, then overlook all of the social ills and criminality within that group…

    … what happens when employees, such as pastors, have no real jobs, no livelihood, outside of the microphone + dues-paying following schtick…

    …what codependent overseers overlook.

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  23. Max: That’s why so many failed pastors (Driscoll, Tullian, MacDonald, etc. etc.) launch unrepentant comebacks … they can’t make a living any other way … they need the mic, the limelight, the applause, the big check.

    Yes. I’ve had this very thought. It’s the only thing they’re really good at so they go back to it.

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  24. I’ve really soured on most non-denominational churches and organizations. The lack of accountability is just to much for anyone here on this sinful earth to handle. Accountability is critical for any organization. Too often these Christian organizations completely lack any meaningful third party oversight. In some ways it would be better to have at least a couple of non-Christian board members that could provide more objective accountability in legal and financial areas. Also, These NDA’s are just garbage. They are going to have a hard time answering to God for these things. The Bible is very clear about shining the light on sin.

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  25. Longhorn fan: Accountability is critical for any organization.

    The New Testament church “model” was based on congregational governance. The pew held the pulpit in check, choosing their leaders and holding them accountable. The elder-rule model in New Calvinism and elsewhere ‘could’ lead more easily to manipulation, intimidation and domination of members … ‘if’ unspiritual leaders with ungodly agendas are in control.

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  26. Gordon Hackman: It’s the only thing they’re really good at

    As I’ve said before, anyone in America can be a successful pastor if they have a touch of charisma, a gift of gab, a general working knowledge of the Bible, and a bag of gimmicks. The Body of Christ can be easily deceived by such characters if they don’t humble themselves and pray as they ought for the Holy Spirit to lead them in their selection of ministers and ministries to support.

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  27. Longhorn fan: I’ve really soured on most non-denominational churches and organizations.

    Because when they’re a completely-independent True New Testament Church (Calvary Chapel clone where I am), THERE IS NO POSSIBLE OUTSIDE REALITY CHECK. Just ME and GAWD, No More, Amen.

    Doubly so when you add Charismania to the mix, getting your Marching Orders directly from God by Private Revelation/Channelling every 30 seconds.

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