“They like to use those fancy words. They don’t like to say “raped,'” he said. “They say “misdeed,’ “inappropriate touching,’ “mistake.’ That’s insulting. I’m not a mistake.”
― In the Shadow of the Cross
Tonight, Bill and I are going to work at “Night to Shine’ at our church. I never realized how many people with various disabilities did not attend their school dances, etc. I have participated in these events at various churches along the way. I will never forget one woman who appeared to be in her 70s. She arrived with a beautiful smile, dressed in a ruby red, sequined gown. As she walked the “runway,” surrounded by folks who were clapping, I thought I was going to ruin things by bawling my eyes out. She danced the night away along with us and many guests. I grabbed folks and danced with anyone I could find.
In the meantime, I have so many stories to write and feel like I’m falling behind.
It appeared that Vineyard USA was caught in a rapidly developing situation and was not responding adequately to the needs of the survivors. Given that all major Christian groups have experienced serious and well-documented cases of sexual abuse, the early response to the victims by the mothership seemed inadequate. Yes, they asked for GRACE to be involved. That is great, but that will not take care of the immediate needs of the victims.
It is alleged that the church leadership did not initially report allegations to the police. It appears to this outsider that this might have been due to the fact that the alleged perp, Jackson Gatlin, was the youth pastor under the senior pastor, Michael Gatlin, who is also his dad. Brenda, his mom, had been in leadership at the church until she moved up to the national organization.
I have seen this sort of thing happen time and time again. Moms and dads like to protect their kids, even when the kiddos grow up and develop particular sexual predilections. I, for one, am opposed to creating a mom-and-pop shop model to replace independent church leadership based on Biblical relationships instead of nuclear family units. Even Jesus did not call His own brother, James, to be one of the Twelve. Later, James would become a leader in the church as well as a martyr.
I received the following letter, which was sent to all Vineyard pastors. Perhaps the most important development is that Jackson’s mom has been placed on leave from her position in Vineyard, USA.
I have heard that there are Vineyard pastors who have been very concerned about the welfare of the victims. I hope that the church will support the victims while the police are involved. I guess that GRACE will not immediately begin its investigation until the police complete their criminal probe.
I am grateful that Vineyard leadership discussed supporting the victims instead of what many ill-informed groups do. Those groups put a priority on supporting the perp and his pastor/family. In this letter, I do not see such a sentiment expressed in this letter to the pastors.
However, the leadership continues to call the accusations of the victims by the misguided term of “misconduct.” Misconduct is too light of a word. It appears that the accusations involve unwanted sexual contact on the part of Jackson. Sex abuse is a horrific, life-altering experience for the victim. I wish Vineyard would get smarter in their vocabulary so they can better support the victims. Ask GRACE for a better way to communicate.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I am willing to write their stories if they wish.
Over the past few days, you may have become aware of allegations of misconduct and their mishandling at the Duluth Vineyard. This has been a dynamic situation with information coming from various sources.
As you should expect, our primary focus and the majority of our time has been spent in support of the Duluth Vineyard and their need to plan and communicate effectively in order to support reporting victims, staff, leaders, and the congregation as a whole as they navigate this most challenging of situations.
Based on the information provided to VUSA and additional information that has come available since the allegations were made public, Vineyard USA placed Brenda Gatlin on leave, effective February 1, 2023. As the fact-finding process provides clarity and additional information becomes available, we will determine the appropriate next steps and update the appropriate people.
Brenda Gatlin’s leave directly impacts local Vineyard churches in the Midwest North, Mountain and Northwest Regions – her Super Region. We are working to coordinate among staff to ensure that the needs of local churches are able to be met by the National Team. For the immediate future, John Elmer (email@example.com) will serve as the interim Super Regional Leader for the Midwest North and Northwest Regions and Joel Seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) will serve as the interim Super Regional Leader for the Mountain Region. They will continue to support all Regional and Area Leaders, who have all been advised of these developments and are available to support you as well.
If asked, you are free to share the information provided in this email, but while there is a lot of information swirling around the internet, we would encourage you to avoid answering questions and direct inquiries of any kind to Robb Morgan (email@example.com). As this is an active investigation, we will only provide ongoing updates to RLs and ALs until the investigative process has been completed or material developments require additional communication.