The title of it is What Happened.
I had some other ideas:
I have always respected the work of the Wurmbrand family. Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor in Romania who dared to stand up for Christ in a Communist society, founded Voice Of The Martyrs. The Wurmbrands have long been instrumental in exposing the persecution of Christians by regimes hostile to Christians.
I have a late friend who–before she died at age 85–diligently gave money to Voice of the Martyrs every month. She even gave presentations at churches on their behalf.
VOM has enjoyed a very strong reputation in Christian circles for decades.
Unfortunately, since the deaths of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, VOM has drifted into disaster.
In 2012, the Executive Director of VOM, Tom White, committed suicide after learning that he was under investigation for the rape of a ten-year-old girl.
Michael Wurmbrand, in light of the revelations about White, called for an independent investigation into potential child molestations at VOM. He was subsequently dismissed from the board.
In the aftermath of this, the revelations about VOM include potential financial malfeasance in addition to the coverup of child sexual abuse.
This year, Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art The Man, a watch-blog that specializes in the expose’ of abuses in Church and parachurch circles, in concert with leaders from Reformation Baptist Church of Youngsville, NC who raised serious issues after their visit to a VOM-funded orphanage in Nigeria, provided a blistering assessment of VOM and Isaac Newton, the Director of the Stephens Center orphanage in Nigeria. A former VOM employee, “Mr. Jesperson”, provided a personal testimony of his time working for VOM.
(1) I believe Wilhelm and the Horn family of Reformation Baptist Church: Isaac Newton needs to be investigated.
(2) I believe this is a job for the International Justice Mission.
(3) I’m very skeptical of VOM.
Personally, I want the accusations about VOM to be bogus. But if you’re dealing with multiple accusations of abuse, all I can say is where there is smoke, there is usually fire. My cynical side says that what we are seeing is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
For now, it is on VOM to show that they are a transparent Christian organization that is committed to reaching out to Christians under oppression, and doing their best to keep predators out of their ranks and do justice to those harmed by malevolent parties.
Until they can demonstrate that, I recommend giving your money to other reputable organizations. I suggest the International Justice Mission.
The Deebs are pounding on a “church” that desperately needs a serious pounding or ten. Keep hammering them, and don’t be charitable.
It appears that the AP report has drawn the interest of both American and Brazilian governments.
This is bad. People are going to be heading to jail for a substantial amount of time.
The whole Word of Faith movement–long having proven themselves to be heretical at best–can’t get a black enough eye.
As I read this story, all I could think was, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”
He was a “church counselor” at the time, all while he was clearly living in a fashion that reflected mental illness if not outright demonic possession?
This is why I am very skeptical of youth ministers, children’s ministers, and even music ministers.
HT to Amy Smith of Watch Keep, who linked to this story on FB.
I saw this on the Charlotte Observer yesterday in my news feed. Amy Smith followed up on that with a tweet, and now Deb at TWW has followed up on it. This is not the first time TWW has given Word of Faith Fellowship of Spindale, NC a well-deserved kick.
As far as I am concerned, the ministerial staff at WOFF has provided a good case for why we need to bring back burning at the stake.
Or better yet, let Pilgrim and myself have their leaders for a weekend in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky…
If this story has traction–and since there is an audiotape of the exchange, it appears to have legs–there could be a major shakeup of the Kentucky political apparatus.
Julian Carroll (D), a former Governor, has enjoyed a very secure position in the Kentucky Senate. His level of influence in the Democratic Party in Kentucky is not far-removed from that of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Kentucky Republicans.
If this were simply about Carroll’s offenses, that would be bad enough.
But the larger issue here is the political apparatus that has swept offenses like these under the rug.
Everyone needs to read this.
If you are in a church where people have a “this would never happen here” attitude, then that means one of two things:
(1) It is GOING TO happen to you;
(2) It ALREADY HAS happened to you, and, when the facts get out in the open, the defecation is going to slam into the circulation at a very high velocity.
Predators will target churches for the same reason that armed robbers target banks.
The bank robber will hit the bank because “that’s where the money is.”
The child molester will target the church because “that’s where the children are.”
If you are a regular reader here, you will shake your head because, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the predator often DOES NOT “LOOK” EVIL!
The predator is usually NOT the creepy, Peewee Herman knockoff and is in fact very likely (a) very respected, (b) very friendly and seemingly trustworthy, and (c) SOMEONE THE KIDS WILL OTHERWISE LOVE! He is often married and has children of his own, and his wife is often well-liked. He may be a seminary graduate, he may be a professional, he may be very gifted. He will likely be very popular.
Churches are generally drawn to people who (a) have charisma and (b) are good performers at what they do. If they are preachers, they can preach the lights out. If they are music ministers, they can sing and play instruments like no one’s business. If they are children’s ministers, they are EXCELLENT at object lessons. If they are youth ministers, they are VERY POPULAR with the teens.
You say your church does background checks? Excellent! EVERY CHURCH NEEDS TO DO THEM ON EVERYONE WHO SERVES WITH CHILDREN OR TEENS.
But remember this: the predator will pass the background check. This is because the background check will only tell you if he has any prior scrapes with the law. And Murphy’s Law says he has a “clean record”.
You say your church has a “two person rule”; i.e., no adult is allowed to be with children or teens alone. EXCELLENT! Every church needs to have that policy!
But are you sure that these workers are not having any kids or teens at their houses without other adult chaperones? Do you have adequate chaperones at camping and other outside-the-walls events? (And make no mistake: that is your responsibility!)
And given the recent debacle at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Florida, you might need to ensure that the Internet connectivity in your church has reasonable porn-blocking technology.
Even then, you can do everything right and the predator can still make it past your defenses.
What can you do about that?
(1) Foster a culture of transparency in your church. President Reagan once told his staff, “Never be afraid to see what you see.” That is great advice here: if it looks suspicious, then don’t be afraid to sound off.
(2) As for “sounding off”…that means ensuring that people understand that they should call authorities immediately and report suspicious activity or accusations thereof. Can those accusations be bogus? Of course. But let the authorities sort that out. Are they perfect? No, but their batting average on these matters will be better than yours.
When an accusation surfaces, you aren’t going to want to believe it, because it will involve someone that you will swear is sterling.
Be that as it may, DO NOT “DO YOUR OWN INVESTIGATION”. I am going to give you some reasons why this is a very bad idea:
(1) Unless you are trained in this sort of thing, you aren’t qualified to do any such investigation.
(2) Even if you ARE trained in this sort of thing, you have conflicts of interest that could cloud your judgment as you investigate.
(3) By interrogating witnesses, you may unwittingly intimidate them into recanting, and this could squelch any chance of rooting out other abuses and exposing other victims. And trust me: if you get an accusation and it proves to have merit, Murphy’s Law says you’re seeing the tip of the iceberg.
I personally know two people who are doing 20-year sentences for child rape. One (RW) assaulted his own granddaughters–this was not church-related–and the other (CE) was a children’s worker for many years at various churches.
RW’s case, even though it was not church-related–is important for this reason: I was at RW’s house many times, and worked with his granddaughters in Awana (they were assistants to folks like myself), and saw them at the house many times. There were no obvious indications of abuse.
One of them wrote about the abuses in her diary, and one of her parents read it, and went to authorities. RW was convicted in a jury trial.
Had that parent dismissed this by saying, “I know RW, I can swear that he’s a good guy…he would NEVER do anything like that. There’s no way this is true!”, this would have never gone to trial. Thankfully, he (or she) saw what they saw and acted on it.
CE’s case was a classic disaster. He had been to multiple churches, and had been accused of improprieties with children everywhere he went.
What I was told after the fact: in the early cases, which occured in the early 1990s before myself or the pastor (RC) were at the church: CE’s prior churches didn’t report him but rather made him leave. When I was one of those churches from early 1994 through early 1997, CE had a “clean record”. From early 1994 to 1995, he was at a large church in Louisville. It was a liberal Baptist church. Apparently, he was pushed out of that church due to accusations from others. I wouldn’t find that out, however, until 1997, after I was gone.
None of his accusers at any of his prior churches reported him to authorities, and–rather than report him–the leaders at those churches had quietly told him to move on. (NEVER, EVER DO THAT! This enables predators to continue their dirty work.)
My first dealings with him were in 1996: CE taught in the children’s area. I taught one of the adult Sunday School classes and an occasional evening class. CE would teach the children’s object lesson on Sunday mornings. During this time, I was unaware of any accusations against him. I didn’t like him, but couldn’t put my finger on why. I did not, however, know of his past.
After I left in 1997, two accusers went to authorities, accusing CE of trying to touch them in certain places. CE was arrested and charged.
But other parties–people who knew those kids–interrogated them, and they subsequently recanted. With evidence lacking for convictions, CE was pled down to a misdemeanor which was subsequently expunged from his record.
In 2000, I returned to that church as the Minister of Education. When I got there, CE was a children’s worker and was even on the Personnel Committee. (In other words, he was actually on a committee that had the power to fire me!)
Oh, and CE had a “clean record”. That is because (a) his prior charges were dropped, and (b) the misdemeanor was expunged from his record. That means CE would pass any background check.
Neither the pastor (RC) nor myself liked him, but the powerful folks on the key committees swore by him.
RC and I did the best we could: we kept a close eye on him, and we were dogmatic about the “two person rule”, which pissed off some of the children’s workers.
During my year there, no one accused him of anything. And I did not witness any suspicious activity. (And I was looking for it.)
Not long after I left in 2001, CE also went to another church.
But there was a family–the mom was a childhood friend of CE’s–that continued to have CE babysit their kids.
One of those kids started having some medical issues. Upon examination, a doc became suspicious. Subsequent professionals determined that CE had raped the child.
CE was arrested and charged.
This time around, other accusers came out of the woodwork, most of those pre-dating my time at that church, and some of them involving other churches at which he had served.
According to RC, none of the documented abuses occurred during our terms there. To this day, I have no idea why that was the case. I wish I could say that RC and I scared the Hell out of CE, but I doubt that was the case. Maybe he knew he was being watched. Who knows?
Ultimately, he pled guilty and is serving a 20-year sentence.
Notice that, had those 2 kids–in 1997–not been interrogated by people who knew them, CE would likely have been stopped in his tracks.
That underscores the danger of “doing your own investigation”.
The folks who did that in 1997? They thought they were rooting out liars. They thought they were saving the church from being tainted by false accusation.
In reality, they enabled a predator.
First, some disclaimers:
(1) I stipulate that Ruth Tucker’s account of abuse is true. From what she described in her book, I have no reason to not believe it.
(2) I stipulate (1) because Ruth Tucker, in her account, includes allegations that are damaging to her as well as to him.
(3) Ruth Tucker is not responsible for the abuse she received.
(4) FWIW: I do not believe in telling someone who is being abused that she (or even he) must return to the abusive spouse. In fact, depending on the nature of the abuses–assuming they are physical and/or sexual–it would almost certainly be insane if not irresponsible to return to that, irrespective of the sex of the abuser.
Having said all of that, I am providing an assessment, at the behest of Dee at TWW, given that I expressed disagreement with the inconsistency with which they gave Tucker a pass.
So, what is the deal here?
For one thing, I’ve been party to a long-running debate at TWW regarding Patriarchy/Complimentarianism vs. Egalitarianism.
The NeoCals–a camp of which I am very skeptical–tend to lean complimentarian, and, given the reports of abuses and coverups and overstretches of church discipline in those circles, that has fed the “complimentarianism promotes abuse” narrative.
(My view: the culture of abuse is fostered whenever you have a charismatic leader–or leaders–who, in the eyes of the sheeple–“can do no wrong” and therefore become accountable to no one. But that is a different discussion.)
Enter the case of Ruth Tucker, a Christian author who endured years of abuse–including physical and sexual abuse–at the hands of a hyper-authoritarian husband.
At particular issue is the part of Tucker’s story which includes their adoption of a foster child whom her husband sexually abused. By her own account, she knew of the abuse and refused to report it to authorities.
(This strikes a chord with me, as–prior to our adoption of Abigail, who fell into our laps out of nowhere–MrsLarijani and I had completed the training and background checks to become foster parents. Through that training, we were made very aware of the various traumas that foster children experience. We were waiting for a clerk to enter our information into their systems, and we were set to enter the foster parent world. Then Catholic Charities informed us that we had been “picked”, and the rest is history.)
This is where I have an issue with the Deebs: Tucker’s failure to report the abuse, particularly given that this child was a ward of the State who had likely already been subject to substantial trauma, is very troubling.
If you’re going to support an egalitarian paradigm, then her failure to report the abuse is every bit as serious as every ministerial overlook of said abuses.
That she was a victim of abuse does not negate her moral responsibility to report said abuses, any more than it would a member of Mahaney’s ministerial staff–who was also likely on the receiving end of various abuses. Just as i believe that Mahaney’s staff was derelict and even complicit in their duties, I believe Tucker was derelict in her duties by failing to report the abuses of her husband.
As a foster parent, the state entrusted her with a great responsibility. And she failed in that responsibility. Today, there are cases where foster parents, who knew of abuses by their spouses but did not report them, are being prosecuted.
But TWW gave her a pass, and that is where I call them on their inconsistency. If they’re truly egalitarian, then she is as responsible for her failure to report her husband’s abuses of their daughter as her husband was in abusing their daughter.
When Tucker’s husband abused her, that was his sin.
When Tucker’s husband abused their adoptive daughter via the foster care system, then that was also his sin.
When Tucker became aware of her husband’s abuses of their adoptive daughter, and refused to report those abuses, then that was her sin.
I had been following that story for a few days, as Amy Smith of Watch Keep had reported on it on her Watch Keep Facebook thread.
Why are Deb and Dee stepping in it? Only one person is alleged to be a party to any wrongdoing, that being former worship director Chad Robison. No other leaders or members of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church have been implicated, and in fact it was the leadership of Seven Rivers who reported Robison–after at least one worker, in the process of trying to prank Robison, discovered the pornographic media on his machine–to authorities, who investigated the matter and promptly arrested and charged him.
Deb and Dee are either being intentionally harmful, or their proofreading sucks and they need to change their headline (emphasis added): “Chad Robison, Worship Leaders at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church, PCA, Allegedly Molested Many Children and Authorities Need Your Help“).
According to what I am seeing, Seven Rivers, to their credit, was fairly prompt in going to authorities and did not–as some Federal Visionists would have wanted–try to handle this “in house”.
Maybe Deb and Dee need to look past their anti-Calvinist blinders and acknowledge that, whatever their leanings, Seven Rivers appears to have handled this matter properly.
Addressing other issues raised by Deb and Dee:
What will the PCA denominational leadership do to assist the police, and most likely the FBI, in their investigation?
Depends on what you mean by “denominational leadership”. At the national level, the PCA has no role in this, as it is highly unlikely that anyone beyond Seven Rivers or their local presbytery, who would be in any position to materially contribute to an investigation.
Were there any reports that the church felt were not warranted?
A question always arises if there had been any sort of report that had been blown off by the staff as “Just guys horsing around.” I saw that in a former church. The *boyz being boyz* blow off led to young teen males being abused, horrifically, for another year. That molester is now in prison.
It does not appear that this was the case here. What this appears to be: you have a predator who, in the absence of a criminal record, made it into the ranks of church leadership. Most of his alleged activities appear to have been electronic in nature, particularly secret videos, photos, and online video chats. Unless the church was monitoring everyone’s computers–and, trust me: they almost never do–they would have been completely in the dark about this.
Predators are a sneaky lot. I am not surprised that he did what he did, or even that he positioned himself to do what he did. Unless they monitor his Internet searches–and, even if they did, a predator would find other ways to get his jollies–they would not have seen it until providentially, a worker happened to notice it.
Was he fired immediately?
It appears that he was fired promptly enough. In a church like that, the “session” would have met to ascertain what was going on and make a decision. This might have also involved working through the local Presbytery if he had any ordination credentials. That there may have been a four-day delay between their discovery and his formal termination is not necessarily a big deal: he was probably relieved of duties immediately.
Also, Deb and Dee couldn’t leave out this dig:
Seven Rivers is a member of the PCA. This is a strictly Calvinist denomination which broke away from what they would deem the more liberal PCUSA. Many churches in the PCA are also affiliated with The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks.
While you’re at it, why don’t you include a swipe or three at Timothy Keller and John Piper?
While I have plenty of issues with TGC and 9 Marks–I share Deb and Dee’s angst at them–this is not the place to take pot shots at them.
Moreover, the PCUSA IS very liberal, and has been so for many decades. While I have issues with the PCA–as I do not identify either as a Calvinist, nor do I have any dogmatic attraction to the Westminster Confession–this particular case has nothing to do with the veracity of their doctrines, as such predators have been known to hang out in Arminian circles as well.
UPDATE: Dee has changed the headline. Thanks!