SSB Gathering – July 5, 2015

Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

 by Kathi

july 4th

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; life them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.

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May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

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Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

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photo credit: Brian B.

Is it appropriate to use a worship service to promote patriotism? 

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Do Patriotism and Worship Services Mix Well?

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I’ve been in churches where the congregation was asked to stand and say the pledge of allegiance during a worship service. I have a strong pride in America. I lived in the Philippines during a very tumultuous time in which our own US servicemen were killed by terrorist attacks. I was there when there were base demonstrations and our daily lives had to be altered because of real threats to us. We had curfews and base restrictions.

I remember when singer Lee Greenwood came to Clark Air Base (Philippines) at a time when we were all emotionally reeling from the recent attacks on our servicemen.  When, at the conclusion of his concert, he started singing the words, “I’m Proud to be an American,”  there was not a dry eye in the audience.

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When I came back to the States, my husband was sent to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield. My husband was defending our country and I was taking care of our 3-yr old and infant. Every single time I saw an American flag, I got tears in my eyes, knowing that my husband was “over there” and seeing first-hand the sacrifices made by our servicemen and their families.

So, obviously, you cannot say that i am unpatriotic. I am proud to be an American. I understand what freedom means.

But the several times I have been in a church service and asked to stand to say the pledge of allegiance, something has stirred within me – some sort of conflict and I never really spent the time to think about what it was.

I ran across this article recently: This is my confession: I struggle with patriotic worship services.

Sunday gatherings of believers are a microcosm of the Kingdom of God. For me, at their best, patriotic services celebrate baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet at the expense of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. At their worst they rehearse selective history, celebrate decisions of a man-made government, and blur the line between the kingdoms of man and the kingdom of God.

Sundays find followers of Jesus gathered celebrating His victory over sin, death, hell and the grave, not American victories at Iwo Jima, Normandy and Bastogne. We gather with the promise of a Prince of Peace whose return will not only render Valley Forge, Gettysburg, New Orleans, Normandy, Guadalcanal, Da Nang and Baghdad impossible; He will make them unneeded.

I posted this article on the SSB Facebook page and here are some of the comments:

I suffered in church every Memorial Day, July 4th and Christmas…

As a music pastor, I ALWAYS dreaded planning the Sunday nearest the 4th of July. HATED it!! 

What do you think? Is it okay to mix church and patriotism? Am I being overly sensitive? Is America God’s special nation? Do pastors overstep their bounds when they encourage patriotism?

Happy 4th, everyone. Stay safe!  I can’t wait for you all to see Kathi’s husband’s photo in tomorrow’s Sunday gathering.  It’s so cool!

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NonFamily Sex Abuse Victim Expected to File Civil Lawsuit against Josh Duggar

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Josh Duggar’s (nonfamily) sex abuse victim intends to file lawsuit against him.

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Recent news reports claim that Josh Duggar, son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who was reported to have sexually abused five children as a young teen, will be facing a civil lawsuit filed by the non-related victim. It should be noted that Duggar confessed to the crimes, but the Statute of Limitations had expired, so he was not criminally charged.

There are still many questions surrounding this case. Who knew what and when? What did pastors know? What did they do? How much did his parents know? How did they respond? How was this case handled by people close to the Duggar family? What safeguards were in place? What specific counseling did Josh and the victims receive?

InTouch’s article included this important information which could certainly be helpful for us to understand how this abuse was covered up by people who should have reported:

The shocking development means that Josh and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle could be forced to give depositions and testify about Josh’s molestation scandal. The Duggars likely will have to answer every question as they will not be able to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the criminal statute of limitations has expired.

While the Statute of Limitations expired for Duggar to be tried criminally, Arkansas has a state law which allows for a civil lawsuit to be filed by victims after the Statute of Limitations have expired, even many years later: 1

6-56-130. Civil actions based on sexual abuse.

(a) Notwithstanding any other statute of limitations or any other provision of law that can be construed to reduce the statutory period set forth in this section, any civil action based on sexual abuse which occurred when the injured person was a minor but is not discovered until after the injured person reaches the age of majority shall be brought within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the sexual abuse by the injured party. (Read more info about the law here: Source)

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This case is especially noteworthy because of the pattern of mishandling of sex abuse we’ve been seeing in the Homeschool Movement, a subculture in which families adhere to such ideologies as Patriarchy, Quiverfull (Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family has 19 children), emphasis on purity teachings, courtship, etc.  Here are some other notable cases of sexual abuse mishandling, all closely connected to the Homeschool Movement:

  • Bill Gothard, a popular Christian leader was forced to step down from his position at Institute for Basic Life Principles after allegations of sexual grooming by dozens of women. The Duggar family highly respect Mr. Gothard and also used his ATI homeschool curricula for their family. The Duggars are currently scheduled to speak at ATI/IBLP events.
  • The Jackson Family case – Six brothers from a large homeschool family were arrested for allegedly sexually violating their younger sister for 10 years.  Parents, John and Nita Jackson, were also charged for failing to report. Two of the brothers were members of Scott Brown’s  (NCFIC) Hope Bible Church (Scott Brown is a leader in the Homeschool Movement). 
  • A homeschooled girl is sexually abused by a Peninsula Household of Faith Community Church elder’s son, Patrick Rojas (WA state).  This church is primarily homeschool families. Dee of Wartburg Watch covered this story and I later spoke with the mother, Danielle.  Pedophilia and Deception at a Household of Faith Community Church

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Having been involved in the Homeschool Movement for many years (and a homeschool mom for 23 years), I have had a growing concern about abuse victims who have slipped through the cracks because parents and church leaders have failed to report crimes. The pattern I have observed is some parents/church leaders think it is their Christian responsibility to deal with the sins involved, but fail to follow through with their civil responsibilities in reporting crimes.

The Homeschool Movement includes families who are anti-government, and because of this, children who are abused may not get appropriate protection they need. Additionally, these groups tend to be strongly against mental health and so their counseling might consist of only approved Biblical or Nouthetic counseling, if that. Many times victims do not get appropriate counsel by licensed therapists/counselors who are trained to handle sex abuse cases.

I am very sad about this Duggar case and am grieved that some of the victims have been named publicly and did not choose to have their story made public. However, because of Duggar’s celebrity-like status, the handling of Josh Duggar’s case will continue to be in the public spotlight. This is important because the Homeschool Movement must learn from their mistakes and take appropriate measures to protect and defend abused children.

Updated to add this important and recent video of Boz Tchividjian, discussing this case and sex abuse, how to respond appropriately, etc.

SSB Gathering – June 28, 2015

Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

 by Kathi

machu pichu

Matthew 20: 17-28

Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Song of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.

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*I know this isn’t a “traditional” church song, but I can’t share the Machu Picchu picture without this song. It is played everywhere in Peru. And, no, this song’s origins are not from Simon and Garfunkel!

 

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May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

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Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

***

photo credit: Machu Picchu by Kathi

Former Youth Pastor Responds to Open Letter from Church Leaders Who Mishandled and Failed to Report Child Sex Abuse

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Open Letter from Pastor Steve Wingfield and Elders of First Christian Church of Florissant and Response from Former Youth Pastor

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Earlier this month, I shared a portion of a disturbing story about First Christian Church of Florissant (FCCF) and their pastor, Steve Wingfield. I found this case  especially intriguing because of the similarities with my own former pastor’s failure to report child sex abuse and his lawsuit against me:

  • Pastor Steve Wingfield and church leadership allegedly failed to respond to child known sex abuse allegations
  • Convicted sex offender, Brandon Milburn, eventually plead guilty to seven counts of sodomy with two minors under the age of 12 and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.
  • Pastor Steve Wingfield used the civil court system to file a defamation lawsuit in an attempt to control negative public communication by former church members.
  • Pastor Wingfield published a lengthy explanation of why filing a lawsuit against former members was Biblically appropriate, despite the Bible’s clear teaching against it (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

There’s much more to report, but you now have a quick glimpse of the upheaval occurring in this once largely attended church in Florissant, Missouri.

On June 21, 2015, an Open Letter was widely published and shared via the church website, read from the pulpit, published on the church’s Facebook page, Twitter, and sent by e-mail and snail mail. Apparently, they wanted to reach a very wide audience.

The Open Letter shares the narrative of the pastor (and elders) and their side of the storyHowever, it only shares one side – the side that church leaders want you to hear. It paints those who disagree with them in a negative light and labels them as slanderers, bitter, and accusers.

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Titus and Kari Benton

Pastor Titus Benton has spent the last 4 years as a youth pastor at a church in Texas. Prior to this ministry position, he was on staff at FCCF, first as a part-time intern, later taking a full-time position offered by Pastor Steve Wingfield. He was at FCCF for approximately 10 years, occasionally preaching before the congregation. Benton told me he worked fairly closely with Wingfield until Benton purportedly “took authority [he] had not been given.”

Pastor Benton’s wife, Kari, grew up in the church, and so it was not just a job at any church, FCCF was home to the Benton family. They both care deeply for this church family.

When Titus read the Open Letter, he was moved to respond. He shared his response with me and I asked him if I could share it here. Titus’ voice represents the voice of many current and former members. Titus wrote the entire response to the Open Letter and he also “ran it by the victims’ families to make sure it was accurate.”

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Admin note:The words from FCCF’s Open Letter are in black font and Titus Benton’s words are in green font. I have retained the bolded subheadings as was originally published in the Open Letter. The following is considerably long, so I’ve tried to break it up a bit with screenshots of comments from church supporters.   ~ja

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Open Letter from First Christian Church of Florissant Elders

  • Keith Vehlewald, Chairman of Elders
  • Stanley DuBose, Vice Chairman
  • Bob Dees, Secretary
  • Eugene Storjohann, Treasurer
  • Steve Wingfield, Senior Pastor
  • Bob Farmer, Jr., Executive Pastor

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We’re blessed. First Christian Church of Florissant is an amazing multi-generational, multiethnic family. We joyfully celebrate a 57 year legacy of ministry built on honoring Jesus Christ through compassionately living in the world.

This is true. For fifty years, there were few better examples of Great Commission churches in the United States. So moving was this history that I wrote my Master’s thesis on the rich history. It is one worthy of great honor. I still have one of Charles Wingfield’s ties in my office, a reminder of this legacy.

We have served thousands of families and been recognized nationally for the strength of our diversity. Like every family, our church family has moments when our strength is tested.

This is one of those moments. In January 2014 two former First Christian Church families were told for the first time by their now grown sons that they had been sexually abused in 2007 by Brandon Milburn . . .

Two questions:

1. How do the elders know those families were told in January? They have talked to one of the families sparingly and the other not at all. I know this because I have spoken with both the families.

2. The victims were not abused in 2007 alone, but from 2007-2009. To continue to cite this date inaccurately seemingly minimizes the victims in order to save face, and interfere’s with the victims’ healing process.

. . . then a full time student at St. Louis Christian College and a part-time church employee. These families did the right thing, the difficult thing. They stood strong in their test . . .

They are strong, but I would not say they stood strong. They were crumpled to the floor in agony. They wept. They were broken. They hurt. And again, I’m not sure how the elders would know that they stood strong “in their test,” because there was little-to-no communication between the families and the church.

Also, why should it matter where Brandon Milburn went to school? This is a carefully worded attempt to distract from the fact that abuses happened because of Brandon’s role at the church from at least 2007-2012.

. . . reported this horrible crime to the authorities and sought counseling. A year-long open investigation invited any other victims to come forward and led to a guilty plea and a sentence to 25 years in prison.

The investigation by law enforcement did not last a year. There was no investigation by church leaders (unless a handful of announcements counts as an investigation). At first, there was a not-guilty plea and the defendant minimized his actions. At the last second, when facing trial, Brandon changed his plea to avoid a trial.

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While this abuse did not occur in church facilities or at our programs, we hurt when others do.

There is no doubt in my mind church leaders hurt to learn of Brandon’s betrayal of trust and predatory behavior. I believe that is true. However, this is not the abuse that Steve was confronted about or what the recent controversy is surrounding. For the better part of the last four months, private conversations with Steve and elders attempted to make this clear.

To clarify once again, the recent confrontation was regarding abuses IN ADDITION TO the abuse charges levied against Brandon, and warnings of that abuse that were shared with Steve in 2011 and 2012.

The actions of one had a ripple effect of hurt to many through his violation of trust. Because we are a place of healing, First Christian provides two professional counseling resources available for victims of Milburn’s abuse.

There’s a lot to be said here. First, many were indeed hurt by Brandon’s violation of trust. But, again, that’s not what the recent confrontation has been about. It has been about hurt caused by the elders (including Steve) and the violation of the trust placed in them, beginning with (but not limited to) their inactivity when approached about additional abuse concerns shared with Steve in 2011, and again in 2012. This abuse was not related to the charges against Brandon, but was inflicted upon additional victims.

There is no mention of this in this open letter, and that is deceitful. No one was ever claiming that Steve (or anyone, for that matter) knew about abuse in 2007-2009. However, most readers of this Open Letter surely read recent news stories of first-hand accounts from additional victims saying that they were abused by Brandon in 2011/2012. These are the abuses that Steve was alerted to and failed to report.

Additionally, while First Christian did finally offer counseling, they have never provided any outreach to former members or victims no longer attending to make this known. Elders started this document by granting that the known victims and their families were no longer involved at First Christian. So the counseling they reportedly “offered” was not known by those families, because those families were not in services to hear the announcement – the only place those services were spoken of.

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Disturbing methods. Since the February 2015 sentencing . . .

Brandon Milburn’s sentencing was in late March, not February.

First Christian Church has been harassed and slandered by false claims that church leaders knew of the sexual abuse and criminally failed to report it. This is simply not true.

Actually, it is true. In 2011 and again in 2012, two different individuals told Steve Wingfield of concerns regarding behaviors indicative of abuse. They did this privately. Later, both Doug Lay and I confronted the church – also privately. I am the only one to allege this was a crime, which I shared with Steve and the elders privately on one occasion. This was after hearing about the concerns first hand (in Fall 2014) and doing my own investigation to ensure that they were true before confronting them. I came to the elders and Steve through a private letter in February 2015 that alerted them to that which I had been made aware. Even though I was the only one to allege that it was a crime, it is worth noting that failure to report suspected child abuse (not proven child abuse, but suspected) is a crime.

It is also only fair to admit that it was later included in the case study and received a much wider audience.

“Harassment” and “slander” are two legal terms used to describe a criminal offense that the cited behavior does not rise to the level of. The court of law ruled against the restraining order that asserted that these behaviors were present, so to still describe the behavior “against” the church as harassment and slander is legally untrue.  To use these terms in a piece of communication like this is a poor choice as it does not represent the truth.

These unsubstantiated claims . . .

The claims were not unsubstantiated. They were verified by several people before I ever contacted church leadership.

. . . were repeatedly promoted in the unfiltered platform of social media . . .

This is similar to the elders’ Open Letter of which I’m now commenting.

. . . on fake Facebook accounts, in phone calls and emails sourced through the unauthorized use of church databases, in issuing demands for the resignation of leaders and seeking supporters who might disrupt worship services.

To this day, the elders have offered no evidence of harassing phone calls or e-mails, nor that there were those who had the goal of disrupting worship services.

Critics do share a valuable role suggesting need for improvements. However, some opportunistically choose destructive methods…testing great cities, testing law enforcement, testing best of class organizations, schools, and even effective churches.

To assert that someone was being opportunistic infers that they are seeking selfish gain. Though church leaders have hinted at hidden agendas on the part of whistle-blowers, they have never indicated what these agendas might be. As for the various institutions that have been tested, only First Christian has faced critique and ridicule.

Outside of the crimes of Brandon Milburn (and the mishandling of concerns on the part of church leadership in the wake of his arrest), it is easy to argue that FCCF has not been “effective” in various ministry pursuits in recent years. In other words, the people watching all this and yelling “fire” are not the ones that lit the match. There are bigger problems at FCCF than Brandon Milburn.

A line must be drawn. These methods do not belong in our church family.

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Patient leadership. As elders, we have worked in unity over the last months to protect and clear First Christians name legally and through law enforcement.

Understand this phrase “a line must be drawn.” Who is drawing it? If you do not agree with church leaders, you do not belong in “our church family.”

It has long been assumed by many that protecting First Christian’s name was the leadership’s goal based on how these issues have been handled. While some churches would have preferred to seek the truth, minister to victims, and take substantive steps to correct mistakes and not just save face, their goal  – now stated clearly for all to see and understand – was to clear their name and protect their reputation.

Based on the clear evidence, we’ve sought retractions, not financial penalties.

It’s not “clear evidence” when none has been provided that slander and harassment occurred. Several lawyers have read the lawsuit filed against five defendants in Saint Louis County court: four lawyers representing the defense and at least one additional lawyer giving advice. Each of them have been clear — financial penalties of at least $25,000 were being sought in the lawsuit against the defendants. To assert that the purpose was only to seek retractions and not financial penalties is simply not true.

One does not have to be a lawyer to conclude that financial penalties were being sought. In Count 5 of the lawsuit, “Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress” against all five defendants, the Plaintiff (that’s Steve & First Christian) “demands judgement against Defendant as follows:

  • for compensatory damages in excess of $25,000
  • for punitive damages
  • for their cost of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees

Then, on page 12 of the same lawsuit, Steve Wingfield signed his name in front of a notary public on the 16th day of April, “swearing that he read the foregoing petition” and understood was contained therein.

After pursuing options that enabled us to name accusers and present affidavits and evidence that could be substantiated in court . . . 

The elders do not note here that it could NOT be substantiated in court…the restraining order that named the accusers and attached the affidavits and provided the evidence was denied by a court in Saint Louis County.

. . . the eldership decided to voluntarily drop civil actions and enlist assistance from two respected Christian mediators.

This is not true. My wife and I were in the meeting where the elders were asked to drop the lawsuit. They did not do so voluntarily. The “mediators” were arranged by a concerned third-party – they did not come at the invitation of the elders. How is that the elders can now claim to have voluntarily dropped the lawsuit in order to instead enlist assistance from outside mediators when the mediators were brought in first (the meeting set up by a third-party, not at the elder’s invitation) and ended up being the ones who asked them to drop the suit?

Our intent – to give our critics yet additional opportunities to reconcile. Regretfully, those seeking to blame us and incite outrage prefer to continue spreading wholly false accusations.

Following the dropping of the lawsuit, only my wife and I were contacted for further dialogue. This dialogue happened on one occasion and did not include any talk of reconciliation, only a rehashing of past events and arguments as to why they had to be that way. In fact, after forty minutes of this banter, the “mediator” decided he’d heard enough and excused himself to go home. The phone call ended abruptly.

Additionally, as it has already been pointed out, the accusations were not “wholly false.” In fact, in the same meeting where it was requested that the lawsuit be dropped, Steve Wingfield admitted that Dawn Varvil had shared with him in the 2012 meeting that Brandon had bought an iPhone for a young man, been seen spooning with him, and had a key to his apartment.

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Standing strong. Upon the counsel of our mediator, we are persuaded that the best course of action for the First Christian family NOW is to refocus our energies exclusively on moving forward with our ministry and mission.

This is true. The “mediators” did not actually mediate — trying to bring two sides together. Rather, they advised church leaders to make a statement and move on. This statement is the statement following that counsel, and they sincerely have no intention of talking about this any more.

With your support and encouragement, First Christian Church will only intensify our commitment to stand strong, becoming an even more compassionate community resource. We’re thankful that this amazing family continues to grow in faith, welcoming first-time guests and each week celebrating new committed followers of Christ. We began June with more than 500 kids and volunteers in Vacation Bible School. Our Celebrate Recovery is an ongoing ministry of support. While we will always have a tear in our eye for those wronged by heinous actions . . . 

Since Brandon’s arrest, no elder has reportedly been seen with a tear in their eye for any victim. Only after a huge public outcry, several newspaper articles, and a drastic reduction in weekly attendance and financial giving did the church even arrange for counseling for victims — and those details are yet to have been shared with a wider audience they are supposedly meant to serve.

. . . our focus is and will be resolutely on the greater things that bring us together… one faith, in one Lord, and one message of God’s love and grace that can bring healing in any life.

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Better not bitter. First Christian Church of Florissant is listening, learning and loving, determined to be better, not bitter.

In the often-scoffed-at case study entitled “Is it Enough?” the authors provide more than a dozen suggestions at how First Christian could do better at recognizing, reporting, and handling sexual abuse within its family. As of the writing of this response, zero suggestions have been implemented.

Our core values determine that we will go forward, empowered by God’s grace to be a place where Christ comes first, where the lost are found, where the Word is heard, where care is shared, and where our world is changed. In this time of testing, First Christian is standing strong.

Given the turnover in staff, decline in attendance, public outrage, divided congregation, and reported spiritual and physical unhealth of the senior pastor in the face of conflict, it is difficult to believe this assertion.

We invite you to stand with us.

Every piece of evidence I’ve suggested in this response is verifiable by someone other than me. I don’t ask you to stand with me; however, I ask you to look into it, find the truth, and stand with it. The truth is powerful enough to stand on its own, but we would do well to align ourselves with it.  ~Pastor Titus Benton

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Emerson Eggerichs Says Wives Respect Husbands Unconditionally

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Should women respect their husbands unconditionally?      Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, says so.

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Emerson Eggerichs, love and respect

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I follow the Love and Respect guy, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in my Facebook news feed.  (I’m issuing a trigger warning for one of our own who went to his church.)  He now has an entire ministry/business based on the Love and Respect theme, including conferences, books, store, podcast, blog, etc.

Here is part of Eggerichs’ bio:

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is an internationally known public speaker on the topic of male-female relationships.  Based on over three decades of counseling as well as scientific and biblical research, Dr. Eggerichs and his wife Sarah developed the Love and Respect Conference which they present to live audiences around the country.

This dynamic and life-changing conference is impacting the world, resulting in the healing and restoration of countless relationships.  Dr. Eggerichs has authored several books, including the national bestseller Love & Respect, which is a Platinum and Book of the Year award winner, selling over 1.6 million copies.

My husband and I saw the Love & Respect video a former church offered. I liked some of it, but it seemed very black and white to me. If husbands really loved their wives and wives really respected their husbands, everything would be hunky dory.

I watched this before understanding the dynamics of abuse in a marriage. This was in the days I was taught that women should submit to husbands in all things and that if  husbands did something wrong, we were to quietly pray for them and ask God to change their hearts. Women were to put up with any bad behavior so we could “win” them over by our behavior. If we didn’t win them over, we were told we were suffering for righteousness sake.

Eggerich has a series on wives’ unconditional respect of their husbands. The following two points jumped out at me and I thought we could use it for discussion:

3. Unconditional respect has nothing to do with a husband earning and deserving respect.

A wife’s respectful behavior is displayed independent of her husband. This is about who God calls the wife to be regardless of her husband. Her respect is not conditioned on her husband’s behavior. She will behave respectfully no matter how her husband behaves. She is a woman of dignity.

God calls a wife to conduct herself respectfully by focusing on the spirit of her husband, not his flesh–looking more deeply into that part of her husband where he longs to do what God calls him to do.

Yes, God is grieved by his sinful behavior. However God does not show contempt toward the spirit of her husband because that is not who God is, any more than He shows disdain toward her when she sins.

4. Unconditional respect can prompt a sense of conviction and win the heart of a disobedient husband.

Notice what happened in the story I shared yesterday. This wife’s husband surfaced his sin on the heels of her showing him respect.

Is this a Biblical teaching? Do you think this advice is wise to follow? Why is the onus on the wife to help change her husband’s behavior?

Pastor David McGee Publicly Names and Excommunicates Four Church Members via His Facebook Page

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Pastor David McGee of The Bridge Church publicly excommunicated or disfellowshipped four members via his Facebook page.

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On Thursday, Pastor David McGee of The Bridge Fellowship in Kernersville, North Carolina, posted a comment on his Facebook account publicly naming and “disfollowshipping” four church members. I repeat – this was done PUBLICLY on Facebook, not in the context of a church meeting among church members.
Check this out:
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David continued with his comment by quoting about 30 – thirty, not 3, verses justifying his actions. Some of the verses were quoted in different translations and guess which verse was included? Of course Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.”), but take a look at the last verse quoted. Why do you supposed he ended with this verse?
Heb 13:7
Remember your leaders who first taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and trust the Lord as they do.  NLT
You can read more about this story, including video here:  Couple says they were banned from Kernersville church by pastor on social media
I like to dig a little bit when I read words. Do you see the contradiction in the following two comments by Pastor McGee?  Take special note of the tithing references. The 2nd comment was posted 16 hours after the first comment.
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David McGee, The Bridge Church, excommunication, disfellowship

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There were other comments claiming this was not really about tithing, but if it wasn’t about tithing, then why is it mentioned at all?
Here you can see some pushback and then a member defends her pastor. I noticed the word “covenant” in this comment, but did not see a membership covenant at the church website.
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David Mcgee, The Bridge Church, Excommunication, Disfellowship

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When people publicly speak out against a pastor, they are frequently labeled as the enemy.The pastor is on the right side and anyone who questions him, is labeled as divisive, disobedient to God and His Word:
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I found another contradiction.  Here McGee says he won’t defend himself publicly:
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But wait . . .now he is going to the media to share:
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This little note is revealing. And 31 people liked it!  Yea, it’s really important that your pastor has lots and lots of friends . . because that makes him right and reputable and all Christiany.
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Of course we do not know all of the details of this case and can only make conclusions based on what we see publicly. But what I see publicly is troubling.
I have heard of stories where church members have been abusive to pastors. We often talk only about abusive leaders, but that is not always the case. Even if members are abusive, we need to ask how does a shepherd appropriately handle members who are divisive? If Pastor McGee is correct in saying that these folks have been divisive, how should a pastor respond?  Do you see godly fruit in the behavior?

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Do you feel guilty because of pressure and high expectations from church leaders? You are not alone!

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High-pressure church leaders, mandatory church attendance and guilt

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Church Leaders Who Revictimize Abuse Victims and Theology That Harms Both Victims and Perpetrators

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Church leaders revictimize abuse victims when they fail to respond appropriately to abuse. Theology can be used to minimize the sin of perpetrators and sometimes blames abuse victims.

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I’ve been following the story of Pastor Steve Wingfield at First Christian Church of Florissant and was notified that the largest paper in St. Louis published a follow-up article, The battle for First Christian Church of Florissant. It is important for people to see the likely fallout when church leaders fail to be true shepherds. As a result, First Christian Church of Florissant is dwindling in numbers as the remaining members try to make sense of the mess created by their church leaders.

The story involves a former youth minister, Brandon Milburn, who is now serving 25 years in prison for sexual crimes against minor boys and how Pastor Wingfield failed to report and respond appropriately when members brought the sexual abuse allegations to his attention.

In April, Pastor Wingfield filed a defamation lawsuit against several members who spoke out against him publicly on social media. Wingfield later dropped the lawsuit claiming he wanted to handle it via mediation. I reached out to one of the former members who said that there has been very little mediation, but “more consulting on how to move past this.” Here’s my interpretation: the negative publicity regarding the lawsuit, Plan A, did not yield the desired results and so Wingfield has gone on to Plan B to redefine their new and improved image (because we know it’s all about the image of the church over helping the abused and defenseless, right?).

Dawn Varvil, one of the defendants in the rescinded lawsuit, discussed the hardships sexual abuse victims have faced while the church leaders turned their backs on them in order to save face. Now, let’s look more closely at the motives behind those mean horrible trouble-making members who had the audacity to call out their pastor publicly:

Members also say the church has neglected to provide victims with any substantial relief, either in the form of paying for counseling, or in the case of at least one family, simply reaching out to inquire how it might be able to help. Varvil also says she knows of others victimized by Milburn who have yet to come forward. (Source)

It’s apparent to see that these members who publicly called out Pastor Steve Wingfield are concerned about the emotional and spiritual well-being of those who have been harmed by leaders within the church, a place that is supposed to be a refuge and a place that shares the love of Christ, defending the oppressed and abused.

Varvil continued:

“This is a stumbling block for them,” Varvil said, referring to the victims. “They have left the church. Some of them are using drugs. Some of them are using alcohol. The faith community owes them some action.” (Source)

I agree 100% with Varvil. To be sexually abused by a leader in the church who is in a position of trust and then abandoned by other church leaders sends very powerful messages to victims:

  • who can victims trust in the church?
  • are the church leaders not concerned about the pain they are feeling?
  • where has God been in all of this?

When church leaders fail to respond appropriately, the victim is emotionally, physically, and spiritually abandoned. Some might have a crisis of faith and leave the church, some will even reject God because if God’s church leaders blame or disregard victims, the logical conclusion is that God also does the same. Varvil discusses the secondary abuse here:

“To see them no longer having any relationship with Christ is I think, well, it’s the most abusive part of what happened,” Varvil continued. “Because they came to him (Milburn) to begin with because they were broken and vulnerable from situations. It was the perfect time for them to embrace their faith.” (Source)

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What About Those Who Have Abandoned Their Faith as a Result of Secondary Abuse by Church Leaders?

Varvil has clearly articulated the problem of secondary abuse by church leaders, but now we’re going to focus on specific foundational beliefs which seem to minimize abuse and place full responsibility of those leaving the faith onto onto victim. Are these beliefs wide-spread?

Boz Tchividjian was recently interviewed by Relevant Magazine in this excellent article, How Should Christians Respond to Abuse Situations Like the Duggars’?, and he echoed a similar heartfelt message as Varvil about victims who have abandoned their faith:

Well, I’ve encountered those victims 10, 15, 20 years later. And it’s a tragedy, because they don’t want anything to do with Jesus. And I understand it. Because the very ones who professed and represented Jesus turned their backs on them to care for and spend all of their time and resources on the very ones that eviscerated their lives through abuse.

A couple of days ago, I took a screenshot of the Boz’s quote above, and tweeted it, adding the following to preface it: “When Christians fail to respond appropriately to sex abuse, this often happens:”

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My tweet was retweeted by someone who did not agree with Boz (or me) and challenged it based on her understanding of theology:

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“This is an example of a distortion and misunderstanding of the doctrine of soteriology. We are all born “not wanting anything to do with Jesus”. It is due to our sin nature, not events in our lives.” ~Jules’ Diner

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Do you see what’s going on here? What conclusion do you come to when reading @Jules’ Diner’s tweets? Who is responsible when a victim falls from the faith – – the victim, because of their own sin, or the abuser?

Do you see how this belief could minimize the abuser’s responsibility?

If church leaders believe this, what are the far-reaching implications for an abuse victim? For an offender?

Do you see how this belief could create a climate in which church leaders do not take abuse seriously because they believe the victim is ultimately held responsible for how they respond to their abuse and also “their sin” of falling away from Christ?

Yes, I understand that we are all sinners, but when we discuss a victim’s sin rather than wrap our arms around and support a victim, how can a victim ever feel safe in such an environment?

These two verses from Jesus come to mind when it comes to the faith of a child that deserve consideration. Look how Jesus responded to those who have caused children to sin or have sabotaged their faith:

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:5-6

And one more:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Mark 10:13-14

If Jesus said that faith can be harmed by people, then is He not suggesting the onus is on the perpetrator, NOT the victim? That is the response we must have over any theology that teaches otherwise.

In other words, if you are following a theology that doesn’t align with Jesus’ words, you might want to recheck your theology.

Related articles/blog:

photo credit: Broken Yellow Arrow via photopin (license)

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are Still Scheduled to Speak at ATI & IBLP Conferences which Promote Bill Gothard’s Teaching Materials

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Bill Gothard, ATI, IBLP, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, Homeschool Curricula

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My Personal Mental Health Story: When Christians Say Potentially Harmful Words to Someone in a Mental Health Crisis

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 Mental Health, prayer, Bible, professional counseling, harmful advice

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A friend found this quote and was very disturbed by it. When I saw it, I was equally disturbed…no, make that horrified, because it brought me back to a very difficult time in my life when it was said to me by well-meaning Christians:

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mental illness

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The reason I was horrified is that I was told this when I was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Let me tell you my personal story.

In 1990, I had a 4-month old infant and a 3-1/2-yr old daughter. I was away from my husband and living with my parents because he was in the military and was sent to Persian Gulf working in Operation Desert Shield (right before Operation Desert Storm). You see, within a 6-wk period of time, the following events occurred:

  • We were stationed in the Philippines and there was a major earthquake nearby (reports vary on the magnitude, 7.7 to 7.9).
  • My daughter, Hannah, fell off a 25-ft cliff, landing on concrete at the beach at Wallace Air Station, a remote base we were visiting, attempting to recuperate after the trauma of experiencing a major earthquake (we experienced a 6.0 aftershock while we were there). Daughter was miraculously fine.
Wallace Air Station, Depression, PTSD, earthquake, spiritual abuse,

You can see the cliff in this picture. The other side of the cliff is where my daughter and I were when she fell. On the other side of the cliff/point is a retaining wall with steep stairs. She fell after getting to the top of the first flight and slipping, about 25 feet, straight drop onto concrete. You can see the date stamp on the photo. The earthquake was on July 16, 1990.

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Here are a couple of pictures I took on our way to Wallace Air Station to stay at the Voice of America R&R facility. We passed through Dagupan, close to the epicenter which saw extensive destruction. Some buildings sank into the ground by one meter.

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Notice how the bottom floor has sunk. People were still living in the upper levels of these lopsided buildings, nearly 2 months later.


IMG_5059

I believe this was in the city of Dagupan.

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Aside from the earthquake event, there were also these stressors:

  • On base, local Filipinos tried to break into my home when I was alone with our children. I saw their eyes peering into my bedroom as I was nursing my baby in the middle of the night (thankfully, they were apprehended).
  • There were bomb threats on base. We were often forced to take detours. Sometimes I just wanted to get a gallon of milk or cash a check and these detours were annoying. And yes, sometimes they found bombs.
  • We lived in a constant level of threat conditions due to New People’s Army Communist Rebels (we did get hazard duty pay, however). Based on the threat condition, either we were confined to base, had curfews, and/or had strict traveling restrictions.

Yea, it was a little stressful.

The ground continued to move for months after the earthquake. Aftershocks were sometimes 6.0 or above…..yes, aftershocks. When your world is shaking around you, you have a sense of being out of control. That describes my response and the response of many who were living under these conditions at that time. So, I left the Philippines with my two children for a temporary break, to get on solid ground that wasn’t moving.

What is wrong with me?

I went “home” to my parents’ and told my close Christian friends about my emotional state. People told me to pray . . . to read my Bible more . . that perfect love casts out fear. There was a lot of spiritual advice given by those who meant to help, but actually made things worse. When I prayed and read my Bible more, nothing changed. I continued to feel the ground moving and have flashbacks even though I was now on sturdy ground with my parents in Oregon.

I sought help from Biblical counselors who talked to me about my sin. I searched my heart for any unconfessed sin and repented. The earthquakes continued. What was WRONG with me?

I did everything they told me, but the symptoms would not go away. Why was God not hearing my prayers? Did He not care for me? If He loved me, why wasn’t He protecting me from the nonstop tormenting that was in my mind?

I stayed very busy. I jammed praise music loudly all day. I focused on my children and prayer and recited verses to myself to keep my focus heavenward.

As I drove to every church meeting I could attend, I had to cross bridges. Many of the approaches to the bridges were wiped out during the earthquake in the Philippines, so now it was now very difficult to cross any bridge. I kept seeing the Philippine bridges in my mind. I pushed the accelerator to get across the bridge faster as my heart raced.

I also had to go through a tunnel to get to my familiar church. It was very difficult to go through the tunnel without panicking and thinking that the mountain might cave on me – just like I had seen the mountain and buildings destroyed in my favorite R&R in the Philippines, Baguio/Camp John Hay. (Click on this link to see the destruction. After the earthquake, I was glued to the local Philippine TV as they covered stories, deaths, rescues. Why was I alive when so many died? Survivors guilt!)

If I went to any store or building (now in the States), I scouted out all of the emergency exits first thing. I was going to be the one prepared and would get out alive by having this information.

Where was God in all of this?

My life was in survival mode and I expended much energy surviving imaginary earthquakes. As hard as I tried, I was unable to stop the direction of my thinking patterns. I truly believe that the only thing that kept me alive was recounting Hannah’s story of falling off the 25-ft cliff. I was there when she fell and knew that she was either going to be completely paralyzed or with major injuries, or she would be dead. There was no other option in my mind, knowing that she had landed on concrete and it was a straight drop. When all other advice failed, Hannah’s story was the hope I clung to – – that if God could save her, He could save me.

One night at dinner with my parents, I felt an earthquake and asked my Mom if she felt it.  She didn’t. I told her to look at the chandelier moving. She said it wasn’t moving. That’s when she said that I needed to get help – professional help.

You see, I was going on a downward spiral. I was very sleep deprived having a child who was missing her daddy and wetting her bed each night. She cried herself to sleep and wet the bed every night. I had to take care of her, plus be awakened the four times my infant was nursing each night. My parents both worked, so no one could help me get extra sleep that I desperately needed. I was physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.

I found a Christian psychologist to go to and went reluctantly because I thought that I should have been able to get my problems solved by prayer and Bible reading.  Wasn’t my God big enough?

When I first went, I started sharing my earthquake experience. But David started asking me questions about my childhood. I got angry at him for asking those questions. What did my childhood have to do with the earthquake?  Eventually, he realized that this redhead had a story to tell about the earthquake and since I was paying for his services, he ought to listen to me.

He listened. And listened. And when I could speak no more about the earthquake, he asked again, “so what about the earthquake was like your childhood.”  Very reluctantly, I spent time discussing my childhood.

I was in a situation in which I could not control.

Eventually, it hit me . . . and hit me hard. When I was in the earthquake, I was in a situation in which I could not control. When I was a child, from the time I was 3 until I was 19, I also lived in a home where I had no control.

In my childhood, I was living with a rage-aholic – a man who raged in anger with little-to-no provocation. Just a simple look on my face, or a chore not done could send him off into a rage. Through the years, I’ve met other professional counselors and all of them have told me that his behavior was just like that of an alcoholic, but minus the alcohol.

What the earthquake did was mimic that out-of-control feeling I had. When the ground was shaking back and forth, it mimicked my dad grabbing me by my shoulders and banging me against the wall, sometimes with my head hitting the cupboard handles and ending up with knots on my head. That shaking . . oh, that shaking . . .it was horrifying. Being smacked and kicked, tossed and shaken about as a child is something I could not stop – just like I could not stop the ground from moving in the Philippines after the earthquake.

You see, this psychologist showed me how to connect with the feelings of abandonment, the anger and pain of knowing a parent had violated my body and my personhood that I had long buried. I had forgiven my dad, I had moved on, but there was obviously, I had unfinished business.

This man heard my cries, the cries that so many adults had dismissed and ignored when I shared my story with them as a child. When my dad beat me, I refused to let him see me cry. Only when he was done would I go into the corner of my room, curl myself into a ball and cry . . . by myself.  No one heard my cries. But David did . . now, some 10-20 years later.

He validated the abuse and called it by name, telling me I was not crazy. He walked in the trenches with me as I relived that horrible abuse. I fought going back to those memories, but facing it was what I needed to do to recover. It was very difficult work and left me physically and emotionally exhausted.

Set Free

The counseling that I received occurred nearly 25 years ago. I was in counseling for probably 2 years or so. During that time, I thought that scoping out exit signs, speeding across bridges, feeling the ground moving would be my new normal for the rest of my life.  When the earthquake anniversary date came around for 2 years, I had setbacks. On the 3rd anniversary, I missed it entirely. I didn’t even think about the earthquake. I finally knew I was no longer held captive by the war within my brain. I was free and still am free, even when I hear of major earthquakes now. This is amazing, considering what I had gone through.

Pat answers don’t always work

But the quote about prayer being the answer to mental illness is not always true. Of course prayer helps, but it is not always the quick cure, and to portray it as such could be deadly for those who are in a crisis. This quote could be a death sentence for some who fear that even God has abandoned them since they can’t see/feel His healing. The logical progression is:  life is not worth living if even God has abandoned me and hasn’t helped me.

We must be careful with our words about mental illness and giving pat answers. Lives are at stake.  I thank God for mental health professionals who have the skills and tools to bring truth and hope into a hurting individual’s life. I am probably alive because of David, my therapist. Thank you, God, for using David in my life when I was at the end of my rope and about to let go.

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Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Speaks out about Josh Duggar Scandal, Mike Huckabee: Bill Gothard’s Dangerous Agenda and Influence in Political Arena and Society at Large

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Bill Gothard, Mike Huckabee, Sex Abuse Coverup, Political and Social Influence, and an Agenda

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How I Would Have Responded as a Parent to the Josh Duggar Sexual Abuse Scenario

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This past week has been a whirlwind with the Josh Duggar sex abuse allegations from 12 years that recently surfaced. Josh Duggar is the eldest child of Patriarchical family and model ATI (Bill Gothard’s homeschool curricula) family. Josh Duggar and his family star in the popular reality show on TLC, 19 Kids and Counting. As this story has been brought to light, I have found myself caught up in intense debates, even with very close friends, on how this case should be handled, how we as Christians should be responding to this specific case, and how we as parents should respond if our child sexually abuses another child.

I recently posted the following (slightly revised) as part of a discussion with a Christian friend on Facebook. We came from very different sides, but because my response was so radically different from hers, I thought it might be good to post for discussion. I never mind push back, so if you disagree with me, please respond. I am open to the challenge and will consider your words just as I have been challenged to rethink many of my former ways/beliefs.

At the end of the post is a highly recommended article that helps to explain the culture and teachings which shaped the Duggar family. It will help to explain why these young female victims are true victims to more than just sex abuse.

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Josh Duggar, sex abuse, 19 kids and counting, Bill Gothard, ATI

I appreciate the opportunity to share my heart which is invested in the ministry to abuse victims. I probably would not have given you this same answer 10 years ago, or even 6 years ago.

I do not believe that Josh’s parents responded appropriately. I believe they did the best they knew at the time and their intentions and heart were right. However, since working the last 5 years extensively studying spiritual abuse and abuse in the church, networking with Boz Tchividjian (founder of netgrace.org), and many other professionals who deal with abuse in church, I am concluding that the Duggars could have done better.

Jim-Bob found out in March of 2002 and waited over a year before reporting. When police tried to interview Josh, Jim-Bob intervened and did not allow that to happen. The statute of limitations then kicked in and Josh was free from any civil repercussions.

I believe this was not a good witness to Christ. What does this tell the world – that Christians get to walk free and don’t need to go by the law? Repenting of sins does not remove someone from the consequences of the laws of the land. Scripture says that God is the one who ordained civil authorities/law. Knowingly harboring a sex offender without reporting is illegal in some states. Not only that, I believe it is circumventing what God has established for cases like this:

Romans 13:1-5:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

Because of the statute of limitations, no civil court had the opportunity to intervene, convict, give recommendations on his criminal activity. Could this public outcry against Josh and his parents be sovereignly planned as God’s judgment as implied in the above Scripture? Could Josh’s defenders be interfering with God’s judgment or the natural consequences of his sin?

You asked would I report. Yes, I absolutely would report my sons to authorities if they were sexually abusing. I would allow the civil authorities to bring justice to the offender. This would send a very strong message that sin/sex abuse has consequences and will not be tolerated. And to the survivors, it would send a message that we believe them and the abuse they incurred was worthy of strict punishment. I’ve seen the tremendous burden lifted off of victims’ shoulders when they see perpetrators punished for their crimes.

I would also promptly seek qualified professional treatment specializing in sex abuse for the offender and their victims. I know about the lasting consequences survivors face. If not dealt with timely and by trained professionals, young ladies often have difficulty choosing good spouses, have difficulty with relationships, intimacy, etc. For the offender, it may be uncovered in treatment that he was previously molested. Trained professionals can be helpful in getting to the root issues.

I’m struck at how much time is spent defending Josh, and such little time focused on his victims. It’s disturbing to even discuss whether he touched them over/under their clothes (I read the police report and it’s not clear on all of the interviews). That has no bearing on the suffering the victims face/will face.

Throughout scripture God speaks of protecting the oppressed and defenseless. How is it protecting them when we are outwardly and vocally defending a perpetrator (even if he has repented)? Our first response must be to those who have no voice. You can be sure that sex abuse survivors all over are watching this case and observing how people respond. Any time a survivor hears of another abuse, it brings them back to their own story. We must think of all victims in our responses and model Christ’s love because many times they are questioning why God allowed this to happen. We must not be a stumbling block to the weak and oppressed, but a soothing balm, sharing with them the love of the Father.

The Duggars were the key family chosen by ATI/Bill Gothard to represent Bill Gothard and his homeschool curriculum. I read that they spoke even this year at an ATI conference (they are slated to speak by video tomorrow in Nashville, and later in Twin Cities, and Sacramento ATI conferences). You can be sure they hold to his teachings and it is important to understand these teachings in order to fully comprehend what the victims have faced. I encourage you to read the following and try to grasp what the victims have faced, the ones whom God dearly loves and wants to defend and protect. Here’s how the Duggars’ patriarchal homeschool world teaches kids to shame sex abuse victims

Thank you for reading. Grace and peace! ~ja

photo credit: Hands of Daria via photopin (license)

Ex-Wife of Pedophile Speaks out about The Village Church and Josh Duggar Sex Scandals

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Ex-Wife of a pedophile shares from her heart about mishandling of sex abuse cases at The Village Church and Josh Duggar

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My friend, Brenda, is the ex-wife of a pedophile. With the recent events of Karen Hinkley, who is now in church discipline at The Village Church because she annulled her marriage without the elders/pastor’s permission, and also the recent news of sex abuse admitted by Josh Duggar (of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame), it has left many survivors in a fury of emotions. I’m sure these events would be especially difficult for someone whose marriage was destroyed by sexual abuse. As soon as I read Brenda’s post, I sent her a text asking if I could cross-post it and her response, “absolutely.”

God is not amused by those who rush victims/perpetrators through a quick repent/forgiveness charade in order to check in the appropriate boxes so people can “move on.” God is not amused by wolves who care more about the letter of the law than loving on wives who have been harmed by their sexual-abusing spouses. I am grateful to Brenda for sharing her post with us at SSB.

You can find Benda’s article, Heartbroken and Angry and other great articles chronicling her very difficult path at A Solitary Journey.


Heartbroken and Angry

by Brenda Ratcliff

Two recent news accounts of childhood sexual molestation, child pornography ad the church’s response have reignited anger and sadness in my heart.  I have felt for a long time that the evangelical church is facing a crisis much larger than what the Catholic Church faced when it comes to perpetrators operating within its walls.  Churches are probably the last safe hideout for perpetrating pedophiles and it seems that the more conservative the church, the greater likelihood that molesters are at work.

The first story involves TLC reality star Josh Duggar’s admission to sexually molesting numerous little girls a number of years ago.  When the molestation came to light, his father kept it a secret for at least a year–he then told the church elders who buried the story for a number of months prior to alerting the authorities. Josh was sent to what was first called a “training center” but it turns out it was only a family friend who simply put him to work.  There is no evidence that he received professional counseling and certainly nothing seems to have been done to provide therapy and support for his victims.  The police detective who took the complaint is a family friend and it turns out is now serving a 56 year sentence on child pornography charges.  No charges were filed against Josh.

And then there is the story of Karen (Root) Hinkley, a former missionary to Asia with her ex-husband.  While overseas, it was discovered that he was using child pornography for his sexual gratification.  The sending agency brought them home and he found shelter in his very conservative church.  The church indicated in an email that Jordan Root knew that he could be arrested at any minute but assured its congregation that they were taking good care of him because he was “repentant.”

Karen courageously filed for an annulment of their marriage and it was granted.  The judge granted an annulment rather than a divorce because she alleged that the marriage was based on fraud–that she had been deceived from the beginning.  I wish I had thought of that strategy!  When the church discovered that the Root’s marriage had been annulled, they placed Karen in church discipline for taking such an action without their permission!  Meanwhile, the real villain, the real danger to children, the man who has admitted to criminal behavior and to pedophilia is in the safe harbor of his delusional church.

Both stories illustrate what is so very wrong in conservative evangelicalism:

  • Male privilege & double standards:  It is still a man’s world in far too many corners of the globe and especially so in fundamental religions.  When men misbehave, it is chalked up to “boys being boys.”  However, when a woman is even perceived to have misbehaved, the hard hammer of judgment falls on her.  Churches who insist on the submission of women within marriage or in the church create an atmosphere where men can do no wrong and women can do no right.
  • Cheap grace & pseudo-repentance:  All that the skillful and manipulative perpetrator must do is admit that he has “sinned” and seek restoration.  Little thought seems to be given to verifying his version of the “sinful” events or of acknowledging the real seriousness of these crimes and the very real threat these perpetrators pose to innocent children.  He says he is sorry, that he is all better now and church leadership takes him at his word.  Our children pay the price for this stupidity.
  • Women & children are expendable:  Because women and children are not valued as highly as the men in the community, their pain is not validated as significant as that of the males.  Their wounds are not properly tended to; indeed they are often not even recognized.  The unstated understanding is that women exist for a man’s pleasure–not too far from the women as property mentality!
  • Religion is used to control the narrative rather than to seek justice:  Jesus defined true religion as one that cares for the poor, the widow and the orphans.  Partners of pedophiles may not be widows in the truest sense, but they have been abandoned in a profound and catastrophic way.  And violated children whose parents and/or church fail to protect them vigorously and seek justice for them are orphans.  Instead of protecting the vulnerable and abandoned, the church seeks to control the story, contain the damage and sweep it all under the rug, unless of course, the perpetrator is a woman.

I’m angry.  I’m disappointed in the institution I have been a part of for my entire lifetime.  And I’m sad–sad for the victims whose cries are ignored or stifled–sad that the Gospel is so perverted by those whose aim is control and power rather than justice and mercy.  Dear God, save us from ourselves!

(special thanks to Gary W. who mentioned this article)

Insidious Behavior at The Village Church Regarding a Pedophile and His Former Wife

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Horrific story of spiritual abuse, mishandling of sex abuse, church membership, Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Jordan Root, pedophile, child pornography

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Kevin DeYoung Pushes Church Memberships and Making Vows

Church Membership, Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Making Vows, The Gospel Coalition, here we go again!

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Questionning the Morality and Ethics of Samuel James and His Recent Article

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 Samuel James, ERLC, watchdog blogs, abuse, and the church

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Merriam-Webster defines the following:

Morality

beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior

the degree to which something is right and good : the moral goodness or badness of something

Ethics

rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad

It’s important to take note of the meanings above when reading this article.

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Samuel James is Communications Specialist at The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and works directly for Russell Moore, who is President of the group.

Samuel James’ most recent blog article, What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses The Rest of Us, left quite a few people disturbed.

I tweeted about this particular article on Friday:

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I will be covering points 6 through 9 in this article. You can read the rest at his site.

At first, I was struck that this was yet another person giving the warning about “watchdog blogs:”

7) Don’t start a “watchdog blog.” Seriously, don’t ever.  

We’ve seen that before.

And then I discovered that Samuel James had preemptively blocked me on Twitter. We’ve also been seeing more and more of this pattern on Twitter. Mr. James then went on to block several others who were either bloggers or others who questioned him about his article:

Samuel James, ERLC Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.29.17 AM

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So, what we have here is, “I get to say what I want to say and you don’t get to respond back.”

That’s just rude. It’s also the pattern we see in abusive authority figures:  the no-talk rule. The no-talk rule prevents others from raising the alarm of abuse because any kind of negative talk is shoved under the carpet. If you can’t talk about the problem, then no one else will know about it. The dark secret stays contained and abuse continues.

But all of the above is trivial compared to what follows. I wonder about Mr. James and what he thinks about morality and ethics after reading the next paragraph, and I shudder to think about the group he represents (ERLC) if they believe as he does. This next paragraph is a doozy:

6) Don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER even passively, suggestively, or indirectly legitimize or rationalize bitterness and suspicion towards the church. If someone says to you, “This is why I don’t go to church,” they might think they’re telling the truth, but they’re not. They don’t love the church because they don’t love Jesus. Saying, “Yes, you have a point, church can be so frustrating” feels like empathy, but it’s not. It’s self-preserveration at the cost of slandering Christ’s body.

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Mark Lawrence’s response to Mr. James on Twitter is very important:

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G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) also left a response to the article on their Facebook page:

These types of posts written by church “leaders” are so damaging and hurtful for many reasons. Pious demands for silence are inconsistent with light, truth and love.

And finally, the last two comments:

8) Don’t read the comments.

Note:  Samuel James closed the comments on his own blog article.

9) Don’t leave a comment.

Note: Samuel James closed the comments on his own blog article.

Now, let’s take a look at ERLC’s first three ministry statements:

MISSION

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission exists to assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.

MINISTRIES

1. ASSIST CHURCHES IN APPLYING THE MORAL AND ETHICAL TEACHINGS OF THE BIBLE TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

Provide research, information resources, consultation, and counsel to denominational entities, churches and individuals with regard to the application of Christian principles in everyday living and the nation’s public life.

2. ASSIST CHURCHES THROUGH THE COMMUNICATION AND ADVOCACY OF MORAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS IN THE PUBLIC ARENA.

Represent Southern Baptists in communicating the ethical positions of the Southern Baptist Convention to the public and to public officials.

3. ASSIST CHURCHES IN THEIR MORAL WITNESS IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES.

Provide information resources that inform and equip churches for active moral witness in their communities.

Mr. James’s statements are inappropriate and distasteful, especially to those who have been harmed by the church. The issues that many bloggers discuss are of moral and ethical concerns: how sex abuse cases are handled in the church, how pastors use their position of authority as a spiritual weapon, how the church handles cases of domestic violence, how the church takes care of the oppressed.

I wish Mr. James could read just a week’s worth of my e-mails and get a reality check to what many are experiencing. I also question what kind of ethics and morality is going on at ERLC that Mr. James could produce such a piece.

Since, Mr. James does not allow comments, blocks people on Twitter who engage him (and even people who don’t), he leaves me no choice but to blog about it. And now you may have the opportunity to share your thoughts, too.

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