Victim (oops) Pastor Wes Feltner’s Public Statement
You may have been following the news about the lead pastor of Berean Baptist Church (Minneapolis area), Pastor Wes Feltner, who has been in the public spotlight recently due to two courageous women who spoke out about the sexual, emotional, and spiritual harm he caused when they were 18-year-old students under his pastoral care as youth pastor. The brave women are Megan Frey and JoAnna Hendrickson.
Recently, First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tennessee, asked if he’d be willing to join their church as lead pastor, but since these women came forward and alerted the pastoral search committee, their pastoral abuse information has been made public. After quite a mess (and missteps), First Baptist Church leaders have wisely rescinded the offer.
Pastor Wes Feltner is currently on administrative leave at Berean Baptist Church while his elders and an independent investigative team investigates the reports. It should be noted that in the original church where he harmed the young students, he was quickly dismissed, and the abuse was never publicly addressed. (Could there be more victims?) Since that time, he has been able to resume normal ministry opportunities without ever having accepted responsibility for the harm he caused or suffering consequences. The survivors have never received their due justice.
Predators often leave all sorts of evidence when they release public statements. Pastor Wes Feltner, in his public statement, shows us why he should not be a pastor based solely on his public statement. Let’s take a closer look. Pastor Feltner’s statement is in black font. My editorial comments are in green.
Statement by Pastor Wes Feltner
Wes: As many of you are aware, recently there have been a series of allegations made about me from 17 years ago. I’d like to briefly address the situation.
Wes: A few months ago, I was approached by a church close to my hometown in Tennessee, where my parents and all my family still live, to become their senior pastor.
Wes: I informed them that I was not interested in leaving Berean, but I would consider their request, given the proximity to my family. During the process, my name was released as a candidate. As a result, a small group of individuals from outside that church attempted to stop the church from recruiting me. When the allegations were made, I suspended further consideration of becoming their pastor. Now, it is no longer under consideration.
Wes: They accused me of pastoral abuse based on events that occurred 17 years ago when I was a single, young man working as a youth leader at a church in Indiana.
JA: Notice the focus on how many years ago – 17 years. Why does that matter? If someone killed a person, they are still dead 17 years ago, or last week. He also plays up the fact that he was single and young. Last I checked, a single and young adult are still treated as an adult.
JA: What also struck me was he said he was working as “a” youth “leader.” He doesn’t say he was youth pastor. The whole sentence is an attempt to minimize his role, minimize his responsibility because of his age, his marital status, and because of the number of years that have passed since the pastoral abuse occurred. Does the distance of 17 years remove the harm done? Did the 17 years erase the memories from the women he harmed? Probably not.
Wes: They have widely circulated the statements of Megan and Jo Anna, whom I dated, with the permission of their parents, when they were 18 years old. I agree with some of the facts alleged in the statements and deeply regret the hurt I caused, but some of the allegations are not true.
JA: Just because he asked and was granted permission to date young women from his youth group does not make it right. If he was a newly graduated doctor and asked his young patients’ parents permission to date them, would he have done so? Absolutely not. It’s unethical, FULL STOP. Why do some churches give youth pastors a free pass on this issue?
JA: When someone is in the position of authority OVER people, you don’t get to use that position for personal sexual gratification. If he wanted to date, he should have dated young adults in which there was an equal relationship – not one in which he was over them in authority.
Wes: The Bible directs God’s people to take their grievances first to the person accused, and if that person won’t listen, to try again and bring a witness. If the person still won’t listen, then take it to the church.
Even now, Pastor Wes Feltner is abusing his position of authority by publicly shaming the women and twisting the Bible in order to control and harm.
JA: Notice how instead of owning his responsibility of abusing his position of authority for sexual gratification, he is shifting the blame to the victim and accusing them of not following Matthew 18. That is classic predator behavior. It is ridiculous. Furthermore, Matthew 18 is not to be used in a situation like this. This is not about a minor grievance among equals. This is about an issue of pastoral abuse which must be brought before elders (which apparently happened when you read the above tweet). And also, it should be noted that they got rid of him. So, the young women did it correctly. Even now, Pastor Wes Feltner is abusing his position of authority by publicly shaming the women and twisting the Bible in order to control and harm.
Wes: The groups circulating these allegations did not bring them to me; rather, they took them directly to the church in Tennessee. And not being satisfied with the church’s response, they’ve taken them to Berean, and now the general public.
JA: And rightly so. There is absolutely no reason to bring the “allegations” to Pastor Feltner. He is the predator. The reason why he wanted to meet with them is so that he could apologize and MOVE ON. How nice and handy for him. This is not about apologizing and moving on. This is about shining the light on clergy sexual misconduct and facing the appropriate consequences. Allegations must be brought to people in positions of authority so that appropriate response can be taken. That is precisely what JoAnna and Megan did.
Wes: I and others have reached out to them several times seeking an opportunity to hear their grievances, and to answer them. Subject to their approval, I proposed a meeting with an independent mediator to ensure that all concerns could be fully heard and understood, and to help us strive for reconciliation. They declined to talk saying, “The use of Matthew 18 as a means to silence your victims will not stand.”
JA: I 100% applaud how JoAnna and Megan have responded. These women are strong and they are not budging. What Pastor Feltner failed to respond to was that he and “others” have reached out to them. Who might the others be? Hmmmm
JA: Here is a quote from a blog post by Megan and JoAnna giving more details – an important detail he left out: “Megan received a voicemail on October 11, 2019 from a personal injury attorney in the Minneapolis area claiming to be with Berean.” Ohhhhhh, so he wants Matthew 18, but instead he responds with a voicemail from a personal injury attorney. Niiiiiiiiice!
JA: In Megan and JoAnna’s blog post, you can find a voicemail sound clip from the attorney Scott Hillstrom (sp). He builds himself up by saying how long he’s been in the business. He shames them by saying they should have gone to the Bible for disputes. He threatens by saying they are treading on laws when Pastor Feltner and Berean church are “injured by these kinds of things.” He requests that they refrain from releasing any more information and encourages them to contact a lawyer so that when they meet, he can explain to the lawyer the “legal situation,” and “he can help you understand the legal effect of what you are doing.” (I guess he’s assuming that the women will see a male attorney?) He then claims this is a “friendly call” and again reiterates how Jesus told people to deal with conflicts in the church. “It’s not a threatening call, I’m trying to build a bridge here, in the name of Jesus to come together around this. But it does involve serious legal matters that we don’t want to go there. And that’s why I’d like you to have your lawyer present so he can tell you about the legal matters.” Blah, blah, blah, legalese, note how he dismisses the legal threat as a threat. At least be honest, Mr. Lawyer!
Wes: Meanwhile, having not spoken to me for 17 years, they organized to destroy my reputation and career. I remain fully willing to address and apologize for any concerns whenever they are willing to talk. I am pleased that Berean has hired independent investigators to investigate these allegations, and I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with them.
JA: I’m no attorney, but I was involved in a defamation $500,000 lawsuit by my ex-pastor. It seems to me, JoAnna and Megan could file a defamation lawsuit against Wes Feltner for the phrase, “they organized to destroy my reputation and career.” He is stating that phrase as factual and apparently knows the intent of their heart. Ladies, if you are reading, do with that information as you wish – I just wanted to throw that out there.
JA: I do not believe JoAnna and Megan are intending to destroy his reputation and career. It is clear by their actions that they are trying to make church leaders aware of the pastoral abuse they suffered, which has never been dealt with appropriately. In the Huffington Post, their intention is quoted: “Over the past few days, fearing that yet another Southern Baptist church is refusing to heed their warnings about the pastor, the women have started speaking up again.”
JA: Further, Huffington Post noted JoAnna is, “speaking out to educate the denomination about the nature of pastoral abuse and to make sure that no one else will experience what she did.” That doesn’t sound like their intent has anything to do with destroying a career, but to help the SBC understand clergy sexual abuse so they can respond appropriately.
Wes: Meanwhile, my family and I are facing serious and withering attacks, most are from people who have never heard of me until the allegations were brought to their attention. Many are – some have been threatening. The situation is unhealthy for my family, and maybe not even safe.
JA: I certainly hope there have not been serious and threatening attacks. That is inappropriate. But . . . I have to wonder what kind of harm his family has been dealing with. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone would go after Mr. Feltner’s family. But it is important to note that when there is sin, many innocent people will suffer the consequences, and for years. It’s not appropriate to blame the women for any outlash he or his family have received. He needs to point the finger to himself and quit acting like a victim.
Wes: Meanwhile, Berean must stay focused on its gospel mission to this community and to the world. Therefore, the elders and I have mutually agreed that I take a leave of absence while the investigation is under way.
Wes: In closing, there is a reason that God has placed a call on my life to preach the gospel. that’s because as I’ve taught you many times, I daily need the gospel. As John Newton the author of Amazing Grace once said, “I’m not what I ought to be, I’m not what I want to be, I’m not what I one day will be, but I’m not what I was, and by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
JA: God has instituted qualifications for elders regardless if someone feels a certain calling. Wes Feltner’s supposed calling does not override God’s guideline for elders. When you use your position of authority, as youth pastor, to sexually take advantage of those under your care, you are unfit to be a pastor, period. You did that, Wes. You chose those actions. Not being a pastor is a small consequence to pay for the 17 years of shame and harm you caused the women.
- Parent Leader Shares Her Account of 2002 Abuse By Feltner “This is the unsolicited testimony provided by Barbara Doss. Her family was extremely involved at First Southern Baptist in the years leading to 2002, and was very close with both Wes Feltner and JoAnna.“
- Women Accuse Evangelical Pastor Of Abuse Years After Being Told To Keep Silent
- Megan’s story
- JoAnna’s story
- Berean Baptist Church shows lead pastor Wes Feltner’s video message to the church as he blames victims and their advocates for his suffering
- First Baptist Clarksville drops candidate accused of pastoral abuse, disbands search committee