There are a handful of churches that don’t turn a blind eye to child abuse and pedophiles. They include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church. In April of 2012, Thomas White, executive director of Voice of the Martyrs apparently chose to take his own life, rather than be investigated for molesting a 10-year-old girl.
Christianity Today, about a month later, reported on the case of a prominent layman in Chicago. He and his wife had, over a period of years, fostered something like 75 children. He confessed to abusing at least two of those children.
What happens when the leaders of a major religious denomination ignore the fact that there are pedophiles who are truly harmful to children, and that their actions are criminal. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Church, Albert Mohler, persident of the venerable Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Mark Dever, of the Capital Hill Baptist Church decided to stand by C. J. Mahaney. They asked Maryland Judge Sharon V. Burrell to dismiss a lawsuit where C. J. Mahaney covered up instances of pedophilia within his ministry.
“…The lawsuit alleges that Mahaney and other SGM leaders knew about sexual abuse of children occurring in homes and on church property but did not report it to legal authorities. Instead church leaders insisted on handling the problem internally in the name of “church discipline,” a practice of confronting and correcting sin adapted from Bible verses including Matthew 18:15-17.
At Sovereign Grace Ministries, the lawsuit alleges, that meant that victims as young as 2 were summoned to meetings with their molester and told to forgive them for their sins. Victims and parents were told not to call the police, because civil authorities cannot be trusted in disputes between Christians. When church members ignored that advice, they were put out of the church for “gossip,” while sex offenders remained with access to children in pursuit of restoration.
The suit says church leaders interfered with legal processes by misinforming victims’ families about when to show up for court dates and telling authorities they were speaking on behalf of victims without being authorized to do so.
As pastor of one of the churches named in the lawsuit and until recently president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mahaney is accused of knowing what was going on and advising subordinates on how to handle incidents of abuse.
“What everyone has told us is that C. J. Mahaney for many, many years was the authority within the church, and that there wasn’t a church rule or doctrine or habit or custom that he did not approve of and participate in,” plaintiff attorney Bill O’Neil said recently on the Janet Mefferds Radio Show….”
One of the problems within the Southern Baptist Convention is the fact that there is not as much of an emphasis on confronting pedophilia as there should be. There is a massive unfolding scandal within the Sovereign Grace.
“...The original lawsuit listed SGM, Mahaney, Tomczak, and six other pastors from CLC and Sovereign Grace Church as defendants. The amended filing added five new plaintiffs and CLC, as well as CLC’s day school, the Fairfax church, and two more pastors as defendants. One new plaintiff, “Paula Poe,” alleged that a pastor and church volunteer together operated a “pedophilia ring” at CLC and its school, and that one of their suspected victims, a pastor’s son, went on to molest a seven-year-old boy in the Fairfax church.
The suit has been filed not only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs, but also on behalf of a much larger class of people allegedly abused as minors in SGM, who do not wish to come forward with their stories. The suit alleges that the potential additional victims are too many to be included as individual plaintiffs in the suit because SGM’s leaders have cultivated an “environment conducive to and protective of physical and sexual abuse of children.”
The stories from plaintiffs who are included describe a church culture where pastors’ sympathies routinely lay with male perpetrators of sexual abuse, particulary married fathers, who were allowed continued access to victims and other children in the church. Victims’ families were deliberately misled to keep them out of legal proceedings, while pastors provided perpetrators with legal support. And families were pressured not to report abuse and to “forgive” perpetrators, with even children as young as three being forced to meet their abusers for “reconciliation.”
Women and children who came forward were threatened and ostracized if they resisted efforts to “restore” their abusive husbands and fathers to a position of “leadership” in the family. One plaintiff, “Robin Roe,” whose sister was sexually abused by their adoptive father, reports that their mother was advised by CLC pastors to send the victim away so the abuser could return as “head of the household.” When Roe’s mother refused to submit to this and other pastoral “attempt[s] to obstruct justice,” the family was kicked out of the church.
An anonymous adult witness mentioned in the lawsuit (who originally shared her story as “Taylor” on SGM Survivors) further alleges that church leaders told her her husband had been “tempted” to molest their 10-year-old daughter because Taylor hadn’t “met [her] husband’s needs physically.” Fairfax pastors instructed her to allow her husband to move back into the home and “make sure [she] had physical relations with him regularly,” and to lock their daughter’s bedroom at night.
The abuse allegations include physical as well as sexual abuse. Larry Tomczak, the only defendant explicitly named as a perpetrator in the suit, is alleged to have physically abused “Carla Coe,” a child under his care for over 25 years. (The suit doesn’t specify their relationship, but Tomczak has said that he believes the charges relate to a “family member.”) The abuses are said to include forcing her to undress so Tomczak could beat her “on her bare buttocks”—assaults that allegedly continued well into adulthood. In another account, a plaintiff charges that she and her siblings were sexually abused by their father, and that she had been beaten by him so severely that she bled and bruised. When the siblings reported the abuse to CLC leaders, these pastors informed the father, which they charge “led to further abuse.”…”
So, here we have it. The president of a major Christian university, Baylor, and a major league Republican, conservative, etc. Ken Starr thinks that Christopher Kloman, a teacher who pleaded guilty of sexually abusing several young women – i.e. a pedophile, should be given leniency.
There is a viable discussion about churches, children, and abusers. How does a church protect children and minister to abusers. I’m not the right person to answer that question. I will always take the side of protecting Children. There are certain things a church and a ministry can do to protect the safety and innocence of children, and basically do a cover your own you know what. The bottom line here is that it is not a religious issue at all, but a criminal one. It is also a question of liability. Churches are businesses. They are in the religion business. In any business, you protect the bottom line. The bottom line says that an employee or someone within the business does something that causes the business to be stuck in a criminal situation is bad for publicity. It’s going to cost a fortune in a lawsuit. Being a Christian has nothing to do with it. The law does. The laws state that individuals who are guilty of certain forms of sex crimes cannot be near children. End of story, right?
It should be.
“...The submission theology at the root of the abuses alleged in the lawsuit is not unique to SGM. These teachings have led to similar cases of abuse in entirely unaffiliated churches, and to the proliferation of watchdog blogs like SGM Survivors for similar church groups—including Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church.
At its root, abuse is the harmful exercise of power over others. Submission theology protects the privileges of the powerful; as a result, abuse survivors in submission cultures are not able to fight effectively for support or accountability. It is possible that victim advocacy is inherently impossible in a culture like SGM’s….”
The problem, though, is that the religious world doesn’t appear to want to face up to the problem that there are pedophiles among them. In 2012, Tom White, the executive director of Voice of the Martyrs basically ended his life in a suicide after being caught molesting a 10-year-old girl.
According to an editorial in Christianity Today:
“...First, we must prioritize protecting innocents. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a movement among churches discerning how to include ex-offenders into the community of faith. No doubt many lives have been transformed in the process. Still, when the well-being of children and the inclusion of offenders conflict, we believe a gospel-shaped community should prioritize protecting the most innocent among us, whose violation invites drowning by millstone (Luke 17:2).
….Second, we must extend the gospel to child sex abusers. This is a monumental task. A 2011 Slate report titled, “Are molesters really the most hated people in prison?” answered, simply, “Yes. Convicts who have committed crimes against children, especially sexual abuse, are hated, harassed, and abused.” Even Christians instinctively feel that child abusers should “rot in jail” when they imagine a fellow Christian fondling a child or masturbating to such images. So when we begin preaching that such “monsters” are known and loved by Christ, it will horrify the watching world. And even us….”
What fascinates me is that several of the comments are almost the same sort of thing that is today being said about Kate Hunt.
For those of us who innocently thought that such comments, the blame the victim and the system was limited to those supporting Kate Hunt, well, evidently it isn’t. Individuals like Boz Tchividjian understand that pedophiles and predators like to work where there are children. This means that just because we’re dealing with a ‘Christian’ situation, kids aren’t safe.
“…During the past ten years as the executive director of GRACE, I have been so blessed to have many similar precious experiences with abuse survivors. However, one of the great tragedies I have encountered is how the Church has so often failed in expending itself in love to so many survivors of abuse. I have too often seen where the Church has sacrificed the individual soul for the “benefit” and “protection” of the institution. GRACE often encounters these wonderful individuals years later and discovers that so many have lost all hope in life and are unable to have a relationship with God. And I cannot blame or fault them. The blame and fault lies squarely with a professing Christian community who has all too often failed to understand and apply the beautiful Gospel – in which God sacrificed Himself for the individual, not the other way around. Abuse survivors often struggle to believe that those of us from GRACE are Christians simply because we listened to them and valued them as human beings. One recent survivor expressed, I have never been treated with so much love and compassion. There was no judgment. There was no shame. I was accepted for who I was. They valued me as a person. Another survivor wrote, I am realizing more and more that pretty much no one in the Christian community seems to care about any of these things – at least not in the sense of doing anything about it or speaking out against it. I’m thankful that GRACE does. …”
What these ‘important’ Baptist leaders did was to try and prevent a law-suit from going froward. It is currently considered ‘American Evangelicalism’s Biggest Sex Scandal to Date’. There are 11 plaintiffs involved in the suit. From what I’ve been able to uncover, this is just the tip of the iceberg, especially when dealing with the Southern Baptist denomination. Over the years there has been a wholesale system of harassment, bullying, and cover-ups designed to prevent victims of abuse from speaking out.
“...On 10/25/12, TWW wrote a sad story about Amy Smith who heroically stood up to Prestonwood Baptist Church regarding their alleged complicity in covering up a pedophile scandal in their church.The reported pedophile left Prestonwood and went on to allegedly abuse more children in Mississippi. This brave woman has been “disowned” by her parents and Jack Graham and the staff at Prestonwood Baptist refuse to discuss the matter….”
For some strange reason, it is vogue to cover the abuse within the Catholic Church, while pedophilia within the other Christian denominations and the Mormon Church is being ignored. Why?
Why are such important Baptist leaders such as Albert Mohler, Ken Starr, and Russell Moore allowed to get away with supporting ‘religious’ leaders who have enabled pedophiles, yet the leaders of the Catholic Church are constantly damned for it?
What role does Submission Theology have in all of this?
Why are the so-called Christian leaders who allow this sort of thing to continue any better than those who are advocating for Kate Hunt, and promoting pedophilia?