On March 8, 2016 Pam and Dominic Palmer were once again in front of a panel of Maryland Senators. They testified in favor of SB69, a proposed Maryland Bill which would extend the Statute of Limitations for victims of sexual abuse. You may recall the Palmer’s daughter was sexually abused while they were members of Covenant Life Church; she was 3-years-old.
In March 2015 the Palmers testified in favor of SB668. Below is a recording of Pam Palmer’s testimony. Please listen to that as background information for my current post.
You will notice that at the end of her testimony, Pam Palmer stated:
“I am offended that the only group testifying against this bill are representing the Roman Catholic Church, who through neglect are responsible for the rape of thousands of children and now are denying justice (or attempting to deny justice) for my daughter, just to protect their own assets.”
At the recent Senate hearing, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church were nowhere to be found. The only voices speaking in opposition to the bill were two women from Covenant Life Church! That’s right, Covenant Life Church of Gaithersburg, MD. The home church of former senior pastors CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris. CLC, the former flagship of Sovereign Grace Churches. Ground zero for what some have called the largest sexual abuse scandal to hit the Evangelical church.
Charlotte Ennis and Terry Mayo were the women who testified. Charlotte Ennis declared in her testimony that she didn’t know whether CLC knew she would be testifying at this hearing,
I find that hard to believe.
Charlotte Ennis is married to Pat Ennis. Pat headed up the search committee for P.J. Smyth, the new Senior Pastor at CLC. Pat Ennis was the Executive Director for SGM until 2010. Pat reportedly talks to everybody in CLC leadership. Below is a great quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer tweeted by Pat Ennis. I wonder if Mr. Ennis knew of the CLC meeting in 2007 when the pastors decided not to tell authorities about Nathaniel Morales, the sexual predator? My guess is he did. Brent Detwiler posted copies of two confessions CJ Mahaney made in 2004. All the top leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries were CC’ed. Pat Ennis was one of those leaders.
In 2010 we see Pat Ennis is still a member of the trusted inner circle of Mahaney’s. Below is a screen capture from Brent Detwiler’s blog.
All this to say that Charlotte Ennis’ testimony opposing the extension of the Statute of Limitations is not merely the words of a disinterested third party. Her husband was a major player in Sovereign Grace during the time that much of the sexual abuse occurred. It is highly unlikely CLC was unaware that she would be testifying in opposition to the proposed SB69. It is my opinion that both Charlotte and Terry testified in place of their husbands because attorney Susan Burke has stated she will be filing another lawsuit against Sovereign Grace and Covenant Life Church in Virginia. If Pat Ennis or Dave Mayo were to have testified at this senate hearing they may have unintentionally provided information that could strengthen the claims of the plaintiffs in the upcoming lawsuit.
Terry Mayo was queried by a senator after her testimony on how she found out about the hearing. It seems the senator was trying to determine whether CLC had put her up to the task. Mayo was clearly rattled by the question, stumbled around a bit and then said she heard about it through social media. Pressed further she said she heard it via Pam Palmer on social media. Judging from Mayo’s reactions, it is my opinion she was not telling the whole truth. I would guess men in positions of leadership in CLC recruited her.
Below is a partial clip of these two women’s testimony. You can view the whole proceeding here. I would encourage you to watch the whole session as both Pam and Dominic, two of my heroes, testified again.
Also of note regarding the testimony of Charlotte Ennis – notice how her response to questions about convicted pedophile Nathaniel Morales closely followed this dishonest statement published by Covenant Life Church in 2013. It seems she has the company line down quite well. And Ms. Ennis would have us believe that her testimony was done without the knowledge of Covenant Life Church?
In the clip below, attorney Susan Burke testifies in front of a Maryland House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on March 10, 2016. The House has their own proposed bill to extend the Statute of Limitations for victims of sexual abuse. Susan Burke is one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries; the suit was subsequently dismissed due to Statute of Limitations constraints. In her testimony, Burke speaks to the ridiculous manner Sovereign Grace pastors handled one case of abuse. She said, “this is the type of conduct that as a society we should penalize.” Burke then goes on to counter what Charlotte Ennis and Terry Mayo said in their testimony opposing increasing the SOL.
Below you will find the account to which Ms. Burke said, “this is the type of conduct that as a society we should penalize;” the conduct which Covenant Life Church members Charlotte Ennis and Terry Mayo urged Maryland senators to prevent ever being heard in a court of law! (The entire article may be found here.)
I’m afraid my story is not unique. I shared my daughter’s story because for years I have read similar stories and thought, “Oh no, not another one!” and would relive it all over again. The fact that it is STILL happening, that children are still being dreadfully, horribly hurt and families torn apart, and those pastors are allowed to continue to perpetuate the atmosphere that allows it to happen made me have to finally speak out about our own experience. I am just one of many. And if this many stories are public, many more are never going to be known.
My husband and I spent many years at our Sovereign Grace church, first as young adults and then later after we married and had kids. We homeschooled, we got involved in home group, and created a nice little bubble for ourselves. We looked the part and believed what we were told to believe and even though we never fit the mold, we kept trying.
The thing was, though, my husband had a porn addiction that was kept hidden (because a Godly wife doesn’t reveal her husband’s sins to the world, or even to close friends). He would get caught, he would “repent” and humble himself, and I was to forgive him. A vicious pattern that would repeat itself over and over, and would set the stage for what was to come.
It all came to a head when I discovered that my husband had been sexually abusing our 10-year-old daughter. I had felt something was not quite right for a couple months, but could not figure out what was going on, and kept telling myself that I was imagining things, that it was Satan putting evil thoughts in my head, that it couldn’t possibly be anything like I thought. My husband had always expressed such disgust at this sort of thing that I was sure he wasn’t capable of it. And yet the thoughts and feelings continued. I would catch them alone in a room, with my daughter sitting on his lap, or he would call her down to the basement to do some chore with him alone. He started spending a long time putting her to bed each night, but only a few minutes with our other children, while I was busy with the toddler.
One night, I am not sure why I did this, but I went into my daughter’s room to kiss her goodnight after her father had gone downstairs to get on the computer, and I said to her, “You know, honey, NO one, not even me or Daddy, has the right to touch you in your private areas”. And she started crying and said that Daddy had been doing just that every day for a long time, and making her touch him as well.
I fainted right there across her bed. Then quickly came to, and comforted her. I told her that it would NEVER happen again, and she would be safe from then on.
Then I went downstairs and confronted him. He fell to his knees and begged me not to tell anyone. I said I had to protect our daughter, so I called our associate pastor, whom I’ll call Pastor Bill. As I told Pastor Bill what had happened, my husband ran out of the house and got in the car. I ran after him and told him not to leave and he said he didn’t have any choice because now he was going to jail and he just couldn’t face it and indicated he would rather die than go to jail, then drove off.
We spent three days in agony not knowing where he was or if he was still alive. He turned off his cell phone. Pastor Bill came over to our house and talked with my daughter and made her tell him everything that my husband had done to her and for how long. After the first 24 hours, Pastor Bill gave the situation over to another pastor, “Pastor Fred,” to handle.
I was praised up and down for not calling the police but for contacting them first, for being a “Godly example” of a Christian wife, etc. When we went to church the first Sunday after the crisis, I was with two of my close woman friends, and they asked me what was going on, and I told them what had happened, feeling the need for support and help.
When I told Pastor Fred I had told them, he was quite upset with me for telling anyone, and reprimanded me for gossiping, and then had to meet with them and our care group to do damage control, to make sure no one would know what was really happening or had happened.
Finally my husband answered his phone on the fourth day, and the pastors convinced him to come back. But not to our house. They sent us to stay with my husband’s relatives (another family from our SG church) for several days and let my husband come get his things and move in with his mother.
We were all brought in for counseling with the pastors, first me and my daughter separately, where she had to again tell what had happened, and where she was told she needed to forgive her father, that she was a sinner too, and didn’t she feel that she had sinned by not telling me sooner, and we were made to feel that she had somehow sinned by allowing it to continue, even insinuating that maybe she had even wanted that attention a bit. She was TEN YEARS OLD.
I should also add that I was told by Pastor Fred that I should not get outside counseling for my daughter at all. He said it would expose her to ungodly counsel and do more harm than good, that God was the only healing she needed. So we never got any outside professional help, but my husband got counseling for about 4 months from the pastors. It is the “trickle down” theory of taking care of the “head” and it will trickle down to the wife and kids.
During this time that they were separately meeting with my husband, they counseled him and they met with his boss (another church member) to inform him of what had happened and why he was absent from work. It turned out that all of his late night work at the office had really been opportunities for viewing porn, including child porn, on the office computers, and he was fired from his job.
The pastors knew that so many people knew about what had happened that they were required by law to report it, so they told my husband that he needed to turn himself in instead of their doing it. That was how they got out of their legal responsibility to report it. My husband’s relative who is a lawyer told him not to do it himself, but to use a certain lawyer he knew. The lawyer he had suggested met with my husband and I together, and he said that no, my husband shouldn’t turn himself in because if he did then he would go to jail and we would be without any income, instead since he was now obligated by law to report the crime, he would talk to the state’s attorney and let us know what to do. We didn’t hear anything from him for weeks and weeks, and were left to constantly wonder why.
After about two months of this kind of counseling by the pastors, I was told that in order to truly be a Godly wife, I had to forgive my husband because my sins as a less than Godly wife had also contributed to my daughter’s abuse. I was told that had I better met my husband’s needs physically, he wouldn’t have been tempted elsewhere. A meeting was held at Pastor Fred’s house, where my husband could apologize to my daughter for hurting her and ask her to forgive him. Again she was reminded by Pastor Fred that she was a sinner too, and that Jesus had forgiven her, so she must forgive her father to be a good Christian.
So I was told to allow him to move back home, and to make sure I had physical relations with him regularly, and books were offered telling me how to have a Godly sexual relationship with him, like Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage, and The Five Love Languages.
I was told to put a lock on my daughter’s door, on the inside, and every night after I had kissed her goodnight, she had to lock her door to keep her father out.
And he moved back into our house on Christmas Eve that year. We resumed looking like a “normal” Sovereign Grace Ministries family, my husband was greatly praised for repenting and we were praised for reconciling, and every time we had sex I got sick to my stomach afterwards. Every time he moved or got up in the night, I sat bolt upright in bed. If he went out of our room, I lay there listening to make sure he didn’t go near any of the children’s bedrooms.
The only “counseling” I myself received during this time was when Pastor Fred would ask me to join him and my husband in their sessions, and he would ask how it was going, having sex with my husband, and would want specifics, and right in front of him so I couldn’t really be honest but would just say it was ok.
(As an aside, it seems to me personally that the pastors at SGM have a weird and unhealthy fascination with details of sexual encounters. I know a teen girl who was having relations with her boyfriend, and when she was caught and brought in for counseling, the SGM pastor made her “confess” each and every detail of every sexual encounter the two of them had had, before he could say that she was repentant. I just find it sick. They made my daughter do the same thing, giving every detail of her father’s molestations, but not so they could report it.)
I kept calling the lawyer asking if he had heard anything, and he kept saying no, not yet. Then in February I finally got some specific answers from him. No, he hadn’t actually turned in a deposition. He had simply written a hypothetical report up and put it on the attorney’s desk. Unless I wanted to go in and file charges against my husband, nothing would happen. I called the pastors and told them all of this, and they said that it was obviously a gift of grace from God, and that as a Christian I was not to bring civil authorities into it, and that I was to let it drop and not press charges because my husband was repentant and had agreed to their counseling, and they felt like everything had been discharged properly and what wonderful examples of God’s grace and mercy we were.
A little over a year later, there was a new church plant, and we were told to be a part of that. How convenient for them…
We were part of it, but soon after the church plant happened, I caught my husband looking in the bathroom window from outside when my daughter went in there to use the toilet. I told her to get out of the bathroom quickly, that he was out there looking in at her and not to use that bathroom any more.
I called “Pastor Kevin,” the pastor of the newly planted SGM church, and told him what had happened. He said that sin was insidious and that I should expect my husband to have moments of weakness, and that I was wrong to warn my daughter because I was further damaging her relationship with her father and preventing it from being reconciled. And that was the end of it.
At that moment I knew that not only was I and my children without protection from the church, but that I was truly alone and would just have to make the best of it. I could not rely on any more help from the pastors and it was up to me to protect my children as best I could.
For five years I struggled to be that protection for them. My daughter continued to lock her bedroom door every night. I continued to not sleep deeply and to always be alert to his prowling at night, and we maintained our facade as a healed and reconciled family. I forced myself to allow him to have sex with me, even though it made me physically ill. The toll on my self-esteem, my self-respect, and my family was huge. My marriage relationship was dead, but I was trapped inside it trying to be that “Godly Wife”.
However, we were kept at arm’s length from the rest of the church. Other parents did not include my daughter in birthday parties or other activities because they were afraid she might tell their children what had happened. She was damaged in their eyes. Other parents pulled away from me as well, except for one friend.
Finally, I just burned out. I just couldn’t do it any longer. I couldn’t pretend to love a man who had sexually assaulted my child every day for months. But I didn’t know how to get out. So I started sleeping in my son’s room on a cot, pretending that I had just accidentally fallen asleep while putting him to bed. Not coming out unless my husband actually came to get me.
It was only with the strength and support of my one remaining friend that I was able to finally get the courage to divorce him and leave the church, when my daughter was 16. It was a long two-year process, in which I was shunned and ostracized by the church body under instructions by the pastors for “abandoning my family” and breaking my marriage vows. I was told I couldn’t leave the church because as long as my husband was a member, I was a member also. But I finally got my divorce and broke free, and maintained custody of my children.
My ex-husband still attends that same Sovereign Grace Ministries church, even though several of the founding families and the pastors all know that he is a child molester. I would venture to say that none of the rest of the church has any idea, though. He is remarried, and when he has visitation with our younger children, he still takes them to church events.
My older children are now grown and don’t have much to do with my ex-husband at all. They are also very bitter towards Sovereign Grace Ministries and want nothing to do with them. Their relationship with God has been destroyed, and it will take the work of the Holy Spirit alone to restore it, in His time. But otherwise, they are happy and doing well.
I have found a wonderful church that has helped me realize that the world, and God, are so much bigger than Sovereign Grace Ministries ever taught. I have learned that there is room in God’s house for all different types of people, and theologies and doctrines. And although it took several years, I have begun to trust God again, and read his word with new eyes. God IS good, and even Sovereign Grace Ministries can’t destroy that.
Here are a few good comments by “exCLCer.” This is the woman Charlotte Ennis attempted to discredit in her testimony before the MD Senate subcommittee:
Maryland senate panel hears two sides of evangelical sex abuse scandal