It’s Thanksgiving today and it appears that Kevin DeYoung may be missing out on some blessings. His recent tweet above is stunning in light of the fact that he remains a strong supporter of C.J. Mahaney. Truth and justice appear to be subjugated to DeYoung’s drive for fame and fortune. Admittedly he has six children and a wife dependent on his continuing revenue stream from writing books and speaking at conferences, but one certainly wonders how DeYoung reconciles his hypocritical support of C.J. Mahaney with his lack of any obvious concern for the numerous victims of sexual abuse in the Sovereign Grace denomination, abuse that Mahaney is credibly accused of covering up. Lacking a sincere apology to the sexually abused and a withdrawal of support for C.J. Mahaney remaining in the ministry, DeYoung should permanently recuse himself from the ministry. Perhaps he could find a job selling farm machinery, then his imitation of Sinclair Lewis’ fictitious charlatan, Elmer Gantry, would be complete.
Don’t hold your breath, the money in “ministry” is too good and the church-going public’s gullbility seems to know no bounds.
Below is a comment found on the SGM Survivors blog.
Below are some excerpts from The Gospel Coalition’s statement of support for C.J. Mahaney. You can view the complete document here.
Why We Have Been Silent about the SGM Lawsuit
Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor
Over the past several months we have remained publicly silent about the lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), which alleged a conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse.
Many have asked why we have not spoken publicly. Is this a conspiracy of silence, a way to whitewash accusations against a friend? Is it a way to stand with the powerful and to make a mockery of the weak? Is it simple cowardice? Why hasn’t more been said?
If we must denounce and separate from everyone or every ministry facing serious allegations, any one of us could be publicly ruined in a matter of days by nothing more than accusations. High-profile Christians are sometimes targeted not because they are guilty, but because they are well known. While those who are shown to be guilty should be exposed with rigor and with tears, surely as brothers and sisters in Christ we must understand how much gain there is for those who hate the gospel when Christian leaders are unfairly attacked and diminished. We agree with the Heidelberg Catechism that obeying the ninth commandment requires more than telling the truth; it means we do not “join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.” Instead, “I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name” (Q/A 112).
There are two other facts that may be germane to this discussion: (1) some have tried to make C. J. Mahaney the “face” of the SGM lawsuit, and (2) we are friends with C.J.
Reports on the lawsuit from Christianity Today and World Magazine (among others) explicitly and repeatedly drew attention to C. J., connecting the suit to recent changes within SGM. He has also been the object of libel and even a Javert-like obsession by some.
As the motion to dismiss points out, although C. J. Mahaney is named as an individual defendant, “the sole allegation against him in the Complaint is that he founded Sovereign Grace Ministries (“SGM”) and is currently its President. . . . He is not specifically identified or alleged to have performed any other act or omission throughout the 143-paragraph Complaint.”
What follows are some heartrending stories of sexual abuse within the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination written by victims and their family members. The stories were originally found on the Cult Education Forum website, which has now been changed to the Cult Education Institute. I could no longer find the stories, but if anyone would like a copy of all the stories (I did not post all of the stories) email me and I will be happy to forward my file to you.
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.
I have a story to share. I know that you are not likely to judge but as I think about our story I judge myself. I still struggle with how completely sold out I was to this group. I made many bad decisions that hurt our family and I accept that. I hope you all can understand. To Sovereign Grace Ministries…yes it’s me and I’m talking.
We were reluctant care group leaders. My husband had been a group leader before we were married and continued to lead caregroups for 10 years. About the time our story begins I had come to realized what a toll care group leading had taken on me. I was spiritually dry and depressed. I would vacuum and cry because I knew we couldn’t get out of leadership. They would confront us on the sin of ….pride, discontentment, laziness, selfishness…pick one, whatever. My husband didn’t know, he wouldn’t be allowed to leave leadership so it would just upset him.
One morning I was awakened by a phone call from my pastor. My husband had left for work and I had been sleeping in. He sounded so strange as he asked me to find a sitter for our four children and come to the building for a meeting. He had already spoken to my husband and we’d all meet there. When we arrived all the pastors and two of the wives were there waiting for us. We were stunned, I was scared. I couldn’t figure out what I had done that was such a serious sin that all of them would be there to confront me. Several of the pastors were still on the phone with lawyers. When they came to the waiting area they realized/remembered that I was 7 months pregnant and I had driven myself 20 miles to the church. They told us to go home and they’d meet us at our house.
When all arrived, three pastors one pastors wife myself and my husband, they began their “meeting” by saying. “You are going to have an opportunity to forgive today.” After some flowery words they brought in one of my closest friends who lived up the street. She was separated from her husband at the time. Our pastor’s wife looked like she was physically holding her up. My friend looked nauseous and she was physically shaking. She sat across from my husband and I and told us that her oldest son (15) had been “inappropriate” with my 3 year old daughter. She assured us that my daughter was asleep and completely unaware. We of course asked for the details. She said that one evening, he was babysitting for us as he often did while we went to Homegroup Leaders and Wives meetings at the Pastors house. That night our daughter had wet the bed and he was going to change it when he felt tempted and had “fingered” her. I apologize for being so direct. He said that she was completely asleep and didn’t wake up the entire time.
We were confused. She was wearing pull-ups. Even if she had wet, the bed would not be wet. How did she know the bed was wet if she was asleep? How could he change the sheets and her pullup without her waking up? What was wrong with this story? We asked and we were somewhat blown off.
Someone somewhere asked why the boy confessed. I believe with all my heart that he thought we were about to piece it together. Remember how close I was to this mom. We talked like friends do. When I was worried about my daughter I stopped by her house and asked her what she thought.
The greatest indication that something was wrong was the night terrors. They were unspeakably terrible to witness. The first time it happened we were sitting in the family room and heard her scream. We both jumped up and ran to her room. She was fitful, screaming “Stop it! Stop it! I don’t want this!” We tried to wake her up, we told her she was dreaming and settled her back in. When we returned to the family room we were both shaken to the core at the panic in her voice. There was something wrong, but what? Then it started again, about 20 minutes later. Unbearable screaming, utterly indescribable. My husband picked her up and tried to wake her. She beat him with all her might. She was so violent. It was terrible to watch. He took her to the bathroom thinking the lights would wake her, he could but cold water on her face. I ran to the phone and called our family doctor. (This seems silly now) I thought she had a brain aneurysm. When I returned to the bathroom my daughter was hitting my husband and saying “I DON’T WANT YOU! I HATE YOU!” My husband was crying as he handed her to me saying “She doesn’t want me.” I put her in the car and took her to the emergency room. She came to and was completely lucid. Nothing came of the visit. I shared that story just days before his confession.
In addition to that, the evening he confessed he was acting out in a violent way at his house. Mom called and told me that he had been jabbing her with the broom handle and refusing to clean the kitchen. I told her (this was SOO God! Thank you God) I thought he might be involved in sexual sin. I don’t know why I said that, I had never felt that way before. I asked if she wanted my husband to come down but she wanted to talk to him alone. That night he confessed.
We were told that there were not other incidents and that our child had been completely unaware. We were encouraged with scripture that no Christian should bring his brother to court but rather the church should mediate. I certainly didn’t want anyone else to know about this. I didn’t want her to be excluded from playing with her friends, I didn’t want people to treat her differently, I didn’t want to be dealing with this at all. I wanted the pastors to leave so that I could pretend this wasn’t happening. I think I would have agreed to anything just to make it all go away.
The pastors stayed all day. I sat in a chair and stared all day. That night, when I was finally able to sleep, I had a dream. This boy came into our home while we were all sleeping and shot us one by one. First my husband, then me, then each child as they lay safely sleeping in their bed. I woke with a start, furious. I decided I’d never let that happen then laid down and went back to sleep. I dreamt I was walking down our street toward their house. I rang their bell and the boy answered. Through the screen door I put a gun to his face and pulled the trigger. Again I woke with a start. This time I could not sleep. I knew I was in trouble. I went to the kitchen and read my bible. Psalms. It was so confusing. Was my best friends’ son my enemy? Who was my enemy? I didn’t want to think about this so I decided to clean instead. All night long I cleaned and told my thoughts to shut up. The pastors called in the morning. They were all leaving for a pastors conference in Virginia Beach the next day and they’d all be passing our house on their way down. I told them my dreams, I asked for the booklet “How to be free from bitterness”
The senior pastor’s wife stopped by with books and a printed packet she had put together entitled “Topical Quotes for Times of Suffering and Trial” Here’s a sample.
“Among the most wonderful of God’s works are His chastisements… No pen is like that of sorrow for writing indelibly upon the soul.” (Was this chastisement, is that why my baby was molested?)
“Suffering teaches us to shrink from sin – even from the remotest and most indirect connection with it” (This happened because I was sinful? So if I suffer I won’t do it again? What did I do?)
“Riding out the storm is a lonely experience. You will never be more alone emotionally than when you are in the whirlwind of consequences (of sin). You will wish others could help you, but they can’t. They will want to be there, they will care, but for the most part, you have to ride out the storm alone.” (consequences of what? How much can a 3 year old sin to deserve these consequences??)
Never mind, I can’t even read through this packet any more. It’s 34 pages long. You get the gist.
Lou Gallow sat with this boy daily extracting more detail, which were relayed to Dave Hinders then to us by phone. It was by phone we heard of the “attempted penetration” which he stopped because she was crying so loud (As he told the pastors she was saying “ please stop, you are hurting me, my mommy and daddy don’t do this etc. etc.”) She was crying so loud that, although he was in an inner bathroom with no windows, upstairs in my isolated home in the dead of winter with all windows closed…. He was afraid that the neighbors, in their homes with windows closed, would hear and come to help her.
(God bless her she does have a good set of lungs!)
That night we decided to take her to our doctor. Before we could make the appointment the boy’s mother was on our doorstep asking us not to go. She said we wanted to punish him and we were just being mean and this is a quote “You KNOW ______would never hurt her!” Excuse me?? He did hurt her?? Mom’s on planet denial already. I understand I probably would be also. We were very patient with her. We didn’t raise our voice or throw her out of our home. We simply insisted that our child would be seen by a doctor. She said, “You KNOW that if you didn’t want to hurt my son you could find a doctor in the church that would examine your daughter and not report it!” Whoa.
We called our doctor who spoke with us and encouraged us to report it to social services personally, which we did. The police department contacted us and set up an appointment to interview all our children. That was so hard. We couldn’t be in the room with them but we could watch from a live lead in a private room. God bless the very godly man that interviewed my child. He was WONDERFUL and I am thankful. He was a Christian himself and the Grace of God was really with him. In that interview she described several incidents including one “in mommy and daddy’s bathroom because there is a bed in their room” . This becomes a very big deal later on. Our other children apparently were fine. We went to the doctor and proceeded to eat, sleep and breath for days on end. The detective interviewed the boy and called us two more times with more details, more events. Several times I had to get off the phone because I needed to throw up. What is important to note here is that the pastors did not hear these confessions, they didn’t hear what the detective knew, what we knew. The boy didn’t tell his mother what he had done and he didn’t tell the pastors. Guess what, the pastors didn’t want us to tell them what the boy had confessed to….. it would be gossip. We had been told of 5 incidents and one mysterious one that our daughter confessed to the police. It had been going on for 7 months that we now knew of.
Incidentally, the only reason I’m not saying the family’s or the boys name is for his poor wife, and because he now has at least one child. My heart goes out to them, and I wish the wife and child well.
Now, seven day’s after this boy confessed regarding our family, his maternal uncle currently living in the boy’s home confessed to molesting his nieces, the boy’s sisters. Guess what, the girls were supposedly asleep and had no idea what had happened to them. Mom was vomiting, her brother moved out. Social Services was called. The detective handling our case came to our home and gave us an update. Social Services came to our home and conducted a home study. Our daughter began professional counseling with weekly visits. The boy also attended counseling with a professional. One afternoon, on the phone with mom (I don’t know why I was on the phone with her) Mom told me that the counseling was not biblical and that she had to “undo” everything the counselor said during their sessions. She also said that she was helping him at home. She was teaching him not to be selfish since that was the underlying sin that led him to be “inappropriate” For example, she tells him not to leave bread crumbs on the kitchen counter because it is selfish. She also told me that he was sleeping on her bedroom floor at night because he was afraid to be by himself.
We told the pastors what we thought about the family was dealing with it but apparently they didn’t have any concerns. Okay, that’s the background. Soon the “counseling” begins.
Thinking about this made my blood pressure go through the roof, the baby wasn’t doing great. During the day I could control my thoughts alright but if I fell asleep my brain went on auto pilot. I would become nauseous, dizzy, and had pain in my abdomen. I couldn’t eat. My husband took a month off of work to stay home and made sure I ate and slept since I was so far along in the pregnancy. One month and 5 days after the boy’s confession the pastors wanted us to go to the boy’s house so that he could confess to us personally. Weeks prior to this meeting my husband and I had been studying forgivness. We met with one of the pastors and asked him a series of questions about forgivness. What did it mean, how did this look, what if I was still angry…I wanted to know what was the relation between anger and forgiveness, were they inseparable. What was righteous anger and was my anger sin or was it only sin if I acted on it or allowed it to become bitterness. Did feeling anger mean that I had not forgiven? What was the difference between not thinking about it (like so many told me) and stuffing it. I was angry that she suffered, unjustly and unnecessarily, that our family had been defiled, that it couldn’t be fixed. Was that sin? I was angry about his deceit and they way he tricked her into not telling. The pastors didn’t have many answers at all. As I can remember he said only God can experience righteous anger. Jonah 4:4 But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” He encouraged us to read 2Cor 4 I meditated on my own sins. I viewed this boy as a child, an unconfessed victim of his own adopted father. His home life had certainly been a mess. I thought more about my own sins, my worst sins. Then I thought I forgave him. I don’t remember much about that day but we went, two pastors were there, the boy confessed in a very general way and we told him that we forgave him. (The very next time we said we had a problem with them the pastors said whoa now, you said you forgave him. As if it was a trap not a process, whatever.)
We were still part of the same homegroup and both families attending church. His family was required to sit in the balcony and we were allowed free roam of the church. My husband stepped down from leadership for a sabbatical and no one was told what was happening. One member in particular really liked playing 20 questions. She could just smell that there was sin involved. She would call on the phone when I had been crying and just couldn’t let it
The detective called routinely. He wanted us to take our daughter to Fairfax Hospital for a rape kit examination. They wanted to put my baby in stirrups, do an internal and take pictures both internally and externally. I was mortified. I cried, I pleaded with him not to do it. He made it clear that he needed the information to prosecute and that he had every right to order us to take her. I begged him to let her heal, to not traumatize her again. He agreed reluctantly.
Now our daughter’s counselor was very good. She heard our concerns that our child had been the victim and yet, all the kids were being isolated from their best friends and they were confused. My boy’s played with their boys, (not their oldest due to age difference) my daughter played with their daughter. Now the children were being isolated because of something they couldn’t understand. The counselor suggested a play date, excluding the offender of course, at a neutral playground. We tried to keep it normal and both mom’s expressed a desire to reconcile our relationship, certainly never to be the same but to come to a biblical place where both families could grow in the Lord peacefully.
Shortly after this our child was born, and due to all the stress during the pregnancy, went into NICU with complications. Shortly after the baby and I were home this boy had his first court date. I had heard nothing about it, we still don’t know what it was for. You see, because we were not the ones pressing charges, the county was, we weren’t included on the paperwork. The detective had promised to keep us in the loop but apparently the pastors had talked with the detective and told him that the church would keep us updated. The church was involved in every court date the boy had, but we were not. About a week later our 2 year old was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and between the baby, care of our daughter and now our 2 year old we were distracted.
When we went to celebration in July she became furious with us because her room was not close to the homegroup. (Legally he couldn’t be near her) She blamed me personally. She also had made a series of very offensive comments to me.
“__________Is a good boy, Look at how he dresses.” (Seriously, she said this. He rapes babies but dresses nice.)
“Most of the men in our church should have their names on the central registry” (Normalizing)
“He was just experimenting.”
“You know ____________ would never hurt your daughter.”
7 months after the confession. “I’ve already worked through this whole think. Would you please consider me and let it go.” So in 7 months she’s over the fact that her son and her brother are pedophile and her daughters have been victims. Wow!
“My son couldn’t even enjoy molesting your daughter.”
And my personal favorite “My son didn’t even have an erection.”
So when we get home from Celebration the pastors decide (due to all my complaining about her offensive comments) that we’re not doing well and we need to have a meeting.
A pastor comes to our house to discuss justice, mercy and vengeance. He tells us that he’s concerned we are vengeful and we need to pray. We did pray, we didn’t want to be vengeful, we wanted to be whole. We didn’t see it but we prayed all the same. My husband asked the pastor about the next court date and expressed his disappointment that no one had told us there had been one. Pastoral reply, “Why are you so interested in the court dates??? Do you have a carnal desire to see ___________ suffer???” “You need to stop thinking about it and stop talking about it and make a list of your own sins.” We then had another meeting with the offending family to try to resolve these issues. It was an unsuccessful meeting, however it slipped that there was another court date coming up.
There were several subsequent phone calls about that court date. We were essentially bullied, maligned and forbidden to come. A week later the detective called to tell us that was the final date. His sentence had been assigned, he’d be on the central registry and he would have probation. I cannot describe my rage.
Within weeks my children had whooping cough. They had been immunized but got it any way. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. After two months of whooping cough my son was coughing up blood and had to be hospitalized for very serious complications. This is when I finally pitched a fit. I was tired, I was soo sad, I was lost and none of our friends knew what had happened to our family, we were isolated and I was furious. I screamed and pitched a two year old hissy fit on the phone with my pastors wife. I screamed that I was mad at God, at you, your husband, the offender, his mother, and the lady and the check out counter. This got us more meetings.
We met with the pastors regarding the accuracy of his confession. The pastors insisted that we were making a big deal of out it. That is wasn’t as serious as we were making it out to be. Now remember, they didn’t hear the whole confession and the boy wasn’t ever going to tell his mother or the pastors the whole confession. Because of our daughter’s quote we don’t believe he even told the police the whole truth. We expressed this concern to the pastoral team. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from that time. “I don’t know any specifics about what __________ did or about any part of his confession and I don’t think I need to know to care for you. But I can say this, it wasn’t rape.” “___________ and mom have always been honest and forthcoming with us.” Oh but we are explaining to you that they clearly weren’t honest. So they agreed to call the mom and ask if we could sit down with the boy and clear this up. Mom say, “No.” And so that’s that. We are over exaggerating and they are truthful.
After this we had another meeting. The purpose was to ask the pastors to please tell the homegroup since there was an obvious detrimental effect on the group. (I had been called by one member who was pregnant and wanted me to throw the mom a party to cheer her up because she’s been sad lately.) (I was also asked to host a baby shower). In the meeting my husband also brought up mom’s inability to deal with the reality of what had happened and how that may affect her son’s progress. Our dear pastor said, “I know mom and she simply will not deal with it so why try.”
We had another meeting. I tried to explain how it was unacceptable to me to have my pastor, my covering, the one on my side minimize what happened to my child. I felt that I was not believed. That was not resolved.
Coming up on one year we finally tell two of our friends without the blessings of the pastors. The pastors subsequently tell one family in our homegroup that the boy had been “inappropriate” that no penetration had occurred. That we were having a hard time and making out to be much worse than it was.
I had officially checked out of the process that this time. Why bother. Our pastor had counseled my husband to let love cover a multitude of sins and stop coming to them with minor offenses. We had another meeting close to the one year mark. The pastor asked how we were and we said we were fine. (This becomes a big deal)
Okay, at this point the boy’s father committed suicide one year to the date of his confession. The day the police officer showed up at the mom’s door she called me and asked me to come and comfort her. I stopped in and expressed my true sorrow, I was truly sorry. I could not however be there for her the way she wanted. It was very tragic. There’s nothing else to say.
Now one month before the suicide we welcomed a new and improved pastor at our church. He could walk on water and all that jazz. Our pastoral team informed him of the situation and let him know that my family wouldn’t be any problem cuz we were swell people. We’d do whatever they said. Hummm.
That was in March, that December my husband let our pastor know that we had tried with all our strength to let love cover this but we still were not doing well. We had unresolved issues but this was the first time we told them our issues were with the pastoral team. Looks like more meetings. Now this time it was about them and surprisingly the meeting wasn’t arranged as quickly. While we were waiting for this meeting to be scheduled we passed a children’s ministry classroom one Sunday morning and saw the boy served the 2 year old class. We let them know we would not be quiet about it, it couldn’t ever happen, it wasn’t ever acceptable. They had created this problem by telling people that this boy had done anything truly wrong. So why would the organizers keep him out of the class if they truly needed his help.
My husband met alone with our pastor for lunch. He expressed again that we felt they were minimizing it. They simply said “We’re not minimizing.” Well there you go. At the end of their lunch the pastor asked my husband to pray about supporting overturning the charges against the boy with a letter to the commonwealth attorney or a signature on a form. My husband told him on the spot. No! My husband came back to him 2 weeks later at a Sunday meeting and told him that we would in no way ever support overturning the charges and that if we found out that anyone had tried we would stop it immediately and hire a lawyer.
Now this is interesting. We told them we had problems with them.. The pastoral team was causing us to stumble. No meeting was scheduled but, they did think that this was a good time to put my husband into a leadership class and pastors discipleship group so that he could come back into homegroup leadership. Wow, really?
Now we have been explaining over and over that the situation was far worse than the pastors knew. They never believed us but finally agreed that they would come to the courthouse with us and read the police report personally so that they could understand how we were not minimizing it. I called our detective to ask how this could be arranged. We were shocked to learn that we were not allowed to see our daughter’s testimony. Since we had not pressed charges, the county had, we were not eligible to view those records. We would have to have the mom of the offender sign a paper giving us permission to view the records. So we have another meeting. Mom says “No, she doesn’t want anything to jeopardize her June 6 court date.” Okay, we are not surprised she said no not at all, however we had been promised over and over that the pastoral team would tell us of any court dates. When we ask what it is for the whole room becomes mute. Finally mom agrees to let us ask her boy about his confession with the pastors there. Peachy, another meeting and with the liar. This should go well.
Nothing really important here the boy lied the pastors were satisfied and told us again “Mom and son have always been forthcoming and honest with us.”
So mom approaches me and asks me if I’ll sign a paper overturning the charges. My God what is wrong with these people. No No and a thousand NOs. She said her son wanted to serve in the military ever since he was young. Now he would never be allowed and he could be a teacher either. She let us know the Commonwealth Attorney would call and talk to us about it. We waited but he never called so my husband contacted him and went to his office. The CWA told my husband the court date on the 6th was to overturn the charges, the date had been sent and all the paperwork had gone through. We made another apt with the CWA. Scrambled to prepare a 6 page document outlining where we felt the boy was in his progress. We read it to the CWA and asked for the charges to not be overturned.
I talked with mom on the phone about our meeting with CWA. Mom lied through her teeth about it over and over. Finally she confessed and let us know that Pastor so and so counseled her to pursue reversal of charges without informing us. The pastors were on retreat again at the time of that call. We called the retreat and asked for the pastor to speak with us immediately. He was angry we bothered him and that we were accusing him. He said that yes had told her to go ahead with overturning the charges behind our back. He also said that we should have been fine with it. My husband told him we were desperately trying to let love cover a multitude of sins as he had counseled us and then he said something quite amazing. He said, “That’s your fault for following my counsel.” When I had a chance to speak with him I made it clear that I felt I no longer had a church. He had made it very clear that though he was our pastor assigned to us in this case and another pastor had been assigned to the boy’s family, it was clear that our pastor was working for them. We were not believed, we were not supported, we were alone without a pastor and without a church.
Okay, we had another meeting. We had told Lou Gallow that we felt we needed Mark Mullery involved. (Let’s see the confession was March 16th, this was May 23/24th two years later) That’s right, the senior pastor had not met with us once yet up to this point. These next two quote mark two of my favorite. I’m so glad I can laugh about this now. When we told Lou we needed Mark to attend the meeting he said, “Mark? That’s serious, how about Vince instead?” And when the meeting began sweet Mark came in the room and his first words were….”Now are you confident that this can be resolved, now that I’m getting involved?” Isn’t that cute. I don’t think he liked my response. It was something like, “I don’t know let’s see how you handle this.” Though I’m not sure about my response I’m sure about my attitude and he didn’t like it. It was a grueling meeting with mom lying like a rug for over an hour until she finally yelled ALRIGHT and admitted to the whole scam. She then looked to the pastor we had talked on the phone and my husband talked to at lunch and she said, “You encouraged me to do it, back me up on this.” The pastor looked at her square in the eye and said, “No I won’t back you up on that.” The pastors denied knowing that she even had a lawyer even though they had been to court with them. She left the room, escorted by her pastor and Mark asked if we were satisfied. I started to scream, very loud, mom heard me from the other room. I understand the office staff downstairs heard me as well. No I’m not satisfied! I can’t remember all that I yelled at the man but really what did he expect? He told me we couldn’t expect much from that mom because she wasn’t that smart. I told him he was seriously mistaken and I couldn’t believe he had put me in a position that I had to defend her. Not the first time in this.
So June 6th comes around and we show up. We were surprised the CWA handed a copy of our paper to the judge, to the offending family and read it word for word. It was wonderful and we were pleased, the pastors were furious; some couldn’t even look at us. Now I’ll give the gist of it, obviously all 6 pages can’t go here and wow are the Sovereign Grace Ministries people going to be pissed about this. You wouldn’t believe the ruckus this caused.
We outlined mom’s denial, boy’s comments, mom normalizing it. We outlined mom’s history, boy’s adoptive father’s history, the uncle molesting the children, boy molesting our child. We outlined how much people thought of boy, how he was honored as scout of the year, how he studied Sin and Temptation by John Own, how boy confronted others on their sexual sin and pornography while he was steeped in it. We outlined his lack of total confession and truthfulness. Here is the only quote from it I will post.
“Boy says that while he was raping my daughter he was scared. Too scared to enjoy himself. When we asked him directly about his fear and what he was afraid of he said, “I was afraid God was going to do something terrible to me.” He was afraid of being caught, he was afraid of consequences. Boy said that he stopped raping my baby because she was screaming and he was afraid of being caught yet he told us that he kept her in the bathroom about a half an hour longer and continued molesting and fondling her. He was afraid of being caught because she was screaming out in pain as he forcefully pinned her down and hurt her but that commotion and desperate plea from our three year old little girl was not enough to keep him from continuing to hold her and molest her while she continued to cry in pan and fear. Boy was afraid of the consequences, but not afraid enough to stop him from pursuing it further and further. And now you want to remove those consequences.” This makes me want to puke, my hands are shaking.
The judge listened to us but the pastors looked like they were ready to spit on us. I know this is offensive to read. But we were desperate to make our point. We had been lied to and deceived, someone had to listen to what happened to her.
Outside the courtroom the boy got right in my face and said “How dare you upset my mother like that” The pastors agreed with him. Everyone coddled the mom and Mark took us aside to tell us “Now the bridges are burned. We may not be able to reconcile now.” Mom went to the pastor that was supposed to be overseeing us and spent the evening at their house. They refused to talk to us about the paper. The day after the court date mom met with the pastor that had been assigned to her. My husband and I had a prescheduled meeting with our pastor and with Mark to tell them what had happened to our daughter. That night we were told not to go to homegroup. The pastor that was supposed to be working with us took mom to our homegroup and gave her an evening to talk and the whole homegroup honored her. Remember the homegroup had not been told what had happened to us yet. Every person in the room was told to take a moment to honor and encourage mom.
Every phone call to our pastors was met with I can’t talk to you it would be gossip. When we asked how it would be gossip if we wrote the paper we were told it just was.
One week later we had another meeting. This one was for mom to confront us on the outline. If this hadn’t been at my house I wouldn’t have been there. The only thing we got to was mom asking for forgiveness for deceiving and we explained the impact that had on us for the rest of the time.
Wow, it’s about to get really ugly.
Okay, so now it is June 20th. We had another meeting. All the time at the meetings we were not with our wounded family, I was just cooked at this point, just cooked. I was sick of beating our head against a brick wall. They clearly decided not to hear the confession about what happened to our child. They clearly believed the mom and thought that we were dramatizing this.
So the 20th meeting. Set up for us to express our concerns to the pastors. We told them that we felt over confronted at the expense of being walked through. We were careful to express that we value correction and still wanted correction but had been beaten down. We had been told the question of how to balance justice and mercy was pride. We were told we were sinfully vengeful although no one had asked questions to know our hearts. We were referred to Romans 7:12. We had extended mercy, we were aware of our sin tendency but we wanted help in rightly carrying a burden for justice that is very human for us as parents and a reflection of God’s character. We were told our desire for justice was rooted in the sin nature. Our desire to be in court was carnal. When trying to resolve our conflict with mom we were told our presentation was self-righteous. It felt to us like mom could get away with anything and we were getting slammed for everything. In this conversation she said “I wasn’t angry, I was hurt.(not biblical language, we’d have been slammed) then she said but “if” I sinned please forgive me. She covered all her bases, how were we supposed to respond? We could have used some help here. We thought the pastors had come that day to help resolve conflict yet everyone sat there and no one interjected to help. To have no one step in and correct this or help resolve it more completely and then to be confronted left us wondering what happened.
We told them we felt it was minimized. We felt counsel was that thinking about this, talking about this and even our concerns about the honesty of the confession were simply not helpful for us. This was said directly to us. It was important because we wanted their hearts and we weren’t feeling we had any advocates. When we expressed our concerns regarding the confession we kept hearing the recorded line” Boy has always been honest and forth coming with us.” If we come to the pastors and express that we don’t believe the confession was complete or truthful and the pastors respond by saying well of course it is truthful, then we are not being covered, heard, or believed. If we come to the pastors and say that we are concerned about mom’s inability to accept what happened because of the impact this will have on boy’s ability to deal with it properly and the pastors say “leave her alone she’s going though a hard time” (before her husband died) then mom is covered and we are not. None of our concerns were satisfied, none of them were pursued aggressively, none of them were answered. We had someone who would solely believe boy and mom as our covering.
When we said we wanted them to refer to it as rape the pastor replied. “SIN IS SIN”. When specific families were being told to expand our support it was present as a minimal event. When we said that the first incident could not have happened the way it was told to us nothing was done to investigate that further. When we met with Lou it was clear that our records of the confession and Lou’s records of the confession were different. Mom didn’t want us to discuss it with boy and this was never resolved. When we were concerned about the effectiveness of boy’s covering since mom was minimizing the pastor didn’t even know if the boy was still in professional counseling or not. When we relayed comments mom made that indicated minimization and normalization (Boy was just experimenting, he would never hurt your daughter, most men at the church should be on the central registry, undoing all the counselor said, comparing the outward appearance of other boys to her son etc) we were told the Mom was simply not going to deal with it so why try. The meeting the mom admitted to lying about the court date was concluded by telling us that mom and boy have always been honest with us. The boy’s confession could at this point been changed and summarized to something like this: I molested her but I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t have an erection, she never woke up and I didn’t hurt her. Why wasn’t anyone concerned about this boy’s condition.
The meeting concluded with an agreement that it was time to let boy confess to the homegroup.
June 26th Special homegroup for boy. The pastors came and my husband and I met with them in the back room. The pastors handed us a piece of paper contain the notes boy would use in the confession. We were asked to read the note then tell the pastors if we were satisfied. We said no. They’re so unhappy with us. It was again minimized. He read it to the group and the the meeting was over. While members mingled in the kitchen boy came upon the left side of a tall man, not knowing I was on the right side. Boy said, “I guess that will shut them up for a while.” He was twofaced, accusing and rude to us and meek and submissive to the team.
The next day we went to Jacksonville Fl. My sister, in another team related church had been through an experience at their Ga. Church and asked us to come down and speak to her no nonsense pastor, the one who had help to expose the, well the missing piece, the really big story that people on this post are still asking about. I need to look through my files and find the legally safe wording.
We’re in Jacksonville talking to the pastor that had just come from Georgia, before he went on the Georgia church plant he had been a member of our church. So we meet with this Jax pastor and tell him our story. He was very sympathetic. He encouraged us to go to the apostle and gave us a motivating story about how supportive apostolic leadership would be.
Okay, this is the “Story” it’s a second hand story. No names.
The story he told was of a man who had been part of Sovereign Grace Ministries VERY early on. This in crowd guy had a son with the same problem as boy. This kid’s problem started at his home church and the vicitm’s family had apparently been paid well to keep their mouth shut and told that if they blew the whistle that the kid’s family would make the victim out to be, well lets just say they’d discredit the family. This in crowd family was moved to another Sovereign Grace Ministries church then went on a church plant. At their church plant the kid had more problems. This time the whistle was blown and Sovereign Grace Ministries had a problem. How could this guy disappear? How could they hide it again. They whitewashed it and let him slip out quietly. He hasn’t been forgotten.
Okay I forgot to say that this happened Celebration weekend. We were supposed to go to Celebration and we just couldn’t do it. The car wouldn’t go that way. We just never showed up. When we returned home and the pastors returned home we contacted them. My husband had lunch with Mark and told him that we had been to Jax and we agreed with that Jax pastor that we needed apostolic oversight here. That night we got a phone call from Mark, he was desperate for us to no call John Loftness. He said, “If you have any confidence in my ability to pastor at all, please do not call John yet.” We agreed (I know, I know, what was wrong with us?? Too much Koolaid) So we agreed to examine our hearts and wait for the next meeting. One week later. . . . .
This time the pastors were all there and very stern looking. They said, “You are now the problem.” “This is now a discipline issue” What were we being disciplined for, well lying of course. The pastoral team was EXTREMELY worried about my husband’s “chronic” lying problem. I truly lost it here. I slammed both hands on the table and put my pointy little finger in the face of each and every humble and godly man there, looked them square in the eye and told the individually, you are the problem, and you are the problem, and you are the problem. My dear senior pastor looked at my husband and (again one of my favorite quotes of all time) said, “GET YOUR WIFE UNDER CONTROL.” Don’t you like that. I thought it was priceless. I did calm down so my husband could defend himself. He asked the team if they would please give him an example. One of the pastors said, Bro, I’ve got an example, it grieves me bro because I really think we could have helped you. Well the way I remember it you were here, at the building for a Royal Ranger Scout meeting, we were standing outside talking. Do you remember that man, do you remember the night. I asked you how you were doing and you said fine. But you weren’t fine were you, you weren’t fine and that wasn’t the truth.
Now the interesting thing is that one looked a little sick at this meeting. We still considered him to have a bit of a conscience. We found it very interesting that although he was not assigned to us, he did write is one of our nasty notes as we were leaving. It was as if he was being made tow the line. It was sad.
Now my husband emailed Mark and asked how we could now be the problem and Mark replied. “Your question, “Why are we now the problem?” is a good one. The issues we raised with you and your wife at our last meeting regarding truthfulness and unforgiveness aren’t new and, in fact, did not emerge in the past few weeks. These are issues which have been active for some time. When I got involved in May I didn’t bring them up to due to the nature of the original crimes against your daughter, the nature of your complaints about mom and boy and the nature of your complaints about the pastoral team. What has changed over the past few weeks is that, as we’ve worked hard to clear out other obstacles to progress, your sins in these areas have persistently remained, and have now become the chief hindrance to progress. This is what we sought to explain at your last meeting.
Please let me seek to clarify a second point. Several times you’ve said you don’t see where you were fundamentally a liar. I agree with that. What we’ve tried to point out to you is that you have regularly said things which you later contradict. This makes it difficult to know how to respond to you and the effect is one of deceit. NO one has accused you of being “fundamentally a liar. However, as we said last week, you must take responsibility for all your words.”
I wonder if when Mark reads this blog if he will take responsibility for all of his words.
So we went to John Loftness. We met with him at CLC. We told him that we came to our pastors and told them we had problems. Mom’s deceit exasperated the problem. Coming to the team to resolve the issues we gained more information which lead to deeper problems. When Mark became involved he made it clear by tone and words that he did not believe us, that we felt we were in sin yet would not tell us how and that he considered us the problem.
We told him that misinformation, miscommunication and deliberate exclusion from the justice process, deception from the pastors about the court dates, lack of follow through on our significant concerns and a lack of general care had damaged our relationship with our pastoral team. They refused to talk to us about vital issues, like the 6 page document. As we approached the pastors in an effort to resolve these issues we found them to be defensive, proud, discounting our input, and mired in “Why didn’t you say this before?”
John Loftness wanted to encourage us. I asked whether CLC had ever delt with such a problem. A fair question if he was supposed to help us. He said yes, a worship leader’s family had a problem (perps not vic) (This is quite pervasive it seems. I am recalling a second situation of this sort that happened at our church while we were still working this out. The one in the Ga church, the one that preceded it, and one we were aware of in the Jax church.)
In another conversations with Mark I had said that the communication had been one sided. We didn’t know what any of the pastors thought of us, our input, our state of mind. We weren’t reconciled to them but they were trying to lead us through reconciliation with Mom. When we asked for input they wouldn’t give it. Mark replied sarcastically “But you don’t want to be confronted.”
Being excluded from the justice system, we wanted to know why, what was behind that. Mark wanted to know why we were asking. I said, first to help the pastors grow (I’m sure he loved that) Second when mom asked one of the pastors to back her up that pastor said no. Yet is was obvious from his own recounting that he was not clear. I wasn’t willing to let mom take the rap for that. It seemed like the pastors were blameshifting. Mark replied, “This is not a conspiracy”
Mark said, “If everyone doesn’t agree with you, you won’t be happy.”
Mark explained that talking about the 6 page document was gossip because “If the paper had come to the pastors first we would have talked to you about it. But now that mom has seen it it would be gossip to discuss it with us.” But the pastors talked to mom about it and not to us. The pastors were giving mom counsel on the outline and arranging meetings to have her confront us without ever asking us if they understood it correctly, if that was all we had to say, etc.
I liked this one.
Mark…”Do you remember my question at the courthouse.”
I asked “What question?”
Mark replied ”Isn’t that interesting that you don’t remember my questions?”
“What was the questions Mark?”
“I asked, Why is this coming out now?”
“Well Mark, I had answered that many, many times for you. Do you remember my answer? You asked us that an average of four times a meeting so which is it do you not like our answer or do you flat our just not believe us?”
“Mom and boy have always been honest with us.”
John came, the pastors were all good and apologized. I left and never came back. There were more little issues, we reported a child abuse case and they demanded that we apologize. It was ridiculous. We sent a letter saying we were leaving, they replied saying we couldn’t because mom still wanted to confront us on the 6 page document. They also said they’d find out what church we go to and tell the pastors all about us.
What ever guys. What ever.
Here is a brief description of how the Fairfax Sovereign Grace Ministries church has in the past typically handled sex abuse issues in their church. This depiction can be affirmed by numerous former members who have had similar experiences. The perpetrator of a sex crime and his family were brought under the care of a pastor. This would involve counseling, accountability sessions and possible minor restrictions regarding movement in the church during services. People “at risk” were not notified. The victim and victim’s family however were usually confronted with opposition from leadership by minimizing and/or invalidating particular aspects of the victim’s story.
During 12 years as members of the Fairfax Sovereign Grace Ministries church, two of our children were sexually molested by two different people who attended the church. The molestations did not occur on church property. We had completely forgiven the perpetrators. However, the subsequent mental and spiritual anguish we endured both times in dealing with members of the Fairfax staff motivate us to write and “tell it to the church.”
To blog critics and all others who assert that bringing these issues to the light somehow undermines or weakens the cause of Christ, we would say the behavior of some in the leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries does far more damage to victims of abuse and to a watching world. We share our story with the hope that those with similar experiences will be encouraged to write their own and bring it to the light.
In 1998, we discovered our child (child-A) had been molested by a young man attending the Fairfax church. We did not press charges and regretted this later on. The father of the young man was initially uncooperative in dealing with the situation until Steve Shank stepped in to handle it. This took place during the time frame Benny Phillips was stepping down from leadership. Steve Shank addressed our sin and asked the young man to apologize.
We forgave him; however, with minor restrictions imposed by the staff, he continued to intimidate our child during Sunday services to the point where our child was fearful of going to church. The pastors involved had little to say concerning this as it didn’t appear to be a priority for them.
In October 2007, we discovered child-B had been molested. The molestation had occurred 5 years earlier. Our child revealed to us what had happened only after being hospitalized 7 days for cutting and suicidal thoughts. We eventually found out through our child’s counseling sessions that fear and shame were the two main elements for not telling us about this sooner. Cutting was our child’s way of dealing with misguided guilt and self-loathing.
We then contacted the Police Department and pressed charges. The detective assigned to the case came to the house and listened to our child’s story. The young man confessed the crime to pastor SW (CJ Mahaney’s son-in-law). We were given the impression that pastor DH had also heard the confession. Two and a half years later in March 2010, we were told he did not hear the confession. Pastor LG (our brother-in-law) was also in the loop as we had asked him to supply information requested by the detective but no information was given. Pastor LG said to me, “Have them send the request to us in writing.” The detective told us later on that Fairfax had been “uncooperative” in the investigation…. a fact they later denied.
During the investigation, pastor DH told us they “had a dilemma” because they were caring for the young man and his family. There was no visible concern shown during this time for our child by the staff including our brother-in-law and his family. No inquiring phone calls or emails. Our child had just been discharged from the hospital. When you leave a Sovereign Grace Ministries church for disagreeing with or challenging leadership in any way, all relationships you once had there are severed.
Sometime during the following months, my wife noticed her sister (wife of pastor LG) not speaking about anything associated with our child’s legal case. She would consistently change the subject when our child was mentioned. This led to a meeting we initiated with pastor LG in January 2008. As no other logical explanation for the silence could be seen, we asked him 3 times if he had advised his wife not to discuss with her sister our child’s case. 3 times he answered no. We were told in a future meeting by pastor VH that pastor LG was in fact legally instructed to inform his wife not to discuss the case with her sister for 2 days so that the police could complete their investigation. When this was brought up to the leadership, our questions were ignored. Pastor LG lied to us and was not held accountable.
As a result of our own research we became aware of the fact that pastor LG’s wife was not covered under Virginia’s clergy privilege statute. According to the legal process, she could have been liable for any information she had regarding the case, and therefore could have been called to testify in court on our child’s behalf. Pastor LG (our child’s uncle) put great effort into avoiding this possibility. The truth is that this scenario presented a conflict of interest to pastor LG and members of the Fairfax staff as they were caring for the young man and his family as pastor DH had mentioned. Exactly why this presented a conflict is a mystery.
The trial took place in March 2008. Prior to the trial, not knowing how the young man would plead, we asked pastor DH to come with pastor SW ready to give testimony on our child’s behalf if needed. Pastor DH made it known to us they were not coming to the courthouse. I explained to him if the young man pleaded not guilty, our child would then have to get up in front of the court and reveal the entire ordeal along with answering questions from the attorneys. It didn’t matter, they still weren’t coming. His response to us was, “I have my church’s reputation to consider.” Not sure what pastor DH meant by this statement. In a future meeting with the Fairfax pastors, he claimed not remembering making the “church’s reputation” statement and had no recollection of emphasizing the fact that he wasn’t coming to the courthouse. I called the detective and asked her to issue a subpoena for both pastors to appear in court. Fairfax would later claim there was no need for us to request a subpoena because one had been issued months before. It wouldn’t have made any difference if we knew this information or not. Pastor DH expressed to us they weren’t coming. They also stated in a future meeting they knew the young man would plead guilty therefore coming to the courthouse wasn’t necessary. In reality, there was no way of knowing how he would plead. Nevertheless, he was not held accountable for this and it was put back on us.
Pastor’s DH and SW were at the courthouse for the trial. Pastor LG came a few minutes before the trial and left. His wife did not come. She also didn’t make any attempts to call her sister during the days leading up to the trial. My wife was abandoned by her family. The young man pleaded guilty to a felony.…. Our child did not have to get up and speak to the court.
A short time after the trial, my wife attempted to communicate to her sister the hurt, frustration and lack of care she experienced from her sister and family and it was put back on my wife.
What followed during the next 2 years included a series of meetings, phone calls and emails involving Fairfax and Covenant Life leadership, 2 mediators, and an Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor from South Carolina.
In December 2008, our child (Child-A) now 18 at the time, was greatly affected by Noel’s story after reading it on the blogs. Our adult child contacted C.J. Mahaney [founder and president of Sovereign Grace Ministries] and asked him what Sovereign Grace Ministries had to say about this. Not sure what the response was however, our adult child also described to C.J. Mahaney what our family had endured from the Fairfax staff and as a result a meeting was arranged. We met with C.J. Mahaney and he listened to our story. He was grieved by our experience and asked permission to contact the Fairfax staff. We asked him if he had any knowledge of our story. He said he did not. Over the next few weeks we received emails from him, thanking us for the opportunity to talk to us. He assured us that the Fairfax staff desired to meet and discuss these important issues with us.
In February 2009, the first meeting was set up at our church with 5 pastors from the Fairfax church, C.J. Mahaney, and a neutral third party attending on our behalf. Two days before the meeting pastor LG appears at our door wanting to apologize to our child. We had not seen nor heard from him or his family for 11 months. We asked him what specifically he wanted to apologize for and couldn’t get a straight answer. He wouldn’t answer our questions. Given the state of emotional torment of our child and to block any further confusion, we decided it would not have been in our child’s best interest and said no.
During the meeting, the pastors apologized for not caring for us and poor leadership but avoided our questions. We left the meeting confused and with a new list of questions. A few days later, we discovered that C.J. Manahey had given our neutral third party a check for $5,000…….
A short time after, C.J. Mahaney urged us to begin meeting with pastor MM to iron out our difficulties with pastor LG and his family.
It is important to mention here that although we agreed to meet with pastor MM, we were well aware of Fairfax’s intentions to separate the mishandled sex abuse issue from the personal concerns we had with Pastor LG. The opportunity to minimize the situation to a “family disagreement” had presented itself. They could now step away from the spotlight of “sex abuse issues in the Fairfax church and the way leadership typically responds,” and let the light shine elsewhere.
A number of unresolved issues with pastor LG going back many years still remain. Some of which are extremely painful for my wife and me. However, in March 2009, we began meeting with pastor MM with hopes of seeing some accountability leading to possible reconciliation with pastor LG. We presented pastor MM with a list of questions for pastor LG. After 4 months of meetings and numerous emails, none of our questions were answered. At the final meeting pastor MM said to us, “I find pastor LG to be a man of integrity.” And then he dismissed us. (Simple logic would say, if pastor LG is a man of integrity, we must be liars) We were stunned….Fairfax had once again put the issue back on us.
In a future meeting with the pastors, pastor MM apologized for not answering our questions concerning pastor LG ….but still didn’t answer them.
We contacted C.J. Mahaney and expressed our dissatisfaction with the meetings and final conclusion. He suggested Peacemakers. We declined. He then offered to have Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor JB from South Carolina step into the arena. Our options were diminishing but we were not going to walk away from this. For the next 8 months we spoke to pastor JB on the phone at least twice a month. Our conversations focused on the “family disagreement,” and Fairfax’s response to sex abuse. We had many questions regarding both topics. Questions that had already been asked a number of times and not answered. During our many conversations with Pastor JB, he assured us that Fairfax would now be handling sex abuse related issues differently. After 8 months our questions for pastor LG and a few hard questions for Fairfax were still not answered.
There never were any changes made in how they handle sex abuse…our story proves the point.
In March 2010, a second meeting with Fairfax leadership had taken place. Kenneth Maresco, Pastor JB, and Jim P., moderator for the SGM Refuge blog were also present. We requested that pastor LG attend as well, but he declined. When questioned about this beforehand, pastor LG said, “I do not think my presence in the meeting would be helpful.” And Fairfax backed him up on this. The meeting was arranged in part as a follow-up from our time on the phone with pastor JB. Some of our questions were answered however, a few of pastor JB’s answers had suggested that everything was just a big misunderstanding; that somehow we misinterpreted or perhaps judged motives incorrectly regarding both pastor LG and the Fairfax staff. Also in this meeting pastor DH forgets important information and pastor VH reveals that pastor LG was in fact legally advised by their attorney’s back in October 2007. But in the January 2008 meeting as mentioned above, pastor LG told us 3 times he did not tell his wife not to discuss our child’s case with her sister. And Fairfax was ok with this.
In the same meeting the pastor’s would not let us ask any questions related to pastor LG. It appeared they did not want to deal with the fact that he had lied to us. However, they did want to apologize a second time for not caring for us and poor leadership. We accepted their apologies but there were still unanswered questions. But one hard question was answered; my wife asked pastor MM why they do not warn people at risk when a known sex felon is in their church. His response was, “that perpetrator could grow up and sue us for defamation of character.” So in pastor MM’s mind, the possibility of being sued sometime in the future takes precedence over protecting children from known sex offenders.
An obvious pattern can be seen throughout the story; the pastors were eager to apologize for not caring for us and poor leadership expecting us to forgive, but they would not answer our hard questions. And for some reason they were protecting pastor LG from having to account for the issues we presented. Our forgiveness was premature.
In May 2010, we accused pastor LG of lying, specifically but not limited to the January 2008 meeting we had with him, and 2 consecutive apology letters he had written that were filled with deceptive statements. This led to an “accusation against an elder.” Fairfax’s solution to this was to hire an outside third party mediator to settle things. A professional conciliatory Christian mediator. He was thoroughly impressed with the fact that C.J. Mahaney was involved with this. We reluctantly agreed to do this and had regrets later on. I challenged Fairfax to show us where in the bible do we find that an accusation against an elder is brought to an outside mediator who gets paid for his services? They ignored the question. They were steadfast in maintaining that the struggles we had with the church and pastor LG stay separate and confined to a “family disagreement.” The reality is Fairfax had relinquished their responsibility in dealing with an accusation against an elder so they could walk away from the entire situation. Maybe they were afraid of uncovering pastor LG’s pattern of deception. We had 2 sessions totaling 9 hours in which pastor LG persisted in avoiding our questions and claimed not remembering key facts. The mediator’s summation at the end was that pastor LG had not been deceptive and that we were “sinfully craving answers” according to James chapter 4. We were put in the same category as murderer’s and idolaters!
How did we end up here?
We started out down this road as parents of 2 children who were molested and ended up being thrown into the ring with murderer’s and idolaters!
Only Sovereign Grace Ministries could orchestrate something like this…..
Fairfax was indifferent to the fact that we disagreed with the mediator’s conclusions.
In June 2010, we had our 3rd and final meeting with Fairfax, initiated by Kenneth Maresco and pastor JB as a follow-up to the March 2010 meeting. Kenneth Maresco was not happy with the pastor’s apologies in the March meeting. Apparently they needed to be a little more sincere. They were given the opportunity to apologize once again for the same things they had previously apologized for, not caring for us and poor leadership. But this time, the apologies were more detailed.
A short time after the meeting, our final interaction with Sovereign Grace Ministries was at hand. As a last ditch attempt to at least work out our family difficulties, I asked pastor LG if he would agree to meet with us and another SG pastor. He said, “that aint happening.” And Fairfax backed him up on this. We wanted a person he worked with to witness his response to our questions. We asked C.J. Mahaney, Kenneth Maresco, and pastor VH to intervene and be the witness and they all declined.
Pastor LG’s evasive behavior supported by a shield of protection from Fairfax is a symptom of a much deeper problem in their governmental structure…
The Fairfax church has a history of treating victims of sex abuse and their families in similar ways mentioned in our story. We know 2 other cases and have talked with someone who mentioned knowing 5… all involving the Fairfax church. Noel and Grizzly were told by pastor MM their story had inconsistencies… “Inconsistency” is an Sovereign Grace Ministries euphemism for lying. What pastor MM really meant to say was Noel and Grizzly were lying.
In the minds of Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership they hear from God and tell us what God is saying. If what ordinary people discern fails to line up with their program, they are dismissed. This way of thinking allows them to continuously reinforce their spiritual agenda on a congregation conditioned to think they are being truly humble by accepting this. Where in the New Testament do we find this type of church government?
The faith and well-being of child-B had been severely affected by the molestation and 3 year ordeal with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Our child’s professional counselors have documented the adverse affects of family abandonment and how this contributes to thoughts of guilt and shame in a young child’s mind. Our child’s perception of a loving God had been distorted.
My wife feels the pain of family abandonment plus the abandonment of a church she was a part of for 12 years.
Child-A is grown up and doing very well.
For some reason Fairfax had chosen not to deal directly and not dig deeper into the claims we made concerning pastor LG. He was not held accountable for lying to us. Fairfax hired a mediator who ultimately made the decision as to who was lying and who was telling the truth.
A few of the pastors expressed genuine sorrow for the way our child and my wife and I were treated. Their apologies are nullified because in the end we were the one’s “sinfully craving answers” – murderers and idolater’s according to the paid mediator’s assessment.
We assumed Fairfax was in agreement with this.
Fairfax would say our questions for pastor LG were answered. Here’s the problem; we weren’t there to hear his answers…. They were now finally able to close the door and move on to more important things.
The Fairfax staff told us they have made significant changes in the way they now handle sex abuse issues in their church. Assuming this is true, we applaud their efforts.
The question is how will Fairfax handle their past failures? Will they publicly confess their past sin before our family and the other families who have been hurt by their failure to lead, care, and protect, or will they remain silent and hope no one else comes forward. Will any restitution be made to the families involved?
In light of the damage done, has anyone involved disqualified themselves from professional ministry?
The clergy privilege statute exempts church leadership in Virginia from having to divulge any information to the authorities regarding sex crimes committed by church members. We had contacted a Virginia state senator who had been in the process of pursuing legislation to change this law.
The actions of Fairfax leadership in handling sex abuse in their church are good examples why this law needs to be changed. The senator from Virginia heard our story and agreed.
SET FREE’S STORY:
I’ll begin with a brief background. I am “Set Free”. I am 22 years old and I am the oldest of 6 children (3 girls and 3 boys). One of my brothers is 12 years old and he is autistic. He has no verbal communication ability. My family and I were members of Sovereign Grace Ministries (formerly known as PDI – People of Destiny International).
In January 2009, my parents were officially divorced. They had been separated for just over a year. The divorce has been hard on the whole family, but was a long time coming to get away from my father. I know that this may sound horrible, but I had been hoping that my parents would divorce for several years.
When my parents were younger and I was an only child, a friend of my mother’s invited my parents to Fairfax Covenant Church in VA. My parents accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior and were baptized and became members of the church. (As for the details of all of this, I am a little hazy. I was rather young.) Over the next few years, my family religiously attended church on Sunday mornings and home group meetings on the designated week night. Our family grew in number. I was young but I remember participating in worship and going to Sunday school. For awhile things in the church were quiet. Things at home, however, were another story.
As a newly converted ‘Christian’, my father quickly found comfort and acceptance in the love-bombing that Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny leaders abundantly showered on him. The way that Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny leaders praised my father for demonstrating good leadership skills in his ability to ‘run a business’ [a lawn service] only served to nurture in him a mindset of an already sociopathic pattern of behavior. My father had always had an unbelievably controlling and manipulative personality, but as a member of Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny, this was not reprimanded in any way, in fact, the way that my father “controlled” his family demonstrated “good leadership skills” according to Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny.
In the same way that my father was encouraged by the church to raise “obedient” children, he was also taught to view my mother as the person that was put on this earth to serve him. The Bible says, “wives obey your husbands”, but the church as well as my father took this one way out of proportion. Even before my parents were saved and became members of Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny, in his anger, my father would throw my mother across the room completely airborne while she was pregnant with me. He wouldn’t think twice about lurching into completely physically abusive behavior. After they joined the church my father treated my mother like she was his slave. If something wasn’t done, he would yell at her and try to intimidate her physically. If the house was messy he would yell at her and tell her what a horrible mother she was and what a horrible house-wife she was. [when I say yell, I mean to put-down, condemn, discourage, belittle etc.] This behavior from my father had been present since my parents were first married, but once they became members of the church, the behavior only got worse. (Now as far as what happened behind closed doors between my parents, I only know bits and pieces, so my mother would have to be the one to share the details, but I can remember hearing screaming and yelling and crying when my parents fought.)
After just a short time had passed (about a year after my father was ‘saved’) and our family became more and more entangled in the church, the leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries / People of Destiny asked my father to take over leadership of a home group. I would like to make sure that I am clear, Sovereign Grace Ministries asked my father, not my mother and it did not matter to the church leaders whether my mother wanted to be a home-group leader or not because since she was the wife, she was expected to do as her husband instructed.
Once a week, a designated group of families would meet at one of their houses and the home-group leader would lead the group in worship, prayer and “learning”. This may sound horrible, but I hated home-group. When home-group was at our house, it was an all-day event to get the house cleaned, the kids fed and bathed before people arrived, and all of the other things that go along with a family with 3 kids would have to do to “entertain”. The worst home-group nights were when my father would come home from work and then start to fight with my mother. My father would rant and rave and storm through the house yelling at my mother and yelling at us kids. Nothing was held back, sometimes even up until 5 or 10 minutes before people were supposed to arrive, my father would make our lives miserable.
But as sure as I am here, when the doorbell rang, our house looked like a scene out of a movie. Happy children, a happy wife and the list goes on. We were expected to wipe our eyes and dry our tears and paste a smile on our faces so as to make a good impression and show the other members of the church what a happy, Godly family we were. When I got older, I can remember telling my father in the blows of our arguments, that he was a fake. How could he yell at us and treat us like s**t and then turn around and pretend like he was so holy and godly that he was chosen to lead home-group?? I saw the hypocrisy even then.
It wasn’t long after that, that my father felt that our family was being called by God to move to Atlanta, GA on what would be our family’s first of 2 church plants.
It wasn’t long after the baby was born that my mother realized that he was not where he needed to be developmentally. My mother battled with doctors and specialists trying to find out why the newest addition to our family was having so much trouble meeting the developmental milestones, one of the most significant being a difficulty eating. On top of home-schooling 3 children, taking care of a 3 year old and spending the better part of some weeks in and out of doctors’ offices and specialists’ offices, my mother had to deal with my father and the leaders of the church. I can remember hearing my parents talking about what they needed to do to make sure that their son would grow and develop appropriately and instead of being a supportive husband and father, I heard my father say to my mother that they needed to listen to the leaders of the church and follow their instruction …. The instruction was to basically act as if nothing were wrong with my brother and “leave it in God’s hands”. The leaders of the church told my parents, my mother more specifically, that she needed to trust that God had a plan for my brother’s life and that he was developmentally slow for a reason and that she needed to stop worrying and step back and allow the hand of God to work in my brother’s life.
You see when, my parents became members of the Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Northern VA, my father was already abusive and controlling with my mother. When he saw how the leaders of the church encouraged women to obey their husbands and only added to my father’s misconstrued ideas that the men were in control and that when it was all said and done, the husband was “in charge”, he quickly adopted their teachings and thoroughly enforced them in our home. This was not just with my mother, as evident by what I have already told you, but also with my siblings and I. My father was in control at all times and if for some reason he felt that one of us was threatening his authority or challenging him in any way, he immediately reacted with discipline, punishment or some other means to ensure that the person “defying” him was put back in their place as quickly as humanly possible. Things only got worse the longer that we were members of the Sovereign Grace Ministries church.
Several months after my family moved into our new house and my father moved down from Atlanta, while still home schooling all of the children and taking care of an Autistic son, something horrible happened that changed our family drastically. During the days my mother would be on the phone for hours and hours at a time and after several weeks of this happening, I began to ask questions. I wanted to know who she was talking to for all of these hours. I asked, it was my aunt [Noel]. But when I asked my mother why she was on the phone for so long and asked why she had been crying, she would never answer my questions.
After a while, the phone calls continued and I began to see notes around the house. They were only half notes with simple words. After my mom would throw her notes away and walk away, I would go and get the notes and try to figure out what was going on that was keeping my mother on the phone with my aunt for all these hours. I would find some notes that wouldn’t make sense and then I would find notes that scared me. One in particular I found said “child molestation”, the name of a person that I knew and the name of his son, “rape” and some other things, but I can’t remember them. I kept the notes that I thought had some meaning and waited. I had collected several notes that my mother had thrown away. I became more and more concerned after the note that I had found with the names of people that I knew and words that I knew meant something bad had happened. I tried asking my mother casually about the phone calls, but never got any answers.
Finally, after I had collected enough notes to have some idea of what was going on, I went to my mother one afternoon and told her that I had been reading her notes and that I knew that something was wrong. I told her that I wanted to know what was going on. I was about 14 at the time. My mother sat down with me and I knew that she had something to tell me. She told me that she had been spending so much time on the phone with my aunt because something had happened to my cousin. She told me that a boy that I knew had done something terrible to my cousin. This boy was 15 years old and had been babysitting my cousins while my aunt and uncle were at their home group meetings. When the other children were watching tv or had already gone to bed, this boy had taken my little 3 year old cousin and raped her repeatedly. This had gone on for several months. I cried. My mother was crying. I couldn’t believe that this had happened. I asked “how could the boy do this to my cousin. Our families were friends.” I had grown up playing with this boy and his siblings. His sister was a friend of mine when we were younger. My mother told me that the same horrible thing had happened to the boy and his family. I remember that I couldn’t understand why this boy would do something horrible to someone else just because something horrible had happened to him. Hadn’t he been hurt enough to know how it would effect another person? Why would he want to hurt someone else? Especially my little cousin.
I was so angry. I wanted justice. Something had to be done! I asked my mother if he was in jail, but she said that my aunt and uncle had gone to the leaders of the church to find out what they needed to do and the leaders of the church told my aunt and uncle that they needed to find it in their hearts to forgive the boy and let God have vengeance on Judgment Day. [For any of you who have not already done so, please read Noel’s story. Noel is my aunt.] I couldn’t believe it! All this time, for all these years, I had thought that the church was looking out for us, for my family and for the other members of the congregation, but I realized that they had no interest in our well-being, they only cared about themselves and about their reputation and it didn’t matter who was hurt along they way as long as they profited and benefited from it. I asked my mother if my aunt and uncle were going to make sure that the boy went to jail and she said “We are going to do everything that we can to make sure that the boy does not get away with this.” I told her “I want to help!” So basically, PDI / SGM leaders told my aunt that she was supposed to “leave it in God’s hand.” Does this not strike anyone as wrong?
For several months my mother continued to have regular phone calls with my aunt [Noel], but as the conversations went on, it soon became clear that the church had not and would not be taking any action to assist Noel and her family. My mother would tell me about some of the things that were happening with my aunt and her family, but I soon came to realize that the perpetrator that had violated my cousin and brought such hurt and devastation to my family was going to go unpunished. This evil person who had terrorized my little cousin was going to walk away with no remorse and no repercussions for what he had done. I was boiling with anger. [and still am when I think about it]
Not long after everything that happened with Noel’s family, the uncle of the perpetrator [who lived in Jacksonville] began attending our church. [I will try to keep this brief as it is hard to follow, this story was told to me by my mother who heard it directly from the wife of said uncle] The perpetrators uncle was home “watching” his 5 children while his wife was at work, the oldest boy was sent to the kitchen to take a pot of boiling water off the stove [since the father was busy watching porn on the computer] and it spilled on him causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns. As a result of the little boy’s injuries, the perpetrator’s mother and siblings came down from Virginia to help out with the other kids while the oldest boy healed from his burns. The perpetrator’s mother got her brother and his family gets hooked up with the SGM church that my family attended. The leaders’ wives were instructed to help out this family by taking them meals and helping to “minister” to them in any way possible. The perpetrator’s uncle and family were assigned to my parents care group.
[So a quick recap, a boy rapes my little cousin and then the church tells my aunt and uncle to ‘forgive’ him. Then relatives of the rapist are assigned to my parent’s care group by the leaders of the church and my parents are told that they need to ‘minister’ the relatives of the rapist.]
As my mother carries out her assigned duties to ‘minister’ to the perpetrator’s relatives, she is contacted by the perpetrator’s aunt. She informs my mother that she has found her children doing horrible, horrible things to each other, to other children, to animals and to themselves. I cannot even bring myself to write the words, it makes me cry to think about it. But when the woman told my mother the things that her children and husband were doing, my mother told the woman that she needed to get her children out of the house that they were in immediately and that if she wouldn’t, my mother was going to call social services. The woman said that she would take care of it, but my mother felt that she needed some guidance so she called the pastor’s wife and told her the situation.
The pastor’s wife was in agreement with my mother that something needed to be done and said that she would talk to her husband about what they needed to do. Just a few hours after the phone call that my mother had with the pastor’s wife, she got a call back from the pastor’s wife and it was explained to my mother that she was in sin for gossiping about the other family and that she was wrong and should not butt in where she was not needed. Basically, when my mother called the pastor’s wife for guidance, she was ultimately told that she was in sin for gossiping and that she needed to step out of the situation. Children [all under the age of 10] were being raped and raping each other and the pastor said that my mother was sinning because she gossiped.
Well when the perpetrator’s uncle found out that my mother said she was going to call social services, he called a friend of my mother’s and asked for our address. He said he was going to come and kill my mother if she called social services. When my mother found out she called my aunt [Noel] and after explaining everything to her, Noel said that someone needed to call social services without question. So Noel decided that she would call them. Upon receiving the call, social services set up an interview with the relatives of the perpetrator, but because the report was made by a 3rd party, the charges were dismissed, but that didn’t mean anything to the perpetrator’s uncle. He was angry with my mother and so began one of the worst years of my life. [On top of the things that I am about to share, I was also dealing with my severely sociopathic father who was hell-bent on controlling me]
The perpetrator’s uncle began calling my house and when we would answer the phone, all you could hear was breathing on the other end, then he would hang up. [he also called and threatened Noel in the same manor, in addition to that, the pastors told Noel that they needed to call and apologize to the uncle and to the perpetrator’s mother as well] In addition to harassing my family with phone calls, the uncle followed me to school and to my work. I would come out of school in the afternoons and see him sitting in his car watching for me. I would come out of work at night and he would be sitting in the parking lot watching for me. One morning, I came down to the kitchen and saw him on the back porch of my family’s house. I was terrified. Whenever my parents would leave the house, the phone would immediately ring. I knew that he was watching my family and I knew that he saw my parents leave. The calls would increase in frequency when my parents left the house. I would come out to my car in the mornings to go to school and see him sitting down the road in his car just watching our house. I couldn’t sleep, I had nightmares … It was a long year.
I was terrified that he was going to hurt my family. My mother had told me about the threats to kill her. The hardest part was having to see him and his family in church on Sundays. I knew that he was stalking our family and then there he was sitting in church, protected by the pastors, who defended him when they told my mother that she was sinning by gossiping. It was impossible to feel safe. I felt so alone, but I also felt a need to become the protector of my family. Until now, I had not shared with my mother how the uncle had followed me because I felt like my mother already had enough going on in her life not only with the other children but with my father and the church as well.
Every Sunday I sat in church wondering how the pastor could cover for a sexual offender. Every Sunday I wondered where God was in all of this. Every Sunday that I went to church and saw the uncle, I questioned God. It was bad enough what happened to my cousin, but having the relatives of my cousin’s rapist not only attend our church, but be assigned to my parent’s care group was salt in the wound. Surely this was not God’s plan. Was I wrong to question God … maybe. Was I wrong to question what the church was doing … I don’t think so.
I would continue on, but I’m afraid that it would become a bit redundant and what I have to share would soon turn into a book instead of a blog post, so I will close with one last bit of information. My family continued to attend the Sovereign Grace Ministries church for a couple more years in which, not only was the abusive child rearing continued, but my father’s hunger for control continued to grow and become more and more unreasonable and abusive. As my situation at home got increasingly worse, my mother began to step up to my father and took action against him in order to make it a safer home environment. My father was asked to move out of the house and did so for about 6 months. When my father left, the house was much more peaceful. There were still a lot of issues, but at least my father wasn’t there to throw lighter fluid onto a well lit fire.
Though things got momentarily better at home, my mother still had no support from the church leaders when she shared with them that she had my father move out for a while. She had gone to them asking for guidance and instead of being helped, was accused of sinning and not obeying God and his command to obey her husband. She had no help with the younger children [mainly my autistic brother] and after about 6 months my father moved back in to the house. Things only got worse again. In the church there were a few more incidences that took place which resulted in both myself and my family being constantly reprimanded and reminded of our place in the church. When I was 17 and still being spanked by my father, I left the church along with my mother. [my father and some of the other kids still attended for a few more months] I still had one more year in high school and there were a few teens from Sovereign Grace Ministries that also went to my high school, but as soon as I stopped going to church the would completely ignore me in the halls. I would see someone who I had gone to church with for the last 5 or 6 years and when I would greet them, they looked away from me as if I was a stranger that they had never seen before. I ceased to exist in their eyes.
My mother’s friends all stopped speaking to her as well. People that had helped my family when my mother had a baby would no longer speak to her. And since we were only allowed to ‘fellowship’ with other members of Sovereign Grace Ministries, we were completely alone when we left the church. I knew no one else and my mother was in the same position. When I finally left Sovereign Grace Ministries, my belief in God was severely weakened and I had no desire to even speak to anyone that was a Christian or claimed to be. I was angry with God for the things that had happened to my family and I blamed myself for not being strong enough to defend my brothers and sisters from the abuse of my father and the church. I moved out of my parents house 1 week after I graduated from high school and hardly spoke to my parents for almost 3 years.
Recently I have made an effort to attempt to go to church now and again, but still have so many emotions that overtake me when I so much as think about church or the things that have happened to me. I do honestly hope that someday I will have a stronger relationship with God and that my faith in Him will not be shaken by the evil things that I have seen and continue to see. Please keep my family in your prayers. God bless!
My mother got involved with Covenant Life Church (Take and Give, Gathering of Believers, People of Destiny International, Sovereign Grace Ministries, whatever) beginning with a festival called Jesus’76, got pregnant by one of the church members, and was advised to marry him. She did. So I along with my siblings were all in this church by default.
My mother was concerned when her 11 year old daughter had been “acting out”, having a “bad attitude” towards her husband, and the church had advised my mother to admonish her and demand she respect him as godly children should. When she found out a few years later that actually he had been sexually abusing her since age 11, she immediately called the pastors (John Loftness and Gary Riccucci). They handled this situation in the worst ways possible.
I could detail a hundred things they did next which only made the situation worse by blaming the victims, covering up the crime, and supporting the pedophile financially and legally. They even sent my mother to her care group leader for counseling who told her to God wanted her to send her daughter away so that this man could stay in the house as the head of the household.
Despite all of their pleadings my mother insisted on justice and pressed charges. They had claimed they were looking for counseling for my mother and her child, when really they were biding time, retaining legal counsel for this man, to allow him to turn himself in as a show of repentance. They pressured her to ask the court for leniency for this man who had abused her child. They testified as character witnesses for him in court. He had repented and been forgiven, just like that. We were all warned not to tell anyone in the church, even though the abuser was still attending — it would be gossip.
But my mother was not submissive enough and since she refused to ask the court to not send this tithing man to jail, we were all put out of the church, out of the school, and the pastors told my mother, our “poverty was self induced” because she had not been submissive to their guidance. My mother pleaded with the church for help, but they only further demonized her.
Having been a homemaker and mother for years in the church approved way, she had little means of providing for her 9 children. She went and got a minimum wage job and worked until it almost killed her. Our electricity was cut off, our house was in foreclosure, we were pretty much starving, and she came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. Having offered no help so far, the same pastors showed up to let her know they would make sure all of us children were taken care of while she was in the hospital.
We ended up all split apart, turned over to the state child welfare division, and spent the next several years separated in foster homes, institutions and shelters. But the pastors care and concern only ever was for the molester — they arranged for the kids to “visit their father”, and arranged for my sister, the victim, to have to sit down in a meeting to accept his apology, so he could be forgiven and resume membership in the church.
There’s a long list of decisions they made that negatively affected and re-victimized my family. Once I got older, I started sending a letter to them both, every year, listing the things they had done, telling them I wanted to be a constant reminder of their actions. They NEVER once responded or acknowledged these letters (and later emails). I would drive by their building (locals call the MALL OF JESUS laughingly) and spit out the window at it. Years went by and I continued to send the letters, even when I knew they would never respond.
One day last year I ran into someone I had gone to school at Covenant Life Church school with. He asked about the family and I told him what had actually happened. He asked if he could go to the pastors to question them about it, and I of course said yes. He did just that, and the initial response much later TO HIM from Gary was:
“Please forgive my long overdue response. Thank you for making me aware of your conversation… and for your obvious heart for the care of anyone drifting from fellowship with Christ…for whatever reason. Yes, John and I had primary pastoral responsibility for the family during what was certainly a most tragic, grieving and painful experience. The sin committed and subsequent fragmentation of their family was one of the saddest experiences of our ministry. Because of the sin and alienation there was a need for separation, so John provided care for the mother and children while I walked the father through the necessary legal process in taking responsibility for his actions. As she got older, no doubt much discussion took place between her and her Mom about that very difficult season. I would be glad to talk personally to you, to answer any questions and to explain the steps we took and why, as this tragedy unfolded.”
Maybe I’m pessimistic, but it sounded like an offer to take the opportunity to justify and rewrite history from an advantageous viewpoint. I have no reason to suspect any different. If they felt they had done something wrong, surely they would have responded to MY letters over the years. I wrote an excruciatingly long email and sent it to both John and Gary suggesting an apology would at least help thier reputations since they cared so much about that. After this church member again followed up about it with them, and in the midst of all this C.J. Mahaney stepping down chaos, they finally responded to me. Gary, in part, wrote:
“It appears that, at least in some of your comments, there may be some misunderstanding of what we did and why. Our hope is that a conversation and some clarification about the past may be a means of God’s comfort and grace to you for the future. Please contact John or me if you feel that a conversation might be helpful.”
John, in part, wrote: “Our care (or lack of care as the case may be) for your family during those years was one of the most challenging tasks that we have encountered as pastors in more than 30 years. That is not to excuse any failures on our part, but to let you know that, in the light of today and what we have learned since then, and especially in light of getting your perspective, we would see deficiencies in our care. There are gaps that we may be able to fill in and things we remember that may broaden your understanding, but please don’t take that as making any defense or let it take away from the deep sadness we feel for your experiences in the aftermath of Dave’s sin against your sister and mother, and beyond that, to your entire family.”
Both replies ended with an offer to meet and discuss everything. I have really struggled with wanting to believe they would have the decency and integrity to actually acknowledge and admit to their wrongs, apologize, and leave it at that if we met. But the words that keep jumping out at me are: “misunderstanding” and “broaden your understanding” and “gaps we may be able to fill in” and “sadness we feel for your experience” (as opposed to sadness we feel for our actions). I don’t trust them. I also feel like now as an adult I have a CHOICE I didn’t have as a child. I can choose to not sit and hear a whole cockamamie roundabout justification with a good dose of biblical rhetoric thrown in, especially since I feel like that would only serve to royally piss me off. And since I’m not a Christian, I am not bound by by doctrine to react with humility or reverence. And, by the way, I know they read these blogs, and I don’t care if they know it’s me on here, and I don’t care if that offends them. I realized that my intention all along was to attempt to have them acknowledge what they did, hoping that if they actually SEE it, I mean really GET IT, it wont happen to anyone else.
My entire life was negatively affected for years, by their decisions, in ways that would make you cringe to know, and if they don’t “get it” then maybe others will. So I will decide whether to have this meeting or whatever, but if I do, and if they are reading this, just know that I will NOT sit through a justification session. I’m not looking for the truth — I already have it — I was there – I have all the documents to prove it — I KNOW. I just feel like they are sorry it came out, sorry it was told, not sorry they did what they did. I don’t know if their apology is forthcoming in a meeting, or if it will be more like damage control — like “sorry you were hurt, not shut up about it already”. I guess there’s only one way to find out.
I share this with my heart breaking: for our daughter, for us, and for all those others who have been traumatized by the sex abuse cases mishandled by Sovereign Grace Ministries. And I wanted to share our story so that NO ONE from Sovereign Grace Ministries could use our “case” as a supposed “well-handled” pastoral victory, since we mostly cooperated with their advice. AND I wanted everyone to know that the serious effects of any sexual molestation at any age are devastating to the victim and their family for many years. It doesn’t just “go away” after forgiving!
We were in Covenant Life Church for over 20 years and served as care group leaders for over 5 years and only left a few years ago. We feel that “going public” with this story, that has been a secret sex abuse case in Covenant Life Church, will perhaps help others to come forward with any other cases. We have not personally confronted the pastors about this, but after hearing exCLCer family’s HORRIFIC treatment by Covenant Life Church, we felt that they do not deserve that respect.
In 1993 our daughter was sexually molested by the fourteen year old son of a close family friend from Covenant Life Church, while he was babysitting for us. It was a week before her 3rd birthday. [This was about 6 years after exCLCer’s case] I thank God I had taught our daughter what “good touch, bad touch” is, so she could tell us and possibly protect herself or others from sex abuse. The morning after this happened she came into our bedroom and told us. We were in shock, but for her sake remained calm, and asked her a few questions to verify. [Excuse my bluntness] He had taken off both of their pants and underwear, laid on top of her, fondled her, and French-kissed her. He stopped at this point and did not penetrate her. Her reaction at the time of the attack was to not move or cry out–she was in complete terror. We immediately called the police. We knew it was the law to report any sexual abuse committed against a minor.
The first thing out of the pastor’s mouth, when we called him was, “Don’t call the police.” When we told him we already had, he communicated that these “things” should be handled in the church, and definitely made us to feel that he was displeased with us going outside the church to the secular authorities for this crime! The pastor called the father and the boy did confess that morning, after denying it repeatedly. The pastor immediately got on the phone with the police trying to arrange for the family to be able to turn the boy into police, rather than a police car to come to their house and embarrass them. From that point on, we felt that to the pastors, this crisis was all about the perpetrator and his family, to keep his identity secret and rally around him and his family, caring for THEM and counseling them as they navigated through the secular legal system and the crisis WE had caused by turning him in.
We did have one meeting, within a couple of days of the abuse, with the pastor and his wife. They commiserated with us. We felt the gist of the meeting was “yes, this is terrible, it is OK for us to be angry and hurt for a few days or weeks, but after that you need to forgive and forget”! We were told not to tell our care group or anyone. And not talk to the boy and his family. Besides a brief phone call or two after all of this and the eventual “reconciliation” meeting, 6 months later, with that family and the pastor, we had NO counseling or follow-up care for us or our daughter. We had several close family members in Covenant Life Church and we had close friends who LIVED with us at this time and we couldn’t even tell them! Essentially, we were on our own with all the deep grief, anger, and feelings of violation. We walked through this horrible crisis completely alone, with close family and friends and our care group all around us, having NO idea what we were going through!! God alone was our refuge and we had each other.
A week or so after the molestation, one of the other pastors called and shared how sorry he was for what we were going through and then asked me to write a letter of leniency, so that this boy would not go to jail and just get counseling [exactly what happened to exCLCer’s mom]. I agreed, mostly because he was only 14 and it was a first offense. At the time, I was extremely vulnerable with the grief of what had happened to our daughter and what this pastor said meant a lot to me, but looking back now I feel manipulated by his words to make sure that I wrote that letter. What if I had refused? [like exCLCer’s mom] Would we have been excommunicated?
We did not know and could not find out any details from the perpetrator on the molestation, even through the pastor, until the meeting 6 months later. In other words, we did not know if there had been any penetration or how much fondling there had been—it was torture for me as mom and as a woman to not know. I feel that my emotional needs were given “backseat” status to the other family’s privacy and care. We were not equipped by appropriate psychological counseling or advice on how to parent a victim of sexual abuse. Our daughter struggled as a little 3 year old to forgive this teenager’s crime against her. She had nightmares for months afterwards. Many months later, we went for prayer to this pastor and another, and they did pray for her, but they said the nightmares “might” not be from the sexual molestation, directly minimizing my concerns, even though nightmares are a known effect of sexual abuse!
This is not over. She is now 21 and is a committed Christian, by God’s grace. BUT she STILL has trouble sleeping alone. She STILL has had seasons of night terrors. She also has other EMOTIONAL SCARS directly related to the molestation and has pursued psychological counseling, now as an adult. Although, we have forgiven and prayed for this boy, now an adult member of Covenant Life Church, last I heard, the results of his crime on our daughter may be a lifelong struggle for her to overcome!
“I have “moved on” in many ways, and even though I may still have “more miles to go”, I really was not thinking about Covenant Life Church, or even Sovereign Grace Ministries. My goal for my life, that I have spoken often of, is to find some way to “help facilitate a way for women and children who are being abused to move out of their situation”. Whether it be by just being an example, or by lobbying in Congress, or counseling, public speaking-whatever I can-I want to use how I have been victorious to encourage others and make a difference that way. It was not until my daughter showed me the SGM Survivors forum, and I read SGMNOT’s story, and saw how the very same things I “excused away” in forgiveness were still continuing, and even worse, that I realized this is where I need to start! Then, when I heard Cory’s response to the abuser in their midst, and knew that people were not being made aware as he so reassuringly stated-that was when I knew I had to speak up. I have healed-there is still pain, but it does not cripple me-I am strong enough to be a voice now. A voice to help tear down a system that will continue to allow children to be abused, and their mothers to feel there is no way out! You ask what our goal are, that is mine. I want to know for a fact that children are protected above and beyond the molester. I don’t think they ever will [change the way they handle child molestation cases], but that will not stop me from speaking my voice, because despite what they do or don’t do, I will make sure that the mothers and children know there is a way out, and it is worth it to go that path! It would be awesome to have them join in with that, but all they seem to want to do is minimalism it, excuse it, and “forget it”. I cannot change what they do, but I will not give up.”
“I actually called Mr A the morning after I threw him out, to tell him I was going to spend as long as it took in prayer, to decide what to do next. I was in shock, I am not sure if I expressed any kind of forgiveness in that conversation-I still was not even fully aware of all that happened (I found out most things from the police). Enough things happened through out the following years that I often pointed to things, telling GR that this “showed me there was not adequate repentance”. I will not list them here, but will be listed in the chronicles I am writing. I believe that once I did not write the letter to the judge, it was “all over” as far as my welfare was concerned. That is when “I chose to bring poverty on myself”. You would have to know my daughter to understand, I think, but she so desperately wanted to hang onto a Fairytale ending…she so wanted to compliantly please everyone, hoping in her “perfection”, she would eventually get the “fairytale ending”. She moved into another Covenant Life Church member’s house (she was their main babysitter for their 4 kids…hmm, how convenient)..when a young man wanted to marry her, they told him he needn’t bother to talk to me about it, that I wasn’t much involved in her life. They encouraged her to marry this guy, and then told her that in order for her to be happy in marriage, she needed to meet with the pastors and Mr. A, to “resolve things”. I told her then not to go, but she so hoped it was her path to the fairytale, and everyone at Covenant Life Church basically encouraged her to not listen to me, because I “was not walking right with God”. She met with him in a room full of male pastors (I do believe she took one friend with her). He asked her to forgive him, she said she forgave him, then the pastors said now that everything is resolved, she would not mind him returning to Covenant Life Church anymore, would she? Of course she said no, she did not mind! She told me that was when she decided to leave, and started going to her fiance’s church. (They are not married anymore) I do not want to share too many details of her life, as she is so happy now, and does not want to be reminded of any of this. I would not ask her to relive any of those days for anything-ever. As ExClcer wrote, please no one try to encourage or discuss any of this in any way with her. She may one day be at a place, like I feel, where she is strong enough to stand up for another, but until (if) that happens, she will initiate it. She needs these years of happiness now.”
“I actually was not forced to call him-I did that all on my own. You see, just the night before his acts were discovered, I had said to him “When someone points out a wrong to you, you put all your energy into hiding it, rather than changing it. I don’t even know what dark secrets your hold in your heart” This was about 24 hours before I found out what was actually happening. For a very long time I “felt” something was wrong, and even mentioned things to the pastors. They all told me not to worry about him, that they were “ministering to him”. Just two weeks before all was revealed, I had been told by a care group leader we were in counseling with, that it was me that was preventing our family from moving on with God (I really never was submissive enough for them). So, with all of this, I called Mr. A the morning after I asked him to leave, to express to him that I would not “take this as my ticket to ride”, that I wanted to be sure whatever I did was what God was saying. I actually did not make the decision to not reconcile for at least another 3 weeks or more. Once I KNEW what God wanted me to do, there was no turning back, and none of them could convince me otherwise. I got my answer from hours in prayer, seeking God for His answer to me, not the words of men. When I told them so, they should have stopped arguing with me then-I gave them Scripture after Scripture-there really was no arguing about it. That alone put us on an adversarial path. Despite that, there were some true people moved by God to help us-people in Covenant Life Church, just not any pastors. The pastors not only did not really help, but actually hindered other people who would help, by telling them not to ask, or that things were being handled. I would love to see JL’s pages of how to handle sex abuse! If it is not published, then how does anyone know what to do? Oh, wait, I bet only the pastors are permitted to know, and everyone else is supposed to follow the pastors, right? I bet Corby has read that also, and that is why they are so on top of things there, that other children are exposed to overnight camping trips with a pedophile, but the parents are not made aware of his past? Is that what JL wrote to do? Or was it written to “just say” that is what you do, because if a child does get molested, you can say it was not a “Church sponsored event”, and if you pull the “forgiveness card”, along with the “gossip/slander card” all will be forgiven and covered up, and no one need know more? To get over sexual abuse, and even spiritual abuse-especially when you are a child who trusts with all you have-It is not the same as applying a band-aid. These guys have no clue-that is definitely NOT the heart of God!”
“I actually confronted GR and JL a couple of times, trying to ‘track down” the source of such fabrications. I was really angry the first time things were said. To the best of what I can tell it was two things-#1-snooty people too high on their horses to think how overwhelming it may be just to figure out how you will feed 9 children, much less take care of all of their other needs. #2-I do believe some people (I have some ideas, but do not know for certain, so i will not name names) but from what I understand, the only sure way to get custody away form a custodial mother (in the state of Md at least) is to prove her unfit. The Social Worker even showed up at my house several times, even with he police, but could not find a reason to take my children from me. There are more details, and I am putting them all in the chronicles I am writing, but for now, i just wanted to try to answer your questions as best I could. I just think it is pretty sad that rumors spread about me like wildfire, but they are “so quick” to shield him from people speaking truths? I am seriously not surprised, though. But I am so thankful to God that He has seen me through to a new place, where I do not have to live under all of that anymore!”
“I do not even consider coercing a young girl into a meeting room with a bunch of pastors to speak the words “I’m sorry”, and have her be expected to offer complete forgiveness and restoration should be considered “reconciliation”. He knew very well going into that meeting what was going to go down-it was just a “formality” to all of them, though it made my daughter want to vomit! She was the compliant one, because I raised her that way-it breaks my heart to think how vulnerable I made her! I can tell you every other daughter after her was raised to be a free thinking fighter! I did my best to erase the kool-aid effect for my oldest-it took her moving far away to actually “get it”. Mr A may think that he can “hide his head”, and will maybe be forgotten, but I think God is bringing this, too, out in the open. They may look to “relocate”, to be in some “church plant” perhaps, but we can just not continue to allow churches to function in such an authoritarian way as to subject their children to this type of stuff! I know there are more like him hiding in the midst of those churches, not only because of others who have spoken up, but also because it is the “perfect breeding ground” for such monsters! We cannot stop all the child molesters out there, but we can certainly affect how comfortably they hide, and we can continue an open forum for victims to be able to voice themselves, and others perhaps to be warned before they become victims!”
“That reminds me, how during my marriage and years at Covenant Life Church, “the process” was always, “If someone offends you, and asks for forgiveness, you must forgive them, then it is “justified = just as if I’d never sinned”. If you bring it up, or try to discuss why it happened, or how to avoid it happening again, or even to express how it affected you, well that meant you were the one in sin and full of bitterness-the one who can’t let the past go. My ex-husband was big on that-I guess we can all understand why. Sounds like that it the same stuff they still teach.”