“If religion cannot tell the truth about itself, it has nothing to say. Hypocrisy – professing one thing and performing the opposite – is the greatest moral violation. In approaching the crisis of clergy abuse, truth must be the preeminent goal. Truth – wherever found, however discovered, whatever it exposes – must be the agenda for any exploration of abuse by clergy. Anything that impedes unflinching directness, honesty, or clear unambiguous communication and confrontation of the facts will perpetuate the secret system in which abuse can continue and flourish.”
All concerned citizens have a stake in the honesty of religious leaders. They should be a moral and cultural resource. Religion needs the help of all concerned women and men. Everyone is victimized by a system that fosters or tolerates abuse. It is not unholy or unseemly to be vitally interested in the performance of moral leaders. If religion was taught anything by the German holocaust of the Jews it is that standing by silently does not absolve from guilt. Institutional structures and behaviors are not above question or challenge.
A.W. Richard Sipe, “Sex, Priests and Power,” page 45
If there are any heroes in this squalid tale, they are the victims, who found their voice, who found the courage, after years of suffering in silence and isolation, to step into the light and say, as one did, “This happened to me, and this is wrong.”
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The findings of the investigation that inspired the major motion picture Spotlight
“Brethren, we aren’t fooling anybody. False stories about ourselves do not win men to Christ; they drive them away.
While Christians seem singularly uncritical of the testimony of anyone behind a pulpit, the average unbeliever recognizes twaddle when he hears it. Our neighbors are not disposed to accept anything which we say about God, sin, heaven, or hell. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we cultivate a reputation for absolute truthfulness.
We who preach must be aware that before sinners encounter Jesus they encounter us. If we are unable to tell the plain, unvarnished truth about ourselves, why should anyone expect otherwise of the One whom we represent?
We have the truth which sets men free – the saving power of Jesus Christ. Why do we hide Him under our own fraudulent testimonies?”
-Tom Chantry, “Why the Ergun Caner Scandal Matters: a Plea to Pastors,” May 17, 2010
I am glad to see that Tom Chantry is now on the radar of SNAP. They are an excellent group that does much in the way of assisting victims of sexual abuse, prevention of sexual abuse by education, and bringing justice to the perpetrators. It’s interesting that in Chantry’s case SNAP mentions how disappointed they are in the response of Chantry’s supervisors and colleaugues.
I can echo SNAP’s sentiments. While conducting research for this article I have had much support from my network of friends who daily do battle on behalf of the abused, but have yet to encounter anyone in the clergy class who have been helpful.
We should not be surprised. Joe Navarro, M.A. is a 25 year veteran of the FBI and is the author of What Every Body is Saying, as well as Louder Than Words. He has written an excellent article inPsychology Today titled “Why Predators Are Attracted To Careers In The Clergy.” I encourage you to read the entire article, but here is what he said in part:
“There is something disturbing about why they [predators] would choose the clergy, or for that matter join a religious organization of any kind. It is disturbing because most of us don’t think about these things. Most people don’t think like a predator, but below are some insights that should make you think. These insights are based on conversations I and others have had with predators who intentionally sought to join religious organizations and from studying such individuals:
5. Many religious organizations preach forgiveness, even for felonies. For predators this is truly a godsend. This means that if they get caught, they can ask for forgiveness and chances are it will be given, in a pious but naïve effort to help the lawbreaker “learn from his mistakes.” Unfortunately, the predator sees this as an opportunity to sharpen his skills and to do his crime
6. Because religious organizations preach brotherly love, even when someone has done horrific crimes, there will be those gullible enough to defend the predator or willing to look the other way.
7. Another advantage for the predator in a religious organization is that if caught, he or she can very conveniently say it was “Satan’s” fault. Whether cheating, taking advantage of the elderly, conducting financial shenanigans, or even abusing children, the predator merely has to say that the “devil” tempted him or her and that’s that. Predators know they can rely on a certain portion of the population to buy into that argument, and so they use it.
8. If the predator is in a position of authority within a religious organization, he or she can claim persecution by the “enemies” of the church or the organization. Any outside scrutiny subjecting the predator to the sanitizing rays of light is thus characterized as, “them,” the unbelievers “against us.”
9. If the predator becomes a leader within the organization, or if lucky, becomes the head of a church or religious group, then he or she is immediately cloaked with power and authority (moral power) that mere corporations don’t have. Keep in mind that most people still have a high respect for their church leaders and are willing to give them greater latitude and the benefit of the doubt.
10. Predators soon realize that the ability to invoke a deity in their defense is a powerful card to hold that trumps all other arguments.
11. There is, it should be noted, no religion or sect that screens for psychopathy as defined by Robert Hare that I am aware of. All you need is to be ordained, or you declare yourself a religious leader and the way is clear for the predator. And so while some organizations, such as in law enforcement, screen for pathologies by using psychometric tools, very few religious organization do so.
12. To be a predator is to overvalue yourself at the expense of others – a key component of both the pathologically narcissistic and the predator. Here is where a predator has an advantage because in a religious organization, this overvaluation of self is potentiated by the title that is either conferred, that comes with the office, or bestowed through ordination. For the predator, it is tantamount to being told, “you are” therefore “you can.”
13. Predators know or soon learn that society tends to revere and not question religious authority.
14. Parents may be more trusting of a religious leader than of the average person. As history has taught us, they may dismiss allegations made by their own children as to sexual abuse by a religious leader or they will remain quiescent so as to not “rock the boat.” It is very tough for parents, especially those from humble background or who are deeply religious, to go up against a popular or charismatic leader, “the church” or a large, well-financed religious order. Often, as we now well know, the fear of retribution, being ostracized or socially marginalized, or excommunicated keeps victims and parents silent.
15. In most cultures, children pay deference to authority figures, especially religious ones. Knowing this, the predator can almost certainly count on children abiding by their sordid requests and keeping such matters “secret.”
So, where does this leave us? With the reality that predators are all around us. Anywhere from 1 to 4 percent or perhaps more of any population, according to researchers, is made up of individuals who are social predators (DSM V, 2013, 659-663). They may seek to join organizations for the additional benefits these organizations bring. It is not the organization; it is the individuals who seek to use those organizations for predation and that is the problem. Individuals who seek religious organizations because there they can more easily target victims and do so much more harm – that is our reality.
We cannot prevent all crimes, nor can we always know how predators will come after us, but knowledge helps. If we are sensitized ahead of time to how predators think, how they use legitimate organizations, and take advantage of others, perhaps then we can protect one more child, or perhaps even ourselves from these social predators.
I decided to attempt to look into Chantry’s past to see what, if anything, could be determined about the man.
Pastor Tom Chantry is currently on a leave of absence from his job as pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist in Hales Corner, WI. I think one can assume that it’s a paid leave of absence. Obviously the church knows that Chantry has been indicted for five counts of molesting a child and two counts of aggravated assault with serious injury. Chantry must have told his church that these are false allegations and he will be acquitted in the upcoming trial. His church has chosen to believe him. If he had told his church he was guilty of the crimes he is charged with they would have fired him. Since the church takes Chantry at his word they undoubtedly are still paying him, he does have a wife and 3 boys to support.
Notice the difference in the two short biographies above? The top one states that “Tom moved to Arizona and worked in full-time ministry for five years. Subsequently he has been a member of Reformed Baptist churches in Washington and Illinois and has spent four years teaching at a Christian school in the Chicago area.”
Chantry is a bit more vague in the second bio. He mentions that he served in the pastorate in Arizona, but he doesn’t mention for how long nor the location or name of the church. Why not? That seems odd to me. Doe he have a past that he doesn’t want people checking into too closely? He also fails to mention his time in Washington. Another oddity, but I will get to that later.
Tom is welcome to leave a comment and clarify the matter, but I doubt he will. He has gone silent. When I first started checking into this story I tagged Tom with a few relevant Tweets. He immediately blocked me. Yesterday he shut down his Twitter account. Purely coincidental, I am sure.
Chantry is probably jettisoning as much material he can from the internet. Thankfully there is Evernote and The Way Back Machine!
Based on the Arizona court documents, Chantry was born in July, 1970. He most likely graduated from high school in 1988 and started attending the exclusive Furman University in Greensville, SC in the autumn of 1988.
“Furman University is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Greenville, South Carolina. Furman is the oldest and most selective private institution of higher learning in South Carolina.
Furman Academy and Theological Institution was established by the South Carolina Baptist Convention and incorporated in December 1825 in Edgefield.”
[Editorial note: I have removed information on the tuition costs of Furman University because, based on some discussions I have had, I no longer think that the information is pertinent to the subject matter.]
By my estimates Chantry would have graduated from Furman University in 1992. From there Chantry went to Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA. I estimate Chantry graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1995.
After seven years in these beautiful institutions it must have been a tough transition to Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ. But apparently it didn’t take long for Chantry to get “busy.” With no wife or children, Chantry threw himself into his work, reportedly even conducting twice-weekly private tutoring sessions in his office for “special” boys. (The hardworking Reverend Tom reportedly didn’t have time to tutor all the boys privately.)
“One alleged victim, now an adult, came forward to Prescott Police and, according to a police report, when Chantry became a pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church, Chantry told his parents that he wanted to tutor the victim, then “approximately 9 or 10 years old,” privately in his church office.
The parents consented, and the victim claims that, during his twice-weekly hourly meetings, Chantry would spank him, “grope him, rub him, and make him sit on his lap,” the report said.
The victim said that during a Christmas break during which he stayed at Chantry’s house, Chantry “began fondling him,” the report said, touching his private areas, and saying “he was making them feel better.”
This went on for a period of six to seven months, the report said, and Chantry allegedly told the boy not to tell anyone “about his special lessons because he would not be able to teach everyone.””
-The Daily Courier, November 26, 2016
Now lets take a look at how Miller Valley Baptist Church officials look at this dark period of their history.
Below is a comment Pastor Marley posted under “News” on the church’s web page. He has probably known about this scandal since at least July, but only commented on it yesterday. I replied to pastor Marley’s comment yesterday. I just checked the web site and the comment is still awaiting approval.
It is my opinion that some of Reverend Tom’s alleged crimes came to light while he was still pastoring at Miller Valley Baptist Church. If he is guilty of the two counts of aggravated assault with serious injury I would guess that there were two young boys who had to be taken to the hospital. There should be written records of this. Again, purely conjecture on my part, but somehow law enforcement must have been kept out of this. I would guess church members asked Reverend Tom to hit the road and kept the story hushed up.
Why else would our young Reverend exit the ministry and move to the Seattle area?
In my research I found two addresses that Tom Chantry lived at in the year 2000. Both were close to Providence Reformed Baptist Church. The church is located in a western suburb of Tacoma.
Not knowing what Chantry did for work in Washington, (I still don’t know) I got in contact with Pastor Lyon, the man who has served as pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church since the 1970’s. My communication with Pastor Lyon was somewhat contentious, but I gathered that Chantry attended the church but was never a pastor there.
Chantry was probably in Washington at most for 2 years. We know he left Prescott sometime in 2000. If you look at the very end of the article below you will see that Chantry started working as a substitute teacher in the spring of 2002. In the fall of 2002 Chantry began teaching full-time. He taught for four years. Three of the years he taught 5th grade and one year he taught 6th grade.
[Editors note: I have added the comment below, taken from the Christian Liberty Academy website, because it differs from Chantry’s statement of what grades he taught. The school would be able to easily determine this matter. It would be valuable to know which description is correct.]
Chantry taught at Christian Liberty Academy. This school is located in Arlington Heights, IL, a suburb of Chicago. He would have finished teaching in the spring of 2006. Chantry met his wife and married in 2004.
With Chantry now indicted for five counts of molestation of a child and two counts of aggravated assault with serious injury in Arizona, I think it would be prudent for Christian Liberty Academy to notify every parent who had a child in this school between 2002-2006 of this development. Anyone aware of any abuse would be well advised to call law enforcement first, and then the school.
Sometime in 2006 Chantry went to work full-time as the pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Hales Corner, WI.
In May, 2014 a book was published by Solid Ground Christian Books, co-authored by Tom Chantry and David Dykstra. Titled “Holding Communion Together” it was not well received by many in Reformed Baptist circles. (See below) I checked Solid Ground Christian Book’s website yesterday and the book is no longer listed!