In July, Gabby and her fiancé left on a cross-country trek to visit national parks in the U.S. West. He returned; she didn’t. Remains found yesterday, September 19, 2021, in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park are believed to be Gabby Petito’s.
When I saw Gabby was missing, but her fiancé returned to his home with her van, I realized she was dead. Most women in a romantic relationship who go missing do so at the hands of their intimate partner. His refusal to speak to law enforcement told more than mere words ever could.
I watched the police cam footage of Gabby crying tears of shame because her fiancé was upset by her needs. I knew the two of them should have been separated, so Gabby could be taken to a domestic violence shelter. I cried for her. When I saw his scratched face and heard his explanation, I knew he was telling a partial truth. Abusers are pros at keeping the narrative under control; calm, cool, and collected while the victim looks crazy or out of control. Gabby might have felt confused, flustered, or crazy, but she wasn’t crazy. She was living in the spun web of her abuser while he took pleasure in the pain and confusion he was causing. Did Gabby scratch him? Yes, but her body language and soft-spoken crying told of being on the defensive out of fear.
You may think these are premature assumptions, but as a woman who has lived through domestic abuse, my heart heard her heart. My mind understood how her mind believed the narrative that everything was her fault. My body felt all over again the tension of feeling and thinking the lies I believed about myself. Once again, I saw the objectification of a young woman living in a world that often places men first. Women are often considered subordinates, made to follow his leadership at all costs and meet his emotional, financial, and sexual desires without thinking twice about herself. These types of men rarely allow a woman to have ideas, dreams, feelings, or needs.
Am I saying he was always a monster? Of course not, or she would have never been attracted to him. The pictures tell a story of a young couple having fun together. Still, the fun can turn in a split second to frightening, uncontrollable darkness. By the time the police cam recorded Gabby and her alleged aspiring murderer, she was already caught up in the manipulating continuum of domestic violence. She likely died believing she brought all of it on herself. She didn’t.
I know many women stuck in the manipulating continuum. My heart and goal are to help them find the truth in scripture that God doesn’t expect them to endure the abuse. Most of the women I minister to are married to their abuser or trying to safely leave him.
How does this apply to the social justice label?
I hear some of you refer to my ministry, and other ministries, as social justice. Twitter is an echo chamber for the social justice mantra used against advocates. It’s a popular term to throw around in Christianity lately. Especially since it helps many churches and leaders avoid accountability for the harm that has come to sheep while under their care. Every time I hear this, it is in a negative light…as being unscriptural, ungodly, intrusive, or based on fictitious problems. Was that how you referred to Jesus when He bent down in the sand to write a message to the men eager to stone the woman caught in adultery, or when He spoke truth to the woman at the well? Was that what you thought when He cast out demons? Was that your opinion when He heard and healed the blind? Jesus responded in righteous anger in the temple when he saw his Father’s house used as a den of thieves. Did you call that social justice instead of Godly justice? Do you remember when Pharisees hated Jesus for His ministry to the poor, the sick, the sinner, the outcast, and the hurting?
Is social justice how you refer to those who minister to the homeless? Is that what you believe about missionaries helping Afghan refugees escape Afghanistan? Do you call Christian counselors social justice warriors? Do you tell them their ministry is their identity? What if it’s a ministry to which Jesus called them?
Allow me to submit to you that you are using the wrong terminology.
I’m not into social justice. I’m being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’m living out the gospel message in a tangible way to victim-survivors of sexual, spiritual, racial, and domestic abuse. (These aren’t the only people to whom I limit my ministry and care). I teach and convey the heart of Jesus because Jesus is relevant to what these sweet sisters, and some brothers, are living through. I use scripture, pray over them, encourage them, and point them in the direction of professional help they may need. There are over 100 scriptures that teach us to help the oppressed, and never once is caring for them called social justice. It’s simply called help.
You’re wrong when you tell us we’re into social justice and not listening to the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to change the trajectory of my ministry multiple times due to the stress on my tired and disease-riddled body, but the Holy Spirit leads me directly back to these hurting souls on the side of the road. They are image-bearers of God who are beaten, wounded, bleeding, naked, and mentally abused. I understand them because I’ve been them. Please, stop with the harsh and wrong judgments. I, and others, are doing the work of Jesus!
We are all members of the body of Christ. You do your function, and we’ll do ours. For me, there are still more Gabby’s out there who need to hear that:
God is not the author of confusion.
God does not expect us to tolerate domestic, sexual, or spiritual abuse.
God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
God gave us a desire for one true love and a happily ever after, perhaps because our inner being desires Jesus and eternity in heaven.
Jesus came to set us free, and He esteems us greatly.
A study of Jesus’ ministry on earth shows a Savior who believed in and valued the worth of women when the culture around them didn’t.
Jesus is relevant to our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And there are young men out there who need to know it isn’t acceptable to treat other humans with disregard; women aren’t your object to use and throw away like trash. Women aren’t yours to control and abuse.
Back to justice verses ministry
Ministry isn’t only about preaching, church attendance, staff, business meetings, and being voted in as a leader. Evangelism, Bible study, theology, prayer, serving, and spiritual disciplines are all part of being a disciple of Christ. I actively participate in all of these. I have not replaced them with ‘social justice.’ Being a disciple is also learning to sit with others in their pain and trauma, acting as the good Samaritan.
God is just, and justice is biblical. Instead of social justice, the correct term is God-honoring, biblical justice, but mainly it’s just helping those in need.
Suppose you’re asked to participate in a seen need. In that case, it’s not to pull you into a political agenda or turn the church into a social movement. It’s inviting you to care for a deep spiritual need and participate in the soul care of injured sheep while protecting uninjured sheep from harm.
Instead of social justice, the correct term is God-honoring, biblical justice. God is just, and justice is biblical.
Earlier this week, a young man in Atlanta shot and killed eight people in massage parlors, 6 of whom were of Asian descent, and 7 were women. His reason? He struggled with sex addictions and wanted to cut off his temptation. This reminds me of Genesis 3:12,
“The woman you put here with me…”
When he should have practiced Matthew 5:29,
“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”
First, allow me to make some clarifications:
I’m a Christian who loves Jesus, loves His church, and regularly attends my church home.
I’m not saying this is a male-only problem.
I’m not here to justify the shooter’s actions based on possible problematic church teaching or absolve him from crimes.
Mental health also needs to be brought into this discussion.
The church is responsible for sound teaching. It is not responsible for how people respond.
Mentally unwell individuals are more prone to take teachings to an extreme.
I don’t believe there is any single church that correctly understands and applies all of scripture.
This topic is not an SBC only topic.
The Asian massage parlor/spa workers and innocent bystanders are victims.
Over the last three years, I’ve witnessed the Southern Baptist Convention use their public platform to give lip service, and only lip service, to the plight of abuse victims. But, bring up a woman teaching men, a woman asked by the leadership of the church to give a Mother’s Day message, a pastor admitting to voting for a democrat, or talk about racism within the church, and you will immediately hear of policy reform and see quick action. The SBC will respond if the issue matters to the men in charge. Typical par for the course in many denominational and non-denominational churches and Christian institutions.
Sadly, the young man who committed the shootings this week belonged to an SBC church that is part of the Founders Ministry, the most vocal group in the SBC against victims, advocates, and those working to heal all aspects of the body of Christ/the church due to abuse in its ranks.
The Atlanta shootings cause me to remember the teachings in many Christian circles, especially the homeschooling movement, that girls/women are the dangerous cause of men’s temptations and lust. Sexual purity, taught mainly to girls, has been taught from pulpits, classrooms, conferences, and books.
Certainly, the premise that girls cause men to lust and sin isn’t scripturally accurate. Women are not responsible for a man’s thought-life/sin.
The book “Every Man’s Battle” by Arterburn and Stoeker portrays women as nothing more than objects that likely caused their husbands to use porn. Then it tells wives to be sexually available to their husbands to help them overcome their porn addictions. Depraved illustrations throughout the book are numerous. Some of the text is disturbing and treats women as objects/property for the man’s sexual needs with no regard to love, intimacy, or reciprocation. The beautiful relationship of husband and wife depicting the relationship of Christ and the church is missing. Never mind that a large percentage of men go into the marriage relationship already addicted to porn. Wives taking responsibility for their husband’s sin is not found in the gospel. Nonetheless, many in the Christian community have read this book. A closer read will find more erroneous teachings that don’t square with scripture.
Demeaning Soul Care
Women and advocates have been raising their voices for years about sexual abuse in the church while treated with disdain as if we are poison to the system and getting in the way of real ministry. If we open the scriptures, we find Jesus in the mess with the hurting, bleeding, possessed, diseased, dying, dead, and the outcasts because that’s the ministry He came to do and teach His followers. Caring for the least and those who cannot speak for themselves is part of the ministry of under-shepherds of Christ.
My plea to pastors, teachers, and leaders, is your words and actions matter. The church must do a better job teaching about sexuality in a healthier way—the culture you create in your church matters. You have the power of Jesus and scriptures to minister to this generation.
Yet, there are many women who unstable men have murdered. Women beaten or killed by acts of domestic violence because the church told wives to stay, pray, be more attentive, give him more sex, be more encouraging. NO AMOUNT of praying and kindness can make an angry and controlling abuser be nice. It isn’t a relationship problem; it’s an abuse problem.
This massage parlor shootings leave me heartbroken that a young man from a Christian family and an SBC/Founders church committed this violent act against mostly women in minority settings. All life has worth, and it’s the church’s responsibility to teach this correctly.
Finally, I’m not saying the church is responsible for this man’s murderous actions. But, sexism, entitlement, porn, dehumanization, domestic violence, loss of discernment, and abuse of power are all problems in secular society and in the church.
Are we showing ourselves to be set apart? We call ourselves Christians, but are we Christ-like? Do our teachings reflect the heart and ministry of Christ?
Here is an update to two articles I published in 2017 concerning allegations and evidence of sexual misconduct of Ravi Zacharias. I believed the victim then, now, and all the time in-between, as did other abuse advocates and bloggers. Where was the rest of the Christian community?
Most people found the allegations shocking, unbelievable, and shameful, which led to public victim-shaming while Zacharias remained believed, protected, and praised. When Ravi Zacharias died in May of 2020, he was adored and memorialized by well-known celebrities, politicians, best-selling authors, celebrity pastors, and most of the evangelical community. Because I can’t police the internet, I found it safest to stay away from the world-wide-web in the days following Zacharias’ death. A person could have spent their time 24/7 setting the record straight about Ravi’s sexual sins and falsified professional credentials.
I recognized the disbelief since I’ve lived through similar jolting when I found out about my first husband’s hidden sexual addictions and abuses. Other than close friends and family, I wasn’t believed and lost all my ministry friends. Having been married to a duplicitous, conscience-seared pastor, the allegations against Zacharias were sadly, not alarming to me. Duplicitous personalities are wolves; they are not sheep. Wolves are often false converts, not Christ-followers, and evil. And yes, they can know scripture well, just as Satan knows scripture. (I don’t know what may or may not have happen on a death bed where repentance/conversion can take place).
I believed Ravi’s abuse and falsified credentials allegations as soon as I saw the evidence because I understand from personal experience dynamic speakers with dark, evil hearts. He was an entertaining speaker, and people, except for victims/survivors and advocates, remained fascinated by his great logic.
Below is a relevant Tweet by Susan Codon who is a professor and advocate standing against sexual abuse in the evangelical church and writing about her public theology of trauma.
which sin matters?
As a national advocate for abuse victims, I can testify that predatory pastors and evangelists are commonplace in the Christian environment. Upon hearing allegations of abuse, most leaders don’t want to act or trouble themselves with making the environment safer for vulnerable sheep. We would be more likely to gain traction from Christian leadership by asking them to remove a female speaker, teacher, or pastor from a pulpit or classroom rather than acquiring assistance in reporting sexual abuse allegations, seeking justice for victims, and providing restitution for wounded souls. I’m not overstating the case. Some pastors have publicly stated that, in their view, females teaching men is a greater sin than a sexual predator or a pedophile behind the pulpit.
In my 2017 articles, the woman who was preyed upon by Zacharias and who I wrote about was Lori Anne Thompson. She and her husband were slandered by RZIM in horrific and damaging ways when the allegations and evidence were made known. Instead of being held accountable for his inappropriate and sinful phone calls, text messages, and emails, Zacharias justified, excused, deflected, minimized, and spiritualized the abuse to the RZIM board. The board believed him without using logic in light of the gospel with the heart of Christ. Then Zacharias sought legal counsel. He utilized a non-disclosure agreement to keep Lori Anne Thompson from moving forward against him with her case of predatory sexual abuse and abuse of power. Ravi’s family has not yet lifted the N.D.A. against Lori Anne despite the independent investigation report released this week.
Victims and church members in a Christian environment should not be asked to sign a release form or non-disclosure agreement. N.D.A.s should not exist in a Christ-centered environment for relational matters. It’s asking someone to lie or to remain quiet about a secret, sin, or crime. As followers of Jesus, we are to walk in the light, not hide in the dark.
Allow me to state that with conscience seared, double-minded individuals like Zacharias, it is common for them to commit abuse in plain sight. Consider the name “Touch of Hope,” which Ravi created as a “humanitarian effort on the part of RZIM to meet short term needs for long term gains.” People like this get a thrill out of telling people what they are doing behind closed doors. They feel brilliant and unstoppable. They consider Christians gullible because their minds aren’t thinking in sexual, murderous, thieving, or fraudulent ways. If you still don’t understand, I’ll clarify. “Touch of Hope” described that he held hope that a touch would lead to desired sexual contact. “Short-term needs” explained his sexual cravings being abusively coerced and forced from massage therapists. “Long term gains,” referred to the victim’s education or housing being paid/provided. To such a mind, there was transparent honesty about the nature of the humanitarian effort.
I’m pleased to tell you that RZIM, after years of responding incorrectly to the truth and leaving a path of destruction from their wrong responses, finally followed scripture in an open letter to their supporters to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God,” Micah 6:8. I don’t know the motive of their hearts for doing this. Sometimes doing the right thing requires action, sometimes the action reflects the heart. I have learned from past advocacy investigations and responses from Christian churches and organizations that we don’t know if words of a letter are genuine or for damage control. There is fruit that corresponds with repentance. Only time will tell if their acknowledgement and apology were sincere or if their words were to once again pull the proverbial wool over their financial supporters’ eyes.
Justice always takes longer than victims and their loved ones desire, but to the guilty, make no mistake, the day of justice does come either on earth or in eternity.
This case is another example of why third party investigations are necessary. Although it took years, the response RZIM provided this week is how Christian environments must acknowledge wrongdoing in abuse cases. I’m grateful for RZIM’s apology. Anything less would have been unChristlike. (Updated 2/15/2021) To see how spiritually abusive the RZIM board acted for years toward one of Ravi’s victims, Lori Anne Thompson, read the French Press link at the end of this article.
Public disclosure, but withholding the names of victims, needs to happen as soon as possible to lessen problems and fall-out later. Most importantly, a victim’s soul care must be priority, making independent investigations essential. People can process truth and wait on conclusions. Silence allows for false narratives and toxic team building by the perpetrator and their supporters, which happened to Lori Anne Thompson and her husband when RZIM set out to destroy their family.
RZIM will have to reckon with who suspected wrongdoing and could have taken steps to stop Ravi Zacharias. Loyalty to leaders or a personality cannot be the main priority in any ministry.
miller & martin pllc report
Here is an excerpt from the twelve-page report by Miller & Martin PLLC
“Moreover, in the wake of the accusations brought against Ravi by the Thompsons in 2017, we communicated our confidence in Ravi’s denial of these accusations, and others trusted Ravi because they trusted us. Through our failure, we made it more difficult for victims to come forward. This grieves us intensely and makes us so thankful that the truth has ultimately been revealed.
These are some of the ways that we have fallen gravely short. There are undoubtedly other ways as well that we have not yet had the wisdom and humility to identify and fully appreciate. We confess that there has been pride and arrogance in our hearts, and we are committed to the ongoing process of repentance. Both for what Ravi did and for all of the ways that we have fallen short, we are so sorry. As an organization, we understand that we have no right to forgiveness and that even if forgiveness is possible, it may take time. We also recognize that earning trust is a process and is dependent on the steps that we take moving forward.”
This is not hearsay, it is not gossip about a man of God, it is not the words of a woman scorned, and it is not about a mistake. Yes, all people sin and are offered forgiveness, through repentance, because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. But unlike an abuser’s narrative, most people’s stories don’t include sexual assault, abuse of power, deceiving a congregation or leadership, grooming congregants or followers, or having our superiors fail to report to the proper authorities. Scripturally speaking, pastors and teachers have a higher standard to uphold.
The report by Miller & Martin PLLC is not the complete list of victims since the report only lists the ones deposed for the scope of the investigation. Missing are the women excluded in this investigation, those still out there and unidentified, or the ones hushed by a non-disclosure agreement.
Ravi Zacharias had nude pictures of women on his phone. He was sexually abusing massage therapists worldwide. He allegedly raped one and then prayed with her afterward.
Please, don’t tell me naming names and printing about misconduct hurts the name of Christ. Jesus was the first one to show us how to clean His Father’s house.
Until the church wakes up to the fact that wolves in sheep’s clothing are in our midst and sometimes hold places of leadership, we’ll continue to be too blind to recognize them.
I understand RZIM was confident the investigation would clear Ravi’s name, so I pray for those in leadership as they move forward in truth. I have three questions for the RZIM board: 1) Copies of emails and text messages were floating around the internet, for which there were no Christ-like explanations. Why didn’t you, since you were responsible for oversight, intervene with an investigation at that point? 2) The Holy Spirit and the scriptures are alive and active. Was the Spirit not screaming in your gut that something was wrong as Ravi threw a fit when you asked to see his phone and emails? 3) Will there now be an investigation into who helped Ravi Zacharias secure visas for Asian women to live in and work in the USA? I think the investigation shows a strong case for sex trafficking.
Publishers are pulling Ravi’s books, authors are editing partner content that included Zacharias, international affiliates are severing ties with RZIM, broadcasters are cancelling shows, and many internet sites are removing all content pertaining to their association with Zacharias.
I pray for Lori Anne and the other victims that their souls find validation, compassion, comfort, and healing for the sexual and spiritual abuse they endured. They are believed.
“We honor God by caring for the wounded and by dragging sin to the light and calling it by its right name.” -Diane Langberg, PhD
The Church’s Mandate to Comfort and Protect For Such a Time as This
This is in response to the MBC Pathway’s Facebook page regarding media attention to SBC predator, Shawn Davies, being released from prison after serving about 12 of 20 years for molesting at least 13 victims in Missouri, Kentucky and Michigan. He was released in July 2019, and is currently living in Reeds Spring, Missouri. Years ago, police said that Pastor Mike Roy of FBC Greenwood, Missouri, allowed Davies to work around children at FBC Greenwood for about four months after they notified Roy that Davies was under investigation for molesting young boys at their church and other churches. Prior church employers did not give Davies good references. They said that he was addicted to porn and “didn’t work well with children.” As is common for predators in ministry, they find a friend or a church that chooses to believe them instead of the references, past churches, or victims. Mike Roy and the Greenwood church should have reasoned on the side of safety for vulnerable children.
The For Such a Time as This Rally Facebook and Twitter accounts questioned the wisdom and validity of The Missouri Baptist Convention recently appointing Mike Roy as a trustee for Southwest Baptist University. MBC leadership, in my opinion, did not react kindly to the rally’s social media postings.
Some leaders in the MBC have asserted this issue was driven by an unethical media (the Baptist Press, and others, in the below reference). It appears they have purposefully leveled allegations against the For Such a Time as This Rally founder, Cheryl Summers to deflect the seriousness of the churches’ past mistake.
Let’s read what a lead detective on the case said about Roy during the investigation:
The MBC is accusing Cheryl Summers of making false allegations against Mike Roy. The organization Cheryl founded, For Such a Time as This Rally, shared links which contained pertinent and truthful information as reported years earlier by other journalistic publications, yet somehow the links to the old articles have been spun as deceitful slander by an individual, Cheryl Summers. This is typical treatment from churches and leaders who are attempting to control the narrative. We have seen history rewritten on numerous occasions, by multiple churches and leaders, where sexual abuse cover-up is concerned.
If you go to MBC Pathway’s Facebook page, you can see that they wrote an article last Monday saying that Cheryl brought false allegations about the Shawn Davies abuse case at FBC Greenwood. They appear as bullies by targeting Cheryl rather than acknowledging that the post was on the rally FB page and that the rally simply linked to articles from 2006 and 2007 where the lead detective investigating abuse at FBC Greenwood said that pastor Mike Roy made their job more difficult and did not cooperate. The Missouri Baptist Convention recently appointed Mike as a trustee for Southwest Baptist University which is why this case is back in the news.
Cheryl Summers spoke to Communications Director, Rob Phillips, of Missouri Baptists who confirmed that he and John Yeats read the Pathway article before it was released and he couldn’t explain why The Pathway attributed statements by police in 2006 and 2007 to Cheryl.
Here is a clip of The Missouri Baptist Convention website. How are members and attendees supposed to seriously believe abusers are being weeded out by loving, serving and caring leadership when this is how past abuse was handled by current leadership when Mike Roy was outed as a hindrance to the investigation? If Roy wasn’t willing to protect the vulnerable back then, why should he be trusted to do so now? This is a huge issue which should disqualify him. This may be part of the reason SBC membership continues to decline.
Problems and cover-ups are part of the reason I joined the For Such a Time as This Rally the last two years. I’m grateful for Houston Chronicle journalist Robert Downen and his team who have been covering this denominational nightmare while giving victims their voice back. With the Chronicle’s Abuse of Faith coverage, and the tool of social media, the SBC’s problem is not going to fade into the background or be silenced. There are thousands of faces and voices to go with the abuses. They will not be bullied, sent away with hush money, or backed into a corner by non-disclosure agreements signed for church membership.
An open letter to the Missouri Baptist Convention,
Is it more important to lead or to listen, to strong arm or to serve? What is serving abuse survivors about?
It is not about saving the reputation of the abuser, predator, church, or Jesus (Jesus is secure in His reputation).
It is not about guarding every word said or not said.
It is not about preventing a lawsuit.
It is not about what we think or feel about an alleged abuser.
It is not about manipulating perception.
It is not about trying to maintain power dynamics. This is when wolves win and sheep lose.
It is not about blindly trusting the abuser. True repentance bears fruit (Matthew 3:8) and includes restitution (Luke 19:8-9, Romans 13:8-10); not necessarily reconciliation.
It is about eternity, people, safety, souls, healing, and salvation.
It is about soul care.
The main focus should be soul care.
I don’t see any such care coming from your recent allegations and articles.
Placing blame on Cheryl Summers for referencing links to professionally published articles from years past is beyond disingenuous. Its slander. Your issue is not with Cheryl Summers or the For Such a Time as This Rally; it is with the original reporters. But not really, because the journalists were painfully accurate. If Roy believed law enforcement was putting out false investigative facts, and journalists were fabricating unethical stories about him, he would have taken legal action against them at the time. He didn’t. Why? Because law enforcement was not lying. It seems to me it would have been easier for Mike Roy to say, “I’m sorry, I messed up, and I know it disqualifies me from a leadership position in ministry.”
If The Baptist News was unethical or sensationalizing the original story then the MBC would have stepped in to help Roy. It was a big story back when it happened and it garnered national attention. It was also written about in Christa Brown’s 2009 book This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang; an excellent book, well written, highly engaging, and a fast read for any SBC member who would dare to open their heart and mind to the magnitude of sexual abuse in the SBC.
Please stop wrongly applying scripture to this issue in an attempt to silence survivors and advocates. We do not need to ‘go to our brother’ to get his side of the story when we want to link to what has already been reported in local and national media outlets. We are not required to verify what was published.
Advocates are ministering soul care in the name of Jesus and walking alongside the survivors as they find purposeful living after the soul crushing sexual and spiritual abuse they endured inside and outside church building walls, by their abusers who declared everything being done to them was in name of Jesus, for His glory and purpose. Devious lies straight from the pit of hell!
I hope Missouri Baptist Convention members are reading the past articles linked to by the For Such a Time as This Rally, while recognizing the current spinning and mudslinging taking place by their MBC leadership. Members, it is time to stop believing what leadership is saying and investigate for yourselves.
As for Roy and MBC leadership, a truly repentant man would own what he did, give specific apologies, and make restitution for the harm to which he contributed. Abusers are professional liars and master manipulators who justify, deny, excuse, deflect, minimize, spiritualize, and cover-up abuse. Advocates are concerned and think we are recognizing abusive behaviors from Roy and the MBC about the Davies case.
The SBC’s decade’s old problem of cover-ups and denials are the main reason predators continue to flock to and find refuge in SBC churches, and the reason innocent children and vulnerable adults continue to be easy prey for pedophiles and sexual assault perpetrators. I don’t see your accusations as caring well for abuse survivors. It doesn’t look anything like the heart of Jesus or serving the least of these. It doesn’t beckon the little children to come to Jesus. It does look like, yet again, protecting the wolves while the sheep bleed out. Instead of dealing with the people who were complicit in mishandlings or cover-ups you are bullying those who are attempting to protect the body of Christ.
Following Jesus is not about leadership dynamics, big church attendance, the next book deal, tomorrow’s media interview, or popularity. It is about serving, having a servant’s heart by showing care to the powerless among us. When we do this we are putting God’s word into practice. We can have all the right theology in the world, but if we have not the loving heart of Jesus we are missing our calling. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbors. Do we want to be Pharisees or Jesus followers?
The world places importance on money, power, education, and pleasure. When the church becomes caught up in this we become wolves in sheep’s clothing and instead of protecting the innocent, marginalized, and oppressed we can find ourselves siding with an affluent and/or smooth talking abuser.
Advocates and survivors love Jesus, love the word of God, and strive to put our love for others into action. We are exhausted from witnessing abusive behavior, cover-ups, and lack of training for how to handle abuse disclosures. It is taking a toll on our time and our health, yet we march on because we know Jesus placed us in this generation, to chase after Him, and to work with Him for such a time as this.
If you like, call the Missouri Baptist Convention and request they not place Dr. Mike Roy on the board of trustees at Southwest Baptist University. You may also request they offer an apology to Cheryl Summers. Missouri Baptist Convention (573) 636-0400.
Follow the below links to read current and past articles on the topic…
It has been 5 1/2 years since the disappearance of Lynn Messer. We now know that Lynn did not disappear but was in fact dead the entire time. Her husband Kerry Messer has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death.
No one has been declared guilty of any wrong doing in Lynn’s death and there have been no arrests.
I write about Lynn’s case coming from a background of domestic violence, so since day one I have seen this case through a differnt lense than the general public. I’m not saying I’m right, but I am discussing possibilities of what many domestic abuse survivors and DV fatality victims have endured. I also write about this knowing that the Christian community and many churches often side with abusers and shun the victims and family members of the victims. I have spent years attempting to educate the church about wolves in sheep’s clothing. From where I stand, the Catholic, Southern Baptists, and Indepentent Fundamental Baptist churches are the worst offenders who don’t seem to be learning from past mistakes. Many knowingly keep abusers in leadership and on staff while leaving children and vulnerable adults as easy prey. They have track records of not taking abuse allegations seriously, for covering-up for abusers, and for telling survivors to stay quiet, get over it, stop doing things to make the abuser mad, and to pray harder. This advice has resulted in death for some victims.
I know Lynn’s sons and their families can attest to Lynn’s church and the Southern Baptist Convention of Missouri not believing them when they raised concerns and allegations against their father about his marriage to Lynn, about her death, and about his extra marital relationship with Spring Thomas. The church and the SBC refused to believe Lynn’s sons or do anything to hold their father accountable.
How did Lynn die? How did she arrive at the place where her remains were discovered? Were her remains hidden/moved before being discovered on the farm? Did Lynn believe her life was in danger before her death? Does Kerry Messer hold the answer to any or all of these questions? Does anyone else hold the answer to any or all of these questions? Did anyone have information about Lynn’s death? If so, did they contribute to her death, help cover-up her death, run interference regarding Lynn’s case, or agreesivly intimidate family members?
Today I am recalling words from, Pastor Pat Crisler, who spoke at Lynn Messer’s memorial service. A few phrases from the eulogy piqued my curiosity to a possibility…
“Lynn always loved education and learning new things. She later in life went on to college learning soil sciences, and agriculture which she was able to use later by serving on the local Soil and Water Board.
Lynn fell in love with foreign missions in Ecuador where she made numerous trips, made friends, and was looking forward to not only teaching and leading people to the Lord, but also was making plans to use her knowledge of soil science to help teach the indigenous people of Ecuador how to use their natural resources to better provide for their families.”
God loves to show us a reversal of fortunes/destiny. Where Lynn is concerned, I’ve thought about the possibility, prayed about it, and studied more about it since hearing the words. A couple of weeks after Lynn’s memorial service I pulled up Pat’s notes which he sent at my request and with Abram Messer’s permission. To my utter delight I found the title of Pat’s message is part of the Bible study I’ve been doing for this exact blog post.
The words from Pat’s message reminded me of something that happened in my life; a reversal of destiny.
Examples: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
To help you understand where I’m going with this; below is the title of the message and a few abbreviated points from, Pastor Pat Chrisler.
Message Title: FOR A SUDDEN, UNEXPECTED DEATH
Mark 4:35-41 (HCSB)
Wind and Wave Obey the Master
35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” 41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Seeking a break from the demand of the excited crowds, Jesus took a boat, and with some of his disciples, sailed off for some rest and relaxation. Suddenly their leisure day was disrupted by a violent storm. In that sudden storm, Jesus did an astounding thing. And in that we learn some things which can help us in the light of the devastating experience we seek to navigate through based on these last two years, and in the days to come.
First of all, we are reminded although the Sovereign of the universe is on the boat, it is no guarantee against the sudden—in this case, verse 37 tells us, a sudden storm.
Second, it may appear in these sudden experiences of life, which grieve us and threaten our sense of God’s nearness and care, that God is not doing anything.
Third, we can respond like Jesus’ disciples. Fear can replace faith. Jesus did hear their cries for help. He sprang into action. He spoke, and the winds ceased and the waves curled up around His feet like submissive tigers under the voice of their trainer. He then asked a penetrating question, “Why are you so afraid?”
When the sudden comes in our lives, the Sovereign Savior is looking for us to look at him.
Sudden storms also serve to turn us to Jesus as we see in verse 38.
The Sovereign of the Sudden does something else in our storms. He will assist others—who see us coming through our assault—so they too may find blessings in the storms they are facing.
Finally, storms remind us the Sovereign of the Sudden is in control. In verse 41 the disciples were overwhelmed by what they had seen. They had a new fear: a reverential fear. They had seen Jesus, with a word, rebuke wind and waves. They were reminded the Sovereign of the Sudden is in control when everything else seems to be totally out of control.
God’s plan and purpose for Lynn and for our lives are not subject to whims, accidents, circumstances, illnesses, and evil. God works through these to bring about his will.
We are not expecting the situation we have been put into. But what we do before any event in our lives is in preparation for how we handle the event. We have two options, we can react or we can respond. When you react it is negative when you respond it is positive. God allows us the choice to handle adversity either looking at it from a worldly lens or looking at it from His perspective.
It could be sort of like if one of Lynn’s grandkids were playing on her living room floor and looked up and saw her sewing a cross-stitch. From their perspective on the floor looking up they might say, “Grandma what are you doing, you are not making any sense, it looks like a mess?” Lynn would respond by saying, “I got it, I’m making a beautiful picture.” But all the child could see from where they sit was a mess. From Lynn’s perspective she responded with “I have this; I’m making a beautiful picture.” It would not be until the grandchild would stand up and walk around the chair so they are now looking over Grandmas shoulder would they be able to see and appreciate how beautiful a creation Lynn had truly been making all this time. Often times we look up into the heavens and we say, “God what are you doing? It doesn’t make sense, I don’t understand.”
All we see from our perspective is a messed up tapestry and yet God is saying, “From My perspective I am making a beautiful picture, do you trust me?” In those moments when you can’t TRACE THE HAND OF GOD, YOU HAVE TO TRUST THE HEART OF GOD!
Pastor Crisler’s message jogged my memory
We read in the book of Esther a celebration of a reversal of destiny. Although we read nothing of God in the book of Esther, the life of Esther has the fingerprints and heart of God all over it. History shows us what Esther at the moment couldn’t see. Yet she remained obedient to what she knew to be true. This is a wise and beautiful lesson for us today. When we can’t figure out what God is doing, where He is, perhaps we can’t sense His presence and we wonder if we will ever find Him; we must remember God is there. Some day we will look back on the most important or difficult times in our life and we will see God all over it! It may look like it took months, years, or a life time for the something to happen yet we will often see it had a turning point that was sudden.
In the book of Esther, everything Haman meant for evil; for the death of Mordicai and the destruction, slaughter and annihilation of the Jews; God suddenly reversed allowing the plans to be used against Haman, and provided for His chosen people to be saved. The intervention can only be explained as a work of God.
Here are more scriptural reversals of destinies:
Joseph’s brothers decided to harm him. They sold him to get rid of him. Joseph later sells food to his brothers to save them: Joseph’s brothers hated him and refused to listen to anymore of his, “You bow down to me dreams.” His brothers sold him to merchants on their way to Egypt. While in Egypt Joseph interpreted dreams, became 2nd in command over all of Egypt, saved his brothers, his father and their families, and the brothers bowed down before Joseph. Sold as a slave; becomes a ruler. Genesis 37-45
Pharaoh’s horses and riders surround the Israelites at the Red Sea. The Red Sea surrounds and drowns Pharaoh’s horses and riders. Exodus 14
King Nebuchadnezzar, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” He is driven away from people to live as a wild animal outside his kingdom. After 7 years King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. God restores Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity and kingdom to him. Daniel 4
King Darius’ men falsely accused Daniel so Daniel would be thrown in the lion’s den to his death. God saved Daniel, and the King’s men were thrown in the lion’s den to their deaths. Daniel 6
The Book of Esther
Queen Vashti was summoned to be seen. Suddenly she was seen no more.¹
Haddasah an orphaned Jewish girl among the exiles; the least and the last to ever be chosen becomes the Queen of Persia; royalty, wife of King Xerxes.
Haman who thought he had planned his own parade of honor suddenly finds himself parading around the person in his world who he hated the most; Mordicai.
Haman builds a 75 foot high pole in which to hang Mordicai but suddenly finds himself hanged on the very pole.
The irrevocable edict that will destroy, kill and annihilate the Jewish people and nation suddenly allows for the Jewish people to do the very same to anyone who tries to kill them.
The reversal that happened to Haman is a warning to us that vicious consequences can happen to us when planning violent acts or traps for others.
“God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” II Cor. 5:21
From darkness to light: “and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,”Col. 1:12-13
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” I Peter 2:10
Robber on the cross, not a believer, who was at that moment destined to hell; confessed with his mouth and suddenly, within minutes, found himself in heaven. Luke 23
Peter and John were fishers of fish who became fishers of men.
Paul: A persecutor of Christians became the persecuted.
Rich man; poor man, the rich man and Lazarus died and went different paths. The rich man enjoyed all his good on the earth and his agony in eternity. The poor man, Lazarus, received bad things on earth and comfort for eternity. Luke 16
When life seems impossible and overwhelming, as if the time for finding an answer is past, we must remember that for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and have asked Him to intercede in this difficulty, God sees us and He is actively at work in our lives.
As I was listening to, Pastor Pat Crisler, speak at Lynn’s memorial service the idea of praying about a reversal popped into my mind.
Remember how Lynn studied soil and wanted to help others through that studying? Put it in terms of a reversal:
-In life, Lynn led and studied soil to reveal a better living for people she cared about—In death, the study of soil will reveal if someone she cared about led to her demise.
-If someone was responsible for her death: Whoever hides the death of Lynn on soil—from the soil they will be found out.
-If someone disguised murder as a suicide tale …the suicide story will be exposed as murder.
-If there were deceitful accomplices in helping with or covering for a crime…their deceit will be uncovered.
Remember: the forensics testing hresults have not been released. If I read or heard on the news correctly, the FBI took soil samples which means they will be looking at all the layers of soil, fallen leaves and natural debris to see if it matches up with what was found on and around Lynn’s remains. It could possibly reveal if Lynn’s remains were located there the entire 2 years and 4 months, or if she was placed there after the fact.
Forensic Soil Analysis is the use of soil sciences and other disciplines to aid in criminal investigation. Soils are like fingerprints because every type of soil that exists has unique properties that act as identification markers.²
God, through scripture, has set the precedence that reversals can happen; which means we have permission and authority to pray for one. In doing so, let’s speak the Holy Spirit’s language: Scripture. As we ask our mediator, Jesus Christ, to present our requests to our Heavenly Father we can be assured that our desires are in line with what God can do and has delighted to do throughout history. If a crime was committed against Lynn Messer, let us together seek a reversal of destiny for the person or persons who need to be brought to justice. Lynn’s family longs for answers and justice over this traumatic event through which they are currently living.
All the ‘sudden’ unknowns to us are known by God. When the enemy interjects events and plans into our lives he thankfully doesn’t have the last say. Christ does. And Christ can intervene any way of His choosing. God can use the horrific, the thing we hate doing the most, and/or the crime or abuse that has been committed against us for good; it’s scriptural:. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28 (NET). This doesn’t mean it is easy, right, or best. It does mean that if we invite God and allow Him, He will partner with us to bring good into our lives again. Perhaps allowing the partnership to help others, and lead others, on the same weary path you have travelled. Perhaps helping others avoid the path all together.
Let’s agree in prayer and pray these scriptures over the Lynn Messer case:
1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? 2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. 4 You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!
5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. 6 The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, 7 “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!”
8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. 9 For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.
We believe, therefore we speak (pray)
If there was deceit in Lynn’s sudden death we pray for the evidence to show truth and sudden revelation.
As was the case with my reversal of destiny, God was using the lapse of time to bring not just temporary protection and deliverance but permanent protection, deliverance and justice. God knows the truth of what happened to Lynn. Let’s pray for the investigators and prosecuting attorney to find truth, gain closure, and provide justice.
Let’s pray specifically. If we ask for nothing we can’t be disappointed. I like to throw caution to the wind; after all, our Great God commands the wind! I’m well aware that God is not a genie in a bottle. He answers in His time and His way with His Father heart full of love, mercy and wisdom, and sometimes the answer is—no, or not yet. But…when we specifically pray; God often precisely answers. When He does answer, and I know it’s an answer to a question or request I prayed, there is nothing more exhilarating than watching my little, tiny mustard seed of faith through prayer move Heaven. Knowing the God of all creation loves me, hears me, and interacts with me is the most fun, the highest high, the coziest comfort, and the biggest gift—EVER! All while knowing I did nothing to deserve it. I simply pray for His heart and will to be done and for Him to override my wants with His best; basing my prayers on His words; scripture.
I’ll add to, Pastor Pat Crisler’s, message title…For a Sudden, Unexpected Death, An Unexpected, Sudden Answer.
For a Sudden, Unexpected Death, An Unexpected, Sudden Answer. #JusticeForLynn
Thank you for joining in this prayer.
*This article is a re-write of: Lynn Messer: Reversal of Destiny, 2016.
¹Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman, Beth Moore; LifeWay Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008
“Women and girls have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it.”– Rachael Denhollander, American lawyer and former gymnast. She was the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, of sexual assault. Denhollander is a TIME 100 honoree and a 2018 Glamour Woman of the Year.
*Red text indicates a link to the original source of information.
These are not acts that happen in the middle of an argument or are considered crimes of passion. These are acts that are carefully planned because the abuser believes she has no right to leave. He also doesn’t want her to find happiness, nor does the abuser want anyone else to have her.
It’s important to remember when someone reports abuse and you can’t imagine the accused abuser is capable of what’s been reported, that abusers are grand actors and liars. If often takes years for the victim to come to understand and come to terms with the abuse…and they are the one being abused. Of course, an outsider would doubt.
You may think: He’s always been a great guy; we hung out together, did Bible study together, shared meals in each other’s homes, watched each other’s kids on occasion. He was never angry, aggressive, rude, controlling or anything negative. I never saw him acting abusively toward his wife or children.
Those things can all be true because abusers rarely abuse everyone they come in contact with; it’s usually immediate family members, a romantic interest, and occasionally acquaintances or co-workers.
Did scripture point out anyone suspecting King David of murdering Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband after David abused his power and raped her? (She had no choice. He was the king). David plotted, deceived, and covered- up Uriah’s murder. Those under David’s command or in his network of friends may have said something like this: “David is a man of faith; he defeated Goliath when he was still a young man, he was a terrific friend to Jonathan, he cared for Saul’s crippled grandson Mephibosheth, he spent time with his God. I know David and I know he would never do that.”
We should never be surprised when someone we know does something out of character for them. We never know what is going on in someone else’s personal life, heart, or mind.
Pondering an unsolved death
I’ve been writing about a Missouri woman for the last few years who I think was killed by her husband. Did she discover another woman and decided to leave? Did her husband want more than one woman in his bedroom and she decided she wouldn’t go along with it? Did she think she was in an abusive relationship and decide to leave? Was she devastated after her years of faithfulness to know he wasn’t faithful? Did she think he had tried to kill her through accidents and prescription drug problems and decided her life was in danger? Was there a different reason? What she may not have known is that the probability of murder goes up when a victim decides to leave. We know three-quarters of domestic violence homicides are committed by men at the time of leaving, or after she leaves.
There are two local cases in which families of deceased women continue waiting for charges to be filed in the death of their loved ones; Amanda Jones and Lynn Messer.
According to family members, Amanda’s case and evidence were not professionally or properly investigated, processed, or taken seriously from day one. Amanda Kay Jones was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she disappeared. The alleged father of her unborn child, Brian Westfall, is reportedly the last known person to see her. The two met at the Hillsboro Civic Center on August 14, 2005, at 1:00 p.m. During the meeting, Amanda answered a call on her cell phone at approximately 1:15p.m. After the meeting, no one else is known to have seen or heard from Amanda. Later that night, Amanda’s blue 1997 Pontiac Sunfire was found unlocked and abandoned in the Civic Center parking lot. Her purse, car keys, wallet, and cell phone have not been found.
Lynn Messer disappeared July 8, 2014. We now know that Lynn has been deceased the entire time and I have been told by law enforcement that Kerry Messer, her husband, has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death. Kerry is a Missouri state lobbyist who represents family, homeschooling, right-to-life, gun safety, and Christian/Biblical values. Upon her disappearance, the family farm where Lynn lived with her husband was mapped with grids and searched by rescue and recovery teams, along with trained search and rescue dogs. Searching was done by air, foot, and all-terrain vehicles; by day and by night. Rescue dogs are trained in locating human remains by tracking, trailing, and air scenting. This should have been an easy job in the outdoor air of the extreme summer heat during July and August. Law enforcement did not find Lynn in those early days and were certain she was not on the farm. Three years ago, November 1, 2016, Lynn’s remains were found on the farm; recovered from the direction of the scent found that first morning in 2014.
On Lynn’s death certificate the state could have listed the cause of death as ‘unknown’. They didn’t.
Instead it says, ‘MANNER: PENDING INVESTIGATION’
‘UNDETERMINED AT THIS TIME’
The death certificate does not say ‘Could Not Be Determined’. Undetermined at this time leaves legal room to easily come back and make changes to the certificate. This case is not closed and the death certificate gives me hope that #JusticeForLynn does exist.
If you are in a destructive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. It is free, confidential, and judgement free. Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224
Family reunification camps and policies like those run by Overcoming Barriers https://overcomingbarriers.org/trainings/ are proven to be ineffective and dangerous to children. Overcoming Barriers is in town tomorrow to lead judges, lawyers, guardians ad-litem, and mental health professionals in a conference. The purpose is to help court personnel learn how to force children to spend time with both parents, and how to give financial consequences to parents who don’t agree, or don’t want to make their children comply. The Washington Post reported in 2017 that Overcoming Barriers workshops were shut down after studies failed to prove their efficacy. These camps are a danger to all children, but imagine the impact especially if the child is afraid of a parent due to prior abuse and then is court-ordered to attend camp with the abusive parent. It is NORMAL for a child to be scared of their abuser and to suffer from a trauma or stressor-related disorder such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or have suicidal thoughts. It is NOT normal or healthy to require a child to let down their protective barriers so they ‘get over’ being scared or stressed by their angry and controlling abuser, or so they believe the abuser loves them, wants the best for them, and is worthy of a closer relationship with them.
Here is a snippet of my interview with FOX 2 news from Tuesday.
Dr. Leslie Drodz says the training is “to arrive at actual solutions instead of endless court battles.” Here’s the problem: When you are dealing with an abuser and a protective parent there is no solution that will please the parents or the court. The abuser is out to hurt the protective parent’s heart, turn family and friends against them, and financially ruin them. The protective parent’s goal is to insure the children are safe. The court wants shared custody, or at least visitation, regardless of abuse. The court needs better training to help the victims. I’m not sure I can agree with Judge Banas that highly contested custody cases are the problem and the reason for needing ‘Overcoming Barriers’ to hold a conference this Friday. The problem I see and continually hear about is domestic violence being seen by the court as a high conflict divorce/custody case. High conflict divorces and domestic violence are NOT the same thing. This is why court personnel need training on how to identify and deal with domestic abuse. This will require ongoing education; not a 5-8 hour class. This is why I’m participating in a peaceful protest outside the court house this Friday at 10:30 AM. Please join me!
Organizers of the protest suspected she would say she takes the side of the protesters, and she did so. Judge Burlison says a parent can be stripped of their rights if there is abuse. They can, but are they?
What about all the protective parents who come in with professional documentation from one or many of these? Child protective services. child psychologist, family therapist. school counselor or teacher, or a police report. These reports are most commonly ignored in St. Charles County family court. And…if a child discloses abuse they have to disclose it a second time to the ‘correct’ county child advocate so it can be video recorded as evidence for court. If the child doesn’t re-disclose…it’s as if the abuse didn’t happen in the eyes of the court. For toddlers and preschoolers it is often difficult to get them to re-disclose. The interviewer isn’t allowed to ask leading questions in hopes of retrieving the information from them.
Of all the women I, Carolyn, have ministered to in St. Charles County who left their abusers, only the one whose husband went to prison was able to have the abuser’s rights taken away. Another was able to get the abuser to leave them alone if they agreed to a minimal financial settlement.It wasn’t because the court was willing to take his rights away. I also know of multiple cases where the protective parent lost custody to the abusive parent. This happened when they provided professional evidence to abuse. Bringing up abuse to the court often doesn’t end well and is used against the protective parent.
Organizers of the protest believe that more than a ‘parenting plan’ and the right of an abusive parent to have a relationship with a child; a child has a right to a non-abusive home.
Don’t just say these things have to be looked into. LOOK INTO IT! Children’s safety is in your hands and are you are not using the fullest extend of the law, state statutes, to protect them. Criminal courts would not get buy with ignoring and over riding professional testimony like family court does!
In case you haven’t seen the headline I’ll fill you in on yet another spiritual battle taking place in the church.
I‘m referring to the applause of a crowd that was unfortunately heard around the globe, and no one was listening more intently than abuse survivors and non-Christians. It was sad, it was wrong, and as an abuse survivor I can tell you; in a way it revictimized many souls.
It involves Andy Savage, the teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN. According to the church website “Andy’s personal mission statement is, ‘Making God make sense, starting at home then everywhere else.’ Whether Andy is teaching, writing, or relationship coaching, Andy strives to live out his life’s passion of creatively communicating God’s truth in a way that connects with people where they are. Andy teaches every Sunday at one of three Highpoint campuses and is the lead visionary for marriage, parenting, and family life ministry. He is also a national speaker, the author of multiple books, and host of the Andy Savage Radio Show and podcast.”
I understand mistakes and the folly of youth. Seriously, I regretfully took many field trips dedicated to the foolishness of youth. This sexual assault case goes beyond a youthful mistake. Even if it were consensual, which it wasn’t according to the victim and the church in Texas. Texas law considered the age difference and the act a felony, and the Bible considers it sin.
What concerns me about the Andy Savage situation is that over the years he has so easily disassociated from his deception. These types of people are the ones who can be the most spiritually, physically, and sexually dangerous.
I can’t imagine how difficult this is for Mr. Savage’s wife. From past experience I can make an educated guess and deduct that if she had heard anything about it; it didn’t begin to resemble the truth.
Here are 14 points the church needs to understand:
1) Most churches error on this: The church body tends to value the institution (church) above the safety and health of the one who is/was being abused. Most of all, the church is valuing the institution over Jesus.
2) “She said that a pastor of the church, The Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, urged her to stay quiet when she told him what had happened. Instead of telling her to inform the authorities, he told her that the church would address the episode internally.” This is typical. The church believes they need to protect the reputation of the church and of Jesus. They often use the scripture from 1 Corinthians 6 about not taking a believer to court. This amounts to incorrectly applying scripture. The church’s responsibility was to call law enforcement and allow them to investigate. It was also the church’s job to remove Andy Savage from ministry and follow-up on any new ministry Andy Savage attempted to gain.
3) There is a huge difference between forgiveness and restoration of relationship; personally or professionally.
4) Any church leader or staff, regardless of age, who sexually victimizes another person, should never again be in a position of leadership (I Timothy 3 & Ephesians 5:3).
5) If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is NOT appropriate to give the said church leader a standing ovation. For any reason…ever!
6) If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is ALSO NOT appropriate to justify or make minimizing statements about the victim.
7) Andy Savage went against scripture and went against church policy yet the church partially blamed her. No! He was her youth leader. He committed a crime.
8) “When a person tells factually true things to cast an impression that they know to be false, they’re lying even though everything they’ve said is true. And they KNOW they are lying.” Dr. George Simon Jr., PhD. clinical psychologist with decades of experience working w/ abusers.
9) After Andy finished addressing the congregation, church members stood and applauded him for about 20 seconds. The lead pastor at Highpoint, Chris Conlee, told the congregation that he supported Mr. Savage, who he said was one of the people “hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin.” I wonder if Pastor Conlee understands the depth of the problem? He should be supporting Andy Savage in resigning from the ministry and directing him and his wife to excellent counseling. For Mrs. Savage, I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who is accessible on the internet, and/or Patrick Doyle who can be found on YouTube.
10) Church, I understand that you may have been replying, “We love you too” when you gave the standing ovation. Andy closed with, “I love you all very much,” at which point, you, the congregation rose to applaud. I imagine you didn’t mean to applaud a sexual crime. But it still gave painful implications. When is the church going to stop with harsh judgments and quick grace at the wrong time and places? This deeply wounds victims of sexual abuse, marital unfaithfulness, and domestic violence.
11) If Andy Savage were truly repentant he would stop defending himself. His goal would be to cause no further harm to the victim.
12) I often see defendants in abuse cases use spiritual language as a powerful weapon of deception.
13) After watching the church service and comparing it to his radio interview, I don’t think he fully acknowledges his actions, plus he admitted to lying. It sounds like he is grasping to hold on to his position at this mega church and the prestige that comes with the position.
14) Church, we need to avoid cliché sayings like, ‘it was a long time ago.’ We need to support the victim and hold the defendant responsible. We must be better at handling abuse allegations and admissions.
The below video shows the conversation I’m referring to in minutes 12:00 – 22:45
12:00 – 22:45
The pastor tearfully informs his congregation that what they “witness today will give you incredible confidence in what love is all about. I pray that what you witness today will give you hope that healing is available for every single person.” The pastor then goes on to implore people to listen to everything before they evaluate what they hear because it will touch emotions, feelings, and the heart strongly.
This isn’t about processing emotions or working through phases of the issue. It was wrong. It was unlawful. Andy Savage should not be in the ministry. I highly question the leadership of anyone who handles sexual misconduct by saying we can find ways to agree and work this out. There is room to disagree? Why does anyone need to respect Andy Savage and welcome him on the church staff? I know I’ve walked this road longer than most people, but I’m exhausted from the church not recognizing the sin while making excuses for it. Church, we must do better! I don’t believe in a pastor using their power to encourage the congregation to ignore scripture and gloss over felony law breaking, sin, and abuse of leadership power. Yes, the church wants to facilitate the healing of brokenness in people’s lives. But…healing and restoration do not equal restored relationship with a person or with their place of employment/ministry. Yes, Pastor Conlee, love does cover a multitude of sins but it is wrongly applied to illegal sexual conduct by church staff against a student. Love does not equal acceptance of the abuser in a continued ministry position, or the acceptance of the abuse.
I could go on for pages about the gross misapplication of scriptures in this case. I could commentate for hours on the discrepancies found by comparing the recorded church service to the interview of Andy Savage conducted by Ben Ferguson. Why? For starters Mr. Savage originally lied to his church staff and lied to the girl’s parents. His story changed as the progression of facts were revealed. His interviews from Sunday and The Ben Ferguson Radio Show don’t add up to truth. We go back to a foundational fact: When we tell the truth we can remember what we said. When we lie…well…we can’t remember what we said and therefore get caught up in deceit, explanations, word spinning, justifying, spiritualizing, and denial.
I love the church. God can truly use the church to encourage us, grow us, and shape us—but I hate it when God’s children are abused by church people. I will never defend a man who has abused his leadership position of power to harm a girl or woman’s heart, soul, mind, or strength.
Our loyalty to church leadership can be good, noble and true. But when loyalty to an institution’s structure allows evil to continue, or hide, it is loyalty wrongly placed—a false loyalty.
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”
Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman Photo credit to Sarah Faith Hodges
Lastly, if you want to be better trained in how to handle situations like these I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who trains church leaders and counselors to recognize and respond to abusive behaviors. She also helps you minister to those who have been traumatized by abusers. An organization that will come in to churches and train staff and lay leaders is G.R.A.C.E. Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.