Concord NH Rape Case Victim Goes Public

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NH church at center of 1997 teen rape; police investigate whether leaders knew about assault

“I was completely humiliated,” Anderson said, her voice quavering at the memory. “I hoped it was a nightmare I’d wake up from, and it wouldn’t be true anymore.”

Concord Detective Chris DeAngelis learned of her case through a Facebook page titled “Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult Survivors.”

Earlier post here

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Trinity Baptist Church responds...

Trinity Baptist Church responds...

http://www.tbcnh.org/contact_us/article245254.htm

Don't rush to judgment yet. Confident that the truth will come out. Psalm 27.

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Source

I'm always suspicious of cases unearthed by organizations that exist for the purpose of finding victims. Not that they are necessarily wrong, but there is built in temptation to find victims where they don't exist and to distort the cases of legit. ones to fit the organization's emphasis.

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I think the police dropped the ball back in '97

[URL=http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/pastor-no-cover-up-of-alleged-rape... ]Pastor: No cover-up of alleged rape - Police told immediately, he says[/URL ]

Quote:
The former pastor of Concord's Trinity Baptist Church says that there was no attempt to cover up the alleged rape of a 15-year-old parishioner in 1997 and that he immediately reported the crime to the police after learning of it.

"I was the first one to report this to the police, as was my duty. . . . The people who didn't do their job was the Concord Police Department," said Chuck Phelps, 51, who is now senior pastor at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

...
Phelps said yesterday that he reported the crime, as well as the names of the victim and alleged perpetrator, to the police and the Division for Children, Youth and Families within 24 hours of learning about it. He said that the woman remained in the area for at least two to four weeks before moving away and that he was never contacted by the police.

"I'm not in the ministry to hide felons," Phelps said. "I'm not in the ministry to hide child abuse."
...

Phelps said yesterday that he didn't tell the woman she was responsible for what happened but that she needed to be responsible by avoiding contact with Willis, whose children she baby-sat.

"She's not responsible for being raped. Of course not. She was an underage minor. That's why I called" the police, Phelps said.

Phelps said he told her to "be responsible, don't allow yourself to be around a person you know to be dangerous. She knew this person was dangerous after the first time, but she continued to be around him. . . . She needed to be responsible."

At a church meeting, the woman said, Willis confessed to being unfaithful to his wife and Phelps read her letter about her pregnancy as she stood before the congregation.

Phelps said the meeting was not any sort of punishment, but was intended to inform the congregation and create a safe environment for people to help the woman with her pregnancy.

"I expected Ernie Willis to be arrested," Phelps said. "So to prepare the church for his imminent arrest, I communicated with the church or had him communicate with the church that he had been unfaithful to his marital vows. And to the young lady, she was with child, she needed help. . . . There was no discipline. Discipline implies she was put out. She was not put out. She was embraced."

The woman told the police Phelps helped move her to Colorado after she came forward. There, she said, she was home-schooled, was kept away from people her own age and gave birth to her daughter, who was then adopted.

Phelps said the woman was sent away in accordance with her mother's wishes, to continue her studies in a safe home. He said that he knew the couple the woman stayed with through his previous work as a minister in Colorado and that they were experienced in home-schooling.

"Her mother turned to us and said, 'I can't care for a daughter in this situation,' and our recommendation was, 'What would you like us to do?' . . . Her mom did not want her in the public school. That was her mother's decision. What else was there to do?" he said.

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Very well

I appreciate Chuck's responses and glad that he didn't stick by his earlier comment of "I've said all I need to say." One of the things we can learn about this situation is the importance of keeping dated notes of communications (e.g. with the police), with timelines, etc. It may also be helpful to video, or at least audio, record church discipline sessions. I especially appreciated his clarification regarding the girl's "discipline" and the explanation of her responsibility. Of course, there are a bunch of unanswered questions, and the reader's comments mention quite a few--not the least of which concerns Willis's ongoing membership in TBC(?!?). Nevertheless, Chuck's steps toward fuller disclosure do help us better see that there's another side to this. Let's hope for more.

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Learn from it

While this is a very delicate topic, I think there is much to learn, as Bro. Bryan points out. Churches must keep good records, and we need to understand that the best intentions and well meaning actions can be twisted and re-interpreted at any point in time to attempt to criminalize church polity/methodology, ie the idea that women are practically prisoners because of the doctrine of submission, or someone feeling they were subject to public humiliation because leadership believes in bringing matters before the church. What seems perfectly normal to us, such as teaching Biblical gender roles in the home, looks outmoded, primitive, and suspicious to modern society. It is also difficult when you are in the midst of a crisis to act with foresight- sometimes you are too busy playing Whack-A-Mole with all the problems that keep popping up to know what all the possible ramifications are going to be.

As much as we need to be careful when discussing this, it's a good time for church leadership to ask themselves what they would have done in a similar situation, especially since we can see these repercussions from this situation years later.

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Just the facts

The fact is that a man had sex with a child. To label this as being unfaithful to your spouse is an understatement.

I am familiar with two similar situations. in the first, the adult male church member had sex with a teenager and was confronted with his crime. The pastor escorted him to the authorities, where he turned himself in and did his time in prison. In the second, the adult male church member was seduced by a 15 year-old (she testified to the fact that she had seduced him) and he chose to defend himself on those grounds. The judge ruled that there was no excuse for a man having sex with a child and the perpetrator is in prison.

If you were guilty of a crime, would you wait for the police to arrest you or would you turn yourself in to the authorities?

All of us are still getting the facts in this case and there still is much to learn.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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More on Colorado connection

http://cbs4denver.com/crime/tina.anderson.rape.2.1720573.html

Quote:
The pregnant Anderson was then moved to Westminster where she lived with a family associated with Tri-City Baptist Church. The Pastor at Tri City at the time was Matt Olson, who has since left and is now President of Northland International University, a Baptist bible college in Wisconsin. Administrators at the College said Olson was away for several weeks and could not be reached for comment.

Larry Robbins, currently an assistant pastor at Tri-City Baptist in Westminster, worked at the church in the late 1990s and told CBS4 via email he remembers the situation. He says Olson "helped out another church and Tina Anderson by assisting the young girl."

Robbins said Olson and Phelps knew each other and had worked together prior to the Anderson situation.

"It basically was 'someone who knew someone' making the connection with the ... family who happened (at that time) to attend our church."

"My only recollection was that Tina attended our church and was warmly welcomed and encouraged by the congregation during the time she lived here. There was really nothing secretive about any of it. It was really hard to believe that any investigator from Concord would have had any trouble contacting her 12 years ago -- they must not have tried very hard at the time."

Robbins said while he was aware of her pregnancy he was not made aware of the circumstances that led to it.

More on the rape victim

Quote:
Anderson says the family she was housed with was "kind" and treated her well. She said she was home schooled, was not allowed to associate with other young people, was monitored closely by Olson and now feels there was a conspiracy to keep her under wraps.

"I think they kept me hidden to keep him (Willis) from getting in trouble and they covered a crime. They did wrong."

She says at one point while she was living in Colorado, Olson had her write a letter to the wife of Willis.

"He made me sit down and write a letter of apology to the rapist's wife for betraying her trust by seducing her husband. I basically wrote what they told me to write," she said. "I think it's completely disgusting. It's wrong."

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The disgruntled, disenfranchised

I would urge caution here about being too critical of Tina Anderson. One of the easiest things to do is to claim that she and harsh commentators are just "disgruntled, disenfranchised church members" whose comments shouldn't be taken too seriously. Without implying that it's definitely the case in THIS situation, I know all too well how people can be terribly mistreated even in our "flagship fundamental churches," discarded, and then maligned as malcontents--they are effectively silenced, declared not worth listening to. Unfortunately, some of those so mistreated end up becoming bitter, wanting nothing to do with fundamentalism at all. And some keep the church at arms' length altogether.

I know firsthand what it's like to be the powerless victim of a pastor who "can do no wrong." In my case (along with many others in that particular ministry), the shameful treatment came from the top, and there was no one to appeal to. If I had tried to tell a deacon how I was mistreated, I would be considered an unsubmissive troublemaker and summarily fired. It wouldn't be the first time. I heard many former staff and church members spoken of disparagingly, but I eventually learned that their treatment was similar to my own, though perhaps for different reasons--none of which were justified. So, generally our family suffered silently so as not to jeopardize our income, and we prayed diligently for another place to serve. There were a few people outside the organization with whom we shared our story. Most listened quietly and offered the obligatory, "Well, we'll pray something else opens up for you." A few tried to offer some kind of defense of the pastor. But for the most part, we just took it. The deception--both we and the entire congregation were deceived--and the hurt, though, took its toll. For our part, my wife and I carry scars, fought and sometimes fight the bitterness battle, and will never be able to look at a large fundamentalist ministry with strong pastoral leadership without wondering how many people were broken and cast aside for the sake of "the empire." I won't begin to describe the effects on my children.

The sad thing is that were I and the many other victims to stand up and say "Hey, listen! This is wrong! This is what happened to us!", there would be all kinds of smooth talk to spin things, and we would be the bitter, critical-spirited bad guys on a vendetta. We would be marginalized and the powers that be would stand with the abuser. I heard it with my own ears, enough times to keep my mouth shut.

Again, I emphasize that I am not saying that this is the case in the TBC, Concord situation. I'm simply encouraging us not to marginalize Tina Anderson and others whose comments are unflattering. They may very well be bitter, critical, and disgruntled...but they may also have been given a reason to be.

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more info still coming?

I haven't commented here for some time now, but this case just blew me away. I am a little confused about what kind of info is still coming in this situation that should cause any to withhold assessment. A girl is raped and the fruit of the validity to her claim is pregnancy...the accused pervert confesses responsibility...but...is not taken to the police??

"I expected Ernie Willis to be arrested," Phelps said. "So to prepare the church for his imminent arrest, I communicated with the church or had him communicate with the church that he had been unfaithful to his marital vows.

Chuck Phelps said the public confession was for unfaithfulness, not the crime of raping a minor. Reporting the accusation within 24 hours was appropriate, but the thought of allowing a child rapist to only publicly call (without shackles and an orange jumpsuit) his sin unfaithfulness to his wife is seemingly an almost unbelievable scenario. What excuse could there be for not immediately escorting this rapist to the police where his confession would be given...seduction or no seduction?

There is enough information here to makes us sick to our stomachs for this devastating crime and to provide insight about how we deal with each case of such accusation.

AHB
Pastor for Preaching and Vision
Grace Church of the Valley

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The "Best Case"?

As I am understanding the facts, the best case scenario I can imagine here is that the physical involvement between the listed parties was consensual. That being said, I am having difficulty understanding why church leaders would believe that the responsible thing to do here would stop with reporting it, and not being willing to pursue to the matter to the fullest extent of the law. If a church member would murder another member, would anyone argue that church discipline would be adequate, and that the consequences available at the discretion of the state ought not be implemented because it was a church matter? I understand the principle that believers ought not to take church matters into public courts (1 Corinthians 6), but at the same time, the jurisdiction of a local church to carry out the consequences of justice is limited. This isn't as simple as settling interpersonal conflict. The church has jurisdiction to settle a matter like this in the body, but I believe that part of that solution involves leading the adult in this specific scenario to a willingness to accept the consequences for one's actions, and if he is not willing, delivering him up to the authorities anyway.

BTW- a good article on handling abuse matters like this is [URL=http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=... ]"A Better Way to Handle Abuse"[/URL ] by Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries. The article's conclusion:

Quote:
In one case, a pastor discovered that a man had abused several children in the church, including the pastor's daughter. In the midst of his own personal anguish, the pastor prayed to respond to the situation in a way that would reflect the love of Jesus. After consulting with a Christian conciliator and the church's insurer, the pastor and his elders set out to minister to everyone who had been hurt by this dreadful sin.

They persuaded the abuser to confess his sin to the families of the children and to turn himself in to the police. He willingly accepted his prison sentence, and was even grateful that his destructive behavior had finally been stopped.

The leaders spent many hours with the families themselves, grieving and praying with them, and making sure they received needed support and counseling. In addition, the leaders improved their screening and supervision policies to guard against similar incidents in the future.

They also reached out to the abuser's wife and children, who were so ashamed that they planned to leave the church. But the leaders understood what being a shepherd is all about. They ministered to this broken family, reassured them of God's love, and kept them in the fold.

Instead of being dragged through an excruciating lawsuit, the victims and their families, the abuser and his family, and the entire congregation experienced the redeeming power of God. This remarkable process culminated months later during a Christmas Eve service. As the church prepared to sing "Silent Night," two young girls came forward to light the candles. One of them had been abused. The other was the daughter of the abuser. As they finished their task and smiled at each other, the congregation saw tangible evidence of God's love and grace.

Abuse in the church does not have to end with catastrophe. When a church follows its Lord, even this great tragedy can result in healing and restoration.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Good example

Greg Linscott wrote:
BTW- a good article on handling abuse matters like this is [URL=http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=... ]"A Better Way to Handle Abuse"[/URL ] by Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries. The article's conclusion:
Quote:
In one case, a pastor discovered that a man had abused several children in the church, including the pastor's daughter. In the midst of his own personal anguish, the pastor prayed to respond to the situation in a way that would reflect the love of Jesus. After consulting with a Christian conciliator and the church's insurer, the pastor and his elders set out to minister to everyone who had been hurt by this dreadful sin.

They persuaded the abuser to confess his sin to the families of the children and to turn himself in to the police. He willingly accepted his prison sentence, and was even grateful that his destructive behavior had finally been stopped.

The leaders spent many hours with the families themselves, grieving and praying with them, and making sure they received needed support and counseling. In addition, the leaders improved their screening and supervision policies to guard against similar incidents in the future.

They also reached out to the abuser's wife and children, who were so ashamed that they planned to leave the church. But the leaders understood what being a shepherd is all about. They ministered to this broken family, reassured them of God's love, and kept them in the fold.

Instead of being dragged through an excruciating lawsuit, the victims and their families, the abuser and his family, and the entire congregation experienced the redeeming power of God. This remarkable process culminated months later during a Christmas Eve service. As the church prepared to sing "Silent Night," two young girls came forward to light the candles. One of them had been abused. The other was the daughter of the abuser. As they finished their task and smiled at each other, the congregation saw tangible evidence of God's love and grace.

Abuse in the church does not have to end with catastrophe. When a church follows its Lord, even this great tragedy can result in healing and restoration.

Perfect. And in what independent fundamental Baptist church did this occur?

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Both sides

BryanBice wrote:
I would urge caution here about being too critical of Tina Anderson. One of the easiest things to do is to claim that she and harsh commentators are just "disgruntled, disenfranchised church members" whose comments shouldn't be taken too seriously. Without implying that it's definitely the case in THIS situation, I know all too well how people can be terribly mistreated even in our "flagship fundamental churches," discarded, and then maligned as malcontents--they are effectively silenced, declared not worth listening to. Unfortunately, some of those so mistreated end up becoming bitter, wanting nothing to do with fundamentalism at all. And some keep the church at arms' length altogether.

I know firsthand what it's like to be the powerless victim of a pastor who "can do no wrong." In my case (along with many others in that particular ministry), the shameful treatment came from the top, and there was no one to appeal to. If I had tried to tell a deacon how I was mistreated, I would be considered an unsubmissive troublemaker and summarily fired. It wouldn't be the first time. I heard many former staff and church members spoken of disparagingly, but I eventually learned that their treatment was similar to my own, though perhaps for different reasons--none of which were justified. So, generally our family suffered silently so as not to jeopardize our income, and we prayed diligently for another place to serve. There were a few people outside the organization with whom we shared our story. Most listened quietly and offered the obligatory, "Well, we'll pray something else opens up for you." A few tried to offer some kind of defense of the pastor. But for the most part, we just took it. The deception--both we and the entire congregation were deceived--and the hurt, though, took its toll. For our part, my wife and I carry scars, fought and sometimes fight the bitterness battle, and will never be able to look at a large fundamentalist ministry with strong pastoral leadership without wondering how many people were broken and cast aside for the sake of "the empire." I won't begin to describe the effects on my children.

The sad thing is that were I and the many other victims to stand up and say "Hey, listen! This is wrong! This is what happened to us!", there would be all kinds of smooth talk to spin things, and we would be the bitter, critical-spirited bad guys on a vendetta. We would be marginalized and the powers that be would stand with the abuser. I heard it with my own ears, enough times to keep my mouth shut.

Again, I emphasize that I am not saying that this is the case in the TBC, Concord situation. I'm simply encouraging us not to marginalize Tina Anderson and others whose comments are unflattering. They may very well be bitter, critical, and disgruntled...but they may also have been given a reason to be.


It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we know how far events can be misconstrued and twisted by the accusers, but on the other, it seems SOP for folks to engage in covering up unethical, immoral, and even criminal activity that has taken place in a church body. We just can't know what has taken place when we aren't part of the problem or the solution.

It isn't just church leadership that should keep good records, btw, but if a lay person is in a conflict/crisis, they should also keep records of correspondence and use witnesses to conversations whenever possible.

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Did that man, back in 1997

The comments from the church completely avoid dealing with what believers are concerned about. The authorities were notified. The law enforcement authorities will have to explain why they didn't purse this more aggressively. But, why did the church practice church discipline on the young woman? The pastor seemed to tell her that she put herself into a compromising situation. Maybe so, but the girl was 15. Do all 15 year-olds make wise decisions? Why did the man not confess publically, in church, to the rape of that young lady? Why were the situations dealt with as if they were unrelated? These are the issues that the church must answer. I don't know pastor Phelps; I know he is highly regarded in fundamentalism. Maybe he owes us all an answer, maybe not. It is a shame to see ministries fail to confess their past sins because they fear what liabilites this may open themselves up to.

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Structure

Quote:
It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we know how far events can be misconstrued and twisted by the accusers, but on the other, it seems SOP for folks to engage in covering up unethical, immoral, and even criminal activity that has taken place in a church body. We just can't know what has taken place when we aren't part of the problem or the solution.

You're absolutely right, Susan. I think that one factor to consider in trying to determine the validity of the disgruntled's claims is the authority structure of the church. 1) Just how readily does the pastor accept criticism and admit error/wrongdoing/failure? 2) If someone does feel wronged by the pastor and cannot seem to resolve the matter with the just the two of them, to whom can the hurt party turn? 3) Does it ever happen that the offended goes to a third party who is in leadership (deacon/elder), who ends up agreeing that the pastor was in the wrong? 4) Will the 3rd party go with the offended to try help the pastor see the error of his way? 5) And if so, is the pastor humble enough to agree & ask forgiveness?

In my situation referenced earlier, answers to the above questions are: 1) Never; 2) No one; 3) Rarely; 4) No way; 5) Are you kidding?

In contrast, if the answers are 1) very much so…2) a deacon/deacons or elder/elders… 3) yes… 4) yes…5) yes, then you can be 99% sure that a vocal, complaining, disgruntled (former) member is not worth listening to.

One of the things that troubles me when situations like TBC, Concord arise is a lack of willingness to say, "It would've been wiser had we __________." The almost defiant "we did everything right...they did everything wrong" and "I don't need to explain myself" attitudes tend to make me listen more attentively to the victim.

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I am glad Phelps gave a

I am glad Phelps gave a better response. But I still wonder why this man wasn't escorted to the police right after his "discipline?" I also wonder why instead of confessing his unfaithfulness, he was not also ordered to confess his criminal activity? Those are still nagging unanswered questions in my mind. They are not there to impune this ministry...they are there so that it can be a lesson for all of us in case some wickedness happens in our ministries.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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Independent...check Fundament

Independent...check
Fundamental...check
Baptist...check
Pastor named Phelps...check
That surely won't help with public relations. Wouldn't surprise me to see Fred Phelps and his lovely family picketting in Concord some time soon.

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Forgiveness confusion

To Jonathan's post a few up the chain... I think some of those questions are predicated on things we don't know at this point.

But I would not be surprised if there was some forgiveness confusion involved. It's pretty common--in evangelicalism every bit as much as in fundamentalism (based on what I've read and heard). What I mean is that people often don't realize forgiveness is something that can exist only in relationships. People/groups only have the power to forgive what has been committed against them. Only God can forgive sins against God. Individuals can only forgive what has been committed against them (or partly forgive what was committed against a group of which they are a part), and crimes can only be forgiven (or not) by the state. The same act may provide opportunities in all three categories.

But sometimes churches/believers get to thinking that forgiveness means not turning someone in who has committed a crime. There is no relationship between the forgiveness a church/believer can provide and the debt a person owes to society (just as there is no relationship between my forgiving someone and God forgiving him).

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This is an article with a

This is an article with a quote from Phelps:

--------- Forum Director --------
Poster did not provide link . I found what may be the link added it

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gcKuFXet0XK6WOFgLmwLnV...
------------------------------------

Phelps said he reported the rape allegations to police and child welfare officials within a day of hearing about them from Anderson 13 years ago and did nothing to conceal her whereabouts. He said he also told Willis he was calling the police and advised him to turn himself in.

"I never once got a call from the Concord police. ... They simply didn't do anything. This is unconscionable, what's happening to the Church here and to my reputation," Phelps, now a pastor in Indianapolis, said Thursday.

Police declined to comment Friday because of the ongoing investigation.

Phelps said Anderson's mother made the decision to move her to Colorado, while his role consisted of helping to find a family for her to live with.

Phelps did the right thing in reporting the crime, but he seems to believe that all of his other actions were right. But these are questions that still need to be answered:

1. He says that the mother made the decision on her own for the girl to leave, but what input did he have? Did she come up with that on her own, or did she do so at his suggestion? If he greatly influenced the mother in doing this, what was his motive? Getting pregnant ouf of wedlock is not the stigma that is used to be; shipping a girl two-thirds across the country is a draconian measure in this day and age.

2. Why was the girl forced to confess to the church? Calling the police shows that Phelps believed a crime was committed on the man's part. So, why didn't the church treat her as a victim? Why was the victim of the crime treated by the church as guilty of some sin?

3. Why did the girl have to confess to something that wasn't sinful on her part (being raped), but the man was able to make a confession that fell short of a truthful confession. Did the man say to the church, "I raped so-and-so." What was the purpose of bringing this matter before the whole congregation if the congregation wasn't given the truth. I know that all the details of a sin don't need to be graphically explained, but there is a BIG difference between confessing being unfaithful to one's wife and the sin and crime of the rape of a minor.

Church discipline is a necessary practice, but I have hardly ever seen it carried out in a biblical way. Unless there is some major light to shed on this, the way this whole ordeal played out is inexcusable and biblically indefensible. When I was in Christian college, a female student was raped by a male with whom she was alone in an elevator. Reflecting on that event made me ask: "Would I send my daughter to a Christian college (Maranatha) where such leadership would perhaps hold her responsible for a crime committed against her?" NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

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The Christian School factor

Quote:
1. He says that the mother made the decision on her own for the girl to leave, but what input did he have? Did she come up with that on her own, or did she do so at his suggestion? If he greatly influenced the mother in doing this, what was his motive? Getting pregnant ouf of wedlock is not the stigma that is used to be; shipping a girl two-thirds across the country is a draconian measure in this day and age.

2. Why was the girl forced to confess to the church? Calling the police shows that Phelps believed a crime was committed on the man's part. So, why didn't the church treat her as a victim? Why was the victim of the crime treated by the church as guilty of some sin?

It seems the underlying issue related to both of your areas of question is that Tina was a student in Trinity Christian School. Apparently it was deemed unacceptable for her to continue to be enrolled as a student in the church's school, so her mom's options were public school and home schooling. The mother was on her own (dad was in prison), so there was no way she could homeschool her daughter. Nor did she consider public school an acceptable alternative [Sidebar: Tina may have gotten some rotten information in the public school setting, but she wouldn't have been treated as a pariah. Let's mull over that one. ] So, that's where the idea of sending her to Colorado came into the picture. All of this makes me wonder how differently this would've played out in any fundamentalist Christian school setting. I don't really have firsthand experience with all that many schools, but I got to wondering how many of those that I'm familiar with would allow a 15-yr-old pregnant girl to remain enrolled, even if she were a victim of rape or incest. Anybody out there heard of a pregnant girl being allowed to continue attending a Christian school?

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Well.....

Well....I've been busy enough in the shadows of the cacti, that I've been limited in my participation here at SI. My apologies to the three of you that enjoy my posts. This one brings me back.

My first comment is let's wait for all sides to fully bring to the table "their side." Sometimes ministries and leaders are lied about. This is why the Scriptures say what they say about confirming what is accused by way of witnesses.

My second comment is a bit "off trail" but I believe an appropriate "off trail" if what has been said actually happened the way it's been presented then I might respond with the following:

I'm not sure I'm on board with the exegetical/theological basis of having sexual failure brought before the congregation if and when it turns into pregnancy, otherwise all other sins are ..... "tucked away." Of course I'm clueless "if" or "how" Chuck and Trinity handled other failures. Now if this kind of public communication (bringing brothers and sisters before the congregation) is for the purpose of restoration in a spirit of meekness, forgiveness and restoration....and is practiced consistently accross the board to all sins that we believe should make it to that level.....I'm all for it! However, I'm not convinced that this practice is really the result of serious exegetical thought. I sort of think it's not...what I do know is that this is right out of "the type A fundamentalist ministries especially if we have a Christian School" type approach to discipline. What I know has happened in some ministries "out there" is that a 15 or 16 or 17 year old kid would be paraded in front of the congregation (especially if they were enrolled in the Christian School attached to said church), while adults with as clear a failure in the same ministry would be "left alone." Now I don't know that certain "failures" by adults vis-a-vis "guilty teen" are actuality "covered up" by leadership in these kinds of ministries..... but at best I'm uneasy here. Back to this particular sitatuation....I'm uneasy here. Believe me...being the pastor of a church I'm wanting to give Chuck the benefit of the doubt. There have been times we as a leadership team at SVBC have dealt with "sin issues" privatly and then were accused of not handling the issues because what we did in "private" never made it "public." I've even had to keep my mouth shut afterwords (that is not defend ourselves to our critics) about what we did in private. All that to say I do want to give Chuck and the leaders the benefit of the doubt. What's hard about that here is that we are talking about a crime that was committed against a minor. So....I'm grateful Chuck reported this within 24 hrs. I'm hopeful that much more happened behind closed doors. I'm sad to see that we moved this gal from NH to COL? What I know is that too often (and I mean way too often!) a gal having any kind of a pregnancy (either by consensual or not....sorry to add that.....) in a ministry like ...... some Type A churches with a some Type A Christian schools (and I'm clueless if this NH ministry is this way).....lives with a reputation of having "failed" (even if she was violated) and too often in these kinds of ministries, this person is "tagged" and there is not an attitude of grace that extends the love and reception that Paul demands of the Corinthian Church towards the young man who was called to account in the first epistle to the Corinthians. Having said that, I'm with Adam here.....I know hindsight is 20-20 and it's easy to say "We would do better.....different.....etc...." The reality is ministry is messy. I hope I'd have the clarity to drive this guy to the police station myself and have him "booked" right on the spot. I will do one bit of arm-chair quarterbacking here - from a Shepherd's point of view - How in the world would I encourage a gal like this to be shipped away from my spiritual care after she was violated to the spiritual and emotional depths that this kind of violation brings? How in the world can you do that as a pastor? Especially when this young gal has no "active father?" Isn't the local ministry amongst other things to opperate as a hospital of grace for these kinds of things? I'm grateful that the family in COL was willing to open their arms to this gal. I'm assuming there was a church connected to this family that also ministered to this gal, so I'm grateful for all of that....especially if this COL family and any ministry connected to them was "strong in grace.' All things being equal...to me.....it's simply not the best situation to take this gal out of her home and away from her church home right when she needs them the most.

I hope my thinking out loud here is appropriate. Frankly I'm sickened to think about what's happened here. All of us in leadership should spend some extra time on our knees and our faces before God pleading with him to spare us from these kinds of "events." When they do happen let's pray that God will give us grace and wisdom to act with leadership, responsibility and mercy.

Straight Ahead!

Joel

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Baptist Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

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Sins made public

I agree, Bro. Joel, that it seems hypocritical to bring 'certain sins' before the congregation while others appear to be swept under the rug. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes I think it is perception. There are situations that are public by their very nature- any criminal activity that is made public record and the obvious signs of pregnancy are two of them. There are times IMO when full disclosure to the congregation is for the purpose of stamping out conjecture and speculation, not to punish or humiliate someone. I would think it would be less hurtful for everyone to know what happened so that gossip is minimized and true healing can occur. On the other hand, there are churches that look more like The Montel Williams Show with all the public confessing of sins that are better left between the affected parties and the Lord.

I also agree that the way young girls are treated when they've become pregnant (consensually or not) is often ludicrous. Fornication repented of is not the unpardonable sin ( and every unrepentant rebel should be treated the same way, not banishment just for fornicators), and a pregnancy that is the result of rape is NOT the time to further shame the victim by stashing her away like damaged goods not fit to see the light of day. I also notice that the young men responsible for the plight of these young girls are usually not shipped off to Timbuktu, nor are they held financially responsible for the child they've had a part in creating. What is truly shameful is the scapegoating and whitewashing that takes place, when a better testimony would be to face up to the facts and deal with the problem fairly and Biblically. Then perhaps Baptist churches would not have the 'cult' stamp applied quite so often.

In this particular situation, unless there is some documentation to support one side or the other, it's going to come down to "He said, she said". I think the only thing that can be gained from discussing this is to help us consider the reality that people are going to be caught up in sinful situations, purposefully or not, and church leadership need to be thinking about the Scriptural principles that should guide the church in dealing with sin, restoring the fallen, and healing the wounded, as well as the public ramifications of their actions.

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Without commenting directly

Without commenting directly on the situation, which appears very disturbing but I don't know enough actual facts about it to say much, let me just comment on the confession issue. As always, sin really complicates life and there are no easy answers, particularly when there two authorities involved (state and church). Perhaps with some discussion of this, we can turn this conversation to something that would actually be profitable.

At least two people I think (Adam and Ron) have questioned the nature of the man's public confession, and I think it is a good question. I also think it is a bit more complex than simply saying the man should have made a complete and open confession of legal crimes. In our legal system, under the 5th amendment, a person has the right against self-incrimination. He never has to testify against himself in court or in a deposition. He does not have to answer questions. He can get a lawyer whenever he wants to advise him. He cannot be compelled to testify against himself. Therefore, it seems to me that it may be unwise for a man to make a public confession in a situation in which there are (or should be) impending legal proceedings because anything he says in the church becomes evidence against him, and anyone who hears it can be called to testify (except the pastor, in most cases). To wait until the legal proceedings begin and progress is not unacceptable. He can (if he wants) wait until the legal case is made, and make his guilty confession a part of his plea bargain.

I think he absolutely should take spiritual responsibility and legal responsibility. But I think those are two different issues. I don't think taking responsibility biblically and completely means necessarily giving up your legal protections or jeopardizing a legal case. It does not mean volunteering to take the full maximum penalty under the law. Biblical responsibility does not mean hanging oneself. A person who has committed murder does not have to go and also commit suicide in order to take responsibility (i.e., life for a life). He doesn't have to make the prosecution's case for them. One can in fact, break the law criminally (or civilly, but remember they are different) and never turn himself in and never be prosecuted or arrested, and still be biblical in his response.

So I am not commenting on what should have be done with this man. I don't know enough to know what was done or said.

Furthermore, while a pastor or church member can encourage a person to turn themselves in to the police, and volunteer to go with him, they cannot force the person to go. They can, and should, take all necessary legal steps of reporting the crimes (and it appears by all accounts that that was done). No one suggests that Phelps failed to report it the police, or tried to cover it up. It sounds like the police also dropped the ball in at least some respects. So again, I don't know the ins and outs (and I doubt that anyone here does, beyond the news reports), so I don't want to take any position on that, except to say that this is disturbing in many respects.

Rape is a heinous crime against God and man, as is child molestation or abuse. It should never be covered up by the church, by the pastor, by the deacons, by anyone in authority. No one in authority should ever encourage a victim to cover it up for any reason, or to hide from testifying or being interviewed by legal authorities. So please don't mistake my comments for any sort of defense of anything that happened in this particular case. I don't know what happened.

BTW, some have complained about requesting the church members to not say anything about it. There are also good reasons why, in some cases, a church can legitimately ask members not to comment but rather to let all church positions be made through a spokesman for the church. There are some things that a church member may simply not know, or may be incorrect about. If those statements are made, it could greatly confuse the situation and end up putting untrue things out to the media. This is not in any way a call to cover up anything or to "submit to authority." It simply recognizes that there are times when it is good for a church to speak with one voice by one who actually knows enough about the situation to speak truthfully. A lot of confusion can be caused by well meaning people who simply don't know everything. Nothing should be covered up by the church. Just speak with one unified voice.

As a side note, it is interesting how many critics of fundamentalism complain about the lack of due process in church disputes and abuse of authority situations, about how leaders make judgments off the cuff without hearing both sides and doing the research, and then proceed to do exactly the thing they complain about.

So again, I repeat, I am not defending Phelps or TBC or anyone. I simply do not know, though this situation looks very bad. My main point here is about the legal issues and biblical responsibility.

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CBS news

Just watched the tail end of an interview Tina was doing on the CBS Saturday morning news show. The video will probably be on the website later this morning.

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Letters from TBC Church Members

Source Link: http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/unfair-to-trinity-baptist-church

Quote:
It has been distressing to see how one-sided the reporting has been over the past couple of days as my church, Trinity Baptist Church, has been dragged through the mud over a crime that took place 13 years ago.

I was a friend of the young lady at the time, and I can assure you that when she went public with her terrible news, the families in the church supported her, assured her of their love, and tried to do what was in her best interest. There never was any desire to "cover up," or "whisk her away." There were no questions from the authorities that were left unanswered by staff at Trinity.

I remember having her over to my house in the weeks after the news broke and before she left town. I remember her coming back to visit the church, after having had her baby, and recall warmly welcoming her. I remember writing to her. I know members of the church who have prayed for her many times since those days.

It seems that the Monitor has purposely hunted up people who are bitter against Trinity (or Christianity in general) for some reason and has not balanced that by doing any research amongst people on the other side. The Monitor should be asking the authorities why they did not fully investigate this years ago, rather than blasting a church that tried to support her.

GLORIA WOETZEL

Concord

I would guess (but am not certain) that Gloria Woetzel would be somehow related to Kurt Woetzel, best known in our circles for co-authoring Music in the Balance with Frank Garlock.

From the comments underneath the original

Quote:
I also speak as a former church member
By concordmom42 - 05/29/2010 - 2:23 am
And I didn't leave because of a disagreement of any kind. I moved too far away to continue attending.

I have no bitterness or malice of any kind toward the church members with whom I am still in friendly contact, the current pastors and leadership, or former pastor.

I can tell you unequivocally from personal knowledge that Tina DID tell someone that she was raped and that in the church discipline session that Pastor Phelps did NOT tell the congregation it was rape. To this day, there are those defending Pastor Phelps' actions that believe Tina shared part of the blame--they thought it was consensual because of what they were led to believe (and yes, they understood then and understand now that such a thing would be considered statutory rape because of her age, but because they believed what they were told, they simply thought the police did not pursue it because it was consensual).

I can also state with confidence from personal knowledge that the home situation of Tina was very difficult--stepdad in prison and a mom that never was a strong advocate for her daughter or her son.

Did the police drop the ball? It certainly appears that they could have been more aggressive. I am sure as the case moves forward more will come to light on that part of the situation.

ppayette, your frequent posts suggesting that this victim seduced her attacker are way out of line. Choose to believe that the pastor did his best. But stop violating the victim further by suggesting what does not have one ounce of truth to it.

You ask why Ernie was allowed to run around for 13 years. I have a question related to that. Why did the church leadership at the time not report this to the congregation during church discipline that Sunday evening as rape? Why did they let Ernie play in the brass ensemble and help chaperone activities with teens after this?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Quesitons

Jonathan Charles wrote:
2. Why was the girl forced to confess to the church? Calling the police shows that Phelps believed a crime was committed on the man's part. So, why didn't the church treat her as a victim? Why was the victim of the crime treated by the church as guilty of some sin?
3. Why did the girl have to confess to something that wasn't sinful on her part (being raped), but the man was able to make a confession that fell short of a truthful confession. Did the man say to the church, "I raped so-and-so." What was the purpose of bringing this matter before the whole congregation if the congregation wasn't given the truth. I know that all the details of a sin don't need to be graphically explained, but there is a BIG difference between confessing being unfaithful to one's wife and the sin and crime of the rape of a minor.

These are only "remaining questions" if the events they are predicated on actually occurred. I don't think we have it from the folks at Concord that any confession was required, do we?

In any case, I advise pressing hard on the "speculation brakes" and giving this some time to work itself out. It appears that more facts are coming to light, and I'm also sure the police in Concord are going to turn up some facts in their investigation.

Joel... on the theology of bringing certain matters before congregations vs. keeping others hidden (probably a better direction for the discussion), the principle I've often heard (and agree with) is that circle of impact determines the circle of confession... or something like that. The idea is that confession should be public to the degree sin is public. In the case of a pregnancy resulting, it's a little bit different though. There, it's not that the sin is more public (than when there is no pregnancy) but that the results are more public.
What you have then is a situation where it is impossible for the body of believers to be unaffected or uninvolved. At a minimum they will see and wonder what happened. Realistically speaking, they will talk about it and speculate. So then the reason for "public confession" is not so much "public sin" but the health of the body. Open talk about what happened is necessary to end the rumor mill (or preempt it) and also establish a clear path forward for the victim (if she is a victim, or for the sinner if that fits... or both if both fit).
Let's remember too that shame and alienation are unavoidable in this situation even if the woman involved is absolutely innocent. That's just built in. And if the circumstances that resulted in the pregnancy are not disclosed, the woman has no direction to go in rebuilding relationships.

Not sure I'm saying it very well, but the gist is, there can be more than one reason to have "open talk" in the congregation about an incident.
But whether the "open talk" takes the form of confession depends on who's doing the talking and whether she has anything relevant to "confess."

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If the story is going to be

If the story is going to be that this was consensual, then on what basis was this conclusion reached? Did they take the man's word that this was consensual (I'm assuming that was his story)? Did the victim just come right out and w/o pressure say that it was consensual? Was she pressured into saying that it was consensual? If so, did the fact that she had a difficult home-life lead people to assume that it might have been consensual ("Well, look at her home life; a girl with that kind of background is apt to get into these kinds of situations")?

Should the fact that this woman went on to get a degree from Maranatha and then taught in a respected Christian institution in Arizona lend credibility to her story? She didn't come out of this and renounce Christ and turn to live a wicked life. She seems to have been serving the Lord, inspite of this that occurred in 1997, and she seems to have a Christian family.

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I agree that we should let

I agree that we should let all of the facts come to light. There are still unanswered questions but we should wait for the facts. There are many things about this that angers me, but I hope it is untrue that this man was restored to playing in the orchrestra and was a worker in the youth group. But let's wait to find out.

Going forward. I should give a little more background. I was a bus kid who was in Christian School all the way through high school - sometimes I was a member of the church and sometimes I was at a different church. I came from a broken home (my mom had 5 kids and my dad had 6 and they married and had me. When i was 4 my mom and dad split up. I did have a stepdad). I know first hand what it is like to be stigmatized in Christian Schools. It was almost always unintentional, but we were treated differently (sometimes pitied, sometimes looked down upon). I should say this never happened to me at the last Christian School that I was at.

I also have had the privilege to teach at two other Christian schools. I saw "high risk" kids treated badly. If there was something that went wrong, they were the first thrown under the bus. I battled that a lot at one of the schools that I worked at. And when it came time let kids back in the school after expulsion, "high risk" kids were not let in as easily at "good kids" from good families, even the the "good" kids were the ring leaders. It has been years since I worked in a christian school, so I hope this has changed. But my experience was that kids such as the young lady mentioned here were the first alienated when something when wrong. Fair treatment overshadowed by the possibility of loosing tithing families ( I was told essentially that one time).

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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wait

First, yes, Gloria Woetzel is Kurt Woetzel's wife.

I do have some personal knowledge of this situation and we need to wait until all the facts come out.

As far as the being ostracized 'bus kid'. I will have to disagree from my circumstances. I was the 'bus kid' although I didn't ride the bus. I was the kid from the home of unsaved parents. I was the kid that came to a Christian school every day smelling like smoke because my mom smoked. I NEVER felt ostracized. I was taken in to a loving church/school family. There was a family in our church that loved me and took me under their wing. Their daughter and I were and are best friends. I practically lived at their house and went on vacations with them. Not all 'outsiders' are treated badly.

Back to the Trinity situation...I doubt everything was done perfectly, but I'm sure that Pastor Phelps did what he thought the Lord wanted him to do. He's a godly man with many years of ministry behind him. Let's not throw stones until we know the entire story. And whatever it is, we need to support our fellow Christians.

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Cindy,I am glad you had a

Cindy,
I am glad you had a great situation as a bus kid. In the several schools that I have first hand knowledge, only one treated the kids the way you were treated. Again, most of the time it was completely unintentional.

As far as this current situation, I think we should wait. Fellow believers should be supported. And any wrongdoers should be punished and corrected for God's glory.

BTW, I used to have the smoke smell too. I felt badly my mom would work so hard trying to help me get my things ready when I would go to college. I never had to heart to tell her that I had to rewash everything when I got to BJ every semester. Smile

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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what a sad story

this is a sad story indeed with many blanks to those of us on the outside. My prayer is that justice would be served even though this clown should have been prosecuted a long time ago. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out but our prayers should be for those hurt by these heinous and despicable crimes. If there was any cover up or obstruction involved I am sure it will come out during the reopened investigation.

Growing up under the Hyles regime, cover ups and shuffling people around to protect the guilty were common place. I hope that this was not the case here--time will tell. If it was the case then certainly those who were in positions of power should be held 100% accountable.

Matthew Richards

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Can Fundamentalists Do Better?

Fundamentalism can do better when it comes to these heartbreaking situations. Fundamentalism is willing to boldly speak out about a lot of things. Unfortunately, at the same time, we allow the embracing of ministries like the one in Hammond where serious moral failures were never repented of. Many fundamentalists will even prefer a ministry in its camp like Hammond over any ministry out there that decides to operate out of the fundamentalist box in any way. I believe this mindset creates and environment that hinders ministry leaders from properly dealing with these issues and now the world really does not see a difference between us and the Roman Catholic Church in these issues.

If Tina was made to confess her "failures" before a man who raped her against her will and before a congregation that did not understand a crime was commited against a 15 year old girl, then I can't begin to imagine the pain that she has felt all of these years. Any help offered in NH or CO could not begin to heal that pain under these circumstances. If the police department did not do a better job locating her, then they did create this pain as well. Also, I read that the man who commited the crime against Tina admitted paternity in papers in CO. If this is true, then the people in charge of those papers messed up.

God is a healing God. His hand is able to touch and mend the most broken of hearts. I truly believe that if everybody on every side of this situation will truly look up to Him, they will find direction, healing, and reconciliation. I pray that healing will be the result.

I hope the child who was born out of this crime will know Jesus, love Jesus, and serve Jesus.

While all of the details of the this situation are not known yet, I do believe in general that fundamentalism can do better when it comes to these issues.

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While we're waiting

While we're waiting for all the facts to come out, we do have some facts which we can evaluate.

An grown man had sex with an underage girl. That was a premeditated act that was a sin, a crime, and inexcusable.

That man never confessed his real sin to the church and was allowed to continue in the church with no consequences.

The people who knew this crime had been committed did not actively pursue justice.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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The case of John Calvin and

The case of John Calvin and Servetus came to mind. Servetus had a non-Trinitarian Christology. He visited Geneva, was arrested and with Calvin's consent was burned at the stake. Calvin was certainly wrong in that, yet we wouldn't cast aside all that was good and godly about his life and ministry. I really don't want to do the same thing with Chuck Phelps (he teaches a required seminary module that I eventually have to take). Maybe we will never be able to reconcile a single wrong action of what was, otherwise, a good and godly man. But it sure would be refreshing to see a fundamentalist leader look at an old action with fresh eyes and say, "I was wrong."

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Ron, Just curious here,and I

Ron,

Just curious here,and I wish it wasn't connected to this case because I have no desire to defend anything here. I wonder about the extent of this. I am not sure.

Do you think a person who may face legal issues should be required to incriminate themselves before the church prior to their legal proceedings? How much specificity should be required?

To get it off of this case, let's say for instance that a man has been caught with child p0rnography. He is caught and confesses it to the pastor. There is an impending legal case. Should he be required to confess specifically that he was involved in child p0rnography to the church, knowing that he would be incriminating himself in the legal proceedings?

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Mrs. Woetzel is not listed as "Gloria"

Cindy wrote:
First, yes, Gloria Woetzel is Kurt Woetzel's wife.

Unless she is going by another name in the letter, that is not correct.

From [URL=http://www.acswebnetworks.com/tbcnh/pastoral_staff ]Woetzel's bio at the Trinity Website[/URL ]-

Quote:
Mr. Kurt Woetzel Minister of Music

Trinity Baptist Church held its first services in Kurt and Suzanne Woetzel’s home. From 1980 to the present, Kurt has led Trinity’s nationally recognized music ministry and has been ably accompanied on the piano by his wife, Suzanne. The Woetzels both received master's degrees in music from Pensacola Christian College. Kurt is a published author and travels with the Majesty Music College under the direction of his dear friend and mentor, Dr. Frank Garlock.

I do have some familiarity with Trinity (though I am far from an expert) from when I pastored in Maine. We had Dr. Phelps and another associate from Trinity speak for retreats our church hosted. I presented a workshop for their Leadership Conference one year. I have met Mrs. Woetzel before.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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To Larry's question

FWIW, I would see no problem with doing that if he were doing something both immoral and illegal that had serious consequences. I would think true repentance would be evidenced by making a similar statement before the police that he would before the congregation. In your scenario, Larry, what possible legitimate reason would a confessed child pornographer have to withhold such information from the authorities?

Greg Linscott
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Several reasons, Greg. 1.

Several reasons, Greg.

1. Because of the law itself -- Child p0rnography is not entirely clearly defined by the law, and there are some legal issues surrounding it that are still being litigated, according to my understanding. He may not be guilty before the law, but once he confesses it, it can be used against him.

2. Because of sentencing issues -- Certain crimes may carry say, 20 years, while other crimes may carry 10 years. I am not convinced that biblical repentance means volunteering for the maximum. A person may know he is guilty of a 20 year crime, but the prosecutor for the sake of saving the trial expense and risk of acquittal may say, "If you will plead to the ten year crime, we will call it even." But if he has confessed to the 20 year crime, he has in effect committed legal suicide. Does he still have to confess to the 20 year crime? I am not sure he does. And what if he is offered probation? Should he turn that down because he knows he committed a greater crime. I would say, generally speaking, in legal situations, the less you say the better. I wonder if we don't need to separate biblical repentance from legal issues. They are not necessarily connected (see below).

3. I also think that police/authorities are entitled to more information than the church body as a whole is. I am not sure anyone is helped by very specific admissions. For a man to confess that he was unfaithful to his wife (read no connection to this case at all) is significantly different than confessing that he carried on with 15 women. I don't think the latter is necessary information to demonstrate biblical repentance.

4. Furthermore, if he has confessed it at the first confrontation or the second (cf. matt 18), then it does not necessarily have to come before the body for confession. The exception, in my mind, is when it will become public information. As a pastor, I want to be on the front end of that news cycle, to say to the body, "You are going to read some things, some which may or may not be true. I want you to know that we know, that we have dealt with it, that there is fruit of biblical repentance and accountability." I don't want the church finding out in the newspaper. Of course, there is some experience involved in that judgment.

Let's take another case: Does someone who confesses to using drugs have to turn themselves into the police in order to demonstrate biblical repentance? What about someone who confesses to selling drugs? Or someone that drove while drunk and didn't get stopped? Does biblical repentance involve confessing everything that we know and volunteering to take the max?

Can someone say, "I did wrong. I broke the law, but I have repented and am following Jesus. One day it might come back to haunt me, and when it does, we will cross that bridge and deal with it." Assuming that it does not involve someone else, is that wrong? I would entertain the argument, but I don't convinced as of not that it is wrong to take that approach. Again, I am not convinced that biblical repentance means committing legal suicide.

In the bottom line, it seems more complex than "Get up front and tell everyone exactly what you did." We need to weigh the need of people to know specifics, the legal issues that might arise, the way that a church body can help a fellow believer, etc.

Again, none of my comments here should be interpreted to apply to the TBC case in any way.

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Your scenario

Child pornography harms and exploits other people directly- particularly the children involved. In that way, it differs from your examples of drug use and drunk driving. I am thinking especially of someone who was involved in production/distribution- though regularly viewing it is also serious.

I agree with your points, esp. 2 and 4. But to answer if someone can say "I did wrong. I broke the law, but I have repented and am following Jesus. One day it might come back to haunt me, and when it does, we will cross that bridge and deal with it."- like Zacchaeus, I see a big connection between repentance and demonstrable fruit. If someone realizes that they have been guilty of reprehensible crimes against God and humanity by producing child porn, I would say that repentance would not only involve turning one's self in to the authorities, but exposing the distribution ring, getting the children to safe places and homes, and so on. Similar things might be said if someone had committed murder, for example- turning one's self in would be crucial, I would think.

That being said, the actions of, say, a repentant prostitute or drug user might be different that those of a repentant pimp or madam or high-level drug dealer. For that matter, someone who breaks the speed limit and is repentant would have a different course of action with the authorities than someone who committed a hit-and-run.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Production/dissemination is

Production/dissemination is different than using and the law recognizes that at least to some extent (similar to drugs, BTW). Murder is certainly up there. Prostitution is another interesting case. There's a lot of ins and outs that I haven't thought fully through. I have dealt with some and have given some thought to it. I would hesitate to say that there's an easy "one size fits all" answer. I am curious though as to why you would disagree with 1 and 3. I think 1 is an ongoing case law situation, and not sure why 3.

The issue with Zaccheus is that there was someone that he could repay. And it also wasn't illegal, was it? But how does someone who merely (and don't read too much into that) but merely looks at child porn repay anyone? Surely a child was harmed in producing it, and that person must pay. And yes, if there was no market for it, he wouldn't produce (actually he probably would because it's not a profit crime). But how does one repay or make restitution? I think perhaps that is an issue that must be considered as well. Are we in danger of some form of Shylock-ism, demanding our pound of flesh for no real reason that public shame and humiliation. I think we should be cautious of our own depravity.

On your last line about speeding vs. hit and run, I specified earlier the difference between civil infractions and crimes. Speeding is a CI and hit and run is a crime. I think we handle them differently. I don't run down to the police station every time I speed, cuz then I would have to go once a month or so. But hit and run is a misdemeanor I think.

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Thanks Greg

It's late and I'm tired and incapable of any long answers. Simply put, Larry, I would say, yes, if you're guilty, incriminate yourself and pray for mercy. If i recall, the first question the judge is going to ask the defendant is, "How do you plead?" The truthful answer is, "Guilty."

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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FWIW

I didn't disagree with the other numbered points- I just thought the ones I mentioned were especially strong.

Repay/restitution- I think there, exposing the ring so production is halted is one possible way.

I agree with Ron that it is late, too. Good night, all.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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CanJAmerican - my blog
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Evidence and spin

JohnBrian wrote:
http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2010/05/spinning-scandals/ Spinning Scandals

1. I'd love to see some "rock solid evidence" on either side of this case instead of Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking.
2. The new rebuttal regarding any disagreement is to accuse the other of 'drinking the Kool-Aid. Still sitting here waiting for some evidence to surface. And drinking coffee.
3. Each situation must be weighed on its own. It is regrettable and shameful that there have been cover-ups in other situations, but one calico cat doesn't mean that every cat in the universe is a calico.
4. The generalization that circling the wagons is a common characteristic of all Fundamentalism is the pot calling the cornflakes black.
5. Not everything is a conspiracy. Sometimes good people faced with a crisis will do things that seemed like the best recourse at the time. It is important, however, for wrong decisions, regardless of the intentions, to be admitted and reparations made- on both sides.
6. Any time you say you are waiting for 'rock solid evidence', that in itself is evidence that you are One Of The Bad Guys. In order to be a Good Guy, you must immediately accept the second-hand stories and horrific anecdotes at face value .

I've seen plenty of spin in my life. I've seen Biblical principles used to manipulate and control others with fear... but that is not a Fundy thing, it's a wickedly sinful human thing. We all must deal with our deceitful hearts that constantly look for scapegoats. The best thing IMO to do with an event like this is to stop trying to do an autopsy when none of us have access to the body, but take what little we do know and humbly prepare ourselves for the possibility that we may one day be faced with a similar situation.

I think Larry has brought up some excellent points to consider. We do have a legal system that must be considered in any situation. Some behaviors are immoral and/or unethical but not illegal. In our legal system there are categories of infractions- civil and criminal. In any case, we are supposed to presume innocence until evidence of guilt is presented or a confession obtained. I think the presumption of innocence is Biblically supported. And evidence can only be given by those directly involved- being the friend of a friend of Aunt Martha's catsitter is not being directly involved.

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new article provokes more questions and concerns

A new article posted this morning gives more details and provokes more questions and concerns.

http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/woman-i-was-afraid-to-tell-of-rape

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Sickening

I find this whole situation sickening. Between the actual crime to the cover-ups...it's nauseating.

There was absolutely no reason for that 15 year old girl to be publicly disciplined at church. She is the victim.

The perpetrator was clearly unrepentant for his crime or he would have confessed the rape to his church and asked this young girl for her forgiveness. Unfaithfulness to his wife was only a small part of the story.

At the end, for me this girl was just that : a girl. This deacon from Trinity caused permanent harm to her not only through the rape; but the emotional trauma of being ostracized from her family and giving up her baby for adoption. It is unbelievable to me that the rapist was allowed to continue his life until now.

Cindy wrote:
Back to the Trinity situation...I doubt everything was done perfectly, but I'm sure that Pastor Phelps did what he thought the Lord wanted him to do. He's a godly man with many years of ministry behind him. Let's not throw stones until we know the entire story. And whatever it is, we need to support our fellow Christians.

There will be no support from me for Christians who took part in ruining a young girl's life until apologies are made for their wrongdoing. Specifically how they spoke to this girl, the fact that she was publicly shamed at her church, and for allowing the perpetrator to continue fellowship with their church.

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What do we know?

Quote:
There was absolutely no reason for that 15 year old girl to be publicly disciplined at church.

Again, do we know yet that this happened? I don't think I've seen that in Trinity/Phelp's version of events, yet and we should probably leave it in the "maybe" column... and wait and see. We also don't know that there was anything rising to the level of cover up.
At this point, probably best to neither believe nor disbelieve the parts of the accounts that seem to be contradictory.

Edit: In fact the story linked to a couple posts up containst this statement..

Quote:
Phelps said this wasn't a case of the church disciplining Anderson. Instead, it was a chance for the congregation to help Anderson.
"Church discipline is the removal of a person from the assembly," Phelps said. "This was not that. This was a chance for people in the church assembly to embrace her, and they did."

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Crime vs. sin

Also, let's keep in mind what responsibilities belong to whom. The church deals with sin, the authorities deal with crime. They are not the same thing.

In dealing with the sin, the church's responsibility is to seek the restoration of the sinning member. Disfellowshipping is merely a step in the restoration process and not one you take if the believer has repented. So once the sin has been dealt with biblically, the church has nothing more to do except see that the law is also honored and the authorities have their opportunity to deal with the crime. Does that responsibility involve more than notifying the authorities? I'm really not sure if it does or not.

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Hmmm...

AB wrote:
Does that responsibility involve more than notifying the authorities? I'm really not sure if it does or not.

So, do you let a confessed/convicted child molester serve in the church nursery? Do you put a forgiven embezzler in a role as church treasurer?

Forgiveness and restored fellowship does not mean that all privileges needs be returned. Forgiveness can be immediate, but building trust takes time, and may never be fully restored in some cases. That in no way reduces the reality of forgiveness and restoration to Christian fellowship.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Come on Aaron, are you buying

Come on Aaron, are you buying the story that the church/Phelps did not practice church discipline on that girl? I think they are playing with words here. They are limiting "church discipline" to mean putting a person out of the church. I have never read anyone who has written on church discipline (MacArthur/Dever/Grudem) limit "church discipline" to just the final step of excommunication. I've always heard the term used to refer to any point in the process. Yes, this girl was disciplined by that church. I wish Phelps and that church would understand that this doesn't just involve them. This story has been on the wire services, was on CBS the other morning, it is giving fundamentalism a bad name. For young fundamentalists who hold a tentative attachment to fundamentalism, this could well be the think that pushes many to just walk away.

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Restoration

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Also, let's keep in mind what responsibilities belong to whom. The church deals with sin, the authorities deal with crime. They are not the same thing.

In dealing with the sin, the church's responsibility is to seek the restoration of the sinning member. Disfellowshipping is merely a step in the restoration process and not one you take if the believer has repented. So once the sin has been dealt with biblically, the church has nothing more to do except see that the law is also honored and the authorities have their opportunity to deal with the crime. Does that responsibility involve more than notifying the authorities? I'm really not sure if it does or not.

But in an attempt to work toward reconciliation within the body and restoration of the sinning member, wouldn't the process demand repentance, which would certainly also demand taking full responsibilities for one's actions? If that action was a crime--and that isn't in question here--I would demand the criminal take full responsibility, which would include turning himself in to the authorities and accepting whatever consequences that involved. Ernie Willis admitted to his pastor that he had gotten a 15 yr old church member pregnant--a crime against a minor. The pastor knew he was guilty of a crime for which he did not take full responsibility, yet the man continues as a member in good standing, even serving in various capacities in the church? I'm sorry, but this is inconceivable to me.

As far as the "church discipline" process, at least as it has been repeatedly described:

Quote:
Phelps said this wasn't a case of the church disciplining Anderson. Instead, it was a chance for the congregation to help Anderson.
"Church discipline is the removal of a person from the assembly," Phelps said. "This was not that. This was a chance for people in the church assembly to embrace her, and they did."
....isn't it fascinating and terribly problematic that both the victim of the crime and the criminal were treated in the same way? Sounds like one could conclude that Willis, likewise, was not subject to church discipline, rather, "it was a chance for people to embrace [him ] and they did." Again, this boggles the mind.

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I agree with Bryan on this

I agree with Bryan on this one ( like usual Smile ). Maybe I am reading this wrong, but it seems like some make a big difference between violent rape and [URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutory_rape ]statutory rape[/URL ]. I don't make that big of a distinction. But even if I did, what bothers me most about what we know so far is that Willis was restored back almost right away (not to deacon, but other ministires). I am not sure how long I would wait to restore a repentant person to the music ministry, but there would be a period of time. The length of the time for violent rape would probably longer than the other, but both would be a period after their prison sentence was served. I cannot conceive of when I would ever let him to work with minor age children again.

I hope that part of the story is incorrect and he was not serving in music ministry right away and that he ever helped with kids again.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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I think in many ways all of

I think in many ways all of this speculation on our part is simply silly. Talk about giving an answer without sufficient information! But while I am sure some of the comments are coming from individuals who have been responsible for leading a church to actually follow steps of church discipline, unless you have actually been there, the one who knows He is accountable to God to try to follow all of the Bible's teachings concerning these types of issues, we really ought to pause before casting stones.

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Just curious...

Say, Kirk, I'm just curious to what you are referring by "all of this speculation"?

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Jonathan Charles wrote: Come

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Come on Aaron, are you buying the story that the church/Phelps did not practice church discipline on that girl? I think they are playing with words here. .

I wish folks would calm down and stop leaping.
To say that I neither believe nor disbelieve the woman's account (where it differs from Trinity/Phelps' version) is not the same as saying I believe Trinity's account. At this point, I neither believe nor disbelieve all the details of their account either. My point is that a victim in a situation is not automatically correct in everything she/he asserts any more than anyone else involved is automatically correct or incorrect. I think it's premature to judge the case at this point based on either side's say so.

But I do have a bias. We all do. My own bias is generally in favor of those accused rather than in favor of accusers. But it's not all that hard to back up a few steps and gain some objectivity if we bother to try.

As for discipline vs. other church action...
I've already described--in an earlier post--one scenario in which church action could easily be construed as "discipline" that is not discpline. When there is a pregnancy, you are not going to be able to stop a congregation from talking about it. So some open talk needs to occur in order for the congregation and the member to move forward. I don't personally see why that talk would need to done by the victim (and several reasons would commend not doing it that way!), but in what I've read, I haven't yet seen the Concord side of things specifically acknowledge that she had to do any speaking in front of the church. Maybe I missed that. But either way, I wasn't there--and with the information out so far, I can't form a fair opinion on whether it should have been done that way. (At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, neither can anyone else)

It will all get sorted out soon enough. More details will come out and it will be possible to see consistency or lack thereof in one side or the other's version of events. (I personally think I see a trend there already but it's not important to elaborate. It'll be clear soon enough)

@Greg... no, I do not believe that restoration of a sinning church member necessarily involves fitness for particular roles. Just as "sin" and "crime" are two different things (though often overlapping categories), so "restored" and "serving in a particular capacity" are two different things.

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Not the Most Pleasant way to Return

After a long (very long) time not really being on SI, I'm back.
I wouldn't normally use something like this to come back on, since it is so abnormal, but I'm a little ticked off.

I have maybe a little more insight into this situation than others, seeing that my wife (who hasn't renewed her membership after everyone had to re-register a while ago) and my in-laws were members of Trinity Baptist Church in the past, and my wife also attended the high school there. She did not know the victim in this present case, having come to Trinity after this all occurred, but she does know some of the others involved and their families. She sat under the teachings of Pastor Phelps for a number of years.

Let me say this first, since I think its the most important thing. I'm most upset about this because of the slight that this has been on the Gospel of Christ. The way things were done here (even giving the benefit of the doubt to both sides) has left enough room for people that hate the truth to mount an attack on that truth and alienate people. I know for a fact that other situations have occurred like this before in various places, and they have been handled in a way that didn't lead to national scandal.
Sure, people that want to attack Christianity will always find a way, but most of the time they don't have such powerful arguments.

Secondly, I'm going to avoid speculating as much as possible. Right now this is just a lot of people blaming each other for messing up. Until there are actual facts, as considered by the law, all we're doing is muddying the waters. I know that people that want to make this an all-out attack on the Gospel are already doing that enough, so we should just stamp that out on our end.

A whole lot could be said on the front of Church Discipline, and I would love to deal with that, as we did have a lengthy discussion on the subject in the past on SI, that I wouldn't mind repeating, but this is not the proper venue. It gets too much into what various people are claiming about each other, so its too close to speculation for my mind.
The only thing I can say on this subject right now is that its partly a minister's job (another good biblical word being "shepherd") to keep his flock safe. I don't see a person that has committed a crime and not paid the legal penalty (which is far less in our nation than the one God exacted for those in Israel) being someone safe to have in a flock, in particular when they didn't come and confess their sin and repent of their own volition in the first place. Forgiveness does not eliminate the consequences of sin on this Earth.

I also want to make it clear that I'm not an apologist for TBC. This issue has been discussed a lot in our home for the last little while, and I wanted to put some thoughts out there, but I'm not trying to support either side. I have some specific differences in doctrine and practice from TBC, so don't tune out what I have to say because you think I'm just here to help one side.

Some of the things that have been said around this entire event don't bear any resemblance to anything that my wife or in-laws observed during their years at Trinity.
There was no "domination" of the women by the men of the congregation. Now, this could be the simple backlash of modern ideas against the biblical principle of submission, but its something that has been played up a lot and said to be an issue in many IFB churches, and that's just not the case here.
While TBC and its school were of decent size, they were not the only thing allowed or encouraged in the lives of the people there. While my wife still talks about and maintains friendships with those from Trinity, she speaks as much or more about friends she made in the Concord area outside of Trinity. This was not some insular group that was trying to maintain their secrecy.
In the years that my wife's family was there this issue did come up in little whispers. What she says she had heard was that this was all consensual. Again, that doesn't really mean anything, I just wanted to fill in some blanks so people could understand more completely.
Mr Willis was eventually put out, not for this incident, but for cheating on his wife several years later, so he did not remain a "member in good standing" as such.

I hope I've managed to accomplish something here by giving some more of the facts and helping to address things that don't make any sense to me.
I honestly hope that we can just let this go for a little while until we have some more concrete facts. Let others interfere with the workings of justice by speculation and attacks, let us uphold the letter and spirit of the law by letting things be done before we start acting.

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Speculation??? Sure, there

Speculation??? Sure, there are 2 sides to every story, but both sides have spoken. Phelps' side comes up short as far as biblically defending the church's actions back then. The woman told of having been molested earlier in life. When this came to the attention of the church, they ministered to her by advising her to go to the prison to see the man in order to forgive him. As a result of that, when she was raped twice by Willis' she didn't say anything until she realized she was pregnant. According to the woman's statement, Phelp's applied Deuteronomy 22:23-24 to her situation and the conclusion drawn was that the sex was consensual (since she waited until she was pregnant to say anything). She had to confess to the church, the man made a confession (though not to his actual sin). Since she could not attend the Christian school, and the mother's work prohibited her from homeschooling her herself, she was sent to Colorado to live with a Christian family who would homeschool her. She was even asked to write a letter of apology to the man's wife. Her baby was born and given up for adoption. Now 13 years later she is saying that the sex was not consensual. Clearly, it is a matter of who you believe. Lord willing, the man, Willis, makes an honest confession and this whole matter could be resolved. Phelps and the church would certainly have to apologize to the victim. What I would like to know is how Phelps became convinced that the sex was consensual. Did he just go on Dt. 22:23-24? Did he weigh the testimony of the man with greater weight? Why did he not understand that authority figures have to be very careful in dealing with matters with minors? Children and adolescents can be coerced into saying what authority figures want them to say simply because the authority they have causes the minors to want to please them or, out of fear of what might happen, they say what they know the authority figures are looking for. It simply will not do to have those involved say, "Well, she did admit it."

Phelps does need to speak out in detail on this. Short quotes to new organizations will not do.

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Consensual sex with a minor

While we don't know for sure if the sex was consensual, we do know that it occurred. The "consensual" excuse is one that I've heard numerous times from men who have sexual relations with minors. "Young girls are just attracted to me." "She came on to me." The fact is that his act was no accident or mistake and he was fully capable of saying no.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Encouraging gossip?

It is long past the time for SI to shut down this thread and not allow anymore conjecture on this. Please!

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Yep.

I agree Bob.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

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Kind of

Bob T. wrote:
It is long past the time for SI to shut down this thread and not allow anymore conjecture on this. Please!

Bob, I kind of agree, and kind of disagree.

The facts of this matter will not be known with certainty to any of us until Heaven. Even after the criminal and civil courts have finished their work, we still won't know. So, if we're going to discuss how these things should have been handled, we're going to have to do it based on a series of conjectures (as in "If this is what happened, they should have done this rather than that.").

I think we should stop accusing and judging motives based on inadequate information. But I think the speculation process helps us plan what we will do when we are confronted with this kind of situation in our church -- particularly when linked to Scriptural reflections on the various scenarios we imagine may have been going on.

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Speculation/planning

Mike Durning wrote:
But I think the speculation process helps us plan what we will do when we are confronted with this kind of situation in our church -- particularly when linked to Scriptural reflections on the various scenarios we imagine may have been going on.

Exactly. If we can get away from trying to judge this specific case ourselves and instead focus on how these kinds of situations should be handled, maybe we can make some headway in fixing the problem. It's curious to me that on the one hand folks are upset about a cover up, and yet at the same time demand that we don't talk about it. I think we must discuss these situations, especially when they've become a matter of public record, but not in a way that tries to dissect and label what has happened at Trinity or any other church/institution, but take what we know about how people can and will engage in sinful conduct and how the Bible tells us to address those situations. I think we must also consider how best to convey to folks that they should not be afraid to come forward with information about a problem with church leadership or someone else in the congregation, what kind of 'evidence' is needed to make an accusation, whether or not someone who stands accused should be allowed to continue to minister, and if they are 'found guilty', what does the restoration process entail, and what does it mean to receive someone back into the 'fellowship' of the church? These are all IMO questions that this case brings to light, and why on earth should we not attempt to learn from it? We may have to ask some "What if" questions, but that's what most planning is based on- speculation. I think most folks here can find the line between harmful gossip and healthy brainstorming based on these events.

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Speculation?

I personally do not believe I have speculated here in this thread. I have posed a question, however, that no one here seems to have answered- that is, even if we assume the best case scenario (that the involvement was consensual), how is what transpired in the church immediately afterward justified (whether you take the account of Anderson or Dr. Phelps)? What facts could possibly come out that would justify that this man continued to be an active participant in the ministry at TBC? The best answer provided publicly has been that the police never followed up after the report was made. If I am in that scenario, I cannot imagine a situation where I would not then take it upon myself personally to follow up and see that either the man turns himself in voluntarily or that charges were pressed. If the legal system falls through and he is unwilling to turn himself in to the authorities- well, how much clearer can a lack of repentance be?

I am truly flabbergasted here- and it is not because I harbor any ill will or resentment at all toward anyone at Trinity. I have greatly appreciated Chuck, and value the ministry he has had in my life personally and to those I have pastored. A good friend and college mentor is a missionary sent from TBC. I am truly disappointed that this matter transpired, and as a father of three daughters, can only imagine the sorrow that has been experienced by the family of Tina as well as the Willises (no matter how the matter transpired specifically). I would genuinely appreciate an explanation, because I have thought about this a great deal since the story broke, and I would like nothing better than a reason to believe that this matter was handled properly by the church and leaders I have known and respected.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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I believe that it is possible

I believe that it is possible to be concerned about some of the things coming out of this situation at Trinity without being an enemy of that ministry, its present pastor, or its former pastor. I also don't believe that you have to speculate to come to a few concerns.

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Follow-up

Following up on a police investigation is easier said than done. It's only on television that cops run around telling every Joe Sixpack in sight the status of an investigation. The most you can hope for is "The investigation is open and ongoing". They have no duty to report to the church- legally the church is not part of the case- only the accused and the victim/family can receive specific information, and only the victim's family can press charges. So I really don't know what a church can do about a criminal case except nag. They could have called the local papers to complain about the lack of follow-up... but I'd think they'd want to consult with the family before they took any action that could have brought the case in to the public eye.

As for acts that are consensual, any participation by a person under the age of consent makes the act illegal. She could not have consented, and the fact that the man took advantage of her willingness or overpowered her physically makes him a sexual predator. I agree that he should have been removed from ministry and from membership roles until he had demonstrated repentance to the satisfaction of the church leadership. I think a good question is how would someone demonstrate repentance for such an act, and at what point/to what positions could he be restored?

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The only answer I can come up with...

Quote:
I think a good question is how would someone demonstrate repentance for such an act, and at what point/to what positions could he be restored?

By turning himself in to the authorities with a full confession. The second part would be answered after the sentence was served.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Ditto

Greg Linscott wrote:
Quote:
I think a good question is how would someone demonstrate repentance for such an act, and at what point/to what positions could he be restored?

By turning himself in to the authorities with a full confession. The second part would be answered after the sentence was served.

My sentiments exactly.

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Before commenting, let me

Before commenting, let me state clearly that I am not making any comments about the particular on this particular case. I do not know what happened. I have not read most of the news reports on it, so my comments must not be construed by anyone either on SI or not on SI as support or defense of any one or any act or any thing related to this situation with TBC.

Quote:
If I am in that scenario, I cannot imagine a situation where I would not then take it upon myself personally to follow up and see that either the man turns himself in voluntarily or that charges were pressed.
You can't force someone to turn himself or herself in, and you can't press charges since you are a not a party to the act. A church can exercise church discipline on someone, up to and including removing them from membership, but that is the extent of their authority. A pastor can strongly encourage someone to turn themselves in, and offer to go with them. But he can't march them down there against their will.

A church is essentially a third party to a legal situation such as this. They can report it, and they must in most cases ... child sex abuse is generally not covered by clergy privilege as I understand it; in most states clergy are mandatory reporters. But the church can't force a police department or a prosecutor to take action. And in most states, only a victim can press charges.

Again, I have no idea on this particular case what happened, so my comments must not be construed by anyone either on SI or not on SI as support or defense of anyone or any act or any thing related to this.

Quote:
By turning himself in to the authorities with a full confession. The second part would be answered after the sentence was served.
I wonder what biblical evidence would you use to support the idea that biblical repentance means chasing down legal consequences (as opposed to accepting them when they come)? Is there any biblical case where this was done? Or a passage that suggests it should be done?

I think this is related to the conversation that we were having earlier. I would fully say that if a person knows that the police are looking for him, he should turn himself in. If he has hurt someone, the police will be looking for him. But again, I know I brought this up before, I am unsure that repentance means chasing down punishment or consequences in all cases. Again, I am not commenting on this particular case. But if a victim (of a breakin, an assault, a rape, or whatever) declines to press charges, does biblical repentance mean insisting on them?

Let's a say a guy steals $100 from someone. He repents and gives the $100 back to him, and the victim says, "Fine. No problem. I am not pressing charges." Does biblical repentance mean that he go to the police anyway? Why or why not?

Let's say a man rapes a woman. He repents and asks her forgiveness and she says, "Fine. I forgive you. I just want you out of my life. I don't want to see you again. I won't press charges." Is he still bound to turn himself him in the name of biblical repentance?

And what if the prosecutor declines to prosecute? Should he lock himself up for ten years because he knows that's what he should have gotten for it? To that, I think you would say no. But why? If biblical repentance means accepting the consequences, does it mean accepting them only when an authority says to accept them. In other words, why must he turn himself in when the authorities aren't looking for him, but he doesn't have to accept consequences when the authorities aren't looking to impose them? Do you understand the tension there?

To me, there are some complexities that may be being ignored here. I am not sure what all the answers are, or any of them, but these are some questions that at the very least seem reasonable to ask.

To your specific question, I have no idea why the man allegedly continued in ministry at TBC, so again, I don't want to defend anything that may or may not have gone on there. And I don't want my words here being used in anyway as a comment on the situation at TBC because they are not.

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Well...

Quote:
I wonder what biblical evidence would you use to support the idea that biblical repentance means chasing down legal consequences (as opposed to accepting them when they come)? Is there any biblical case where this was done? Or a passage that suggests it should be done?

In our scenario, he has not only violated a person/people, he has violated a law. This is not the same as committing adultery with another adult. Proverbs 28:13 says "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." This may not be adequate to base an entire system of doctrine on, but I don't see the converse where it would be wise or permissible to wait until confronted, either. If you rob your employer, do you confess but wait until the funds are missed? Does the adulterous but repentant spouse wait for the partner to discover before informing of consummated unfaithfulness?

To your other scenarios- I think your examples would be cases where mercy is demonstrated- but that's not up to the offending party to determine.

Quote:
But the church can't force a police department or a prosecutor to take action. And in most states, only a victim can press charges.

Let's assume this was all true- the party refused to confess. I am arguing that in this case, that would demonstrate a lack of true repentance, which leads to the question of why he would be allowed to continue in membership, at the very least.

Greg Linscott
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I realize there is a

I realize there is a tremendous difference in level of offense, but in Greg's scenario, anyone who has ever exceeded the speed limit would be required to go and turn himself in to the authorities of his own volition because he has broken the laws of the state. Mere confession of that sin to God would not be enough, he would have to also make restitution to the state as well. I really do not think we truly believe these principles in their entirety, It is only when large issues arise, (large being a relative term), that we seek to apply these truths.

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The example of Zach

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Luk 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Zacchaeus is often set forth, and rightly so I believe, as demonstrating a truly repentant heart. He doesn't wait for wronged parties to come to him now that he's professing faith in Christ. He voluntarily, publicly announces his readiness to accept the consequences for his past mistreatment of people. The impression seems to be that there have been so many nameless victims in his years of tax collecting that he couldn't begin to identify them all in order to go to each personally & make restitution, hence the public offer. If some victims of his cheating missed out on the restitution because they chose not to come forward and he forgot who they were, fine. From a repentant heart, he made a genuine, concerted effort to right the wrongs.

As a pastor confronted with an "Ernie Willis"-type crime, I would expect a genuinely repentant heart to be manifested before the congregation by an acknowledgment of a crime committed that demands he relinquish certain responsibilities and refrain from some ministry opportunities. I would furthermore expect him voluntarily to turn himself in to the authorities and accept the legal consequences. Should his victim not press charges or for whatever reason not cooperate with an investigation (and if she were in my church, I would strongly encourage her to), or if the charges for whatever reason are dropped, or if the police fail to pursue their investigation and take the matter to trial, or if a judge gives probation when he could've given years in prison, then "Willis" has been the recipient of a merciful outcome. I wouldn't insist on expulsion from the church because he didn't get all that the law demands he could get. Incidentally, I wouldn't bring the man's membership status before the congregation for a vote (the final, most public stage of church discipline) until after he committed himself to me and the deacons that he would voluntarily turn himself in.

A personal illustration, perhaps? When I was in 8th grade, a buddy & I were in a store and he dared me to steal a pen, which of course I did to prove my manhood. At that time in my life, I wasn't particularly concerned about living for the Lord & pleasing Him. In my senior year of high school, however, the Lord graciously worked in my life and brought me to a place of repentance for my selfish, self-centered, godless living. The pen incident immediately came to mind. After a few days of struggle, I went to the store with a couple dollars in hand, sought out the manager, told him what I did, asked his forgiveness, and gave him the money. When he regained his composure, he took the money and expressed thanks for making the effort to get this right. When I nervously walked into that store, I had no idea the outcome--and wasn't even really thinking about all the possibilities. I knew I'd done wrong, even committed a crime, and needed to make it right with that store. Certainly this pales in comparison to Willis's crime, and certainly his life situation was far more complex (with wife & children), but for everyone involved--Willis, his wife, his children, Tina Anderson, her mother, the membership at Trinity, Colonial Hills, and Tri-City Baptist Churches, the student body of Trinity Christian School, Matt Olson, Northland, the citizens of Concord, NH, and more--it would've been far, far better had he demonstrated true, godly repentance and taken full, public responsibility for his crime.

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Quote: I realize there is a

Quote:
I realize there is a tremendous difference in level of offense, but in Greg's scenario, anyone who has ever exceeded the speed limit would be required to go and turn himself in to the authorities of his own volition because he has broken the laws of the state. Mere confession of that sin to God would not be enough, he would have to also make restitution to the state as well. I really do not think we truly believe these principles in their entirety, It is only when large issues arise, (large being a relative term), that we seek to apply these truths.

Large is a relative term, and scale does matter here.

If one realizes that a cashier gave an extra penny in change, most would be much less likely to even consider returning it than they would $10 bill.

Exceeding the speed limit is a matter of law, but it is applied relatively even by those who enforce it. Is it a moral wrong when your speedometer registers 57 in a 55 coasting downhill? Do you take the time to confess that specifically as sin, or do you remind yourself to watch and be mindful that you don't exceed posted limits?

In this specific case, the scale does matter. And I don't think that general principle is inconsistent with Biblical reasoning.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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Verbal testimonies

Tina Anderson's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDVveQP0KKM

Chuck Phelps: http://www.wkxl1450.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&i...

I'm just curious here. Chuck states that the public treatment of Tina and Ernie had a three-fold purpose. First, to quell rumors. Second, to demonstrate loving care for Tina. Third, to prepare the congregation for the bombshell of Ernie's impending arrest. Do these stated reasons raise any questions in anyone else's mind?

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Eye witnesses

There has been quite a bit of research in the last 20 years about the reliability of eye witness/firsthand testimony, and it's been discovered that eye witness testimony can be highly unreliable. Factors such as stress and previous experiences can color their perceptions. It is reasonable to think that each 'side' may be presenting what is in their minds accurate accounts, but one's biases, maturity, and experiences can drastically affect memory and perception, so the assumption that an eye witness testimony is irrefutable no longer holds. That is why documentation is so essential for churches to take seriously. You really never know when you are going to need proof that an action was benign instead of criminal, unethical, or unScriptural.

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BryanBice wrote: I'm just

BryanBice wrote:
I'm just curious here. Chuck states that the public treatment of Tina and Ernie had a three-fold purpose. First, to quell rumors. Second, to demonstrate loving care for Tina. Third, to prepare the congregation for the bombshell of Ernie's impending arrest. Do these stated reasons raise any questions in anyone else's mind?

It makes perfect sense to me. What questions should it raise? Since she became pregnant, there was certainly no way the matter was going to remain private.

Susan makes a good point about documentation... and I would think that if "public" action occurred (let's keep in mind that a meeting of the church is not really "public"), it would documented in the meeting minutes.
But since investigation is ongoing, I'm sure those kinds of documents will be scrutinized.

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Am I missing something?

There may be the possibility that the Concord Police Department dropped the ball big time in their investigation. That being said, I'm reminded of the wise man who, when I told him that I hoped people could put two and two together, told me, "You have to give them the 'four' !"

It seems that there were two separate church meetings, one in which Ernie confessed to being unfaithful and the second in which Tina's pregnancy was addressed. Was there anything said that informed the church that Ernie was unfaithful with Tina (and thus guilty of a crime) or was the church left to figure that out? Personally, being familiar with the Granite State mentality, i can't see a whole church silently accept the presence of a man who would do such a thing with a minor.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Crossed my mind

Ron Bean wrote:
Was there anything said that informed the church that Ernie was unfaithful with Tina (and thus guilty of a crime) or was the church left to figure that out? Personally, being familiar with the Granite State mentality, i can't see a whole church silently accept the presence of a man who would do such a thing with a minor.

I can't imagine that an entire congregation in what seems to be an ultra-conservative church would allow a rapist to remain in a ministry position. While I would accept a man's repentance and continued attendance at church, my dh and I would raise six kinds of cane if he were to be accepted back into a ministry position. I'm not clear at all about what role this man had in the church after this incident. And I think after 13 years, even people who were there probably aren't clear either unless someone kept decent records. Who here can describe in detail and with unassailable accuracy any event that took place 13 years ago?

This case is best left to be tried by authorities with access to the police reports and other evidence.

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The meeting

Ron Bean wrote:
It seems that there were two separate church meetings, one in which Ernie confessed to being unfaithful and the second in which Tina's pregnancy was addressed. Was there anything said that informed the church that Ernie was unfaithful with Tina (and thus guilty of a crime) or was the church left to figure that out? Personally, being familiar with the Granite State mentality, i can't see a whole church silently accept the presence of a man who would do such a thing with a minor.

Actually, both incidents were dealt with in the same meeting, and nothing was said that led people to believe that the two situations were related. In fact, many who were in attendance at the meeting have said they were totally unaware of the relationship between the two. One person in attendance remarked how a significantly larger crowd went to Ernie & his family to express whatever than went to Tina.

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Who are these people?

Quote:
...many who were in attendance at the meeting have said they were totally unaware of the relationship between the two. One person in attendance remarked how a significantly larger crowd went to Ernie & his family to express whatever than went to Tina.

Do these people have any evidence to support their assertions? I gotta' tell you all- I really, really have a strong aversion to hearsay.

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Ernie remained

Susan R wrote:
I can't imagine that an entire congregation in what seems to be an ultra-conservative church would allow a rapist to remain in a ministry position. While I would accept a man's repentance and continued attendance at church, my dh and I would raise six kinds of cane if he were to be accepted back into a ministry position. I'm not clear at all about what role this man had in the church after this incident.

The problem, of course, is that the church as a whole had no idea Ernie the confessed adulterer was, in fact, the rapist of a minor. From Chuck's comment in his interview that "not a few" were puzzled by the non-arrest, however, there must've been "not a few" who knew the connection. Of course, that group would include the deacons and their wives as well as the pastoral staff and their wives, so that would be at least a couple dozen people.

Regarding his roles in the church? People who were there at least until the time Ernie finally left several years later (after yet another affair and subsequent divorce) report that he was involved in musical groups and ushering/greeting. Some recall his involvement in youth events, although I would seriously hope not in an official "sponsor" or leadership role.

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If indeed

it could be verified that the leadership, who knew of the details of this man's criminal behavior, did not require any sort of church discipline (for example, our church would at least remove him from membership and service for a period of 'probation') then I'd say they were way out of line. As in they should be drop-kicked all the way to Nebraska out of line. But I don't know who knew what and when, what the time frame was between events and then this man's "continued involvement". It's all so vague and non-specific.

What we can do to benefit from this is to consider how we might treat a similar circumstance. How much info should remain private, and who should know what? Is complete transparency essential... but then what if the victim feels like their privacy and dignity is being violated in having to experience a criminal trial and a church 'trial'? How does a church attempt to protect/restore the victim and require repentance from the perpetrator?

I forget- were charges ever filed against this guy?

One thing I do feel comfortable saying- regardless of why this girl was asked to stand in front of the congregation, my dh and I would not allow this with any of our kids.. It would be sufficient for the pastor or my dh to give folks the heads up on the situation without having the child stand in front of everyone. That action, IMO, was NOT necessary no matter what the purpose.

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@ Susan ... on were charges filed?

Susan R wrote:
were charges ever filed against this guy?

I asked the Concord paper to request a copy of the police report. Here is their response (Note ... I deleted the email address - but a fully copy was provided to the moderation team)

Quote:
Hi Mr. Peet,

I did ask the Concord police for the report from 1997, but they say the case is now active again and since it's part of an ongoing investigation and prosecution, it can't be released. They've also refused to release the reports to the Associated Press.

We're definitely pursuing this dimension of the story as we move forward.

Thanks! Have a great day.

-Ben

---
Ben Leubsdorf
Reporter
Concord Monitor
[phone number redacted ]
xxxxxxxxx@cmonitor.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "James R Peet"
To: xxxxxxxx@cmonitor.com, xxxxxxx@cmonitor.com
Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2010 2:07:41 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Have you researched the Police report in the Tina Anderson case?

It seems that a police report would be publicly available that would clear up the time line as to when the rape was reported

Thanks

would be nice to see your paper publish it

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Evidence?

Susan R wrote:
Quote:
...many who were in attendance at the meeting have said they were totally unaware of the relationship between the two. One person in attendance remarked how a significantly larger crowd went to Ernie & his family to express whatever than went to Tina.

Do these people have any evidence to support their assertions? I gotta' tell you all- I really, really have a strong aversion to hearsay.

Other than being in attendance, seeing with their own eyes, hearing with their own ears--which is what would be expressed on a witness stand in a trial--like what kind of evidence? A video or audio recording? Would be nice, but I wouldn't expect that to be forthcoming.

Look, two days ago, after several days of this story circulating all over the place, Chuck was given the opportunity to explain what took place that night. One of the basic gripes everywhere this story comes up is that there was no indication in the meeting that Tina was PG because she was raped by Ernie. In his radio interview, Chuck easily could have laid that to rest, but didn't. Instead, he explained that Tina was brought before the church because, in his words, she was a girl "with child" out of wedlock who needed the love and commitment of the church. No mention that she was in that condition because a church member more than twice her age had raped her.

I hear you, Susan, on the "hearsay" problem. But when the same basic thing is being said by numerous individuals, each providing additional, unique-to-their-experience details, plus you read & hear Chuck's version of events, my conclusion is that the eyewitnesses are providing a pretty accurate picture of what transpired within the church and its meeting. Chuck certainly has said nothing that indicates they're in error. Have you noticed that the only thing Chuck's really defending himself over is the charge of a cover-up or the obstruction of justice? I don't have a problem believing him that there was no attempt to cover the crime by hiding Tina until she could be whisked out of NH & sequestered in CO. I can certainly understand how the handling of this case makes those charges easy to level, though. As far as I'm concerned, I'm perfectly content to let that part of this debacle be investigated & determined by the legal authorities.

I'm interested in this case from a "pastoral theology" perspective. In other words, how did the pastor handle the case with the two parties involved and why? What can I perceive were his underlying beliefs about guilt/innocence...the consequences the parties should face...the nature of repentance...the process of forgiveness/reconciliation/restoration? How did he handle it within his church 13 years ago, and why did he do what he did? How is he responding now as his actions are being publicly scrutinized? As a pastor, I am learning a great deal.

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He knew

Quote:
it could be verified that the leadership, who knew of the details of this man's criminal behavior, did not require any sort of church discipline (for example, our church would at least remove him from membership and service for a period of 'probation') then I'd say they were way out of line. As in they should be drop-kicked all the way to Nebraska out of line. But I don't know who knew what and when, what the time frame was between events and then this man's "continued involvement". It's all so vague and non-specific

Chuck stated in his radio interview that the reason he had Tina go public with her pregnancy and (separately) Ernie admit to the congregation that he had been unfaithful to his marital vows was that he expected Ernie's arrest to be imminent. In other words, Chuck knew the full details of the crime. Ernie's "discipline" was to stand before the congregation and confess that he had been unfaithful to his wife & ask for their forgiveness (again, no mention of having raped Tina). Then a vote was taken, either to forgive him or remove him from membership. Motion to forgive?...second?...all in favor say "aye"...motion carried..."You're forgiven, brother." Then came the hugs, handshakes, "God bless you"s and let's move on from here.

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Contradictions

The problem, Bro. Bryan, is that there are people telling completely contradictory stories who claim that they were there and saw it all with their own two eyes and heard it with their own two ears. I posted earlier that eye witness testimony is often highly suspect, and after 13 years, I'd treat all of it with the same skepticism as a biography by Paris Hilton. Not that these aren't good people recalling what they believe are accurate portrayals of the events that took place to the best of their ability, but 13 years???

Edited to add:
I wonder how it was handled had anything to do with the investigation being open? People are often counseled not to discuss the details of an ongoing investigation... so if Mr. Phelps thought this man was going to be arrested... perhaps he was leaving it up to the legal system? But that still stinks, because as a parent I'd feel that I had a right to know that a man was accused of raping a young woman.

I think we are all learning a great deal here, and may humility and circumspection reign supreme. My heart goes out to all the people directly involved.

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Contradictions?

You've read people claim that the connection between these two incidents was publicly issued--that the Pastor made it clear that Ernie Willis raped Tina Anderson & got her pregnant? If so, I'd be interested in reading those sources. I've been following this in a bunch of places & read responses from both haters and defenders of TBC, and found no one who will make that claim.

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Maybe I need to increase my ginko

Quote:
there are people telling completely contradictory stories who claim that they were there and saw it all with their own two eyes and heard it with their own two ears.

In all my reading I must have missed the contradictory stories from those people. Could someone please tell me where I could read them. (IOW, what Bryan just posted.)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Ugh

BryanBice wrote:
You've read people claim that the connection between these two incidents was publicly issued--that the Pastor made it clear that Ernie Willis raped Tina Anderson & got her pregnant? If so, I'd be interested in reading those sources. I've been following this in a bunch of places & read responses from both haters and defenders of TBC, and found no one who will make that claim.

I can't track all this stuff down- there are posts all over the internet about this case espousing all manner of theories and sequences of events. I've heard everything from- Tina was presented to the church as a seducing little tramp and Ernie her hapless victim- to- the facts were presented, Tina was embraced by the church, and Pastor Phelps' help with relocation was compliance with the wishes of the mom. The truth is probably somewhere near the middle. It usually is.

What does stick out to me is that the police did not pursue this case. That is not something the church can be held accountable for on any planet.

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Let's revisit this...

BryanBice wrote:
Tina Anderson's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDVveQP0KKM

Chuck Phelps: http://www.wkxl1450.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&i...

I'm just curious here. Chuck states that the public treatment of Tina and Ernie had a three-fold purpose. First, to quell rumors. Second, to demonstrate loving care for Tina. Third, to prepare the congregation for the bombshell of Ernie's impending arrest. Do these stated reasons raise any questions in anyone else's mind?

Doesn't each stated purpose raise some rather significant questions?

1) Talk about rumors! If, as was expected, Ernie was arrested a few days after the public church action and the story hit the TV & print media, wouldn't it be reasonable to expect that the church's handling of the situation would create all kinds of "tongue wagging" throughout the congregation? And how would the community respond when people got wind of how the church handled the situation—humiliating the victim and “forgiving” the perpetrator? Chuck was apparently concerned simply with rumors about Tina's pregnancy. But wouldn't all rumors be quelled more effectively by simply telling the truth? Why could the church not simply have been informed that Tina was raped and is pregnant with the rapist's child?

2) Was this really a way to demonstrate loving commitment for a pregnant 15-yr-old rape victim? Expel her from school...have her lead the congregation to believe that her pregnancy was due to immorality on her part...help arrange for her to be removed from all family and friends...? Seems the much more loving thing to do would be to share with the congregation that "one of our members and school students, Tina Anderson, has recently been raped by a man from our church and as a result is now carrying his baby. In spite of being encouraged to do so, she refuses to abort this child, but is determined to bring the baby to term. We as a church family need to do all we can to help her and her mom throughout this difficult period. At times this may seem awkward, because she will remain a student in our school--but she needs the support and care of everyone in her church and school family! Let's determine to be ministers of God's grace and do so.” By the way, it seems very clear that one of the huge contributing factors in all of this is the conclusion that Tina would not be permitted to remain in the school because of her pregnancy.

3) How did the public church action in any way prepare the congregation for "that troublesome day when that headline would break"? Imagine that you were a church member, led to believe that Ernie had merely been unfaithful to his wife, was repentant for that transgression & sought your forgiveness. When the vote to forgive or dismiss was called, you voted to forgive him and retain him as a member of the church. You would leave the meeting, saddened by the moral lapses of these two unrelated incidents, but feeling pretty good about extending forgiveness to repentant sinners. Then, two days later, the Concord Monitor leads with the headline "TBC Deacon Arrested for Rape." And you remember that last Sunday night you shook Ernie's hand, offered him forgiveness, and told him you'd be praying for him--just after you voted to retain him as a member of the church. And now you discover the truth from the newspaper. I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty ticked.

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How to botch a cover up

1. Report incident to police almost immediately
2. Have perpetrator and victim stand in front of a congregation (hundreds?) and talk about the situation (true, by some accounts, this "open talk" was not completely open on the right points, but still... if you want to cover it up, bad idea to have any "up front" stuff at all!)
3. Allow (encourage?) the victim to be in the church again in future visits
4. Keep the perpetrator around (vs. making him disappear also, which would be a much more effective cover up strategy. See, I aced Coverups 101, which is required for all Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Pastors. ... note to the irony-challenged: this is irony)

Edit: Bryan, do we know that she was "expelled" from the school? A plausible case can be spun here that that the actions taken were not very effective for the goals Phelps has expressed, but I also find it quite plausible that they could have been effective. We still don't know what Tina was required to say, if anything, and her pregnancy guaranteed that there would be rumors. So if you act preemptively you get to shape to a degree what kind of rumors. If you actually come out with all of it, there is nothing to rumor about. Doesn't sound like that happened, but I can't claim to know that either. We also don't know what the guy really said or was expected to say either.

Maybe it would help to summarize what the many sides of the story agree on. Those would be the only things we really "know." I don't have time to do that though. I suspect it will be clear soon enough. There are detectives being paid to do that sort of thing. (Though it sure sounds like they should have done it 13 yrs ago. But I'm not going to pass judgment on the police just yet either)

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Do the math

Quote:
do we know that she was "expelled" from the school?

What we do know is that she was a student in the school when she became pregnant; but then when she disclosed her pregnancy, she had two options: public school and home school. Expelled? I believe what I read was, "not allowed to continue as a student."

Quote:
they could have been effective

I would be interested in knowing how they could've been effective.

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