“Understanding the motivations behind the mishandling of abuse is a first step in breaking the #ChurchToo cycle.”

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Jay's picture

Thanks for linking to this.  It's a very helpful article.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

Too many leaders are cowards, including pastors. That's one reason. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

I'd add one more additional type - the mistaken / deceived pastor.  This is the one I have seen a lot of, and it's kind of a mix of several types in her article.  

The mistaken pastor is one who either disregards the abuse victim's claims as 'not serious' or even worse, talks to the abusing spouse, but takes their side.  The abuser may cry crocodile tears, admit to wrongdoing, and even admit that they've abused their spouse, but constantly promises "to do better" although there is no actual fruit of repentance.  When this happens, the mistaken pastor then goes after the abuse victim because they aren't "submissive" to their husband as God's leader in the family.  Further attempts to deal with the situation are treated as sin issues, mostly because they are "gossiping" or "slandering" the abuser, or because the victim has a "critical spirit".  I know of several people who were excommunicated from a church for this very reason.

Lesson - take all claims seriously.  Involve the police early.  Make sure that the abuser is actually demonstrating change, and put them in intensive counseling/accountability to make sure it's not faked.  Make sure that the victim has the appropriate help/counsel, and that they have a safe place to flee to if and when the abuser grows violent again.  Remember that not all abuse is physical - it is very possible to destroy someone through words or the withholding of funds/clothing/support.

This is a tough, tough field but we don't have the option of ignoring it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is one reason where it's clear I'm not a product of the typical pastoral sub-culture bubble. Anyone who can hear an admission of abuse, decide not to report because the offender is "sorry," and blame the victim for not forgiving and forgetting, is a fool and lives in a sick echo chamber.

Only someone who is dangerously out of touch with the real world would think that response makes sense.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

Don't forget the fifth type: The Sued Pastor

When the victim told him what was going on, he called the police and the authorities. But, the victim either refused to report or gave a limited report to the officials. Then, years later, the victim sues him and his church for neglect. Often this is preceeded by a regional or national news story that makes the pastor sound like Attila the Hun.

Mark_Smith's picture

Jay wrote:

 

Lesson - take all claims seriously.  Involve the police early. 

Finally something I can agree with you on, Jay!

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler's good comment illustrates the very important question of "fundagelical culture" in doing a "five whys" analysis of Mrs. Greenberg's (and Jay's additional) categories.  Two cultural realities that come to mind are:

1.  We tend to "bowdlerize" things in our circles--eliminating objectionable things (in our view), even to the point of holding back from some areas of Scripture.  I'm completing a children's safety manual for my church, and one thing I had to address was that some in church leadership didn't even want a definition of what we were trying to prevent, or a warning about how prevalent it is.    If that's your habit, you're going to have trouble when someone comes to you with details of their rape.

2.  We tend to try to keep things inside to "protect the institution".  See BJU, ABWE, Patterson, etc..There are various reasons we do this, starting with sometimes using a "factory" model (one manager/pastor, authoritarian style, etc..) for ministry.  

Good article, and I hope it gets a lot of people thinking about the various levels we can observe how things can go badly. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

This is one reason where it's clear I'm not a product of the typical pastoral sub-culture bubble. Anyone who can hear an admission of abuse, decide not to report because the offender is "sorry," and blame the victim for not forgiving and forgetting, is a fool and lives in a sick echo chamber.

Only someone who is dangerously out of touch with the real world would think that response makes sense.

Tyler,

Rather than just being fools, these people are evil. I seriously doubt their salvation, and none of them and any leadership that allowed them to continue leading need to be fired wholesale and not allowed to lead anything ever again.

Mark_Smith's picture

I have been running in Southern Baptist circles for a few years now. Stories like this one from Lifeway, an official arm of the SBC, concern me, as does the report on caring for abuse victims. Why? If the story in this article reflects reality, which follows from the logic of the Caring report, then the answer for these 5 situations is not education, or remorse. The answer is wholesale elimination of these leaders, their elders or board members, as well as the deacons who turned a blind eye to it.

The SBC reports I have seen try to suggest reformation without a cleansing first... it won't work.

If some pastor, elder, deacon, etc. heard a girl tell them they were abused by a parent, I mean the real thing here. the girl describes clearly what happened so there is no doubt, and turned a blind eye to protect your church, or "because you didn't know any better" (yeah right...), then you should not only be ashamed, you can no longer be trusted with leadership. Period.

You see, the SBC is trying to have their cake and eat it to. They realize there is a problem. To appease the #ChurchToo movement they are writing these reports suggesting widespread abuse coverup in SBC circles. They then suggest the answer is .... wait for it, education. Yes. These pastors acted out of ignorance.

Nope. I'm not buying it. Either the SBC is blowing a serious problem (which I think is the case) into a common, widespread problem in an attempt to shield their individual guilt, or they are doing it to appease #ChurchToo people like Beth Moore and others.

Seriously, if you believe any of the 5 cases happened in your church, should anyone associated with that leadership ever lead again? I have yet to hear an SBC leader call for that. Perhaps it is because they are playing a game... sad but true.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Don't forget the fifth type: The Sued Pastor

When the victim told him what was going on, he called the police and the authorities. But, the victim either refused to report or gave a limited report to the officials. Then, years later, the victim sues him and his church for neglect. Often this is preceeded by a regional or national news story that makes the pastor sound like Attila the Hun.

Mark, you've got to remember what preceded the lawsuit; the misleading, cherry-picked release of Title IX records to the public through that pastor's friends, none of whom had the right to see those documents.  Again, Patterson could have survived just about everything in that case, including both cases of bungled Title IX investigations, if he simply hadn't tried to defend himself in public with documents he had no right to possess, let alone release.  

So it's not the "sued pastor", it's "the pastor who breaches confidentiality by illegally possessing and releasing Title IX records."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Mark makes a good point.  Some times the ladies do not want to move forward with the complaint for prosecution.  We saw that with female at Liberty raped by the Football Player, who later turned out to be a serial rapist and murderer.   I don’t know if it was proven or not but this same guy was suspected of returning to Liberty a year or two later and raping and killing another Liberty Female Student.  So this young ladies decision probably allowed other young ladies to be raped and/or killed including one of her own classmates.  So the victim can’t play up to being a victim later if she refused to follow through with the Police.  The institution would only be to blame in my mind if they allowed a known criminal to have the run of the institution unfettered as seems to be the case with Paige Patterson.   

Jay's picture

Anyone who can hear an admission of abuse, decide not to report because the offender is "sorry," and blame the victim for not forgiving and forgetting, is a fool and lives in a sick echo chamber.

Not necessarily. 

In most of the cases I've seen, the pastor treated it as a failure on his part to "lead his family properly" and told him to handle his temper better (or something like that).  Then he told the wife that her refusal to submit to his leadership as head of the home (Eph. 5:22-24) was bringing God's judgment on her and her children.  I've also seen Proverbs passages on the "quarrelsome wife" used, in multiple settings, to shame her into compliance with his evil desires.

In another case, a woman was told that being sexually assaulted by her husband "wouldn't hurt" if she would just "submit" and allow him to recreate all of his sexual desires. Those "desires", by the way, were continually fueled by decades' worth of exposure to pornography and all sorts of other vile debauchery.  She rightfully didn't want to be a part of any of that.  I'm talking about things that I'd be mortified to talk about in a private men's group, much less an Internet discussion board.  There are all sorts of blood-curdling details I could provide, but I think that is enough for now.

We can talk all we want about the complementarian / egalitarian debate, but I can't think of an abuse case that I've dealt with where the husband and or pastor would deny holding a complementarian position.  What it actually looked like, however, was a very, very, very far cry from the doctrine that they claimed to hold.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

Then, years later, the victim sues him and his church for neglect. Often this is preceded by a regional or national news story that makes the pastor sound like Attila the Hun.

Well, if the "upstanding leader" did act like Attila the Hun when he was "in charge" and "too busy" to deal with crimes, then I'd say he gets what he deserves. Being a church leader doesn't exempt someone from keeping the moral or civil law.

But let's not allow our personal relationships and biases to cloud the picture in this thread.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

It's a lot uglier than just two rapes and a murder--Google Jesse Matthew if you're interested.  In this case, since it was he said/she said without clear physical evidence of a physical assault leading to the sexual assault, and because the complainant didn't want to go forward, Matthew is otherwise implicated in a series of assaults.

Your question, then, is why.  Well, if she had reasonable expectation that the most likely result was Matthew acquitted and really ticked at her, and that's precisely what the sources for that article suggest, what do you expect?  Remember; rape is not generally a crime of passion, but of violence and control, and the response by the victim will be either fight or flight.

OK, if you're pretty sure you won't win the fight--physically or in court--what are you going to do?   It's easy to say "don't complain unless you've pressed charges" until one realizes the complexity of these things.  There are no easy solutions, though perhaps a good start would be to ask "what can we do to protect this person?", and do it.  Carry permits, restraining orders, safe houses, and the like might all be a good start.  

Story from my life; a girl I dated in college had met a soldier at a party, and that soldier had decided that since he'd faced combat (or would), that she was somehow his property, and if she didn't willingly date him (whatever that meant), he'd not take no for an answer.  So a little bit later, I come to my room, and when the door wouldn't open, a voice of a friend asked "who is it?" before letting me in.  Unbeknownst to me, my roommate and others were banding together to make sure she was safe.  There wasn't clear evidence to put him in the brig yet, but my friends weren't taking any chances, and since I'd dated her, they weren't going to let me be the one who had to confront the gentleman if he found her.

(and yes, they were watching out for me, too, but thankfully the soldier didn't know me from Adam)

As gun rights advocates will tell you, when seconds is the difference between life and death, the police are only minutes away.  If we want to improve the dismal rate of reporting/pressing charges/etc., we've got to address why people don't report and press charges.  Making it safe to do so might help a lot.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Patterson was a college president... not a pastor.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, you do realize that a couple of churches have already been disfellowshipped because of recklessly hiring/retaining pastors with criminal sexual records, right?  For that matter, the response of SEBTS and SWBTS to Mr. Patterson shows a renewed movement to punish, as does the proposal to create a database of SBC clergy "shown the door".  So it's not a question of education vs. punishment; it's both.  What you see is simply the result of "your circles" seeing mostly education--and if most pastors are not bad actors, as we'd hope, we're going to see mostly education so churches are less likely to make "forgiveable" errors--or tolerate errors that are not.

And yes, Patterson was a college president, just like he was a pastor, but he is the obvious reference for pastors who get sued despite some like yourself thinking he was doing things right.  What you're really demonstrating with your comment is that you really don't understand that as a rule, you've got to "coax" these things out of the person reporting them.  (another advantage of reporting quickly to police; they know better how to encourage people who are scared out of their minds to tell their stories)  Pastors really don't have a lot to fear if they report promptly and fully (don't mention just guns when it's rape, too), listen to victims and encourage them to report, document the story (and don't release it to fight things out in the press), and see what can be done to protect them from the perpetrator. 

I really don't think you'll find too many examples of a truly victimized pastor this way, Mark.  Prove me wrong by naming some examples if you like, but the ones I'm familiar with are cases where the person sued really dropped the ball in terms of best practices.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

I never said Patterson was right. I said repeatedly the majority of the people at SI are reading the complaint uncritically, believing it all as fact, and then blaming Patterson for things that are squarely on the back of the raper. Then, the victim sues SWBTS but never bothers to finish filing a criminal complaint against her raper... Huh.... go figure.