New Republic Picks Up Donn Ketcham Story

9324 reads

There are 150 Comments

TylerR's picture

There is a natural tendency to keep things "in house." I've been in law enforcement and investigations my entire adult life. I saw this pattern repeatedly in the Navy. A unit would try to "investigate" criminal misconduct itself, to keep things "internal" before going to military police, to see "if there is any credibility" to the reports. I saw it as a Pastor, and was criticized by some for refusing to do this very thing. We see it with the ABWE scandal. Let me be politically correct, nuanced and sensitive for a moment:

  • THAT IS A VERY STUPID THING TO DO. REPORT ALLEGATIONS IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY.

If you don't, you are being stupid. I don't care what your motives are. You are being stupid. It will look like a cover-up. It will be a cover-up. You will contaminate testimony, destroy evidence, poison the well, and generally make yourself and your organization look like idiots. You'll deserve the ridicule you get. You'll deserve to be called stupid. You have no idea what you're doing. You're destroying the victims. You're protecting the potentially guilty. The truth will come out in the wash.

Always report. Don't "check on things yourself." Don't "consult with the deacons." Don't "get counsel and advice" from the local Pastor's fellowship - two weeks down the road. Please, don't be stupid. Pick up the phone and call the authorities. Do it now.

ABWE? They were stupid. Real stupid. Idiots. I've seen this my entire life, repeated over and over again. They deserve to go through the fire for their stupidity. Hopefully, others will learn how not to be so stupid.

Peace out.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Tyler, do you have any opinions about the above article on ABWE?

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

No. I don't feel I should weigh in on this one. I think ABWE had a tough decision on its hands, and it did what it felt was best. Who are we to judge? We should trust that they did what they felt was right. Amen. (Yes, this is a joke).

There is a man at my church who was an ABWE missionary to Bangladesh for decades. He doesn't like to talk about this.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting here that in terms of sexual sin, figuring out what to report is often not terribly difficult.  Any contact, including touching of private areas for no medical purpose, is off limits when the person is 16 or under, depending on the state.  Any nonconsensual contact is off limits, including contact while intoxicated.  Someone comes to you reporting this?  Write down what they told you and encourage them to go to the police.  

And Biblically, reporting ought not trouble us, since Scripture gives us about the same rules.  You've got the prohibitions of adultery and fornication, and if I'm reading Song of Songs right, it clearly indicates only physically mature women--breasts, hips, belly a "mound of wheat surrounded by lilies" (think about it a moment)--were eligible for marriage.  I would dare say that the description could even indicate a degree of emotional maturity--the girl is not married off as soon as she starts having the monthly visitor, but waits until her body is developed.  The boy waits until he builds them a home, and his description in the same book also indicates physical and emotional maturity.  

Reluctant to report?  Look at the article.  Kim's gone through Hell as a result of Ketcham's abuse, and judging by the reports of her boyfriend and cutting, she's lost her faith, too.   Some people at ABWE have a millstone around their necks, brothers.  Don't let it be you. 

Ron Bean's picture

I spent much of my time as a Christian school principal/administrator. My policy was that if there were an accusation of abuse or Child Services showed up at school to investigate something, I let them have free access to the school. I was surprised at how many people in similar positions as mine thought I was "too cooperative"! Right now at least one state is opposing legislation intended to require daycare/childcare workers in Christian schools to be screened as too intrusive.

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

Jay's picture

Tyler said everything that I had thought about saying while I was reading.  It's also worth nothing that interfering with a criminal investigation, no matter how well intentioned you are, could potentially put YOU at risk for criminal charges as well.

Just don't.  Call the cops and let them deal with it.  Stay in your lane and deal with the spiritual fallout.

I am utterly dumbfounded at how many ministers think that getting a ministry gives them carte blanche to adjudicate crimes.  Utterly. Dumbfounded.

"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

Worth noting is that an assistant football coach at my alma mater, Michigan State, was arrested for interfering with investigations when his action was simply to discuss the matter with the players accused of sexual assault.  (at least that's what he said, OK, it's debatable)  Beyond the obvious fact that I'm not terribly proud of MSU right now, it illustrates that mandatory reporters (like coaches) are not getting off easy anymore if they don't report crimes promptly.  I believe that several other MSU staffers have also lost their jobs for failing to report when suspicions of gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's crimes became known.  

Title IX might be in play, but word to the wise.  Apart from encouraging the person to talk to the police themselves--remind them that they've got people on retainer who can get physical evidence of the crime and so on--be happy filing a report, then filing an incident report for the church and the insurance company and lawyer, and then give the insurance company and lawyer a call.  Do what they say. 

While you're waiting for that sad moment to come, start a culture of reporting these things.  Even boo-boos that require just a bandaid.  File an incident report.  Then, when you've got a BIG deal, you can show the court you've been minding your Ps & Qs about the little things.  Juries and newsmen like that.

Word to the wise.

Bert Perry's picture

ABWE could sink, or they could use this humiliation to do what the Boy Scouts did--develop a world class child protection system, with the memory of horrors there to emphasize just why it's important.  

Jay's picture

I *just* finished reading the New Republic article.  I had no idea the Ketcham case was that bad.  I'd heard bits and pieces about it through SI, but I had no idea it was anything like this.  I am almost at a complete loss for words about what Kathryn Joyce wrote, and I beg you to please pardon any excessive emotion in this post.

First off, we should thank God for this article and the news coverage it gets.  The scandal is getting bigger.  It should.  It should make us angry enough to say 'Never again' and demand that the appropriate people are held to justice - God's justice and human justice.  There should be a bottomless pit of righteous rage in our souls for what ABWE put these families and kids through - and that's before we discuss the unknown hundreds or thousands of nationals that Ketcham was there to 'help'.  

Donn Ketcham was a predatory sociopath.  ABWE knew about it and harbored him for decades, and they did it deliberately and at the very highest levels of the organization.  Shut ABWE down NOW.

Anyone even remotely affiliated with actively covering this up should be run out of the ministry and out of town, if possible.  It should go without saying that anyone who cooperated with that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but I'll say that here just in case someone isn't sufficiently aware enough think of it.  

This is the most horrific thing I've ever seen in my lifetime - I would rate this far worse than the September 11th attacks - and the only somewhat comforting thing that I can think of right now is that God will deal out perfect justice; far more perfect justice than than any human court ever could possibly do. I would be terrified of His Wrath if I were in the administrative wing of ABWE and had anything to do with protecting Donn Ketcham.

If the blood of righteous Abel cried out from the ground against Cain, how much more so this case?  I am afraid to even consider 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

Crystal's picture

TylerR wrote:

No. I don't feel I should weigh in on this one. I think ABWE had a tough decision on its hands, and it did what it felt was best. Who are we to judge? We should trust that they did what they felt was right. Amen. (Yes, this is a joke).

There is a man at my church who was an ABWE missionary to Bangladesh for decades. He doesn't like to talk about this.

I also know someone that was with ABWE in Bangladesh.  This person has only once said anything about their time there in any length and any of the other times it was mentioned it was with pursed lips and refusal to discuss.  I was left with the impression that it was a *really* big deal whatever it was that happened but no real information was ever disclosed.  A lot of people were shocked when this person said something years later about having been in Bangladesh.  They had no idea.  I can't help but wonder now if this is the story of what was going on.  The first time I read anything of it I asked my husband-Do you suppose this is what was always bothering so and so?  Why so and so never said anything about being there or anything about the mission work there?

Jim Barnes's picture

Churches failing to keep up with regular background checks are playing with fire. Get it done!

Joeb's picture

Bad. It's worse. It was not just Ketchum. Allegations were made against Ketchum's son and Another missionary ie they were passing the gals around. Plus their were allegations that went back to the fifties that dealt with the same site. Even ABWE found the allegations against this Other missionary credible per info put up by the victims  

Throw in the new Sex Predators that PI found and that ABWE dragged their feet on reporting right up to 2014/15 it is a JOKE.  I can't believe ABWE is still supported by GARBS related institutions, but it figures.  As I have said before I respect BJU and it's related churches more because at least they don't operate undercover like some GARBS do. It's called being deceitful.  

Jim's picture

Joeb wrote:
 I can't believe ABWE is still supported by GARBS related institutions, but it figures. 

Correction: The GARBC does not have "approved agencies" - ended more than a decade ago [ I can't find the date ]

------------ Update ---------------

Ended in 2000

https://www.garbc.org/news/history-and-garbc-ties/

When the GARBC dropped its formal approval of mission agencies in 2000 ...

Bert Perry's picture

Don't do it, brothers.  The hammer is dropping on ABWE for the same reasons it dropped on the BSA, the Catholic church, public schools, daycares, and a host of others.  Before the 1990s, pretty much nobody knew how to handle this.  (my neighbors were molested by a teacher in the early 1980s...no convictions....I've seen that up close, and my college roommate's pastor had the same thing happen in the 1960s in the BSA)

The reason we don't want to nuke ABWE is because ABWE's culture is borrowed from the churches which produced her missionaries; our churches.  If you simply get rid of ABWE, our churches are simply going to assume the problem is solved because ABWE is gone--and our culture that gave birth to ABWE's culture is going to remain intact for the hammer to drop on us.

ABWE may yet commit suicide by not taking this seriously.  Time will tell.  But they can show our churches the way by adopting a model like that of the Boy Scouts, where victimization has been virtually stopped by their policies.  In the same way, we can show ABWE and others the way by doing about the same.   And in light of Romans 13, it's Biblical, too.  Don't be satisfied with background checks--they're a great start, but a lot more is needed.

Put another way, the Gospel is not about execution for sin, but about forgiveness for sin after sincere repentance and, where possible, restitution.  No?  

Joeb's picture

Bert it's also Biblical for the victims to be made whole regarding money irregardless of the statute of limitations. Zachious said he would make his victims whole to the tune four times what he stole from them. 

Victim 1 should never have to work again or worry about anything.  We are talking millions here Bert.  Until that part of the equation is satisfied I see no restoration of ABWE.  If nuking them gets the victims money so be it.   I do agree a better way of showing the supporting churches the right way is by reforming ABWE.  

In light of the above we're taliking many Pastors confessing their involvement of Bill Gothard.  Based on the information I have seen Godly Wendall and most of his staff along with the former President of the board were Gothardites and practiced his solutions to handling sex abuse to the T.  I know a  GARB  church in Indiana whose principal key Elder was a Gothardite.  Heard him confirm it at my prior church in person.  The former ABWE President of the Board was spouting Gothard's leadership info as recent as 2012.  Until these Pastors and other men in leadership admit  their involvement in the Satanic Cult of Gothard in a very public way and ask forgiveness any restoration in my mind is a non starter hence nuke ABWE.   

Jay's picture

Bert, 

I understand the gospel is about grace and forgiveness, but we also have to weigh justice here.  I think the only possibly just solution for ABWE's actions would be to shut it down.

Yes, I realize that there will be fallout for non-associated ABWE staff like the switchboard operators and admin. assistants or retired missionaries that were in Germany.  I hate to affect them, but the ABWE did this to themselves as a whole.  It's terrible for the non-involved, but necessary.

I understand your reasons for not 'nuking' ABWE, but I disagree.  I think we should nuke it - from orbit - as a testimony to the fact that we do take the glory of God very seriously, that we do not - and should not - ever tolerate this kind of sin while the civil authorities do their respective work.

I think Ephesians 5:3-12 applies here.

"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

My take is that instead of just nuking it, churches ought to own it.  Admit OK, we screwed up big time, and proceed to use the PII report to offer, as churches, assistance to the victims.  I'm guessing there are dozens.  Name the factors--maybe Gothardism, maybe something else--that led to it, and explain why this will tend to end up with a Donn Ketcham kind of thing.  

Reform our theology to push out things like Gothardism--long over due in my book, really--and if any portion of ABWE survives, maybe even a monument of a millstone at HQ and in Bangladesh and Michigan to remind people what happens when God's people go wrong in the way you'll see monuments to the Holocaust all over Europe.  Or, for that matter, Catholic churches put a memorial for aborted babies in their graveyards.  We screwed it up, we own it, never again, all that. 

Put gently, though it would take a genius lawyer to push things back to our churches as things now stand, our churches created ABWE, and morally and ethically speaking, we own it.  And since ABWE does not have enough resources to help and compensate victims, guess who gets to clean up the stable?

The example that comes to mind for me is the Corinthians and the man sleeping with his father's wife.  The church created an atmosphere of acceptance of fornication, it led to ever-worse sins, and the man was expelled for a time, and welcomed back upon repentance.  The church was guilty, but was not nuked.  Let God take away the lightless lampstands, no?

Ron Bean's picture

I would venture the assertion that many/most of the churches with ABWE missionaries either don't know or don't want to deal with this situation in hopes it will go away. I make this statement based on contacts I've had with such churches since this whole matter started festering....and that was years before it became public knowledge.

 

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

TylerR's picture

Yes, this is what I've heard, too. I wouldn't want to deal with ABWE after this. How can they be trusted? This is a pattern of stupidity going back decades. I will not apologize for calling those responsible for this, at the local and national ABWE level, stupid. They acted like idiots.  I suspect their motivation was "CYA," with a nice gloss of Christian piety. I've seen it my entire professional life. Christians are like anybody else when caught with an embarrassing, publicly damaging problem. Minimize, hide, solve "internally." Bad move, boys.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

pg. 243:

ABWE records indicate that there were Principle and Practice policies and other guidelines in place from ABWE’s beginning to the present. These guiding documents were in place to instruct its members in proper conduct for the protection of the organization and its purposes around the world. On multiple occasions, Donn Ketcham was in violation of both the spirit and the letter of these instructions. His peers were often animated in their frustration over his behavior. His supervisors were aware, by their own statements, of decades of his violations. Even though his violations were tolerated and/or treated via counseling and discipline, he continued to be allowed to return to the field to violate again. His return to the field over and over was organizationally preferential. Others contemporary to him were not afforded the same treatment, in some cases for lesser violations. ABWE’s consistent tolerance of his ongoing violations is tragic in light of the abuse he was perpetrating on the field

Idiots. Weak leaders. Cowards.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

pg. 249:

The Executive Administrator for the Far East, Russell Ebersole, having determined the veracity of the allegations made by the 13-14 year old missionary kid (MK) victim/survivor, he made no report to law enforcement or state medical authorities. No ABWE representatives made such a report, though documents indicate that they were aware of the requirement. More importantly, a few days later, after Donn Ketcham had actually confessed to pedophilia, no report was made.

Idiots. Weak leaders. Cowards. Criminals.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

pg. 253:

c. 2012, the ABWE Interim President, E. Alan Cockrell gave a child abuse investigation update, wherein he stated, "We have acknowledged that people in leadership positions made decisions that were unwise and unacceptable. These include:

  • The signing of a confession by the first known victim
  • The insistence the victim ask forgiveness of the perpetrator
  • The failure to investigate fully the first reported incident to determine if there were other victims
  • The failure to fully inform the sending and supporting churches of the specific nature of Donn Ketcham’s sin
  • The failure to fully investigate when the MK’s informed ABWE of additional victims
  • Lack of notification of all appropriate authorities
  • By using the phrase moral failure, we failed to clearly identify the sin as child abuse
  • The inadequate response to those MK’s who sought help from ABWE."

"Unwise." Yes, sort of like how a serial killer has a "lapse of judgment." Idiots. Note well the deliberate minimization of personal responsibility with these polite terms. This is quite common.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

pg. 264:

Russell Ebersole’s notes provided to ABWE Attorney Donald Davis, dated March 19, 2011, state, "July 28, 1989 Several questions were raised at ME Conference prior to our trip to Bangladesh; This is a criminal offense. Is Pastor [the 13-14 year old missionary kid (MK)’s pastor] obligated to tell the police? AMA–They would be concerned about Donn’s practicing in the US. We need legal counsel–how liable are we?"

Evidence indicates that the "ME Conference" actually occurred on July 18, 1989 and was a meeting with ABWE President Wendell Kempton, Russell Ebersole, Russell Lloyd and others that demonstrated ABWE’s awareness of criminal and medical reporting requirements. In spite of ABWE’s awareness and Donn Ketcham’s confession of child sexual abuse, no reports were made at that time.

In 1996 and 1997, several adults with leadership responsibility at ABWE were aware of additional alleged victim/survivors of Donn Ketcham. Although one of these individuals reported the alleged abuse to ABWE President Wendell Kempton, there is no evidence that ABWE made any attempt to report the allegations to law or medical authorities.

In 2002, ABWE administrative leadership and board leadership were aware of additional alleged victim/survivors; however no attempt was made to report these allegations.

This is a systemic failure of leadership, moral character, courage and common decency on a massive scale, throughout the organization. Stupid fools. There are no other appropriate words. Anything less is just so much wagon-circling.

I have learned something fundamental in the military, in ministry, and in state government. Most people are weak. They may be good people, but they're weak. Don't make a weak man your Pastor. Don't let weak men lead your organizations. Degrees and certifications can't get to moral character, and plain guts to make tough decisions. Don't hire a wimp to be your Pastor or the leader of your missionary organization. This crisis was brought about by foolish, weak men. Where was the strong personality who could have put a stop to this madness? Apparently, at ABWE, they didn't have strong men - just stupid pussycats. Shame on you all.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Joel Shaffer's picture

The reason I would be more in favor of shutting it down is that there are still some toxic elements within certain fields areas who have leaders that are more about maintaining the toxic status quo (controlling information, cover-ups, victim-blaming) rather than go through the painful process of completely changing the culture of the organization.  While certain fields are healthy, others are supervised by more the old-guard where certain leaders are more interested in protecting ABWE's reputation (and their own) than the victim.  I am good friends of a former ABWE missionary family that was recently sent home when their 13 year old son was physically hit by an adult 18 year old MK on the field.  It was handled very much like how they handled the Ketchum abuse incident.  It was minimized/shoved under the rug as if nothing happened and when the parents protested, the leader of the field blamed the victim and the Missionary family, did everything to control the information, and has done everything to cover it up and eventually forced them off the field. Even though it was a smaller incident and  didn't even come close to the level of abuse that the MK's suffered at the hands of Dr. Ketcham, the way it was handled does not give me any confidence that the culture has changed throughout the entire organization.  At the same time, I am grieved because I have several good friends in field areas of ABWE where the culture is very healthy.  

Jonathan Charles's picture

Some thoughts:

1.  The part of the story where Loftis got on his knees and tore his shirt in front of a representative victim as a visible sign of repentance, that was truly crazy.  

2.  There was a time when it was not a part of most people's m.o. to treat child sexual abuse as a criminal matter.  Looking back, it seems sick, but for some reason it was treated differently.  I remember a young cousin being abused by a baby sitter and hearing my aunt tell my mother that they didn't want to report it to the police in order to save the child from further humiliation.  I also remember a teacher in my Christian school of whom it was open knowledge that he had done something inappropriate to a male student, he got fired, but it was not reported to the police.  These cases were both in the 80's.    

3.  Do background checks, but background checks do nothing about the person who has yet to be caught.  Jerry Sandusky (Penn State) would have passed a back ground check until 2011-2012 (time of his arrest and conviction).  Other measures also need to be instituted.  For example: a male ministry worker should never be alone with a woman who is not family, or with children who aren't his family.  Hopefully, we don't live in a world as naive as things were when Ketchum carried on his abuse in Bangladesh.  I wouldn't leave my daughters alone with an adult male, not even one I had no reason not to trust.  That wariness is a result of cases like Ketchum and Sandusky.  Before these things happened, many people probably never thought that such things would/could happen.

4.  I have a low opinion of ABWE.  As a church with ABWE missionaries, our support supports the mission since they take a % of every missionaries support.  The last two presidents were fired with little explanation.  I know that some HR issues demand privacy, but couldn't some details be given to dispel any suspicions that churches might have as to why.  ABWE has some reputation rebuilding to do, but there has been zero outreach to churches and pastors to let us know how ABWE has changed.  Perhaps they have changed, but what strategy do they have to get the word out?  If they are doing something, it isn't very effective.    

TylerR's picture

pg. 5:

Prior to the current Pii investigation, ABWE first initiated an internal investigation of these same issues in 2002. The internal investigation was conducted by ABWE in-house counsel over the course of approximately nine years, but was never completed

This is otherwise known as "whitewash." I wonder why it was never completed . . . Here is a clue - internal investigations don't work. This is why state, federal governments and military branches typically have an independent investigatory arm of its own (i.e. an Inspector General) to look into internal fraud, waste and abuse. Know why? 'Cuz people (gasp) usually aren't very objective when they investigate themselves!  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

One of the more powerful tools in understanding a process--or an organization--is to engage in "5 whys" analysis.  If you get to five whys, or even close, you are generally a lot closer to your root causes.  For example.

Problem: things were not reported to police.  Why?

Answer: because people were weak and afraid to report them.  

Why were they weak and afraid to report them?

Answer: Possibly multiple factors.  Did ABWE select for weak missionaries?  Did churches select for weak missionaries?  Were missionaries trained to be weak by their churches?  Other factors?

path 1: Why and how did ABWE and churches select for weak missionaries?

We have a culture of the big man in our churches who does not share authority well.  We select for weak missionaries by making sure they get along with the big man.

Why do we have a culture of the big man in our churches and mission agencies?

Historically, we've been led that way and never thought anything of it.

How can we fix this?

Now that's the $64000 question, isn't it?

Why and how did churches train their most "spiritual" people to be weak?

Historically, we've had a culture of big men in our churches who do not share authority well.

 

Your version may differ from mine; that's fine.  But at a certain point, as long as ABWE was getting people from our churches, part of the problem will necessarily be ours.  It's also worth noting that in our culture, we have a habit of extending the "right boot of fellowship" and thinking everything is OK when leather has met rear end.  That's why it's critical that we don't just walk ABWE to Jack Kervorkian's Microbus; we've got some things to deal with here, too. 

Pages