Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.

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dmyers's picture

The individual cases for which they give details are heinous.  How can church leaders be so blinded by the fear of "harming the ministry" that they cover these things up and let them continue?

More than once the article references the/a network of pastors, colleges, etc., including BJU.  But of all the specific cases they describe, almost all are in the Hyles orbit (one or two involving Golden State); only one has any connection to BJU.  Somehow none of the hundreds of people they interviewed educated them on the fairly distinct subsets of fundamentalists.

An unresolved, sticky issue:  How do we acknowledge the greater moral fault and the exclusive legal fault of the adult, insist on not letting the adult get away with it, but also not deny/dismiss the (lesser) moral fault of the minor (where there was any)?  

Andrew K's picture

dmyers wrote:

The individual cases for which they give details are heinous.  How can church leaders be so blinded by the fear of "harming the ministry" that they cover these things up and let them continue?

More than once the article references the/a network of pastors, colleges, etc., including BJU.  But of all the specific cases they describe, almost all are in the Hyles orbit (one or two involving Golden State); only one has any connection to BJU.  Somehow none of the hundreds of people they interviewed educated them on the fairly distinct subsets of fundamentalists...

Suspect BJU got pulled in due to name recognition.

josh p's picture

There is an IFCA church near me that recently made the news because they are being sued. They had a congregant who apparently molested or attempted to molest several minors. I used to attend there and I knew the man pretty well prior to these accusations. The elders did not contact law enforcement and instead disallowed the man from working with youth. He still apparently had access to minors and did it several more times. Eventually the police became involved.

My parent’s have a neighbor that goes there and when it came up in the news my dad asked me about it. They are unbelievers and I was so grieved for the kids as well as the harm to the gospel. I told my dad that if they were a real church that cared about honoring God instead of being a social club they would immediately remove any elder that knew about it but didn’t report it to the authorities. As far as I know they did not. “Protecting the ministry” is a euphemism for “protecting our selfish pride and the place where we have our potlucks.” The ministry is about honoring the Lord no matter the cost. As terrible as these news stories are, I hope they at least cause some vigilance that protects children in the future.

mmartin's picture

The newspaper is actually the "Start-Telegram" from Fort Worth, TX not the "Star Tribune."

If you look at the map on the article you can see reported or alleged instances across the country.  There is one recent (2018) incident at Maranatha Baptist University and for BJU there is once incident highlighted from 2016.  It is important to note that this map and the article itself does not suggest that either Maranatha or BJU handled their incidents inappropriately.  If anything, this article focuses primarily upon Dave Hyles.

In Colorado, the map mentions Jocelyn Zichterman's allegations she was assaulted.  Somewhere she is smiling to herself about this article.  It is hard to know to what degree to trust her testimony with her often bizarre and chaotic behavior, but perhaps that is a type of indication of her truthfulness as well. 

I have been in the IFB world my entire life involving numerous churches in multiple states mostly because my family included several pastors of IFB churches across several states.  I have yet to hear or see of even the slightest whiff of a story of a rumor that so-and-so pastor or deacon (or anyone else for that matter) was involved in assaulting anyone in the church I was attending or a family member was in a position of leadership.  Doesn't mean it didn't happen, just saying I've yet to see or hear of it personally.

Bert Perry's picture

I would agree that the Hyles orbit of hyper-authoritarian pastors is probably going to show the problems worse than "the rest of us", but it's worth noting that these orbits overlapped.  For example, when I mentioned I grew up in Chesterton, a pastor friend who'd gotten his BA from Northland noted how thuggish the soccer team from Fairhaven was.  He also related a story about how a church he'd attended when young almost fell into the Hyles orbit.  

Take heed, lest we fall, no?  We can be rightly thankful that our churches (I hope and pray) do not have the excesses of the Hyles orbit, but we are influenced by it at times.

Besides, GRACE didn't do a 400 page report on BJU, and PII didn't do a similar sized report on ABWE, because the "sane IFB" orbit was without fault, no?  And as Josh notes, there are certain things that we need to watch out for.

  • The Matthew 18 process for confrontation and repentance is emphasized over the Romans 13 obligation of the king to punish crimes, hence crimes are "dealt with" (not dealt with) in the church.
  • Excess of authority on the part of pastors and leaders leads to not hearing those at the other end of the authority spectrum.  This was a big deal in the BJU and ABWE reports. 
  • There is a premium on "not embarrassing the ministry."  You got something ugly?  Hush now....
  • We don't like to talk about the ugly things that could happen, even though (Dinah, Tamar, etc..) they're discussed in Scripture.  We therefore tend to pretend it doesn't happen.  Again, hush now...
  • We like to get people "into ministry" as fast as possible, often without knowing whether they're qualified.
  • People with authority tend to be believed over those without.  

One thing to note here is that, apart from the Boy Scouts, the rest of the nation is really in the same place we are, looking at averages.  Churches that get their act together have a real opportunity to show the light of God to the world in this.  It doesn't mean we believe every accusation as stated, but what it does mean is that we take these claims seriously and understand our own cultures enough to admit our own weakness in dealing with these crimes.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

dmyers wrote:

<snip>

An unresolved, sticky issue:  How do we acknowledge the greater moral fault and the exclusive legal fault of the adult, insist on not letting the adult get away with it, but also not deny/dismiss the (lesser) moral fault of the minor (where there was any)?  

It is worth noting that legally speaking--AHEM, Esquire Myers--a minor cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult.  This is the law in all 50 states.  Victim-blaming is one of the nastiest parts of our culture that we need to address.  "She seduced me" is also one of the top ways that those accused of molesting minors try to "defend" themselves.  Here's another big issue illustrated:

In Colorado, the map mentions Jocelyn Zichterman's allegations she was assaulted.  Somewhere she is smiling to herself about this article.  It is hard to know to what degree to trust her testimony with her often bizarre and chaotic behavior, but perhaps that is a type of indication of her truthfulness as well. 

In other words, since the victim's behavior is not per our standards, we are not going to take her testimony seriously.  If you wonder why this is a problem, consider the behavior of Tamar after she was raped by her brother Amnon, or that of Dinah after being raped at Schechem.  Biblically speaking, this kind of crime leaves a mark, and there is no quicker way to become a stench in the eyes of your community than to suggest this means a complainant isn't to be heeded.

Or, put more bluntly, if you want to meet someone like Randall Margraves, just without the protection of armed bailiffs and metal detectors, make sure you take steps to blame the victim.

Regarding the notion that people haven't heard about such things, the fact of the matter is that nationwide, somewhere around 20-25% of kids (lower for boys, higher for girls) are sexually abused before age 18.  My brother and I are among them.  (noncontact, our parents believed us, our babysitter's parents ran the teacher who was molesting a bunch of boys out of town)  Moreover, if we are indeed reaching out to people in our community, we will most likely have a few survivors of child and adult sexual abuse in our churches.

So why don't we hear about it?  Look above.  As a rule, victims do not feel comfortable reporting abuse to us because of shame for what happened, and very often because they've seen how we treated others who came forward.  They are not up for a blanket party.  

On the flip side, though I make no pretense of being the "safest" person out there, I've had a few people step forward to tell me about things that have happened to people in my church in the past couple of years.  Nothing that one could move forward with--one case had already been examined by the police, another simply is at the "hearsay" level--but if we think that our churches are not ministering to victims, or that our associations haven't created them in the past (or are creating them today), we are kidding ourselves.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

GregH's picture

You have got to be kidding me that this clown has another job but then I looked at where he is: "Pastor" Greg Neal who would be in jail for videotaping minors changing clothes except for the statute of limitations. It is mindblowing that anyone would go to that so-called church, especially if they have children.

Mike Zachary is another one that got thrown out of Golden State for horrific sexual behavior but is now an associate pastor at another IFB "church" in CA.

mmartin's picture

I agree with Bert's assessment - that "It doesn't mean we believe every accusation as stated, but what it does mean is that we take these claims seriously and understand our own cultures enough to admit our own weakness in dealing with these crimes."

In Jocelyn's case and her allegations she was abused - she says she was . . . . but, perhaps not.  She has pulled enough stunts and has been accused by many of various lies and false accusations over recent times that it makes it hard do know which way to go.  Should she be heard?  Should she be listened to? Yes!!!!  Should her testimony be evaluated within the context of her other actions? Yes, as well.

 

 

Jay's picture

I completely agree with MMartin's post, and furthermore, I submit that if someone had understood what Jocelyn lived through and experienced, and dealt with it immediately and appropriately, the trajectory of her entire life could possibly have been altered and she would be in a better place today.  But instead (from what I know) she was shut down and stifled from getting the help she needed, so it's no surprise that she ended up where she has. Her story is incredibly grievous and discouraging to me.  

You cover something over and sin festers and eventually explodes.  Our 'movement', as I have said many other times, must do better than this.  I thank God we aren't in the HAC orbit, but there is interaction on the fringes there and that needs to end as well.

"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

I've always argued that this is a leadership issue, at the local level. Some leaders (of all ecclesiastical stripes) lack the moral courage necessary to act decisively in these situations. This is true in ecclesiastical circles, and true outside, too. 

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?

DLCreed's picture

...that I noticed in a LOT of the cases in this report is the presence of David Gibbs and The Christian Law Association.  Study is philosophy and practices and you'll see that many of these ministries have been TAUGHT and ADVISED to lie, cover-up, avoid, go silent, transfer, admit nothing, etc... for the "sake of the Kingdom" and to limit liability.  Gibbs was and is a master of that.  Many churches consulted his law firm well before they consulted Scripture.

 

DLCreed's picture

....the article just hit "The Drudge Report"....

 

Bert Perry's picture

DLCreed wrote:

...that I noticed in a LOT of the cases in this report is the presence of David Gibbs and The Christian Law Association.  Study is philosophy and practices and you'll see that many of these ministries have been TAUGHT and ADVISED to lie, cover-up, avoid, go silent, transfer, admit nothing, etc... for the "sake of the Kingdom" and to limit liability.  Gibbs was and is a master of that.  Many churches consulted his law firm well before they consulted Scripture.

Gibbs is, or perhaps more accurately was, the "go-to" lawyer for large portions of IFB churches and ministries, especially the Hyles orbit.  No surprise to see his name--or that of David Gibbs Jr., his son--in that context.  The son did something interesting by representing Lourdes Torres (Manteufel) in her lawsuit against Doug Philipps and Vision Forum, but I don't know where that one ended up.  Not sure how completely he did, or did not, turn against his dad's career.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

The thing that is sticking with me regarding Martin's comments is that a lot of people would view that as an attempt to discredit Zichterman.  So I took a look at what's publicly available, and it appears she walked away from the faith altogether, started a Facebook site encouraging people to leave IFB churches, and participated in the jailing of the rapist of Tina Anderson.  She also seems to have had some spats with fellow activists against child sexual abuse in the church.

Now maybe there's a lot more there, but given that sexual assault does lead to mental illness, erratic behavior does not prove anything on whether an allegation is true.  What you do for that is to look at the details and see whether those little details--the ones seemingly unrelated to the crime especially--pan out.  If they don't pan out, it falls into the void of "insufficient evidence to proceed", and if they are proven false in such a way that it's obvious the complainant knew they were false, then you've got perjury.

If you want to end your ministry to sexual assault victims, there are few better ways to do so than to assume that all erratic behavior indicates falsehood, or equate "facts not panning out" with perjury. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Richard Brunt's picture

I personally know of three cases of sexual abuse at fundamental Baptist Churches that have no connection to Hyles and his crowd.   Two of them happened at a church  that I was a member of and one was a personal friend of mine.  One was a school teacher and the pastor refused to report it to the police so a personal friend of mine did.  By then he was at another Christian School.  He did go to jail for a short time but is now teaching in yet another Christian School.  Another was a youth pastor.  The girl and her family were asked to leave the school and the church.  We left too.  The youth pastor is still there as the youth pastor.  The third was a pastor sexually involved with a number of different adult women in the church that he was counseling.  He did resign but I understand he is now trying to get back in the ministry.  His father-in-law told me that his former church has asked him to come back.  His father-in-law said, "that shows how much his people loved him".  I said, "no that shows that they were not properly trained in the Word of God.  If they were they would have said, we love you but you are no longer qualified to pastor a church".  What upsets me the most is the cover ups.  All three were done so that "the testimony of Christ wouldn't be harmed"   

Richard E Brunt

Bert Perry's picture

Mr. Ed, check out the map in the article.  It mentions Frede.  Thankfully, "our" numbers are not as bad as Rome's, but I dare suggest it means we need to get going so we don't get there--so we serve more as an example of what to do right, rather than to do wrong. More Boy Scouts, less Catholic church. People will not only forgive us, but bless us if and when we get our act together. 

Side note regarding Frede's case; it indicates we need to be a little bit smart about the situations we enter.  Given that basketball is played on a fairly large court, I am at a loss as to exactly what basketball lessons could be taught inside a personal home not belonging to Michael Jordan. I'm on the board of a local homeschooling group and might mention this case as an example of how we need to think things through.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dmyers's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

dmyers wrote:

<snip>

An unresolved, sticky issue:  How do we acknowledge the greater moral fault and the exclusive legal fault of the adult, insist on not letting the adult get away with it, but also not deny/dismiss the (lesser) moral fault of the minor (where there was any)?  

It is worth noting that legally speaking--AHEM, Esquire Myers--a minor cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult.  This is the law in all 50 states. 

Really, Bert?  Do you suppose that's precisely why I specifically said, in the very sentence you quote, that the exclusive legal fault was the adult's (which means that there is zero legal fault for the minor)?  You might want to read a little more carefully before you go into snark mode. 

My point was this:  There are Christians (and I understand you are one of them) who take the position that the concept of legal consent defines or is coterminous with moral fault (or sin) in these situations -- the adult is the only sinner and the minor cannot under any circumstances be thought to have sinned at all, because the law (rightly, for criminal purposes) holds that the minor was not capable of legal consent.  There are other Christians (against whom you rightly rail) who blame the victim, which (among other harms) discourages victims from speaking up.  Hear this, Bert:  I am not in that category, and if you say I am, you're deliberately misrepresenting me and/or my position.  

But there are also Christians in a third category, who understand that the law of the magistrate has different purposes and limitations than the law of God, so that the magistrate's determination of consent and guilt is not necessarily dispositive of the presence or absence of any sin on the minor's part.  I understand that even raising this question is anathema to folks in your category, and that in many fora I would be immediately shouted down for having the temerity to ask the question, much as you immediately responded to my question here with snark and accusations of victim-blaming.  I'm hoping for a more mature discussion with the members on this site.  I'm open to being persuaded from scripture that in these cases of legal abuse/statutory rape the victim is sinless biblically, but accusing me of victim-blaming doesn't suffice.  (I certainly agree that in any case of actual physical rape, the victim is sinless, in case such a clarification is necessary.)  But I was a teenage boy once and I raised three -- objectively, of course -- good-looking boys, so I knew a lot of teenage girls then and have known many since.  I am a realist -- not a misogynist or a victim-blamer -- to note that teenage girls are just as capable of sexual sin as teenage boys; and for both sexes, sexual sin is almost always wrapped up messily with underlying sins -- pride/vanity, insecurity, lust, fear, ignorance, etc. -- and with life circumstances that are no fault of the minor -- family situation, spiritual abuse/church atmosphere, previous sexual abuse, exposure to porn, peer pressure, etc.  

It seems to me that solid, Bible-believing churches confronted with an extended relationship between a pastor/youth leader/school teacher and a teenage girl are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the young woman.  It's absolutely clear that the adult should be reported to the police, removed from his position, and subjected to church discipline (which should include some type of counseling).  His behavior should also be reported to any prospective or future employer, including or especially churches and schools.  But how does the church fully care for the young woman?  I'm doubting that merely treating her as a victim, with no moral fault of her own, is biblical or good for her.  But if the church attempts to treat her as both victim and individual sinner, the possibility arises for misunderstanding at best and vicious accusations of victim-blaming at worst, even if the church leaders do everything perfectly/biblically.  Note that church discipline should only come into play if she refuses to acknowledge whatever sinful behavior the (hopefully wise) church leaders assess.  If she is receptive to biblical counseling and privately confesses and repents of whatever real sin there was on her part (large, small, or in between), that's it -- the process has worked and there is neither need nor excuse for the kinds of public "discipline" that many of these cases report.  That approach is asinine, cruel, and unbiblical.

I solicit everyone's biblical input.

GregH's picture

dmyers, that is an outstanding way of putting it. There is without doubt at least the possibility that a minor bears moral responsibility if not legal responsibility. Yes, saying that out loud will get you ostracized very quickly but it is true nonetheless.

Here is an obvious example of that. Let's say the age of consent is 18 and let's say that an 18 +1 day year old has sex with a 17+364 day year old. In the eyes of the law, he is guilty of a sexual crime but does she bear no responsibility for the situation? It seems ridiculous because it is ridiculous.

I once was in a jury pool for one of these cases. It was a Church of God pastor who molested a teenager in the youth group. She was suing him on a civil level. When doing jury selection, her attorney asked the potential jurors if they thought it possible that she bore any responsibility for what happened. I was the only one that raised my hand and when asked, I clarified that she did not have legal responsibility but MIGHT have moral responsibility. I did not make the jury of course for which I was thankful.

mmartin's picture

Bert,

You are misrepresenting what I said.  I did not say that I assumed all erratic behavior indicates falsehood.  Me saying that her actions makes it hard to know which way to go is not the same as saying her story is false.

Hypothetically speaking, if her case went to trial, you better believe the defense would attack her story by using her web postings against her credibility.  Again, that doesn't mean her story is false.

BTW, I have seen entire websites solely dedicated to refute Jocelyn, her actions, and alleged lies.  These sites are mostly from those in her former anti-fundy abuse group or who were at one time supporters with her.

I have seen her state that she believes that there is abuse in Every IFB church (as in the church leadership is actively involved in the abuse and/or the cover-up and they get away with it because they ingratiate themselves with the local authorities.)

Bert, this statement is just for you:  Again, this does not mean I do not believe her abuse story.  You, yourself said, "It doesn't mean we believe every accusation as stated . . . "  Am I correct in that you said that?

 

mmartin's picture

I agree with dmyers.  What dmyers said is not the same as victim shaming.  To be sure, it could be misused as victim shaming, but does not automatically mean it is so.

Mr. Ed's picture

I did check the map to begin with and that is why I went looking for any connection of Frede with MBU and found that this took place at his home with no mention of him being a student or that any camps were at MBU.