Friday, February 21, 2014

Grooming Young Cult Members


This is a page from a children's coloring book compiled by Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, pastored by the inexplicably charismatic Steven Furtick. At first I thought this must... yes, had to be... a joke, but I quickly learned it's real.


What is charisma?

To most people, it's the inscrutable X factor--a mystical, almost magical career booster. Not many people have charisma. But when you talk to those who do, you discover that it isn't such a mystery after all. Yes, it's charm and personal magnetism, but -- more important -- it's the remarkable ability to get others to endorse your vision and promote it passionately. Charisma makes you a leader.

If that's the mark of a leader, of someone with that uncanny ability, then I'm at a loss to explain people like Furtick, Perry Noble, Ed Young, and yes, Steve Gaines. Because I don't find any of these men (or the dozens like them) charming or possessing a shred of personal magnetism. Quite the contrary, I find their narcissism and ham-fisted bullying a total turnoff. But assuming, and this must be true because they have hundreds, even thousands, of staunch defenders, that someone out there must view them as possessing that magic thing called "charisma," then the question arises, why do some people view these men as "charismatic" and blindly and enthusiastically follow them while others, myself included, see them for the scary cult leaders they are? What turns seemingly discerning people into rabid cheerleaders for the self-appointed man-o-gawd and his "vision"?

Charisma is a tricky thing. Jack Kennedy oozed it -- but so did Hitler and Charles Manson. Con artists, charlatans, and megalomaniacs can make it their instrument as effectively as the best CEOs, entertainers, and presidents. Used wisely, it's a blessing. Indulged, it can be a curse. Charismatic visionaries lead people ahead -- and sometimes astray. They can be impetuous, unpredictable, and exasperating to work for....

Maybe that explains it. Like any "gift," it can be used for good or... dare I say... evil. But why do so many people seem blind to it? Is it because there's a certain amount of truth mixed in with the leader's "vision"? When preachers exclaim, "It's in da book!" who's going to argue with that? Is it because a lot of people don't study their bibles and think for themselves, so they can be easily manipulated?

A popular and frightening trend in churches today, especially the megachurch variety, is "vision-casting" by the "senior" pastor and the demand by the man-o-gawd and his minions that the sheeple pledge loyalty to the pastor and his "vision." One of the red-flag words they use is "unity." One of Steve Gaines' favorite themes which I've heard him repeat in dozens of sermons is the proof-text of Ephesians 4:3... "to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And yet, he leaves out verse 2... "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love."

Is that what we see here?

video

The following is an excerpt from the transcript of a Steve Gaines sermon from several years ago. See if you can find any sign of humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, or love in his words.

Bellevue Baptist Church needs proactive peacemakers... to come against any... troublemaker... and I'm telling you this. This may sound a little too clear cut for you, but I'm telling you... you're on one side or the other in any church you're in, whether you go to Bellevue or not. You are either a peacemaker, or you are a troublemaker. There is no middle ground. Peacemakers support the church's leadership... as long as it's scriptural. Peacemakers squelch gossip. They don't listen to it, and they sure don't share it. Peacemakers discourage division. What is division? Two visions. Peacemakers... rebuke troublemakers. Peacemakers comfort and reassure troubled church members. They diligently preserve the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. And all of us as members at Bellevue need... to be... such peacemakers. We cannot ever afford to allow Satan to divide us even just a little bit. WE CANNOT ALLOW TROUBLEMAKERS TO BE ALIVE AND WELL IN THIS FELLOWSHIP... in this church... to win the day! We must diligently be proactive and aggressively... be... peacemakers. That's the call for unity.

Steve Gaines and Steven Furtick are but two examples, albeit quite different examples, of what has been coined "the cult of personality." This is the situation where a man... or at least what a man says... becomes the focus of a church. Not all these characteristics apply to either of these men, but enough of them do that it should give pause to thinking Christians. How many of these do you recognize in these and other "senior" pastors you know?

The demand for special treatment, special honor, special recognition. In other words, there is an active cultivation of being treated differently than others.

"Spiritually-ordained authority," anyone?

No one is allowed to question the leader without retribution. There is a “thin skin” evident toward any and all critics, who are often written off as “haters” or simply those who are envious. There is a bubble that prevents constructive criticism.

"Troublemakers in the church"?

Hey haters!

There is no sense of team leadership, team teaching or team mentality. There is a single person or leader, and then there are implementers. No one is to question the leader’s vision. It is seen as God-given, sacrosanct, and thus anything the leader says or does in pursuit of that vision is never to be questioned.

"Our pastor's vision... "?

Sometimes they even invoke the law to keep the faithful loyal.

And whatever you do, don't question the man-o-gawd!

The person travels in an entourage, often with personal security, and is seldom accessible.

And, I would add, the person has a heightened sense of insecurity and paranoia.

Invoking the name of "Jesus" and saying that it's all about Him doesn't fool everyone into believing that's so.

In fact, with Elevation Church and their Code there's not much mention of Jesus or the gospel. The central figure seems to be "Pastor Steven."

Nowhere is this more evident than in this 2010 blog post in which the staff is given their marching orders.

We believe that God’s given Pastor Steven the vision of where he wants to take Elevation’s ministry. And the Lord’s called us all here to use our gifts and strengths corporately as a way of seeing that vision come to life.

Someone once asked (in response to one of Miss Higgy's flowery prayer letters) what is this thing called a vision? S/he then proceeded to define it.

Miss Higgy: "Pray for the commitment to the vision cast before us from the Lord through our pastor in sharing the love of Jesus with Memphis and all the surrounding areas in which we live."

Comment:

Where has the Lord Jesus ever presented this doctrine? I mean, it's like Jesus is standing somewhere with a bow and arrow and attached to the arrow is this thing called a vision. Then Jesus releases the arrow and it zings through "our" Pastor and lands on the ground before us. As it lands we bow to it as a sacred "message from God". Do what?

Do what, indeed!

To indoctrinate susceptible adults in this "cult" mindset is one thing, but to do it to children is criminal. Wrap it up in as many proof-texts from the bible as you want. It's still spiritual abuse, and it's time for people to wake up and see it for what it is. It's this attitude of "do not question your spiritual authority figures" that is the root cause of much of the spiritual and sexual abuse in churches that we read about on a daily basis today. For pete's sake, wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

An acquaintance of a friend of a lady told me...



While I don't listen to him very often anymore, every time I've heard Steve Gaines speak in recent years he's at least mentioned tithing and has devoted more than a few entire sermons to the subject. He seems obsessed with this one Old Testament law that, as many before me have noted and a contextual reading of Malachi 3 (the perennial proof text) reveals, was not in the form of money but crops brought to the storehouse (literally like a barn) to support the Levitical priests who were not allowed to own property and to help care for the poor and widows. There were two annual tithes and a third tithe every three years, thus making the total tithe 23 1/3%, but preachers today would have a much more difficult time convincing people to fork over that much of their income, so they have settled for the tithe (singular) with frequent appeals for "offerings" over and above the obligatory undesignated 10%. Plus it's easy to calculate your bill. Just take your gross income, move the decimal point to the left one position, and write a check to said preacher's 501(c)(3) for that amount.

Every year Bellevue has "Prove the Tithe" Sunday, the day where people are encouraged to tithe one week's income. Of course, that describes every Sunday at Bellevue now, but when it began it was a special Sunday dedicated to tithing. Every year each household receives a robo call from "Brother" Steve the Saturday evening before. I can almost quote one of these calls verbatim now. In fact, this was my best guess before I heard the recording:

Hi, this is Brother Steve inviting you to join us at Bellevue this Sunday. This week is "Prove the Tithe" Sunday at Bellevue, and even if you don't regularly tithe, I want to encourage you for just this week to tithe 10% of one week's income in an undesignated fashion to our church. In Malachi 3, God says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house." The bible says we are to trust God in ALL things, and that includes our finances. For one week we want to see how God will bless Bellevue if everyone gives just 10% of their income. Won't you pray and ask God what He would have you to give? We have Life Group classes for all ages and encourage you to come be a part of a small group where you can get plugged in. You may bring your tithes and offerings to your Life Group, give during any of our worship services which begin at 9:20 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., or, as Donna and I prefer to do, you may give online any time by going to bellevue.org. God says, "Test Me now in this if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Won't you put God to the test and see how much He will bless you? Donna and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning.

This was the actual script this year:

Hello. This is Pastor Steve Gaines. I'm calling to remind you that tomorrow, February 2nd, is "Prove the Tithe" Sunday. We're asking every member of Bellevue, whether you tithe or not, to bring an offering equal to 10% of your weekly income. Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in God's house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for you until it overflows." I really believe that 2014 will be a year [of] increase in your life and Bellevue and that God will pour out his blessings on all of us. It is such a joy to be your pastor. I sure look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

So am I to understand that Bellevue Baptist Church at 2000 Appling Road in Cordova, Tennessee is the "storehouse" and "God's house" and that they need food? And that if we "test God" and bring (or send or go online and give) money to the "storehouse" that miraculously the "windows of heaven" will open, and we'll be "blessed until it overflows"?

I know plenty of people who have been blessed both financially and in life ("blessing" does not always equate with "money") without giving money to a 501(c)(3) where it will be spent on exorbitant salaries and building programs. Those with the means often give to equally important, I would argue more important, causes than a for-profit business disguised as a church. I also know people who have let bills go unpaid so they could give to a church or TV preacher, and I know people who have dug into their savings to give to their church. I know because I used to be one of those people. No, I've never given to a TV preacher, but my parents and grandparents tithed to the Baptist church, and it was drilled into me from an early age. It was so ingrained I never questioned it. Now I'm embarrassed to admit that after giving to the church and paying the bills (yes, always cheerfully and in that order, Steve), we were having to dig into our savings to make ends meet, but I thought this was what God expected us to do.

And then one day I woke up and realized we were simply funding the lifestyles of the rich and wannabe famous. Don't tell me we were living above our means. We live a very modest lifestyle, never eat out (unless you count McDonald's once a month or so) or go to the movies, drive an 11-year-old car, and I wouldn't know what a vacation is as we've never taken one, but money just goes so far. Of course, this is something Steve and Donna Gaines will never have to worry about since the handful of men at Bellevue who make these decisions behind closed doors were willing to pay them what has been reported to be as much as half a million a year in salary and benefits. It wouldn't surprise me to learn it's even more than that.  Something is wrong with this picture.

If you truly believe in "storehouse tithing," that's your privilege, but if you have even a moderate amount of intelligence and don't unquestioningly believe everything you've always been taught, you need to ask yourself if the money you give is going to help advance the gospel because when "administrative" costs eat up a large portion of a 501(c)(3)'s budget, they're really no longer a non-profit, and the main focus is no longer, cannot possibly be, the advancement of the gospel. You also need to question why we should continue to observe the Old Testament law of tithing while we reject most of the others. People are profiting, some of them very handsomely, all the while beating and berating the rest of us to give, give, and give some more. Oh, and to never question how they use the money because, after all, it's not your money or my money, it's "God's" money. I suppose with their direct lines to God that we ordinary pew-warmers don't have access to, preachers just know how "God" wants "His money" to be used. And hey, if it's to build another shrine to the man-o-gawd or a big shiny fountain as "an architectural invitation to the gospel of Jesus Christ" (I feel sacrilegious even writing that, but I suppose churches have been doing the same thing in one form or another for years), then who are you and I to ask questions? We should hang our heads in shame for daring to think!

Preachers like Steve Gaines, Ronnie Floyd, Ed Young, Perry Noble, Robert Morris, Steven Furtick, Charles Stanley, the late Adrian Rogers, Mac Brunson, and a host of other lesser known preachers claim you cannot be "right" with God, you will not be blessed, and you might not even be saved if you don't fork over 10% of your gross income, in an undesignated fashion, to their 501(c)(3).  Can someone tell me where that is in the bible?  Because I've read the bible through several times, and I've never read that.  It's interesting how most of these men are CEOs of large "non-profit" organizations in addition to being "senior" pastors of their own churches.  Not only do they receive large compensation packages from their churches, most receive nice 6-figure salaries from their non-profits.  (The latter numbers are public record.)

In the 11:00 Sunday morning service at Bellevue we saw a blatant illustration of the lengths to which these men-o-gawd will go when Steve Gaines prodded his wife, Donna, into standing up and telling a story about an acquaintance whose friend had been "sharing" (one of my red-flag trigger words) with a lady about the lady's reluctance to tithe because she didn't think she'd have enough money left to pay her mortgage but how when she finally mustered up the "strength and courage" to tithe (using Bellevue's convenient online giving option), the very next day when she called her mortgage company to beg for an extension or deferred payment plan, an unexpected miracle happened. Watch the video, and then let's "unpack" (red flag!) this little story.

video

Note how he called Donna to tell the story and acted like it was a spontaneous thing and a big surprise to Donna who had kicked off her shoes. Does anyone not believe this was planned? I guess he thought people would come closer to believing some giddy woman who couldn't wait to tell Donna about "God" blessing her friend after the friend forked over 10% to the "storehouse." A friend of a woman Donna doesn't know from Adam. How this anonymous woman was convicted for several days and finally submitted and went online (bonus points for shameless plug for "online giving") and tithed, and voila! "God" turned on the showers of blessing only then because she obeyed.

Imagine having to call your mortgage company and ask for a reduced/extended payment plan because, well, you had the money, but you gave it to your church. Not that you had to pay bills or taxes or buy prescription medication or feed your family, but rather you voluntarily gave it to a 501(c)(3). Somehow I doubt she included that part of the story when she spoke with the representative.

Her mortgage had allegedly (I think this whole story is "alleged") been sold to another company, and it just so happened that her mortgage had been "flagged" (can I get an amen?) to get a lower interest rate. Now don't you think she would have been notified of this ahead of time so she would at least know where to send her payments? Having been through the refi process myself a couple of times and having had our mortgages sold 3 or 4 times over the years, I know mortgage companies and banks don't operate like this. If they sell your mortgage they notify you well in advance. They may offer you a lower rate, but you have to formally apply, be approved, and sign a boat load of paperwork to get it done, a process that takes weeks, sometimes months, to complete.

So what happened when this lady tithed? Her monthly payment, which needed to be reduced from $1400+ to $1000 for her to be able to make her payment after giving 10% to Steve, was... wait for it... reduced to $1069! Hmmm... I guess "God" wasn't that impressed because "He" didn't reduce it to the needed $1000. She's still going to have to come up with an extra $69 a month, but if she continues to tithe I'm sure she'll get a $69 a month raise to cover it. That is, if she doesn't tithe her way into bankruptcy or foreclosure.

As long as you're making your payments on time mortgage companies and banks do not do things like this, actually cannot legally do things like this, without you being aware of it and signing off on it FIRST. With the new HAMP and HARP programs, more people may qualify for refinancing, and by law people who were a certain number of payments delinquent on their mortgages had to be notified that they may be eligible to refinance (HAMP), and people who are not behind and aren't under water on their loans who want to refinance may be eligible through the HARP program, BUT... and this is important... there is an application and approval process you must go through. You don't just call up your mortgage company one day and get them to immediately lower your interest rate or monthly payment. They may tell you a lower rate is available, but the approval process takes at least a few days to a month or more. So either Donna is flat out... embellishing, misunderstood the circumstances, or she left out a lot of the story. Perhaps the woman had already applied to refinance and just happened to have already been approved when she called the next day. That I could believe, but the whole "flagged" thing and not knowing her mortgage had been sold (the surprise element) don't wash. Not at all.

FBC Jax Watchdog has also written an article about this story.

An anonymous commenter (so I can't give credit) analyzed it well:

... so the basic logic here is, this woman tithed, so God "rewarded" her by allowing her monthly mortgage payment to be $400 less per month. Assuming (as is almost certainly the case) that this was simply a mortgage restructure where the monthly payment is lowered but the term is extended, then that means she actually will pay more over the life of the mortgage as a result of the restructure.

I just have to ask what this woman's annual wages are. If she qualified for a mortgage that has a monthly payment of $1,000-$1,500 a month, she likely makes at least $40,000-$50,000 a year, or $3,333 to $4,167 per month. Do you see where I'm going with this? A tithe on that would be $333 to $417. Instead of forking it over to Bellevue, she could have paid that tithe money to the mortgage company to take care of that "400 less per month" that she said she needed her monthly payment to be.

Lady, I hate to break this to you, but God really screwed you over here.


An observant commenter named Mark says:

It's funny, all the stories that I ever hear preachers give about the blessings of tithing really don't come across as blessings. It's mostly zero sum gains. Someone gives their tithe to the church then fall behind in their finances and miraculously at the last minute they get "blessed" with money in the exact amount that they were behind.

That's blessing? Certainly doesn't sound like the floodgates of heaven are opened up.


Another anonymous commenter summed it up in two short sentences:

The CEO needs to increase revenue. It really is as simple as that.

Yes. Yes, it really is as simple as that. The money is drying up, and Baby Doll needs a new pair of shoes!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

If you were a victim or have any information...


... please contact the authorities! Do not contact a pastor, a church, or anyone but the police in the applicable jurisdiction. If you need help finding the appropriate agency to notify, please contact a member of S.N.A.P. and they will help you.

Attention Bellevue members. You need to read this as it mentions one of your former fair-haired boys:

Southern Baptists, the ERLC and the "devil-haunted universe"

Here Amy Smith does a great job of illustrating the cognitive dissonance between the problem of clergy sex abuse in the SBC and the continuing policy of the SBC leadership ignoring it or at best giving passing lip-service to it while crowing about "apply(ing) the gospel of the kingdom to the major cultural issues of our day."

This is the stated purpose of the SBC's recently-formed "ERLC Leadership Network" in the words of Russell Moore. I still laugh every time I read this.

The ERLC Leadership Network is about ministering in the midst of a devil-haunted universe," ERLC President Russell D. Moore said. "As we come alongside one another, we'll talk about crucial ethical issues confronting churches and how we can engage the culture with a Gospel-focus. We'll think through issues that aren't yet confronting churches, but will, and how we can best go through the difficulties of life and local church ministry with a joyful warrior kingdom expectancy-marching toward Zion on the triumphant side of history.

Who talks like that?! Such flowery language to describe a do-nothing bunch of self-righteous, back-slapping good old boys! (No women are allowed on the council.)

As Amy Smith observed...

How about start with the crucial issues already confronting churches? What about the "devil-haunted universe" of child sex crimes committed by their own Baptist ministers? Or are we really looking at a case of the ERLC picking and choosing "crucial ethical issues" based on selective moral outrage? I can't think of any issue more pressing and damaging to churches and kids within churches today than the ravaging of souls by child sex offenders.

Why, yes. Yes, they are picking and choosing. Because we all know that the "crucial ethical issues" of gays and women in leadership positions and wives who refuse to "respect" and "submit to their husbands in all things" are at the root of all of the church's problems.

I'm reminded of quotes from Bill Gothard (whose seminars Bellevue bused members to during the '80s and whose books and "principles" Adrian Rogers endorsed), or more recently, members of The Fellowship, aka "The Family," as documented in Jeff Sharlet's The Family and C Street. While I don't always agree with Mr. Sharlet's political views, he exposes (with copious footnotes and personal accounts from living among them) the influence "fundamentalists" have had on the world. The "conservative resurgence" is but a microcosm of this much larger organization whose "face" is the National Prayer Breakfast, the purpose of which is not to focus on God and prayer (surprise!) but "to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and build relationships."

"The ERLC helps me think biblically and in Gospel-responsible ways about the issues confronting our people every single day," said [J.D.] Greear. "To not speak and think about these issues would be doing our people a great disservice. Russell Moore has assembled an excellent team to both represent us well, and help us lead our people well. The ERLC is a gift to our church and to the larger body of Christ."

Well, J.D., you and your buddies are doing your people a great disservice! Y'all can form all the good-old-boy committees you want, but until you put actions behind your flowery language, you're only making noise while victims continue to suffer in silence. It's time to man up, boys!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Suffer little children... but not in OUR church!


This week has provided a lesson in contrasts. To begin, let me make it clear I'm no fan of Mark Driscoll. Google the terms "Mark Driscoll" and "bully" or "sex" if you're not already familiar with the man. The Wartburg Watch is but one blog that has published several telling articles about Driscoll.

Assuming you're all up to date on Driscoll and we're on the same page now, I trust it's apparent why I was surprised when someone sent me this statement that Driscoll tweeted Sunday.  It doesn't seem to fit his "beastly" persona.


Now for the contrast...

Below is an excerpt from a comment on a previous thread by "Super Sleuth" which encapsulates what people have been telling me for the past month. I've heard it from enough different sources to know it's the truth. Besides, I've heard Steve opine on these subjects for years now. It's really nothing new. It's just become an obsession for some reason.

In the last 3 or 4 Sundays, Steve has been raving about something.

1) He chewed us out (9:20 service) for not embracing the New Age rock music and belittles us for still wanting the old tried and true songs of the faith.

2) He told us to get the heck out now if we must, because he does not want anyone leaving before or during the invitation.

3) He said kids should not run up and down the aisle or cry while he was preaching; he went on and on about it and told them where to go to take restless kids. (There were no kids running the aisles and no babies crying, but he kept on and on about it.)

I've heard Steve Gaines go off on parents with crying children before. I grew up with a pastor who would not tolerate crying children, so Steve is not alone here. And, as someone who is easily distracted and occasionally aggravated by crying babies and even more, by misbehaving older children whose parents don't make any effort to take control of the situation (i.e. spoiled brats), I am not totally unsympathetic. I'm equally annoyed by loud "ameners" and hand-wavers, too, but when confronted with such distractions I try to tune them out. I just think this "problem" could be handled more delicately.


Here is a great compilation video of Steve vs. crying babies. Listen to what he tells the congregation of Golden Gate Cathedral about the consideration they should extend to children.  Then contrast that with how he acts at home at Bellevue. He loves them. He loves them not. He loves them. He loves them not. Which is it?

video

If looks could kill, the expression displayed at the 54-second mark would constitute a felony!

Apparently Mark Driscoll, somewhat surprisingly, loves them. "You chose life and chose to bring your blessing to church."  Video of Driscoll on kids in church.

For years one thing about Bellevue that has struck me is the absence of children under the age of about 12 from the worship services, and this began long before the Gaines era. With the advent of separate "children's churches" there's little incentive today for parents to keep their children with them during "big church" and teach them how to sit still. So is it any wonder they act up when they finally do attend worship services? Perhaps this contributes to the drop in attendance once they reach high school and college age. They're no longer being entertained.

I do think age-segregated Sunday School (or whatever they call it now) is appropriate, but when it's time for the church body to gather to worship corporately, if a child is above the age of 3, s/he's old enough to sit with mom and/or dad. Of course, preachers like Driscoll are going to have to clean up some of their sermons, but that's okay. I've heard a few of Steve Gaines' sermons that weren't exactly G-rated either, so that would be a good thing. Then if the child cannot control him or herself, I think parents do need to escort the child outside as a courtesy to others, including the speaker, but only until the kid gets a grip and can return with the parent. So I have no problem with the "parents' room" and politely reminding people (before the service, not during) that it's available, but it shouldn't be a substitute for a child attending the service "live" with the parent(s).

After reports about him "going on and on about it" for the past couple of weeks, it culminated Sunday morning in a speech directed at parents of young children that was "blued out" of several minutes of the live feed and will likely be edited out of Sunday morning's sermon if it's eventually posted on the church website. (By the way, what have they done to the church website? It's completely messed up.)

In Sunday's bulletin was this announcement about Ryan Wingo leaving:


Which makes another part of Sleuth's comment... interesting.

And the clicker is that Ryan and Lindsey Wingo and 2 kids are leaving to go to Apex, NC. This is a real shocker.

Yeah, I didn't see that one coming either.  Does anyone think a church with a staff of about a dozen people is going to pay a music minister anything close to what Bellevue does?  Perhaps as someone said, "Maybe they decided There's Gotta Be More."

We now know what transpired during the missing minutes. (Thanks to the anonymous person who contributed that. I have verified its authenticity.)

First was a short announcement about Ryan Wingo leaving and a short, slightly awkward statement by Ryan. Then came the real meat...

Steve is concerned for his personal safety and does not want crying babies and misbehaving children distracting him! (After listening to this, might I suggest eyeglasses?) I have no idea if he's received a credible threat, if it's his imagination, or if he's using one incident of a man walking down the aisle holding a hat to make it sound like someone's crying baby and someone else's toddler running around all led to him feeling fearful. It's a mystery.  I also do not understand why they felt the need to omit this from the live feed.

I stumbled across an excellent article on church "crying rooms" on the blog Monstrous Regimen of Women (a title which probably strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of most Southern Baptists).  The blogger made some good points which I think Steve Gaines and all of us should consider:

1) The children behave better if there is no crying room or 'play room' as they see it. They sit in the pew next to us, leafing through books or drawing. If they get disruptive, one of us takes them outside to calm down before they come in again.

2) There are more young families present, possibly because they do not feel duty bound to sit apart from the rest of the congregation like outcasts because they have embraced the Church's teachings and been open to life.


3) People are more accepting of the fact that there are children in church because they do not expect them to be shut up out of hearing in a glorified cupboard. When an old lady attacked me for having 'distracting' children, she kept saying, "there is a facility, there is a facility. Your children should be in there."

Here is another excellent article from the parents' standpoint. Both these blog articles were written by Catholics, but the same principles surely apply to Baptists. On the one hand, Steve doesn't want crying babies disrupting the service, but never mind that the sound system is turned up so loud, in all services, during the music, sermon, and especially, for some reason, the announcements, that you either need earplugs or must be willing to sacrifice several decibels of your hearing every time you walk through the doors. I suppose the "source" of the noise is what matters.  No wonder babies are crying.  Their ears hurt!

Steve says, "It's the difference between heaven and hell."  Well, it may mean the difference between a young couple or single mother ever darkening the doors of Bellevue again, too.

All this recent paranoia about Steve and the church being under attack... I do not believe "demons" are waging a full-fledged "attack" on Steve Gaines and Bellevue. I do not believe anyone at Bellevue, or in the USA for that matter, is being "persecuted" for being a Christian.  Sitting in an opulent air-conditioned building worshiping freely without the threat of physical harm, I don't think Steve or really any of us appreciate how blessed and privileged we are. If a crying baby in a worship service is the worst thing Steve has to deal with, thank God! We have no clue what persecution is. One only has to look at several middle eastern countries right now to see examples of real persecution. To compare American Christians' situation to those of people around the world who are being tortured and killed for their Christian faith is a grave insult to all of them.  So enough with the "we're being persecuted" schtick.

Most of Bellevue's problems are the result of a narcissistic, ham-fisted, my-way-or-the-highway pastor, spending way too much money on salaries and facilities and programs, and the sheer size of it. It long ago became more of a business than a church, and recent developments hint that it's veering dangerously close to cult status.  In other words, Bellevue's leadership is their own worst enemy. And maybe, just maybe, that's the real clicker.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

You may be seen as fringe.



The Southern Baptist Convention is about to convene their 2013 annual meeting in Houston, Texas, and the Pastor's Conference begins today. In a world where the SBC is becoming more irrelevant by the year, this just might be the headline story from this year's gathering.

Since I don't seem to be able to comment on the ABP site, this is what I'd say to Doug Bischoff's rebuttal to Amy Smith's allegations:

Bischoff said the Smiths misinterpreted the conversations. "When I spoke with Amy and then with Matt, I expressed that we as a church are not -- nor have we ever been -- against them personally, their organization or their mission to protect children," he said. "Houston's First Baptist Church takes very seriously the safety and well-being of the children who attend our church, and we hope and pray that other churches -- of all denominations -- are doing the same. We applaud Amy for her dedication to SNAP and the survivors whom they serve." 

Bischoff said he did not ask them to resign from their position as teachers in the student ministry, but they suggested during conversations that he did. "The resignation from ministry was at Amy's insistence," he said.

"We hope and pray." Before I get into the "meat" of this post, I have to get something off my chest. I do believe that "praying!" is one of the most casually thrown about and overused phrases in our lexicon today, and it's not just Christians who toss it around. I've heard news anchors (who may or may not be Christians) use the phrase "our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims" in the case of natural disasters or crimes such as the Sandy Hook shootings. Really? How many times have you seen someone on Facebook write about some illness or problem in their life and seen all the "praying!" responses which often pop up within minutes? Some are likely sincere (I'm not judging who is or who isn't), but I suspect many never give the person or situation another thought.


I've always been very careful not to tell someone I'm praying for them if I know I probably won't. I always figured that was the kind of thing God might smite me for! Therefore, when I do tell someone I'm praying for them, I mean it.

I admittedly don't know you, Doug, but I have some questions for you if that's okay. Have you really prayed that other churches value the safety and well-being of children attending their churches? Or was it just the "Christian" thing to say? I consider those who sign off with "Blessings!" or "In HIS name" or "Have a Jesus filled day!"... often after professing ignorance of something you know good and well they're hiding or ripping someone a new one and accusing them of having a "Jezebel spirit"... just as disingenuous.

Why, if you weren't under orders to "handle the problem," did you call Amy Smith multiple times with such a sense of urgency? Amy says she had never even met you beyond a passing nod in the halls at FBC a time or two and had never corresponded with you in any way. If you "applaud" what she's doing, then why did you call her? Oh, and why did you call her friend first if your issue was with Amy? Funny she didn't mention anything about you expressing any "support" for her activities except to say something about it being okay to point fingers at the Catholics and Penn State but not at Southern Baptists. Are Southern Baptists somehow immune from this problem? Or from any criticism at all?

When Amy informed you she and her husband were getting ready to go out to celebrate their anniversary, why didn't you do what most reasonable, considerate people would have done (unless it was an emergency) and said something along the lines of, "Oh, sure. No problem. We can talk tomorrow or whenever it's convenient for you. Happy anniversary! I hope y'all have a good time!"? Instead, you started in right then and apparently continued for nearly an hour, struggling to find the right words and, if my own experience is any indication, listening. Lots and lots of listening. I bet you got an earful you weren't bargaining for, Doug!

You asked if she (and later her husband) didn't see her blogging as "a problem." Hardly "applause" for what she's doing. For the record, her husband said no! He fully supports his wife. So much for dividing and conquering, huh, Doug? You obviously were not calling to support her! Why did you call her then, Doug? What in the world was so urgent that you couldn't seem to articulate within the space of almost an hour? As some like to say these days, let's "unpack" this.

The following excerpts are from Amy's blog:

Your comments as quoted by Amy are in italics, Doug. My response follows each.

I saw your blog.

I assume you were directed there at the behest of someone, right? I mean, you weren't just surfing the internet one day and stumbled upon it, did you?

How much of it did you actually read, Doug? Did you read about John Langworthy and how Jack Graham and other staff members at Prestonwood failed to report not only Langworthy but several other alleged (and known) perpetrators to the police? How they fired Langworthy but let him leave the state and another Southern Baptist church hire him without so much as a peep about the reason he was fired? About how that Baptist church, Morrison Heights Baptist in Clinton, MS, knew, perhaps from the beginning, what Langworthy is, and they failed to report him, too?

By the way, Hal Kitchings is a common denominator in all this. He and Langworthy are about the same age, went to Mississippi College at the same time, and Kitchings was youth and activities director at Daniel Memorial Baptist Church in Jackson, MS where Langworthy was on staff during the time he was abusing boys, and Kitchings was senior pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist when Langworthy was hired there after being allowed to quietly leave Prestonwood. Are we to believe that Kitchings knew nothing about Langworthy's "issues" during all those years?

Did you read about Eddie Struble, the former minister of music at your sister church there in Houston, Second Baptist, who was reportedly "let go" for the documented allegations of sexual abuse of a minor? About how he was relieved of his duties at his subsequent position at Humble Area First Baptist where they allegedly knew why he had left Second but had reportedly wanted to "give him another chance"? (All I could think was another chance to do what?!) It would be interesting to know why the victim's father went from seeming to be ready to press charges to... well... crickets.

What about this Fort Bend area minister of music who was accused of assaulting a teenage girl? By the way, there's an interesting article linked at the end of that blog post about how the Florida Baptist Convention was tried and found liable for the actions of a former Southern Baptist pastor serving time in prison for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy.

Or were you just looking for recipes and found her Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake? (It's probably illegal to serve this in New York City.)

I'm confused. You don't see it as a problem? [Amy: speaking out about child sexual abuse by Baptist clergy, about Baptist churches that cover up such abuse, about silence from SBC leaders about this abuse, about the vocal support of another evangelical pastor C.J. Mahaney accused in a lawsuit by 11 plaintiffs of covering up child sex abuse, and planning an awareness event next week at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston]

What's so confusing about any of this, Doug? Are you confused (i.e. surprised) by the fact that there is an epidemic of CSA by Baptist clergy? That Baptist churches are covering it up? The silence of SBC leaders and even their denial (such as yours) that there is a problem at all except to express support for the cover-uppers and in some cases even the perpetrators themselves? Or is it just that someone actually had the cojones to draw attention to it? You guys try to convince us you're sooooo smart, and yet when confronted with concepts most 8-year-olds grasp... you go all "duhhh" on us. I'm confused by your confusion, Doug.

What good is it going to do, you standing outside the SBC?

Because that's where the public sidewalks are and they probably would try to have her arrested if she tried to stand inside? As Amy has stated, if she and others can stand peacefully outside the George R. Brown Convention Center during this year's convention, holding signs and talking to people in the hopes of shedding more light on this epidemic, and if their actions cause even a few more people to wake up, or if it gives even one victim the courage to come out of the shadows and break his or her silence and ultimately bring one more abuser to justice, then that is the "good" it will do.

On the other hand, what harm can it do? Amy has never mentioned First Baptist Church on her blog, nor has she accused Gregg Matte or anyone else there of any wrongdoing. Or is the real issue here that it might embarrass Gregg Matte and other SBC "leaders" that someone who happens to be a member of Matte's church, the "host" church for the SBC this year, has the courage to confront them about their silence?

What good will it do if the SBC president did issue a statement on abuse?

Fred Luter

Uh... because he's the president of the SBC? No question it's a figurehead position, but any statement he makes would be covered by the news media.  Just think, Doug. What if the president of the... largest... protestant... denomination... in the United States were to issue a statement condemning the silence and cover-up of clergy sex abuse and say something along the lines of this:

"Once and for all, guys, enough is enough. Stop covering for these perverts, passing them along to other unsuspecting congregations in the middle of the night, and do the right thing! This should not be 'uncharted waters' for us, folks. Most people in 'the world' know exactly what to do when faced with the possibility that a child (or former child) has been sexually abused by someone they know or employ. Why then should we, as a denomination, as churches, and as Christian individuals, not care more about the welfare of 'the least of these' than the 'the world' does? Ladies and gentlemen, have we become so proud, so enamored with our own 'image,' and so desperate to keep the pews warm and the money flowing that we've completely... lost... sight... of what the 'Jesus' we profess to love and follow would do? It is time for us as a denomination, as churches, and as Christians to get our heads out of the sand and to do the right thing regardless of the consequences! As our former president, Charles Stanley, always says, "Obey God and leave the consequences to Him." Folks already see through the image we've worked so hard to maintain and they're leaving our churches in droves. Our numbers are declining every year.  [Insert statistics about baptisms, lost churches, memberships, and the decline in giving.] Just because individual Baptist churches are autonomous doesn't mean we can't cooperate in helping to make it difficult for abusers to easily move from church to church. We cooperate as a convention for missions. We cooperate for disaster relief. We cooperate to support children's homes and seminaries. So why not this?  I propose we immediately appoint a committee (we Baptists like committees) to work to compile and maintain a database of convicted and credibly accused sexual abusers who have been employed by or are currently employed by Southern Baptist churches. I also propose that we invite other denominations and non-denominational churches to contribute their data so as to help increase the chances that a perpetrator doesn't hop in and out of different denominations.  Unlike the do-nothing committee appointed in 2007, this committee will begin work immediately, and this issue will never be allowed to 'die on the vine' again. Anyone who is currently aiding an abuser by covering for him or has let an abuser leave his church's employ without notifying the authorities needs to call the police without delay. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. Now! The 'church' is NOT equipped, legally or otherwise, to 'investigate' the alleged sexual abuse of a child (or an adult). Sexual abuse is not simply a 'matter for church discipline.' It is a crime. By not reporting cases of abuse or alleged abuse we are breaking the law. Your obligation as pastors is not to investigate. It's to report possible crimes to the proper authorities. It's time for us to do the right thing! We should all pledge this day to do everything in our power to make our churches a safe place for everyone, and the first step is to stop covering for the abusers and supporting those who do. We should encourage victims, not to contact us or to let us 'take care of it,' but to contact the authorities. No longer will we usurp the duties of God-ordained law enforcement agencies. Rather we will recognize and admit that this sort of soul-sucking abuse is indeed epidemic in our convention and churches and do everything in our power to eradicate it, not hide it. I pledge to support the victims of these crimes, not only in word but action. Will you join me?"

I don't know, Doug, but I think something like that (and truly following up on it) would be a good place to start, don't you?  Southern Baptists are already a joke anyway with their infamous boycott of Disney (and the repeal thereof before the convention returned to Orlando), their treatment of women, and their attitudes towards minorities, gays, and other groups.  Electing "the... first... black... SBC... president... ever... " and ensuring that he ran unopposed... wasn't the answer. Was this the only way he was going to have a chance to be elected? By running unopposed? Frankly, if I were Fred Luter, I would have wanted at least one opponent because I would consider it insulting that no one ran against me, thus giving people the impression I couldn't have won otherwise.

Anyway, I believe that such a statement by Fred Luter AND the action of pastors in the convention would go a long way towards raising awareness of the problem of child sex abuse in our churches and that a stern word to those covering up the problem might cause some of them to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, I believe there are some whose pride will never permit them to admit their inaction exposed another whole generation of youth to wolves like John Langworthy. People like that, short of an act of God, will always put image, power, and money above all else. I'd like to think there are many others who are willing to support victims over perpetrators.

Fred Luter also has the power to allow representatives of SNAP to address the convention this week.  Do I think he will?  No.  But he could.  They're asking to speak, but so far no one has responded to them.

We're not like the Methodists. [each Baptist church is locally autonomous]

See above, Doug. Southern Baptists are quick to "cooperate" in missions, disaster relief, etc. And heaven forbid a Southern Baptist church call a female pastorwelcome gay people, hire missionaries who admit they practice a "private prayer language" (key word there should be "private"), fail to condemn drinking alcohol, or accept for membership anyone who hasn't been properly dunked the Baptist way. The Southern Baptists, from the local associations and state conventions to the national convention burst out of their blissful, autonomous bubbles in a hurry to condemn the actions of a non-compliant congregation when faced with scenarios like the above. Why, then, can we not "cooperate" to protect children? Just because you ignore the problem doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Actually, though, the Southern Baptists are a lot like the Methodists in this regard. While the Methodists have set up a website regarding this subject, their very first advice to victims or those who witness or become aware of potential abuse is to "tell your pastor, the Staff-Parish Relations chairperson, or the District Superintendent." No, no, NO!!! The Methodists have it wrong, too! Your first (I would argue your only) obligation is to call the police. Period. Too often we've seen what happens when victims go to the "church" for help. They're frequently intimidated, demonized, ostracized, and believe it or not, even blamed for their perpetrators' crimes, while the "poor" perps are embraced and "loved on."

Wade Burleson had a good take on SBC polity and the issue of autonomy. Apparently Southern Baptists are "autonomous" only when it's convenient.

How can you say that? [that child sexual abuse within Baptist churches is a systemic problem]

When confronted with reams of evidence, how can you say it's not, Doug? Statistics indicate that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by an adult (or another minor) before the age of 18. How many potential victims are there in your church alone? Have you seen Christa Brown's blog and the Stop Baptist Predators website? There's a veritable rogue's gallery of Southern Baptist perverts there, Doug, and you and I both know that's just the tip of the iceberg. You really should take the time to educate yourself a little, Doug. Crimes against children happen everywhere in the world and seem to thrive through a conspiracy of silence and intimidation. The SBC is not immune to this phenomenon, Doug. Oh, no. Check out the statistics.

Sexual Assault Reporting Rates

Sexual Abuse in Social Context: Clergy and Other Professionals (The section on "Ministers" is particularly interesting. Note the stats on Southern Baptist ministers.)

Are you convinced there's a problem yet, Doug?  If not, here are some more resources. Note how old some of them are. Here we are almost halfway through 2013, and nothing has been done beyond a feel-good list of resources issued by the SBC in 2008. (This was a small step in the right direction, but it should not have stopped there.)

News flash! Only about 1% of child sexual abusers make it onto the national sex offender registry. Thankfully, John Langworthy is now one of them, but look what it took to get him there and how many children he victimized before someone finally reported him. It's been estimated that fewer than 10% of cases of child sexual abuse are ever reported.

The Wartburg Watch >> Southern Baptist Pastors Continue Making Headlines for Sex Abuse – Caveat Emptor!

USA Today >> Southern Baptists elect a president, reject sex-abuse database (This was 2008. It's five years later, and not much has changed. If anything it's gotten worse.)

Responding to the Evil of Sexual Abuse, Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention 2008

The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life (book)

You may be seen as fringe.

Wow, Doug. Is that the reason for your urgent call to Amy? Because you were concerned she "may be seen as fringe"? Or did someone, perhaps someone higher up, say in Nashville, catch wind of Amy's (and SNAP's) plans and alert Gregg Matte that "Houston, we have a problem!"

It really doesn't matter. However high up this thing may have originated, you admitted you were acting on the orders of Gregg Matte. Apparently Matte had a problem with Amy's activities, so why didn't Gregg Matte contact her personally? After all, many of your colleagues like to trot out (and misuse) Matthew 18. I understand the concept of delegation and how in an organization the size yours that's often necessary, but some things don't need to be delegated. This was one of them.

Why, if you wanted to discuss such an apparently sensitive matter, did you not at least invite Amy along with her husband to meet with you in person? I think we all know the answer to that, don't we, Doug? You didn't want her husband present. You thought you, a "manly" man, could intimidate a woman. You wouldn't dare talk to a man the way Amy said you spoke to her!

Let me tell you something about Amy, Doug. This gutsy woman doesn't back down that easily. She didn't let her own parents intimidate her when they cruelly and inexplicably chose John Langworthy, a (more or less) confessed and now CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER over their own daughter and granddaughters. She didn't let Philip Gunn, an "elder" at Morrison Heights Baptist Church and now speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, propose a "resolution" to the John Langworthy mess.  (It would be interesting to know what he had in mind, but I suspect it involved money.) She's also not married to one of those men who will keep the little woman in line when men like you say "boo!" (if you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do). So she's not about to cave to you, Doug. Quite the contrary. She... no you... you, Doug, have made a fool and a laughingstock out of yourself, your "senior" pastor, and sadly, your church and the SBC. This is one anthill you should have never kicked, Doug.

So... who am I going to believe? Hmmm. A woman I've known for the past two years who has proven herself to be a person of her word? Or some paid staff weenie who was so nervous-acting and awkward that Amy finally told you she was just going to save you the embarrassment and awkwardness of having to verbalize what she knew you were trying to express and said she and her husband would just resign their positions and save you the trouble? I pick... the woman.

It was bad enough, but then you had to make it worse by speaking with the ABP. How dare you say it wasn't our idea, that it was at Amy's "insistence" that they resigned! Surely you could come up with something more believable than that, Doug. Here is Amy's version of your conversation, which interestingly, is almost verbatim the version she told me three days ago.

After almost an hour on the phone with Doug challenging me about my efforts to raise awareness about abuse within the SBC, I was in tears and finally said to him, "I'm going to save you the awkardness of having to ask me to step down and I will step down." His reply was, "Let's take a few weeks.... " The next day in a meeting with my husband Doug brought up the subject about us stepping down and he [Doug] said, "I told Amy I would think about it, but I've thought about it overnight, and I think it's best that she step down."

What a far cry from saying it was "at their insistence."

Amy... 1, paid staff weenie... 0

When I heard Amy didn't wait you out (her one mistake IMO) and force you to "fire" them, I knew you would spin it this way. I just didn't think you'd do it in the national press. You guys are so predictable it's funny. Except that it's so pathetic. It's pathetic that Southern Baptist "leaders" like you, Gregg Matte, Jack Graham, Steve Gaines, and Greg Belser, to name but a few, have, by continuing to ignore the elephant in the room, given all Southern Baptist ministers a black eye. That's sad because there are still good, sincere Southern Baptist pastors out there. But thanks to "manly" men who are more concerned about protecting their "images" and squelching anything they think "the world" might perceive as negative than doing what's right, they've just turned what would have been a small, likely unreported peaceful protest into a national news story. Way to go, boys!

In closing, Doug, I would just like to say if Amy Smith is considered by the likes of men like you "fringe," then I'm proud to stand beside her and identify as "fringe," too! I believe Amy prefers "frilly fringe."


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quote of the Last 35 Years


 

Well, I had a nice, long blog post on a somewhat different subject ready to publish, but Blogger ate it... so I'll leave you with what I think sums up the "Conservative Resurgence" rather succinctly.

A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something.

- George Marsden

Monday, April 22, 2013

Other than that, how was your dinner?


 

Convicted child molester, John Langworthy, was spotted today dining in a Jackson, MS restaurant with his wife and daughter. When asked by the manager as his party was leaving if their meal was satisfactory, the person who snapped the photo replied that it was fine until a convicted child molester sat down at the next table. Yes, I suppose that would sap just about anyone's appetite. The manager was reportedly "stunned and concerned" and asked if that was "the music minister from Clinton."

John was overheard discussing "prayer" and was said to be "very animated and happy-go-lucky."

Someone has speculated "this is what happens when someone doesn't have to go to jail and instead gets to all but run the community."

No worries!

Oh, and I've just been informed the name of the restaurant is... taa daa... Cock of the Walk.  (You couldn't make this stuff up.)

**********

PLEASE, if you were a victim of JL or any other abuser or have information about the abuse of someone else, regardless of how insignificant the information may seem or how long ago it may have occurred, contact the proper authorities and let them sort it out! In Clinton, that would be detective Josh Frazier at 601-924-5252.

If the abuse or suspicion of abuse occurred in Jackson, MS:

Jackson Police Sex Crimes: 601-960-1210

In addition to either of the two police departments listed above, to provide any information regarding known or suspected abuse in Hinds County, MS, contact Assistant D.A. Jamie McBride at 601-968-6568.

If the abuse or suspicion of abuse occurred at Prestonwood or in the Dallas area:

Dallas Police non-emergency number: 214-744-4444

Child exploitation unit: 214-671-4211

Dallas Children's Advocacy Center: 214-818-2600

DCAC victim assistant coordinator: 214-818-2613

DCAC will act as the go-between if you do not want to contact the police directly. Don't worry about any statute of limitations. What may seem to be an insignificant detail may be the missing puzzle piece the investigators need. Go to them and tell them what you know and let them determine if it's important! They will keep your identity confidential.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (S.N.A.P.) contacts:

Mark Belenchia (Jackson, MS), msbelenchia@gmail.com, 601-953-2535

Amy Smith (Houston, TX), spacecitysnap@gmail.com, 281-748-4050

David Brown (Memphis, West TN), DavidBrown38053@gmail.com, 901-569-4500

David Clohessy (national), SNAPclohessy@aol.com, 314-566-9790 cell

Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director, SNAPdorris@gmail.com, 314-862-7688

Friday, March 08, 2013

"Prestonwood Baptist Church doesn't seem to understand the power of social media yet."



That title is a timely quote by Chris Tynes, a 14-year member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. It seems Tynes recently learned about Prestonwood's 20-plus-year cover-up of John Langworthy's abuse of young boys while Langworthy was in their employ. Tynes, to say the least, is not happy.

His Twitter feed gives an account of the events of this week which followed after he was denied the opportunity to meet with one of Prestonwood's ministers, Mike Buster, to ask some questions about the church's handling of the Langworthy situation. These are the same questions others have been asking for almost two years and have not received any answers, so Tynes is not alone. The "biblical church model" for dealing with anything distasteful in many of today's churches, particularly the big businesses aka megachurches, is to sweep it under the rug. Ignore it. Hope it goes away. And if anyone dares ask questions, he becomes the problem. Image and power trump the safety of children or doing the right (and lawful) thing.

This blog was the first to expose John Langworthy after an "anonymous" comment by an author I verified and found to be credible. Thus Amy Smith was thrust into the spotlight along with Sherry LeFils, two tenacious women who saw to it that the sins of John Langworthy did not continue to be swept "under the blood." The original article appeared here.

Langworthy's current church, Morrison Heights Baptist in Clinton, Mississippi, inadvertently helped eventually convict him when they allowed him to address the congregation to "confess" on August 7, 2011 and an alert congregant recorded it on video. The video and transcript are at the end of this post.

Subsequent articles (here, here, here, here, here, and here) were posted during the second half of 2011 with an update in January.

I was disappointed to learn Langworthy managed to cut a plea deal with the state, even after the state had said the deadline for any plea agreement had passed and that he would have to face trial, but at least Langworthy is permanently listed on the national sex offender registry and will be on probation for a few years. I think questions need to be asked about how that happened after the deadline passed for a plea deal. Did Langworthy and/or MHBC have one or more friends in high places who pulled strings?

Of course, that plea covered only the victims named in the case. Other victims could still come forward, and there are victims in Texas, at least one of whom I'm told has recently contacted the police there. This thing may be far from over.

Questions remain about the role of people at Prestonwood Baptist who became aware of John Langworthy's abuse of boys and simply let him move on to another church without warning anyone. They allegedly even tried to silence some of the victims and did not notify their parents of the abuse. Questions need to be asked, and the people responsible need to be held accountable.

Chris Tynes is on the warpath. When he went to the church this week and peacefully waited in the parking lot to try to ask Mike Buster why he was refusing to meet with him (since Buster would not talk with him by phone or make an appointment), he was approached by security guards and told to leave. Subsequently a police report was filed by the church in which Tynes was described as "a suspicious and possibly violent person." The message was relayed to Tynes from Mike Buster via the police detective (who was reportedly shocked at such a frivolous report)... "I don't ever want to speak to Chris and we don't ever want him back at church." Wow. Is anyone reminded of Tom Rich's experiences at FBC Jacksonville? It's déjà vu all over again!

Is it not ironic that Prestonwood "leaders" would let a known pedophile walk free but call the police when a longtime member, who has not, in spite of the church's claims to the contrary, exhibited any "suspicious or potentially violent" behavior, simply tries to ask questions?

Articles on Tom's case were here, here, here, and here. And of course, there's his blog.

Chris Tynes has now started a Facebook page to air his grievances. Prestonwood "leaders," you had the opportunity to do the right thing over 20 years ago. You failed, and because you failed there are heaven only knows how many more victims of this predator. Does that bother any of you in the least?  Apparently not.  You have an opportunity to try to do the right thing now, but apparently you're going to fight to keep a lid on this thing and demonize a church member whose only "sin" is trying to ask some questions. (I do NOT want to hear "Matthew 18" trotted out and misapplied here.  Tynes DID try to meet with Prestonwood leadership privately, and they refused.)

Jack Graham and Mike Buster and all the rest of you Prestonwood "men" should be ashamed of yourselves for the way you've handled this, and members of Prestonwood should walk out in droves. But they won't. Some will, but we'll see the same old tired "but that was so long ago" and "those boys should have spoken up then" excuses. Jack Graham will continue to appear on TV every week, command the accolades of the blind sheep who follow him, and revel in the "attaboys" of his good-old-boy network of rich and powerful preachers and "tweet" about great barbecue and what a "master communicator" T.D. Jakes is (seriously). And he and his minions will do everything in their power to marginalize and destroy Chris Tynes and anyone else who threatens them with the truth.  Because that is a threat to the flow of the one thing they love and understand best... money.  As the subtitle of this blog says, "Follow the money."

Better buckle up, Chris. It's going to be a bumpy ride.  You're about to find out who your real friends are, and I think you're going to be very surprised.

Oh, and to the great "leaders" of Prestonwood, you will someday understand the power of social media.  And bloggers.  Those evil bloggers! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

John Langworthy to Plead Guilty?


Very late word on the street is that John Langworthy will go before a judge on Tuesday morning and plead "guilty" to one or more charges of sexual abuse of a minor! You may recall he exhausted any chance of a plea bargain last month and the case was scheduled to go to trial, so this should mean mandatory prison time.

Watch Keep >> Child Predator John Langworthy to Face Trial

Stay tuned for the latest developments!  The Clarion-Ledger and Clinton TV stations should have coverage tomorrow.

Update:

Clarion-Ledger >> Ex-choir director, minister set to plead guilty to child molestation

Apparently I was mistaken.  It was my understanding that the chance for any plea agreement by Langworthy had expired and that he was going to trial January 28th regardless.  Now I just read that he appeared in court Tuesday morning, entered a guilty plea to 5 of the 8 charges, and the judge gave him a 10-year suspended sentence on each count (a total of 50 years suspended).

He must register as a sex offender.  That's good, but how many people actually check that?

He can't have contact with any of his victims. That means the ones named in the lawsuit. He wasn't in contact with them anyway! What about the victims not named (there were others) and the potential victims out there?  I do not see how this does anything to protect them!

Other than the inconvenience of "supervised probation" for five years and being placed on the sex offender registry this is little more than a slap on the wrist.

Clarion-Ledger >> Victim: 'It's about bringing the darkness to the light.'

WJTV >> Admitted sex offender avoids jail time

Clarion-Ledger >> No prison time for admitted child molester John Langworthy, former Clinton church minister, choir director