Randy Danny Russell Neosho MO Pastor Charged with Sex Abuse

My thanks to KSPR News for this story.

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The pastor of a small southwest Missouri church is charged with statutory rape and sodomy for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old girl in the church office.

Forty-nine-year-old Randall Danny Russell of Act II Church in Neosho also was charged Wednesday with child abuse.

Court records did not name an attorney for Russell and he could not immediately be reached by phone.

According to court records, the a woman told police that she went to Russell for counseling when she was 16 in 2003.

She said they had oral sex and intercourse on several occasions before her 17th birthday. The pastor also allegedly took nude photos of her.

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Is Denominational Accountability a Pipe Dream?

I read this interesting post at The Faithful Departed blog and was frankly filled with dismay. How can it be that after all that has been said and done to expose and address clergy sex abuse within the Catholic Church, the issue of accountability is still being deliberately overlooked by the existing authority structure?

The issue of clergy sex abuse is overwhelmingly HUGE. Some days I am so discouraged by the overall issue of abuse in the church I just want to walk away from church altogether. And those days are not few or far between. How can God stand to look at the church today? I cannot imagine, since the abuses and excessive the church today cannot be far off from the spiritual adultery of Israel which motivated Him to divorce Israel. This issue of abuse is only one of many grossly unbiblical and ungodly symptoms of a corrupted religious system.

But to the point of this post, it was discouraging to see, from the perspective of those on the inside, that while there have been strides made to address clergy guilty of sex abuse, the religious leaders who were knowingly complicit in covering and facilitating these abusers are still being protected by the highest levels of church authority. And we wonder why there is even less consideration of this issue in Protestant denominations who won’t even face the issue of clergy abuse yet?

I hope tomorrow is a better day.

My thanks to The Faithful Departed blog for this story.

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Posted by M. Alexander

From CWNews.com

Ideological allies? Absolutely not. But although they disagree on many other things, these voices are singing in tune on one topic. See if you can pick out the dominant note:

* Voice of the Faithful press release:

Voice of the Faithful has publicly called for the Holy Father to ask for the resignations of all bishops who put the interests of the institutional Church before the safety of Catholic children.

* Sister Maureen Paul Turlish (writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer):

Not one bishop has been removed from office because of his own complicity, collusion or cover-up of the church’s continuing sexual-abuse problems. Nor has anyone been forced to resign for violating Canon Law or criminal or civil laws.

* Victims’ lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (quoted in the Boston Herald):

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented hundreds of clergy abuse victims, said Benedict needs to do more than meet with victims. He needs to remove the notorious bishops and supervisors who knowingly shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish, allowing abuse to continue for years.

* CWN editor Phil Lawler (quoted in a Dallas Morning News editorial):

Mr. Lawler, a conservative Catholic and Benedict supporter, told us yesterday that he’s comforted by the pope’s admission of shame over abusive priests but that it isn’t enough. Said Mr. Lawler: “It would be truly liberating to hear him acknowledge that he is also ashamed of the bishops whose negligence – and even complicity – allowed the scandal to fester and undermined public confidence in the church.”

* Victims’ spokesman Peter Isely (quoted by AP):

“It’s easy and tempting to continually focus on the pedophile priests themselves,” said Peter Isely, a board member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It’s harder but crucial to focus on the broader problem – complicity in the rest of the church hierarchy.”

* Bishop Accountability project (quoted in the New York Times):

Anne Barrett Doyle co-director of Bishop Accountability, a Web site that documents the sexual abuse scandal, expressed similar skepticism. She said that what the pope did not say is more important that what he did. “Rather than shifting attention to pedophile priests, he needs to focus on the culpability of bishops,” she said. “The crisis occurred because many U.S. bishops were willing to hide their priests’ crimes from the police with lies.”

David Michael Schedin Church Teacher Charged with Child Sex Abuse

My thanks to Salem News for this story.

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Detectives with the Beaverton Police Department have arrested 40-year old David Michael Schedin on charges over having sexual contact with a juvenile female in the Beaverton High School parking lot on April 24th.

Sgt. Paul Wandell with Beaverton Police says the victim reported the abuse allegation to her parents, who was then reported to the Beaverton Police Department.

“Schedin is affiliated with the Palace of Praise Church in Aloha where he serves as a part time teacher and tutor. Schedin knew the victim prior to the assault occurring.”

Wandell says Schedin was arrested by detectives at 3:18 PM on April 24th and was lodged at the Washington County Jail on charges of Sodomy III and Sex Abuse III.

“Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence” by Steven Tracy

I found this excerpt at A Wife’s Submission. It is excellent. I also did a little poking around the site and was impressed by what I read. I’ll be digging in some more to see what else she has to say.

The following is an excerpt from “Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence” by Steven Tracy

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Clergy often state or imply that the woman is partially responsible for the abuse….

Research on domestic violence in fact reveals that the woman’s behavior actually has little bearing on the abuse. That is, abusive men ultimately do not abuse because of what their wives do or do not do; they abuse because of complex internal pathologies beyond the wife’s control or responsibility….

clergy who have not experienced abuse will not intuitively recognize many of the needs of battered women. Furthermore, since battered women have been systematically devalued, demeaned, and stripped of power…

I believe it is particularly important for clergy to understand the characteristics of abusive men. One of the greatest misnomers about abusers is that they look a certain way, so “you’ll know one when you see one.” Thus, clergy often are in deep denial when one of their members is charged with abuse, for the accused seemed like such a nice person and did not look like anyone who could abuse. In fact, abusers cannot be visually identified, but they do have some notable behavioral characteristics. The first and most consistent characteristic of physical abusers is a pervasive denial of responsibility. They simply refuse to own their destructive behavior. They do this by shifting the blame for their abuse, and/or by minimizing the abuse itself. For example, in one study of physically abusive men who were in mandated counseling researchers who interviewed these men cataloged dozens of rationalizations and minimizations for their abuse such as: “The booze made me do it.” “My wife verbally abused me.” “She was the provoker and I had to defend myself.”“I never beat my wife. I responded physically to her.” “Women bruise easily too. They bump into a door and they bruise.”

Over the years I have heard every imaginable excuse and minimization for abuse, yet rarely have I found abusers to condone abuse in general. They say that abuse is wrong but what they did was not abuse. Or they say that their wife forced them to hit her by being such a nag, by disrespecting their authority, by not meeting their sexual needs, etc. Pervasive denial of responsibility is exactly what we see in the life of King Saul, a physical abuser whose heart so displeased God that God rejected him from being king.

Before I clarify this point I should note the seriousness of clergy overlooking violence or absolving abusers of their sin. Scripture declares: “acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the Lord detests them both” (Prov 17:15, NIV). God severely judged the prophet Eli because he refused to stop his sons from abusing men and women in the temple (1 Sam 2:16, 22; 3:13).

Holding abusers fully responsible means refusing to accept any excuses or minimizations for violence whatsoever. If clergy accept abusers’ blame shifting or minimizations, this inevitably serves to strongly reinforce the abusers’ pathological beliefs and actions. It is also profoundly harmful to battered wives….

Holding batterers fully responsible and accountable for their violence is not only necessary for the sake of the victim but also for the sake of the abuser. Pastoral counselor and abuse expert Carol Adams argues that abusers batter their wives because it works. They will often attempt to manipulate their minister, counselor, and friends to avoid something worse (such as jail time or having their wife leave).

So the best potential for abusers to genuinely repent and avoid the judgment of God is when clergy (and others) hold abusers fully responsible and accountable for their actions. In the context of holding batterers responsible, clergy can then begin to consider others ways of ministering to abusers.

Thus, clergy must take seriously all reports of domestic violence, must never minimize abuse victims’ concerns, and must be willing to boldly confront abusers and offer practical assistance to victims. This includes helping victims of domestic violence develop a safety plan, access safe housing (community shelters or a family in the church) and assist with financial needs.

Prioritizing protection certainly includes encouraging and supporting women to separate from abusive husbands. While an abused woman with no children has strong biblical warrant to flee an abusive husband she has additional warrant (even a mandate) to do so if she has children. Jesus pronounced the most severe judgments on those who cause one of the little ones (children) to stumble (Matt 18:1-10). Abusive husbands cause tremendous long term physical, emotional, and spiritual damage to children…

Separation from an abusive husband is also ethically important for the well being of the woman, because domestic violence creates serious physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. And Scripture does not commend enduring avoidable suffering. Christ repeatedly avoided physical assault by hiding (John 8:59), by maintaining physical separation from his abusers (Matt 12:14–15; John 11:53–54), and by eluding them (John 10:31, 39). Other godly individuals in Scripture, such as Paul and David, also repeatedly fled physically abusive civil and religious authorities (1 Sam 19:12; 27:1; Acts 9:22–25; 14:5–6; 17:8–10, 14). Following the example of godly individuals in Scripture, clergy should advise battered wives to flee from their abusive husbands and should assist them in every way they can to find safety and physical security.

Additional Thoughts re: Jeremy Benack News Story

My focus in my original post on this topic was entirely on the SBC’s continual mishandling of clergy abuse allegations.

However, questions have been raised about whether this sitation qualifies as being in the same category all together – is it an issue of clergy abuse? Regardless, I think it is another example of the SBC’s negligence and neglect of responsibility. But for the moment, I’m going to focus on a few things about the issue of the accusations against Jeremy Benack.

First of all, in thinking about this for several days it appears to me the original article was written with a definite spin to imply greater guilt than is inherently visible in the situation. The writer assigns motives and assumes a long-term past to the situation when she implies that the sexual history between Benack and Werley goes back approximately 6 years. The reason this matters is that a history going back 6 years is an issue of child sexual abuse. A history going back as little as 2 years from the time of the article’s writing makes it consentual sexual behavior between adult. There is no stated actual sexual activity referenced in the article, though it seems to be implied in the way the article is written.

The thing that made me start to wonder about this was the statement that the police were called to the church and arrest was “discussed” – but no arrest was made. If there was an alleged incidence of child sex abuse an arrest would almost certainly have been made. Which leads me to think there was no such accusation.

If, in fact, this situation escalated to an inappropriate one after Werley was legally an adult, the original article is making this appear to be a child sex abuse issue when it is an issue of sexual misconduct of a pastor and a young adult who could be attempting to turn the focus off her own actions and make the pastor look like a child sex abuser. These are two very different things, particularly legally.

The article also says Benack remains as pastor of the church but I have been told this is not the case. Benack apparently stepped down from the pastorate when the situation was exposed. That also changes the color of the story.

That said, this does not negate pastoral responsibility or minimize the seriousness of admitted pastoral misconduct. At the very least, it is an abuse of the office of pastor, an abuse of trust of church members, and a violation of marital relationship. These are all very serious. It is still an issue of clergy abuse – just not necessarily clergy sex abuse.

Furthermore, my original purpose stands. In either case, this situation highlights why it would be beneficial for the SBC to be proactively involved. The flimsy shield of “autonomy” makes it easy for SBC leadership not to have to get their hands dirty. But accountability is critical. If in this case a young woman is implying that a pastor began an inappropriate relationship with her as a minor, how much better would it be for all concerned if there were a source of external accountability that could determine and speak for the truth in this situation so it’s not just an issue of he said-she said. In today’s climate, with rampant clergy sex abuse, people are more likely to assume there was child abuse involved than not. The SBC would do well to provide a reliable and responsible system of accountability and support — whether it is for victims of clergy sex abuse or for clergy unjustly accused of abuse.

There also needs to be a process of clergy discipline when the office is abused. The local church cannot correctly fill this function. The local church can remove a pastor from office – this is something over which they do have authority. But they cannot discipline and counsel a man who has abused his position of authority over them as their pastor. The church needs to care for its own process of healing. Can the SBC fill this role? I do not know. With their track record, I don’t know who could trust them, which is a sad situation.

How a Church Responds to Clergy Sexual Abuse; One Woman’s Story

My thanks to the Toronto Sun for this story. While I cannot know if this woman’s story is true, it certainly has the ring of truth. This is exactly the type of situation I have seen happen many times. I am reposting the article here because this church’s response is so profoundly typical.

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By Michele Mandel

She believed a church was a place of sanctuary, of caring and concern. Not a den where sexual and verbal abuse would go unchecked and unpunished.

“I dedicated my life to that church,” she says with disgust. “I was so naive.”

Now Diana Carrol is out of work and about to lose her house, while the multimillion-dollar-generating Kingdom Covenant International where she worked — and she says she suffered — steadfastly denies it failed to protect her.

Yet the supervisor now charged with sexually assaulting her continues to be employed at the Mississauga church as before.

“I am shattered,” says Carrol, 38, as crush ed as the ball of tissues crumpled in her hand. “If this didn’t happen in a church, I think maybe I’d be okay. You’re in a church for 14 years with people that you love and that you think will protect you …

“But what you see there is a facade,” she says fiercely. “The congregation has no idea what goes on on the other side of the doors.”

The irony is the church was founded by a woman — the beautiful and charismatic Pastor Pat Francis, whose Friday night prayer meetings in her home 13 years ago are now a church with 3,000 local members and a television show, Washed by the Word, broadcast around the world.

Carrol has launched a $6.8-million lawsuit against Kingdom Covenant International, church accountant Anthony Fernando — her alleged abuser — the human resources director and four pastors, including Francis, for negligence, intimidation, mental distress, personal harassment and constructive dismissal.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Speaking out for the first time, Carrol sits in the bright yellow living room of the home that now bears a For Sale sign on its lawn and a bank notice of foreclosure, wondering once again how it is that she is the one who is still paying when she did nothing wrong.

For 14 years, she religiously attended services at the evangelical church and was honoured when she was hired as its production supervisor in 2003.

Working tirelessly, she was showered with accolades from Francis, who addressed her as “Princess Diana” and always signed off with “I love you and I appreciate you.”

But not, it seems, when Carrol dared to threaten her church’s good name.

She claims the sexual abuse and harassment began soon after she was hired. Fernando, she says, repeatedly grabbed at her behind and stared at her cleavage. He presented her with an inappropriate gift of tight jeans and asked what she wore to bed.

Shocked and distraught, the devout Christian prayed he would stop. When he didn’t, she sought advice from a pastor without mentioning Fernando’s name — she didn’t want to make trouble for him or their church.

But the abuse continued, she says in her claim, with Fernando grabbing her from behind and pressing his body into hers.

She says that after 21 months of harassment, she finally had to report him. “He’s not supposed to be buying me clothes and feeling my ass and this is in a church!” Carrol says.

She expected that he would be fired or disciplined, that she would be offered counselling or at least, sympathy.

“Nothing happened at all,” Carrol recalls, her eyes filling with tears.

“They didn’t care — and this is a church.”

Through its lawyer, Kingdom Covenant International said it is “very concerned” about her claims.

“We find Ms. Carrol’s allegations troubling because they are such a departure from the life-changing and uplifting message that we share with more than 3,000 members of our fellowship every week.”

Saying her lawsuit is without merit and that they will be vigorously defending themselves, they declined to comment further while the matter is before the courts.

After reporting him, Carrol says the sexual abuse was replaced by years of “vicious” verbal harassment. She again complained to her bosses.

They assured her Fernando had been spoken to and a note made on his file.

It was also left clear they considered the matter closed. “I hope we don’t hear about this again, Diana,” one of the pastors allegedly told her.

In her claim, she says she was left feeling “unprotected and defenceless.”

Meanwhile, she says nothing changed. For Carrol, the end finally came last August after she claims she heard Fernando belittling her to another co-worker. Now suffering panic attacks and crying jags, she left on doctor-advised stress leave and has never returned.

In November, Peel Regional Police charged Fernando with sexual assault.

With tears streaming down her face, Carrol wrote the pastors a long letter before she left outlining her years of abuse. They ignored her for weeks, she says.

When she requested her record of employment, she says the church took 60 days to send it in instead of the required seven days.

In the meantime, with no salary and no unemployment insurance, she lived on food bank donations and fell badly behind on her mortgage. Now she’s losing her house.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” she pleads, again and again. “This is not about money. This is not about revenge. This is not about getting back at the church.

“It’s about them making it right. A church is supposed to care about people.”

But they cared not at all.

Defense Seeks to Repress Confession by Pastor in Child Sex Abuse Case

My thanks to the Courier Press for this story.

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GEFF, Ill. — A judge has taken under advisement a defense motion to suppress the alleged confession of a former Southern Illinois minister, in which he gave details of how he sexually abused an Illinois boy.

Lawrence J. Reinke, 57, faces two felony charges of criminal sexual assault and a felony charge of child pornography. The former pastor of the United Methodist Church in Geff, Reinke is accused of having unlawful sexual contact with an 11-year-old boy who attended his church.

Reinke’s attorney argued during a 21/2-hour suppression hearing last week that his client invoked his right to remain silent during questioning by an Illinois State Police detective and an agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, and that the alleged confession should not be allowed during his upcoming trial.

The interview in question took place on April 17, 2007, at Reinke’s church office in the small Fulton County village of Astoria, Ill. Reinke had been transferred to Astoria after details of the alleged sexual abuse in Wayne County surfaced.

Armed with an arrest warrant, state and federal agents drove to Astoria in the early morning hours of April 17 and staked out the small town’s post office.

Using a federally authorized wire tap, agents knew Reinke was expecting delivery of a digital memory card that the alleged victim in the case had made for Reinke. The memory card, police testified, contained child pornography.

At 9 a.m., State Police detective Rick White testified, Reinke walked out of his church office across the street from the post office, circling the building once before entering to pick up the package. U.S. postal inspectors were inside the post office, with Wayne County Sheriff Jim Hinkle and state and federal agents positioned outside. Reinke was arrested without incident.

Agreeing to speak with agents after the arrest, Reinke suggested they all go back to his church office.

“I was trying to be really, really polite,” testified White. “Then he stopped me and said, ‘Forget all that mister nice guy routine. You lied to me last time, and you got me run out of Wayne County.'”

White testified Reinke was referring to an interview he and federal agents conducted in June 2005 after FBI agents executed a warrant to examine his church and home computers for pornographic images.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jeremy Pierezynski testified that at least one of Reinke’s computers contained images of naked prepubescent boys, but none depicting them engaged in sex acts. While the 2005 search did not result in an arrest, word of the investigation leaked out to church elders, resulting in Reinke being transferred.

During the lengthy suppression hearing, Reinke’s lawyer, John O’Gara Jr., argued his client’s statement about “Forget all that mister nice guy routine” amounted to a request to stop the interview.

Wayne County State’s Attorney Kevin Kakac argued the statement was merely a transitional point in the interrogation, which continued for more than two hours, and resulted in several alleged admissions by Reinke.

White testified that during the interview, Reinke admitted he gave the young victim gifts after the two engaged in sexual contact.

“Larry told me he never gave the boy a gift as an enticement to have sex,” White stated. “He always gave them after they were together.” The gifts, White said, often were Xbox games and other video toys.

During the interview, White testified, Reinke admitted the relationship with the boy had grown to be inappropriate, and he regretted it ever started. Reinke also told police the sexual conduct took place in his church office, his car, the gymnasium at the church and in his home. White said.

Circuit Judge Paul Lamar declined to rule from the bench on the suppression motion and took the matter under advisement. Reinke’s case is set for another pretrial hearing on July 30, with trial set for Aug. 18 in Wayne County Circuit Court at Fairfield, Ill.

Reinke had served as pastor of the Geff United Methodist Church for about six years before being reassigned in June of 2005 to Astoria, where he lives today.

Since the former minister’s indictment, the Methodist Church bishop has terminated Reinke’s appointment as a pastor and ordered an internal investigation of the allegations.

Reinke remains free after posting $50,000 cash bond.