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.

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7 Responses

  1. […] if you read this piece, be sure to read my follow-up comments on this story. They contain some additional information about the original news […]

  2. In response to your April 28th comment, I am someone who was close to the situation and totally agree with your view on the SBC and their continued “not involved with attitudes and actions”, on your comment about Jeremy Benack stepping down, he did step down only for the congregation to vote him out and then 1 week later overturn the vote. oust the woman involved and reinstate the Pastor to be on paid leave. Furthermore, Jeremy admitted to being sexually involved with this young woman, whom he had pastored since she was about 14, your comment “if there was abuse when she was a minor why wasn’t there an arrest made” well, one only needs to take a look at how the woman was treated when this came to light, this man according to the news sent sexually explicit pictures to the womans phone, can you not see that he has predator type actions and then he and his family and followers show up at a church meeting to defend his actions and fight for his job,and blame the womam involved. Only God and the parties involved know when the inappropriate behavior began, but as many abuse survivors will tell you a young person usually doesn’t come forth and tell their friends, or family that their beloved pastor has been touching them,but then again as I stated before whether the woman was 14,15,or 18 it’s still sexual abuse and cannot ever be considered a mutual relationship due to the power imbalance this man held over the woman. The SBC needs to step up to the plate and hold their pastors accountable and stop hiding them away and simply “restoring them to the ministry”.As for the Benack story the facts remain to be seen at this time til the truth is out in court, we can pray that healing comes to all the involoved parties and that God receive all glory, he will not be mocked.. His people that follow him stand for the truth not cover up as is apparent in this situation with the church in lansford, and the SBC.

  3. truebeliever,

    I’m glad you provided more information. When I wrote the story originally I got blasted with some extremely one-sided acid and didn’t know for sure what happened. But you’re the second person who has said the same thing now — which entirely proves my point! Denial by the church, reinstating a pastor who has committed adultery – that’s so far out of bounds Biblically, as to make that church idolatrous. They are worshipping a man, not the same God I do. That sounds harsh but it is Biblical. No man who has committed adultery is fit for church leadership – even on paid leave. It’s not even a “grey” area.

    — Danni

  4. Jeremy Benack and his wife Victoria have subsequently decided to divorce, in the Schuykill county court records.

    Jeremy is a troubled individual, he was forced into being a preacher by his father Wayne and his grandparents the Brodes of Coaldale

    I hope he gets the help he needs and stays away from sexual liaisons against the nature of gods words

  5. I just want to set the record straight about several things. First Jeremy and Victoria are NOT divorcing. I am assuming, because of the lawsuit Jeremy’s attorney has advised them to proceed in that manner so if Shayna were to win the lawsuit she can not acquire anything not in his name. (Benack’s house and other assets) they can put in Victoria’s name, again only an assumption. They are still residing in the same house and presenting a unified front for the community to see. Secondly not all members of the congregation reinstated Jeremy. A few “Jeremy worshipers” brought about the vote to reinstate him without telling the majority of the congregation that they were going to do so. So most congregants were not present at the meeting. The majority of the original congregation left immediately when he was reinstated, and there are only a handful of people remaining at the church in Lansford. Those that remain are “Benack” focused as opposed to God focused. You hear many of them say “I need to support my Pastor”. Pray for them all, they can not see they are worshipping a man. And we know, because God is a just God there will be consequences for their decision to follow a man as opposed to following God. Concerning the Southern Baptist, I have read several articles and believe it is Guenther of the Southern Baptist who claims they were not involved with the Transition Team at the FBC, That is a false statement, not only were they involved, they were the ones to suggest the team be put together. I was present for that meeting. Gerald Mounce met with the team Wednesday evenings for several months advising them how to proceed. This can be verified with any member of the Transition Team. Finally, from where I sat there was no intimate relationship between this Pastor and this young lady until she became of legal age. Yes, they were both consenting adults, BUT he was a spiritual leader over her. It was a gross misuse of power. (Not to mention adultery) Equate it to an 18 year old girl in High School and her 30 year old teacher. If we saw that in our local newspaper we would all be appalled. Why not in this situation? The teacher in all probability would have been fired. Jeremy’s paid leave is over, he is back ministering in the community and he is back in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Collecting his pay check again. May God have mercy on all who see fit to follow a man instead of God.

    • Well hello Amy,It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on the site, I agree on your comments about Jeremy being back in paid position,ministering again.. He stands in the pulpit week after week proclaiming”He is victorious in Jesus and that everything that happened to him was for God’s glory..he is very twisted, and is deceitful to his followers..sadly the ones that remain in the church are just that jeremy followers,not followers of Jesus.Much prayer is needed for those who are in the church that go there week after week under his leadership.He can’t ever be trusted he has no remorse for his actions,he will more than likely repeat his behavior again.Hopefully the day will soon arrive and he will be taken to court and exposed to the area for the guy he really is

  6. Just wanted to add some more first-hand knowledge….I was good friends with both Jeremy and Shayna when I lived over there from October 2005 until May 2006 when Shayna was 18/19. Jeremy and my husband were good friends and so were Vicky and I.
    First off I have to say that there were definitely no improper relations going on then as Shayna was in a steady relationship at the time with a guy her age that she had been with a year or so. So all that junk about her being a minor and being “groomed” for a sexual relationship was complete crap. They are just trying to make her look innocent and him look even worse. Now I am not excusing him in this instance, but I am definitely letting you all know that Shayna was not the innocent little “victim” either. Yes, he was in a position of power etc etc but she was not stupid, she is a very mature (or was), very intelligent young woman and that garbage about him placing a ring on her finger and her believing they were married is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. She is not that daft. She knew he was married…and had a new baby. She knew what real legitimate marriage involved. Again, more lies to make her look more innocent. And she did seem that way to me. I was completely fooled by her kind and sweet personality., admired her “strong” relationship with God and all. Well, I was blind cause she wasn’t strong. She was weak and now she’s a big liar and this whole lawsuit is ridiculous. She willingly went into this and had no excuse for not preventing the sexual relationship, no matter how infatuated she was, she was smart enough to be able to know not to get that far involved but she did anyways which utterly derails her from being any kind of victim.
    She knew better than to be alone with him day after day in the church for guitar lessons. That was total disrespect to Vicky and to him. She and Vicky were once friends…I couldn’t imagine doing that to a friend. Especially Vicky. She is such a sweet, caring, giving person and if anyone’s a victim in this situation it is her and her sweet little baby.
    I am just so sick of hearing Shayna’s lies and that is why I just can’t bring myself to ever want to see or speak to her again. She’s completely turned into the worst kind of person and considering how much I used to love her personality and spending time with her, it just breaks my heart.

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