The Epidemic of Clergy Sex Abuse

Immediately after writing my previous post, I found this story. I have edited out part of the story to highlight the point I am attempting to make. This is a clear example of why I am saying this issue of clergy sex abuse is an epidemic.

My thanks to The Neosho Daily News for this story.

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Original story by John Ford

Another local self-proclaimed pastor faces charges of child sexual abuse.

Randall “Danny” Russell, 49, of Neosho has been charged with second-degree statutory rape, second-degree statutory sodomy, and child abuse. Russell, the pastor of Acts II church… is accused of having sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl in 2003 and 2004…

…Several other area church leaders have been accused of child sexual abuse, including George Otis Johnston, self-proclaimed pastor of Grandview Valley Independent Baptist Church, who faces 17 felony counts in Newton County after two women came forward and said the pastor had sexual relations with them while both were under age.

Johnston’s nephew, Raymond Lambert, faces eight counts of child sexual abuse in McDonald County. Lambert is the self-proclaimed pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, and Johnston’s church is a spin-off of that congregation.

“There is no connection with what we’ve seen with any other investigations we’ve done, no tie-ins with [Russell], other than a self-proclaimed pastor using Bible scriptures of the church to take advantage of girls,” Copeland said. “Our question is, ‘Where are all the parents of these young girls and what did they know about the church?’ It’s more or less a teen haven type of deal…

“This case is unbelievable. What a bad name this gives Christianity and the church.
You ought to be able to go to church and trust the pastor, to open up to them.”

Why I Post News Stories About Accused Clergy

One of the recurring themes I hear from those close to individuals who have been accused of abuse is that I am somehow wrong for posting the news stories about abuse in the church. Of course, I have persistently responded with my reasons for doing so.

But as I was looking through the news again this morning, and finding yet another story of a man charged with child abuse in the church I was overwhelmed with both discouragement and renewed affirmation in my actions.

My first thought on seeing the story I just posted was, “Will it never end? WHY does this just keep going on and on?” Take a look at the number of stories I have posted just during the past week or so. There have been new accusations of clergy abuse reported every day.

Today’s story was about a man accused of child abuse occuring over the past 20+ years. Statistically, there is very little likelihood these accusations are not true, given the fact that it includes multiple victims, including family members, over the course of a very long time. I am not a judge so I cannot say this man is guilty. I can say, based on abuse patterns, this story has the clear ring of truth.

This particular story is very typical. At the time a clergy member is reported to authorities, there is usually a trail of victims, frequently including family members, going back 20 to 50 years. Every one of those victims was permanently wounded. Their wounds directly affected their future spouse. It probably affected their family relationship, and their children once they had children of their own. That is the way sexual abuse works. The invisible effects are dramatic and devastating and they affect MANY lives.

This typical theoretical abusive clergy member also had a large number of church members in whose lives he has been an authority figure and in whose lives he has spoken for God. Over 20 – 50 years how many lives is that? It doesn’t matter if this typical clergy member was a fantastic preacher. His sin has affected the lives of everyone under him, whether they are aware of it or not. That is the nature of authority.

Eventually, it would be interesting to see a study of the effects of clergy abuse in the lives of those in his church. I have seen some consistent patterns. These things do not always happen, but I’ve seen it frequently enough to believe it is a pattern that results from spiritual authority with secret sexual sin. When the head pastor has hidden sexual sin, his church can become a haven for other sexual abusers. For some reason other abusers just know they are safe there. And when the church organization covers for the leader, this stronghold will continue virtually forever, even if the head is eventually exposed some other way. I have seen Christian organizations whose head was a sexual abuser, where the head was eventually removed but the sin was not addressed properly, and the organization remains a cesspool of hidden abusers. This can and will go on as long as that organization exists and the pattern of denial or improper dealing with abuse continues.

This issue of spiritual authority is why I believe this must be addressed by denominational leadership church-wide. Right now, as a pattern in the church, sex abusers are protected by the pulpit. Is that a spiritual authority pattern we want to encourage by ignoring its significance? What does it mean for the church? Take a look at Israel. God will not be mocked forever. He clearly said in the New Testament that church which was grafted in can just as easily be removed. Why do we think we are immune from God’s harshest judgment when we tolerate and pander to abuse in the church?

So, when people are outraged at me for posting these news stories this is why I will continue. By posting these stories I hope the church will start to see these are not rare or isolated incidents. This is a systemic problem in the Christian church, across all denominational lines. When it happens in a church, those in that church tend to think it is an anomaly that has struck their individual congregation. That is why it matters to post all these stories in one place. This is not a weird unfortunate thing that happens here and there. It is an epidemic.

Jerry Franklin Johnson Oakdale CA Charged with Child Sex Abuse

My thanks to The Mercury News for this story.

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Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials have arrested a Riverbank man on suspicion of molesting children at an Oakdale church over the past 27 years.

Fifty-six-year-old Jerry Franklin Johnson is set to be arraigned on multiple felony sex charges Thursday afternoon. The charges are based on victims’ claims that the abuse started as early as 1981.

Authorities started looking into the case last month when a 7-year-old girl told Oakdale police Johnson molested her.

Sheriff’s deputies say all the victims were member of the Church of Christ, and some were Johnson’s relatives.

Since his arrest Tuesday, Johnson has been held in the Stanislaus County jail in lieu of $125,000 bail.