Edward E. Greene of Downers Grove, NC Guilty of Child Sexual Assault

My thanks to The Chicago Tribune for this story.

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A former Downers Grove church youth minister was sentenced to 4 years in prison Thursday for sexually assaulting an underage female parishioner and student.

Edward E. Greene, 38, of Asheboro, N.C., pleaded guilty Thursday in DuPage County Circuit Court to criminal sexual assault while in a position of trust of the girl, who was 13 to 17 years old when she attended Marquette Manor Baptist Church and its school in Downers Grove.

The abuse took place in 1997 and 1998, but no charges were filed until 2005, after the girl told a counselor about the incident. Greene faced up to 15 years in prison.

Similar charges are still pending against John Puga, 36, of Aurora, a former youth basketball coach at the school, charged with sexually assaulting an underage female church member.

The allegations became public in 2005, but church officials first learned of the accusations in 2003 when one of the girls told a counselor. The church reported the allegation to authorities.

The Downers Grove Police Department and the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office both investigated.

A third man, Frank Stima, 64, a former church deacon who now lives in Washington state, pleaded guilty in 2006 to criminal sexual abuse of an underage female and was sentenced to 2 years of probation.

The three men have not been involved with the church in recent years.

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Music Minister Tim Mann Charged with Molestation

My thanks to Church Executive for this story.

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By Robert Marus

BIRMINGHAM, AL– An Alabama music minister prominent in moderate Baptist life has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor while he was employed in an earlier position in Maryland.

Tim Mann, who has been minister of music at Shades Crest Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., since 2001, was released on $10,000 bond March 14 by a Jefferson County, Ala., judge, according to the Birmingham News. He was ordered to report to officials in Montgomery County, Md., by March 21.

Mann was arrested March 13 on a warrant from Maryland and sent to the county jail. Hoover is a Birmingham suburb.

Dennis Foust, the Shades Crest pastor, did not respond to an Associated Baptist Press reporter’s request for comment by press time for this story. But he told the Birmingham paper that the charges “involve alleged abusive actions of sexual misconduct in the 1990s which may have occurred while he served a congregation in Maryland.”

Mann was music and worship pastor at First Baptist Church of Gaithersburg, Md., from 1991-1998. He directed the music program at First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Fla., after his Maryland stint and before accepting the job in Alabama.

Foust told the paper that Mann passed an extensive background check when Shades Crest hired him.

He was not aware of any allegations of abuse against Mann in his current position, Foust said, “yet we are offering open conversation and counseling as needed to those who have been adversely affected by this alleged breach of trust by one of our staff members.”

Mann reportedly informed Shades Crest members of the Maryland charges March 8 and resigned from his church position. He also resigned from an adjunct position on the music faculty at nearby Samford University, one of the largest Baptist institutions of higher learning in the world.

Mann was reportedly highly regarded by his peers in music ministry. In 2004, he served as worship leader for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly, which was held in Birmingham. Shades Crest is one of the largest moderate Baptist congregations in Alabama.

Another Word about Derek Gillett Post

I just want to say, to all those who are being influenced by these present charges, first I apologize for my original comments, which I have edited.  I tend to view the issue from a global perspective, knowing that most allegations of clergy sex abuse are validated and that by far most actual events of clergy of sex abuse, particularly in Protestant churches, are never reported.  I’m passionate about this issue because I’ve seen the wreckage left by something that’s being ignored for the most part and seen many people turned away from God entirely by the experience.

But there’s another perspective too.  And that is the people who are in this particular community, for whom this is there own personal present story.  People are loyal to their pastor, which is entirely reasonable if there’s any doubt and charges are unsubstantiated.  My original comments were insensitive to this, and for that I sincerely apologize.  That would never be my intention and my hasty words were out of line.

I’m not writing this because of any specific person’s comments or private conversation.  But the comments received on my blog post and a review of what I wrote, looking at it from the perspective of those involved, made me realize I had overstepped.  Worse, I could cause harm or hurt to those involved – which I would never, ever want to do.  I write about this issue because I really care and making assumptive personal commentary on an unresolved and unproven allegation was way out of bounds. 

Derek Gillett Case

I just have to comment a minute on the case of Derek Gillett from Cornerstone Community Chapel in Alpharetta, GA.  A couple days ago a friend and I were driving by the school where that church meets and getting the URL since she is church shopping.  Tuesday while we were on the phone we pulled up the church website and discussed it. 

Wednesday I saw the news article about Derek Gillett.  I about fell out of my chair!  It is such a jolt when the things I know happen all the time, and which I address daily on my blog because I’m passionate about the issue, allegedly turn up on my doorstep.  This church, and Midway United Methodist, are just a couple miles from my house.  I know many people who attend Midway UMC and my children and I have been there for various functions.  As far as I know we’ve never crossed paths with Derek Gillett personally, so I certainly can make no personal judgments.

But when allegations of clergy sex abuse turn up in your own neighborhood it is a powerful reminder of just how much it matters to continue to address this issue.  People in my own town – my neighbors really – are having their lives torn apart right now because, again, a pastor has been accused of stooping to sexually assaulting children.  This is why it matters!  I hope this turns out to be one of those times when the allegations are proven false.  I’ll update the site when a verdict is reached.  I’d love to be able to do a lengthy story about how this one was wrong and how God used that in a positive way!

Paige Patterson On Domestic Violence

The Southern Baptist Outpost has an article with an excerpt from audio recordings and transcripts from a conference in 2000, in which Paige Patterson explains the counsel he gave one battered woman. Here’s the quote the Outpost posted:

I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”

And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis. And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.

And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.

Now, the gross – and offensive – errors in this quote seem obvious to me. But just in case anybody doesn’t see them let me point out some things.

First, there’s an appalling brassy arrogance just in the repetition of this story and the verbage of its telling. It is all about Patterson patting Patterson on the back. Look what he did! Isn’t he so wise and a literal miracle-worker! Applause, applause. This tone is one of the things that in many people, particularly victims of clergy abuse or of clergy who have failed to stand up for them in domestic abuse, generates a nearly visceral reaction of disgust and repugnance. It can become virtually impossible to sit through church services because of this one “little” thing.

Second, this was spoken by a man who is adamantly insisting he has done nothing wrong in his part of the handling of the breaking SBC scandal of clergy sex abuse. This text is being used in examining an entirely separate issue — what he has or has not done to “bring Southwestern Seminary in line with the beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention, as they relate to women’s roles.” This excerpt clearly shows Patterson’s attitude toward women and his view of their position in subjugation to men. A man who has this general attitude toward women is not going to view clergy sex abuse as a terribly relevant problem. At best it would deserve a slap on the wrist; tsk, tsk. Women (and children, since they are even “less” than women in a hierarchical system) are not as valuable as men, especially clergy who trump the average male on a power/importance scale. God’s work and God’s workmen are more important than “that little thing that happened to you back then.”

In this excerpt Patterson says, “…you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him…” He believes submission of the wife is paramount. According to Patterson, woman’s submission is the most important factor in marital success. If only she will submit enough, God will be able to change her husband. That is what he said.

Patterson is also expressing that the abusive husband is still deserving of elevation! The abuser is to be elevated regardless of whether he beats the life out of his wife. Shoot, compared to that, what’s a little clergy sex abuse? Elevate that man!

He sent a domestic violence victim back to her abuser, knowingly putting her in harm’s way. He felt it didn’t matter that she would be abused even worse than before; he expected that to happen. It was completely fine.

But it was all worth it because, since that women subjected herself to an abuser, prayed for him on her knees by the bed, and took another beating, God brought her husband to his knees in a dramatic, miraculous, life-changing conversion! Amen! Or not. Let me break it down.

While I don’t want to accuse Patterson of lying, this story has all the earmarks of one of those pastoral embellishments used to illustrate or emotionally manipulate the audience into “feeling” his point. Everyone wants miracles like that story. Since pastors believe God can and will do things like that, they can get a little generous with their “true” stories.

The fact is, this type of miraculous transformation does not happen. There’s a reason. The problem with an abuser is not just a matter of getting “saved.” There are deep-rooted issues behind and underneath the behavior. While accepting Christ might motivate a man to find out why he is making the choices he is and might open his eyes to see the value of his wife, it’s going to take a lot more than a single spiritual experience to transform an abuser. Not maybe; definitely.

Another problem is that this story demonstrates a commonly taught mistaken belief that God will force an abuser to change his behavior because you prayed about it (see my article God Answers Prayer in Abusive Marriages for more on this subject). If Patterson told this woman to do this, he was operating on erroneous theology and should be held accountable for the physical abuse she received. This is just as wrong as letting clergy sex abusers slide, and comes from the same root attitudes and beliefs. This is one example of why I feel the issues of clergy sex abuse and clergy overlooking domestic violence are fruit of the same tree. And in using this supposed event as a sermon illustration he is perpetuating a dangerous bit of wrong theology on his audience and on anyone they, in turn, encourage to do the same thing. It is not an overstatement to say someone could get killed trying to be obedient to “God” per Patterson, et.al.

In telling this story, Patterson is also perpetuating his horrific acceptance of domestic violence and subjugation of women to his audience, and through them, to how many others? This man is a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is in a position of authority. People look up to him and follow his example. This is one seriously bad example to follow.

Now, I’m going to give Patterson one out. The ideas and theology he verbalized in this excerpt are not an expression of his own that he came up with single-handedly. I have heard this type of teaching from many preachers for many years, in a variety of churches and denominations. He is just one voice of many harmfully negligent voices speaking about the subject of abuse in the pulpit and in pastoral counseling. That doesn’t mean we can judge every preacher as being the same. And certainly, a large subset of preachers are not to be confused with God Himself. Again I will reiterate – God is not the problem. What these preachers are teaching is not even remotely what God and the Word teach. It has to be exposed and highlighted if it is ever going to stop.

Attitudes of Church Leaders Toward Clergy Sex Abuse

I just found this old news article which quotes Jerry Falwell regarding the clergy sex abuse scandal at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL.  I’m not attempting to target Falwell himself, especially considering he’s gone on to his eternal reward.  The reason I’m pointing this out is because it clearly states the attitude which is common among the upper echelon of church leadership.  This is why nothing is being done in Protestant churches to address clergy sex abuse – leaders don’t think it matters. They will say they think it matters, because to actually say it doesn’t matter would make them look horrible. Bad PR. But in statements like this, to say nothing of the general inaction, church leaders accidentally make it completely clear where their values really lie.

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You can read the entire article here, dated Oct. 2006.

Jerry Falwell called high-profile allegations that a former pastor of a prominent independent Baptist church molested and raped numerous children over the course of decades a “bump in the road.”

“When you hit a bump in the road–the pastor has mentioned six months here of challenges–forget the bump in the road. That’s all it is. You’ve got to move on,” Falwell said in a keynote address of a three-day meeting of the Southwide Baptist Fellowship at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

Robert Gray, the former 30-year pastor who led the church out of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1960s, was arrested in May. He is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 27 on two counts of capital sexual battery, because two of his accusers say he molested them when they were 6 years old.

Twenty-two people, including one man, have come forward since May to accuse Gray of abusing them. The other allegations involve children older than 12, meaning they cannot be prosecuted due to a statute of limitations…

…a column last week in EthicsDaily.com by Christa Brown, founder of Voice to Stop Baptist Predators, and coordinator of SNAP-Baptist, prompted long discussions at an unofficial Web forum on BaptistLife.com.

Brown criticized Falwell’s dismissive choice of words. “When 22 people report having been sexually abused as kids by a church’s founding pastor, it cannot rightly be minimized as a mere ‘bump in the road,'” she said.

She said what Falwell should be sermonizing on is, “Why did no one in the church put up a roadblock and stop this man?”

A Thought about Protestant Clergy Sex Abuse

The issue of clergy sex abuse is obviously one that is on my “hot” list.  I watch news articles and blogs on the issue of clergy sex abuse constantly.  I’ve noticed something I think is interesting.  The issue of clergy sex abuse really became public in the 80’s, specifically within the Catholic Church.  Here it is nearly 30 years later and the issue is just now reaching full steam, with people becoming comfortable telling about their own abuse and the church accepting responsibility and acting accordingly.

It makes me wonder how far behind Protestant churches are on this issue.  I do not believe clergy sex abuse is more prevalent in Catholic churches than it is in Protestant churches.  Protestant churches are just still in denial about the problem.  We have barely even started to address it.  It took 30 years for the Catholic church to go from beginning to full-blown exposure and implementation of resolutions.  Are Protestant churches still 30 years away from that point?  That’s a discouraging thought.  I hope the overall societal awareness helps bring this issue to the forefront faster in Protestant churches.   The lives of individuals and the life of the church as a whole are suspended – waiting for some resolution.