Former church camp leader Thomas Duncan pleads guilty to sexual abuse charge

My thanks to herald-dispatch.com for this article.

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — A former Appalachian Bible College youth camp leader has pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse by a custodian.

Sixty-one-year-old Thomas Duncan was indicted in 2004 on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of sexual abuse by a custodian. The allegations involved the inappropriate touching of girls between the ages of 8 and 12 while Duncan was working with ABC’s Alpine Bible Camp.

He was fired after college officials were made aware of the allegations.

Duncan failed to appear at his 2006 trial and eluded authorities for more than a year before being arrested during a Mississippi traffic stop.

Duncan entered his plea last week in Raleigh County Circuit Court. He faces 10 to 20 years in prison when sentenced on April 28.

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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.

A Telling Error by Huckabee

A day after canceling a Sunday-night sermon at a north Florida Baptist church facing pending lawsuits that allege molestation and cover-up, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee decided instead to address the congregation live via telephone…

This quote is from a more lengthy article at ethicsdaily.com

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor and past president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, was petitioned by abuse survivors to avoid speaking at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. The on-going scandal there due to clergy sexual abuse and blatant, continual cover-up by other church leaders who are still in authority at the church while facing legal charges, has made significant public headlines.

In making an appearance at Trinity, even though it was only via telephone rather than by satellite puts Huckabee’s stamp of approval on the leadership of this church. He is saying, by his appearance in spite of very visible clergy abuse and misconduct issues, these are his cronies, his associates, and that their behavior is of less importance than his political career.

If this church leadership’s actions in supressing known, on-going sexual abuse by their now-deceased pastor are of less importance than Huckabee’s political career is that the kind of man anyone, except those who are likeminded, wants in the White House? Even someone naive enough not to grasp that obvious cause-effect connection isn’t saavy enough for one of the most powerful political seats in the country.

In fact, this situation raises significant questions in my mind about who is pulling the strings behind Huckabee. Since he previously decided not to make an appearance when petitioned by abuse survivors, it makes me wonder if he was told by the SBC powers that be he should do it anyway. Who wants the SBC pulling the President’s strings?

If there were the remotest chance of me voting for Huckabee, which there definitely isn’t, this incident would cure me of that delusion.

“He Taught Me How to Fly” – How Abuse Affects a Child, Part 2

I’ll never forget how sick I felt the first time I heard my oldest son, J, verbalize his memories of his early childhood.  I had wondered what he remembered and hoped he didn’t remember the specifics.  But when he was a teenager he finally told someone what he remembered.  He was speaking to someone else, I can’t remember who now, and I was listening.  I had never spoken to him about the details because I didn’t want to color his memories, just in case he didn’t remember. 

This is what he said:

I remember being kicked into the closet.

I remember being slammed against the walls.

I remember running down the hall to get away from him and pushing the crib behind the door so he couldn’t get into the bedroom to get me because I was so afraid.

My dad taught me how to fly [spoken with heavy sarcasm].  He threw me across the room when he was angry.

While most of these could have happened at almost any age, the one about the crib occurred before he was 4 years old. 

It was also revealing, and just as heart-breaking, what he didn’t bother to mention. He never mentioned the slaps (open-handed, full-strength strikes to any body part) and punches, or being hit with whatever object was closest to his father’s hand at the time. These went on all his life, though after he was reported to DFCS “Gary” stopped hitting first. Instead he would provoke J until J flinched first. Then Gary could justify bringing out the fists in the name of “defending his manhood.” (So for the last 4 years we were together I couldn’t ever say Gary initiated physical violence – thus he and everyone else, including the judge in our divorce, thought he was a changed man.) J also never mentioned all the times his dad called him “demon child” or some version of that in his frequent rages. These things were so “normal” they didn’t even rate mention.

As I’m writing this my insides are trying to climb out of my skin. Why, why, why would no one ever believe me? Why was the answer always “submit more,” “have faith,” “remain faithful,” etc.? None of those answers even touched the question, “What about the children?”  Both of the first two times I left him it was about his abuse of the children.  When I asked for help I was betrayed, denied and disbelieved. When I left Gary he convinced everyone I was lying or it was my fault. And because those voices were so loud and so unanimous I kept believing them.

 I was afraid of the authorities because the fundamentalist system in which I was raised painted the government, and especially family and children’s services, as evil people who couldn’t wait to take away the children of Christians, abuse them and turn them against their faith. When Gary was finally reported to the authorities I trusted them. The church had failed me; the authorities were supposed to protect us and they were supposed to be able to recognize abuse.

But Gary convinced the DFCS case worker I was teaching J to disrespect him and he was only responding to J’s taunts and rebellious mouth. Everytime I talked to her she threatened to take the kids away from both of us because Gary was violent and I was teaching the children to disrespect him. She scared me to death.

Later our Christian counselor (the one who didn’t believe me and didn’t approve of our separation) also said my actions were teaching our children disrespect.

The accusation of disrespect came because every time Gary became angry I got between him and the kids. I tried to reason with him. In the moment I had two choices. Walk away and let him mistreat the kids or get in the middle and try to reason with him and get him to stop. By necessity, these arguments (because that was always what they became) happened in front of the kids. There was no opportunity to take them out of the room – Gary wouldn’t cooperate with that. But they did serve the purpose of turning his anger onto me and off the kids. That action on my part was “disrespect.” And yes, I was angry in those times. But I never raged and I never got physical. I never screamed and I never used profanity – which was his modus operandi. (To be absolutely honest, I did scream at him twice while I was on chemo – and immediately apologized and took myself out of the room. It was because my meds were out of balance and getting them balanced fixed the problem.)

Two voices both said I was teaching the boys disrespect of their father — I believed them both. I apologized to the boys. And I tried to be even more reasonable. I learned to never engage in anger; to remain calm and reasonable. I still got in the middle because I couldn’t just walk away and let him treat the kids that way. And every time J mouthed off to his dad I also talked to him about his disrespect and his responsibility to do what was right no matter the provocation.  These conversations took place in private.  Gary frequently accused me to “buddying up” with J in these conversations and taking sides with J against him, which was not true at all, but no one believed me. 

Of course, the fact that I didn’t get angry back at him only made him angrier. Previously, when I did get angry, he excused his rage saying it resulted from my anger. When I didn’t get angry anymore he said I was treating him like a child (disrespect again) and it excused his rage. Somehow if I said anything, his rage was my fault. He could get angry about anything and was both entitled and excused; I was not allowed to ever be angry about anything – not his lies, not when he put us in danger with his choices, not when he abused our children.

At that point, J had never initiated physical violence toward his father and didn’t for another couple years after that. Not until he was physically larger than his father. Let me ask the question no one else seemed to be able to see — why was it OK for Gary to punch his son in the abdomen hard enough to leave marks I could still see a couple hours later, no matter what came out of his mouth? On the other hand, why was Gary excused for everything that came out of his mouth because we “provoked” him – by being too loud, or interrupting his TV show (a common offense that resulted in physically violent rage), by doing whatever he found annoying at the time? Why, why, why????

A True Story – Abuse in a Christian Home

 I have posted another article by Marcia, a Christian counselor in my Articles section, under Abuse in the Christian Home.  I have excerpted only a little bit to give you a flavor of the whole…

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…The first thing I noticed about her was that she was a tiny little thing. The next thing I noticed was that she was very young. Perhaps in her late twenties, but with a look of youthful innocence…

She was silent for a moment. Looking down at an invisible object somewhere on the floor, she tightly gripped her small clutch purse with both hands on its corners, centered it smoothly on her lap, and in a soft, almost breathless voice, exhaled, “I killed my husband…”

You can read the whole post here.

More About Abuse in Christian Marriages

I have added an article to my Articles section, written by Marcia, out of her experience as a Christian counselor. I’ve only excerpted a small “teaser” so follow the link to read the whole piece.

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…The issue that prompted this writing is that once again, I am observing and being asked to pray regarding the divorce proceedings of a couple going to court…once again…today. It is a situation where a lovely and faithful wife of around 20 years is being legally threatened and browbeaten by a husband who has verbally, psychologically and somewhat physically abused her for their whole married life. He is pompous and pious outwardly, and has drug her to several church counselors who admonished HER to be a submissive wife, and in essence, told her she had no legitimate right, in God’s eyes, to separate from him. They have four teenage children, two of which are severely handicapped. He remains in the family home; she and the children were the ones who eventually found another place to live. The children are afraid of being with him. Now he is trying to get her declared an unfit mother, and is placing demands that would rob her of many things that are rightfully hers, including custodial care. Hopefully the court will have wisdom and make right decisions. But the most heartbreaking fact to me, is that she has been counseled to remain in this destructive situation for many years, and felt that God would not approve of her doing otherwise…

The full article is here. Check it out!