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“exCLCer’s” Story

Yes, we know.  C.J. Mahaney has temporarily stepped down for a paid “season of reflection” (whatever that means) while an “independent” panel is coming in to spend hundreds of hours looking through Brent Detwiler’s documents and examining everything in order to determine whether or not C.J. actually did anything wrong.

Sovereign Grace Ministries churches across the country are holding family meetings where pastors are now shedding tears and admitting that they made mistakes.

Some SGM churches have even promised new polity.  Apparently, Covenant Life Church is contemplating allowing ordinary members to nominate men for consideration as candidates for some sort of “ad hoc committee” that will assist pastors with reviewing the process of addressing grievances, pastoral financial compensation, and situations of church discipline.  For the first time ever, ordinary SGM members might actually be permitted to have a voice in the decisions made by their pastors.

All of these things are good developments.

But are they enough?

Or is it a case of “too little, too late?”

Are confessions that happen only after irrefutable proof is posted online real confessions?  Or are they merely begrudging acknowledgements, wrung out only because leaders have been presented with no other choice, if they want to have any hope at all of preserving their livelihoods?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I know that many present-day SGM members are feeling very hopeful that things within their church organization are changing.  I pray that to be the case.

In the meantime, though, we continue to hear stories from former members.  Here is one – from someone posting under the handle of “exCLCer” – which landed in the comments of the previous post:

“exCLCer’s” Story

My mother got involved with CLC (Tag,GOB,PDI,whatever) beginning with a festival called Jesus’76, got pregnant by one of the church members, and was advised to marry him. She did. So I along with my siblings were all in this church by default.

We all attended the school CLS from what may have been the first year it opened in the lower level of the frost center in Aspen Hill. As a child, not knowing any different, I didn’t think it odd that field trips were actually “Right to Life Picketing” sessions, or that the children were routinely spanked by the principal for any and every little thing — perceived attitude, fidgeting in class, running in the hall, etc. I didn’t think at the time, it was odd to have required reading like the “Pilgrims Progress” in second grade, with issues like despondence, suicide, and legality, with atheists and giants who are out to abduct and murder pilgrims (christians) and then being instructed on the severe burden of sin being so great that our life’s purpose was to carry that despondent burden on a path of deliverance. I didnt know kids in other schools were reading “The prince and the pauper”.

I didnt really understand why the library in the school was so small, and most of the books had several pages stapled together, and why when I checked a book out and pulled the staples out of those pages I was a sinner and severely punished at the school when they saw the book came back un-stapled.

And I certainly didn’t understand the true cost of attending this school — how parents had to be members in good standing, and tuition depended on their level of involvement with the church (“oh, you’re short on tuition this month? Well you can clean the pastors house, or babysit for one of them— did you tithe this month? Have you missed any homegroup meetings this month?).

I thought it was normal that we couldn’t listen to the radio – it was secular and an outside influence from sinners trying to D**n us to hell along with them – and that TV was the same. It was a childhood wary and afraid of anything outside of the church since it surely meant hell fire and D**nation.

I often mused to myself how sneaky and smart all these outsiders must be because they put on SUCH a convincing show of being really good nice people – but they must be wicked since the church says so. I remember asking my teacher once “Will Catholics go to hell too?” She said they would. I asked her then why didn’t we tell them that when we shared a bus ride with their kids to the last rally. I was sent to the office for punishment. Apparently, asking questions is a sin, and god wants the church to beat the sin out of us.

Fast forward through more than 10 years of this indoctrination, sin picking, and being limited to the CLC circle in school, church, homegroup, youth group,…. (hell, even vacation was to these church sponsored retreats).The secular world was something to be afraid of.

My mother was concerned when her 11 year old daughter had been “acting out”, having a “bad attitude” towards her husband, and the church had advised my mother to admonish her and demand she respect him as godly children should. When she found out a few years later that actually he had been sexually abusing her since age 11, she immediately called the pastors (John Loftness and Gary Riccucci). They handled this situation in the worst ways possible.

I could detail a hundred things they did next which only made the situation worse by blaming the victims, covering up the crime, and supporting the pedophile financially and legally. They even sent my mother to her care group leader for counseling who told her to god wanted her to send her daughter away so that this man could stay in the house as the head of the household.
Despite all of their pleadings my mother insisted on justice and pressed charges. They had claimed they were looking for counseling for my mother and her child,  when really they were biding time, retaining legal counsel for this man, to allow him to turn himself in as a show of repentance. They pressured her to ask the court for leniency for this man who had abused her child. They testified as character witnesses for him in court. He had repented and been forgiven, just like that. We were all warned not to tell anyone in the church, even though the abuser was still attending — it would be gossip.

But my mother was not submissive enough and since she refused to ask the court to not send this tithing man to jail, we were all put out of the church, out of the school, and the pastors told my mother, our “poverty was self induced” because she had not been submissive to their guidance. My mother pleaded with the church for help, but they only further demonized her.

Having been a homemaker and mother for years in the church approved way, she had little means of providing for her 9 children. She went and got a minimum wage job and worked until it almost killed her. Our electricity was cut off, our house was in foreclosure, we were pretty much starving, and she came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. Having offered no help so far, the same pastors showed up to let her know they would make sure all of us children were taken care of while she was in the hospital.

We ended up all split apart, turned over to the state child welfare division, and spent the next several years separated in foster homes, institutions and shelters. But the pastors care and concern only ever was for the molester — they arranged for the kids to “visit their father”, and arranged for my sister, the victim, to have to sit down in a meeting to accept his apology, so he could be forgiven and resume membership in the church.
There’s a long list of decisions they made that negatively affected and re-victimized my family. Once I got older, I started sending a letter to them both, every year, listing the things they had done, telling them I wanted to be a constant reminder of their actions. They NEVER once responded or acknowledged these letters (and later emails). I would drive by their building (locals call the MALL OF JESUS laughingly) and spit out the window at it. Years went by and I continued to send the letters, even when I knew they would never respond.

One day last year I ran into someone I had gone to school at CLS with. He asked about the family and I told him what had actually happened. He asked if he could go to the pastors to question them about it, and I of course said yes. He did just that, and the initial response much later TO HIM from Gary was:

“Please forgive my long overdue response.

Thank you for making me aware of your conversation… and for your obvious heart for the care of anyone drifting from fellowship with Christ…for whatever reason.

Yes, John and I had primary pastoral responsibility for the family during what was certainly a most tragic, grieving and painful experience.

The sin committed and subsequent fragmentation of their family was one of the saddest experiences of our ministry.  Because of the sin and alienation there was a need for separation, so John provided care for the mother and children while I walked the father through the necessary legal process in taking responsibility for his actions.

As she got older, no doubt much discussion took place between her and her Mom about that very difficult season.  I would be glad to talk personally to you, to answer any questions and to explain the steps we took and why, as this tragedy unfolded.”

Maybe I’m pessimistic, but it sounded like an offer to take the opportunity to justify and rewrite history from an advantageous viewpoint. I have no reason to suspect any different. If they felt they had done something wrong, surely they would have responded to MY letters over the years. I wrote an excruciatingly long email and sent it to both John and Gary suggesting an apology would at least help thier reputations since they cared so much about that. After this church member again followed up about it with them, and in the midst of all this CJ stepping down chaos, they finally responded to me. Gary, in part, wrote:

“It appears that, at least in some of your comments, there may be some misunderstanding of what we did and why.  Our hope is that a conversation and some clarification about the past may be a means of God’s comfort and grace to you for the future.Please contact John or me if you feel that a conversation might be helpful.”

John, in part, wrote:

“Our care (or lack of care as the case may be) for your family during those years was one of the most challenging tasks that we have encountered as pastors in more than 30 years.  That is not to excuse any failures on our part, but to let you know that, in the light of today and what we have learned since then, and especially in light of getting your perspective, we would see deficiencies in our care.  There are gaps that we may be able to fill in and things we remember that may broaden your understanding, but please don’t take that as making any defense or let it take away from the deep sadness we feel for your experiences in the aftermath of Dave’s sin against your sister and mother, and beyond that, to your entire family.”

Both replies ended with an offer to meet and discuss everything. I have really struggled with wanting to believe they would have the decency and integrity to actually acknowledge and admit to their wrongs, apologize,  and leave it at that if we met. But the words that keep jumping out at me are:  “misunderstanding” and “broaden your understanding” and “gaps we may be able to fill in” and “sadness we feel for your experience” (as opposed to sadness we feel for our actions). I don’t trust them. I also feel like now as an adult I have a CHOICE I didn’t have as a child. I can choose to not sit and hear a whole cockamamie roundabout justification with a good dose of biblical rhetoric thrown in, especially since I feel like that would only serve to royally piss me off. And since I’m not a christian, I am not bound by by doctrine to react with humility or reverence. And, by the way, I know they read these blogs, and I don’t care if they know its me on here, and I don’t care if that offends them. I realized that my intention all along was to attempt to have them acknowledge what they did, hoping that if they actually SEE it, I mean really GET IT, it wont happen to anyone else. My entire life was negatively affected for years, by their decisions, in ways that would make you cringe to know,and if they don’t “get it” then maybe others will. So I will decide whether to have this meeting or whatever, but if I do, and if they are reading this, just know that I will NOT sit through a justification session. I’m not looking for the truth — I already have it — I was there – I have all the documents to prove it — I KNOW. I just feel like they are sorry it came out, sorry it was told, not sorry they did what they did. I dont know if their apology is forthcoming in a meeting, or if it will be more like damage control — like “sorry you were hurt, not shut up about it already”. I guess theres only one way to find out.

367 comments to “exCLCer’s” Story

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  1. BrokenHearted
    August 1st, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I agree with you Matt, but I don’t think anyone is “beyond saving”. I believe that one can truly repent of sin and be saved. :)

  2. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    notgoingbackeither,

    I just read your post up at 324. You don’t owe me an apology in the least. This stuff is all so freaking overwhelming and trying to process it can be HARD. exCLCer (better person than I will ever be) really challenged me by her grace and love and not wanting to be a hypocrite. (Can you please stop that, exCLCer, you’re making me feel like being a better person and when I am this ticked off at jerks, I don’t WANT to be a better person.) Where was I? Yes, exCLCer really reminded me today of how hard it is to begin to wade through the SGM/authoritarian church stuff. It is hard to wrap our minds around such insanity. So no worries.

  3. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Phoenix, thank you, thank you, thank you for protecting children by letting the truth come to light!

    Just imagine staying in that home, having your child molested and then later on finding out that people KNEW that there was the potential for that to happen and DIDN’T TELL YOU?! That would be one of the worst evils of all. Thank you for doing what is right.

  4. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Brokenhearted said, “but painful things, but because we are talking about unnecessary things.”

    Brokenhearted, maybe I am misunderstanding what you wrote and if I am, please let me know. How is it NOT necessary to warn others about sexual predators? My father became a sexual predator as an elderly man. (He was in the third of the three categories of predators- those who never felt any urge or desire, then as an elderly man experience some trauma and they act out in this manner. Small percentage of predators are like this.) Anyway, even Dad went out of his way to let people know what he did so that all children would be safe. We annoucned what he did at large church meetings, in church bulletins, publically, newspapers, etc. WHY would anyone hide such a thing from any community or the public???? That is only a harm to potential victims. These things need to be shouted from the housetops. (Not like it was fun for me OR for my kids since we lived a mile from my parents and sure enough, first day my daughter went back to school, kids knew. But we saw and still see it is OUR DUTY to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

    I am confused how there can be any other option.

  5. Matt
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    “I agree with you Matt, but I don’t think anyone is “beyond saving”. I believe that one can truly repent of sin and be saved”

    Where did I say that? I was making a point about professing believers willfully practicing sin. I never said there is not hope for them. Look at me as exhibit 1. :o)

  6. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Brokenhearted also said, “FYI – I have never talked to “mom” about any of this, I havent even seen her in 10 years.”

    May I make a suggestion? Call Mom. Go be her friend, if even one who drops into her life every ten years and loves on her. This woman NEEDS love. Not gossip, but real, sit have coffee, put your arm around you and be your friend friend. Please pray about this. Will it take an email if you’ve lived away? Go for it. Can you even begin to imagine what she si going through? I can’t.

    and by the way, as a family member of a pedophile, it actually doesn’t harm us if you discuss it. (We may not love it all the time.) But if someone came up to me with love and wanted to discuss it, it may be healthy for me. Heck, that happens sometimes. Again, not fun, but oftentimes, healthy. You may be the one to reach her and help her to get the professional help she may need. (Not that anyone should approach her with a goal besides simple human compassion.)

    Please think about it. She has got to be having a rough go of it and if the stories I have heard about how SGM handles these things, it sounds as if they would want her to bury her own pain as much as the next person which would be just about the most unhealthy thing for her.

  7. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Kmack said, “All I’m saying is why do we keep on speaking against the “mom” who did not know what was going on and didn’t cause it”

    Kmack, maybe I missed it, but where was Mom even once spoken against? I missed it. Would you please point it out to me?

  8. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Kmack also said, “And don’t forget the younger siblings who still live at home with “mom.” As far as I can tell, they are not in any danger living there.”

    Kmack, in three years on this board I have never physically reacted to a statement like I did to the one right above.

    Are you knowledgable about the danger that children who live with child molester’s are in? I had no idea there were still children in that house. Where ever a child molester is, children are in danger. (So, too, are the child molesters, most of whom don’t want to be doing what they do.) Even if you didn’t care for the children (I don’t mean you don’t care for kids, I just mean even if one doesn’t care for the kids, then at least care for the pedophile and keep them far from ANY children, EVER.) The recidivism rate is…tragic.

  9. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    “Also, why is it your job to tell the whole world about this mom’s background – even if everything you say is true? If you weren’t throwing stones, then what exactly were you doing?”

    Saving lives- SAVING LIVES- that is what Phoenix was doing!

  10. sgmNation
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    @Stunned – that was the point of kmack and my appeal. Please do not reveal her and her family’s identity even by description since her family (not the perp but rest of family) has also suffered much as victims themselves. Sadly, the conversation turned more toward wanting to make a point about comparing gossiping w sex abuse which neither of us were making. I’ll leave it at that – if you all do not think kindness toward them is warranted then my presiding the issue will do no good. I believe Phoenix’s post could have spoken to issue without identifying other suffering victims – it wasn’t kind and somewhat of a sad irony to harm other past victims, accentuating their pain on the way to protecting future victims.

    May the mercy of God fall on us all

  11. V of JC
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    While reading this post and the varying level of responses, I have realized this one thing. At this moment, there are a whole lotta people being driven out with the end of a whip. I have to ask myself, what response would Jesus have given in the tabernacle as these acts were being perpitrated against this family? Would He have loved the perp? Would He have loved the men covering this up? Would He have driven this family from the tabernacle in shame and disgrace? Would he have quietly taken them to the back room and put them out the back door where no one would know they had not been there? Would He then embrace the perp and speak words of love and encouragement? Would he pat the leaders on the back and thank them for the favor they showed this one “repentant” sinner? Would he?

    No. The answer of course is no. Before you sit for a single moment and defend the actions of these men, both perp to children and perps to Faith, you must put yourself in the position of these children. You must put yourself in the position of this family. The excuses that I have read, the words of sorrow for not knowing, the seeming tears that really do nothing but wash away the guilt in the minds of those who were too busy thinking of their reputations and standings in these pits called churches, do little to change anything.

    I was with SGM for 5 years. For each and every one of those 5 years I watched this local church destroy lives. Neither me nor my husband stood idlely by. We said something, we said it loud, and we said it to a lot of people. But the church we were attending was so desperate for members that they put up with us. Until, that is, they got their precious building. We went through the foundation series 4 times!! We were denied each and every time. Then we were only put on the roster because I have a big enough mouth to tell people that I wasn’t welcome to serve with the children because of our lack of membership. Do you want to know why we were not allowed to be members for so long? Because my husband was rebellious and he didn’t submit to the authority of the leaders. I have never been more grateful for anything in my life!!!

    When you are crowned with the glory of membership it is customary to be ushered up to the front and greeted with applause. We were actually asked not to come. We were told it would not look good to become members without completing the course. After the church got it’s precious building, we were a short lived commodity. Within a few months we were “advised” that this church was not a good fit for us. We watched as other friends were kicked out on their grass and not given the opportunity to challenge these monsters in front of the congregation. I think these pastors (and I use that term with disdain) never put us in that situation because they were afraid of my husband. He would not sit by and let them do this without making it very clear why. When our dear friends were removed we told anyone who would listen.

    We finally had to move for work and from that point on we have never darkened the door of any institutional religious organization. Our family serves without being asked and loves without bounds. Why we were never ostracized as so many, I cannot explain. I believe it was to say that I know. I know who you are, you unloved and uncared for child. I know what it is like to not be good enough to be genuinely considered as a person of value. I know what it is to be chastised for bringing fuel to the home of a woman in need (because we were preventing the punishment of the Lord). I know what it is to loose your home while a church builds a building. I have watched it all. Some of it happened to us. The stealing of a child from it’s mother to go to a more preffered member in another state. Even if the mother wanted the child. Who cares if she was a teenager!

    Shame on you if you choose to stay with SGM. How dare you steal the dignity of your children so you can be accepted in your stupid subdivision. Shame on you for not calling a spade a spade because you won’t keep your stepford friends. God doesn’t only punish the wicked. He also punished those who stood by and watched. If you are not going to say anything, if you refuse to do the right thing because you might soil your precious Sunday clothes, you will live a life of regret. I am glad that my husband had the nerve to do what is right, even when he was blasted for doing so. ExCLCer’s story is so reticent of many I personally know of, her response is exactly the one I have witnessed time after time. It has been almost 10 years since we left and I still know so many sucked into this life. Shame on you for asking questions and knowing that you are unloved and that your children are being damaged, shame on you for staying. What will it take for you to leave? Must this happen to you, too? Are you willing to watch your child try to commit suicide because she is depressed? Are you willing to watch your daughter become pregnant because she feels so unloved? Are you willing to neglect what you know to be right because some idiot in a cheap suit on a high stage tells you to?

    I have no sympathy for anyone who stays. You have been warned. There will be no repentance by this Brood of Vipers. What you are witnessing right now is the need for damage control. When all this blows over, and it will, it WILL go back to the way it was. If you stay because you think it will change, you are a fool who is wise in your own eyes. These people are the blemish on humanity’s rear and I for one want no part of it.

  12. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    sgmNation, I am not trying to be stupid (as if I needed to try) but I missed where Phoenix was hurting past victims. Would you mind explaining that to me? (I swear I am not meaning to be obstinant. I really am not seeing what you mean. Actually, could you please also tell me which you were referencing in your 1st sentence. Again, I am probably slow tonight.)

  13. sgmNation
    August 1st, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    @Stunned – I know you’re sincere so it must be that i and kmack are doing poor job communicating. Here’s the gist of concern – the perp doesn’t attend church there anymore but his family still does. They through various experiences have themselves been victims literally. I don’t want to replay details that will further their identity since not everyone in the church community knows all their suffering. They have been trusting God and living productive, Christian lives

    I was simply asking Phoenix if she would understand that by describing the family w such details, she is causing hurt to them – without explicitly naming them, she is nonetheless identifying them and she is exposing info about their past as victims that is hurtful to them. I was simply asking her to exercise kindness by withdrawing her comment. #10. Since I was unsuccessful in convincing her of that, I don’t want to further this discussion anymore because it will only deepen the pain for the family.

  14. Blue Sky
    August 1st, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    sgmNation,

    You said the ‘perp doesn’t attend church there anymore’ but does he still live there with ‘mom’? That was the concern that I believe Phoenix and others were trying to warn against.

  15. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    sgmnation, I appreciate you being patient with me. I still don’t understand. Are you saying that church people knowing that there are several sexual predators in Mom’s family will somehow harm her and her other children? If so, as a family member of a pedophile, I have to ask you why you would believe such a thing? Maybe I am misunderstanding still. I swear, I know I am sounding obstinant as I assume most people are getting it but I am not trying to be. I am also not trying to find out who Mom and her family are. No desire to know that from where I am. What I am trying to figure out is your line of logic. Do you believe that people knowing there are pedophiles in a family will harm the family somehow? If so, how specifically? Do you believe her church will shun them?

  16. Stunned
    August 1st, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Actually Blue Sky, I think the concern is not only “boy” but other sexual predators that have had access in to that home.

  17. sgmNation
    August 1st, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    @bluesky – no, perp does not live w mother – now an independent adult outside of home
    @stunned – not trying to be rude but this post will be my last on this because I do not want to further the pain for family. The issue isn’t the members of family will be further harmed physically but that this is publicly embarrasing. Allso some of what phoenix shared was conjecture as well as mentioning situations that bring shame on a family trying to move beyond their own suffering. Sorry if this is still not clear but I will not be furthering this discussion out of respect for family. My apologies for not being able to better articulate my point of view

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