“SGMnot’s” Response

August 16, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Kris says:  What follows is “SGMnot’s” response to GS’s message from last week.

To: GS and all the pastors at Covenant Life Church

Greg, I want to thank you for taking the step to be open and post on this public blog in relation to the past mishandled sex abuse cases discussed here. You have taken a great step to reach out to the hurt, angry, and disenfranchised people who have been in the past “discarded” by various SGM churches, as well as, those who patently disagree with various aspects of SGM’s doctrine and practices. My husband, daughter and I have discussed this entire situation at length and have decided not to call you in relation to the tragedy that occurred in our family. We are no longer CLC members and we wish to move on with our lives, serving God elsewhere. This is particularly true for our daughter. However, I did want to write a response to you openly on SGMsurvivors.

Your blog post appears, on first reading, an apology of sorts, and yet it is not. A number of commenters gave you a huge benefit of the doubt on that. I had not made it known publically before that John Loftness and Gary Ricucci were the pastors involved in our sex abuse case, but you as a pastoral staff most assuredly knew that. [These were the same pastors who 6 years earlier had been involved in exCLCer’s case] Both of these men have since then been promoted within SGM ranks. JL is a Senior Pastor and on the SGM Board and GR is a “SGM Pastor”. To send an email from yourself and “on behalf of the pastors of Covenant Life Church,” while it may be heartfelt, gave the false impression that there had been some sort of conviction of wrong doing by the pastors involved in these sex abuse cases. Nowhere in this email is an actual apology of the errors in judgment by these pastors.

You desire to talk to us, saying, “I want to make sure our pastoral team learns all we can from your experience so that we can better serve other families in the future,” and I’m glad that you do, however, I am sure that you can read between the lines of the various sex abuse stories and the resulting blog comments from hundreds of people and figure it out. You don’t need to talk to us. I would encourage you, though, to discuss an appropriate policy for handling sex abuse cases with professionals that deal specifically with sex abuse victims.

I agree with Kris’s comment #104 on 8/12:

“I would also encourage Mr. Somerville to step outside his SGM box and look at the larger picture. As he thinks about exCLCer’s and SGMnot’s stories, he needs to realize that the harsh and hard-hearted responses of the pastors involved in those situations have much broader root causes. He needs to understand that there is a much MUCH bigger problem beneath the surface than just two (or a half-dozen or however many) badly handled cases of sexual abuse….while I believe that yes, it is important for SGM/CLC pastors to reach out to all victims of specific situations, I actually think it is just as important for these pastors to examine the trends. Examine the root causes. Examine what it is about what their organization has trained them to believe what enabled these horrific things to happen in the first place.”

I believe many of the critical bloggers and commenters in the blogosphere have clearly communicated what these root causes are and there is much to be learned from critics.

Instead of calling you privately, I would like to ask some pointed questions publically, that summarize what I believe are the crux of the pastoral mishandling of our cases. And I would like to encourage you, or better yet JL and GR, to post responses on this blog. I believe that this will help in the healing process of all those hurt and abused in the midst of these sex abuse cases:

  1. What were the reasons that CLC pastors felt they had the authority and right to interject themselves into the legal system, as it dealt with the crime of child sex abuse, and to try to negate or minimize the appropriate sentencing for those crimes by asking victims’ parents to delay or not call the police and to ask parents’ of victims to advocate for the perpetrators by letters or statements asking for leniency? (This was, particularly egregious, in regards to exCLCer’s stepfather’s crime of child molestation of her sister of approximately 4 years!)
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  2. When JL counseled us “don’t call the police”, after he ALREADY had directly pastored another family in the midst of a sex abuse case and DEFINITELY knew that the law required us to do so, AND that it would be in the best interest of our daughter and other possible victims, why did he do that and has he been censored/disciplined through his employers, SRC/SGM?
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  3. Why did JL instruct us to tell no one, not even our Care Group, close family, and even close friends living with us? Did they consider the privacy of the perpetrator and his family as more important than the crisis that we were going through?  Or was the secrecy because they were more concerned with the reputation of CLC than our emotional and psychological needs? In both cases, why wasn’t the embarrassment and shame of others knowing about these crimes part of the NATURAL CONSEQUENCES of committing such a crime?
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  4. Were there any direct funds or donations from SGM or CLC paid for the legal fees of either perpetrator or their family during these court cases? And if so, will you make financial restitution to the victims and their families, in particular, to the children of exCLCer’s family for any psychological counseling that they have needed from the sexual molestation or the errors in judgment by the pastors handling these cases?
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  5. What was the length of time between the discovery of sin, which was deemed serious enough to excommunicate a woman with 9 children and no viable source of income, whose child had recently been a victim of such a horrible, longstanding sexual molestation by a church member, and the time in which she was asked to leave? Why was there not a LONG season of longsuffering for this woman and her children? And was there any impropriety in the decision to excommunicate her, because she had dared to not agree to your counsel or so that the perp’s identity would be protected?
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  6. Why was the ENTIRE church of approximately 1000 members at that time, a church supposedly built upon the practicing the “One Anothers” of scripture, not allowed the opportunity to serve and care for all these children rather than having them placed in a often-flawed, secular foster system? Thus, multiplying many times over the re-victimization of these children and destroying in the process any faith or trust that some of them had in God?!
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  7. Why did JL and GR not answer the confrontive letters and emails that exCLCer sent them each year on the anniversary date of her family being thrown out of the church? How could they turn a deaf ear to her cries for justice, year after year, until finally this past summer when a male member of CLC inquired about her case? She has more heart and passion than many who call themselves Christians!!
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  8. After reading our case stories and the resulting outrage online, do you as a pastoral team understand clearly what child molestation is, so that this crime will not be minimized by calling it “teenage experimentation”, or in exCLCer’s case “attraction of the woman that she was becoming” or some other excuse. And will you create a written, zero-tolerance policy that will specifically support victims and their families with follow-up counseling, as needed, AND clearly protect other possible victims in the church family as the primary goals VS. emphasizing the care, legal advocacy, and privacy of the perpetrators?

It is my hope that through this very painful discipline of the Holy Spirit that CLC and SGM, at large, are experiencing will bear fruit and bring about a deeper understanding and practice of the love of God. I believe that the failures of CLC’s pastoral team in caring for sex abuse cases have become public as part of that discipline. As the other cases posted and referred to on SGMsurvivors testify, this mishandling of sex abuse cases has been a pervasive pattern within SGM. And it is my hope that this entire family of churches will decisively deal with this grievous pattern and the underlying root causes of wrong theological emphases, and put an end to it.

In conclusion, I would urge the pastors of CLC and SGM to not discount the criticisms and opinions of people commenting on this and other related blogs. I am sure that it is very difficult to hear strong words, sometimes communicated in anger or frustration. There is much to learn from those who have passion and take the time to express their thoughts. Also, I believe that the biblical step of a clear, detailed repentance is in order from JL and GR, even though all the victims and family members appear to not want to hear it. This blog would be a good format to do that in, since some of the family members from these cases, at this time, will not set foot in a church building!

May God continue to work in each of our lives,

SgmNot