Taylor’s Story

August 31, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Here is a story submitted by Taylor.  Please note, Taylor originally included the names of the pastors involved, as well as of the church locations.  Because of her desire to protect her children’s identities, we agreed that names and locations would be edited out or replaced with pseudonyms.

——————————

I’m afraid my story is not unique.

My husband and I spent many years at our Sovereign Grace church, first as young adults and then later after we married and had kids. We homeschooled, we got involved in home group, and created a nice little bubble for ourselves. We looked the part and believed what we were told to believe and even though we never fit the mold, we kept trying.

The thing was, though, my husband had a porn addiction that was kept hidden (because a Godly wife doesn’t reveal her husband’s sins to the world, or even to close friends). He would get caught, he would “repent” and humble himself, and I was to forgive him. A vicious pattern that would repeat itself over and over, and would set the stage for what was to come.

As I said, we did homeschool our children.  However, it always felt like we were marginalized, as we weren’t able to participate in the classes and co-ops and support groups within the church.  Still we kept on homeschooling.

It all came to a head when I discovered that my husband had been sexually abusing our 10-year-old daughter. I had felt something was not quite right for a couple months, but could not figure out what was going on, and kept telling myself that I was imagining things, that it was Satan putting evil thoughts in my head, that it couldn’t possibly be anything like I thought. My  husband had always expressed such disgust at this sort of thing that I was sure he wasn’t capable of it. And yet the thoughts and feelings continued. I would catch them alone in a room, with my daughter sitting on his lap, or he would call her down to the basement to do some chore with him alone. He started spending a long time putting her to bed each night, but only a few minutes with our other children, while I was busy with the toddler.

One night, I am not sure why I did this, but I went into my daughter’s room to kiss her goodnight after her father had gone downstairs to get on the computer, and I said to her, “You know, honey, NO one, not even me or Daddy, has the right to touch you in your private areas”. And she started crying and said that Daddy had been doing just that every day for a long time, and making her touch him as well.

I fainted right there across her bed. Then quickly came to, and comforted her. I told her that it would NEVER happen again, and she would be safe from then on.

Then I went downstairs and confronted him. He fell to his knees and begged me not to tell anyone. I said I had to protect our daughter, so I called our associate pastor, whom I’ll call Pastor Bill.  As I told Pastor Bill what had happened, my husband ran out of the house and got in the car. I ran after him and told him not to leave and he said he didn’t have any choice because now he was going to jail and he just couldn’t face it and indicated he would rather die than go to jail, then drove off.

We spent three days in agony not knowing where he was or if he was still alive. He turned off his cell phone. Pastor Bill came over to our house and talked with my daughter and made her tell him everything that my husband had done to her and for how long. After the first 24 hours, Pastor Bill gave the situation over to another pastor, “Pastor Fred,” to handle.

I was praised up and down for not calling the police but for contacting them first, for being a “Godly example” of a Christian wife, etc. When we went to church the first Sunday after the crisis, I was with two of my close woman friends, and they asked me what was going on, and I told them what had happened, feeling the need for support and help.

When I told Pastor Fred I had told them, he was quite upset with me for telling anyone, and reprimanded me for gossiping, and then had to meet with them and our care group to do damage control, to make sure no one would know what was really happening or had happened.

Finally my husband answered his phone on the fourth day, and the pastors convinced him to come back. But not to our house. They sent us to stay with my husband’s relatives (another family from our SG church) for several days and let my husband come get his things and move in with his mother.

We were all brought in for counseling with the pastors, first me and my daughter separately, where she had to again tell what had happened, and where she was told she needed to forgive her father, that she was a sinner too, and didn’t she feel that she had sinned by not telling me sooner, and we were made to feel that she had somehow sinned by allowing it to continue, even insinuating that maybe she had even wanted that attention a bit. She was TEN YEARS OLD.

I should also add that I was told by Pastor Fred that I should not get outside counseling for my daughter at all. He said it would expose her to ungodly counsel and do more harm than good, that God was the only healing she needed. So we never got any outside professional help, but my husband got counseling for about 4 months from the pastors. It is the “trickle down” theory of taking care of the “head” and it will trickle down to the wife and kids.

During this time that they were separately meeting with my husband, they counseled him and they met with his boss (another church member) to inform him of what had happened and why he was absent from work. It turned out that all of his late night work at the office had really been opportunities for viewing porn, including child porn, on the office computers, and he was fired from his job.

The pastors knew that so many people knew about what had happened that they were required by law to report it, so they told my husband that he needed to turn himself in instead of their doing it. That was how they got out of their legal responsibility to report it. My husband’s relative who is a lawyer told him not to do it himself, but to use a certain lawyer he knew. The lawyer he had suggested met with my husband and I together, and he said that no, my husband shouldn’t turn himself in because if he did then he would go to jail and we would be without any income, instead since he was now obligated by law to report the crime, he would talk to the state’s attorney and let us know what to do. We didn’t hear anything from him for weeks and weeks, and were left to constantly wonder why.

After about two months of this kind of counseling by the pastors, I was told that in order to truly be a Godly wife, I had to forgive my husband because my sins as a less than Godly wife had also contributed to my daughter’s abuse. I was told that had I better met my husband’s needs physically, he wouldn’t have been tempted elsewhere. A meeting was held at Pastor Fred’s house, where my husband could apologize to my daughter for hurting her and ask her to forgive him. Again she was reminded by Pastor Fred that she was a sinner too, and that Jesus had forgiven her, so she must forgive her father to be a good Christian.

So I was told to allow him to move back home, and to make sure I had physical relations with him regularly, and books were offered telling me how to have a Godly sexual relationship with him, like Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage, and The Five Love Languages.

I was told to put a lock on my daughter’s door, on the inside, and every night after I had kissed her goodnight, she had to lock her door to keep her father out.

And he moved back into our house on Christmas Eve that year. We resumed looking like a “normal” SGM family, my husband was greatly praised for repenting and we were praised for reconciling, and every time we had sex I got sick to my stomach afterwards. Every time he moved or got up in the night, I sat bolt upright in bed. If he went out of our room, I lay there listening to make sure he didn’t go near any of the children’s bedrooms.

The only “counseling” I myself received during this time was when Pastor Fred would ask me to join him and my husband in their sessions, and he would ask how it was going, having sex with my husband, and would want specifics, and right in front of him so I couldn’t really be honest but would just say it was ok.

(As an aside, it seems to me personally that the pastors at SGM have a weird and unhealthy fascination with details of sexual encounters. I know a teen girl who was having relations with her boyfriend, and when she was caught and brought in for counselling, the SGM pastor made her “confess” each and every detail of every sexual encounter the two of them had had, before he could say that she was repentant. I just find it sick. They made my daughter do the same thing, giving every detail of her father’s molestations, but not so they could report it.)

I kept calling the lawyer asking if he had heard anything, and he kept saying no, not yet. Then in February I finally got some specific answers from him. No, he hadn’t actually turned in a deposition. He had simply written a hypothetical report up and put it on the attorney’s desk. Unless I wanted to go in and file charges against my husband, nothing would happen. I called the pastors and told them all of this, and they said that it was obviously a gift of grace from God, and that as a Christian I was not to bring civil authorities into it, and that I was to let it drop and not press charges because my husband was repentant and had agreed to their counseling, and they felt like everything had been discharged properly and what wonderful examples of God’s grace and mercy we were.

A little over a year later, there was a new church plant, and we were told to be a part of that. How convenient for them…

We were part of it, but soon after the church plant happened, I caught my husband looking in the bathroom window from outside when my daughter went in there to use the toilet. I told her to get out of the bathroom quickly, that he was out there looking in at her and not to use that bathroom any more.

I called “Pastor Kevin,” the pastor of the newly planted SGM church, and told him what had happened. He said that sin was insidious and that I should expect my husband to have moments of weakness, and that I was wrong to warn my daughter because I was further damaging her relationship with her father and preventing it from being reconciled. And that was the end of it.

At that moment I knew that not only was I and my children without protection from the church, but that I was truly alone and would just have to make the best of it. I could not rely on any more help from the pastors and it was up to me to protect my children as best I could.

For five years I struggled to be that protection for them. My daughter continued to lock her bedroom door every night. I continued to not sleep deeply and to always be alert to his prowling at night, and we maintained our facade as a healed and reconciled family. I forced myself to allow him to have sex with me, even though it made me physically ill. The toll on my self-esteem, my self-respect, and my family was huge. My marriage relationship was dead, but I was trapped inside it trying to be that “Godly Wife”.

However, we were kept at arm’s length from the rest of the church. Other parents did not include my daughter in birthday parties or other activities because they were afraid she might tell their children what had happened. She was damaged in their eyes. Other parents pulled away from me as well, except for one friend.

Finally, I just burned out. I just couldn’t do it any longer. I couldn’t pretend to love a man who had sexually assaulted my child every day for months. But I didn’t know how to get out. So I started sleeping in my son’s room on a cot, pretending that I had just accidently fallen asleep while putting him to bed. Not coming out unless my husband actually came to get me.

It was only with the strength and support of my one remaining friend that I was able to finally get the courage to divorce him and leave the church, when my daughter was 16. It was a long two-year process, in which I was shunned and ostracized by the church body under instructions by the pastors for “abandoning my family” and breaking my marriage vows. I was told I couldn’t leave the church because as long as my husband was a member, I was a member also. But I finally got my divorce and broke free, and maintained custody of my children.

My ex-husband still attends that same SGM church, even though several of the founding families and the pastors all know that he is a child molester. I would venture to say that none of the rest of the church has any idea, though. He is remarried, and when he has visitation with our younger children, he still takes them to church events.

My older children are now grown and don’t have much to do with my ex-husband at all.  They are also very bitter towards SGM and want nothing to do with them. Their relationship with God has been destroyed, and it will take the work of the Holy Spirit alone to restore it, in His time. But otherwise, they are happy and doing well.

I have found a wonderful church that has helped me realize that the world, and God, are so much bigger than SGM ever taught. I have learned that there is room in God’s house for all different types of people, and theologies and doctrines. And although it took several years, I have begun to trust God again, and read his word with new eyes. God IS good, and even SGM can’t destroy that.

Dave Harvey Makes A Video…

August 30, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

This is already old news, as Dave Harvey’s video has been up on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website for a couple of days.  Some of you have already shared your thoughts about it in the previous thread.

I didn’t get around to viewing the 26-minute presentation until last night.  Once I did, I realized that this video totally deserves its own post.  I’m still trying to process exactly what it was that I heard.  Perhaps we can figure it out together.

Mr. Harvey starts out by explaining who he is and alluding to the challenging times in which Sovereign Grace Ministries finds itself.  Then he explains that although everyone is welcome to watch, he is making the video primarily for pastors and local churches.

After that, in a strange amalgamation of lecture-to-pastors (“Don’t make secondary matters too important – that can lead to legalism”), instructional video for members about what they may have witnessed but that Mr. Harvey wants them to forget (“We don’t actually emphasize pastoral authority incorrectly – the only authority pastors have is scripture!”), vague explanation about how members can indeed disagree with pastors and live to tell about it (“We encourage dissent – really, we do!”), and attempt at minimizing SGM pastors’ crazy responses to child sex abuse, where they gave victims the harsh cold shoulder and bent over backward to coddle perpetrators (“In a very few cases, we may not have given the best pastoral care to victims”), Mr. Harvey proceeds to address many of the issues we’ve been discussing here for nearly four years.

My head is still spinning over this bizarre display.  On the one hand, it was Twilight Zone-ish, to hear Mr. Harvey openly admitting (through the very act of talking openly about any of these things) that problems in these areas do exist.  How many times have SGM defenders come around to this site and railed about how “they’ve never seen” anything like this?  How we’re all just misunderstanding and making stuff up?  Well, now their organization’s “acting president” is putting these things into words and telling the world that they’ve been aware of their jacked-up church governance structure “for years” and have been revising (secretly, I guess) polity for the past two years.

Who knew?

There were so many odd things about this video, from Mr. Harvey’s lighthearted facial expressions, to the tight camera angles that nonetheless managed to capture his hand gestures, to the very clear display of his belief that if he tells people what he wants them to think, they will forget what they’ve experienced or witnessed and will believe his interpretation of things.

At times, I found myself seriously wondering when SGM is going to pay us here for providing them with talking points.  After all, way back in 2008, I suggested that the leaders who were so desperate to know the indentities of the commenters here ought instead to direct their energies toward self-examination, and toward answering the following questions:

DO THEY, as an organization, have a system of church governance in place that is too heavy on the notion of “authority,” with no recourse for the common member should a disagreement arise?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, caused their pastors to view themselves as the final arbiters of God’s truth, even for non-essential matters?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, taught their pastors to turn every confrontation back around onto the questioner, so that the questioner is then left defending himself and his own sinfulness that caused him to have a difference of opinion in the first place?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, fostered a culture of secrecy, where decisions are made from the top down and then imposed upon the people in the pews, often with little clear explanation to these people about the changes imposed upon them?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, come to view themselves as better than all other organizations?  DO THEY, as an organization, hold themselves and the counseling their pastors offer as superior to any sort of professional mental health or law enforcement intervention?

Finally, HAVE THEY EVER minimized a case of sexual abuse by – say – having the admitted abuser merely place a phone call to apologize to his victim, and then permitting the abuser to remain a member in good standing?

I’m still waiting for them to talk about their dangerous biases against the mental health profession, and their sense of superiority to other organizations.  And oh yeah – I’d love to hear what Mr. Harvey would have to say about the culture of secrecy, where decisions and policy are made behind the scenes, without a shred of openness, and then foisted on their completely in-the-dark membership.

But I guess Rome wasn’t built in a day…

Anyway, since the Sovereign Grace Ministries guys obviously follow what people say here, I have some ideas for them, in case they decide to make more videos.  In no particular order, here are my suggestions:

  • Make up your mind who your audience really is.  If it’s truly pastors and members, you should be able to be honest with them.  You can admit fully and freely that certain conditions have indeed existed.  You shouldn’t have to tell them how to reinterpret what they’ve known and seen for decades.  If you find yourself doing that, then that could be a sign that your real audience might actually be that Washington Post reporter.
    .
  • Ditch the qualifiers.  If you use phrases like “may have been less than sensitive” or “could have provided better pastoral care,” that makes you sound wimpy and like you’re still refusing to acknowledge what everyone with half a brain already knows to be true.  (Or, like SGM’s attorneys have way too much power over the remarks that you make.)  On a spiritual level, it makes you sound like you’re still refusing to admit your organization’s sins.  This isn’t good.
    .
  • Be more careful about how you talk about C.J. Mahaney.  You don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about how you guys have already made up your minds about what the “independent” adjudicators are going to say about his continued fitness for ministry.  When you talk about his Pastors College courses in the future tense, that’s kind of a slip-up.  It makes you look like you’re wasting a lot of SGM’s money in paying these Ambassadors of Reconciliation guys, when you’ve clearly already decided that C.J. will be teaching again at the Pastors College.  Also, it’s a bad bad idea to utter blatant lies, like the one about how great an example of approachability C.J. has been.  Uh…Mr. Harvey…everyone already knows that C.J. is only approachable to the people over at Capitol Hill Baptist, where he’s hiding out right now.  Again – not good.
    .
  • When talking about child sex abuse cases, don’t use words like “complex” to describe what a pastor’s response should be.  The only people who think there’s something complex about calling the police to report such hideous crimes are people who are totally out of touch with reality.  That’s why the “9-1-1” system was created way back when.  It’s easy to call the cops when you learn that someone has raped a toddler.  Nothing complex about that.
    .
  • Finally – and I know I’ve already alluded to this, but really, it bears repeating – you need to understand that your instructions about what to think aren’t as powerful as you apparently think they are.  You can’t, by simply saying it’s never been taught, undo decades of express and explicit teachings on topics like the necessity of obeying one’s pastors.  The sound files are out there.  So are transcripts.  People just aren’t that dumb.

“Ambassadors of Reconciliation” Issue Report

August 26, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

The “Ambassadors Of Reconciliation” have issued their report.  You can download it here.

Apparently, C.J. Mahaney has been declared “fit for ministry.”

EDITED TO ADD:  Actually, “Ambassadors of Reconciliation” was only quoting from the preliminary outside panel made up of Ray Ortlund, Kevin DeYoung, and Carl Trueman.  AoR’s final statement on the issue of C.J.’s fitness for ministry was that AoR is not qualified to make a judgment on the matter.