Monday, November 28, 2011

Nepotism, church, church schools, and sex abuse

Teacher Fired For Reporting Sexual Allegations At Hilltop Baptist

Sexual abuse of children in churches and by church staff is old news. Lately, only a prominent name (Joe Paterno, Penn State, Jerry Sandusky) connected to child sex abuse puts an incident on the front page but I would ask folks to read this case above which is about a teacher in a church school in Colorado.

Actually, the story is about two teachers – one who was having sex with her 15-year old student and another who reported the crime. The first teacher was indicted for sexual assault on a child, while the latter was fired a month after she reported the matter.

No one has said it but is the thinking, “If she (the fired teacher) had just kept her mouth shut we could have handled this in house and not had to go through all this turmoil”?

The fired teacher did the right thing and did what was required by law (teachers are mandatory reporters in Colorado). God bless her. She is suing the independent fundamental Baptist church. The school closed down.

So, what about nepotism, church, church schools, and sex abuse. My views here are anecdotal and involve some degree of conjecture, but I think these things are worth some reflection.

A good many church sponsored schools I have been around are heavily nepotistic. The uncle of the teacher indicted for sexual assault was, and still is, the pastor of the church that ran the school. You can do your own analysis here by looking at a church school near you. I'd bet you will get some hits.

Nothing wrong with that in a sense. It’s their church and school. If staff is loaded up with family and the congregation and/or school trustees approve, so be it. But this makes it more likely in my view, that sex abuse will be covered up. In the case above not only was the teacher arrested and charged but her father, her uncle the pastor, and the school principal were as well.

Pick up the phone. Call the cops, even if the offender is related to the big boss.

30 comments:

Bruce Harp said...

Since we are talking about church and church schools we need to determine if the Bible or State Law is the premise to begin with. If it is a Christian or Church School, the Bible is the first place we should begin. Whether we like it or not, our goal is to keep the church/school pure. If a person suspects or knows of this kind of abuse within the school they need to know how to approach a person. Following 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 and expel them according to Matthew 18:18-20. It would be the way the church/school should handle it. Bottom line, verification is absoultely necessary. If you approach it with a "fire, aim" mentality you can do excessive damage. The teacher and/or student is exposed for nothing. After you verify everything and it is true, do what God's word says and then go to the police.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bruce, you could not be more wrong. For one thing, it is a potential crime if true and must be reported according to law. Last I checked, Christians are not above the law.

Secondly, it is RARE to have professionals in the church/school who know how to properly investigate such a thing.

If we err, we must err on the side of protecting children.

Thirdly, Bruce it is comments like yours that make me fear for the church and for children in churches. If you are a pastor or in any leadership position, I am praying the laws of your state will make it mandatory for you to report. In fact, if I new the name of your church, I would not attend it based on your comment.

How would Matthew 18 or 1 Corinthian 5 protect other potential victims?

Lydia

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bruce, you could not be more wrong. For one thing, it is a potential crime if true and must be reported according to law. Last I checked, Christians are not above the law.

Secondly, it is RARE to have professionals in the church/school who know how to properly investigate such a thing. For example, how would you ever know for sure if a 6 year old was molested or not? You might want to spend some time studying pedophilia. Most have over 100 victims before caught. And many times it never involves DNA. But the scars are there for the child.

If we err, we must err on the side of protecting children.

Thirdly, Bruce it is comments like yours that make me fear for the church and for children in churches. If you are a pastor or in any leadership position, I am praying the laws of your state will make it mandatory for you to report. In fact, if I knew the name of your church, I would not attend it based on your comment.

How would Matthew 18 or 1 Corinthian 5 protect other potential victims?

Lydia

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple comments...my computer was locking up. Please erase them if you can.

Lydia

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple comments...my computer was locking up. Please erase them if you can.

Lydia

CB Scott said...

Lydia,

Well said and dead on.

William,

This is a good post and a true post. I wish it was a bad post and an untrue post. But I know it is not.

Prayerfully some day, it will not be a needful post. Especially do I pray it is not needful in Southern Baptist life. But until then, I thank you for writing it.

Bruce Harp said...

Anonymous (Lydia),

Apparently, you didn't read the scripture. Let me make it easy:

1 Corinthians 5:4,5 "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

How to deliver one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh:

Matthew 18:18-20 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

WE MUST FOLLOW SCRIPTURE "FIRST" BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT. (That's not yelling, that is making a point!) The main reason to do it scripturally is because we are instructed by God to do it so God is the inflictor of the judgment and punishment, if necessary. Then, as I said, go to the police.

You took a “fire, aim” approach on your response.

If you do not want to follow scripture that is up to you.

Bruce Harp said...

I must add:

If a church is large enough to support a school and does not have spiritually mature men and women who are capable of discerning between good and evil leading out in church and school you have a weak church. They are the ones who should address this and seek God for the answer. God does speak to us as we understand and believe His word.

Hebrews 5:15 "But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, [that is], those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

Solomon was offered anything by God. His prayer in 1 Kings 3:9 “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” Because he asked to be able to discern between “good and evil” he was given wisdom. Something our churches do not put value in today. Of course, wisdom is one of the attributes of God Almighty. Solomon didn’t have professionals to run to and God provided him insight of how to determine whose baby it was between two (2) women. Of course, that is just a bible story so why should we think God works like that today.

We cannot run to the government first every time something is amiss. Our God reigns and saw exactly who, how, when and where. He can reveal this to His people and they can take the right actions by turning him over to Satan. God is the only One who can heal the victim, too. The victim would also recognize God’s discipline or judgment when it occurred. I would hate to think the government was providing therapy for the victim. What a messed up process that is since God is excluded in everything that is government.

Our churches fail to have properly discipled spiritual people in leadership positions in order to handle these issues. They don’t have to come from college for God to speak through them either. I would trust godly leadership before a crafty lawyer that gets one of these people off Scott free.

I am disturbed that we Christians prefer to go to our government or worldly professionals first as if they will do the right thing. Never trust your government first, trust God first and foremost.

Finally, this in no way excludes the lawbreaker from being turned in, but, first things first.

Anonymous said...

Bruce,

I feel Matt 18 & 1 Cor 5 are used as a means to side step any obligation to confront sin and protect those God entrusts to us in our church family. My issue with your understanding is how does a church body investigate such claims?

(1) How does the church approach someone that has been accused of a serious offense?

(2) How does the church investigate (verification is absolutely necessary..your words) the offense? Hire private detective, catch the person in the act?

(3)How does the church get access to information that would be necessary to verify? Phone records, emails, texts, pictures? The church has no power to subpeona, do you just ask the accused to offer proof of their crime?

I believe that the Scriptures that you have quoted are pertinent to handling difficult matters with sensitivity within the church body, but how can you leave out Romans 13:1-4? Paul very clearly states that God ordains governments to be the sword to carry out punihsment on evil, and if we hinder or try to side step this authority we bring condemnation upon ourselves.

I think we are seeing this play out as churches try to handle things internally and not allow trained, legal authorities to be the sword that God ordained them to be. The condemnation we bring on our heads comes from shaming the name of Christ and His Church by improperly handling these matters and leaving people to offend again and adding to the shame and abuse already suffered by those who have been abused.

Bruce Harp said...

Anonymous,

PART 1

You may have been writing as I made my last post. I will answer your questions anyway.

You said, "I feel Matt 18 & 1 Cor 5 are used as a means to side step any obligation to confront sin and protect those God entrusts to us in our church family." Both passages ARE confronting sin. I used Matthew 18:18-20 as the means the church uses to turn these people over to God. I am not using verses 15 thru 17 about how to approach a brother who sinned against you. There is a difference. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 is how Paul said the church is to handle such sins that have occurred or are occurring of such disrespectful and sinful magnitude. Our first step is to bring God in the picture before we bring in the "professionals". It really depends on the case, but a majority of cases that come to the surface, the sin has already occurred.

Question 1: Since we are talking about sexual sins here, the ones who approach the sex offender should be the leadership of the church. I would recommend the Pastor and elders or deacons who are spiritual to approach him or her. They should have their facts and be prepared as Jesus said in Matthew 17:21, "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Same goes for this type of sin. These leaders need clear discernment and wisdom on how to handle this. It is approaching Satan himself and they should be well prepared. More is involved than just the sex offender.

(see Part 2)

Bruce Harp said...

Part 2

Question 2: God's ways are not our ways. It seems that you trust science over God. I do not discount science, but I do not have to go to them first if I know God will take care of it if I trust him. He has my salvation in his hands so I can trust Him with these kinds of things. Just as God gave insight to Peter in Acts 8:20: "But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!" and discerned his problem in verse 23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." We have to believe that God works the same way today through our leadership and trust God to do just as you want to trust God through government.

Question 3. That is not the churches responsibility. You have to turn them over to the authorities anyway. I am saying that we first verify and do what God would have us do and then take the next legal step.

If you look a little closer to Romans 13:1-4 you will see that the one who is to be "subject" is the individual. The sex offender would be the one "subject" to the laws of the land because God is over them. You and I are subject to the laws of the land, too. If we break the law we suffer for it and God uses them to execute punishment. I am not saying we should exclude anyone from the laws of the land. I am saying that God should be our first contact prior to handing them over to the authorities. Why? If you read 1 Cor. 5 you will see that God will judge them with pin point accuracy. There is no Attorney or Corrupt Judge to let them go or let them off easy. That may happen if we don't recognize God for who He is first.

If a church is going to get in the school business, they should recognize this problem ahead of time and determine if they are prepared with qualified people to handle these kinds of situations. If not, don't open the school in the first place. Our government is anti-Christ (not The Anti-Christ).

We demand worldly professionals everywhere but in the church. If the SBC doesn't have people within its organization that knows how to deal with this we are a sad and weak denomination. There has to be someone somewhere in the SBC that is qualified as a Christian to come in and do the necessary steps.

You may be concerned with the process or the time it takes to do the church portion. It doesn’t have to take a long time, but we have to be right before we call in the authorities and we have to touch heaven before exposing or taking the steps to remove the person. I don’t know any other way of convincing you that God is our best first answer.

William Thornton said...

Bruce, see my two posts that include "...call the cops."

I can envision the headline: "Teacher murders student. Pastor gets deacons together for an internal investigation. May call cops later when his theological niceties are satisfied."

Sorry, you are out to lunch on this one. Lydia and CB have it right, along with most any sensible person, but you illustrate what I suspect is the core problem with the case I featured.

Bruce Harp said...

Anonymous,

One additional comment about your statement: "My issue with your understanding is how does a church body investigate such claims?"

I have made some indications in my overall comments, however, we must realize that the church is equipped with ways that are different than the worlds ways. Not every crime is solved and many more are not solved properly. That is just a fact. God gives His Church certain people with gifts and with those gifts are given special abilities to know the difference between what is said and what is the truth. If we are enlightened to the truth we can proceed with the process of turning the person over to God at any time whether before, during or after turning them over to the authorities.

Do you think OJ Simpson was guilty? Did he get off? Same thing can happen with a sex offender. If God is a second thought and we are dealing with a sinning and un-repenting brother we want the right judgment to happen. We also want the right thing for the sinner as well as the one sinned against. God will see to it if we obey His word and trust Him in what He says. That also means that we have to be living in accordance to Romans 12:1,2 in order to properly judge the matter on a kingdom level.

Bruce Harp said...

William,

I disagree with you and anyone who thinks God comes in second place in church matters. You have created a silly cenero to justify your comment, too. Understand this, the church is not dependent on government intities like liberals desire so much. Jesus said, "All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Matthew 28:18 If you have enough facts to turn a brother or sister into the authorities you have enough information to go to God first, even with the sex offender. You just need to figure out how with the faith you have in God.

Bruce Harp said...

"scenario"

Bruce Harp said...

"entities"

William Thornton said...

Bruce, you've made your point and folks can judge for themselves on this.

One final question: Are you in any way connected to the church, church personnel, or church school in question?

Bruce Harp said...

No. I live in Conroe, Texas. I have no affiliation with and know nothing about the issue you discussed about sex offenders or those who turned in sex offenders.

I have had to address 4 complex issues outside of this type of sex offense with pastors in my lifetime. It was never a case of law breaking but it did break God's laws, which are more important in God’s church. I have experienced God disciplining and judging men and women enough to know what I am talking about. Your story would have had a little more difficulty, however, I would have been able to handle it with God being the first to be contacted and, then, taken to the police. Sometimes I wonder if God's calling for me is to be sent to churches were Pastors and their kin are doing wrong and exposing them in accordance to God's word. I have only told you what I know from experience. I cannot convey humility in writing very easily. I hope you can discern my point here.

Anonymous said...

Before you all pounce on Bruce, you might re-read what he said. It is imperative that the church follow Scripture and it helps to be sure that accusations are credible and facts are true. There have been a lot of lives ruined by children who were coached by relatives. We all know that a teacher and/or pastor doesn't even have to be guilty once the accusation has been made. They are done.

William Thornton said...

If there is one thing that countless cases of sex abuse involving churches and clergy has proven it is that churches are utterly incapable of investigating and ascertaining factual matters and of handling the things properly, probably because churches and clergy place greater value avoiding internal problems than they do on protecting children. Such advice is disastrous.

However, if the pastor wishes to pray about the matter while he picks up the phone and calls law enforcement after an accusation of clergy sex abuse is made, I'll join that suggestion.

In my state, heavily Bible belt and where churches still have considerable albeit diminishing political clout, legislators are discussing adding some clergy to the list of mandatory reporters.

Bruce Harp said...

You are right William, our churches today have the same problems the church of Corinth had, and we have the same responsibility that Paul instructed them, too. We just have a church society affected by the world to think we go to them first, not God. I bet we go to psychologist, marriage counselors, doctors, lawyers and financial people for our other problems before we interact with God, too. My whole point here is that our first priority is God in everything.

Believe it or not, I am enjoying every bit of this. Butter does not sharpen iron, iron sharpens iron. We need these kind of open discussions for others to dig deep. Thank you.

John Wylie said...

If we are to obey the laws of the land then we must report such accusations. Romans 13 not Matthew 18 or 1 Corinthians 5 applies here. In Oklahoma a pastor is bound by law to report any accusations of child abuse that we come into contact with. Our church has reported people who ended up being convicted of the crime. I'm glad we did.

sola396 said...

Bruce,

As a pastor who has had to employ the process of Matthew 18 in my Church and who has participated in the process in two other contexts, I couldn't disagree with you more.

First, you are trying to apply Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 - both of which speak of non-criminal actions - to a situation where the Church doesn't have jurisdiction. We have not been charged with dealing with crime. This process is not investigative either. Neither passage suggests an investigation is taking place. The sin has already been confirmed. The process described in Scripture is about dealing with that sin in the Church.

Secondly, you seem to believe that the entire process of Matthew 18 must be completed before the issue can be taken out of the Church. That's an assumption you are placing on the text. We are not told explicitly that this is what we are to do. Neither Paul nor Jesus address this. You simply assume this must be the case.

Third, you write:
Bottom line, verification is absoultely necessary ... After you verify everything and it is true, do what God's word says and then go to the police.

Where does the Bible explicitly teach this? Certainly that is not explicit in 1 Corinthians 5 or in Matthew 18. It's not even implicit. No where does the Bible teach us to deal with crime within the Church before alerting the authorities who are charged (by God) to punish crime (the Church is not charged with that duty, but only with the duty to - as you said - "keep the church pure."

Fourth, you say:
We cannot run to the government first every time something is amiss. Our God reigns and saw exactly who, how, when and where. He can reveal this to His people and they can take the right actions by turning him over to Satan.

Child sexual abuse (at least I would hope) is not an everyday occurrence at the Church. This is not something we deal with regularly and thus we shouldn't be expected as Christians to know how to deal with it. Nor is this the context of either Matthew 18 or 1 Corinthians 5. Again, no investigation is needed there and there is no crime committed. And calling the police isn't leaning on the gov't - it's employing the means God has given us to deal with crime. It's honoring God - not dishonoring Him.


Finally, Bruce you continue throughout to set the police in opposition to the Church. No where in Scripture is this explicitly taught. Instead, as John Wylie points out, Romans 13 teaches that the gov't is good - that it has been given by God to execute judgment on His behalf. Thus, any process of discipline for a crime like child sexual abuse should be done in coordination with a police investigation - not beforehand.

Just as you suggested earlier that one commentator trusted science above God, it seems that you can't trust God working through the means He has clearly given us - the gov't whose task it is to execute justice on Earth with the sword.

I hope that after seeing these problems with your analysis, you would consider changing your position. I honestly think it is dangerous and dishonoring to God, and most definitely not a testimony of your faith.

D.R. said...

William and all,

Sorry, I signed in under the wrong account, but the above comment was written by me.

D.R. Randle

CB Scott said...

I wish all Southern Baptist pastors had the same grasp on this matter as does D.R. Randle and William Thorton.

William Thornton said...

I appreciate D.R.'s keen analysis. I have long since lost the patience to deal with arguments that are so removed from reality.

The key issue here isn't the interpretation of any Scripture but rather the reluctance and refusal of church leaders to protect children by reporting crimes.

CB Scott said...

You are right William. The reluctance of church leaders to report is the greater problem than a person's interpretation of Scripture.

Frankly, the reluctance often is due to a desire not to report the crime because of presupposed consequences rather than an understanding of Scripture.

In other words, many church leaders have refused to report sexual abuse in spite of biblical directives rather than because of biblical directives.

In the ministries of many, fear is the primary motivator rather than a desire to obey biblical directives.

Anonymous said...

"I am disturbed that we Christians prefer to go to our government or worldly professionals first as if they will do the right thing. Never trust your government first, trust God first and foremost"

Bruce, I totally trust God. I just do not trust all those who "claim" to be His.

If there is an accusation of such a henious crime, I get the feeling you think the church should investigate first and you are basing this on scripture which I believe is misapplied.

Islam does this. So do many Mormon sects. What you are suggesting is a form of Theonomy.

We are not talking about a case of gross immorality. We are talking about crime that even most heathens abhor.

jlogan said...

I'm just amazed that (in the case of Penn St.) a secular Board of Trustees summoned more moral courage than some of the leaders of our Baptist churches seem to be able to summon.

Anonymous said...

You mean like this courage:

http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/12/seminary-trustee-lawyer-tells-church.html