Friday, June 14, 2013

In which the Chief of the Australian Army wins the internet: the standard you walk past is the standard you accept

Lookin' at you SBC...and your resolution...where's your moral courage in action, not just words?

This is How a Real Leader Addresses Abuse

Stop Baptist Predators: Another year of Baptist do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse

Brave action, not vague resolutions, stops crimes against kids

Baptists adopt resolution, SNAP responds

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We are here to protect kids: Our awareness event at the 2013 SBC annual meeting

Miguel Pratts and Pam Palmer

Pam being interviewed by Jeff Brumley of ABPnews

Did someone from the SBC or HFBC call the Houston police department days before our plans to host this awareness event at the SBC meeting? Listen here or click to play the audio below of the voicemail I received last Friday from an officer in the Houston police department criminal intelligence division.

UPDATE 6/20/13:
 More about that phone call I received from the Houston police prior to our event, which as anyone can see  was not a “protest or rally” but simply an awareness/media event…with me and Pam and another survivor, Miguel Prats. I called that officer back late last week that left me the voicemail. After a several minute long conversation with me asking him questions about how he was alerted to our plans, my cell phone and David’s, I came away with more questions and an unsettled feeling. He claims to have searched for “protest” and “rally.” I never used those terms on my blog, only “awareness event.” I asked if he called anyone else who had “protested” the SBC and he said no, only me and David Clohessy of SNAP. I asked if he was aware that Westboro Baptist was there, and their counter protesters. He said he didn’t know they had been there outside the SBC. I said really? He seemed a bit nervous at this point, actually throughout the phone call, in my opinion. He explained that he had been off for a week. He then said that Westboro was someone else’s job, yet he had told me that his job was to “search for groups planning to protest or rally.” He did not mention my blog at all but said that he learned about me and our plans from the email that we sent out that Friday morning, June 7. We sent it to Gregg Matte, Doug Bischoff, Frank Page, Russell Moore and Fred Luter:

At some point late that morning, SNAP posted this letter online on the SNAP website, but this officer told me he learned about us from the email we sent out. The voicemail I received from this officer came in about 11:00 am. SNAP can only recall receiving a phone call like this 3 times in its 25 year history.

KPRC: Southern Baptists attending convention in downtown Houston

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Pastor: SBC should support abuse victims

A Georgia pastor says SBC leaders who are coddling a minister accused of covering up sexual abuse send the public a message that all Southern Baptists are soft on clergy predators.

We talked to Associated Baptist Press, KPRC, Channel 39 and I was on my way home and got a call from the Houston Spanish news station Univision 45, story here. So I went back down there and called Pam Palmer and Miguel to come back too. That reporter Pedro Rojas was so gracious and gave us a lot of time to talk, and he expressed a lot of concern about this issue as he said he has little kids. Also, a husband/wife messengers and their young boys approached us as we were being filmed and asked why we were there. We ended up having a great, several minute long conversation and he expressed his concern to see the SBC take a stand to protect kids. They are from Rochester, NY. He asked to pray with us and for us by name. He prayed that there would be voices within the SBC to speak out on behalf of protecting kids. God is good. 

My prayer since I began speaking out to expose abuse within the SBC in August of 2010, when I made my first phone call to Mississippi to warn about Langworthy, former Prestonwood Baptist Church minister:

Lord Jesus, shine Your light of truth, move the mountains of silence, darkness, lies and deceit, heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable and set all the captives free.

 Statement by Pam Palmer, mother of Sovereign Grace abuse lawsuit plaintiff by watchkeep

Update 6/12/13:

Associated Baptist Press- Southern Baptists urge abuse reporting

Baptists adopt abuse resolution, SNAP responds

 Brave action, not vague resolutions, stops crimes against kids.

This is no different than the Penn State issue where there was one there and nobody said a word about it and kept trying to push it under the rug. - Rev. Tim Rogers, Ebenezer Baptist Church
However, I believe it needs to be stronger. - Rev. Peter Lumpkins, Corner Stone Baptist Church

Cracks in the Celebrity-Driven Church
No doubt the Celebrity leaders are not only stunned by how these little people have spoken up, but also that their voices have been and will continue to be listened to.
To God be the glory.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What to do when your pastor, priest or a trusted person is accused of abuse

In planning for our SNAP awareness event at the SBC annual meeting this week in Houston, we have put together a list of helpful tips on what to do when a pastor, priest, or trusted person is accused of abuse.

It is important to carefully consider our responses. The full, detailed list of tips is available on the SNAP website here.

1) Remain open-minded. 
The natural human instinct is to recoil from alleged horror, and to immediately assume that the allegations are false. But the overwhelming majority of abuse disclosures prove to be true.

2) Pray for all parties involved.
Every person involved deserves and needs prayerful support.

3) Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise.
You may feel angry, betrayed, confused, hurt, worried and sad. These are all natural, "typical" responses to an allegation of sexual abuse. None of these feelings are inappropriate or "bad."

4) Remember that abuse, sadly, is quite common.
It's far more widespread than any of us would like to believe. Experts estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested in their lifetimes.

5) Don't try to "guess" or figure out who the accuser is.
Abuse victims, like rape victims, need their privacy to recover from their trauma.

6) If you do know the victim(s), protect his/her confidentiality. 

7) Understand that abuse victims often have "troubled" backgrounds (i.e. drug or alcohol problems, criminal backgrounds, etc.)
Instead of undermining the credibility of accusers, these difficulties actually enhance their credibility.

8) Don't allow the mere passage of time to discredit the accusers.
Stress to your fellow parishioners that there are many good reasons why abuse victims disclose their victimization years after the crime.

9) Ask your family members and friends if they were victimized.
Many times, abuse victims will continue to "keep the secret" unless specifically invited to disclose their victimization by someone they love and trust.

10) Mention the accusation to former parishioners/students and parish/church/school staff now living elsewhere.
They may have information that could prove the guilt or innocence of the priest, pastor, teacher or coach facing allegations.

11) Contact the police or prosecutors.
It's your duty as a citizen to call the proper civil authorities if you have any information (even if it's "second hand" or vague) that might help prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. It's your duty as a Christian to help seek justice and protect others from harm.

12) Don't allow other parishioners to make disparaging comments about those making the allegation. Remember, the sexual abuse of children has terribly damaging effects. Tell your fellow parishioners that hurtful comments are inappropriate. Remind them that they can defend their priest, pastor or trusted person without attacking his or her accuser.

13) Educate yourself and your family about sexual abuse.
Check out the web site for clergy abuse victims:

14) Support the accused priest or pastor, teacher or coach PRIVATELY, if you must.
Calls, visits, letters, gifts, and prayers - all of these are appropriate ways to express your love and concern for the accused priest or pastor. Public displays of support, however, are not. They only intimidate others into keeping silent.

15) Don't be blinded by the pain you can see.
The trauma of the accused priest/pastor or trusted person and those who care about him, is obvious. You can usually see it in his/her face, posture, and actions. But please try to keep in mind the trauma of the accuser too. Because you rarely see his/her pain directly, it's important to try and imagine it. This helps you keep a balanced perspective.

16) Try to put yourself in the shoes of the alleged victim. 

17) Use this painful time as an opportunity to protect your own family.
Talk with your children about "safe touch," the private parts of their bodies, who is allowed to touch those parts, what to do if someone else tries, and who to tell. Urge your sons and daughters to have similar conversations with your grandchildren.

18) Turn your pain into helpful action.
In times of stress and trauma, doing something constructive can be very beneficial. Volunteer your time or donate your funds to organizations that help abused kids or work to stop molestation.

19) Keep in mind the fundamental choice you face.
On the one hand, at stake are the FEELINGS of a grown up. On the other hand, at stake is the PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL AND SEXUAL SAFETY of potentially many children. If one has to err in either direction, the prudent and moral choice is to always err on the side of protecting those who can't protect themselves: children.

20) Ask your pastor to bring in an outside expert or a therapist who can lead a balanced discussion about sexual abuse. 
G.R.A.C.E. is one example of an outside expert. GRACE is a non-profit organization made up of highly trained and experienced multi-disciplinary professionals who seek to educate and empower the Christian community to identify, confront and respond to the sin, crime of child abuse. 

Sandusky Victim 1 Steps Out of Shadows, Silent No More

Thursday, June 6, 2013

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: The Southern Baptist Convention and child sexual abuse within

6/9/13: See Updates at the end of this post.

the backlash when speaking up about abuse

Three Wise Monkeys by Menage a Moi
Three Wise Monkeys, a photo by Menage a Moi on Flickr.

A pastor at our church of almost 18 years, Houston's First Baptist Church, has told me and my husband this week that *it's for the best that we step down from serving there, teaching in the youth ministry, since we don't see what I'm doing is a problem, like he does: my efforts to shine the light of truth and spread awareness about the horrific problem of child sexual within Southern Baptist churches and the silence from SBC leaders. Up until this blog post, I have never mentioned our church or any of the HFBC pastors on my blog.

I have never talked to this pastor, Doug Bischoff before, not in person, not on the phone, not via email. Last Friday, he left me a message, but I was out of town. Then, Monday, I didn't get a chance to call him back, being my 18th wedding anniversary, etc...and he left me another message late that afternoon, in a little put-out sounding tone of voice, in my opinion, saying, "trying to reach you, don't know if you're out of town or what." So about 5:00 Monday evening I called him back and pointed out I had been out of town and about to go out to dinner for our anniversary, but wanted to see what he needed, and then he proceeds to, after saying he wouldn't take much of my time, take offense at my blog. He started out telling me he had called a friend of mine whom I teach with at church, to that which I was shocked, asking why he would call and discuss the issues he has regarding me and my blog with her BEFORE talking to me? He made the excuse that he couldn't reach me, so he called her. What was so urgent? This, apparently:
I saw your blog.
I'm confused. You don't see it as a problem? [speaking out about child sexual abuse by Baptist clergy, about Baptist churches that cover up such abuse, about silence from SBC leaders about this abuse, about the vocal support of another evangelical pastor C.J. Mahaney accused in a lawsuit by 11 plaintiffs of covering up child sex abuse, and planning an awareness event next week at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston]
What good is it going to do, you standing outside the SBC?
What good will it do if the SBC president did issue a statement on abuse?
We're not like the Methodists. [each Baptist church is locally autonomous] 
How can you say that? [that child sexual abuse within Baptist churches is a systemic problem]
You may be seen as fringe.
 No, I do not see what I am doing as a problem. Neither does my husband, and he told Doug this in no uncertain terms in a meeting with him in person the next day at the church.

*UPDATED 6/8/13* 
After almost an hour on the phone with Doug challenging me about my efforts to raise awareness about abuse within the SBC, I was in tears and finally said to him, "I'm going to save you the awkardness of having to ask me to step down and I will step down." His reply was "Let's take a few weeks..." The next day in a meeting with my husband Doug brought up the subject about us stepping down and Doug said, "I told Amy I would think about it, but I've thought about it overnight, and I think it's best that she step down."
My husband Matt questioned him about why he thought it was best that I step down. Matt says that Doug gave an explanation that he has to look out for the children in the church.
HFBC wants to make this an issue of whether or not they *asked* me to step down. That doesn't remove the elephant from the room that Doug was asked to call me, and he did so to challenge me about my blog, starting out by saying "I saw your blog. You don't see it as a problem?"
I could see the writing on the wall early into the call. I decided to save myself some dignity and resign instead of having to be "fired" from a volunteer position.
(See Bene Diction Blogs On: I Saw Your Blog)

How can I say it's systemic? Because I know the stats of the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the general population and I've talked to survivors. How can I say that? Because the SBC holds up pastors like Jack Graham as models of leadership, who is on record having fired a minister, John Langworthy for child sexual abuse, but broke the law by failing to report this abuse to the police. Jack Graham will be a featured panel speaker on leadership this Sunday at the SBC pastors conference in Houston. No one in the SBC has held him accountable. No one. Prestonwood still must go to the police. They have knowledge of child sex crimes that they have never reported as required by the TX mandatory reporting law.

What good will it do? If my presence outside the convention, holding a picture of a child, an actual survivor of child sexual abuse by clergy, gives even just one person some hope, some encouragement that they are not alone, that they are not to blame, that someone believes them, and maybe someone that day or one day has the courage to call the police, seek justice, get help, start healing and protect other kids, then it's worth it.

How did you find her blog? my husband asked. Doug Bischoff said that his boss, pastor Gregg Matte showed it to him and asked him to call me. Gregg Matte is the president of the SBC pastors' conference.

One of the excuses for not doing or saying anything about abuse is that "we're not like the Methodists." I told Doug that this is the same old, lame, tired, and cowardly excuse of "local church autonomy" given by Baptists for decades now as reasons to not address this issue. The irony is that the SBC will be convening in a national, annual meeting next week in Houston. There will be a range of speakers addressing the thousands of Southern Baptists in attendance. Thus, we are respectfully asking for an opportunity to address the full assembly and share our organization’s expertise on how church members and staff should respond when accusations of abuse arise. Our letter to SBC officials is embedded below.

We’ve distilled much of what we’ve learned about this subject over the past 25 years into a short pamphlet that’s posted on our SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) website: 
After the phone call from Doug and my husband's meeting with him*, this is our takeaway: they agree with us that child sexual abuse is bad, and they don't want me to stop what I'm doing, but the church doesn't support me raising awareness by pointing out the problem within SBC churches and pastors that cover abuse up by failing to report. It's not a problem for me to point out these issues with Catholic churches or Penn State, just don't point the finger at my own Southern Baptist Convention.

*some added details from my husband Matt about his with meeting with Doug Bischoff at HFBC on Tuesday:
About the last 10 minutes of their meeting was a discussion of us stepping down from teaching. Doug brought this subject up. He told Matt, “Amy told me yesterday that she is stepping down, and I told her we should think about it. But I have been thinking about it overnight, and I think it’s for the best that she step down.”

To that my husband asked “Why?” Doug said, “You don’t see it as a conflict?”
Doug never once told me or my husband that he wanted us to keep serving in the youth ministry.

That's not the way of the Jesus I know, love and serve. He called out sin, wrongdoing and corruption among his own followers.

Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry personality over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow.
Jesus looked for the outcasted. He dignified the marginalized.
The church does far better when it acknowledges its sin, living fearlessly and honestly, than when it prefers to show a pretty, unadulterated face to the world. Unfortunately, we have become so enamored with the ministries we have built, forgetting that God Himself builds His church (and thinking it weighs on our shoulders), that we have lived in depraved fear, preferring the words of perpetrators over the words of those abused. We wrongly believe that we are in the business of reputation management.
Of course, I am not in the midst of this recent scandal, and I am not at all walking in either crowd’s shoes, leaders or victims, but from the outside it feels a lot like covering up for the sake of keeping the ministry machine alive. 
Boz Tchividjian of G.R.A.C.E: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment was interviewed on the Janet Mefferd show. Listen here. 
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act— DIETRICH BONHOEFFER
What Kind of Hard Heart? by Matt B. Redmond
What kind of heart is so hardened it would publicly insult the blogs that have given a voice to the sexually abused while publicly embracing one who is accused of conspiring to cover up and silence the abused?
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing?

This was my question to Sir Patrick Stewart at Comicpalooza 2013. I wanted to thank Patrick Stewart for his speech at Amnesty International it personally help me put a name to the abuse, sexual abuse in my case, I had experienced in the past. He responded very passionately and the last thing I thought I would get at was a heartfelt hug. 

When he embraced me he told me "You never have to go through that again, you're safe now". I just kept thanking him. 

I hope everyone who needs help in abusive or violent situations has the courage to do so. There are people willing and ready to help you. 

Added 6/9/13:

New BBC Open ForumYou may be seen as fringe.
In closing, Doug, I would just like to say if Amy Smith is considered by the likes of men like you "fringe," then I'm proud to stand beside her and identify as "fringe," too! I believe Amy prefers "frilly fringe."

Thoughts on SGM and Our Church "Celebrity" Culture
I am angry and sad over the whole situation.

I am angry because I do not have what I believe are satisfactory answers to my questions above.  I am angry because, as a bivocational pastor and nurse in child psychiatry, I regularly encounter abused children and their perpetrators.  I am angry because I regularly see failures of the system to protect these children.  I am angry because I see perpetrators walk free with their children, only to further harm them and damage their precious little bodies and minds.  I am ANGRY!  The church is supposed to be different.  Christ's people are supposed to know that those who lead a child astray are better off having a millstone hung around their neck and being thrown into the sea (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2).  We are supposed to be better, or at the very least different from the world.
Stop Baptist Predators: Southern Baptist Leadership is Lacking 

Statement by Pam Palmer, mother of a plaintiff in the SGM abuse lawsuit:
I am planning on standing with Amy Smith and SNAP and linking arms with them at this Awareness Event outside of the SBC meeting. As the mother of one of the SGM survivors/plaintiffs, I want to publicly support Amy and SNAP as they seek to raise awareness about the problems of sex abuse cover-up, which has occurred allegedly within the SBC at Prestonwood Baptist. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Soft hearts. Loud voices. Silent no more.

A blog post by Matt B. Redmond:

What Kind of Hard Heart?

“His heart is hard as a stone,
hard as the lower millstone.” – Job 41:24
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing in the SGM abuse scandal?

What kind of hard heart sides easily with a wealthy pastor against those who suffered at the hands of sexual abusers under his watch and then does so in the name of the One Who had no place to lay his head?
What kind of hard heart winks at a pastor who demanded an accountability of pastors and then ran from it to a church outside of his network of churches?
What kind of hard heart says we must not believe the accuser against the sexual abuser till all the evidence is put forward?
What kind of hard heart publicly says a pastor has not even been accused of wrongdoing when the truth is the very opposite for all those who are curious enough to see?
What kind of hard heart wants the statute of limitations to be in effect and not hear the evidence from 11 plaintiffs presented?
What kind of hard heart needs it to happen to them or their own children before they speak out?

What kind of hard heart says, “we will not go to the civil authorities for the sake of the abused” and then is relieved when the civil authorities dismiss a case in favor of the alleged abuser?

What kind of hard heart goes and preaches in the pulpit of the accused and seeks no audience with the accusers?
What kind of hard heart refuses to listen and then says those who would cry out for justice and help are divisive and gossips?
What kind of hard heart could read the Second Amended Complaint and not think the leader of such an organization should step out of the limelight?
What kind of heart is so hardened it would publicly insult the blogs that have given a voice to the sexually abused while publicly embracing one who is accused of conspiring to cover up and silence the abused?
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing? 
ESPN- New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey sits down with Jeremy Schaap to discuss the sexual abuse Dickey endured as a child
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
~ Martin  Niemöller

When the Church Prefers Perpetrators by Mary DeMuth