Saturday, April 30, 2016

Youth leader at Perry Noble's Newspring Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch, arrested for child sexual assault

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A youth group volunteer at a Florence church has been arrested for sexually assaulting a minor.
According to Florence Police Major Carlos Raines, a 15-year-old boy claimed Leo LaSalle Comissiong, 20, of Florence kissed and folded him through his clothes.
The incident happened in February at the NewSpring Church on North Cashua Drive, Raines said.
Comissiong is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, 3rd degree.

Is Leo LaSalle Comissiong still a youth leader at Newspring Church?
Perry Noble is the lead pastor of Newspring.
We urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes at Newspring Church to protect kids by calling police. This is how kids will be safer, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
Update 5/3/16: I called the Newspring Church Florence campus to ask if Leo is still a youth leader after his arrest. I spoke with Justin who refused to answer my question. He would only give me the number for their PR person Sharon Swift.

Justin refused to tell me his last name then said "No ma'am. You're not doing this." Then he hung up on me.

I then called the main Newspring campus in Anderson, South Carolina and spoke with Suzanne Swift's assistant Annie who said that Leo is not a youth leader anymore. She said that Suzanne has a prepared statement about Leo to send to people asking about him. I asked if they'd be sending that to media and she said no, just to individuals who ask. I left my email and asked to receive the statement. 

Here is the statement emailed to me by Newspring PR director Suzanne Swift:
Hey Amy,

Thank you for reaching out to us. I understand you have questions regarding the arrest and charges filed against a former volunteer in our church at our Florence campus. I hope this is helpful and answers your questions.

On Sunday, April 24, 2016, a NewSpring Church staff member saw Leo La Salle Comissiong III enter an unoccupied room with a 15 year old. The staff member immediately entered the room and questioned Comissiong. Comissiong denied any wrongdoing at that time. Because we take the safety of minors very seriously, we never allow adults to be alone with children or teens while on a NewSpring Campus. NewSpring Church questioned Comissiong again, and at that time removed him from volunteering in any capacity at NewSpring. After a separate conversation with the student, NewSpring staff contacted law enforcement. Since that time, NewSpring has fully cooperated with authorities and in this investigation.

NewSpring Church will continue to corporate with this investigation and we are praying for everyone impacted.

Thank you again for reaching out to us.

Suzanne Swift
Chief Public Relations and Marketing Officer
NewSpring Church

SNAP statement: Newspring Church must do outreach on child sex abuse case
Update- I received this email on May 9, 2016:
I used to be a volunteer at Newspring Church until there were some conflicts of interest that caused me to stop attending. I was reading your blog post and I am so happy that, for once, someone is saying something about this. Leo had been a volunteer to younger children since the age of 15, and since then, he has become a big part of the church. After this incident, he is no longer a volunteer and no longer attends the church (to my knowledge)
Justin Rhodes is the man you spoke to from Florence Campus that would not say his name. 
After multiple requests for a statement to be made to the public, the church refuses to do so, so thank you for doing so yourself. I hope many people read your post.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Marketing a Murder: Perry Noble and Davey Blackburn

On November 10, 2015, Amanda Blackburn was beaten and gunned down in her home. She was shot 3 times execution style, including a shot to the back of her head. She was pronounced dead 2 days later. Amanda was the wife of Resonate Church pastor Davey Blackburn. Her toddler son Weston who was home at the time of the shooting was uninjured. Amanda was about 12 weeks pregnant at the time of her murder.

Three men have been arrested and charged in Amanda's murder. They are awaiting trial.

WTHR Amanda Blackburn murder investigation summary

When this case caught my attention last year, I was quickly alarmed at the inappropriate behavior of Davey Blackburn in his church messages. Most disturbing was his sermon two days prior to Amanda's murder in which he waved a gun around on stage and repeatedly acted out shooting a man in the back at Resonate Church, which meets in a middle school in Indianapolis. Did Davey violate the school district's policy against using weapons on school property?

The sexual content of Davey's messages also raised concerns, particularly the demeaning way he spoke of his sex life with his wife Amanda. He also displays in his messages a disrespectful and demeaning attitude towards women. In one message, Davey discusses his sexual temptations at the gym and chastises the women there whom he says do not look like they are there to work out but to be worked out.

Five months after his wife's murder, Davey will be back on the mega stage speaking at his mentor Perry Noble's Newspring Church this Sunday, April 24 with a live stream to Resonate. Davey, Resonate Church, Perry Noble and Newspring Church are spreading the word on social media about Davey's appearance, complete with a video. Davey, who appeared giddy even during his media tour the week of her death, seems ecstatic. He will tell how he's doing. He even had a photo shoot done to market his message.

 Amanda's murder trial has yet to take place, so there has not yet been justice done for her and her unborn baby. It's now about Davey. It's "his story." What about Amanda, and what about Weston, who is forever without his mommy? What about the precious baby she was carrying? Is justice for Amanda still a "conundrum" for Davey?

Davey Blackburn statement November 11, 2015 (one day after Amanda was shot, full statement here, archived here):

I hold firm to the belief that God is still good, that He takes our tragedy and turns it into triumph, and that the best truly is yet to come.
-Davey Blackburn

Since Davey will be speaking about how he's doing, let's take a peek at some of his Resonate Church's recent sermon series:

Davey Blackburn has been marketing his wife's murder from the beginning. In the few days after she was murdered, even before the suspects were caught, Davey had his cousin make t-shirts (archived here just in case) to sell at her funeral. Resonate Church announced that all profits went to Davey.
This past week, tragedy struck my family. My cousin's beautiful wife was killed through an act of senseless violence. As I made the long drive to Indianapolis, I could not help but to be angry about the situation. How could such an amazing young mother be taking from us so early. I felt sorrow for my cousin. However, when I arrived at my grandparents house I was met by an unbelievable force. Hope. My cousin, Davey Blackburn, was a rock of hope and inspiration of joy. Everyone would have understood if he was angry or depressed during this dark time, but he wasn't. When I arrived he immediately gave me a huge hug and asked how I was. His focus was not driven by anger but by complete, life-giving hope. He asked if there was any way that I could make some shirts that his wife, Amanda, had designed for their church in time for her celebration service.

On Novermber 13, 2015, 3 days after Amanda was shot, and 1 day after she was pronounced dead, someone at Newspring Church registered the domain Nothing is Wasted for Davey and Resonate Church.

Davey tweeted #nothingiswasted during Amanda's funeral:

Davey's 911 call has yet to be released. In a blog post last week, Davey said he called 911 "as soon as I could."

Statement Analysis- Amanda Blackburn Murder: "Listening" to the Victim's Husband


Statement Analysis: Blackburn on Fox News: "I had no idea"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mohler and Mahaney: laughing at child sex abuse victims Together for the Gospel 2016

UPDATE: The Daily Beast covered this story and linked to my post.

They laughed about child sex abuse yesterday at T4G2016:

SNAP, an advocacy and support group formed in response to the pedophile priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, previously called on the other three conference founders to disinvite Mahaney. Allegations were made against Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., and other leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries in a 2012 lawsuit dismissed on a legal technicality.
One of the protestors, Pam Palmer of Hagerstown, Md., told local media that after her 3-year-old daughter was abused by a teenage boy who was eventually convicted, a pastor serving under Mahaney told her family not to call the police.
In introducing Mahaney at the conference, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, praised his friend as a model of Christian endurance.
With renewed attention to the civil case in recent articles by The Washingtonian and Time Magazine and a second arrest of a Covenant Life Church member for sexual abuse, some even within the Calvinist camp said it would be the prudent thing for him to again avoid attending.
Mark Ammerman, pastor at Grace Evangelical Congregational Church in Lancaster, Pa., appealed to planners in a message made public by The Wartburg Watch that “no matter how you may feel about him personally” Mahaney is “in the middle of one of the largest ongoing sex abuse scandals in evangelical history.
 Mohler referred obliquely to the pushback in his introduction of Mahaney, getting laughs with the line: “I told C.J. that in getting ready to introduce him I decided I would Google to see if there was anything on the Internet about him.”
Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a council member for The Gospel Coalition.

 WDRB 41 Louisville News

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is protesting at a major religious conference because a pastor who has allegedly concealed child sex crimes by at least 15 accused offenders will speak, along with other ministers in his controversial, Louisville-based denomination.
Rev. C. J. Mahaney is the former head of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), now known as Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC). It has roughly 70 churches across the US (mainly in eastern states) and in Australia, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Great Britain, Germany and Mexico.
He is a plenary presenter at the biennial international Together for the Gospel (T4G16) conference which is expected to draw 8,000 participants to Louisville on April 12-14.
But in October, Mahaney was accused in civil lawsuits of ignoring and hiding known and suspected child sexual abuse by church staff and members while he led SGM and Covenant Life Church in Maryland. And last month, SNAP leaders urged conference organizers to rescind their invitation to Mahaney, but they ignored SNAP’s request.
Even before that, alleged victims of SGC/SGM predators and their family members and other concerned individuals privately and individually conveyed to T4G conference organizers and scheduled speakers their strong objections to Mahaney and SGM officials having any role at the event.
“Every time an accused or admitted complicit church official is honored, it discourages victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from exposing predators, warning parents and protecting kids,” said Pam Palmer of Hagerstown, a former SGM member whose daughter was sexually abused in 1993 by a teenager. “Giving corrupt men like Mahaney praise and visibility adds to the already strong sense of powerlessness that many who saw, suspected and suffered clergy sex crimes feel. It decreases the chances they'll find the courage and hope needed to speak up about horrific wrongs. So it basically sanctions the concealing of sexual assaults against children.”
“Common sense and common decency would lead T4G officials to say ‘Look C. J., we’re just going to wait until this litigation is resolved before holding you out as a moral figure,’” Palmer emphasized. “That would show compassion and prudence. But instead, these ministers all want to act as if these serious and pending charges don’t exist.”
A prominent Louisville clergyman, Al Mohler, who heads the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-founded T4G.
“It’s reckless and callous when clergymen give prominent positions to colleagues who face charges of concealing child sex crimes,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “It actually makes churches more dangerous. It discourages other church members and staff who see, suspect or suffer child sex crimes from speaking up. It emboldens those w
Besides Mahaney, several current SGC/SGM officials will be speaking at breakout sessions at the conference. SNAP wanted them disinvited too.
For more than 30 years, Mahaney led both Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland and SGM (now Sovereign Grace Churches). Multiple news sources have reported that he was forced to take a leave of absence as President of SGM in July, 2011 – in part, because of allegations of blackmail and abuses of power.