Friday, August 3, 2018

Prominent NYC megachurch, Redeemer Church, quietly fired pastor David Kim for sexual abuse: a survivor shares her story

 


I’m sharing my story to warn people and reach out to other victims.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

Note: Yesterday, August 1, an email was distributed to the entire community at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Redeemer City to City concerning the termination of one of its former pastors, David Kim. This email refers to “an individual who made serious allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by David approximately 17 years ago, when she was a college student and David was the founding director of a campus ministry at her university.” I am that individual. In light of this email and the fact that I believe it gives an inaccurate impression of what happened, I feel compelled to share my story now.

When I was a college student at Princeton in 2001, i was sexually violated by a campus ministry leader, David Kim. I met David in fall 2000. I was a new Christian and had started attending Manna Christian Fellowship, where David was Executive Director. I met with him several times for spiritual guidance. In the spring 2001, I was alone off campus working on my thesis. David showed up at the house where I was staying. He said he was going to study with me, and I believed him. However, he had other intentions. 

First, he started rubbing my shoulders, but then he quickly progressed to touching all over my body, under my clothes, lying on top of me, and holding me really tight pressed up against his body. As this was happening, I went into shock and don’t remember much until the next day. My memory of what happened that night is in pieces, and a lot of pieces are blurry or blocked out. I was shocked, scared and confused. I trusted David as a spiritual leader who was teaching me about God. I never thought of him as anything else, and I couldn’t reconcile the man who many students revered with the man who was assaulting me. 

The next day David asked how I felt about the previous night. I expressed distress and explicitly told him I felt uncomfortable, conflicted and confused. I described two voices in my head: one screaming at me that what he was doing was wrong and dangerous and I should run; the other telling me that David was trustworthy and wouldn’t do anything wrong. His response to my distress was: “Well, nothing happened,” and he prayed with me. Once he knew he could do what he wanted and get away with it - he manipulated me into trusting him and not telling on him - he did what he wanted. He behaved inappropriately towards me multiple times until I graduated and moved to Texas.

This was never a consensual relationship. I was a new Christian, new to Manna, and a college student. David was a campus ministry leader and the first person who ever really taught me about God. I trusted him as a spiritual leader, and he used that position of trust to betray and abuse me. 

By 2005, I had become immensely troubled by what David had done to me, and I was worried that he was doing the same thing to other girls. I sought help reporting David from a highly-respected, professional “Christian” counselor in Dallas, Daren Martin. After telling Daren about the PTSD symptoms I’d been experiencing, I told him what David had done to me. Daren’s response was: “What’s the big deal?” He said I was overreacting and that David hadn’t done anything wrong. He advised me: “Ask David if he has feelings for you.”
Since Daren was no help, I called David and confronted him by myself. His reaction was: “Who did you tell?!” I said I’d told a counselor. He freaked out and was mad that I had talked to anyone about it. All he cared about was that his secret was out. I was not at all equipped to handle confronting him by myself, and it didn’t go well, but I knew he needed to be held accountable. 

David reported to no one. He was the sole leader of Manna. There was no one above him for me to report him to. He was very resistant to the idea of accountability and kept making excuses. Finally, he agreed to talk to a local pastor. Our agreement, as I understood it, was that he would confess what he did to the pastor and the pastor would know what to do. A week or so later, he called and told me he had talked to the pastor. He also recommended I read a book about shame. I naively believed he had actually confessed to the pastor.

Shortly after my confrontation with David, I received a call from Daren’s office saying that he was no longer seeing clients. No explanation was given. I heard elsewhere that he had been caught sexually exploiting a client, among others. The Texas Department of State Health Services website confirms that Daren Martin surrendered his license for reasons “Related to sexual exploitation of a client.” This explains his horrendous counsel and failure to help me report David. Daren was a sex predator too.

Daren and David both gaslighted me. They both tried to manipulate me into believing that the sexual and spiritual abuse I had suffered was “nothing,” that I was overreacting, that it wasn’t even wrong. Around the same time, I disclosed that I had been sexually violated by David to three women at my church. By then, my health was rapidly failing, and I believed I had done as much as I could at the time.

In the aftermath of the abuse and my attempt to report and confront David, I struggled with a myriad of debilitating health problems: PTSD, breast cancer, Lyme disease, neuro-immune disease, migraines, chronic pain, etc. I had to withdraw from school three times and quit a job and volunteer work, all due to illness related to trauma. In contrast, David was rewarded with increasing power and success in his ministry career. He continued in his role as Executive Director of Manna Christian Fellowship. He also became the Director of Gotham Fellowship at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, the Executive Director of the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and the Vice President of the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer City to City. https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-kim-8135289

The recent outpouring of stories of sexual abuse and assault triggered memories of my own abuse and reminded me that there was never any justice in my case. I didn’t know what consequences, if any, David had ever faced for abusing his power and exploiting a student under his care.I met with the pastor who David had supposedly talked to in 2005. I asked if David had ever confessed to him. He said no. However, as soon as the presbytery told David about my report in May, David immediately called the pastor and convinced him that he had met with him years ago to discuss accountability, but he never told him what he did or to whom “to protect Jen.”

On April 30, I met with two pastors from the metro New York presbytery (governing body comprised of pastors and leaders of local churches in a region) and gave them a detailed account of the abuse both in writing and via video conference. They began forming a commission - a group of all male presbytery members who have no experience or training in investigating sexual abuse allegations - to do an internal investigation involving one of their own pastors. They asked me if I was willing, if they decided to have their own trial, “to testify before the commission, which would include answering questions by whoever would represent the defendant?” I told them that the process they outlined is incompatible with addressing sexual abuse allegations and would be re-traumatizing, and that I decided to go directly to Redeemer with my report instead.

On May 15, I notified the Director of HR for Redeemer Churches and Ministries and Redeemer City to City that I had been sexually violated by David Kim when I was a student and he was a campus ministry leader. Five times I requested an independent investigation by qualified investigators to determine if there were other victims. Five times they denied my request. They did not listen to my concerns. Instead they tried to control the process to protect themselves. Ultimately, Redeemer City to City quietly terminated David without informing anyone as to why. On June 6, the HR Director emailed me to say that David was no longer employed there and that “Our involvement in this matter has concluded.” I have emails documenting all my correspondence with the HR Director as well as the presbytery.

At the time Redeemer City to City (CTC) “concluded” their involvement on June 6, there was no investigation. No one notified the thousands of young adults this man has influenced in over two decades as a pastor and campus ministry leader. I questioned how many other victims there might be and how many other people have tried to report abuse at Redeemer and been treated like I was? 

On July 25, I shared a short summary of my experience and concerns with a limited audience on facebook. My post quickly spread to Redeemer. On August 1, I received a copy of an email that was distributed to the Redeemer and CTC communities indicating that they have reconsidered the way they mishandled my report. The email reveals that the individual who reported David was a female student in Manna 17 years ago. There are only a small number of people who fit that description, so I decided to identify myself and address some concerns I have with the information presented. 

The email states that when CTC confronted him, “David was forthcoming and, while he disputed several specific claims, did admit to having inappropriately crossed boundaries with the college student while he was a in a position of ministerial leadership... CTC and Redeemer HR... obtained additional third-party information that corroborated David’s acknowledgement of inappropriately crossing boundaries with the student.” I adamantly oppose the use of the phrase “inappropriately crossed boundaries” to describe what David did to me. That is a gross understatement. David targeted, groomed, assaulted, abused, gaslighted and silenced me. He used his position of spiritual authority to deceive and exploit me. And when I practically begged him to come clean in 2005, he again duped and silenced me. I assume he did not disclose his behavior to Redeemer when he was hired or to the PCA when he was ordained. He has not been “forthcoming.” His deliberate deceitfulness demonstrated over time is even more disturbing to me than the assault. 

While I’m encouraged that Redeemer and CTC appear to be moving towards greater transparency and better handling of reports, I’m discouraged at how long it has taken to move in that direction. Their initial response to me was wrong. Their email did not acknowledge that. And I still wonder how many others have received similar treatment or been deterred from reporting at all over the years. Moreover, no one has informed the Manna community, and they need to know. This happened to me when I was a student and David was a single, young man leading a campus ministry by himself with no oversight or accountability. 

Churches should be safe places for victims of sexual abuse to be heard and supported. Far too often, they are the places of abuse, and they are more committed to self-protection and silencing victims than to honesty and caring for those who have been harmed. The damage this causes is immense. For me, the abuse I suffered - both initially and when I first tried to report and confront him - destroyed my health and my life. The cost to me - physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, relationally - is immeasurable. I still struggle with PTSD from it. I am compelled to speak out because I know I’m not the only one, and other victims need to know they are not alone. #MeToo #ChurchToo

David Kim is the founding director of Manna Christian Fellowship at Princeton University. 
Rev. David H. Kim is the founding director of Manna and has served at Princeton University for the past 17 years. During his time at Princeton, David developed this ministry to focus on how the gospel renews both private and public worlds. He is also currently on staff with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan serving as the director of the Gotham Fellowship a nine-month Fellows program for professionals. David has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Westminster Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and is currently working towards a D.Min at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister of the PCA. He is married to Jane who he met during his time at Princeton.
Here is the cached version of Manna Christian Fellowship's "Advisors" page as it appeared on Jul 3, 2018. 


 David Kim's biography listed on the Ei Forum NYC website in 2014:
Executive Director of Center for Faith & Work, oversees all the ministries of the Center for Faith & Work as Executive Director and is the Pastor of Faith and Work of Redeemer. Prior to this role, David served as the Director of the Gotham Fellowship, developing and teaching its intensive curriculum while providing spiritual direction. Prior to joining CFW in 2007, David was a Chaplain at Princeton University, where he also served as the Founder and Executive Director of Manna Christian Fellowship for over 12 years. 


The Center for Faith and Work (CFW) is "the cultural renewal arm of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, founded to equip, connect, and mobilize our church community in their professional and industry spheres toward gospel-centered transformation for the common good," as described at E & I Forum NYC.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church, with about 5,000 members, was founded in 1989 by pastor Timothy Keller. It is a member of the PCA, Presbyterian Church in America. Keller stepped down as senior pastor of Redeemer in July 2017. He is still actively involved in the ministries of Redeemer Church according to a story in Christianity Today
This move does not mean retirement for Manhattan’s most popular evangelical pastor and apologist; instead, Keller will work full-time teaching in a partner program with Reformed Theological Seminary and working with Redeemer’s City to City church planting network.

Redeemer City to City is a ministry of Redeemer Church that "prayerfully recruits, trains, coaches and resources leaders who start new churches and church networks in global cities." 

David Kim has two books listed on Amazon: Glimpses of a Greater Glory and 20 and Something, the latter published by Barna Group.






David Kim protected his Twitter account shortly after I shared Jen's story in a tweet yesterday in which I tagged him. 















Monday, July 30, 2018

Another fired Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary doing church youth ministry and missions in the SBC


Elliott Freeman

According to his bio on the Meridian University staff pageElliott Freeman graduated from the University of Oklahoma and received his Mdiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He and his wife, Leslie, served as missionaries for 6 years in southeast Asia.  Elliott, Leslie and their 4 children are now members of First Baptist Church Sapulpa Oklahoma.



Meridian University is a biblical training school for missions founded by Ralph Speas and Tom Elliff. Meridian University is located on the second floor of First Baptist Church Sapulpa.
Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastors Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Meridian University Board of Directors


Records received by The Sapulpa Messenger show that Elliott Freeman (full name Preston Elliott Freeman) served with the IMB in Southeast Asia from September 13, 2006 to his termination dated July 6, 2012. 
Elliff was originally inaugurated as IMB President in 2011. Under his tenure, in July 7, 2012, the IMB FIRED an IMB missionary serving from FBC Sapulpa.  So abrupt was his termination that his family had no time to gather their belongings.  He was perp-walked off the mission field in China and instructed that he was banned forever from serving in the IMB.  His personnel letter, which was placed into the hands of The Sapulpa Messenger, can be seen below:

The Sapulpa Messenger shared with me the email exchanges from January 2016 with the IMB and a concerned FBC Sapulpa member. The member was inquiring about Freeman's termination from the IMB and concerns that his termination was due to issues of sexual misconduct, since Freeman would be involved with kids in the church youth ministry. 





The concerned church member received a reply from Roger Haun, director of personnel at the IMB. Roger stated that "if there is an end of service for reasons such as you state, all inquiries about that individual are handled by our Executive Assistant to the President, Dr. Clyde Meador." At the time of the email exchanges, Meador was executive assistant to then and current IMB president David Platt. Clyde Meador retired from the IMB in May 2016. 

The church member stated that the inquiry was for concerns that Elliott Freeman was terminated from the IMB for "sexual misconduct." Roger Haun's reply confirmed that David Platt's executive assistant Clyde Meador should handle this inquiry since it involved "end of service" for "reasons such as you state." The stated reason was "sexual misconduct."

Clyde Meador, executive assistant to IMB president David Platt, replied to the email about Elliott Freeman. He confirmed that Elliott Freeman was terminated by the IMB for "failure to maintain a lifestyle in keeping with the expectations of missionaries of the International Mission Board." He added that to "explain further the lifestyle issues, I would need a written authorization from Mr. Freeman to share that information with you."



Social media posts confirm that terminated missionary Elliott Freeman is involved with the youth ministry at FBC Sapulpa. His father Mitch Freeman is on staff at the church as the children's pastor. Did Elliott Freeman's termination due to issues of sexual misconduct involve sexual abuse of kids or vulnerable people? If so, has this been reported to law enforcement to be investigated? Did the IMB conduct another internal investigation like in the case of fired IMB missionary Mark Aderholt who was recently arrested for child sex crimes?

The student pastor at FBC Sapulpa is Keno King.


Post by FBC Sapulpa youth pastor Keno King. Elliott Freeman is circled by Watchkeep.




Elliott Freeman training students at FBC Sapulpa


























Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Let it go": Southern Baptist Mission Organization, IMB, tells child sex abuse victim


Fort Worth Star Telegram: Southern Baptist officials knew of sexual abuse allegations 11 years before leader's arrest

I collaborated with Dee Parsons on her new post at The Wartburg Watch about this story. Read more here.









   


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chris Conlee resigns from Highpoint Church: new statement from Jules Woodson



Statement from Jules Woodson:
Over the past 6 months, since I originally went public with my story, and through the resignations of the other 3 pastors involved, Steve Bradley of StoneBridge Church has refused to acknowledge or be held accountable for any wrong doing to include his failure to report my assault to law enforcement. 

As #ChurchToo stories continue to pop up in headlines nationwide, (i.e. Bill Hybels, Frank Page, Paul Pressler, Mark Aderholt, to name a few,) people are beginning to understand how damaging and traumatizing clergy sexual abuse can be...It is a gross abuse of power that violates victims physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, churches continue to minimize abuse by handling reports internally and with toxic theology that focuses on cheap grace and forgiveness over accountability and justice.
 

My goals in continuing to speak out are not self motivated for pity or attention but instead, to encourage other abuse victims who have been shamed and silenced by the church, to know that they are not alone. I want my story to help educate others and effect positive change in how the church handles abuse and treats victims.
 

I think Chris Conlee's resignation was a necessary step and I'm grateful he is no longer in the pulpit for now though I am confused as to why it took 6 months for Highpoint to realize this. I also feel that the leaders missed an important opportunity yesterday to affirm to the world that in moving forward, they will be a church that no longer tolerates abuse and will become a safe and supportive place for all victims. Instead, they were vague about the resignation in the official statement they released and told reporters who reached out that they were not commenting.


The New York Times: I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.


 

 

 

Abuse survivor Brooks Hansen also spoke out after Chris Conlee's resignation:


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Christian Author Robert D. Smith Seeks to Silence Alleged Child Sexual Abuse Survivor with Defamation Lawsuit




WSMV News 4


The News 4 I-Team's Lindsay Bramson uncovered the court records that show the brewing battle.
So how influential is Robert D. Smith, the man accused of sexual abuse? Among his 148,000 followers on Twitter, is former president Barack Obama and country star Luke Bryan.
He's a consultant, known for launching best-sellers and he's fighting for his reputation. The accuser, Jim Cochrun, now 51, lives in Texas and says Robert Smith sexually assaulted him when he was just 12 years old. Now, Smith is suing that accuser.
Smith who lives in Franklin serves as a private consultant to a number of bestselling authors, speakers and entertainers including best-selling author Andy Andrews who has cut ties with his former manager saying in a Facebook post from January, "I completely ended the relationship with my longtime manager, Robert D. Smith.  This severing of all ties, business and personal, is due to multiple allegations of child abuse with preadolescence males."
Press release:

HOUSTON (APRIL 3, 2018) – Christian author and personal branding expert Robert D. Smith sexually assaulted Jim Cochrun when he was only 12 years old.  At the time of the assault, Robert Smith told Jim to never tell anyone. Jim was bullied into keeping the child sexual assault secret.  Forty years later, Robert D. Smith is attempting to use the legal system to continue to silence this victim of child sexual assault by filing a defamation suit against Jim Cochrun.


For over 30 years, Robert D. Smith has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and speaker Andy Andrews and has provided personal branding consultation to numerous other well-known figures in the Christian community. 

After unsuccessfully attempting to “make this go away” in direct conversations with his alleged victim, Smith filed a lawsuit against Cochrun in the Chancery Court of Williamson County, TN at Franklin as Case No. 46996.  In the suit, Smith seeks over $750,000 from his victim. The suit was removed to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2018. That case is styled as Case No. 3:18-cv-00225.  Recently, Jim Cochrun filed his answer in federal court challenging the lawsuit against him and also made a complaint with the Tulsa Police Department in Tulsa, OK (the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the incidents of sexual abuse committed by Robert Smith on Jim Cochrun).

Jim Cochrun made the difficult decision to share his story with the general public in the hope that any other victims will be emboldened to step forward and seek justice like he is.

“Being sued by your abuser is understandably shocking,” George Edwards said. “Jim has never sought money from his abuser. His motivation is that justice is done and that any other victims who may exist are empowered to come forward. The good news for Jim and other victims like him is that they will defend these allegations with the truth. Proving defamation is difficult. The statements must be false, which means Smith would have to prove that the sexual assault did not happen. Our client has no reason to lie.”

Brent Webster further states that “Jim’s willingness to come forward with the truth is the only way to keep perpetrators like this out of positions of influence.”

George Edwards, III, Murtaza Sutarwalla, and Brent Webster of Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC and John D. Kitch, of Counsel for Cornelius & Collins LLP, represent Jim Cochrun. 
###
About Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC
Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC (www.eslawpartners.com) is a full-service business law firm based in Houston and Austin, Texas practicing in the areas of civil litigation, commercial transactions and corporate law. Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC also represents survivors of child sexual assault and abuse throughout the country.






The narrative portion of the Tulsa police report (embedded above) states that the victim Jim Cochrun alleges that after the sexual assault, Robert D. Smith told him, "This is going to be our little secret. You can never tell ANYONE about this."




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jules Woodson responds to announcement of the resignation of Andy Savage from Highpoint Church Memphis

While yesterday's announcement is a step in the right direction, the conversation must not end here. Instead, this needs to be a wakeup call for everyone. There is a systemic problem within the institution of the church that props people up in places of power and gives them immunity based on cheap grace and a call for forgiveness. This has bred a culture ripe for abuse and cover-up. Repentance, accountability and justice should not be contrived. Unfortunately, my story is not unique. My hope in speaking out is that this opens up the conversation and empowers others.  We, as Christians, should be leading the way in recognizing, preventing and handling abuse. Genuine repentance is not demonstrated by one decision but by many decisions that, over a period of time and born out of humility, transform the culture of the church. As Jesus demonstrated, the church should be the safest and most affirming community for the vulnerable and the wounded. This announcement is one step forward and I am hopeful there are many more steps to follow.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Confession Amended: The New York Times video with Jules Woodson



I was assaulted. He was applauded.
Jules Woodson says she was 17 when her youth pastor, Andy Savage, sexually assaulted her. In late 2017, almost two decades later, Ms. Woodson, inspired by the #MeToo movement, emailed Mr. Savage asking whether he remembered what has haunted her for decades. When he didn’t reply, she told her story to a blog for victims of church abuse. Days later, Mr. Savage addressed his congregation at the Highpoint Church in Memphis, where he is a pastor, and the church streamed the service online as usual.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Former Highpoint Church minister, current church member, tweets threats of violence directed towards abuse victim advocates

Yesterday morning I was made aware of tweets by Jason Bendall. Jason is a former minister at Highpoint Church and current Highpoint Church member. According to his Facebook bio, he worked at Highpoint Church as the Recreation Director. He tweeted that he was on staff at the church for 10 years. After exposure yesterday, he deleted mention of Highpoint as his past employer, as well as his current employer, Old Dominion Freight Line.


I had never heard of Jason before yesterday when I discovered he had preemptively blocked me and many others who had been sharing Jules' story of sexual assault by her then youth pastor in TX, Andy Savage.

Below are screenshots of tweets by Jason Bendall. After exposure of his threats yesterday, he deleted these tweets.










Another Highpoint Church member has been defending Andy Savage's sexual assault of Jules as a "mistake." There also seems to be some confusion about Andy Savage's position at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now Stonebridge Church. Andy was a full time youth pastor, not a "college intern" as Paul Goode insists.








A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who stated that he attended Andy Savage's ordination at Germantown Baptist Church. Others have told me that they have received confirmation that this ordination took place in December of 1995.