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Toxic Tuesday: Church Leadership Supporting Sexual Offenders Part 2

Part 2

Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10 ESV

I am concerned about many churches in America, and abroad, regarding their lack of discernment or care for children’s safety.

For background leading up to this post see Church Leadership Supporting Sexual Offenders: Part 1

I am not a confrontational person at heart but last week the Lord gave me an assignment; a difficult uncomfortable lesson to present to people in places of church leadership and authority. I would rather pass on this project but at the same time; I am privileged for the option to obey.

So here it goes.

How would you feel if a sexual offender were in your house attacking your child, or had just left your house after attacking your child, and you called 911 for help but the 911 operator did not believe you? Instead they asked to speak to your attacker to hear their side of the story. Then they believed the attacker instead of you which in my book is the same as saying, “You’re crazy! Your child is lying! It never happened to your child; in fact, you invented this propaganda and told your child to repeat the lie. Admit it, you don’t like this person and you are trying to run them out-of-town and ruin their career. How could you say such a terrible thing about that person?” The operator then threatened you and your family should you decide to involve the law.

You turn your attacker in to the local authorities on your own but for doing so you experience hostility from the 911 operator and the staff from their office. You receive threats and your name is slandered in the community.

This is happening to children and their families in the church world-wide. There are predators in our society who are attending college and seminaries to train for working in the church to gain access to supply; children. Unsuspecting leadership and church goers are clueless to this fact so it isn’t surprising that when sexual abuse allegations come up; they are quickly denied by the perpetrator, not believed by the church staff or members, quieted or ignored.

I am disappointed, sad, sickened and frustrated when adults do not believe the children or take seriously the Biblical mandate to look after and welcome the little children; especially when they need protection from a predator. Children need to be believed.

I have witnessed churches, friends and ministry associates support such an offender and I believe they have much to answer for to the Lord, to the church they were entrusted with in leadership roles, to the children, and to the children’s families. I’m not alone in my opinion.

Here is a note I received from a well-respected man of God who specializes in bringing to light the plight of child sexual abuse in the church, Christian universities, para-church organizations, and on the mission field.

“Though I am glad this predator was finally caught and removed from having more opportunities to abuse little ones, I am sickened by the fact that the faith community has embraced him and advocates for his innocence. I have no doubt these individuals will one day be called into account for their failure to protect the vulnerable as they were too busy protecting evil. So glad that justice finally arrived…”

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42 ESV

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 ESV

Church is one of the places where children and abuse survivors should be the safest. The unfortunate truth is that molesters, pedophiles and sexual offenders know that the church is the one place where they can  be a new attendee, volunteer to help in children’s ministry, and be gladly received.

Most churches have a process in place for doing criminal background checks on volunteers but the fact remains that many people with sexual addictions and attractions to children have never been arrested; therefore, they pass the background check.

I’ve heard of numerous instances where churches hired staff knowing there had been child sexual abuse allegations in the person’s background but the church believed the, “I’m innocent of the allegations. Someone was mad at me for ________ (fill in the blank). The church leadership and/or search committee believed them and gave them the authority to abuse more children. That’s exactly how I look at it.

Here is one example of a convicted sex offender: “The allegations were false’: At the time he was hired, the pastor informed the church of his past conviction and claimed the allegations were false. Despite the fact that a court of law found sufficient evidence to convict this man of a sexual offense against a child, the church preferred to believe his words. I have seldom encountered child sexual abusers who did not claim that the allegations made against them were false. I even prosecuted cases where the defendant gave a full confession to law enforcement as he maintained his innocence to friends and family. Anytime we are dealing with someone who has been prosecuted for sexually abusing a child, we don’t have the luxury to accept his or her words of denial.” [i]

The church needs to be concerned about the safety of children not concerned about the church’s reputation. When children are protected, families and people will know they are part of a loving godly ministry. While on earth Jesus did not teach, “Protect the reputation of the church, the pastors, or the leaders even if it means sacrificing the children.” This is not scriptural.

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:5-6

Beginning today I pray that churches, pastors and friends recognize God has set local authority over us; therefore, we need to use God’s tool (local authorities) by getting out of the way and allowing the law to do its job.

The church must believe and protect our children. We live in a world where drugs are readily available to help lessen or deaden the pain and where suicide claims the lives of so many children and young adults who have suffered at the hands of molesters and pedophilic offenders. If the church were doing its job drug usage and the suicide rate would be considerably less.

Pastors, friends and family members need to do what is right and when they don’t; we need to make the consequence a heavy weight that reminds them and shows people around them the importance of believing and protecting the children. It isn’t your job to decide guilt or innocence. Always report sexual abuse allegations to the authorities and allow the professionals to do their job. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse.

For the church members and friends who stood as character witnesses with the above/below mentioned pastor or wrote letters of reference for him to the court; you should have made a few phone calls before helping this sexual offender. The ex-wife, previous ministries and former mentors would have been the obvious choices. There was a trail of legal paperwork, medical paperwork and witnesses which should have removed any doubt or at least placed doubt and many questions in your mind.

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:5-6

Here are excerpts from the Independence Daily Reporter article, by Allen Smith, about Butler’s Montgomery County District Court sentencing.

“The former minister of the Community Christian Church of Independence, Kansas, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years for aggravated criminal sodomy of a child.” [ii]

The next portion is by the mother of the then 3-year-old boy who Steven Paul Butler was sentenced under Jessica’s Law for victimizing.

“I have prayed many different prayers over the past 4 ½ years. In one of the constant prayers I have asked God, that no child would ever be hurt by Steve Butler,” She said.

“I have watched my son go from a joyful confident child, to a shattered mess of confusion, fear and heartbreak, shame and anger.”

“He feels unworthy of love, friendship or success,” she said.

Then she focused her anger on Butler.

“I trusted a man who acted like a great man of God with the most important things in my life, my children. He abused his power. My son has suffered so much and the only hope he has, the light at the end of the tunnel, is Mr. Butler will never hurt another child again.”

“I merely ask you not to let my son’s suffering be in vain,” the mother wrote.

The boy’s grandfather also spoke at the hearing.

“This act of sexual abuse towards our grandson has robbed him of his precious childhood innocence,” he said. “He has had to relive the incident over and over for the past four years.”

“When he should have been enjoying things like Christmas, birthdays and the simple things of life, he has spent these years in fear, worrying that Steve Butler would be set free to come after him and harm him again.” [iii]

Here is the last segment I will share:

“Cullins (the judge) acknowledged he had received and reviewed ‘thoroughly,’ letters of support from several people including, David Bycroft, pastor at the Tryo Christian Church, Reggie Epps, Dave Rutherford, Larita Jones, Charles Rice, Ilene Vance, Bess Clark and Vicki Edington, among others.” [iv]

The local reporter believed one of the moms and her child to not be believable. Let me point out that this momma and her child were the perfect targets for any child predator. No, she didn’t show overt emotion. Yes, her child suffers from mental illness. Any child victimized before the age of 6 is at high risk for developing personality disorders. This momma’s child was 5 when the defendant was accused of molesting him. If the defendant followed his usual plan of attack he knew the child’s history of emotional difficulties, including abuse, and knew the mom’s personal and family history; preying upon the child specifically for these reasons. The defendant knew that even if he was caught, no one would ever believe the child or his mom. See : How Sexual Predators Choose Child Victims and Pedophile or Molester

Ronnie Epps, founding pastor of Johnson County Christian Church/Legacy Christian Church in Overland Park, Kansas, and Reggie Thomas of White Fields Evangelism in Joplin, Missouri attended as supporters of the defendant. As a former adult victim of the defendant I can tell you that it felt like they were screaming at me, “He never raped you. He never abused your child. You’re crazy. How could you say such a thing about this wonderful man of God?”

I understood the words of past victims who have said, “It felt like I was being violated all over again.” That was exactly how I felt and it was painful but the torment came in how I felt for the helpless children who weeks earlier had to testify in front of their abuser while church members and pastors/evangelists sat there supporting the defendant. I pleadingly submit to you; the church should have been there for the children.

You blindly supported a sexual offender without investigating past allegations by contacting former churches, mentors and former family members and you betrayed innocent children; the apples of Jesus’ eye.

Now all of you who are supporters of this man have some accounting to do. You didn’t allow the little children to come to Jesus. You owe them and their families an apology. You need to decide how you can minister to them and help facilitate healing.

I understand that you may not recognize or understand a fraudulent deceiver when you see one because you are not deceitful. Perhaps you had no idea what to look for. But the fact remains that when the allegations arose you should have thought first and foremost about the innocent children and dug into the accuser’s background. You didn’t.

Some people have asked, “Where was God?” This question is an easy way of bucking the church’s responsibility.  I ask where the church was.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

The local church needs to publicly apologize for their inexcusable behavior and the denial of the facts; for not investigating past allegations as soon as they learned about them, for believing the offender, for leaving children alone with Butler, and for not supporting the children and their families in court. I believe you have lost some of your reward. Have you regretted second guessing, remaining silent, or not supporting the children? You are partly responsible for the abuse that took place in the church building. I whole heartedly believe Jesus wants you to make amends and make sure children in your care are always protected today, and in the future.  For help on how to protect children in your church and how to minister to abuse survivors I recommend, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment or visit G.R.A.C.E. at their Facebook page.

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

The church and the defendant’s supporters hindered the little children. You added to their heartache. The children will likely always remember that the church, Christians and Christian leaders/pastors did not believe them. This will make their journey to healing more difficult and could possibly interfere with a how they relate to God their Father. It has the potential to keep them from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. They will have a tendency to resist the Holy Spirit. Did you stop and ask if your response would hurt the child’s relationship with the Lord or if your support would add trauma to an already difficult circumstance?

Now for the good news; the reminder. The Lord in His great mercy, grace and beauty offers all of us the gift of repentance.

Repentance is not God’s way of condescendingly reminding us of our sin, failures and mistakes. Quite the opposite. It is our chance to approach Him, and through repentance, receive forgiveness, healing, power, wisdom and blessing. Repentance is a beautiful gift. God does not dole out punishments, although there may be natural consequences, but instead gives good gifts to those seeking His heart and will.

I will end this week’s post with a quote from my friend Cindy Sigler Dagnan’s Facebook author page. She had no idea about my blog or the fact I was asking the Lord if my post was appropriate.  I was inquiring of the Lord what to write and how to handle a sensitive subject. I knew I was to show firmness from a biblical viewpoint fueled by love for the Lord’s church. At the same time I was feeling completely inadequate and questioning what I had written. Then I felt the Holy Spirit almost blow me over as He reassured me through Cindy’s Facebook status update. I read it, then re-read it through blurry tear-filled eyes.

“It’s a poverty when God’s words are watered down for the sake of being culturally sensitive, in the name of comforting others or not being offensive. His absolute truth is by nature going to offend because it requires of us change. Perhaps more scary, it requires us to do nothing but ACCEPT His grace and the promise of salvation — we CANNOT earn it! We can sooo love others to Jesus without backing down. Confronting wrong is NOT the same as pointing unkind judgmental fingers. After all, Jesus saved His most pointed comments for those who should KNOW BETTER, not for the unsaved. He loved them, but gently and firmly said, “Go and sin no more.” He DID NOT say, “That’s not really sin if you really want to do this.” Cindy Sigler Dagnan 9/14/2014

Next week: Part 3 of Church Leadership Supporting Sexual Offenders

[i]Boz Tchividjian, “4 lessons we can learn from a church that hired a sex offender”, Religion News Service, June 27, 2014- See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/06/27/4-lessons-learn-church-just-doesnt-get/#sthash.04Tyr82H.dpuf

[ii]Allen Smith, “Former minister Butler receives life sentence for aggravated sodomy”, Independence Daily Reporter, August 22, 2014

[iii] Smith, “Former minister Butler receives life sentence for aggravated sodomy”

[iv] Smith, “Former minister Butler receives life sentence for aggravated sodomy”

3 thoughts on “Toxic Tuesday: Church Leadership Supporting Sexual Offenders Part 2

  1. If we care for the reputation of Jesus Christ more than anything, we will let our own reputation go—especially for the good of the ‘least of these’. The pure in heart will embrace devastation rather than continue in sin….

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