Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.
Join us for the first GRACE Live Conversation of 2022 and the first in their six-part series on Trauma-Informed Practices in Faith Communities.
Monday, Jan. 24th at 1 PM EST.
David Pittman (A GRACE Safeguarding Specialist and Director of Together We Heal) and Robert Peters (Senior Attorney at Zero Abuse Project) will be discussing Safety, the first key principle of trauma-informed care, from the perspective of abuse prevention and response within faith communities.
“Third time’s the charm”, that’s what we’re told, right? On their third attempt to honor the wishes of Messengers, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted 44 to 31 to waive attorney-client privilege (albeit in a VERY limited manner) and agree to the contract with Guidepost to begin the investigation on sexual abuse.
But let’s be honest, this is not an investigation on all cases of sexual abuse within the SBC. It’s only about the last 20 years and only within the SBC EC. Is there already a documented case of libel regarding a case of sexual abuse? Yes. And will there be more cases of cover-ups/abuse/etc.? Most certainly. But now, only because of waving ACP is there the remotest of chances to get to the truth.
And it almost didn’t happen.
I watched the entire session. Well, the ones that weren’t behind closed doors. And it was clear there was a division within the ranks. Both sides offered passionate arguments that they BOTH genuinely believe. And that’s the hard part to take as a survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by an SBC minister.
Phyllis Inghram all but said when she quoted Matthew 10:16, that we the victims of sexual abuse, had created a “hostile environment” and called US the wolves in sheep’s clothing. She said “they” needed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Were they all being harmless when Jen Lyell was slandered by the SBC EC and many of the SBC members?
Were they being harmless when they called Christa Brown evil?
Were they being harmless when they told me, “Sorry, nothing we can do for you or to stop a known sexual predator, but we’ll pray for you.”?
Yes, I know Ms. Inghram has resigned from the EC, but does it matter now? Her words cut like a knife to my soul, and I wasn’t the only one she impaled.
Even now, because of the SBC’s and Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s failures, a KNOWN, ADMITTED sexual predator is back at a church and trying to sell books about how to be better at worship. Going so far as to ask for media interviews to promote said books and asking if one would make a good movie.
This would be a ridiculously absurd joke if it wasn’t a cold, disgusting fact.
Joe Knott, attorney, and EC member said these things:
He went into great detail about law and order. Explained to us how God created the United States and its laws for our protection. Explained to us how law and order was from God. As if we needed his explanation on law on order.
Was he insinuating that a vote to waive ACP is a vote against God? Sure sounded like it.
He went on to say, “Laws are to restrain evil. Laws come from God.”
So what are we as survivors of sexual abuse? Are we the evil in need of restraint in this narrative of his? And what about the laws broken when we were molested and raped? Do those not count in his perspective?
He continued, “What we are about to do is create chaos.”
So now WE are the ones creating chaos? What about the chaos of 3 decades of my life because none cared to hear my story or stop a predator? And I am not the only one. Now there is an admission from my abuser and from several other victims who’ve come forward to say it happened to them also.
Said Knott, “There may not be a Convention to face”.
Again, a convention before a soul? One single soul? It’s ridiculous.
As Dr. Diane Langberg said at the SBC Caring Well event, “Jesus was not crucified for our systems.”
And over the last 3 weeks we’ve heard these things ad nauseum, “This will void our insurance” & “All advice we received is against waiving privilege”.
The attorneys hired by the SBC EC were only presenting one side. They were only giving one argument. There were no attorneys asked to give the alternative argument. Even though Rachael Denhollander was posting publicly in every place she could WHY they could and should waive privilege.
I also kept hearing the arguments against waiving privilege being about “loss”. Loss of insurance. Loss of fiduciary responsibility. Loss of money. Loss of a Convention.
You know what I didn’t hear? Not one single time?
The concern for what victims of sexual abuse have lost.
Victims of sexual abuse have lost their way, their identity, lost our minds. We’ve lost jobs, families and in far too many cases, our lives. Suicide, overdoses, premature deaths from trauma.
And what about the souls lost because of sexual abuse? Isn’t that what the SBC is supposed to care the most about? And yet predators and their enablers have made it so there’s no way many victims would ever again be receptive to God. What about THAT loss?
When they broke from their last private Executive session, in which I am sure every single attorney gave their hardest (possibly intimidating), attempt to persuade against waiving privilege, there is an immediate motion made to replace the Wellman motion.
At the last minute there was a clear intent, by using Roberts Rules of Order (parliamentary rules), to confuse and frustrate members in order to defeat the motion put forward by Jared Wellman.
But thankfully, pastor Rolland Slade took a moment, gathered good information and was able to get the EC back on track. The final vote being 44 to waive and 31 against.
It’s a win but not a big win. And certainly not anywhere near getting the SBC and all its churches and members to a place where sexual abuse is actively worked against, victims are properly helped with trauma-informed care and predators are named, exposed, and forever prohibited from serving in any SBC church or any conceivable entity with ties to the SBC.
A former SBC VP said just one day after the vote, that the efforts made by survivors to persuade EC members to waive ACP were “online attacks against good men and women…Carnal, ungodly & evil…the ends never justify the means.”
Really Mr. former 2nd VP? We are carnal, ungodly, and evil? This folks, is the battle we face in ridding the SBC from sexual predators and their enablers.
(Southern Baptist Convention, we’re talking to you)
Delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this summer voted overwhelmingly to create a task force to oversee an independent investigation into the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse.
The resolution calls for the newly elected SBC president, Alabama pastor Ed Litton, to appoint the task force, which will head up a review of allegations that the denomination’s Executive Committee mishandled abuse cases, intimidated victims and advocates and resisted reforms.
And from the floor of the Convention, something happened I never believed would have. Someone, other than his victims, was finally willing to publicly name the person that molested and raped myself and many other little boys.
Pastor Troy Bush said this:
“What we did not know then, we know now. And what we know should be important to Southern Baptists, especially Georgia Baptists.
We didn’t know Franklin “Frankie” Andrew Wiley, a student minister who served our church family, Rehoboth Baptist Church, Tucker, GA, in the early 1980s had molested 5 of our boys. We also didn’t know he sexually abused other boys at other Georgia Baptist churches before and after his time at Rehoboth.
We now know the names of each boy he assaulted in our church family. We know he assaulted 10 boys at 4 different Georgia Baptist churches. We know he assaulted an eleventh boy not in one of the churches. And we have credible-but-unconfirmed reports of 2 other boys at a Georgia Baptist church. We know that 3 weeks ago he served with the worship team of another Georgia Baptist church in a Sunday morning worship service.”
Sounds like positive steps, right?
It got me thinking about how long a-day coming this has been. For at least40 years Wiley has been doing this to little boys. 15 years ago, I went to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) and told them. I was told by Kenneth Keene to be quiet and that they’d pray for me. This summer it was finally, publicly acknowledged from the floor of the Annual Meeting. And so, we waited to see what actions would be taken.
Since the time of the annual meeting, the following has transpired with the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF).
They’ve been mired in who will pay for the investigation.
The organization that has been mentioned to do the investigation, Guidepost Solutions LLC, seems to be more well known for defending predators than protecting victims.
The supposed “broad” investigation will NOT cover individual church cases, only the Executive Committee.
The SATF has formally requested “the Executive Committee to vote to waive attorney-client privilege”. Don’t hold your breath on this one. It’s going to be CYA in the SBC as per usual.
We are told by the SATF, “We will be able to obtain expert recommendations for the Messengers to consider acting on, to help provide care for survivors of sexual abuse and respond appropriately to, allegations of abuse or mishandling abuse in the SBC.This, in turn, has a direct impact on abuse prevention.”
Really? You think so? This quote, much like the itinerary outlined by Guidepost, has a lot of great sounding words. But words are just that, words. Static, and exactly like the SBC has been toward victims of abuse…nonoperational.
How are victims supposed to trust this investigation with Guidepost Solutions reputation? How exactly are they going to accomplish this without a way to pay for it? Without being able to investigate ALL cases and without being able to waive attorney-client privilege so that truth is revealed? It’s beginning to appear, once again, that the Southern Baptist Convention put on a “dog and pony show” for the media, gullible members, and victims desperate for any measure of justice.
More words and still no substantive action.
The actions of the SBC towards victims of sexual abuse, historically and consistently, have been at best apathetic or at worst, vitriolic. It is actions that reveal the heart. James told us, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
“Whoever sees their brother or sister in need and closes their heart against him or her, how does the love of God abide in them? Let us not love with word or tongue, but with deed and truth.” (1 John 3)
Where is Jesus in youractions, SBC?
“I’m sorry” means nothing. We must SEE repentance. You must ACT restoratively.
What we know is this: Any words spoken, no matter how true, are not real unless they are incarnated.
A criticism we hear as advocates is, “why do you bring up the past”, or “it seems like you only live in the past, only bring up the failures of the past.”
Well folks, let me quote a wise saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” And I believe Winston Churchill selected the appropriate word when he said “condemned”. Especially when you consider what Jesus said about those who cause children to stumble. Jesus condemned them in totality.
That is why we “keep bringing it up”.
We expose the past to help those living with the pain in the present. We help those with pain in the present with the goal of preventing it in the future.
If you can’t understand that, or refuse to learn this, then do us all a favor and stop acting as though you care.
Because the only people we can really work with, the only people who can truly serve the vulnerable, are those who will admit, lament and repent.
Those who will sacrifice for and serve those in pain. Those who will work their tails off to not let this happen again, no matter who commits these crimes.
A few days ago I learned that the person who molested and raped me and countless other little boys all across the state of Georgia has been welcomed back into a church that we thought had learned its lesson.
Guess what? The joke’s on us!
This church, which initially and with arrogance, stood beside him and said he was repentant. They said they believed in him. They then went on to say, we’re sorry we were wrong, and asked him to resign once the Southern Baptist Convention hinted at disfellowship. (Which in realty meant less funds from the national convention treasury). Once everything had died down in the press (and the predator had been run off from TWO other churches) he slithered his way back to his “home church” where deacons and members posted publicly to him, “It’s so good to see you back”, “your church loves you” and “welcome home love you”.
As you’ve already learned, this person is an admitted child molester. He has shown no repentance or remorse. And yet this church and these people welcome him with open arms and once again place their children in harm’s way. All I could think of when hearing this was the story of the “Scorpion and the Frog.”
A scorpion wants to cross a river but cannot swim, so it asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid that the scorpion might sting it, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The frog lets the scorpion climb on its back and begins to swim. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”
When this sexual predator harms another child, and they always do, please don’t be surprised. He’s a scorpion, it’s in his nature.
So people wonder why I talk about sexual abuse all the time?
Whether I wanted it or not it has become my role, as Finley Peter Dunne once said, to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The answer to why we do this is simple and heartbreaking, “because the people that should, won’t.”
I guess the real questions are these: Will the SBC take actual steps to protect children? Will the SBC help those already harmed find a path toward healing that is victim focused, not institution centered? And will the SBC take the necessary steps to prevent the predators in their midst from molesting and raping others?
SBC Executive Committee and Sexual Abuse Task Force…what will be your answers?
When will all this rhetoric about facing sexual abuse within the SBC become reality? We’re still waiting…
The following post was written and spoken by a fellow survivor. Her name is Lori Anne Thompson and we are honored that she shared her post so we could share it with you.
I wrote a few years ago that High Church days like Christmas and Easter can be especially difficult for those who’ve been violated by a member of the clergy. While I tried to verbalize my thoughts and feelings that particular Easter, Lori Anne does so with more insight, and lays bare the pain of this Friday.
We know, and He knows, and I pray after reading this You will know too…
Dear Abuse Survivor/Supporter,
I have prepared this spoken word as a special gift for you. In it may you recognize the ruin in Friday and await the Son Rise on Sunday.
Survivors know just about all there is to know about that Friday.
They know even if they know Him not.
They know about the lies lashed around their wrists and feet. They know.
They know what it is to be bound and betrayed by a beloved.
They know what kisses were for. They know.
They know about the salacious set up,
The friends who ran away,
The dark night when they prayed,
And absolutely nothing changed. They know.
They know the cowardly cower of those who peddle in popularity,
They know the brief plead with the angry mob,
They know the freshly washed hands that claimed immunity. God help me, they know.
They know what it means to be handed over,
To be stripped;
To be assaulted;
To be beaten,
To be broken;
To have to carry a crushing weight in their weakened estate;
They heard their own knees buckle. Damn right they know.
They know what it is to be innocent;
To have entrusted their vulnerability to another;
To be laughed at;
To be mocked.
It rings in their ears still. They KNOW.
They know what it means to have their reputation,
Stripped, ripped, ruined, robbed, and hung in half naked rags in public humiliation. This, they know too well.
They know what is feels like to be forsaken,
To have all affirmation turn away.
To be utterly destroyed and alone.
I hang my head and I weep from somewhere deep. Don’t you know, they know?
They know what it is to descend to the depths of darkness and death,
To watch as parts of themselves are crucified.
Oh yes… curious onlooker, religious scholar, high priest, and peddler… They know.
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wanted to start it off with an interview I had the privilege of doing with Rachel Grant and her amazing resource for survivors, “Beyond Surviving”.
Do yourself a favor, check out her website. Rachel continues to teach me so much that helps in my own healing journey.
This particular podcast we cover subject matter that’s had an immeasurable impact on and in my life. Both as someone who was victimized by a minister and now as someone who is working to make faith communities safer for children.
In this Beyond Surviving Podcast, (Look for S6 E3 – David Pittman) we’ll discuss why I partnered with GRACE, and how that work is transforming faith communities so they can better protect children, better identify predatory behavior, and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed.
Today, we’ll answer these questions and I’ll have some questions for you to determine if your faith community is properly prepared.
Is Your Faith Community prepared to properly respond to sexual abuse?
How would they respond to the perpetrator and how would they respond to the victim?
Why would it matter to me if I’m not religious?
Where can we find resources to educate our church?
This week Together We Heal, as an organization, and myself, David Pittman as an individual, have joined forces with Justice For Anne, For A Time Such As This & several fellow advocates. Together we have issued a statement that was most perfectly articulated by fellow advocate Ryan Ashton:
“If you please, read the joint statement myself and fellow abuse survivors and advocates delivered to the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) yesterday regarding their announcement of a sexual abuse study group:
“We all have a decision—to become more polarized and distrustful of one another, hide, build barriers, and perpetuate numerous injustices. Or we can face this evil together, choosing to create a culture where healing and safety are the norm, where love and compassion dwell, where children and families flourish, and the hope of the gospel maintains its integrity. We sign with that hope, committed to a future where no one in the Church has to say “Me Too” ever again.”
Everything we do at Together We Heal and GRACE is because of the past and current failures of those within the church to better protect children and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed. It is our hope that the SBC will begin to live up to the call of Christ they espouse and not be just another one of those “cast to the bottom of the sea with a millstone around their neck”.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
The time is long overdue. The ball is in your court SBC leaders and church members. Do you truly believe the scripture you preach and teach? Then BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS and quit giving lip service and protecting sexual predators.