Preface for the Book
It would be no ‘scoop’ to report that cases of child molestation appear to have mushroomed across the globe over recent decades. And such growth is hardly surprising when we reflect on the multitude of different ways the Internet inflames perverts and helps them commit abuse. (Several other facets of modern Western society also encourage abuse of children. For specifics, see chapter 5 of this book.)
Thus it would stun few readers if I noted that, back in the year 2000, the U.S. government estimated there to be 400,000 convicted child molesters residing in the United States [i]. This figure is all the more gut-wrenching when one considers that as few as 5% of molesters are ever caught and convicted [ii].
The resulting problem is so familiar to us that I doubt it would come as a particularly great shock if I were to mention a Boston University study which concluded that, by the time they reach 14 years of age, 25% of American girls (yes, one in every four) has been sexually abused, and that, by the age of 16, one in every six boys has been so abused [iii].
Similarly, many readers will be well aware of the degree to which this curse has afflicted Catholic circles. And most of us will have come across at least a handful of cases within the Episcopal, or ‘Anglican’ world…
But this book will uncover the child molestation today within my beloved world, to which - for simplicity’s sake - I’ll assign the umbrella term “evangelical”. One web site alone lists hundreds of confirmed attacks within evangelicalism [iv].
To certain people, a total in the hundreds may not seem desperately serious on a worldwide scale. But this is just one site. And it’s a site which focuses exclusively on abuse by individuals in positions of authority, rather than dealing with all molesters [v]. In addition, many of the site’s cases involve multiple victims, and the site only looks at a very small number of countries. (The list’s compilers ceased collecting further examples back in 2003 after apparently deciding they’d made their point. Other sites expose subsequent cases - and indicate that things are getting worse as each year goes by [vi].)
Just as disturbing, an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin says that as few as 1% of child molestation incidents get disclosed, let alone prosecuted [vii]. There is also evidence that, even where abuse is disclosed, most churches cover it up for fear of destroying their witness to the lost. All told, a figure in the hundreds is obviously just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s also plain that no denomination is exempted from this problem. Whether a church is Brethren or Baptist, Methodist or Mennonite, Presbyterian or Pentecostal, Church of the Nazarene or Church of God… Or Apostolic, Calvary Chapel, Charismatic, Congregational, Elim, Foursquare, Lutheran, Orthodox, Purpose-Driven, Reformed, Salvation Army, Vineyard, Wesleyan, Non-Denominational; you name it. All are being affected.
And the problem now appears to be threatening every hue of church within each denomination, from strongly evangelical to deeply emergent, and from thoroughly cessationist to ultra charismatic. (This book is about every such church. Sometimes I shall need to use the term ‘evangelical’ to refer to them all in one go. But that’s just my shorthand way of distinguishing them from the Catholic and Episcopal worlds. When you see “evangelical” in this book, please don’t be tempted to assume, for instance, that emergent or contemplative fellowships aren’t included [viii].) Further, this problem of child abuse within churches appears to span the globe. As we look into the matter, it will become unquestionably clear that no fellowship, regardless of its geographical location or doctrinal stance, can afford to ignore this danger.
In 2007 the American founder of a ministry specializing in warning evangelicalism about societal issues which undermine it stated, “One of the major problems that Christians need to address is the presence of juvenile and adult pedophiles within the church. … During one of my recent visits to a major city I heard reports about pedophiles in four prominent churches I visited. … The stories I hear like this are too numerous to remember” [ix]. The situation is patently bad.
The extent of the problem doesn’t seem widely known. One reason is that churches are understandably less than eager to advertise the fact that it’s possible for molesters to operate in their midst. We will look at other reasons shortly. Below is just a brief, introductory selection of molestation cases to illustrate the sort of horrors that are going on and to help prove that this challenge exists across the denominations.
Readers are now requested to brace themselves for some appalling information. While I have kept this book free of any gratuitous material, it's just impossible to write a ‘decent’ book on such a very indecent topic, and unless we're confronted with the reality of a subject, it’s easy to give it less importance than it deserves. Of course, Holy Scripture commands, “whatsoever things are pure, … lovely, … of good report; … think on these things” (Php. 4:8), but this doesn’t mean we never need to face up to things that aren’t pure, lovely, and of good report. God’s word itself exposes rapes, murders, gruesome deaths and so on. “Revolting as this subject is, it is also imperative that [we] not bury the issues surrounding child sex offenders in an attempt to escape their vulgarity. Paedophiles [the British spelling] are not going to go away, so we must … educate ourselves".
Important Note: Such is the distressing nature of the topic discussed in this book that I have felt obliged to accompany it with a heartfelt warning and disclaimer. If you have been a victim of abuse, you are asked to read it before continuing. Please see this endnote [x].)
“An instructor at ... Grace Evangelical Lutheran church ..., Fritz A. Callies, 61, has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for sexually assaulting 2 girls, ages 9 and 10. Over a dozen women have come forward saying Callies abused them as girls” [xi]
“Ambrocio Martinez Sabala, a former pastor at a Foursquare Church ..., was sentenced … to seven years in state prison. He had pleaded no contest to molesting several of his daughters” [xii]
The three cases below are
Sincere apologies for all offense caused by the above, but for reasons given earlier I could see no option but to publicize some of the things being endured by our children.
The iniquities just go on and on. For instance, consider the "evangelist" and professing evangelical Tony Alamo. In 2009 he was convicted on ten counts of ‘Interstate Transportation of Minors for Illegal Sexual Purposes, Rape, Sexual Assault and Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors’. “Prosecutors said Alamo took five underage girls across state lines for sex … [O]ne was … [just] 9 and was ‘married’ to the evangelist” [xiii].
I’ll need to cite more cases, and more denominations, as we proceed. But to underline how serious things are, here's one more observation for now. The biggest child molestation case in the history of the entire U.S. State of Missouri occurred in an evangelical church [xix].
I guess we’re all tempted to assume that God would never let anything terrible happen in our own fellowship. However, I beseech readers to finish this book before making a definitive judgment on that. The Bible speaks of God allowing people to commit some awful crimes, including the murder of Abel, the murder of John the Baptist, the murder of Stephen, and so on. God also permitted Doeg to slaughter huge numbers of priests of the Lord - plus their wives and children (1 Sam. 22:18-21). God allowed Athaliah to murder all but one of the children who comprised the “seed royal” (2 Kings 11:1-2). God also allowed both Pharaoh and Herod to destroy young children belonging to His People. God even permitted the rape of King David’s own daughter (2 Sam. 13:14).
Unfortunately, the solutions touted today for safeguarding our children are extremely dangerous. The first chapter of this book explains that statement. It then offers a simple, practical, and God-honoring way to deal with the whole problem. (I have concentrated on making the text as sound, accurate, helpful and clear as possible. This means the prose is not the most elegant ever seen, but I honestly believe the protection it affords us and our youngsters makes it very valuable.)
For any readers who are curious as to why I spent five years of my life researching and writing this book, please know that I was not molested myself. I simply heard of enough cases to warrant proper investigation. I quickly had cases coming out of my ears, but could find little from evangelicalism about the problem, far less any material on a proper solution. My concern for God’s People constrained me to study the situation further, and He definitely seemed to be with me throughout the project. As for myself, I was graciously saved more than 30 years ago and have been in “full-time” ministry for 15 of those. May our glorious God bless you through this volume.
[i] Snyder, Howard N. Ph.D, Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics, National Center for Juvenile Justice, July 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, as cited by www.childluresprevention.com.
[ii] Adam Lusher, ‘UK has 250,000 paedophiles, says police study’, Daily Telegraph (London), Dec. 31st 2000. Available online.
[iii] Hopper, J. (1998). Child Sexual Abuse: Statistics, Research, Resources. Boston, MA Boston University School of Medicine, as cited by www.childluresprevention.com. (It is widely accepted that boys under-report abuse even more frequently than girls. One reason is that, if the abuse was committed by a male, the boy worries that his peers will "question his sexuality". Other reasons are discussed later.)
[iv] Reformation.com, the (anti-evangelical) website in question, isn't always available. So the list it holds has been copied to the website associated with this book. See www.preying.org/Reformation.htm for it. Almost all of the abusers on the list would be 'evangelical' in the broad sense of the term. Of the 838 entries in the list, the number of cases that have been confirmed runs into the hundreds.
[v] Another such website is www.fisheaters.com/clergysexabuse.html. (I don’t support this site’s agenda.)
[vi] One helpful source which covers evangelicalism is www.bishop-accountability.org/AbuseTracker. The site looks at Catholicism too.
[vii] An independent study confirmed that the rate of disclosure was no higher than 3%. For details of these two studies, and further shocking statistics, plus some tips on prevention, see www.childluresprevention.com/research/report.asp and www.childluresprevention.com/research/profile.asp.
[viii] E.g. For cases in the contemplative fold, see Jeremy Weber, 'C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris Resign from Gospel Coalition after SGM Abuse Conviction', May 19th 2014. Online.
[ix] Clay Jones, interviewed by Bill Cooper of christianet.com, July 26th 2007.
[x] My disclaimer, largely drawn from the work of Christa Brown: This book offers my personal perspective and is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as providing either legal or health advice. You are responsible for any actions you may take based on information you obtain from this book. In using information provided in this book, you agree to hold both its author and publisher harmless and blameless in all circumstances. Use of this book constitutes your understanding and acceptance of these terms. (Some information in this book will be upsetting for survivors. If you are a molestation survivor prone to serious suicidal thoughts, you are asked not to read the cases of abuse cited in this book. Please also be very prayerful and careful as you read the other parts.)
[xi] Kenosha News, July 17th 1994, as cited by reformation.com.
[xii] Jean Guccione and Richard Winton, ‘24 Child Molesters Released’, Los Angeles Times, July 24th 2003. Despite having pleaded ‘no contest’, Sabala had to be released due to a despicably unjust high court ruling on delayed prosecutions.
[xiii] Judging by the set of abuse cases accessible from the right hand side of the webpage freedomfromabuse.net, many types of Baptist church have been hit. (I oppose the site’s agenda. I only inserted this endnote because the Baptist denomination is more splintered than others and I wanted to point out that child molestation appears to be an issue across large sections of the Baptist world, as it seems to be throughout every hue of church in every other denomination.)
[xiv] ‘Abominations’, posted March 8th 2006 at www.aboms.com/archives/003712.htm.
[xv] Tasker had pleaded guilty to some of the charges. He appealed against the others and was found not guilty on some of those. Details can be found at www.clergyabuseaustralia.org/perpsqz.htm. This site is of value to any fellowship with links to Australia.
[xvi] ‘Apocalyptic Movements Abuse’, Eureka, www.eurekaencyclopedia.com/index.php/Category:Apocalyptic_Movements_Abuse.
[xvii] Telegraph Journal, Saint John, N.B., March 6th 1992, as cited by reformation.com.
[xviii] Rebecca Buerkle et al, ‘Tony Alamo: Evangelist guilty on all 10 counts’, Today’s THV. (Online.) Alamo’s website offers a few reasons to doubt aspects of the case, but the site also tries to defend the idea of adult men marrying 9-year-old girls!
[xix] ‘Baptist Scandals: Missouri case shows Southern Baptist patterns in failing to protect kids’, at www.stopbaptistpredators.org/scandals/greenwood.html.