Wednesday, October 17, 2007

FBC-Tyler: Did they tell people in the pews?

The Baptist Standard reports that Mike Massar, pastor of First Baptist Church of Tyler, will be nominated for first vice-president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas at the BGCT’s annual meeting.

First Baptist Church of Tyler is still another prominent church where my perpetrator worked. He was their children’s minister for about a decade.

Do you think Pastor Massar ever told all the people in the pews about the fact that their prior children’s minister was reported for sexually abusing a kid? Do you think Pastor Massar told people in the pews that the molestation report was substantiated by another Southern Baptist minister who attested to his knowledge of it? Do you think Pastor Massar told people in the pews that their prior children’s minister was listed in the BGCT’s secret file of clergy for whom there is “substantial evidence” of sexual abuse? I wonder.

First Baptist Church of Tyler received written notice about my perpetrator, Tommy Gilmore. They received notice from me, and nineteen months later, they also received notice from FBC-Farmers Branch, the church in which I was abused as a kid. That was something I insisted on as part of the settlement of my lawsuit -- a lawsuit I filed because it was the ONLY way I could get the church that knew about the abuse to do something to warn people.

Those letters were sent by certified mail and received by the Chairman of Deacons at FBC-Tyler in July 2004 and February 2006. So there were certainly leaders within the church who knew, and it seems likely that Pastor Massar would have known as well.

But were people in the pews ever told?

Or do you think it was handled at FBC-Tyler similarly to how it was handled at First Baptist Church of Atlanta? That's another prominent church where my perpetrator worked, and even though FBC-Atlanta received the same double-notice that FBC-Tyler received, Atlanta church leaders ran us off the property when we tried to leaflet people leaving the church. If church leaders had already informed their congregants about Gilmore, why would they care if people saw our leaflet about him?

My perpetrator sure was well-connected to ambitious men and prominent churches. At FBC-Atlanta, he worked with 2-term Southern Baptist president Charles Stanley. From there, he went to First Baptist Church of Oviedo, where he worked with former Florida Baptist Convention president Dwayne Mercer (who, incidentally, is reported to have had some other sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct allegations against his ministerial staff).

He may have even had some connection to Paige Patterson. They went to Hardin-Simmons University together. It’s a small Baptist school in Abilene, and my perpetrator was just a year or two ahead of Patterson.

It seems strange that Gilmore was so well-connected to denominational leaders, and yet when I notified the Southern Baptist Convention about him, they wrote back that they had no record of him being in ministry. Of course, it’s easy enough to delete a name from the SBC’s ministerial registry, and so perhaps it’s true that there was no existing record.

But isn’t it hard to imagine that no one in Nashville knew where he was?

And why was there no one at the SBC, at the BGCT, at FBC-Tyler, or at FBC-Atlanta who was even willing to help me track this clergy child molester?

Did they not want me to find him? Did they not care about what he did to a kid? Did they not think parents in his current church were entitled to be warned?

If your kids grew up in a church with a known child-molesting minister, wouldn't YOU want to know?

That brings me back to my initial question: Do you think Pastor Massar told people in the pews at FBC-Tyler about the fact that their prior children’s minister was known to have sexually abused a kid?

Additional Note of 10/30: I just learned that Mike Massar was a member of the Board of Trustees of East Texas Baptist University, where minister James A. Moore works as the Director of Choral Activities. That's the same Moore who knew about minister Tommy Gilmore's sexual abuse of me as a kid and who kept quiet about it for 30 years while Gilmore continued to work as children's minister in other churches, including Massar's church, First Baptist of Tyler. Not only might it have been troubling for FBC-Tyler to learn that its prior children's minister was a child molester, but perhaps it would have also been troubling for ETBU if news got out that its Choral Director kept quiet and covered up for a clergy child-molester. Are all these guys connected??? Clergy perpetrators, clergy cover-uppers, and denominational leaders -- do they all just look out for one another?

Correction: One letter to FBC-Tyler was sent by certified mail and the other by regular mail.

10 comments:

Kaye Maher said...

I can’t say whether Pastor Massar told those in his church but I can say I have yet to come upon anyone in the pews who knew why I had left my church, excluding those that I have told. I ran into the best friend of the senior pastor’s wife years later. She did not know we had left the church, much less the reason we left. One member told me that the Children’s Minister that I reported warned him that I might say that he touched me.

I am a registered nurse by profession but I had always been involved at church wherever we lived, working as VBS and Journey Through Bethlehem Director, training teachers, choir director, etc. and served at this church for 12 years as Sunday School teacher, choir member, soloist, salvation counselor, evangelism trainer, and that does not count working there for over 6 years as receptionist and secretary to the Youth Pastor, Executive Pastor, Preschool and Children’s Ministers, always receiving excellent evaluations.

In the church office conference room with three other male staff members, one of those being the accused, I asked the Children’s Minister why he would touch me inappropriately. I even demonstrated to the Senior Associate Pastor the lingering and agonizingly slowly moving and touching with the fingers from one side across my back to the other. My hands and voice were shaking. The first words out of the mouth of the accused were, “I’m sorry you hold me to higher standards.”

Tommy Gilmore had come to my office and asked me to come to the Children’s Minister’s office. As soon as I entered the room, I saw the children’s minister leaning back in his chair with his legs wide part, pants leg pulled taut, and his anatomy extended long and straight to no less than three inches to his knee. He grinned at me and told me to sit in the chair facing him. I was two steps from him and as he kept grinning at me, I turned to the minister sitting next to me – Tommy Gilmore.

As I saw the minister that I worked for continue to grin, I felt I was being emotionally raped. Afraid, I looked away from him and toward the window but realized that I could not stare at the window the whole time. I was frozen. I felt I wanted to run but could not move. I turned my eyes back to the Children’s Minister, still sitting in front of me leaning back in his chair with legs wide apart, grinning.

I prayed inwardly, “Dear God, protect me, give me courage and strength.” My eyes locked onto the eyes of the Children’s Minister. I hated being put in that position. I felt there was no one I could go to.

I had tried to report inappropriate behavior before. One of the ministers I approached, I witnessed sitting next to another secretary, his legs apart straddling her chair, leaning in with his face 2 inches from her cheek, and heard him ask her, “Does it make you uncomfortable when someone is this close?” I turned and just walked away without saying anything.

Another time I reported when the Children’s Minister instructed me to visit a certain website. When I went there, it was pornographic material. I kept clicking the “X” in the upper right corner of the screen and each time another porno picture would pop up. Finally, I was able to exit the site and I was trembling. I felt frightened and violated. When I reported it, I was laughed at.

When I sat at my desk and could not help but hear the sexual joke told by the children’s minister to the youth minister as they stood in my presence, I was horrified, offended and embarrassed – first as a woman but even more so as a Christian. The Children’s Minister looked at me and said to the minister standing next to him, “She’s just an old stick in the mud.” The senior pastor said the joke was blasphemous.

I sat in my car and cried silent tears on the morning I had to turn in my keys. I said a prayer of thanks to the Lord for the blessings I had received while working at the church. Every time I was able to help someone was such a blessing to me.

The senior pastor told my husband not to tell anyone about what happened. He said my reputation would be ruined. The evangelism minister asked if I could have dreamed it. The education minister asked if I could have imagined it. These are men who had known me for years, had known my character. We had worshipped together, worked together, and fellowshipped together.

I stayed in my home for months after I left, afraid of what the ministers were capable of doing. I knew what I had experienced. I kept a journal and one day wrote that if only God knows of my innocence, He is enough. I cried many tears because I felt I had lost my family, my church home. One night I longed for comfort from God and randomly opened my Bible. My eyes immediately went to Acts 18:9-10. I read the words, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” I felt God had heard my cry and met my need for that moment.

I am grateful that someone else saw in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper about the lawsuit that was filed by Christa Brown. That person told me and I found out that I was not the only person who had experienced the collusion and the intimidation that so often accompanies clergy sexual abuse. I am actually very fortunate that worse things did not happen to me, as happened to Christa and so many others that I have read about. I wonder if the secretaries that have followed me, and there has been a new one each year, have experienced what I did. And I wonder if the people in the pews will ever know the truth. Probably not and I have to accept that. But I cannot be silent and allow other innocent people to be sexually violated by ministers who are sorry they are held to “higher standards”.

I have been Southern Baptist all my life and in all my years of volunteer and paid service in the church, I have never encountered the kinds of things I encountered at this SBC church. My pain is on the inside but it is also carried on the outside. I hope ministers as well as members can be educated as to what clergy sexual abuse is, how to prevent it and what to do about it. There is too much of it going on, too many lives being destroyed and not enough being done about it. Clergy Sexual Abuse will not go away if allowed to continue as is.

gmommy said...

Kaye,
I am speechless...and broken hearted, and so sorry.
What sick perverted cowards these men are.
I have no idea why any decent human....much less a so called Christian would not want predators like this locked up.

God please protect our children and grandchildren from these evil wolves.

Christa Brown said...

Kaye,
I too am so glad that you saw the Orlando Sentinel article. I used to wonder why no one in one of Gilmore's Florida churches did anything, but your story makes the reason clear. Look at who the other ministers were, what their own conduct was, and the environment they cultivated. Birds of a feather....

In FCC-Farmers Branch, the church that long covered for Gilmore in Dallas, there was also another minister who had been reported for sexual abuse of an adult congregant. Birds of a feather...

Your story grieves me. I see how important your church family was to you and all that you lost. Why don't church and denominational leaders see that great loss as well? As much as the damage done by the perpetrators themselves, so much damage is done by all the church leaders who cover up this stuff and who shame and shun the victims trying to report it rather than doing anything about the perpetrators.

Brady said...

Just a short question. Have you taken the time to call and talk to Pastor Massar before you put his picture and this article in your website? I think you would owe him that much.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Brady,

Christa owes him nothing. She is just stating the facts. If the shoe fits, then I guess he has to wear it.

Christa, what you said about Gilmore being well-connected to denominational leaders -- the good ole boys really do protect their own, don't they? They all make me sick to my stomach.
Phyllis

Christa Brown said...

Brady,
I would have thought FBC-Tyler would have made some effort to communicate with ME after my July 2004 correspondence. In fact, I would have thought that at least someone out of the 18 church and denominational leaders I contacted would have tried to help me. But that didn't happen. Maybe you should ask yourself what Southern Baptist church and denominational leaders owe to people who were raped as kids by Southern Baptist ministers? Don't they at least owe them a little help in finding their perpetrators, and maybe even a little compassion? And maybe you should ask yourself what Southern Baptist church and denominational leaders owe to parents who sit in the pews of Southern Baptist churches. Don't they at least owe them enough care for their kids that when they receive a substantiated report of clergy child molestation, they will do something to actually warn the people in the pews. If I were a parent with kids who had been in one of Gilmore's churches, I would be outraged that so many church and denominational leaders kept that information secret.

John Harrison said...

Once again the question about Christa's "need to contact" is a reflection of the attitude that is common among most church leaders. We just simply must suck it up and play by their rules which benefit only themselves. After all, all of you victims out there must practice forgiveness while they practice an unbiblical view of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a private issue but justice is a public issue.
No, until there is a more compasionate and proactive response from religious leaders, they will just have to take the heat that is being turned up everday by SNAP.
May God bless all involved.

Phyllis Gregory said...

John,

For a retired SBC preacher (I believe that is correct) you say some very bold and courageous things concerning things you do not agree with the SBC. I admire you very much for that.

Also, the whole thing about forgiveness -- I do believe I was always taught, falsely, at home and at church that it meant turn the other cheek and do it to me again. I finally had a counselor tell me that it was for me, not for them, and that it is just being able to turn lose of it so you are not consumed by it, whatever it might be, and it no longer controls your life. So, I cannot say I have forgiven my parents, but I am working in that direction, if that makes sense.

Phyllis

John Harrison said...

Phyllis,

You are 100% correct. The one who is siupposed to benefit from the forgiveness is the one doing the forgiving not the one receiving it. Even with respect to the command to honor our parents, it is designed so that "it may be well with you". The idea that we must like those who have hurt us, trust them so they can hurt us again, and never hold them responsible for their conduct to the extent that they are punished for it is not what the Bible teaches.
Please do not beat yourself up for having difficulty with forgiveness. The problem people have usually comes from the wrong teaching by people who have never faced such a problem in their life. Also, some seem to find it easier to just surrender and let it go. I am with you. This is a hard approach to take especially when then perp is let go and the victim is told to not say anything because to talk about it is somehow "unchristian".
You are not at fault for what happened to you, so for anyone to find fault with your struggle is less than "christian" in my opinion.

Phyllis Gregory said...

John,

Are you sure you are Southern Baptist? You certainly do not sound like one.

Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

Phyllis