Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Set free"

Convicted child molester David Slone was hired as the senior pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church in Lafayette, Colorado, about a year ago. Before that, he was the church’s youth minister for several years.

As reported in the Denver Post, there were a lot of things that Slone apparently didn’t tell the church when he was hired.

He didn’t tell them about his 1986 child molestation conviction in Oklahoma. Or about the fact that he himself admitted to sexually abusing 5 boys, ages 12 and under. Or about the fact that some of the boys were children in the church where Slone taught Sunday School. Or about the fact that the Oklahoma prosecutor said Slone had molested other children, in addition to the 5 he admitted

Last month, this information came to light when someone sent anonymous letters to church deacons and local newspapers.

Slone resigned as pastor, even though some church members asked him to remain.

So now that the truth has been brought to light by others, Slone says he hopes that “the truth will set me free.”

But what about the boys he molested? Are they “set free”?

That’s what I keep wondering about.

Those boys would be in their early thirties now. They might have children who are the same age they were when Slone molested them. Do their own children’s faces remind them of the confusion, anguish, and quiet terror they felt at that age?

I wonder whether all of Slone’s victims are even still alive. Given the strong correlation between sexual abuse in childhood and suicide in adulthood, I can’t help but wonder whether one of Slone’s victims may have tragically chosen such a terrible means to be “set free.”

Or perhaps some of Slone’s victims are now accustomed to being “set free” from psychic pain with drugs and alcohol. Those addictions are quite common among clergy abuse survivors.

Do you think Slone even knows what became of his victims? Does he care? Has he sought them out to try to help them?

Slone himself received counseling, which started during his one-year stint in prison. I’m guessing that at least part of his counseling came at taxpayer expense, and I don’t begrudge that one bit. Counseling for child molesters is a good thing, if for no other reason than because it may help to protect other kids. Some experts say that previously convicted child molesters are the least likely to re-offend. Why? Because they were finally dealt some consequences for their conduct and because prison time often comes with mandatory professional counseling.

But what I’m wondering about is counseling for his victims. Did they ever receive adequate counseling? Were they able to afford it? Or did trying to heal themselves drive them into bankruptcy, like some other clergy abuse survivors?

Do you think Slone ever offered to pay the counseling costs of his victims? A child molester can never undo the harm, but if he were genuinely remorseful, wouldn’t he at least attempt to ameliorate it?

Do you think any of Slone’s Oklahoma victims knew that he was pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Colorado? I wonder whether seeing their perpetrator in the pulpit made them feel “set free.” Or did it make them feel as though no one cared about what this man did to them as kids?

Slone says God has “transformed” his life.

But I wonder whether Slone’s victims would have thought Slone was “transformed” if they saw him taking kids to baseball games and football games. Or would they worry desperately about what he might be able to do to those kids behind the mask of pastoral trust?

Most of all, I wonder whether anyone else even wonders about Slone’s victims. Or are the victims just forgotten?

Do all those church members who are “very supportive” of Slone ever wonder what became of his victims?

Do the church members who want to “forgive him and let it go” ever wonder about Slone’s victims?

Slone even reaps praise now for “learning how to stand up and tell” about his past.

Do you think his victims are now able “to stand up and tell” about what Slone did to them as kids? Or are they still mired in the shame and self-blame that are the long-enduring hallmarks of sexual abuse?

Of course, even if Slone’s victims wanted “to stand up and tell,” who in Southern Baptist circles would actually listen to them? Who would care?

Slone continues to have the support of his faith community. He doesn’t have to bear his burden alone.

But what about his victims? Do they have the support of a faith community? Or did they see enough of the faith’s falsity that they forever guard against it?

29 comments:

oc said...

His wife said, quoting from the article:
"People can forgive drug or alcohol abuse," Stacey Slone said. "They don't forgive things done to children."

Yeah. She's kidding right? It's a bit different, don't you think? Did she check her brain at the door,and her soul too? And forgive me for this, but I just have to wonder how she can let him touch her knowing what he's done to little boys.
It's enough to make me puke.

Am I missing something?

oc said...

Oh, and they have two teen children. I wonder if they are boys? And I wonder how she would feel if "someone" molested them? Do you think she would be so forgiving? I'm almost as disgusted with her as I am of him. Wait, maybe more.

Christa Brown said...

OC: You didn't miss anything. It's a sadly revealing article. I can't imagine any journalist nowadays who would write such a sympathetic article about a CONVICTED and ADMITTED child molester priest... who CONTINUED working with kids as a clergyman... and yet we still see this sort of sympathetic point of view for Baptist clergy-perps.

Incidentally, the youth ministry at Mountain View - i.e., the teen ministry that Slone led for kids in grades 6 through 12 - is called "Altered Youths." Obviously, the name is supposed to connote that their lives are changed through Christ, but I couldn't help but ponder the reality that Slone himself forever "altered" the lives of quite a few youths in a very different way.

oc said...

Christa, those words infuriate me beyond description.

The words...

CONVICTED.
ADMITTED.
CONTINUED.

There is NO excuse!

oc said...

To clarify, it's the word "CONTINUED" that enrages me. It's particularly enraging coming after the words "convicted" and "admitted".

And no one cared. Even his wife. I truly believe all Hell is breaking loose.

Anonymous said...

In noting he is twenty-two when this happened it says in the Bible that one should not be young in their discipleship (Peshitta version does not say conversion but discipleship which is what it should be). One of the problems with these abusers in ministries is obviously they are way two young in their discipleship and especially if they are a Christian at all. There is a tendency for some leaders to be to impressed with good charisma and poetic prose than substance of character. Look at Gilyard.

oc said...

Yeah, but I was 22 at one time too.
And I never molested anyone, nor even thought to do so. I would have never done it whether I was Christian or atheist, no matter how young. So age is no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Not at all what was meant, he should have never been put in such a position in the first place, oc.

oc said...

I agree. He should not have been in that position. But he was not arbitrarily put in that position. He made himself available to that position by proclaiming that he was called to the position by God, then he molested, and then continued on "ministering", even though he knew he was disqualified. So there is still no excuse.
That sin is no one else's fault but his.

Unless the SBC knew. Then the cover up would be their sin too. And therein lies the rub. They should have known. Why didn't they? No data base.
How convenient. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Anonymous said...

But oc, being a man I have seen some with inaapropriate mannerism and immature mentalities in positions of ministry that I have completely wondered as to why they were allowed by others to become a minister. Youth ministers, yea, tell me were is that in the Bible. Also elders are to strengthen the fathers so they can pastor their families.
Some of these cases I have read from the Crista's blog and others like the guy in Pennsylvania and Fort Worth give straight background evidence of inappropraite boundaries longed before incidents occurred. Oh but the laity, believe that somehow the elders can cross boundaries becasue they are to be trusted. A pastor is trusted because he has good boundaries.

oc said...

I'm not disagreeing with you, anon.
There are no youth ministers in the Bible. There are no music ministers either. Nor ministers of education, etc. I'm not arguing that. I think we agree. Some of what we do "in church" isn't biblical.

And I think that many churches believe a person is God-called just because of their charisma or seminary education. And to be blunt, that is just flat stupid. Many atheists have charisma and good education. And are all who graduate from seminary called?
I know some seminary graduates who admit they have not been called.
Shall we let them pastor our church? No. So if I'm getting your gist, I think we agree there. We need godly and mature leaders.

But I still insist that the "minister", in whatever his capacity within the church, is personally responsible for his calling before God. And his denomination, in this case the SBC, should also hold him accountable for all of his acts also, no matter his age.
I would point you to Timothy, who even though was young, was worthy of being a pastor. But he was responsible to Paul. And so it's not about age. But I do understand you are saying, that the immature should not be leading anybody. I agree.

I guess I'm seeing your point, the church sometimes lets anyone lead.
Especially when no one else wants to.
I have seen it many times myself.
Today, it easy to get into a position that one isn't prepared for. Part of the reason is that "church people" are lazy. So they depend on someone else for their spiritual growth and activity. And so, people give too much power to the "minister".
And as a consequence, they look to the "pastor" to be the conduit to God. That's not biblical, because if you look at Scripture honestly, there is no distinction between the "laity" or the "clergy". That idea is not even in the Bible.
But it sure is at least insinuated by some pastors, who love the power of it all, and in turn they are loved by an apathetic and lazy congregation because he makes them comfortable. And many, as we have seen, will defend him even when he molests and abuses. Because they trusted not God, but instead a poor substitute.
That's my assessment of the situation.

Anonymous said...

May God's grace be so real to any and all victims of child abuse that the power of God's grace will win victory over the nature of flesh in our every struggle.

May I show grace to all victims of child abuse if ever I am connected with their journey.

While I don't fully comprehend how God's grace could ever be extended to someone who abuses a child, I must accept by grace that it does. I pray that I never become like a Jonah and be angry at God showing His grace, demonstrating His mercy, revealing His slowness to anger and unfolding His mighty kindness towards all I think do not deserve His grace.

May I be more like Him than like me.

Christa Brown said...

God's grace: I believe that God's grace may be extended to someone who abuses a child. However, I also believe that it is God's grace, not ours. And we cannot presume to know God's mind or to know what God has or has not transformed in the heart of a man. I also believe that, in the here and now, on this planet, we are expected as human beings to protect the young and vulnerable. Whether or not God has extended grace does not alter the fact that a child molester cannot responsibly be allowed in a position of trust around kids ever again.

How many times have we seen the divine concept of Grace sickly distorted into an excuse for leaving clergy child molesters around kids? TOO MANY!

Age: I agree with OC. At age 22, age is no excuse. Being "young in discipleship" - whatever that may mean - is no excuse for sexually abusing kids. If he was utterly void of "discipleship", it would be no excuse. If he was Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, atheist, agnostic, or Sikh, it would be no excuse. The fact that he claims to be Christian and was "young in discipleship" is no excuse either.

Furthermore, it's not merely a matter of one individual's failure. As OC points out, Southern Baptist leaders "should have known... why didn't they?... no database... how convenient."

"Boundaries": I'm tired of hearing soft-talk about "boundaries." It's a way of mentally minimizing what child molesters do. It conjures a picture of someone who inadvertently crosses a line, like a runner who steps out of his lane. But of course, what child molesters do is not at all inadvertent. It's deliberate and intentional and crafty. They typically groom a kid over an extended period of time. And what they are grooming that kid for is rape. The "grooming" - what some might call "crossing boundaries" - is like a man sharpening his knives before he goes on a killing spree. It's part of the plan.

When Southern Baptist leaders muster the courage to allow into their heads the true image of a trusted grown adult raping a kid - instead of the "softer" image of "crossed boundaries" - then perhaps Southern Baptist leaders will finally do something about this problem. Of course, it's a pretty awful image. Those of us who have been raped as kids by trusted ministers twice our age and twice our weight have learned to live with those images. You'd think Southern Baptist leaders could muster the courage to at least take a peek at that ugly reality instead of softening it as "crossed boundaries."

Anonymous said...

Christa,

I agree it is God's grace but as believers are we not to be like Christ and share, not only in His grace, but show His grace towards all mankind.

For me, I don't want to live like a victim but as a victor. My God heals, not only we the victim but His healing grace is extended to those who victimize.

I want to be careful, not fearful.

I am not asking anyone else to be me but be like Jesus.

I heard recently and God used it to lift me higher. Life is not fair. If it were I would be in hell. God is gracious and for that reason only I will go to heaven.

Christa Brown said...

Anon: Whatever meaning people may attribute to God's grace, the grace extended by human beings CANNOT mean leaving child predators in the pulpit.

As for your suggestion that people should "be like Jesus," I believe Jesus would turn the tables of the temple upside down on seeing such twisted self-serving distortions of divine "grace" and such Pharisee-like focus on a radicalized polity at the cost of kid-safety and compassion for the wounded.

"Life is not fair." Uhhhh... yeah. Duh.

Anonymous said...

My apologies for being a bother. I actually thought I found place where people could share openly without hostility. I actually feel like I have victimized you and I do not want that.

I have not spoken for or against having a child predator in a pulpit but for your understanding, I agree with you on this.

By God's grace and His grace alone, I was once a liar, but am no more. I was once an adulterer but am no more. I was once had a perverted mindset but no more. I once was lost but am no more. I once was a victim but I am not one any more.

In my life I once was an abuser of God's only Son, but no more.

I am forgiven and am an overcomer, no longer angry but graciously blessed because I understand the grace that has been shown me.

Again, I apologize for being a bother. I'll look for another site where discussion of victory will be welcome.

gmommy said...

anon 12:58
I know it's hard to understand the mindset of alot of people who have been so betrayed by people we trusted within the "church community".
I am glad for you that you have found the peace and comfort you needed!!
I'm also probably alot like Christa in that most of the time the old familiar church lingo gives me no comfort and makes me susupect.
I don't want to be that way...but that's where I am.
I hear myself say things and wonder if I'm being real anymore.

It's not God I doubt but the man made formula of him that the churches have taught us then used against us.
I'm glad you didn't have to go thru that stage and I hope your journey continues to be one of victory!!!
It's not personal to you.
It's just that words can sound so nice but can mean nothing once you've experienced how they can be twisted to cause more injury.

I hope you will give us a little grace in this area.
Many things we were used to before just feel suspect or empty now.

Anonymous said...

You are right abuse was not in regards to a boundary. That would be offensive, sorry. What I was talking about was that they have poor boundaries in other ways to begin with which would indicate they are to be scrutinized and NOT hired.

oc said...

Anon said:
"You are right abuse was not in regards to a boundary. That would be offensive, sorry. What I was talking about was that they have poor boundaries in other ways to begin with which would indicate they are to be scrutinized and NOT hired."


Yes. Agreed. But that assumes we know about their "poor boundaries" in advance, before hiring. How are we going to know that? No one EVER knows them. They show up "in view of a call" once or twice. Maybe a couple of interviews with the "search committee", and that's it, they're hired. In this instance, the perp's "boundaries" weren't known until someone blew the whistle. Even after serving time for being a pervert, which should disqualify him from being a pastor or having any leadership in the church, (and he knew it) he decided in his arrogance to do it anyway. And in effect thumbing his nose at God and His people.

Remember, this person is a convicted molester. This one had shown how far his "boundaries" extended. So how could his hiring been avoided? How would anyone know his "boundaries"? Well... maybe someone could have known with some info from a DATA BASE.

PS. With these sick and twisted individuals, the word "boundary" doesn't apply. If they can do these kind of things to your kids, then there are no such things as "boundaries". And we should be able to punish them within the parameters they themselves set, no boundaries. Boundaries don't seem to apply to these people. So I don't want to hear about any "boundaries" anymore.
Know what I'm sayin'?

J. Davidson said...

Abusing prepubescent boys sounds like the man is a pedophile and if so there is no cure for pedophilia at this time. And IF he received counseling and is a pedophile he would have been told very strongly to stay away from young children. By not staying away from them and by hiding it he has shown, to me anyhow, that he is in no way transformed. When you rape a child you forfeit all rights to work with children. Forever.

I would point people to an article at EthicsDaily about this very topic http://www.ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=10296

John said...

I have yet to figure out why these "church people" want to discuss the merits of grace, forgivness, etc., when it comes to these criminals. They are wrong, have broke the law, and have earned for themselves the right to be punished. Case closed!
It does not make one look intellectual to debate the simple truth of the sin of what they have done. Forgiveness is a personal thing not a "state" or "legal" thing.
Forgive if you want to or can, but do not deny the rest of us JUSTICE!

Christa Brown said...

John: I absolutely agree that "forgiveness" is a personal thing. When church people and religious leaders keep pushing "forgiveness" on abuse-survivors, it just heaps still another burden onto them. It's another way of blaming them - as though, if only the survivors were good people, they would "forgive and forget."

And why don't they care as much about "justice-making" as they do about "forgiveness"? Why don't they care about standing side-by-side with the wounded and oppressed? Those are theological principles that deserve just as much weight as "forgiveness."

gmommy said...

This discussion makes me think of my visit to the doctor shortly after the betrayal of my church.

The doctor happened to be a deacon officer. My blood pressure was spiking after being under control for a long period of time.

Instead of recognizing that I was having symptoms of PTSD(we discussed the staff sexual predator at our church) ...he turned the tables and told me to memorize scripture and forgive the abuser.
Forgiveness was completely inappropriate at that time.....where was compassion for me and the others like myself?

Lindon said...

"I am not asking anyone else to be me but be like Jesus. "

Anon, do you care about scripture?

1 Tim 2:

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Scripture teaches that an elder (pastor, youth pastor, etc) must be above reproach to the OUTSIDE world.

Quit trying to make this about the lack of Grace. Grace was given at the cross. Our Lord's blood was NOT cheap. To say a sexual predator of children (even former!) can be a pastor is to disregard clear teaching of scripture. This involves a CIVIL crime, too. He can be a member of the body. He can be forgiven. But he cannot be in a teaching/preaching function within the Body.

Yes, life is not fair.

Titus 1

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Lindon said...

And why don't they care as much about "justice-making" as they do about "forgiveness"? Why don't they care about standing side-by-side with the wounded and oppressed? Those are theological principles that deserve just as much weight as "forgiveness."

August 22, 2008 4:34 PM

Because forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Christendom. We have dumbed it down to allowing people to commit heinous sins and if they say 'sorry' then we think they are heros. Too bad for the victims who had no power to begin with but the predator abused their power and we are expected to return them to power or we are 'unforgiving'! Incredible.

Forgiveness does not always mean one is reconciled to their former leadership. There are consequences. It does not always even mean fellowship. How long does it take to really KNOW if the repentance of a sexual predator of children is REALLY true repentance? A week? A year?

Would anonymous allow him to babysit his kid alone to find out? Would that be wise? No. Nor is it wise to put him in a teaching/preaching function within the Body of Christ.

Would you put a repentent embezzler back in charge of the offering right away? (I know one church that did this after the guy got out of prison and he absconded with over 100,000... again!) Duh.

Isn't it more of a sin to erect stumbling blocks to a repentant sinner? Power is one of those stumbling blocks.

Christa Brown said...

gmommy: What a dreadful double whammy! A doctor AND a deacon. And he misused the authority and trust of BOTH positions to make you feel all the worse.

lindon: Thanks for wise words on "forgiveness" and I like your embezzler analogy. Though you obviously know of one church that put a "repentant embezzler" back in charge of the offering, from all that I've seen, I can't help but think that the average church would probably take more care for protecting the offering plate money than for protecting the children in the church.

Anonymous said...

"They show up 'in view of a call' once or twice. Maybe a couple of interviews with the 'search committee', and that's it, they're hired."

Well if that is all they have to do I can defintely see your point, oc. In knowing somewhat how certain word of mouth works in seeing some of my own pastors and other minister hired. Often it based on someone's word. Oc, I seen deacons that should not be deacons that got there based on money or PR rather than on Scripture believing they can flirt with a youth minister's wife another female in the church. It just crescendos toward NOT seeing the cavilier attitude in another. I saw someone in ministry who was playing around and practical joking with teens in which I felt uncomfortable at his ease in engaging and yet everybody that knew him trusted him. He got busted for sexual inappropriateness with a child,

Anonymous said...

By God's grace we are forgiven, but we must live with the circumstances our sins caused. Moses sinned by striking the rock without God's permission and God forgave him, but because of his sin, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. David sinned by committing adultry and God forgave him, but because of his sin, Uriah died, David and Bathsheba's baby died and David was never the same type of leader, especially where his family was concerned. The same way, this pastor should never have any place of leadership in the church and not be able to be alone with children. He must suffer the consequences he caused. His victims will forever suffer from his actions.....why should it be different for him?

Anonymous said...

Lindon,

I would like to correct you. You quoted me about wanting to be like Jesus and I stand by that assertion. Later in your post you state.

To say a sexual predator of children (even former!) can be a pastor is to disregard clear teaching of scripture.

In a way since you quoted no one else and did not separate the discussion with any clarifier you tied your statement to me.

Please not that I am already on record for being against a child abuser being a paid minister in the church.

My response to Christa in an earlier entry.

I have not spoken for or against having a child predator in a pulpit but for your understanding, I agree with you on this.

Maybe you were making an argument for someone else who you thought was supporting such a thing. If so, I would like you to point me to that entry because I missed it.

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors...