Monday, August 25, 2008

Therapy for perps but not victims

The Baptist General Convention of Texas recently announced that it was eliminating its psychological staff and instead establishing a network of “thoroughly researched” and strongly-recommended counselors for ministers. The BGCT will provide “financial assistance for ministers who receive counseling through this network.”

When I saw this news, I thought back to April 2005, when I virtually begged BGCT directors Jan Daehnert and Sonny Spurger to set up a referral list of counselors for clergy abuse survivors.

When I realized how difficult it had been for me to find a therapist who had experience in dealing with clergy abuse, I knew it must be a huge hurdle for other survivors as well. So I asked the BGCT to put together a referral list that they could give to clergy abuse survivors who contact them. I asked for a simple list of counselors in Texas’ major cities who had experience with the dynamics of clergy sex abuse.

With a referral list, I thought the BGCT could at least give clergy abuse survivors a starting place for getting help. And it wouldn’t have cost the BGCT one dime.

But they wouldn’t do it.

The largest statewide Baptist organization in the country wouldn’t provide so much as a bare list of counselors for clergy abuse survivors, even though it had long been providing much more than that for the ministers who committed abuse.

Around 1990, the Baptist General Convention of Texas Ministers Counseling Service launched a restoration program to help ministers put their lives back together after sexual misconduct.”

This “restoration program” was also described in the BGCT-published booklet, Broken Trust. It was a “two-year restoration program” offered through the BGCT’s “Ministers Counseling Service.” For the first 6 months, it consisted of weekly counseling with a “prohibition” on ministry employment. After that, the man continued with less frequent counseling and advanced from volunteer ministry to full-time paid ministry. Counseling was also provided for the minister’s wife. (The BGCT apparently stopped publicly labeling it as a “restoration” program in around 2007.)

So for about 18 years, the BGCT used Cooperative Program dollars to directly fund in-house counseling services for sexually abusive ministers. And even with the BGCT’s recent budget cut-back, it’s STILL using Cooperative Program dollars to provide “financial assistance” to ministers who receive counseling through the BGCT’s network of therapists.

Meanwhile, most of the victims of abusive ministers haven’t been given any counseling services at all.

Instead, the BGCT has said that local churches should be responsible for providing counseling to the victims of abusive clergy.

This, of course, has always been a Catch-22 and a very cruel one. The BGCT has long known that most churches “just try to keep it secret.” But they tell the victim to go to the church anyway, even though the most likely scenario is that the victim will be re-traumatized by the church’s desire for secrecy and by the congregants’ inability to be objective about their beloved pastor.

It’s a sick system, but a rather efficient one for the BGCT. They get to put on a nice public face of “encouraging” churches to provide counseling, but the BGCT doesn’t actually take on any obligation. The BGCT doesn’t commit to expending any of its own resources for clergy abuse victims, because after all, their resources are being spent to restore the abusive ministers.

An abusive minister doesn’t need to beg for a counseling stipend. The BGCT provides it, along with a ready referral network for him.

But for the victims of abusive ministers, they get counseling assistance only if they beg for it from the local church and only if the local church agrees to it. This almost never happens, and it certainly doesn’t happen without additional pain for the victim.

How does this disparity make any sense?

If the autonomous polity of Baptist churches doesn’t preclude the statewide organization from funding counseling for abusive ministers all across the state, why does the autonomous polity preclude the statewide organization from funding counseling for the individual victims of abusive clergy?

Why doesn’t the Baptist General Convention of Texas tell sexually abusive ministers that they should seek a counseling stipend from their church, or former church, in the same way that the BGCT tells the victims of abusive clergy that they should seek counseling from the local church that harbored the abusive minister?

Dee Miller has stated her “strong suspicions that the resistance to providing survivors with adequate funding for therapy is not always about money.” She explained that “leaders know that the more therapy a survivor gets, the more likely she or he is to realize that there are many choices, one of which is speaking out as much and as long as one wishes to do so!”

Though it’s a sad perspective, I think Dee is probably right. It’s a perspective that suggests many Baptist leaders don’t actually want clergy abuse survivors to obtain healing. Instead, they seem to prefer that the wounded stay weak... because weak people don’t speak out.

Prior related posts:
Why the BGCT?
Broken Trust at the BGCT
BGCT provides counseling for clergy perpetrators


J. Davidson said...

“thoroughly researched” and strongly-recommended counselors for ministers.

I wonder about this line. There are not many counselors of any type that have specialized training and experience in working with sex offenders in general let alone ministers.

I have a feeling that these people will be sent to pastoral/christian counselors with little to no training/experience in working with this population and if that is so it is a tragedy on top of what you reported.

Christa Brown said...

J. Davidson: I think you may be right. A while back, I had a lenghthy email exchange with a prominent Texas Baptist who, sadly, is considered one of the most knowledgeable Baptists on the subject of clergy sex abuse, and he is closely linked to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He categorizes ministers who commit what he calls "sexual misconduct" as being "predators" or "wanderers."

In one of his long emails, he told me about a man “who for years counseled ministers for the BGCT” and who “indicated he had NEVER had a ‘predator’ come for help, but he had worked with numerous persons who fit the category we describe as a ‘wanderer’.”

I suppose he thought this bit of information might comfort me, as though it would prove how few in number the actual “predators” are because ALL the ministers who go through the BGCT’s ministerial counseling service are mere “wanderers.”

But I didn’t see it that way. I saw that bit of information as another horrifying piece of the puzzle. It made the BGCT’s ministerial counseling service sound a lot like the sort of counseling that many Catholic bishops sent child molesting priests to. The bishops provided blind-eyed counselors who quietly treated the priests and then sent them back out for restoration to ministry.

I can't help but think that something similar likely happened for two decades with abusive Baptist ministers who got counseling provided by the BGCT. Apparently, they mostly all got labeled as mere “wanderers” and got restored to ministry.

gmommy said...

It was said in the church report at BBC in Memphis that the staff minister who confessed to sexual abuse had received "counseling" by a staff minister many years ago.

That particular minister was no longer alive so we'll never know for sure. BUT the child molester remained on staff then and his secret was kept.
I am of the opinion that ministers are not qualified to counsel at all. Especially not qualified to counsel sexual predators.
There was a time I would have said ministers were qualified to counsel on scripture only but scripture counseling was what led to my unforgettable experience with the sexual predator/minister of prayer at BBC.
That same minister counseled women with a history of child sexual abuse who had volunteered to serve in the children's department.
One of his other positions on staff was as a first responder when a child got hurt while at church.
If in fact that elder staff minister was aware of his crime, how incredible that for years this minister was able to "minister" in areas that should have been especially safe guarded by the church.
During this scandalous period of revelation at the church there were deacons and "board of directors" that were found to be having long term affairs that other deacons and BOD had remained silent about.
Bottom line.....the Baptist churches are not safe.
Not for children.
Not for those who are vulnerable. Not for those seeking to learn scripture or godly example.

It is corrupt from the top down to the churches and ministers.

Lin said...

"If the autonomous polity of Baptist churches doesn’t preclude the statewide organization from funding counseling for abusive ministers all across the state, why does the autonomous polity preclude the statewide organization from funding counseling for the individual victims of abusive clergy?"

Good point. Why the hypocrisy? Especially since baptists see no 'clergy/laity' distinction in the Priesthood of Believer. Or least, did not used to see it.

"Why doesn’t the Baptist General Convention of Texas tell sexually abusive ministers that they should seek a counseling stipend from their church, or former church, in the same way that the BGCT tells the victims of abusive clergy that they should seek counseling from the local church that harbored the abusive minister?"

Now that would seem fair but as we have seen over and over, special consideration is given to the criminal but none to the victim.

I think Dee has it right with the reason why.

Christa Brown said...

For those who don't know... Gmommy is talking about the mega-Southern Baptist flagship church, Bellevue Baptist in Memphis, where a staff minister had admitted to senior pastor Steve Gaines that he molested a child, and yet pastor Gaines allowed the man to continue in ministry and - get this - even allowed the man to serve as a counselor to people who had been sexually abused in childhood. This info and more has all been publicly reported, and yet people in the Bellevue congregation still choose to retain Gaines as their senior pastor... as though his "keep-it-quiet" response to a minister's admission of child molestation were no big deal.

I've been told that my own perpetrator used to "counsel" new young moms in his church office... with the door locked, shades drawn, and instructions to his secretary that he was not to be disturbed. This information breaks my heart. For many first-time moms, it is the time when they feel the most vulnerable in all their lives. Their whole self-identity is in flux; they're often filled with self-doubt; their hormones are out of whack; they're terribly sleep-deprived; they're having recurring arguments with their husband (because he's often a sleep-deprived mess too), etc. etc. Even assuming that the new young moms he "counseled" were 18 or older, it doesn't change how I feel. It completely breaks my heart to imagine that any church would put a minister such as that in charge of "counseling" new young moms. And, of course, another Southern Baptist minister knew all along about what that man did to me when I was a young church girl in Texas.

As you say, gmommy... it's all such a corrupt mess. If I ponder it for too long, it literally - literally - makes me sick. So, whenever I get to that point, I try to shift my thoughts away from the blind-eyed do-nothing complicity of religious leaders and instead I choose to think about the extraordinary courage of so many survivors... such as you yourself.

J. Davidson said...

I know that, last I checked a few years ago, their were at least 2 states (WA and VA) that required anyone going to work with SO's to have not just a license but also a master's degree and specialized training in working with them.

Offenders need real help and we put both the offender and possible future victims at risk when offenders receive poor/ineffective treatment.

oc said...

Wait a minute. Are they really talking about restoring sexual abusers to the ministry? Wow.
I know this may be a bit off- topic but...
I guess a divorced man is more of an abomination than a sexual pervert. I never heard about any counseling to restore divorced pastors to the ministry. It looks to me that divorce is the unpardonable sin, but sexual abuse is not that big a deal.

Christa Brown said...

Well... I guess if the SBC is all about image and power, and if the sexual predators are willing to hide what they do and lie about it (which is fairly typical), then the sexual predators actually wind up presenting less of a problem than divorced pastors, who are probably more typically inclined to be honest about it.

gmommy said...

Actually, to the Paige Patterson is much worse to have been baptized "improperly" ...
then you are not one of "them".

BUT if you are one of "them" and you molest kids or have an "incident" with a young vulnerable person...
you can be forgiven and given money you don't deserve and get free counseling.
It's all under the blood...don't you know??????

So one more time...
if you are a sexual predator... mercy and compassion are yours!

If you dare to be baptized by the wrong person or don't speak out against private are OUT!!!!
Being a "liberal" is a worse sin to Paige Patterson and his good ol boys than being a pervert and liar.
This is the SBC!

Christa Brown said...

Yes, this is the SBC. Pretty sad, huh? And although this posting was about the Baptist General Convention of Texas (the biggest of the statewide conventions), I've also seen where some of the other state conventions also provide reduced-fee counseling for clergy who have committed "sexual misconduct" (like $30 an hour - super-cheap) and financial stipends for ministers' counseling... with Cooperative Program dollars collected from autonomous Baptist churches... churches that leaders claim are nevertheless too autonomous to manage to cooperatively address clergy sex abuse or to provide counseling for those wounded by clergy sex abuse.

I guess you all can tell this is a bit of sore point with me, huh? I've talked with too many Baptist abuse survivors who have virtually driven themselves into bankruptcy trying to get effective psychological counseling. They're TRYING to heal themselves and to get themselves mentally healthy. It drives me nuts that the faith community abandons them and doesn't reach out to them and help them.

XSB pastor said...


I have read your blog for some time and respect you and your opinions. If you would indulge me, I'll share one of my own with the hope that it might be a word of encouragement.

Contrary to what some may think, the one instrument that God may be pleased to use to shine light into this gulf of darkness in the sbc is the diligence and tenacity of those such as yourself.

The inner workings and network of the sbc are operated with the superficial mantra 'for the glory of god', but at the heart of it all, is the goal of self-preservation. It should be of no wonder that they are willing to dismiss the suffering ones while embracing the wicked in their fold if it is a means with the end being denominational maintenance and a continued cash flow.

It is obvious, as you would know from personal experience, that there is an 'Israel of old' type obstinance that infects the mentality of those at the helm of leadership. And the lion's share of hirelings at the local level are in lockstep with what is piped down to them. The reason I believe that any movement towards common sense and sanity would be facilitated from without is because I know the backwards thinking and absurdity from within...and know that they will sacrifice whomever for the appearance of unity.

Without going into a novel's worth of personal experience, let me share two happenings among many to demonstrate the aforementioned.

While still an sbc pastor, a nearby church called a new pastor from a different area (that happened to be close to my upbringing). I knew (of) this man before he was a pastor and some of the things that he was involved in, which included sexual perversion with both proven and unproven allegations. This would not show up on any rapsheet because there was none. I knew firsthand that the law was not involved in any of his exploits because of his family's influence(politically) and status in their church. I brought this(him) to the attention of the associational director and was quickly lectured about things being 'under the blood' and forgiveness and things being in the past. I strongly expressed that the congregation had the right to know and was promptly told that I needed to tend to things in my own church and bud out. I budded 'in' though, and lo and behold I became the pariah and was lambasted by his church, the one I pastored, and eventually by the other pastors in the association. After enough implicit gestures from my church, I resigned. A year after I resigned my church and left the area to pastor another, he was arrested for sexual assault on a young lady in his church and he was dismissed. Charges were eventually dropped, he threw himself on the mercy of the congregation and was forgiven. After about a year, he's back in the pulpit at another church. Of course, I'm still a black sheep among the locals there because of my 'unforgiveness'.

In what would be my final sb pastorate, I confronted an adulterous relationship between a man and the music leader's wife. I didn't counsel with them behind closed doors or go through some gentle restoration process. I brought it to the congregation with the intent of them being removed from the body. Though they both admitted to the affair in front of the entire church, most of the church were willing to accept their confession and 'moving' pleas for mercy as true repentance. They were not removed. A week later, I was rebuked by the church and deacons in a surprise meeting for 'my mishandling' of the situation. The church wanted to then hold a vote of confidence, which was pretty much decided beforehand...there was no need...I resigned, and have had nothing to do with the sbc since. BTW, the song leader ended up divorcing his wife, she later married the man with whom she had the affair with, and after about a year, they were received back into that church as members.

In these cases, I was no prophet. I was just someone with enough conviction to be honest and do what was right both by the Lord and His churches. Though there were a few in both instances that were supportive, the majority viewed me as impulsive and a troublemaker. The denominational heads had the same opinion but only said it in fancier words.

There is almost a judicial blindness and complicity in the sbc that will be lifted only by the Lord's prescribed means. I hope that the Lord might be pleased to use such as you as one of these instruments.

May you be blessed

-I apologize for the lengthy comments, but I just wanted you (and others) to know that there are a few who will stand for the right

gmommy said...

So "under the blood" IS part of the script!
Thank you xsb pastor! I'm encouraged to know a minister had the conviction and courage to buck the corrupt system!

Anonymous said...

It is good to know that there are people who will stand up for what is right over what is popular.

XSB Pastor has my respect and that is saying A LOT as there aren't too many southern baptists that I do respect anymore.

His first example is similar to my own in a sense. I turned my baptist perp into the Oklahoma Baptist Convention and they ensured he was removed from his position within the church, and the denomination. Yet, all wasn't better.

The vast majority of people in the town for which he lives look at me as the villain for "talking outside my home" regarding this popular minister's "sin". It has been nearly 12 years (this coming Labor Day) since me and a friend visited the top leadership in Oklahoma and I avoid going back to his town even though my wife has relatives there.

I don't understand how people can often lose common sense (if they ever had any) by ignoring facts in favor of unequivocal trust based in forgiveness.

I am all for forgiveness but I don't forget. What is it going to take to get these "forgivers" to wake up? Do their kids and grandkids have to be victimized?

I am no longer a southern baptists also. My own experiences left a lasting bitter taste in my mouth where "people of god" (little-"g" intended) are concerned.

This isn't meant to offend anyone here, or in the southern baptist churches across the globe. I know there are many good people in all churches and I know other denominations have many evil people worshipping in their pews also. But, when you consistently make attempts, over many years, as I have, as Christa has, as many have, to get SBC leadership to do something about this stain on their altar and they IGNORE you, it makes you feel as if you are really the problem that needs to be erradicated..

I truly believe these leaders, and those predators, will pay by God's hand one day. I may not be there to see it, but I trust God and I know what the scriptures say. This may be my only solace in this life.

John Doe

Christa Brown said...

xsb wrote: "The inner workings and network of the sbc are operated with the superficial mantra 'for the glory of god', but at the heart of it all, is the goal of self-preservation."

Well-said synopsis. Welcome to the blog, and thanks for sharing your insights, xsb. I like your "xsb" handle.

Christa Brown said...

Here's more on what John Doe is talking about - i.e., the scenario involving the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

"There is almost a judicial blindness and complicity in the sbc that will be lifted only by the Lord's prescribed means. I hope that the Lord might be pleased to use such as you as one of these instruments. "

xsb pastor, Boy does your story ring bells for me. I have seen the same thing several times. I am still amazed at how people have so much compassion for the perps but none for the victims or even the 'watchman'. You were doing your God ordained duty as you well know. If the pastor in story 1 was sincere, he would have told the church himself and sought accountability in all things. I can understand if he did these things before being saved but even then, the consequences are not waived! But then we know that if he did the same thing again, what was really going on.

We have so dumbed down sin to the point of rebuking a watchman or victim for unforgiveness when what they really are asking for is accountability.

Christ WILL present a pure Bride to Himself. Not a perfect one but a PURE one. That should send these folks quaking in their boots, but it won't. They are too hardened and prideful. Filled with Cheap Grace and upside down thinking where good is evil and evil is good.

By the way, I have seen many good guys leave the pastorate over such things. Several went on to be bi-vocational pastors which is probably more Biblical anyway. (We are all ministers in the NC) I admire them because they would not sell out for the paycheck or to be the next golden boy of the leaders.

None of us should be looking for our reward HERE. But there will be Justice. That is the scary part. Matthew 6-7

The church (SBC) is in real trouble from the top down.


Unknown said...

I have been accused so many times of unforgiveness because I would not "shut up about it and let it go." As far as I know, the man who abused me didn't abuse sexually any one else. But he was a sexist jerk and narcissist who emotionally and spiritually abused many for the cross of Christ. He only retired a few months ago, and that was 19 years after he abused me. The reason why he finally retired was his congregation finally got tired of his BS and he was given an ultimatum, retire or a vote, and I guess he didn't want to go through that. And now I feel a huge relief that he retired, because that was really all I wanted for him to do, step down. But the reason why I wouldn't shut up was for two reasons: One was I always knew that as long as he was there, people were getting hurt, and I hurt because of that. The other was I needed healing. And the only way I could get healing was by revisiting every area inside that I was hurt, and finding who God truly is, instead of the false god that idiot gave to me. Yet, instead of being seen as the hurt little lamb seeking healing I was, I was seen as being unforgiving and bitter. How blind!

J. Davidson said...

Christa here is a perfect example of how "strongly recommended" counselors can go horribly wrong:

A church therapist hired by the state's Roman Catholic diocese to treat the Rev. Edward Paquette for fondling boys in Burlington in the 1970s was himself a child molester, according to court papers on file in Massachusetts.

The therapist, the Rev. Thomas Kane of Whitinsville, Mass., engaged in sex acts with an Uxbridge, Mass., boy for nine years, beginning in 1968 and ending in 1977, a lawsuit filed by Kane's alleged victim said.

That is from todays Burlington Free press

Anonymous said...

I am just now reading all this. In fact, I am not able to read it all. It is just so hard to take in -- to comprehend -- to know so much stuff is going on -- really makes me sick.

About Bellevue -- it is really hard to believe that Adrian did not know about the abuse that Paul Williams (I think that was his name) did to his own son. I just imagine he confessed it to him, which meant it would never happen again. Wrong! I just feel so sorry for his son and the pain and agony he must still suffer because of all that these so-called men of God did.