Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Don't be a troublemaker," says keep-it-quiet pastor Steve Gaines

You can enjoy this hilarious video of an authoritarian Baptist pastor all on its own, and I hope you will. But for those who might want some context, here it is.

For six months, pastor Steve Gaines kept a secret. One of his staff ministers, Paul Williams, had admitted to sexually abusing a kid.

Gaines did nothing. Gaines kept it quiet.

Gaines even allowed that child-molesting minister to continue acting as a counselor to church members who said they were sexually abused as children.

Can you imagine how those people felt after they learned that they had shared their most horrible memories of childhood abuse with a minister who was a child molester himself?

“There’s no telling what was going through his mind as I’m telling him these things,” said one woman. The thought that he “might have been titillated by the story of her abuse… turns her stomach.”

To make matters worse, when things came to light, these people also learned that their trusted senior pastor, Steve Gaines, had known that minister Williams was a child molester, and Gaines kept it secret. Gaines even left the child molesting minister in an official church position as a counselor to child molestation survivors.

Do you see the utter sickness of this?

Those people were betrayed 5 times over -- first, by the perpetrator who molested them when they were kids; second, by the child molesting minister who purported to counsel them when they were adults; third, by their senior pastor who kept that child molesting minister as a counselor for child molestation survivors; fourth, by all the people in the pews who, by keeping Gaines as their senior pastor, send a message that it’s no big deal; and fifth, by other Southern Baptist leaders who send the same “no big deal” message by their failure to speak up and call pastor Steve Gaines to task.

This story is really a lot worse. I’m just skimming the surface. There were other church staff members who also knew about the fact that minister Williams was a child molester -- at least two more ministers in the church knew and 10 people affiliated with the church knew.

So many people knew. And so many people did nothing.

But of course, look at the example set by their highest leader. Senior pastor Steve Gaines kept things quiet.

To this day, senior pastor Steve Gaines has not faced any serious consequences. He is still the senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s one of the top-100 largest churches of any kind in the whole country, and among Southern Baptists, it’s a flagship.

A flagship in numbers. A flagship in money. But a very sick boat.

A small band of people saw the reality of what happened at Bellevue. Unlike so many others, they weren’t able to clench their eyes shut fast enough or tight enough. And after they saw that awful ugliness, they began seeing other things about pastor Gaines and the authoritarian manner in which the church was being run. A few of them began blogging about it.

The bloggers’ criticism hasn’t been easy for poor pastor Gaines to deal with. After all, he’s a “God-ordained authority,” and I guess when you’ve got that God-thing going for you, people aren’t supposed to question you. So, every now and then, Gaines gets a little edgy and launches into a pulpit-tirade about “troublemakers”.

It would be funny if it weren’t so un-funny. But thank God for bloggers like the New BBC who put together this video that manages to make us laugh anyway!

In the process of writing this, I looked again at this article from the Associated Baptist Press. Look at what it says. Citing language from Bellevue Baptist’s own investigatory report, it says: “No policies on problems of ‘a sensitive nature’ existed and a precedent of keeping those issues under wraps… led leaders to avoid disclosure.” So some of you ex-Bellevue people, tell me… what was the “precedent”? When had it happened before that such issues were kept under wraps at Bellevue?


New BBC Open Forum said...

One correction: Bellevue is not among the largest 100 churches in America now. I believe the last time they made the list was in 2007 when they ranked 65th with an average attendance of 7554. If the numbers I saw that year were accurate, this number was inflated even then. Attendance numbers, which are visibly declining, have been a well-guarded secret since 2007. Actually they were a secret from the pew warmers even then, but they provided numbers to the deacons each month which some of them believed were inflated. Last I heard they don't even provide the deacons with those numbers now.

Bellevue is often referred to as a 30,000-member congregation. Bellevue has never been a 30,000-member congregation! Two years ago they claimed to have 29,000 members on the rolls; however, they had no idea where over 11,000 of them were. They hadn't purged the rolls in over a decade then and apparently have no plans to do so in the future.

Estimates by others and viewing services on TV indicate that the 7500-seat auditorium is 20-30% full in each of two Sunday morning services now. The choir has dwindled from 4 1/2 to 5 rows all the way across with choir members shoulder to shoulder to 2 rows with about 18 inches between the members. Actual counts by someone present of the attendance at Wednesday night services indicates 150-200 people now attend on Wednesday nights.

There are still plenty of activities there, but there has been a marked drop in attendance and giving in the past 4 years.

New BBC Open Forum said...

The video Christa posted has been edited slightly. The new version is here.

Christa Brown said...

New BBC: Thanks for the correction on Bellevue numbers. It's nice to know that at least some people have walked away from that place. If only they could send Gaines hiking.

Anonymous said...

Those people were betrayed 5 times over -- first, by the perpetrator who molested them when they were kids; second, by the child molesting minister who purported to counsel them when they were adults; third, by their senior pastor who kept that child molesting minister as a counselor for child molestation survivors; fourth, by all the people in the pews who, by keeping Gaines as their senior pastor, send a message that it’s no big deal; and fifth, by other Southern Baptist leaders who send the same “no big deal” message by their failure to speak up and call pastor Steve Gaines to task."

#6. By those Baptist leaders like Patterson who have had Gaines into preach to future pastors at SWBTS Chapel AFTER this scandal. His speaking engagements in the SBC did not dry up after this scandal at all. So, they actually PROMOTE him across the SBC.

Proof the SBC is dead. RUN!

gmommy said...

"Williams had confessed the misconduct to him (Gaines)six months earlier." (this from the article link)
MISCONDUCT??? What a stupid word for sexually abusing a child. That's worse than "incident".
A minister working at BBC at the time PW "confessed" to SG...said when PW walked out of SG's office, he said.."I have never felt so affirmed in my life"
This clergy sexual predator "confessed" only b/c his son pushed. He wanted this man out of the ministry but SG thought PW should remain a staff minister and even receive a raise while they kept the dirty little secret for over 6 months. SG chose to take the word of a confessed sexual abuser...that he hadn't abused anyone else! Go figure!!
From the initial announcement to the reading of the BOGUS investigation report (not one woman or professional outside counselor was among this group of men called the investigation board) sympathy and compassion for the perp was encouraged. His crime was so minimized and no support and compassion was emphasized for his son or the many women who had been revictimized by this creep.

PW was in charge of interviewing women who volunteered to work with kids at the church who were sexually abused as children.
He was also a first responder when a child got hurt in the nursery or SS class. Somehow no one noticed that this minister was not allowed to be alone with his own grand children!.
My encounter with the creep was for different reasons but with the same result. He was a predator with one agenda.
This man had access to the files of women like myself who had been counseled in previous years...all the non professional men on the "board" had access to our files that had very personal private information. No respect or consideration was given to anyone. The "damage control" man BBC hired during the investigation told me himself that "every file" of anyone who had met with PW was being read. That invasion of privacy was very harmful.
So much damage was done with no consequences and very little show of remorse from anyone involved.

There IS so much more to this story of Baptist clergy sexual abuse and it's cover up at BBC. King Financial Gaines is still in the pulpit and deflecting as usual and the predator was shown such compassion from the church he joined after leaving BBC.
He has no grand children participating in the sports program but is seen regularly at the events.

Christa Brown said...

"The 'damage control' man BBC hired during the investigation told me himself that 'every file' of anyone who had met with PW was being read. That invasion of privacy was very harmful."

This is still another way in which people were betrayed. People received counseling within the church and believed that what they said would be kept confidential. But when Bellevue's "damage control" gang decided they wanted to see what was in people's files, they simply opened the files and looked. THEY did what THEY wanted to do, with no regard for the privacy or feelings of the people who had received counseling.

So... BE WARNED: If you talk to a ministerial counselor in a Baptist church, you do NOT have the same assurance of privacy and confidentiality that you would have with an independent counselor. Baptist honchos will do what THEY want to do when THEY choose to do it... and if that means reading all the personal information in your counseling files... they won't hesitate.

Anonymous said...

I was labeled a "troublemaker" by the sex offender senior pastor of my church, a "non-denominational" fundamental church. The offending pastor was ordained by the SBC.

The elders of the church took my files, which I was told by the pastor were confidential representing years of counseling. They threatened to publish the contents in the local newspaper if I did not keep quiet about what the pastor had done. That would have harmed not just me, but my entire family. It was a terrible threat of invasion of privacy--and perfectly legal (separation of church and state).

This is ruthless, cruel, evil. Clergy sexual ABUSE is anything but Christian. Anyone who attends church--any church or religious institution--is a sitting duck to these evil men.

Their vocabulary is twisted with their own code words, meant to deceive others:

"troublemaker" - (1) one who has been sexually abused by a member of the clergy who dares to tell someone; (2) anyone in the church who dares to confront a pastor/elder/church leader with conduct that seems inappropriate

"counseling" - code word for sexual abuse

"pastor who counsels others" - code word for a sex offender

"counselee" - potential or actual CSA victim

"having a teachable spirit" - one who is easily duped by a pastor counselor, and one who will at least in all likelihood be spiritually abused

This kind of abuse goes way beyond the sexual abuse of the act. It is also mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. It's very bad. They think no one sees...but God does (Ezek. 8, 9). I shudder to think of what God will do with all of this.

So, thanks for helping me to laugh a little about it. You're right. If this weren't so serious, it would be hilarious. :-)

Sharon Rose

Phyllis Gregory said...

I have never been a BBC member but I am a Memphian. As I recall, when all this was going on at Bellevue, there were many BBC members and many others in the community who thought BBC should get rid of Gaines. I believe, please correct me if I am wrong, that Michael Spradlin (Mid Amerca Seminary's President) was one of those people. He was very outspoken about his feelings and then he suddenly changed his mind and I never heard another word about it. I pretty much think that Mid-America is Bellevue's seminary so I often wondered if Spradlin was told he better shut up.

Just reading past and present comments here of former Bellevue members, you really wonder who is in charge there -- not the Holy Trinity that is for sure. And what happened to the federal investigation that was supposed to take place. Who did the SBC buy off to make that go away?


gmommy said...

MS's position as president of the seminary was threatened and he was told to be quiet and make up with SG. I wish he would have stood up to everyone no matter the cost...but it wasn't my family and life on the line so I can't judge him for not being the hero.
I am curious about what happened with the assistant DA. When I spoke to him BBC was not cooperating yet. I asked the damage control guy why not and he said the DA had not contacted them. A few days later he called to tell me they were now in touch with the DA's office.
As far as the child services investigation....I was told (by a deacon officer)they were in the clear for not reporting it because the victim was an adult. He was happy about sliding under that wire.
It was all so wrong....everything about it. I am not the son so I feel guilty for saying this but it altered my life in several major ways and I have not been able to get back to where I was before it all happened. Many people were harmed.

Anonymous said...

Let's also add:

Youth Pastor - code word for a sex offender and/or pedophile

Anonymous said...

As usual, you all just jump on the bandwagon and shout with glee over a pathetic situation. New BBC Open Forum should take some of the "credit" for the demise of Bellevue since her anonymous blog causes untold damage.

To the one that said "youth pastor" is a code word for sex offender or pedophile is just as sick as the people she/he is condemning. That is one of the worst things I have ever read.

Let me also point out that Steve Gaines came into the situation after it had happened. Why is there no criticism of Adrian Rogers? I guarantee you that NOTHING went on at Bellevue that he didn't know about.

Personally, I think Steve Gaines should resign over his handling of this issue but there is a lot more than just Steve's participation in this whole sordid mess. Just because Williams was a sex offender doesn't justify some of the garbage I read on here and some other anonymous blogs in Memphis.

Thy Peace said...

Well, Steve Gaines is not going anywhere. He seems to have the solid support of SBC Leadership and now Donna Gaines, wife of Steve Gaines in on the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force.

I honestly do not think New BBC Open Forum blog had any impact on BBC or on Steve Gaines. Everything is the same (as before). At the most, the blog is a minor irritant to them.

The only way these attitudes will change within SBC and BBC is by education of the members or prospective members. For that we have to thank the web and the blogs.

God bless you Christa and NASS.

Slowly one by one ...

Thy Peace said...

I would like to add the only thing that had an effect at BBC and FBC Jax are the actions of Pastors and their "leadership". The declining church attendance can be solely attributed to their "actions". That is why they are trying satellite churches using demographics studies. This remains to be seen if this will be effective.

Christa Brown said...

"Personally, I think Steve Gaines should resign over his handling of this issue..."

Well... at least you got that part right.

Gaines should have resigned. The congregation should have insisted. He doesn't belong in a position of leadership. And that should have been obvious. Other leaders in the SBC should have repeatedly and publicly called for his resignation. As it is, the unmistakable message from the church and from Southern Baptist leadership is that it's no big deal when a pastor keeps quiet about clergy child molestation. Actions, and non-actions, speak louder than words.

Christa Brown said...

"This kind of abuse goes way beyond the sexual abuse of the act."

Yes. Virtually every clergy abuse survivor says this. And often, those who try to report their abuse within the faith community will also say that this part of it was even more horrific than the abuse itself. It's easier when you can still harbor some tiny shred of hope that your faith community - or even your ex-faith-community (that you might still have a few fond memories of) - might stand with you and support you. But when you have to see the reality that, everywhere you turn, the faith community ignores you, villifies you, stones you, shames you, shuns you, threatens you, bullies you, and intimidates you, then things really do come undone. It's terribly, terribly wounding. Things would be plenty awful enough -- and yet so much easier -- if it were "just" about abuse. But as Sharon says, it's "way beyond" that.

Christa Brown said...

I wish I were surprised to hear that "MS's position as president of the seminary was threatened." But of course, I'm not. By now, we've all seen too much of the intimidation tactics of Baptist leaders to even be surprised anymore, haven't we?

Former Baptist pastor Ben Cole once said of Southern Baptists that, "from the highest levels of denominational leadership to the smallest church... sometimes we operate like the Cosa Nostra."

Anonymous said...

gmommy said, "...MISCONDUCT??? What a stupid word..."

Your comment really made me think. Yes, it is a stupid word, especially in the context of clergy sexual abuse! But if this deliberate minimization causes a few in the pews to honestly look at all this "misconduct," and they discover the reality of this kind of abuse, then at least we've won some over to the truth.

Sometimes I think this is a wave we can't win on our own (duh!). God is stepping in to help us. I see Christa and others like her as modern-day prophets to expose the truth of what is going on in our churches which are so corrupt.

So, let's keep on telling the truth! The SBC and churches like Bellevue are only great in their own eyes! They've taken their eyes off the prize. People in the pews will see that and leave.

Jesus Christ, with righteousness, truth, peace, and love which leads to life and real salvation, should be the only draw in any church, not the false prophets ranting and raving on their man-made platforms. :-)

Sharon Rose

Anonymous said...

6:50 must be a youth pastor. sorry to ruffle your feathers. Not!

Anonymous said...

I am not a youth pastor but its obvious you have deep personal issues with that position in a church. I would recommend counseling but not sure where you can get it.


You might want to check back a bit more and you'll find that Ben Cole is/has been very much a part of the Cosa Nostra thing in the SBC. Mostly his role has been a wannabe.

Anonymous said...

nope, no personal issues with youth pastors. Just see that OVER HALF of the molesters/rapists/pedophiles on this blog are youth pastors. And those are just the ones "unlucky" enough to get busted. Guess the rest are in the Paige Patterson-Steve Gaines Witness Protection Program

brc said...

"...everywhere you turn, the faith community ignores you..."

Forty years ago, things were different. There was no internet, no support, no public consciousness on the issue whatsoever. It was common practice to blame the victim of rape for the incident(s). They were "too attractive" or "too tempting." They were the evil in the midst of the community. They were the ones who needed to be dealt with, not the pedophile. There was no support from law enforcement or the courts. No credibility for the victim, often a child, in pain. Even doctors counseled silence.
Not only were the lives of victims destroyed, but whole families as well. Especially if the family supported the victim. Friendships waned. Business stopped coming through the door. Credit lines dried up.
Victims were marked, stained by the incident. Forced to live with the shame and guilt alone. In the end, even family members would be forced to turn away. Sometimes whole families moved. Divorces. Suicides. Children were sent away. And all the while, the predators and their supporters walked free. As many still do today.
They walk the halls of their institutions enjoying the respect of their contemporaries while their victims shudder in shadow, too terrified to speak. The predators still wield power. They enjoy the complacency of the media and tacit acceptance by a general public too repulsed by the enormity of the scandal to speak of it openly. And there's fear. Fear they, too, could be marked. It's safer to believe the victim is at fault. or the victim lies. It's too terrible to be true, like a piece of fiction, a horror story.
Such victims live a precarious balance between rage and despair. Anesthetics only work a limited time. And they never remove the stain. Survival is the only solace. Peace found only in forgiveness.

It may not seem much has changed. But, thanks to folks like you, the victim nowadays has a credibility, a hope their voice will be heard and action will be taken. They know SOMEONE will listen, and care. That's a huge step forward. There is now a light that can illuminate the truth. And a community ready to aid an injured soul.

Bless you.


Christa Brown said...

Anon 7:56 said: "I would recommend counseling but not sure where you can get it."

Well one thing for sure... a clergy abuse survivor won't get any counseling provided by any Southern Baptist entity. Why is it that statewide Baptist conventions can readily spend the pooled Cooperative Program dollars of autonomous churches to provide counseling "to restore" clergy, but they can't provide counseling for clergy abuse survivors? That one never makes any sense to me. Why can't they give to clergy abuse survivors even a bare equal measure of the care and concern that they give to ministers who commit what they so euphemistically call "sexual misconduct"? (And let's not forget that Baptist leaders have repeatedly used that umbrella term of "sexual misconduct" to include conduct that actually constitues clergy child molestation, sexual abuse, and sexual assault.)

Anon 8:29 - I love the line about the "Paige Patterson-Steve Gaines Witness Protection Program"! It made me laugh...

john said...

You have caught a man totally misusing and misqouteing the Scripture. Can anybody say,"Wolf!!"

Anonymous said...

You don't even begin to know the depth of the Paige Patterson Witness Protection Program. Gaines is a newcomer and a novice compared to Paige. I could tell you tales of coverups and such that you wouldn't even be able to comprehend.

Anonymous said...

We would be wise to know 2:16 PM, that is for sure. Why he is a seminary president, of all professions, I will never understand. I live in DFW and let me tell you, I don't trust ANYONE I've met that has come out of that operation under his watch. Furthermore, they are usually very conceited people. Must carry from top down.

Anonymous said...

Gaines is a starter-kit wannabe anyway.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Paige would be a sex offender but covering one up is just as bad in my book. I have personally seen him destroy pastors' lives and reputations because they disagreed or even dared question him. Its a sad situation in Ft. Worth to think that he is teaching young pastors. I hope they don't pay attention.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check back a bit more and you'll find that Ben Cole is/has been very much a part of the Cosa Nostra thing in the SBC. Mostly his role has been a wannabe.

July 13, 2009 7:56 AM

Really? Then perhaps you can explain why he walked away from Patterson after seeing all the evil? I mean, he could have been set for life if he had remained as his protege'.

What is wannabe about that? Perhaps you could explain yourself?

Christa Brown said...

"Its a sad situation in Ft. Worth to think that he is teaching young pastors."

No kidding. VERY sad. But it should never be forgotten that there are plenty of other Southern Baptist leaders who are letting this man stay in a position of such enormous influence. For starters, there are the trustees of the seminary. Their names may not be as prominent and well-known as PP but they are also responsible. And there are a great many other Southern Baptist leaders who could choose to speak up if they wanted... but they don't. People like PP have such power only because there are a whole lot of other powerful (but perhaps quieter) people who back him.

Thy Peace said...

I personally am in favor of true repentance of these individuals. Removal from offices, solves the problem immediately, but true repentance heals the abuser and down the road the abused.

Clearly, the people who support status quo and the maintenance of the existing power base, do not want to rock the boat. They accept the token repentance and token support to the abused, but all the while white washing the acts of the abusers.

This is the origin of the cynicism and distrust of ALL clergy in Christian circles.

The only way to get them to change their practices is to hit them where it hurts.

That is monetarily.

Stop tithing directly to churches that do not support the victims and take pro-active stance on curbing abusers.

Just as the Catholic Church was confronted by massive lawsuits, SBC is next to go in that direction. This is the only way to get their goat.

Then maybe reform(s) will take place. And then maybe they will turn their hearts to helping and healing the victims, rather than protecting their image in the media. Ultimately it is this weakness that will do them in, if they do not turn from their ways.

Christa Brown said...

I too believe that, eventually, Southern Baptists will be hit with massive lawsuits... but it will take a lot of time. They are much better protected against legal liability than the Catholic church. It's the difference between a porous faith group with 43,000 purportedly autonomous churches and no heirarchical line of responsibility, and a faith group with 194 dioceses and all lines of responsibility going in one predicatable direction. Baptists are a faith group in which, institutionally, no one ever has to take ownership of knowing anything. The buck stops nowhere. By contrast, Catholic canon law requires record-keeping, and everyono knows that the buck stops with the bishop. These are just a couple of the factors - there are more - but suffice it to say that Baptists have created an organizational structure that helps to make the pursuit of lawsuits much more difficult and costly. And the fact that lawsuits are more difficult, and typically settle for smaller dollar amounts, also means that it is more difficult to get media exposure of the Baptist problem. And with less media exposure, it is more difficult to prod positive change. It's all related.

Nevertheless, I still believe, that chink by chink, inch by inch, brick by brick, the wall of protection that Baptist honchos have built for themselves and their Baptist entities will eventually come tumbling down. But it will be a long process. My only hope is that, eventually, people will see the reality of the fact that, this faith group, all the way up to its highest leaders, consistently chose institutional protection instead of kid protection. While other major faith groups were working to systematically address clergy sex abuse, the leaders of this faith group stood on the sidelines. I hope people will eventually see that. Because no matter how well they may insulate themselves against legal responsibility, moral responsibility is a whole 'nother matter. And more and more, the men who run this faith group have shown that they stand on an island that is void of any moral terrain.

Anonymous said...

Paige Patterson stays in power because he personally approves everyone who is appointed to the Southwestern Board of Trustees. Noone on there is going to cross him.

Ben Cole walked away from Paige (according to Ben's version) but when he was in Ft. Worth he fashioned himself as a power broker in the SBC. It was kind of pathetic and then Wade Burleson took him under his wing and hopefully has trained him well.

Anonymous said...

Ben Cole walked away from Paige (according to Ben's version) but when he was in Ft. Worth he fashioned himself as a power broker in the SBC. It was kind of pathetic and then Wade Burleson took him under his wing and hopefully has trained him well.

July 14, 2009 12:37 PM

Hmmmmmmm. He was pastoring a church in Dallas after he left PP. You have your timeline wrong. No one is denying he was mentored by PP and it showed. My point was he left that.

You insulted him based on a life he left. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...