The former deacon, Ernest Willis, has now been arrested on sexual assault charges.
Anderson also asserts that church officials, led by former pastor Chuck Phelps, covered up the crime. (That’s Phelps in the photo on the left.)
When she told of the alleged rape and pregnancy, church officials “blamed her…forced her to stand in front of her congregation and apologize for getting pregnant, and write a letter asking Willis’ wife for forgiveness.”
As a pregnant 15-year-old, Anderson was whisked off to Colorado where, she says, she was forced to give up the baby for adoption.
Pastor Chuck Phelps had previously worked with the pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church in Westminster, Colorado, and that’s where the young Tina Anderson was sent.
At that time, the pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church was Matt Olson, who is now the president of Northland International University, a Baptist Bible college in Wisconsin whose motto is "preparing the next generation of servant-leaders for Great Commission living." (That’s Olson in the photo on the right.)
Anderson says Olson made her write a letter to the wife of deacon Willis. “He made me sit down and write a letter of apology to the rapist’s wife for betraying her trust by seducing her husband.”
“Chuck Phelps and Matt Olson did a lot to systematically brainwash me,” says Anderson, “and make me believe this was my fault, to cover things and make people believe that it wasn’t Ernie’s baby, to make -- even Chuck Phelps’ wife…asked me if I enjoyed it when it happened. And it’s not OK…. It’s not OK to make victims believe it’s their fault.”
[“Not OK” indeed. Amen, Tina. You go, girl!]
[“Not OK” indeed. Amen, Tina. You go, girl!]
But Tina was actually “brainwashed” even before the alleged rapes committed by the church deacon. She says she was also silenced in an earlier case.
Anderson alleges that “Trinity Baptist Church members had told her not to report an earlier case in which she had been molested by a convicted sex offender who was also a member of the congregation.”
"They told me that to be a good Christian, I need to forgive, forget and move on in my life," she said. "And they told me that a good Christian doesn't press charges on another good Christian."
[How many times have we heard that “forgive and forget” line from Baptist officials and pastors? How many more times will we hear it before Baptist officials change their ways and implement systems of accountability?]
“Growing up, Anderson said, a family member molested her and beat her and her brother with a belt to ‘show us who was boss.’ When the man was imprisoned for an unrelated sex crime, Anderson, then 13, said she felt comfortable enough to tell church members that she, too, had been a victim. But she said church members told her to keep quiet.”
“Anderson said Phelps directed her to visit the man in state prison to offer her forgiveness.”
"He said if I didn't forgive him and give him forgiveness, then I would get bitter," she said. "It's just kind of how things at the church go. The woman is blamed for everything."
“At the state prison in Concord, Anderson said she was forced to confront the man with her mother. ‘It was horrible,’ she said. ‘It was awful.’”
Over the next two years, Anderson says she confided in Willis, who was then a deacon at Trinity. He offered emotional support and Anderson began babysitting for two of his children.
"I had gotten very close to the (Willis) family," Anderson said. "At Trinity, your whole world revolves around the church and the people who are in the church, so those are really the only people you have contact with."
“But according to Anderson, Willis raped her twice when she was 15 - once at her home and once in the parking lot of a Concord business during a driving lesson. Those allegations are the basis of the criminal charges the police have filed against Willis. Several months later, Anderson realized she was pregnant.”
Anderson’s mother called pastor Chuck Phelps for help, and according to Anderson, Phelps removed her from Trinity's Bible school. "I was told that I was a bad influence," she said. "I was told I was going to have to go up before the church."
Anderson went to stay at pastor Phelps’ house, where she reports that she wasn't allowed to see any of her friends or talk to anybody. "I had to stay there until they shipped me away,” she says.
Once in Colorado, Anderson was home-schooled.
But before she left for Colorado, Anderson was made to stand before some 400 members of the Trinity Baptist congregation to ask forgiveness for getting pregnant…."I was completely humiliated," she said. "I felt like my life was over."
“At Phelps's urging, Anderson said, she gave her baby girl up for adoption”
Anderson “continued to be home-schooled until what would have been her senior year, when she returned to Concord for about six months. She lived with her mother again, and attended Trinity, sitting in the same pews as Willis. Anderson's mother remains a member of Trinity today.”
Phelps, who is now the senior pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, claims there was “no cover-up.” But according to his recent statement in the Concord Monitor, Phelps admits that he told the 15-year-old Anderson to “be responsible.”
“She knew this person was dangerous after the first time, but she continued to be around him… She needed to be responsible,” says Phelps.
[“Continued to be around him”? Anderson says that the second alleged rape occurred when Willis came to her house. And if Phelps was so convinced that Willis was "dangerous," why did Phelps allow Willis to remain in the congregation with nothing more than a statement that he was unfaithful to his wife?]
Meanwhile, even as police are seeking to conduct an investigation, the current pastor of Phelps’ prior church, where this story began, sent an email to members of the congregation. As reported by the Associated Press, the email from Trinity Baptist’s current pastor, Brian Fuller, “contains two statements advising parishioners to remain silent.”
“I love you tenderly and am confident you will only talk of these matters to our Lord in prayer,” wrote Fuller (shown in the photo on the right).
[Does that sound like “no cover-up” to you? To me it sounds more like “ongoing cover-up.”]
- "Bob Jones University students, alumni hold silent protest," CNN Report, 12/13/2011
- See "Trinity Baptist Church Members: Please Disobey Your Pastor."
- Read the callous, victim-blaming, responsibility-shifting comments of Dr. John Matzko of Bob Jones University on Jeri Massi's blog. . . and his subsequent apology.
- “Victim’s courage may lead to justice,” Nashua Telegraph, 6/5/2010
- Additional links for the Associated Press story in the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe, and FOX News.