Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alleged rape cover-up implicates multiple pastors, multiple churches

A woman alleges she was raped twice 13 years ago by a deacon of her church, Trinity Baptist in Concord, New Hampshire. Tina Anderson says the rapes resulted in her becoming pregnant when she was only 15. (That’s Anderson in the photo, in around 1997, before the assaults.)

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!]

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.”]
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Updates:

20 comments:

Strangely Enough said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christa Brown said...

Strangely Enough: If you want to dish out know-nothing victim-blaming talk, I guess you'll just have to do it at your church. Maybe they allow such mean ignorance there... strangely enough.... but I don't allow it here.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

And fundamentalist Christians talk about Muslims not respecting women? My eyes are opening that the fundamentalist baptist theology of women in the church is more about controlling women and putting them in their place, than it is about theology.

gmommy said...

What a set up for Tina.
Willis knew she had been molested. Willis knew her mother wouldn't protect her. Her mother went along with the pastor's humiliating and abusive "suggestion" for this child(Tina) to visit the criminal who beat and molested her while he was in prison for another sex crime.
Sounds like Tina had no dad protecting her and Willis knew that too. It appears Willis took his time to "groom" Tina...that's always part of the thrill for a predator.
Why should Willis fear that he would look bad to the congregation?? Had he convinced himself that Tina "wanted him" after all the time he spent in his lustful thoughts while Tina thought she was safe with "church friends"?? It makes me sick to think of what was going thru this man's mind.
What kind of women believe this child would want to "seduce" an older man in the church? Why wouldn't decent people think it was horrible for Willis to take advantage of a child who had already been victimized?
Did they rationalize that Tina wanted to be raped since she had been sexually traumatized before?

What I'd really like to know is why Tina had to sit anywhere near Willis and his wife after she had given birth to his child and gone thru hell? Was this suppose to represent that all was forgiven and forgotten?? How sick can they be!
Tina's mom, Willis, his wife, Phelps, and his wife should be the ones repenting and asking for Tina's forgiveness.

Christa Brown said...

"My eyes are opening that the fundamentalist baptist theology of women in the church is more about controlling women and putting them in their place, than it is about theology."

One of my favorite columnists, Leonard Pitts, put this word into print in 2006: "Talibaptists." He wasn't talking about clergy sex abuse at the time, but his use of the word sure caught my attention, and I think we've seen plenty of cases like this in which it seems to be an appropriate word.

Jeri said...

Here's what John Matzko, faculty member at Bob Jones University, wrote on my Facebook wall:

========QUOTE======
Subtract the questionable public confessions before the church, and to me it looks mostly like a case of sloppy police work thirteen years ago.

Raped twice? So the girl's raped and then goes back to see the same guy again in private. The prosecutor better have a convincing personality to get a conviction on that sort of testimony.
=========END========

So I really rebuked him. I mean, he's so amoral he doesn't even see that the heart of the issue is that the church utterly misrepresented what happened and made a 15 year old the scapegoat of being raped by a 38 year old member of the church. I pointed out to him that the second rape occurred at her home, when Willis came over when her mother was not there. So Matzko wrote:

===========QUOTE======
Sorry, I'm not buying it. Neither will a jury, if it even gets that far.
===========END=======

And then after I rebuked him,
Matzko wrote:
============QUOTE========
In New Hampshire, penetration committed on a minor younger than 16 is indeed statutory rape. But the statute of limitations runs only six years. If Phelps reported the incident, then the problem is--unless proved otherwise--with the police.
============END========

It's a study in moral bankruptcy

Christa Brown said...

Yes. A case study in moral bankruptcy. Any fool will know that just because something may go unpunished under the law does not make it morally right. Any fool except a whole lot of Baptist honchos.

Check out Watchdog's latest posting: "Trinity Baptist Church members: Please Disobey Your Pastor."

gmommy said...

Absolute moral and spiritual bankruptcy.
Where is his concern for the victim? Once again a "Christians leader" proud to have made it just under the radar. If the statue of limitations was only 6 years and the victim wasn't able to come forward until after that time....oh well!!!
There isn't a hint of compassion for the victim or outrage at the crime. All I hear is arrogance and a hard, cold heart.
He's not "buying it"?????? Willis has admitted to fathering the child the victim had!! He just said that was statutory rape!!! This man is evil.

Jeri said...

John Matzko just kept going. Here is the link to his unbelievable conversation with me. I'm sorry for the ad, Christa. I'm also goign to ask you to post the dialogue on your blog if you will, or incorporate it in your own essay. But fundies fear exposure, so the more Matzko's heartless words get published, the more they feel the pressure. Anybody is free to copy it and circulate it.


http://jeriwho.net/lillypad2/?p=1934

Ken Pulliam said...

Christa,

Thanks for posting this. You and Jerri do a great work in exposing these soundrels.

Here is another interesting twist. Anderson taught at International Baptist College in Arizona where Mike Sproul is the Pastor of the mother church and the chairman of the college board. She says that she resigned one day before Willis was arrested. She doesn't say why she resigned. I can only speculate.

I do know that Mike Sproul is on the board of directors of the FBFI and that Chuck Phelps is the Vice Chairman of the FBFI. I wonder what reaction she got from Sproul when she told him that she was going public with this? I am not making an accusation--I am just wondering why she felt it necessary to resign.

So, we have three independent Baptist colleges with connections to this fiasco--Maranatha in Wisconsin (hired Phelps as President when he left Trinity), Northland in Wisconsin (hired Olson when he left Tri-City) and IBC in Arizona where Anderson taught and where she resigned before going public with this. Amazing! Oh and Bob Jones is connected from the standpoint that all three men, Phelps, Olson and Sproul received training at Bob Jones Univ.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hrh said...

Just when you thought it couldn't get any sicker.............

Adam H. said...

Christa, thanks for posting this remarkably disturbing story...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...funny that you only get one side of the story here. How do you know that Tina is telling the truth and that everyone else is wrong? I think you are choosing to believe what you want to. I grew up in a Baptist church and never felt controlled in any way. I have never felt more loved and accepted. I don't believe that every Baptist church is loving and God-honoring, however, you have no right to judge them all. Say what you want, but I know better.

Christa Brown said...

Actually, the posting gives many sides to the story as reported and linked in multiple news sources, and those news sources quoted numerous people, including pastor Chuck Phelps and pastor Brian Fuller. So they had a chance to speak and to get "their side" into print.

I have never purported to judge all Baptist churches, and to the contrary, I have consistently said that I know there many good Baptist pastors who are serving in Baptist churches. However, because Baptists lack systems of accountability similar to what other major faith groups have, and because they refuse to keep systematic records on credible accusations against clergy, it is often virtually impossible to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys." Baptists need systems of accountability and systems of record-keeping so that people in the pews can obtain reliable, objective information about the preachers who stand in their pulpits.

The Teacher's Pets said...

I was there during the church discipline of Tina and Ernie and I was completely against it because it was a matter that did not need a public apology. I remember it as if it was yesterday and it was a turning point of my life because, at the time, I was not receiving any support from Pastor Phelps for the abuse I was suffering from from the hands of my then-husband. I knew I was in for a lot of turmoil if I ever left my husband and it came true 2 yrs after Tina's church discipline; I was cast off the church membership list and disciplined. Luckily, I was in Florida at the time of my church discipline b/c I refused to go back to my ex in NH but I can just imagine how frozen everyone was when my name was brought up before the "LOVING" church members.
If you would like a laugh, go to
www.wkxl1450.com to listen to Phelps being interviewed in regards to this case. It was live today and I found this info via Jocelyn Zichterman via Facebook. Phelps is just as cunning and contrite as he was back in 1997 when Tina stood before the church and it is creepy to hear his voice after all of these years.
I hope Phelps goes "down" and they throw away the key!
April

Montana said...

So, let me get this straight this white trash “Ernest Willis” a church deacon in Concord, New Hampshire, at the time, rapes this child twice (15 years old, he was 38 at the time), gets her pregnant, he admits it is his child in front of the church, and this so called church (Trinity Baptist Church), and her parents, makes her stand up in front of this church congregation, as well, admit its her fault, because they believe its somehow her fault and to top it off her parents go to this same church to seek counsel on what to do with her and they both agree that she should be sent to another Baptist couple in Colorado, have the baby there and then force the child to put the baby up for adoption. You Baptists are real make me sick, is this your family values? I hope all of you involved get what’s coming to you.

Trinity Baptist Church
80 Clinton Street
Concord, NH 03301-2287
603-225-3999, info@tbcnh.org
www.tbcnh.org

Anonymous said...

Christa,

Just found out about this through a fellow church member concerned over the "control issues" with their son. The senior pastor of the church we attend was in NH at the time. It appears he was the youth pastor. Any comment on what involvement/decision making he would have had? Oddly enough, the church name is Trinity Baptist, Westfield, IN. Thank you for your advocating for our children!

can relate with Tina said...

This is a terrible situation. Obviously, the first thing to do when a teen confides in a church authority about any sexual abuse, is to go to the police. There should be no exception! No one is above the law! If a molester is not put in prison it should never be a pastor's fault. So sad.

Mar said...

My priority right now is to somehow communicate with Tina herself. I believe you. And you need to know that you were the victim of a sexual predator and that you were raped. This is not your fault in any way. You were a child. You deserved to be protected by your mother and by anyone else you told about these attacks. You were molested and harmed, and then abused further by your mother and the pastors who wanted to blame you. You have been a victim of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse. I am with you and for you.