Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Hell of a Baptist Preacher and his "Bud"

This story is excerpted from an Anchorage Daily News article written by Debra McKinney in 1992. It bears re-telling because it carries tragic lessons that still need learning in Baptistland.

The story of Diana Wade is “the story of a woman trying to heal after waking up one morning to find everything she's ever believed in, everything she's ever lived for, has been an enormous lie.”

“Her husband, George ‘Tom’ Wade Jr., was serving 12 years for his crimes. But she and her children had received a life sentence; they would live the rest of their lives without feeling whole. He had raped their souls . . . .

“Church officials knew the oldest daughter, Renee, was being abused long before Diana did. One of them, according to Renee's sworn testimony, told her to forgive her father and not tell anyone what he had done. It was three years before Renee got the courage to speak up again. By then, her father had started in on her two little sisters.”

“Diana came from a long line of Southern Baptists and was the daughter of a Baptist preacher . . . . The Wades had what appeared to be a wholesome life. Diana raised her children on ‘old-fashioned American values’ and three to five church services a week. . . .

"The family moved to southern Africa to work as missionaries for the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Hired as part of a husband-and-wife team, Diana was thrilled by the chance to live an exotic life overseas, doing work she considered her calling. But while she was living a fantasy, she was losing a daughter . . . .

"Renee was abused first, and longest. It started overseas. Between 11 and 16, her father's assaults accelerated to joint showers, finger penetration and oral sex. There were times, when Diana was away, he would visit her room almost nightly.

"Renee started acting up in school. . . . When Renee was 14, Diana decided to send her to a missionary school in Johannesburg, 700 miles away; maybe the change would get her back on track. But before too long, mission associate area director Marion ‘Bud’ Fray was on the phone telling her and Tom that their daughter was a bad influence on other kids . . . . He complained about her grades, her table manners, her sloppy dress and her constant claims of feeling sick. He called her a hypochondriac.

"But Renee was affected physically. She carried the secret like knotted barbed wire deep inside her . . . .

"When Renee found out her father was making a trip to Johannesburg, she begged her housemother not to let him stay in her home. When asked why, she told.

"According to Renee's sworn testimony, the housemother told her husband, who told Fray, who in turn confronted Tom.

"Fray testified that, in a tearful confession in his office, Tom admitted only to a little fondling, and that it happened a long time ago. Fray said he had no reason to doubt Tom. Fray referred to Renee as a ‘sexually deviant child’ and said he suspected she was lying. . . .

"Tom promised to tell Diana and get the family into counseling. . . .

"After the confrontation in Johannesburg, the Wades decided to return to Alaska on furlough, two years earlier than scheduled. The plan was to get Renee into counseling for her behavior . . . . the counseling never happened.

"Tom never did tell Diana.

"After three months in Anchorage, Tom moved his family to Anderson, a town of about 500 people 80 miles southwest of Fairbanks, to become pastor of the North Star Baptist Church . . . . He continued to pursue his oldest daughter. By then Renee was angry enough to refuse. When she did, he turned to the two younger girls . . . .

"Jennifer won't talk about her abuse; she gets up and leaves the room when the subject comes up. . . .

"But Tanya, the prostitute, talks more openly. ‘I went away from myself when he did it,’ Tanya remembers. Now, she says, she uses the same escape when she works as a prostitute. To this day she can't sleep without a light on, she says. . . .

"‘There was an undercurrent of knowing something was wrong, but denying it,’ Diana said. … ‘I allowed myself to be sucked into a subservient, submissive wifely role’ . . . .

"Renee left Anderson the day she graduated from high school and moved in with her grandparents in Anchorage. She was pregnant by her boyfriend.

"One afternoon, she and her mother's younger sister, Linda Travelli, were discussing Renee's hopes for a wedding. When Linda asked if Tom would perform the ceremony, Renee said he wouldn't even be invited.

"‘Why do you hate your father so much?’ Linda asked.

"But she already knew. Memories surfaced that had been buried for years. Linda remembered that Tom had abused her, too. At 11 and again at 16, she said. Renee told her story and Linda told hers. Together they decided it was time to let the rest of the family know the truth about this man . . . .

"Diana consulted her family, her attorney, her conscience and her God. She knew what she needed to do to protect her children; she asked the lawyer to call the police . . . .

"The Alaska State Troopers had arrested Tom Wade at the church parsonage, charging him with six felony counts of sexual abuse . . . .

"Diana filed for divorce immediately after her husband's arrest, and for several months she kept herself in isolation. The support she expected from friends and her church community didn't come . . . .

"The letters began arriving soon after word got back to Tom's family in Georgia: ‘It is absolutely unheard of for a person such as Tom to have been treated the way he has by his own family. . . . We will continue to do something to try to undo what you all have done. . . .’

"The letter from Tom's sister, Caroline Smith, damned Diana for turning on her husband . . . . ‘You allowed Satan to take control and until you allow God back into the situation, Satan will have the victory.’ "

"Some of the letters were directed to Diana's father, then-pastor of Anchorage's Grandview Baptist Church: ‘We have been told we must forgive you. We do. But do you even know the wrongs that you as the Biblical head of your household have allowed? Do you even realize how weak you appear to people all over this country. . . . You have allowed an immature minor to rule your family. What does God say? Forgive them for they know not what they do.’

"After a while, Diana stopped opening the letters; she just threw them in a box in a closet . . . .

"Although Jennifer won't discuss the extent of her abuse, her pain comes through in the letter she wrote to Judge Rene Gonzales urging him to give her father the stiffest sentence possible: ‘I hated every minute of my life….’

"Before pronouncing his sentence, Judge Gonzales said: ‘I've presided over quite a few cases of sexual abuse; in many respects yours is probably one of the most tragic. . . . As a result of the mishandling of your problem . . . . we have you before this court, not facing one count, one victim, but multiple counts and three victims. . . .’

"With Tom off in prison, Diana assumed the healing could begin. She didn't realize the family hadn't yet hit bottom.

"Renee's escape from an abusive life was short lived. Two days after her father's arrest, she miscarried her baby.

"After her child's death, she turned to alcohol and remained for several more years in a destructive relationship. Abuse she just thought that's what women got, she said. . . .

"Trey, the only boy in the family, was an ‘A’ student and president of his class in Anderson at the time of his father's arrest. Two years later, he had dropped out of high school. It became almost impossible for his mother to get him out of bed.

"Diana had Trey committed to … the state mental hospital, twice. At 17, he entered a treatment program for drug and alcohol addictions . . . .

"Today he's sober, living in a friend's garage and about as far from a Baptist as he can get . . . . The way Trey explains it, he found his father's secret so humiliating, such a betrayal, that he wanted to reconstruct every atom of his body. . . .

"Tanya [was] the one who sank the furthest … For days after his arrest she insisted he never touched her.

"After he went to prison, her feelings… gelled as rage . . . . She locked herself in a bathroom once and threatened to carve herself up with a knife . . . .

"Diana, who had moved with the kids to Anchorage, tried joint counseling. But Tanya would just curl up into the fetal position and refuse to talk.

"By the seventh grade, Tanya was running away, drinking, using drugs and hanging out with street kids. Pregnant at 15, she gave up her baby for adoption.

"Tanya tried to kill herself with pain pills. She lay in the intensive care unit… with tubes up her nose and all four limbs tied down as she thrashed about. For 24 hours, doctors didn't know if she'd live.

"By 17, Tanya had been in eight institutions, shelters and treatment programs . . . . She disappeared into the streets of Anchorage."
______________________________

You can read the rest of the Anchorage Daily News story here.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The destruction that follows the "mishandling" of clergy sexual abuse is tragic, and the inactive response from those in SBC leadership is incomprehensible. They think they have done so much with their pamphlets and yet have done so little. Abuse is allowed to continue by sending the culprit to another church. One thing they are good at is shooting down the one who complains of the abuse.

Anonymous said...

And of course, the "Christians" were worried about ruining the man. Never mind the girls. They are expendable.

Christa Brown said...

Yes... it's about protecting the preacher-man and his ministry... and to heck with the kids. That's the de facto reality of how most Baptists deal with clergy sex abuse.

Anonymous said...

So typical. Baptists are the worst.

Scott said...

Horrific and unfortunately all too typical.

Scott said...

"Baptists are the worst"

Anonymous, if I may address this. The problem is not really with a specific religion. The problem is that religion in general is *potentially* an excellent place for sexual predators and other abusers, both physical and mental, to hide out and gain power in which to indulge in their perversions without consequence. (Other institutions that attract this sort of person for the same reason are the police, corporate CEOs, pediatricians, and politicians.)

As it happens, all mainstream christian religions in the US, except for independent baptist churches, have implemented protocols to catch abuse when it happens and to prevent abusers from getting away with it.

Because of this, the abusers who USED to be evenly distributed across a variety of churches are now drawn primarily towards independent baptist churches because it has proven to be fertile ground for them due to the lack of accountability or tracking.

As a result, the density of sexual deviants among baptist clergy is 10 to 20 times higher than in any other church.

Not because of the teachings of the church, but because of their protection of predators and refusal to deal with the problem in effective ways, as other churches have done by now.

Christa Brown said...

"...all mainstream christian religions in the US, except for independent baptist churches, have implemented protocols to ... prevent abusers from getting away with it."

Actually, it's not merely "independent baptists." Almost ALL Baptist faith groups have failed to implement the sorts of protective policies and procedures that other major faith groups now have. This failure includes Southern Baptists, which are the largest Protestant faith group in the country, and so their failure is particularly troubling if for no other reason than because of the sheer numbers of kids and congregants that are being left at risk by Southern Baptists' recalcitrance in dealing with clergy sex abuse.

As Scott points out, it is "the lack of accountability and tracking" of Baptist clergy that makes Baptistland a near-perfect paradise for predators.

Jeri said...

Gosh those devils have a lot to answer for. Those poor children.

Strider said...

Dr. Fray was teaching a spiritual formation class at SWBTS when he was called to the trial to testify. We asked him about it when he came back. He told us what he had done and why he did it. He said that he believed in forgiveness and a 'God of second chances'. He told us in hindsight that he had been completely fooled, that he had been in way over his head and felt terrible that this man manipulated him. It was a lesson to all of us. I just wish more people would have learned it then instead of allowing history to repeat itself for so long.

Christa Brown said...

Strider: Thank you for this first-person insight. Welcome to the blog!