Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prestonwood scandal makes news in Ireland

Quoted from Church & State: An Irish History Magazine (Third quarter 2013 at p. 35; A Letter on Texas Child Abuse):

“Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that Jack Graham, Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Texas, one of America's largest Churches, and other pastoral staff and members of the Church, and Church attorneys, have covered up child sexual abuse at Prestonwood, have broken the law, and should face the courts for fines and jail time.

“Jack Graham and others have provided no explanation as regards how their conduct with respect to John Langworthy and others, did not break Texas's 1971 law requiring the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement. Child abuser John Langworthy was expelled from the Church in 1989, has never been arrested for crimes associated with Prestonwood, and Jack Graham has never explained why Langworthy was not arrested.

“This situation has been ignored by Prestonwood management and members, Dallas and Plano law enforcement, the cities' district attorneys (who are responsible for criminal prosecution), and the leading newspaper of the area, the Dallas Morning News.

“Coverage of the issue has kept alive by Internet bloggers, an online Baptist newspaper, and a nationwide campaigning organization. . . .

"Texas's 1971 law requires all persons to immediately report suspected child abuse, and states that privileged communications (such as those that pastors, attorneys, and teachers might encounter) are not valid exception cases. The 1989 Langworthy case involved Prestonwood Pastors Jack Graham, and Neal Jeffrey, attorney Randy Addison, administrative Pastor Bill Taylor, and deacon Allen Jordan (father of Amy Smith), along with young and old members of the congregation. Langworthy has never been arrested for abuse at Prestonwood, nor has any person associated with Prestonwood been arrested for covering up abuse.”

Related posts:
Boots, biscuits and Prestonwood Baptist, 3/18/2013
Megachurch calls cops on member who speaks out, 3/8/2013
People to remember in the Prestonwood/Morrison Heights scandal, 2/9/2013
Penn State and Prestonwood: Consequences are necessary, 11/10/2011
Jack Graham: Deceiver, believer or in-betweener? 10/1/2011
Prestonwood saga shows clergy abuse database is overdue, ABP, 8/19/2011


Thursday, July 25, 2013

ACE Study shows correlation between childhood trauma and adult diseases

The ACE Study: "The Bomb in the Brain
The ACE Study is gaining increasing recognition in the medical community and is shifting our understanding of childhood trauma and its effect on the body.

ACE – it stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. The study focused on a half-dozen very specific sorts of adverse and abusive experiences, one of which was sexual abuse occurring before the age of 18.

This study, which was supported by the Center for Disease Control, involved 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients. So the sample size was huge.

The study documented a strong correlation between specific sorts of traumatic events in childhood and a range of chronic diseases in adulthood – including cancer. Furthermore, the correlation was dose-related – meaning the more of these traumas you have, the stronger the correlation.

Not only was there a correlation with chronic diseases like cancer, but for people who had an ACE score of 4 or more – in other words people with significant sorts of abuse in childhood – their average life expectancy dropped by about 20 years.

I found this data chilling.

I had already known, of course, that there was a strong correlation between childhood sex abuse and suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and mental health problems – but cancer? That took me totally by surprise.

People are still trying to figure out exactly why this correlation is there. The dominant theory is that it has something to do with cortisol production going totally out of whack in childhood, and that triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that being repeatedly sexually abused in childhood is what caused my cancers in adulthood. We all know that cancer is a multi-factorial disease. But I AM saying that medical science now supports the proposition that there is a powerful correlation between childhood sexual abuse and cancer.

So, if you’re a clergy abuse survivor, I urge you to consider the possibility that you may be at increased risk, not only for a range of psychological issues, but also for serious chronic diseases.

Our issues are in our tissues.

Though I found the ACE data to be a bit unnerving, I also believe that knowledge is empowering.

If we know that our past trauma histories render us more vulnerable, then we can at least attempt to better offset that enhanced risk through somatic trauma therapies and through other healthy practices.

For myself, this is part of why I’ve developed a regular yoga practice. Yoga has been shown to help regulate cortisol production and to be of help with post-traumatic stress disorder. But whatever you do, whether it’s walking or meditation or gardening or tai-chi or kick-boxing or something else – I would urge all of you to make your own health a real priority.

If you’d like more information about the ACE study, here are some links:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Baptist World Alliance: Talk but no action

Baptists should take "urgent action to implement measures to protect children from abuse, support their physical and emotional welfare, and respond to allegations of abuse," said the Baptist World Alliance in a resolution passed at its annual gathering July 1-6 in Jamaica.

This international umbrella organization for Baptists – the BWA -- resolved that Baptists should take action even in instances "where the complainant has not contacted police, the police have not pressed charges, the police do not consider there is enough evidence, or the prosecuting authority has dropped the case."

The BWA "urges all Baptist churches, conventions and unions to take seriously every case of alleged child sexual abuse, to ensure that proper rules and processes are in place to protect children from harm and to promptly respond to allegations."

Finally, the BWA expresses "profound sorrow at the ways in which children have been betrayed, harmed and sexually or otherwise abused." It states its repentance of any failure by Baptists anywhere "to protect and of the failure to care for those who have been abused." The BWA also states its regret for instances of "neglect to implement and enforce effective policies and processes to protect children from abuse and of the silence of many of our churches on these issues in the past."

Those last three words – “in the past” – give a big clue as to what’s wrong with this nice-sounding BWA rhetoric. They apparently think that Baptist clergy sex abuse and cover-ups are a problem “in the past” – but nothing could be further from the truth. This is very much a current and on-going problem.

And why does the BWA bother to express its “regret” for instances of “neglect to implement and enforce effective policies and processes to protect children” when Baptists’ failure to implement and enforce effective policies and processes to protect children” is a failure that continues to this day? And personally, I think they give themselves too much credit in calling this failure a mere “neglect.” I would call it flat-out recklessness.

To be sure, the BWA has put forth some nice-sounding words, but it’s still nothing more than talk. Where are the deeds?

And surely, the BWA must realize that deeds are what’s needed. Just a couple months ago, it was reported in Great Britain that seven additional men had made child-rape claims against one of the BWA’s own former high-level executives, minister Robert Dando  

Robert Dando
Dando, who previously served as executive assistant to the BWA president and who was a prominent British Baptist minister, is already serving an eight-year prison sentence in Virginia, where he was jailed in 2011 after molesting two boys while on a mission trip in the U.S.

All the BWA talk in the world won’t take care of those kids whom Dando molested.

Nor will mere talk do the task of reaching out to other kids whom Dando may have molested, including to kids in India where Dando also worked for a children’s charity.

And nor will talk do the job of protecting other Baptist church kids in the future.

Talk is too easy; deeds are needed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gay grandmother shunned by church

In the New York Times’ “Civil Behavior” column yesterday, a woman asked this question:

Dear Civil Behavior: I’m 53, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a grandmother and a friend. And I am gay. I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist Church in Tennessee, and I had spent a lifetime in hiding and hating myself because of my sexual orientation. I eventually reached a point last year when I could no longer deny that I am gay, and I convinced myself that it would be better for me to die rather than risk bringing shame to my children and family by telling the truth. I had a plan and the means to carry out my plan, and I had chosen the date when I planned to commit suicide. Some things happened to stop me that day, and I eventually told a friend the truth. Shortly thereafter, I told my children, my extended family and those closest to me. I write a daily blog, and on Jan. 1, I posted my “coming out” entry. I’ve lost many friends and a few family members since my admission. And the church where I had been a member for over 20 years has completely shunned me. But for the first time in my life, I am being honest with myself and learning to love myself for who I am. As I continue to interact with people who are not accepting of my sexuality, what advice would you give me on how to treat them now?

How I wish that Southern Baptist leaders could look at themselves and be even half so honest as this woman. If only Southern Baptist leaders could recognize the real-world effect of all their anti-gay actions and rhetoric, the world would be a slightly kinder place.
But of course, I'm always wishing the same thing with respect to their denominational do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse as well . . .  if only Southern Baptist leaders could be made to see the human cost of their conduct.

Occasionally, Southern Baptists may manage to talk the talk of Christian love, but a huge chasm separates their talk from their deeds. You can read about some examples of Southern Baptists' anti-gay behavior here.

Make no mistake about it – Southern Baptists have helped to foster a climate in which anti-gay sentiments can all too easily fester into anti-gay bullying. And there is nothing loving or Christian about it.

Related column: “Would Tyler Clementi be loved by SBC churches?” EthicsDaily, 10/27/2010.