Tag Archives: Methodist Pedophiles

Conservative Christianity Has Enabled Pedophiles for Untold Decades

Conservative Christianity Has Enabled Pedophiles for Untold Decades
The endless cover-ups mean they can abuse children with impunity and never pay the price.
By Justin Rosario
https://thedailybanter.com/2017/06/suffer-the-children/

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A deeply religious man, beloved by his church/community, targets and grooms a young child for sexual abuse. The child tells an adult and they report it to the elders of the church. The church investigates the abuse and then sweeps it all under the rug. The deeply religious man is never reported to the police, the victim is blamed for seducing the man, and the man goes on to molest many other children, leaving a trail of scarred families in his wake.

Your first reaction, naturally, is to assume that I’m talking about a Catholic priest because we all know the Church has a long and sordid history of covering for sexual predators. But, as the title of the article probably clued you in, this is far from a problem with just the Catholic Church.

Kathryn Joyce of The Nation published an article last week detailing the cycle of abuse and cover up in conservative Christian communities:

This burgeoning crisis of abuse has received far less attention than the well-documented scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. That’s in part because the evangelical and fundamentalist world, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, is diverse and fractious, composed of thousands of far-flung denominations, ministries, parachurch groups, and missions like ABWE. Among Christian evangelicals, there is no central church authority to investigate, punish, or reform. Groups like ABWE answer only to themselves.

The scale of potential abuse is huge. Evangelical Protestants far outnumber Catholics in the United States, with more than 280,000 churches, religious schools, and affiliated organizations. In 2007, the three leading insurance companies that provide coverage for the majority of Protestant institutions said they received an average of 260 reports per year of child sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders and members. By contrast, the Catholic Church was reporting 228 “credible accusations” per year.

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Why do the most pious always seem to be the most prone to this kind of problem? Two reasons come to mind. The first is that they tend to be incredibly authoritarian. Conservatives defer to those in power and conservative Christians even more so. Add to that mix the fundamentalist demand for blind obedience and you have all the ingredients for disaster:

Like Catholics, fundamentalists preach strict obedience to religious authority. Sex is not only prohibited outside of marriage, but rarely discussed. These overlapping dynamics of silence and submission make conservative Christians a ripe target for sexual predators. As one convicted child abuser tells clinical psychologist Anna Salter in her book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders, “Church people are easy to fool.”  

In other words, the religion itself does not breed sexual predators but some variations of it create the most fertile ground for them to flourish. Like any other predator, they gravitate to bountiful and safe hunting grounds. Despite my own hostility towards religion as a militant atheist, I feel it’s important to make this distinction because all too often, people equate the religion with the crime which is not really fair. On the other hand, it’s perfectly reasonable, responsible even, to point out that it’s the “conservative” part of “conservative Christianity” that lends itself most to creating those hunting ground which is why you don’t see this kind of abuse proliferating in more liberal institutions:

Over the past five years, in fact, it has become increasingly clear—even to some conservative Christians—that fundamentalist churches face a widespread epidemic of sexual abuse and institutional denial that could ultimately involve more victims than the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church. In 2012, an investigation at Bob Jones University, known as the “fortress of fundamentalism,” revealed that the school had systematically covered up allegations of sexual assault and counseled victims to forgive their attackers. Sovereign Grace, a network of “neo-Calvinist” churches, has been facing multiple allegations of child molestation and sexual abuse. In 2014,New Republic investigation found that school officials at Patrick Henry College, a popular destination for Christian homeschoolers, had routinely responded to rape and harassment claims by treating perpetrators with impunity, discouraging women from going to the police, and blaming them for dressing immodestly.

Despite the sexual abuse of women and the sexual abuse of children coming from very different kinds of darkness, the way these religious organizations respond is almost identical and that is not a coincidence. The reputation of the institution or group or even one man is considered far more important than the harm being inflicted on the victims. Justice is not even a consideration, especially when it’s a woman that was “asking for it.” At that point, it’s not really a crime. If you think that’s repulsive, these pious men can even convince themselves that little girls were asking for it, too.

In Joyce’s article, she recounts how Russel Ebersole and Russell Lloyd, two of the higher ups in the Association of Baptists for World Evangelicalism (ABWE), investigated claims by a 13-year-old girl named Kim that she had been molested by a respected member of the community. It did not go well for Kim: 

As Kim struggled to answer their questions, the Russes became convinced that she was telling them the truth about Ketcham touching her. What they couldn’t believe, given fundamentalist precepts about the nature of sex and women, was that she was an innocent party. “It was lust in its most base form, uncontrolled in the body of a spiritually immature woman,” Lloyd wrote of the 13-year-old in his diary. Ketcham, he wrote, had become Kim’s “secret lover.”  

  The Russes “strongly encouraged” Kim to sign a statement, styled as a confession, in which she apologized for her role in a “relationship” that “transgressed God’s word.” She didn’t understand much of it, but she signed it anyway. “I did exactly what I was told,” she says.  

Think about how warped and sick your worldview needs to be that you can consider a 13-year-old to be an equal partner in a sexual relationship with a 58-year-old man. Now think about how broken it would have to be to cover up the abuse and allow the man to continue molesting children for the next two decades. Now you have some tiny understanding of how twisted the mind of a Christian fundamentalist can be. 

The worst part about all of this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If religious leaders would go after sexual predators with both barrels blazing (metaphorically), they would be applauded for protecting their flock. Even I would go to the mat defending a church that exposed a predator as quickly as possible and helped bring the full weight of the law to bear. It’s nigh-impossible to weed them out before they hurt someone (unless they have a prior history, of course) but that’s true everywhere, not just for religious institutions. It’s not the crime that defines your institution but how you respond to it. So far, conservative Christians desperate to protect their reputations have succeeded only in covering themselves in shame and putting the lie to their claims of virtue. 

Kim’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Yet. Following 22 years of self harm and deep psychological damage, the full story came out in an extensive investigation. After years of being lied to by their church, Kim’s parents didn’t understand why their daughter was so damaged. Even Kim still blamed herself for the actions of a monster as well as her parents for not helping her. Now that it’s all out in the open and Kim finally understands that she was a victim like so many other women, there’s a chance for her and her family to heal. If only all of the victims of conservative Christianity were so lucky…

Wife of child rapist pastor afraid for life after giving him AR-15 for their wedding anniversary

Wife of child rapist pastor afraid for life after giving him AR-15 for their wedding anniversary
By Graham Gremore
https://www.queerty.com/wife-child-rapist-pastor-afraid-life-giving-ar-15-wedding-anniversary-20180417

Another exciting development in the story involving antigay pastor Paul Edward Acton Bowen…

Just to recap: 37-year-old Bowen is a well-known Alabama evangelist, youth pastor, public speaker, and self-proclaimed “best-selling author.”

Last week, he was charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse of a minor.

The alleged victim was a young male, but police did not release his age other than to say he is over 12 but under 16 and was a “family acquaintance” of Bowen.

After that initial report, four more people came forward to say Bowen sexually assaulted them when they were juveniles between the ages of 12 and 17.

On Thursday, Bowen issued a statement saying he was grateful for both Jesus and his family’s support, especially his wife Ashley, through this difficult time:

In his first public statement, Bowen said he wanted to say “thank you” to the countless number of people who have prayed for his family. “My wife, Ashley, and I along with our incredible family are so grateful for your prayers,” he said. “I’m also thankful for the countless calls of support from those who have walked a lot of life with me and know me best,” he said. “Your steadfast, unshakable support gives me strength. For almost 20 years (since I was 18) my life has been committed to serving Jesus by serving people.”

Well, what a difference a few days makes. Because now Ashley has filed for divorce. Not just that, but she also wants the house, all the money in their joint accounts, her maiden name back, and for “Acton Bowen [to] be ‘prohibited from any communication or contact for the purposes of harassing, threatening, intimidating or assaulting her.’”

Ashley, who married Acton just two years ago, says she fears “for her immediate safety from [Acton Bowen]” in part because of the “anniversary present” she gave him a few years ago, back before their relationship went suddenly south…

Nothing says “I love you” like an AR-15 assault rifle.

In other Acton news: Apparently he has installed a program on his laptop called “Covenant Eyes” that sends automatic viewing reports to a designated “accountability buddy” in order “to protect Bowen from any allegation that he had viewed or was viewing pornography.”

His accountability buddy is Josh Dodd, a board member of his church, who tells the Birmingham Herald that, since his arrest, Bowen definitely hasn’t watched any porn in the past seven days. So that’s good, right?

Acton is currently free on a $500,000 bond and living with relatives.

Another antigay pastor has been busted on child sex charges

Another antigay pastor has been busted on child sex charges
By Graham Gremore
https://www.queerty.com/another-antigay-pastor-busted-child-sex-charges-20180411

Well, whaddya know? Another antigay pastor has been busted on child sex charges.

This time it’s a well-known Alabama evangelist, youth pastor, public speaker, and self-proclaimed “best-selling author.”

37-year-old Paul Edward Acton Bowen was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse of a minor.

The victim was a young male, but police did not release his age other than to say he is over 12 but under 16 and was a “family acquaintance” of Bowen.

Pastor sentenced to over 1,000 years for sex abuse of 6 boys

Pastor sentenced to over 1,000 years for sex abuse of 6 boys
By Associated Press
https://www.fox29.com/news/pastor-sentenced-to-over-1000-years-for-sex-abuse-of-6-boys

An Alabama youth evangelist was sentenced Friday to more than 1,000 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple child-sex charges.

Al.com reports that a judge handed down the maximum sentence on every count to Paul Edward Acton Bowen. Bowen had pleaded guilty in Etowah County to 28 counts involving six boys between the ages of 13 and 16.

The 39-year-old Bowen faced charges that include sexual abuse, sodomy, enticing a child for sex and traveling to meet a child for sexual abuse. He still faces other charges in the Birmingham area.

Victims and family members wept as the judge slowly read out the maximum sentence and fine on every count, the newspaper reported.

The shackled minister apologized to his own family and victims in the courtroom.

“The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said. “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well.”

He had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disorder.

Bowen was arrested on sex abuse charges last year. Authorities say additional victims came forward after he was in jail.

Bowen was a Christian minister who wrote books, ran his own youth ministry and traveled to speak at youth events.

Bowen pleaded guilty as his first trial was set to begin.

Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes

Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes
20/20 uncovers ministers accused of abusing children in their congregations.
By JIM AVILA, BONNIE VAN GILDER, and MATT LOPEZ

https://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3034040&page=1

Sanctuaries are designed to make us feel safe. They provide us peace and a place to pray. Bells call the good to worship and warn the evil to stay away.

This is the kind of American church that a young Christa Brown was drawn to. As a teenager in the 1960s, Brown learned to love music and her God. She grew up in the church, sang in the choir and played the piano.

But as Brown would find out, churches don’t always protect the innocent. Sometimes these sanctuaries shield the guilty and even lure predators to a place where young people gather.

The Catholic Church has been widely criticized for how it handled instances of priests sexually abusing young people. And a six-month investigation by “20/20” found Protestant ministers, supposed men of God from every denomination, sexually abusing the children who trusted them. The investigation uncovered “preacher predators” in every corner of the country.

‘Nobody Saw It Coming’

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant organization in the United States. And the organization is structured in a way that makes it difficult to police these preacher predators. The convention has 16.3 million members and 43,000 independent churches.

Shawn Davies was a youth minister at one of those Baptist churches in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Davies was close to his teen followers, and the members of his church soon found out that he was a little too close. In January of this year, Davies began a 20-year sentence for multiple counts of sexual abuse in Missouri and Kentucky.

One member of the Missouri church, Lee Orth, said that “Nobody saw it coming. I think we felt betrayed, blindsided. You know, Shawn was a very charismatic person.”

Davies seduced teenage boys by acting like one of the gang. He talked about girls and sex with the teenagers. He took them on trips, invited them into his office, and showed them pornography. And he took them downstairs or behind the sanctuary to sexually assault them.

Church deacon Greg Arbuckle said, “The viewing of pornography happened before Shawn would come out and lead the choir. Immediately after worship he would go do that, and that to me, taints the entire service.”

Eight boys were sexually abused at the Missouri church by Davies. What bothers people most about what happened is that Davies could have been stopped before he reached their church.

A History of Abuse

A young man in Kentucky was one of Davies’ victims years before he went to Missouri. For four years, the young man, who asked that we not use his name to protect his privacy, lived with his secret. He said that it nearly destroyed him. “It started with watching movies, and he would ask to masturbate,” the man said. “He said it was normal for guys to do it. … One day he just grabbed me while we were watching one of the movies and he just kinda did what he wanted.”

After four years, the man finally told his father, who then went to the police. Kentucky authorities opened an investigation and alerted the victim’s church. By then, Davies had moved on to other churches.

The family is now suing the Kentucky church for failing to supervise Davies. When “20/20” asked to talk to church leaders, their attorney declined our interview requests.

Davies ended up in Missouri in 2003; church leaders there wish the Kentucky church had tracked them down, especially after an indictment was filed.

Church leaders worry that there is no system in place within the Southern Baptist Convention to stop people like Davies. Each church is, for the most part, autonomous, so there is no tight connection with the other churches.

StopBaptistPredators.org

Brown, abused herself when she was 16, went on to form an organization called Stop Baptist Predators, because in her search for justice, she found that the Southern Baptist Convention had no central office, no readily available list of preachers under investigation or even convicted, and no one to help investigate allegations like hers.

Brown said this system allows preacher predators to move from church to church, seduce the devout and the young, and often get away with it.

Ken Ward is a Southern Baptist pastor and teacher in East Texas, who has admitted to molesting more than 40 boys. He said that being a teacher and minister is the perfect job for a child molester, because it puts the molester in direct contact with young people. “I [was] attracted to a certain child, and in my case, it was primarily prepubescent boys,” he said.

Ward is now under house arrest, after serving five years in state prison. He wears a GPS monitor so that he can be tracked by the sheriff’s department, and he cannot be around children anywhere, even in public.

Ward agreed to talk to “20/20” to give insight to parents on how to spot a predator. He said that parents aren’t worrying about the right things. “The idea of a guy in the park with a trench coat on or driving by slowly trying to get a child … I’ve never even dreamed of doing that. … I’ve never touched a stranger,” he said.

‘It’s God’s Little Secret’

Ward preyed on children for decades. One of his victims, Tommy Lee Burt, came forward about the abuse as an adult. He believes that Ward damaged him for life, and used his God to abuse him. “You’re struggling as a kid and you want to get up and he is telling you, ‘No.’ When I would try to leave, he would tell me it’s God’s little secret,” Burt said.

Burt added that he never really recovered, and last year he, himself, was arrested for solicitation of a minor and pleaded guilty to sending obscene material to a police officer posing as a 14-year-old.

There is no way of knowing how many Ken Wards are out there. The Southern Baptist Convention does not keep records, and local churches often seem to be in denial — such as one church in Denton, Texas, where the minister publicly confessed to “making a terrible mistake” last November after a woman sued, claiming she’d been raped as a teen.

Church members responded by throwing the minister a retirement party and raised $50,000 as a “love offering.” To this day, he has a church building named after him.

The Southern Baptist Convention said the problem is neither widespread nor systemic, despite a recent rash of cases. But just last week, a pastor of a Florida church — Lyle Whittaker — committed suicide after he was charged with sexually abusing an 11-year-old-girl.

The Local Level

Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a minister himself. He told “20/20” that independent congregations present a challenge when it comes to tracking preacher predators. The organization has yet to create a national database of preacher predators. “We have no such database and again, we encourage churches to investigate. … They have to do background checks,” he said.

But this approach puts a lot of pressure on the individual church, and a lot of faith in the ministers who were predators to come forward and tell the truth about their past.

And the autonomy of each Baptist church does not stop them from creating other kinds of databases, from Baptism lists to lists of ordained ministers.

Some Baptist church leaders are concerned that even if a Baptist preacher is convicted of sex crimes, the national organization has no authority to act.

The Southern Baptist Convention said the biblical and best way to handle these terrible cases is by the local church, which should call the police. But former minister and sex offender Ken Ward stayed under the local radar and moved from church to church for years, and he said the church can’t do it alone.

“Anybody could have talked to the churches I was with, and they would have praised me. They would not have said, ‘Don’t hire this guy, he likes kids.’ Never, never, and I suspect that has not changed.”