An Open Letter: To All the Laity of Adat Shalom Church (a Southern Baptist congregation in Dallas)
“Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (Proverbs 18: 17)
For the past three months, I’ve become increasingly aware that my soul cannot rest until I’ve completed this personal message to those who occupy the pews of your congregation. My intent is to set the record straight, going far beyond the parts of your church story which you may have heard already—either from online reports, the lengthy letter from your pastor a few weeks ago, or from hearsay.
This letter will serve to tell “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey often declared on the radio for many years.
Though I’ve never met any of you personally, I've come across hundreds of churches in similar situations as yours is right now. My name is known in certain Southern Baptist circles and far beyond due to the work I’ve done for over thirty years upon discovering the complex issues of collusion with abuse in the faith community--a widespread, systemic problem I first learned about while serving as an SBC missionary (1978-88).
You not only have a right to know the whole story, but the right to understand the very complex issues that will be playing out in your congregation for a long, long time. These same issues are playing out in a very public way, on a larger scale, in the executive committees of the SBC and of your own state.
The Foundation for Trouble
As the daughter, granddaughter + great-granddaughter of SBC ministers and the wife of another, now retired, I know it’s not very common to go around checking the criminal records of new folks in most churches. Not anymore than it is to do the same check of our new friends or personal acquaintances. We just naturally trust our judgment.
Many employers check, of course. Yet, pulpit committees quite commonly make the mistake of relying on recommendations without doing background checks, even when searching for a new pastor.
If someone talented shows up to volunteer their time in Christian service, they are quickly put to work. Especially in a small church, where well-trained workers are in very short supply.
“Just grab ‘em!” someone says, “’fore they change their minds.”
The assumption that dedication and willingness are all God’s people need reflects the same naivety first brought to light regarding Catholics almost forty years ago.
By contrast, pioneer voices like mine, calling for change in evangelical churches, were so ignored that even a mention of the problem seldom made SBC state papers until 2002. From national leaders to individuals, most Baptists snoozed right on until a team of Texas journalists took on the SBC in 2019 in a big way!
Twenty-five years ago, not even female leaders in the SBC had ears to hear what I’ve tried to tell them as far back as 1995.
What Does This Have to Do with Adat Shalom?
As Pastor Rose sees things, Chad Michael Hutchins had done his time in federal prison by the time he showed up to join your fellowship about five years ago. Having served 70% of his ten-year sentence, imposed in federal court for child pornography charges, his past was his past.
Not exactly. All you need to do is talk to U. S. Attorney Richard B. Roper, as I did a few weeks ago. Or to Chad’s federal probation officer, whom I finally tracked down, after an extensive bureaucratic search, at the suggestion of Roper.
Hutchins is currently serving a 15-year term of supervised release until at least 2030. This means he dare not take on a role in the church, where families with children frequently are present, without talking to his probation officer. He is also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, even if his record remains stellar as everyone is hoping.
To be in any place in the church, teaching, preaching, or even being on the worship team IS a place of leadership, even if some folks like your pastor do not see it that way. Not the top leader—no, but most certainly to a young person Chad Hutchins was in a role that indicated he was a solid man of character and a trustworthy individual. Why would anyone suspect him to be a registered sex offender?
Talking to the local sheriff’s office, in addition to the probation officer, should have been the first thing concerned individuals did along with notifying the Executive Director of Dallas Baptist Association and also reaching out to those considered to be the gold standard among experts such as GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. These are, in fact, the very first steps I took as soon as a concerned individual who had never personally met Chad reached out to me.
Chad was often viewed as the associate pastor by 2019, and treated as such, according to Caera Thornton, your young worship leader. Of all the people who needed to know, Thornton should have known before anyone: as worship leader, she was the supervisor for Hutchins and the entire team!
If Pastor Rose had done the same when he was alerted last year to the concerns by another pastor, I would not have been writing this letter. Nor would anyone associated with Adat have been named by the press.
I was not the first person to be contacted during the year of patiently waiting and hoping as the pastor who notified Pastor Rose did, along with the informant's concerned friend who went on to send a confidential report to The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), with which Adat is affiliated. To this day, there has been no response from the SBTC!
It seems the River of Apathy runs deep and wide.
Not on my watch! That’s what I said as soon as I got the same info as SBTC. Knowing far too much to stay silent, I wasn’t sitting another year, no more than I would have if I’d found this problem in my own church!
Calling Dallas Baptist Association
After a lengthy, congenial conversation with your new Executive Director of the Dallas Baptist Association to discuss our shared concerns about the matter at hand, as well as the more widespread, related issues at the SBC level, I left matters in the executive’s hands as I waited to see what interventions he and the associational leaders might undertake.
Jespersen had not heard a word about Adat Shalom’s situation. Not surprising. I’ve found men in his position are often among the last to hear—that’s just how well the secrecy seems to work in this Convention, as if it’s a grave sin to talk about “family matters.” Not so when it comes to schools or other public places where adults seem to feel much less guilt or fear about speaking what they know.
He was certainly aware of the growing concerns in the Convention and of the decision messengers had just voted for—to enlist the help of an outside team of investigators to explore the mishandling of cases gaining media attention due to mounting pressure from a multitude of courageous survivors now coming forward to tell their stories.
As I told Jespersen, I do not hold high expectations of any SBC congregation at this point, but I do have high hopes. I understand the limitations of his power compared to bishops in other denominations; but I do know the value in warning people in a spirit of love.
He agreed. Being new, he would make a few calls to determine the best way to proceed in reversing the problem before it got worse.
While I understood full well the precarious position this new executive was in, I left the door open, hoping that he would not meet with opposition to seeing that the issues at Adat Shalom were confronted, and knowing that I would be back to him in a few weeks if I’d not heard from him first.
By contrast, upon learning of the problem, another advocate immediately had an entirely different approach, as many of you may have already discovered. In my own way of “seeing through a glass darkly,” the greatest disadvantage to moving quickly to question or confront a person I expect to be threatened is that it usually comes across as sounding extremely shame-based, driving people into deeper shame and defensiveness, as a result.
On the plus side, it saved me from having to rush through some of the key steps I considered necessary in this case, before being comfortable bringing my findings fully to light.
Seeking the Truth Victorious
A quarter of a century ago, I tucked away a couple of gems closely related to speaking the truth in the spirit of Divine Love.
Dr. Marie Fortune of Faith Trust Institute in Seattle, Washington, a well-known sister advocate to whom I’ve often turned for guidance, in speaking of her personal challenges in such prophetic work, has often cautioned: “It’s never simple. And it’s never easy.”
“The most dangerous of all moral dilemmas: when we are obliged to conceal truth in order to help the truth to be victorious.” Swedish statesman Doug Hammarskjöld declared.
Some situations call for swift, drastic action. At others like yours, in the absence of a direct victim in the congregation and with very low risk of there being one (see "Coming Together" below), a little slower tempo laced with diplomacy may be best.
Generally, men do not put much weight in what women have to say in this denomination, especially if the matter is an extremely controversial one. So, finding male voices of advocacy like Jespersen's is always my preference. Yet, only in recent years have such voices been found in this Convention.
As always in this work, I went about tilling the soil, planting seeds, teaching, and watching closely while learning what I could through one-on-one dialogue with struggling individuals. Whether they are survivors, advocates, or resourceful denominational leaders, all seem to need more training in this complex work than this denomination has yet to provide.
Calling in The Civil Servants
Pastor Rose, like many other Baptist pastors, apparently hasn't gotten word that the first action upon being notified of the presence of a sex offender in the congregation should always be to contact civil authorities.
Never mind, I told myself. It's never too late to see what can be accomplished.
Former U. S. Dept. of Justice Attorney Richard B. Roper, listed at the top of the 2008 press release announcing Chad's conviction for child pornography, answered his own phone promptly on my first attempt. Just as quickly, he raised questions as to what information Chad may not have volunteered to his probation officer when he became involved in the congregation in the beginning.
“If the federal probation officer doesn’t know he’s taken on these roles, he is likely to be in big trouble,” Roper said.
I soon ran into another hurdle in navigating the layers of bureaucracy to locate Hutchins’s federal supervisor. This took many hours of phone calling, waiting for return calls, discovering I’d called the wrong department or selected the wrong phone option, and starting over. Not having the offender’s inmate number was the greatest barrier.
My concern extended beyond Adat Shalom, I'd told Roper and again said the same to the assigned when we finally got connected weeks later. If, for any reason, Chad left this church, he could easily find his way into another SBC congregation incognito, creating a stir at the new church, as well. In the process, the officer had a lot of questions about recommendations of experts in the community of faith who advise churches on protecting the flock from potential wolves in sheep’s clothing.
No Help Needed
If only the informant had done so, everything should have been fine, Rose claimed in speaking with Caera Thornton this summer when she challenged him on what she’d learned.
Who was that man in the “ethics department,” I wonder? Considering there is nobody in the Convention with official authorization to say this. Nor an official ethics department. If so, I definitely would have contacted them long ago!
There are plenty of Monday Morning Baptist Quarterbacks sitting in armchairs all over the country, however, who often speak out of turn with half-baked “wisdom.”
Sadly, despite what many have been led to believe, there are few, if any, highly-trained experts within the SBC who are ready to skillfully take on the complexities of abuse prevention, early intervention, and long-term care that is required along with ethics to do this work—at least none that I’ve found yet. There are a growing number who have become much better informed. At this point, the denomination is only scratching the surface, at best.
The Duty to Inform
“The church must be fully informed regarding the sex offender’s criminal background,” declares Simms & Showers, on the best site I've found that speaks in detail about sex offenders and the church.
This is the first cardinal rule. Also, the one most often skirted. Who among us hasn’t heard Romans 3:23 used to teach that “sin is sin,” going on to lecture us on why we are not qualified to “gossip” about others? Certainly, it’s not acceptable to bring up past sins, as Chad’s crimes and the secrecy that had been going on a long time.
Secrecy was certainly not something of “the past” this summer, though. Nor will it be until a full confession is made to the entire congregation. Once that process occurs, it will be time to go forward.
A Different Kind of Victimization
For weeks, Caera suffered in solitude. Her agony peaked as she turned in her resignation, leaving her church home and spiritual family, effective immediately. To her, there was no other option after the selected leaders of which she was a part voted 10 to 5 in support of the pastor’s choices. It was an act of courage that she’d wrestled with long and hard after prayer and seeking wise counsel, she tells me.
I believe her, for I’ve heard the same story many times from other staff members in the same situation or professional ministers, too discouraged to go on standing alone among colleagues who circled the wagons of others who had abandoned their calling to sexually act out, at the expense of members of their own flock! I’ve lived this painful situation, alongside my husband, as we both lost our careers in order to keep our integrity many years ago.
Caera Thornton has been openly blamed, rather than appreciated, for her stand that she was unable to fully express to the entire congregation.
For weeks, Caera, at only 33, was facing the same decisions, with the same set of dynamics my husband and I had faced as career SBC missionaries, back in our early 40’s. Should she stay, join the secrecy, and hope to find ways to work for change? Or leave to avoid sacrificing her own integrity? She agonized for weeks, same as we did under somewhat similar circumstances.
Caera Thornton did not act as a reactionary trouble-maker, as Pastor Robin Rose suggested in an email to his flock.
Neither was she the problem. I am the “problem” if anyone is. The same as I’ve been in many cases where I raise questions when church leaders decide to protect a sex offender from exposure at the expense of vulnerable families who have a right to know.
Caera’s actions in August were precipitated because multiple people, myself included, got involved over this past year—each of us as past or present professionals in ministry, who have long been concerned, each in our own way playing a part to try awakening faith leaders where some form of abuse has been committed by congregational leaders or ordained members of the clergy.
You would think that caution given by leaders of the Dallas Baptist Association, of all people, would have been heeded. It was not. Even when they went back a second time before Caera's story went public. See https://watchkeep.org/2021/08/worship-leader-resigns-from-dallas-sbc-church-over-mishandling-of-sex-offender-in-leadership-role/
As some of you know by now, this young worship leader, who had been asked to supervise a registered sex offender without her knowledge, had unknowingly been put in a difficult position years ago. To continue, doing so in an atmosphere that lacks transparency would have been a sacrifice of her own integrity. Her hurt was too deep to fully express at the time of her resignation.
What a sign of strength she showed! To do less was inconceivable.
Secrecy vs. Confidentiality
The most misunderstood word I hear in this work is “confidentiality,” used to justify inappropriate secret-keeping. While there is an important place for confidentiality, it should never be used to avoid a full accountability of an offender—whether it is a sexual offender or one who has abused power by keeping secret a matter that can jeopardize the unity and well-being of those with much less opportunity to see through the smokescreens.
Confidentiality is never for the protection of offenders. It is always essential for the protection of those most vulnerable to betrayal until they have the strength and information to make their own decisions and are able to move freely in doing so.
In the faith community, the opposite of truth is spiritual sickness. It causes us to deceive ourselves and one another, robbing us of freedom and good will.
Sadly, as the world is fast learning, Southern Baptist churches and agencies seem to be one of the safest places for incompetent or unqualified people to hide in plain sight. The resistance to changing hearts and attitudes has been great at every level of the SBC—from small, country churches to The Executive Committee of the SBC, even after the problems in the U. S., as well as on the foreign mission fields, came to light after Texas journalists made it happen in 2019.
When Secrecy Loses Out
Evidence of resistance to transparency made national news earlier this week when the Convention’s EC elected to ignore for the second time the will of the messengers handed to them at this year’s annual meeting. Deciding instead to keep their conversations secret about cases of sexual abuse that have come to their attention rather than have them exposed to the scrutiny of investigators who are being authorized to dig deeply into matters like the one I am bringing to your attention with this letter. Yet, by taking such a stand, they were not only ignoring what survivors have been asking for in recent years, they were setting a precedence in also ignoring the will of messengers.
That did not fly, though, as you know if you’ve read as a result!
After two unacceptable votes, the people stood up and voted with their pocketbooks along with their strong words calling for an about-face!
If there is nothing to hide, why is there a need for powerful people to insist on keeping their own secrets from investigation by waiving attorney-client privilege, people in 1000 churches and Presidents of all six seminaries rightfully asked.
Transparency, which is for the protection of everyone in a self-governing system, where women and children’s rights and needs should be as important as men’s rights, is a sign of health.
I have long believed that, if hearts are in the right place and minds are well-trained, the polity of a denomination need not really be a great concern. Polity in the SBC has just become an excuse for passing the buck. The buck should be stopping with every leader and every congregant who cares to get involved if the issue is one of integrity. Nobody can afford to say: “That’s somebody else’s problem.”
Secrets dis-empower people, whether they are messengers of the SBC or members of a small congregation.
While your pastor Robin Rose told you what he believes you need to know, some of you likely have questions you’ve been afraid to ask. You were left to figure things out through a very opaque lens. With this letter, I hope your eyes have been further opened.
A Sign of Spiritual Maturity
It is unclear if Chad knew of a single one of the attempts to intervene with Pastor Rose, from the notification in 2020, the phone call to your pastor, made and recorded by another activist which many of you have now found on line, the TWO visits from DBA leaders pleading with him to see that Chad be removed from each position he held at Adat, and the times Caera Thornton urged Robin to do so before he finally brought the matter for a vote by those considered “in leadership.”
Since the usual recommendations for ex-cons who were convicted of child pornography is that they limit their time on the internet in the same way alcoholics are encouraged to stay out of bars, it is unlikely that Chad would have seen references to the story in The Washington Post or anywhere else online.
Assuming that Chad knew nothing of the intense conflict until after Caera turned in her resignation, effective immediately, following the leadership voting 10 to 5 for everything to continue as usual, one wonders what he would have done if he’d been made fully aware of the issues earlier.
He may have found out first from his probation officer, who I’m certain talked to him soon after I finally reached her in August. For it was not long after that Caera Thornton tells me Chad finally realized why she’d left. And when he did, he immediately resigned from the worship team, saying he did not want to be the cause of any conflict. Thereby, he seems to have acted with more maturity than most of the key players in this story.
It’s impossible to know all that Chad was thinking since 2016 when he showed up in the sanctuary and soon found himself taking on more and more responsibility. Did he not realize that it was inappropriate to be a registered sex offender without anyone in the congregation knowing? Did he believe it wasn’t important to report his church involvement to his probation officer? Or did someone neglect to tell him so?
Compared to most sex offenders, those arrested for child pornography are the least likely of all sex offenders to directly abuse another person, according to the expertise that is given on
Consuming child pornography alone is not a risk factor for committing hands-on sex offenses – at least not for those subjects who had never committed a hands-on sex offense. …..For those offenders, the prognosis for hands-on sex offenses with children, as well as for recidivism with child pornography, is favorable. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-9-43
2011 Washington University Law Review "Disentangling Child Pornography" negates the commonly-held belief that the majority of those who possess child pornography have engaged or will engage in direct offenses with children. The creation of child pornography always involves the sexual abuse of a child, which is a far more serious crime than possession. Considering these to be equal offenses is the equivalent of saying that those who fail a drug test should have the same sentence as those hauling a car full of drugs across state lines.
In fact, increased arrests and lengthier prison terms may mislead the public into believing that prosecutors are succeeding in decreasing child abuse much more than they actually are.
Though they all lose their rights to privacy by having their names published and readily available on the internet. There are many questions raised about the rights of offenders who wish to be assimilated in church. So far, though some of the larger churches have programs where teams of trained individuals work together to closely monitor the activities of offenders at all times on church property, one of the greatest of legitimate concerns is the trust factor.
Questions like: Since 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men have a history of being sexually abused before their 18th birthday, with a multitude of them still suffering from easily-triggered post-traumatic stress disorder, is it fair to expect them to be comfortable occupying the same pew as a registered sex offender? How do we keep people of all ages safe without letting the congregation know that sex offenders are attending?
Truth is: we can’t. We must insist on full accountability for all. This is why more than 1000 SBC pastors chose last week to weigh in on these same secrecy issues, bringing money in as a strong, motivating factor.
The Myth of the Victimless Crime
As Pastor Rose saw it, Chad Hutchins never abused anyone. This old myth, still quite common for folks past sixty, couldn’t be further from the truth. To view pornography that is made without a subject’s consent, even when the subject is an adult, is an act of voyeurism.
To have 600 images of children being coerced into sexual acts means Chad Hutchins was obsessed with this illegal industry that is fed from the work of direct child molesters. Victims often report being haunted for the rest of their lives—not only from the direct abuse, but knowing that the images continue to circulate without their consent. Because of this, Hutchins was convicted and will be required, like anyone in Texas caught in it, to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, even if he never commits another crime.
Nobody is trying to destroy Chad Hutchins, as Pastor Rose has suggested. Nor does anyone wish to harm his recovery or the ministries at Adat Shalom. In regard to their relationships with the congregation, however, the secrecy on the part of both Hutchins and Rose, each in his own way, that is raising serious and legitimate concerns for many, even if your pastor manages to satisfactorily explain to every member that the intentions were good.
The Liberating Truth
What will victory look like at Adat Shalom? Only you, as a congregation can decide. Pastor Robin Rose and his closest confidantes seem to have had little desire to help the truth be victorious--not anymore than when he'd received the unwelcome message a year earlier. By repeatedly refusing to listen to wise counsel, the pastor:
1. tried to preserve the status quo
2. made a disreputable “name for himself” and pushed the blame onto others
3. greatly harmed Caera Thornton, making her the scapegoat, when she took a moral stand, clearly on the side of Christian ethics and integrity
4. has continued to withhold vital information from his flock, failing to confess publicly what the congregation has a right to know going forward
5. apparently did not consider that there may be victims in the church who have serious, understandable trust issues for themselves and their families and may choose to quietly leave a congregation if they feel threatened or uncomfortable due to the assimilation of an offender in a worship service.
6. failed to seek the counsel of true experts in the field and failed to do a risk assessment with the probation officer when notified of Chad's status
In the Baptist system, the responsibility of holding leaders responsible has historically belonged to the entire congregation. Nothing has changed that, messengers declared in June, with their vote to hold sex offenders fully accountable in SBC churches.
However, if the congregation is kept in the dark, it is impossible for individual congregants to do this job without deferring to those who are in the loop. In the case at Adat Shalom, there were less than a handful who were aware until the problem of secrecy in regard to Chad’s disqualifying circumstances began to surface.
I strongly suspect the BGCT took the strong stand on sex offenders in the church after learning specifically about the lack of integrity at Adat Shalom.
Jesus calls us to shine light into the darkness. It is in the light that the Kingdom of God operates best.
Collusion, sometimes referred to as complicity, comes from what I have been referring to for over twenty-five years as DIM thinking. It consists of DENIAL, IGNORANCE (or the refusal to become educated), and MINIMIZATION. See takecourage.org for much more.
While Caera Thornton is trying to come to grips with much unresolved grief, especially with the way she has been portrayed by people she felt she could trust. She paid a heavy price and deserves gratitude from each of you and a sincere apology from those who refused to listen.
Since Hutchins removed himself from the stage, where he was in leadership, inherit with being on the stage time and time again, there’s nothing more the laity at Adat Shalom need to do. Is that what you think?
Wrong! Not only does the entire congregation need to be fully informed. It also needs to sort out its written policies regarding background checks and much more.
In so doing, you need to take several healthy steps:
1. openly confront the issue of secrecy, condoned by Chad from the beginning of his arrival and for five years thereafter;
2. let your pastor know that his decision plus that of the two leaders who elected to keep the same secret for over a year, until it was brought to the attention of the public, was ethically unacceptable and calls for apologies;
3. decide what your policies will be about allowing known sex offenders to attend your church at all now
4. provided the membership votes to continue allowing Chad and/or other offenders to continue sitting with you in the sanctuary, despite this not being recommended for churches that are already having a tough time getting volunteers, decide how these new volunteer monitors, unrelated to the offender, will be recruited for training by GRACE or an individual they recommend
specific to the volunteers’ training
5. decide how new members will be fully informed whenever it comes to the attention of any individual, your pastor included, that there is a sex offender attending.
Eventually, a new ministry outside the walls of any church may serve to provide a place where men like Chad could help with leading worship, working hand-in-hand with chaplains—perhaps older pastors, newly-retired, might consider being trained through a combination of a short-term study, known as CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) and by prison chaplains to take on such a role with the growing number of sex offenders being released and needing a supervised meeting place.
Perhaps the BGCT may consider leading the way to prepare a welcoming place for these outcasts to find the love of Jesus without pastors and church leaders being put in the precarious position that has so often put vulnerable persons, especially the young ones, at risk.
The Deficit of Services
Pastor Rose was certainly right when he declared that God can change every one of us. Because his area of expertise does not extend to knowing the complex issues of sex offenders, I doubt he realizes that it takes many years for an individual to identify and process the deep-seated issues, even with professional mental health teams. Certainly spiritual growth is essential, whether it takes place within a congregation or through support groups. The question remains as to where this can best occur safely for the protection of all concerned.
Understanding the Resistance
What can be done now? I believe there can be amazing outcomes from this. Not only awareness, but a creative new ministry.
I love what the late John Lewis called “good trouble,” and I am seldom hesitant to “get in the way” as Lewis encouraged people seeking justice to do. So, if anyone deserves to be taken on by your pastor, it should be this old seventy-five-year-old woman!
Yet, it may come as a surprise that I fully agree with him on one point. While I insist that no registered sex offender should ever be placed in a place of trust, it is safer to have a person previously convicted of child pornography to attend services than any other category of sex offender. This still does not qualify him as exceptional.
Honestly, I cannot imagine why the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) allowed for even a “rare exception” in the permanent disqualification of any registered sex offender from church leadership. My fear is giving wiggle room will complicate matters immensely. As the old adage goes: “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
As for keeping vulnerable individuals safe, however, we should always "err" on the side of caution. Making allowance for their attendance must only be undertaken with strictest stipulations, such as not allowing the offender to even come on church property without a person on a team of carefully-trained individuals who can be designated specifically for one-on-one monitoring after meeting the individual at his car, escorting him back, and keeping him in close eye contact if not within arm’s length at all times in between.
If a congregation has small groups meeting in members' homes, it becomes even more precarious. Obviously, there is much to think about if a church elects to assimilate known sex offenders safely.
Sounds awfully strict, you say? It is indeed and for good reason!
A few years ago, my husband Ron and I were invited to be a part of a press conference near our home. It was called after two young girls were molested by a young man who had already served time in prison for sexual assault. Still, this registered sex offender had been allowed to roam the halls of an SBC congregation. He did not connect with his victims in the church building, however. He used the trust he'd built in the church to first connect with them online, entering the comfort of their own home without their parents’ knowledge.
I immediately thought of this church in Lenexa, Kansas, upon learning of the concerns previously expressed for Adat Shalom.
While I knew that I wanted to write this story at some point, I felt under the circumstances that I needed to personally give the association an opportunity to intervene with this elderly pastor and others in the congregation if the leader chose to go further. If successful, it would serve as one of the exceptional outcomes that have come to my knowledge in United Methodist circles a couple of times, and I’d heard through Todd Unzinker, a young SBC leader, that several good outcomes had occurred due to early intervention by other associations due to the consciousness-raising done by the ERCL
This case wouldn’t be ideal, of course, since the pastor had refused to listen to wise counsel already a year earlier. There’d be no need to “write the church up,” however—only the story without giving a clue as to the location or name of this congregation.
In my opinion, associational leaders are in an ideal place to be trained and to see that training on a local level is provided to all churches. If so equipped, they can use their position to speak with a good deal of authority, seeing that bases are covered, including but not limited to reporting to civil authorities, speaking with parole or probation officers, and reporting unresolved issues to state officials, and SBC personnel at both the state and national levels.
My prayer is that you may find a God-given peace about the personal decisions each of you make, going forward.
Yours in Christ,
Dee Ann Miller