"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mike Bianchi Tells Penn State to Stay Home - Where is the Societal Disgust Over Baptist Church Sex Abuse Cover-Ups?

One of my favorite sports writers is the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi. I was a student at the University of Florida in the 1980s when Bianchi, an '85 UF grad, began writing for the Gainesville Sun, eventually becoming the lead sports writer taking over for Jack Hairston. Bianchi then went to write for The Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville sometime in the 1990s, then he left for greener pastures in Orlando about 10 years ago.

Anyways, last week Bianchi wrote an excellent article about the Penn State scandal, and how he absolutely does not want Penn State's football team to come to Orlando to play in the Captial One Bowl, or any bowl for that matter. He said the way the university covered up allegations of child abuse for years to protect the brand of their school makes them unfit this year to play in any bowl game.

Says Bianchi:

"This scandal is bigger than a football team. Even though the players are pawns, they still represent a university where the coaches and administrators appear to have covered up the atrocious allegations against Sandusky just so they could protect the football team's brand. Penn State's name is now toxic in the minds of most Americans. Every time the Nittany Lions step on the field, we don't see a football team; we see a dark, evil place where countless little boys were allegedly allowed to be sexually molested by a football coach."

I agree with him. It isn't just that one of their coaches molested boys - predators can be found in any institution. It is that the Penn State institution that the football players represent, from a janitor to a grad assistant, to the head coach all the way to the president of the institution, behaved irresponsibly that allowed a pedophile to roam the Penn State locker rooms for years, having sex with little boys in the Penn State showers, and allowing him to freely romp through high schools and boys' clubs looking for potential victims.

Bianchi says the Penn State scandal is bigger than a football team. Yes, and each time when we read about sex abuse cover-ups in Baptist churches, it is not just a story about cover-ups in a single church. It is about an entire religious institution that refuses to adequately deal with sexual predators in their midst. Failure to track, failure to inform, even failure to report crimes to law enforcement.

Bianchi's article represents the outrage that so many American's have over the Penn State scandal. But I sure wish more people would express such disgust and call for sanctions when it comes to churches who act to protect the image of their church and send away a pedophile minister to another church or ministry. Where was the public outrage this year over Prestonwood Baptist Church allowing John Langworthy to go to another church without warning the other church after he was dismissed from Prestonwood for "allegations of inappropriate activity with a teenage student" at the church. No report was ever made to the authorities by Prestonwood, Langworthy was dismissed from Prestonwood, and he went on to have contact with children at another unsuspecting church and even a public school.

Where was the public outrage and call for the heads of church leaders when it was discovered that Trinity Baptist's Bob Gray went on mission to Germany after serious allegations of molestation were made against him, and as reported by TV-12's Jeannie Blaylock no one from Trinity - including the current pastor Tom Messer - notified the mission-sending agency about the allegations against Bob Gray? How many victims were there in Germany? Where were the calls by the press and public for dismissal of the church leaders at Trinity who knew of Gray's abuse of children and allowed him to lie to the congregation about it? Forget the press - where were the cries from other churches in Jacksonville for accountability at Trinity?

And keep in mind - Bianchi's outrage toward Penn State comes even with the knowledge that Penn State trustees ARE taking immediate steps to move toward fixing the problem. They really couldn't take any more drastic, immediate steps than they did in firing their president and legend Joe Paterno. Therefore how much MORE should the public outrage be over churches who not only covered up the offenses at their church, but that those in leadership have never been held accountable for their institution's lies and inaction?

Where is the media outrage over denominational institutions within the Southern Baptist Convention who will take action to excommunicate churches for the horrific "sin" of hiring women pastors, but they take no action against churches who pass pedophiles on to the next unsuspecting church?

Bianchi doesn't let up one bit:

"Do us all a favor, Penn State, and stay home. We don't want you in Orlando or Tampa or Jacksonville or Pasadena. We don't even want you in the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the Ticket City Bowl or the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. We don't want to hear your name or see your helmets or listen to your cheers. And we certainly don't want to spend an entire week during the holidays reading about, writing about, hearing about and thinking about kids who allegedly had their innocence raped away by your sociopathic assistant football coach. Don't ruin bowl week for everybody else. Play out the regular season and then do the only honorable thing you can do at this point. Just go away."

The truth about sex scandal cover-ups in baptist churches: they will not be fixed in baptist churches until Christians and pastors become disgusted like Bianchi. Christians should stay away from those churches where abuse occurred and those involved have not been held accountable. Churches and pastors who are involved in sex abuse cover-ups: we don't want to hear your wonderful sermons about Jesus, we don't want to hear your church's glorious music, and we sure don't want to contribute to your latest building program.

Bianchi says when he sees Penn State's football team he thinks of molested boys at the hands of their "sociopathic" assistant coach. Many in Jacksonville when they hear "Trinity Baptist Church" think of Bob Gray, molestations, and church leaders who have not had to answer for their non-reporting to authorities of Gray's crimes. This is why I would never recommend someone join Trinity Baptist church: as an institution they have not in my view adequately given answers to our citizens about what happened and who knew what in the Bob Gray scandal, and have not assured our community that appropriate institutional changes have been made, or that those who could have stopped Bob Gray or alerted the Germany missionary-sending agency, have been held accountable.

Mike Bianchi gets it. And I don't need to ask Mike Bianchi what he thinks about the Trinity Baptist Church scandal in Jacksonville where he used to live - his article about Penn State says it all.

37 comments:

New BBC Open Forum said...

Bianchi says when he sees Penn State's football team he thinks of molested boys at the hands of their "sociopathic" assistant coach. Many in Jacksonville when they hear "Trinity Baptist Church" think of Bob Gray, molestations, and church leaders who have not had to answer for their non-reporting to authorities of Gray's crimes.

And many people now think of how "senior" pastor Steve Gaines allowed a confessed child molester to freely roam the halls of Bellevue Baptist Church for at least 6 months after he became aware of it. Unless and until more of these pastors and others in positions of authority are prosecuted for not reporting nothing is going to change. I think the Penn State thing may be the first domino.

TheDenverChannel.com >> Teacher, Pastors, Former Principal Arrested In Sex Assault Case

Thy Peace said...

I am afraid the consciences of people in these churches have been seared or anesthetized. They have lost their salt.

Arce said...

As more comes out about the PSU matter, it seems that the Grand Jury chose to believe the wrong witness. The rush to judge the administration, when what they were told and what they did has not been proved. This is vigilante lynching justice by the national media, including your favorite reporter.

It would behoove everyone to wait for the investigations. It may well be that a lot of media and other commentators will find egg on their faces.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Arce - which witness was the wrong one to believe, do you mean the graduate assistant?

I think though that by Paterno's own testimony the administration's goose is cooked. Paterno admitted to the grand jury that the grad assistant explained that it was something sexual that he observed - whether the grad assistant actually explained in graphic detail to Paterno might be debatable, but the grand jury report explains what Paterno admitted he was told by McQuery the grad assistant. This is why, I think, the grand jury returned indictments on the two administrators for lying. They took McQuery's word and Paterno's word about Victim #2, over what the two administrators say they were told by McQuery.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the same graduate assistant that said he called the police to report the crime and then the police say they have no record of his calls.

The vast, vast majority of pastors know how to deal with sexual abuse and are doing so. You have to remember there are thousands of Baptist churches and you are picking out just a few to prove your point. Most pastors know to call the police the moment they discover wrongdoing.

Anonymous said...

"The vast, vast majority of pastors know how to deal with sexual abuse and are doing so."

How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Anonymous said...

Many of the staff and deacons have family members that work at Trinity Baptist Church. They covered up the crimes of Bob Grey to protect there pay checks. Tom Messer lacks the integrity to be a pastor.

Anonymous said...

Having worked with many, I believe the vast, vast majority of Baptist preachers are unable to deal with most any issue or crisis. Most of their counsel for struggling marriages, families, children, etc, never goes beyond "read your Bible, pray, have more faith and keep coming to church, and everything will change."

Thy Peace said...

Off Topic: Wade Burleson > The Church Is Changing - A Reformation of the Church Based on the Truth of Scripture
The church is changing. There is a reformation taking place. The church has left the building(s). And any pastor who tries to reinvigorate the institutional church through Old Covenant principles is destined to fail.

Ed Franklin said...

I think it's really interesting to consider the enormity of coverage with respect to the coach/pedophile situations contrasted to the comparative silence during church leader/pedophile incidents.

Off hand, I'd say one major reason for the quantitative difference is that your average pew-warmer pays more attention to sports and cares more (and knows more) about sports than he does to what's happening in his church....

And that's even more true with respect to the "news media".....sports, coaches = Big News! church stuff=back page.

Anonymous said...

Unlike most of you on here, I actually believe that the average (not mega) Baptist pastor has more than enough sense to call the police when there is sexual abuse in the church. You certainly have no statistics to back up your constant charges against pastors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: " You certainly have no statistics to back up your constant charges against pastors."

Do you have any stats to support your side of the statement?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Anon 12:56 - really this is not about individual pastors and how many of them do or do not know to call the police when they become aware of allegations of sexual molestation.

It is about the institutional culture in which they operate that will dictate whether they will or will not take the right steps.

I would say that 100% of the pastors who when asked if they would report sexual abuse allegations in their church to authorities, would say "yes".

But as we seek often times they don't do it. They don't report them, and they don't even alert other churches of the perps. Why don't they do it? Why weren't the police called at Prestonwood when they became aware of sex abuse allegations against John Langworthy? They are all smart, educated, religious men, whose bible tells them that those who hurt children will be better off with a boulder tied around their neck cast into the ocean.

But they did not call the police.

I can say the same thing about Trinity and their pastor. Fine men by all accounts, but they made the wrong decisions because their institutional culture was to protect the "man of God" and to protect the blessed "ministry" of their institution.

This is why Congress is going to get involved, and will make mandatory very severe penalties for those who don't report allegations of abuse to authorities.

My point: too bad that our citizens, our press, and the people in churches are not requiring church leaders to be held accountable for their inaction. Too bad that more people like Bianchi don't express outrage over abuse cover ups in our churches.

WishIhadknown said...

Does the average pastor know how to handle sexual abuse? I doubt it, considering the appalling opinion they take regarding spousal abuse.

Anonymous said...

"...I actually believe that the average (not mega) Baptist pastor has more than enough sense to call the police when there is sexual abuse in the church."

We would all hope that to be true. But it seems like all the cases I read about involve a cover up on the part of the church or pastor, hoping it will go away.

In my 50+ years, I've never heard of a pastor or staff member calling the police on a sexually abusive church member, deacon, giver, Sunday School teacher, etc.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you have been for 50 years but I've known of plenty. Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

A person is innocent until proven guilty.

Kids lie too.

How would you like it if some kid accused you and you were completely innocent?

Oh, you say, why would kids lie?

Money!!

Anonymous said...

#1 Interesting that there are "plenty" of instances where pastors have called police on sexual predators in their congregations. (also kinda scary of there are the number that "plenty" implies.)

#2 Anon 8:21 - there are just no words...

Arce said...

If there is a suspicion, then the potential child victim should be interviewed with a trained sex abuse investigator who knows how to conduct an interview with children. There have been multiple cases of child care workers being wrongly accused, and some convicted, based on suggestive interviewing later shown to be false by such things as physical examination of the child, which everyone opposed except the allege perpetrator, but which showed that there had not been the type of abuse the interviewer alleged the child had so clearly described.

Anonymous said...

Sorry arce your comment is why most children don't report sexual abuse- because when it comes right down to it there is no physical evidence, it is one persons word against another's.

John Wylie said...

Here's how you deal with sexual abuse allegations...Call DHS. Then do whatever you have to do to get emotional and spiritual help for the abused.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article about mega churches and their possible decline:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111120/NEWS06/111120006/Some-fear-megachurch-bubble-may-soon-burst

Arce said...

I have read the transcripts where a good interviewer was able to elicit statements from a four year old girl that was sufficient for a conviction for forcible oral sex on her by a teenager, another where a six year old clearly showed anal rape. All without a bit of physical evidence. And all where there were adults in the victim's families trying to protect the teenage offenders!

Katie said...

I've been giving this some thought since WD posted this. I refrained from posting because I hold WD in the highest of esteem. I rarely disagree with him.

On this issue I have some serious reservations. I'm a survivor of child sexual assault by a family member. It clearly never leaves the psyche and colors all manner of surrounding issues. I have learned that Jesus is the source of all healing.

On this, however, I think we are going overboard when we punish every single person affiliated with Penn state as part of the problem. Institutional corruption is nothing new and should be dealt with in a precise manner. Let's punish those who contributed and turned a blind eye towards this particularly heinous crime.

I've not been shown any evidence that every football player on the Penn State football team even knew about this problem. Why are we punishing them? This smacks of Jimmy Carter and the Olympics or even the Duke LaCrosse case. It's wrong to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I understand Bianchi's point regarding Penn State as an entity, but not with putting blame/punishment on innocent people. I can't imagine that Jesus would deal with this problem in this way.

Unbelievers love to pin the blame of the Inquisition on all Christians. But clearly all Christians had no part in this detestable action by the Catholic Church, and later the reformed believers. Guilt by association is used quite regularly by Christians. Anyone want to be deemed guilty of the heresy of Gail Riplinger or Peter Ruckman just because they also claim to be Christians? Or perhaps we are proclaimed irrational nuts because they associate us with Benny Hinn or even Ergun Caner.

I understand I will be attacked and told I don't know Jack about football or even the gospel. That's okay with me. I prefer to not be caught in error on judging people I don’t know.

Anonymous said...

Watchdog, you think Trinity pastor Tom Messer is a "fine" man ? It's on the public record that he covered up child rape for many years. No, he is not a fine man. He should be in prison.

Seneca Griggs said...

Kati, your post was quite excellent.

Robert L. Peeples said...

I couldn't agree more with Katie when she says not everyone should be punished.

For Mike Bianchi to say that Penn State shouldn't play in any bowl because of the recent events that have transpired is ludicrous. Who would you hurt the most by taking such an action? THE FOOTBALL PLAYERS. They were not responsible for Sandusky's actions or the inaction of the Penn State administration to handle the situation. Punishing them should not be a part of the solution to the scandal.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Katie - I do understand your view about punishing just those who committed the crime.

But if we keep this in the context of NCAA football, then why does the NCAA punish entire football programs for the misdeeds of a booster, or two or three players who cheat? Why penalized incoming freshman, keeping them from playing in a bowl because the coach is a louse or some players took money from an agent?

Or why does the EPA fine an entire company for the misdeeds of one or two employees who violate some environmental law?

Because the NCAA realizes that they must send a strong signal to the INSTITUTION when it demonstrates behavior that goes way out of bounds. When the institution does not have controls to prevent very aberrant behavior, the institution itself must be punished, and this includes people who are part of the institution but not directly involved in the misdeeds.

The facts and testimony given in the grand jury report in the Penn State demonstrate they are a broken institution from bottom to top in the matter of sexual abuse. A grad assistant sees a rape of a small child, and he goes to the head coach. The head coach when told doesn't go to the police. Yes, perhaps the players should pay a price for the misdeeds of the institution they represent, just as many football teams over the years have had to live with sanctions that keep them out of bowl games, when none of the players were directly involved.

And my main point here is not to call for Penn State to be banned from a bowl game. It is to express my understanding of Bianchi's moral outrage, and to commend him for it, and to call for similar outrage by Christians over their institutions that have behaved even worse than Penn State in such matters.

Bianchi is a sports writer. He doesn't want to have to face writing about Penn State's scandal in his city if they were to come to Orlando because it sickens him so much. He wants Penn State REPAIRED, and he knows that the best way is to punish the institution.

And how this translates over to churches like Prestonwood and Trinity Baptist and even Bellevue Baptist with Steve Gaines, is obvious.

Thy Peace said...

Well said, WD. To me a similar example is the divestment campaign against the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Katie said...

Tom,

I really do understand your point. I'm not criticizing you for it. The sexual abuse of children is something that can't be labeled properly because there are no suitable words to describe how wrong it is. The victims never fully recover even when they extend forgiveness to their abusers. I can't begin to understand how anyone would cover this up. But I know they do.

I also understand that strong and bold actions are sometimes needed to shake-up organizations who create a sick climate and who make the plight of victims even worse. It's shameful.

Even so, Christians are supposed to be people who are just towards others. In my mind we owe everyone charity until they prove us wrong. The tipping point for me is the judgment of our Savior. Would he hold me accountable for something I had no part of? I don't think so.

Nobody wants pedophiles held responsible more than I do. But this isn't the right way. I understand Bianchi's moral outrage, but can't agree with his solution. As a victim, I couldn't personally take part in harming innocent people, possibly crushing their own hopes and dreams for something they had no part in. It might be effective, but it's still wrong.

I sincerely appreciate your point of view Tom. I know you are a good person and committed Christian. This disagreement does not change my opinion of you. I hold you in the hightest respect.

God Bless......

Anonymous said...

Bianchi is a blowhard asshole, sort of like the author of this blog.

Those players at Penn State don't deserve to be punished for things they had nothing to do with.

How absurd.

You're a clown, Tom.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

My oh my.

Anonymouse said...

Yet you all accept the fact that EVERYONE should pay for Adam and Eve's "crime"
"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has." Indeed.

Katie said...

Anon 11:43 PM

It IS possible to have a different opinion without resorting to name-calling and being disagreeable.

Seriously, if you don't like Tom's blog, then don't come and read it.

I almost never take an opposite view from Tom. And... I don't think he is wrong in what he feels must be done to stop(or at least minimize)the debauchery of molesting/assaulting children. We only disagree on the methods, not the reason. Christians will disagree from time-to-time, but how we go about the disagreement says much about our character and our relationship with Christ.

Christa Brown said...

Watchdog,
I absolutely agree with you in your call for institutional accountability within the Southern Baptist Convention and within Baptist churches. There must be accountability, not only for those who physically commit these crimes, but also for those who turn a blind eye, keep it quiet, and cover it up. This is not merely a problem of a few "bad apples." It is a problem of having a barrel that facilitates the rot. Until Baptists are willing to do the difficult task of actually peering into their own barrel, and making systemic changes that promote accountability for all, the barrel will continue to stink.

I wrote more about my own take on this in a column published today in the Associated Baptist Press, "Words alone won't stop Baptist predators":
http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/6970/9/

Thy Peace said...

This is not merely a problem of a few "bad apples." It is a problem of having a barrel that facilitates the rot.

Under Much Grace [Cindy Kunsman] > Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? The Short and Long Versions of Zimbardo on the Lucifer Effect

and more ...

Thy Peace said...

NYT > Center of Penn State Scandal, Sandusky Tells His Own Story