Today the alleged rapist, Ernie Willis, was arraigned in court, charged with two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The judge refused to grant him a public defender, so he will have to spend his own dough and hire an attorney.
But the more interesting aspect of this story to me is how the current pastor, Reverend Brian Fuller, is doing the right thing and NOT remaining silent about what occured at his church years before he arrived. As events unfold, he appears NOT to be interested in covering in any way for the previous pastor's actions, or remaining a tomb and not speaking out about what happened at his church 13 years ago.
WMUR News in New Hampshire ran a story today on Willis' arraignment (video report is included at that hyperlink), and the reporter was granted an interview with Pastor Brian Fuller (seen below). This is amazing to me, as most pastors dealing with a sex scandal in their church are in damage control mode and will NOT speak to reporters. Fuller has already said more publicly about this scandal in one month than, say, another well known independent Baptist minister whose church was involved in a much deeper sex scandal over the past 15 years.
Fuller so far is taking a different tact. HE is speaking to the media. He isn't sending his lawyers to speak, or his trustees or deacons, or having his PR firm release a written statement.
And he is telling it like it is, going on the camera. He expressed alarm how the alleged perpetrator was allowed to stay a member of the church "for years" after the rape was reported. According to the reporter, Fuller acknowledges that the rape "was kept under wraps", and the survivor was forced to "apologize" to the congregation for getting pregnant, and was then flown to Colorado.
The news reporter says the rape survivor sent her a copy of the written statement she provided to the police. A direct quote from the survivor's statement:
"[previous Pastor Chuck Phelps] told me that I should be happy that I didn't live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned because I didn't cry out and tell people sooner."
Church discipline from a caring pastor: Just be glad you got raped NOW and not THEN, else we would have killed you. Sick. The only thing she didn't get was a trespass order filed with the Concorde police for "church misconduct".
Well, as I blogged several weeks ago, I remain hopeful that Fuller will continue to be open and forthright about what occured at the church, and that he will be honest and transparent about what changes he is going to make at his church in their governance and discipline process to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. He promised he would do this in his May 30, 2010 sermon.
Speaking out about this is one way that Fuller can communicate to those people in his community he seeks to minister to, that he and his church are interested in loving people as Christ commanded them and will stand with those who are wronged and will call for justice when the weak are abused by the powerful. Silence might help lawyers minimize your financial damages, but the community gets the message that you're more about your precious church's reputation and financial resources than you are about standing for what is right.
And hey, who knows...if Fuller determines that Chuck Phelps acted inappropriately in exercising his pastoral duties, perhaps he will call on Phelps' current church to exercise church discipline on HIM, and force HIM to stand in front of his congregation to apologize.
And thank goodness for the "bloggers"...as the WMUR reporter says at the end of her piece, it was a blogger who got the investigation started again after 13 years.