Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Rock and the Hard Place

It is the policy of First Baptist Church of Farmersville and all of her staff and volunteers to report to the police immediately any allegation of a sex-related crime. Stay in ministry to very many people for very long in this day and age, and you're going to wind up in a situation to apply such a policy.

Story Number One

Quite some time ago in my ministry a girl (let's call her Eve) came to me and reported that she had been the underage victim of a sexual assault. She said that a non-minor cousin had sexually assaulted her and that her parents were considering letting this cousin stay with the family for the summer. I reassured her that we would do everything that we could to keep her safe, and I immediately picked up the phone and called the police.

A couple of days later, Eve came to me and said that Child Protective Services had launched an investigation of the circumstances in her home. She begged me to withdraw my phone call, saying that she had made the whole thing up. I told her that I could not stop the investigation and would not do so if I could. She could be recanting under duress, after all. The only safe thing to do was to let CPS complete their investigation. CPS determined that the cousin hadn't even been around when the incident had been alleged to have taken place. Eve had, as she admitted to me, made the entire story up.

Story Number Two

Barely a year ago today a wise and observant member of our church staff overheard a conversation between teenagers talking about a car that just didn't sound right. He followed up and dug deeper, and the teenager in question alleged that a single male member of our congregation had sexually assaulted him. The police were notified that night in the middle of the night. Within a few weeks we had uncovered a serial sexual predator. He's now awaiting trial and sentencing, and I give the credit to that faithful pastor here at our church.

Story Number Three

A few years back I was trying to help a married couple piece things back together. The wife began to email me with questions about the counseling. I answered the first one. On the second one, I asked her to wait until our next meeting, suggesting to her that her husband needed to be present to benefit from the conversation. Within a few weeks, she was emailing me love poetry on a nearly daily basis. She claimed to be hearing secret messages from me encoded in not only my sermons but also the things that other people were saying from the platform. I terminated the counseling relationship at the first conclusive sign that things were going wrong, and I eventually encouraged the husband to seek psychological help for his wife. The wife's behavior was compulsive, and we eventually had to ask this family to go to church somewhere else.

Fortunately, I had never been alone with this woman, I had shown my wife every piece of correspondence both ways, and the entire church (among those who learned about the situation) trusted me completely in this situation.

Lessons Learned

  1. There is such a thing as a false accusation, and the ramifications of forwarding a false accusation can be devastating for everyone involved.
  2. There is such a thing as a genuine accusation, and the ramifications of failing to forward a genuine accusation can be devastating for everyone involved.
  3. There is no definitive criterion by which anyone can tell the difference between a false accusation and a genuine accusation upon hearing one.
  4. Get it right 9,999 times while getting it wrong once, and some people will allege that you're sitting in your office all day rooting for the perverts to victimize innocent children.
  5. Where there is an allegation of criminal activity, the only safe course of action is to report the allegation to the authorities reflexively and without further thought.
  6. It is really hard not to cherish the idea of sex offenders roasting in Hell for putting us all through these trials, but even some things that are hard to do are worth doing nonetheless.
  7. Where there is no allegation of a crime, you're going to have to seek God's wisdom and use your own judgment. May God have mercy on your soul if you're wrong, because nobody else will.
  8. Let us all approach these issues reminding ourselves:
    • My daughter may be a victim someday. If she reached out to somebody, what would I want them to do about it?
    • My son may be falsely accused someday. If he were, what standard would I want people to apply in determining his guilt or innocence before proceeding to destroy his life?


Ron P. said...


Several years ago, I served on a church staff with a retired pastor serving as our interim pastor. He shared with me that many years before he had been falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a woman in his church. Thankfully, like you, he had never been alone with this woman and she later confessed to fabricating the entire story. The damage to his ministry was done though. There were still those who wondered if there was not some truth to the allegations. It took him many years to try and rebuild his reputation within his church and community. Unfortunately, there are people who will make false allegations.

Godly pastors MUST take the proper precautions to avoid being falsely accused of anything improper. Even the hint of anything wrong must be avoided.

For those pastors and staff members that do such horrid crimes, I have the same inclination as you in number six of your post.

Ron P.

CB Scott said...


This is a good and valid post. It is the kind of post that can only come from a person who has been in the "day-to-day"of being a pastor to human beings.

Thank you for an honest to the gut post.


Tim Guthrie said...

Thank you for sharing this. You have covered it well. I wish we as Pastors did not have to deal with this stuff, but we do. May God give us wisdom. It is never easy and yet we must respond correctly when and if the problem(s) arise.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if you read WB's post today. I hope for the pastor's sake that is is a false accusation, I hope for Wade's sake that it is true. Should an accusatory letter (that you do not know is true or not) be published in a blog? The word, "gossip" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...


I too think this is an excellent post that contains much wisdom drawn from the well of experience. It is one reason that I think being a pastor who faithfully preaches the Word and who tries his best to apply it is probably the most difficult job (though certainly blessed and totally worth it) in the world.

It seems that the one called upon to minister with grace all too often doesn't receive much grace when he errs even if he is sincerely doing the best he can. It grieves me to see believers castigate a pastor after the fact because he didn't maneuver these kinds of tricky, legal, and spiritual mazes with total omniscience.

There are certainly some (way too many) pastors who have abused the trust given to them. But how grievous it is to watch as people who have never sat in the pastor's office chair or walked in his shoes lump good and godly men in with those who abuse trust. It is easy to second guess the decisions of others when you have no personal liability or experience.

I think I am repeating myself. I should add that I am not a pastor and I have never been accused of this myself so I have no ax to grind. Self-righteous judgment has just always bothered me whenever I see it.


Chris Johnson said...


Good post,

Its obvious from the other responses as well, ....that sin is something we should take seriously and its effects are inevitable.

Your experiences are carbon copies of what I have seen down through the years.

We must be on alert and careful to not overlook.


Anonymous said...

Very good, balanced post. One every pastor should read.

I agree we should be careful to be fair to both the accuser and the accused. And that sometimes we have to differentiate between immoral activity that is not criminal and immoral activity that is criminal.

Shame on those who try to use these difficult situations for their own advantage.
David R. Brumbelow

R. L. Vaughn said...

Good comments to make us think deeply. Thanks.