Nigerian Pastor Solomon Folorunsho Accused of Sexual Abuse Goes Unpunished

“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”

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Benin City (Nigeria) (AFP) – In southern Nigeria, an evangelical pastor runs a sprawling camp billed as a refuge for thousands of children who fled the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency in the north.

Solomon Folorunsho, known as Pastor Solomon, says he is on a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM).

His camp in Benin City claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad.

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Pastor Solomon claims to have “seen Jesus”

But witnesses AFP interviewed across Nigeria — children, their relatives, former missionaries and social workers — paint a far darker picture of the pastor and the treatment of those in his care.

“At first he’s very subtle, quiet — like somebody who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” one former church worker said of the charismatic preacher.

“I loved him, I loved his charisma.”

But during months of interviews, witnesses detailed how those living at his 30-hectare (75-acre) facility frequently go hungry and thirsty and endure atrocious hygiene conditions.

All accused the pastor of physical abuse, while some accused him of sexual harassment

Pastor Solomon, aged in his 50s, admits having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment.

“There is no bad treatment here. We don’t do abuse,” he told AFP.

“Feeding them is a challenge… but we don’t have anything to hide. We are helping humanity.”

Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions.

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Pastor-Solomon-with-Governor-Obaseki

“Pastor Solomon runs this camp as if it is his ‘kingdom’. He controls the movement and actions of every person in the camp through a group of ministers and specially selected children,” the team wrote in the confidential report, seen by AFP.

The UNICEF investigators said what they saw, coupled with interviews with children, caregivers and NGO workers, prompted “strong concerns regarding the possibility that Pastor Solomon may be engaged in sexual activities, or at a minimum, displaying grooming behaviours with girls in the camp”.

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Witnesses said that around a dozen young girls work for the pastor as his personal servants and receive preferential treatment.

“A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously,” said Rahila, a 16-year-old girl who left the camp several months ago.

“He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.

All the witnesses’ names have been changed to protect their identities.

Other children and adults said that those who upset the preacher were treated brutally.

“I was always hungry, there was never enough food or water. When we complained we got beaten with anything he could lay his hands on,” said 12-year-old Hauwa.

“No one leaves Pastor Solomon without a scar — whether it is psychological or physical,” a former follower told AFP after hesitating at first to talk about his ordeal.

Convincing people to talk about their experiences with Pastor Solomon is a painstaking task. Some have refused to speak out for 20 years.

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“Most of the girls were coming from poor homes. They would sleep with him and in exchange he would pay for their school fees,” said a former female victim.

She said her going to the authorities about the abuse she experienced and witnessed was out of the question in a country where powerful men are rarely brought to justice.

She was also scared of juju, the traditional black magic widely feared by people in the region.

“I was scared to talk. He uses juju, people told me I would die.”

Evangelical preachers draw fanatical followings across the deeply Christian south of Nigeria. Pastor Solomon’s power stems greatly from his beliefs.

“He says he’s sent by God. To confront him is like confronting God himself,” a former church worker said.

Those who have served under him and lived in the camp say the pastor uses the fear of devil to keep people in line.

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Pastor Solomon smiles and plays with Oshiomhole and wife

On the church’s website, in a short biography entitled “I Saw Jesus” — translated into six languages including Russian and Chinese — he claimed that he was saved from Satan by God himself.

– Foreign evangelical support –

Pastor Solomon’s International Christian Centre for Missions has expanded hugely since he founded it in 1990 with just a dozen young female followers.

In 1992, he set up the first “Home for the Needy”, taking in poor children whose parents entrusted them to his care on the promise of an education.

A former missionary said the pastor would sometimes misrepresent the children as orphans to raise sponsorship in Europe or the United States.

Ten years later, the church had grown to more than 200 branches, with missionaries and preachers working across southern Nigeria and funds coming from evangelical churches abroad.

“He was always browsing the internet to look for church organisations all over the world” to target for donations, the missionary said.

“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”

But it was the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) to the north of Benin City that caused a surge in the numbers at the camp.

As the violence displaced millions of people and grabbed global attention in 2013, Pastor Solomon’s group turned its attention to children in the conflict zone of northeastern Nigeria.

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NAS’ charity: From left— Pastor Evelyn Omigie; Pastor Solomon Folorunsho; Officer in Charge of National Association of Seadogs, NAS, medical, Dr. Joseph Oteri; Prince Omoregbe Erediauwa; Idawo Azeg and Egele Sani Osigwe

“The pastor’s people came (to Maiduguri) and convinced parents to send their children to Benin City where they would have a good education, with free food,” said Rakiya, who allowed five of her six children to go.

“At the camp, parents would be given bags of rice, bus fare, jerrycans of palm oil and the like. So when they returned to Maiduguri they would tell other parents ‘Benin is good’,” she said.

No records are publicly available about how many children were brought from northern Nigeria to the camp.

Pastor Solomon told AFP that the Nigerian army and the intelligence service “have a copy of the register”, but this could not be verified.

UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wanted to set up a program to reunite children from the camp with their families, but were denied access to their identities.

“At this time, camp management has been unable/unwilling to provide this information,” UNICEF said in its report.

UNICEF maintains that it passed on the report to local authorities in 2016 to make them aware of the “concerns”. But nothing appears to have been done.

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Adams_Oshiomole 

On the contrary, Pastor Solomon had full support from the then regional governor, Adams Oshiomhole, now head of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress.

“With the former governor, we once had a good relationship,” Pastor Solomon told AFP. “When parents wanted to get their children back, he would give them money, he would give them a gift.”

Today, while denying any accusations of maltreatment, the pastor admits that the huge influx of children placed a major strain on the camp and that the church struggles for money.

Camp workers have told local media that to feed the estimated 4,000 children and 500 adults at the camp costs hundreds of dollars a day — and that does not include medicine, water, education and clothing.

“We also have a problem with hepatitis, measles, chickenpox and scabies; we don’t have enough accommodation for them, this is a big challenge,” the pastor acknowledged.

Witnesses said that children sleep on mats on the ground in huge hangars without adult supervision, relieving themselves in the forest, complaining of hunger and thirst and not washing, and that many have died in the disease-ridden conditions.

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While conditions keep deteriorating at the camp, some European and US evangelical groups still send donations and materials to Nigeria.

The congregation of German pastor Gunther Geipel — who describes Pastor Solomon as a “friend and brother” — is one of them.

Geipel dismisses the allegations against the pastor as “tales” from “jealous people”.

“I cannot imagine that this is true,” he told AFP.

AFP put the allegations against Pastor Solomon and his camp to Edo State minister for social affairs Maria Edeko, who took up her duties several months ago.

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UNICEF NIGERIA 

She said she had never heard of the UN report or accusations of abuse and poor conditions at the camp but insisted they would be investigated.

She confirmed the authorities did not have access to the camp registry.

“From now on, I can assure you that my ministry will be on top of the situation. We need monitoring,” she said. “It’s our responsibility.”

 

Episcopal Priest Gives Pre-Paid Gas Cards to Women Seeking Abortions

Anyone can be a church leader in Babylon today, Episcopal priest Reverend Katherine Ragsdale in a prime example of that!

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Episcopal priest Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, with her organization National Abortion Federation, will hand out pre-paid gas cards for women seeking abortions, according to FaithWire.

“Since there are a limited number of providers and states continue to impose additional restrictions, many women have to travel long distances to reach the closest provider who can help them,” NAF said in a statement. “And this situation will only worsen as the political environment continues to become more hostile toward abortion rights.”

Ragsdale, who is the Interim President and CEO of NAF, believes the initiative will provide more support for women “so that they can make, and act on, the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

The pilot program will run for three months and start in states that have waiting periods or other abortion restrictions, LifeNews reports.

The response comes in light of several states furthering restrictive abortion limits. States such as Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana have nearly abolished terminations and several other states are poised to do the same.

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Former Plymouth priest the Rev. Mally Lloyd married the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, on New Year’s Day. The Rev. Lloyd, a former pastor at Christ Church in Plymouth, is now a ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

As the first lesbian to become a leader of an Episcopal seminary, Ragsdale has been no stranger to controversy.  World Magazine reported Ragsdale’s allegiance lies not only with pro-choice causes, but pro-abortion.

“Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done,” she said at a pro-abortion rally. “Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

She continued: “The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply [a] blessing.”

Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, the largest pro-life legal organization in the country, believes the pilot program doesn’t help women but abortion centers.

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Katherine Ragsdale Babylonian pastor

“This is a half-baked publicity stunt by NAF meant to create the impression that there is even a need for this,” she said. “Why doesn’t the abortion industry—dominated by a ‘non-profit’ that has over a hundred million in the bank—lower its prices instead? Because it’s all about profit for them.”

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~ Original Post Written By Mikaela Mathews | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor

395 Catholic Church Illinois Priests and Deacons Accused of Sexual Misconduct

“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois,”

CHICAGO – Nearly 400 Catholic clergy members in Illinois have been accused of sexual misconduct, but church officials have only informed congregants of a fraction of those who have faced allegations, according to attorneys who represented clergy sex abuse victims across the USA.

St. Hedwig Church

A 182-page report, published by the Minnesota-based law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, includes the names, background information, photos and assignment histories of each accused clergy member. 

“The danger of sexual abuse in Illinois is clearly a problem of today, not just the past,” the report concludes. “This will continue to be a danger until the identities and histories of sexually abusive clerics, religious employees and seminarians are made public.”

Anderson said he hopes the report will push church leaders to publicly identify hundreds more clergy who faced allegations.

The men named in the report worked in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. Dioceses’ officials pushed back on the report’s findings.

The Archdiocese of Chicago, which serves about 2.1 million Catholics, said it “does not “police itself.”

“It reports all allegations to the civil authorities, regardless of the date of the alleged abuse, whether the priest is a diocesan priest or religious order priest, and whether the priest is alive or dead,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Andrew Hansen, a spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, dismissed the report as “an impressive professional marketing brochure.”

Church-Pews

He noted one of the priests listed in the report, Rev. Frank Martinez, had spent about six weeks in 1985 working as a hospital chaplain in the central Illinois diocese before resigning his position.

The following year Martinez, who was assigned to a parish in Buffalo, Iowa, was accused of propositioning a 15-year-old boy in an Iowa motel room. Martinez was removed from the ministry in 2004. In 2008, he was included on a list by the Davenport Diocese of 24 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

“(The report) does not represent, as Mr. Anderson suggests, a thorough and diligent review of the publicly available facts, and it is highly misleading and irresponsible,” Hansen said.

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 The Diocese of Joliet in Chicago, Illinois

The Rockford Diocese said in a statement it has not disclosed allegations against many of the clergy on Anderson’s list “because the accusations either have not been substantiated or are completely without merit.”Joliet Diocese officials also said that allegations against some named on Anderson’s list have not been substantiated.

“The list includes a number of priests, living and deceased who, at one time or another provided some ministry within the Diocese of Joliet at some point during their priesthood, but are not priests of the Diocese of Joliet,” the Joliet Diocese said in a statement.

Rockford Diocese officials said they were unaware that one former priest named on the list, Rev. Ivan Rovira, had been found to have committed sexual abuse of a child after he left Northern Illinois in the early 1970s. The Brownsville, Texas Diocese earlier this year placed Rovira on its list of “clergy with credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

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Rovira admitted to Brownsville Diocese officials in 2002 that he had sexually abused a boy during his time working in Texas. He was forced to leave the ministry, and later fled to Mexico, according to the Anderson report.

“Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this list, and the list covers the time frame of 1908, when this diocese was established, to the present,” the Rockford Diocese said in its statement. “An allegation against a priest who had an assignment in this diocese but belongs to a religious order or other diocese is referred to the religious order or other diocese to which the priest belongs and is under its jurisdiction.”

Keep the faith?: Sex abuse scandals prompt more to personally question ties to Church, poll finds

Pope weighs in: Francis vows to address scandal, says priests must be guided by ‘holy fear of God’

Attorneys culled the names of the clergy named in the report from legal settlements and news reports detailing claims of child sexual abuse. Although lawsuits were filed involving many of the alleged perpetrators, the majority of the claims against the individuals were settled, according to the report.

“We’ve chosen to reveal this information, because the Catholic bishops and religious orders who are in charge and have this information . . . have chosen to conceal it,” Anderson said. 

The six Catholic dioceses of Illinois released the names of 185 clergy members who church officials determined were credibly accused of sexual abuse. The Anderson list includes those who were identified by the Illinois dioceses and more than 200 additional priests and deacons.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who left office in January, issued a preliminary report in December that found there are at least 500 clergy from Illinois’ dioceses who have faced allegations of abuse. The church has not publicly acknowledged or thoroughly investigated those claims, Madigan’s report found. She did not name those accused of misconduct.

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Madigan launched her investigation in August after a landmark Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed claims against more than 300 “predator priests” who had abused at least 1,000 victims over roughly six decades. The former Illinois attorney general said her office was flooded with hundreds of emails and calls from people alleging they were victims of abuse by clergy in Illinois in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania report.

Clergy abuse investigation: Illinois Catholic Church allegedly failed to investigate 500 priest sex abuse allegations

Predator priests: States ask for assistance to pursue Catholic Church for documents on abuse by priests, Pennsylvania attorney general says

Madigan is one of at least 14 state attorney generals who have confirmed investigations or reviews after the Pennsylvania report. Madigan’s successor, Kwame Raoul, said before he took office in January that he was committed to continuing the investigation.

“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois,” Madigan said.

Weeks after Madigan released her report, Anderson, along with other attorneys and clergy sex abuse survivors, launched the “Fight for 500” initiative calling on the Illinois dioceses to release the names of clergy.

The list published Wednesday includes priests and deacons whose affiliations in some cases date back decades. Many of the accused have died.

The report notes the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a civil lawsuit in 2007 alleging the Rev. Robert Boley accosted a young girl in the 1980s. Boley moved to a Chicago parish in 1989 and also served at parishes in Darien, Ill., Englewood, N.J., and Louisville, Ky.

“As of 2007, it was believed that Fr. Boley was residing at the Carmelite House in Joliet, Illinois, and working in their archives,” the report says. “Fr. Boley’s current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children are unknown.”

In another case, the report says David Stalzer, an ordained priest in the Joliet diocese, faced a civil lawsuit in 1993, in which he was accused of child sexual abuse while he was working at a diocese parish.

“It is believed that Fr. Stalzer returned to active duty later that year under supervision and purportedly with limited contact with children,” according to the report.

The suit was dismissed in 1994 after the accuser dropped out of sight, according to the Joliet Herald-News. Stalzer died in 2001.

The list includes one priest who is in active ministry, Anderson said.

Bad men

The priest, who is assigned to a parish on Chicago’s North Side, was temporarily removed from his position in December 2013 after the archdiocese received reports of him molesting a child at another Chicago-area parish where he worked 20 years earlier.

The Chicago Archdiocese reinstated the priest into active ministry months later, after law enforcement found insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Days after he was reinstated, another man came forward and said he saw the same priest molest a teenage boy at a suburban fitness center. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation, but the claim was never substantiated no charges were filed.

Anderson defended putting the priest on the list even though authorities had not corroborated the allegations.

“(He) may be innocent, but given the fact that are two public allegations that have been made against him, we feel and believe that it needs to be publicly disclosed as somebody who has been publicly accused and not adjudicated,” Anderson said.

Detroit Pastor Murders Transgender Woman

Pastor kills transgender woman, goes to work then calls police one hour later!

PASTOR

A Detroit pastor was charged this week in the shooting death of a 36-year-old transgender woman found dead on the street Friday.

Albert Weathers, 46, was charged with open murder and use of a firearm after an investigation into the death of Kelly Stough, who was found by a police officer in the Palmer Park neighborhood, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.

No motive was given, though prosecutors said they have evidence to be presented in court that Stough’s status as a transgender woman played a role in Weathers’ alleged actions.

Weathers is a pastor of the Logo’s Church, and until this week, was an employee at the Great Lakes Water Authority.

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A spokesperson for the company confirmed to the Daily News that Weathers’ employment has since been terminated, and that he was off-duty at the time of the alleged shooting.

Weathers, who is reportedly married with children, allegedly left the scene of the crime, clocked in at work, and called police an hour later claiming he’d been the victim of an attempted robbery and had shot someone, according to local ABC affiliate WXYZ.

His bond is set at $1 million, though his lawyer David Cripps told the outlet that he will petition for a lower bond on the argument that his client has strong ties to his community.

Stough, meanwhile, was remembered by mother Jessica Chantae Stough as a beloved member of the community who was very loved, and hoped to one day work in the fashion industry as a designer and buyer.

“She has a family who cared about her, who loved her, and I want them to know that transgender ladies – expressly those of color – they’re not just throwaways,” she told NBC News. “People care about them.”

GoFundMe page launched in memory of Stough has raised more than $4,500.

As noted by NBC, Stough once weighed in on the police’s inadequate treatment of transgender people in Detroit in the wake of a 2015 murder of a local transgender woman.

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 Kelly Stough (center) with friends

“The police are unaware with our struggle, so they have no sympathy for us,” she told the Guardian, using her stage name Keanna Mattel. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to the person to get here? Unelss you’re just in the middle of the street, dead bleeding, you can flag down a police officer, and they’ll just ride past you like you never flagged them down.”

Fair Michigan Foundation President and Michigan Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel said in a statement that Stough’s murder “reflected the excessive brutality that members of Detroit’s transgender community constantly face.”

Christian Missionary Found Guilty of Sexually Abusing Six Cambodian Children at Orphanage

Stephen Johnson portrayed himself to be a selfless missionary helping orphans in Cambodia while in reality he was a sexual predator!

A Coos Bay, Oregon man, who was a Christian missionary running an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was found guilty by a federal jury of six counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual abuse. 

Daniel Stephen Johnson

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon, and Special Agent in Charge Loren G. Cannon of the FBI, Portland Division, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane of the District of Oregon.

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Daniel Stephen Johnson, 40, was charged in December 2014 after serving a one-year sentence in Cambodia for sexually abusing some of the same victims.  According to evidence at trial, Johnson was a Christian missionary who traveled between the United States and Cambodia, along with other countries in Southeast Asia.  He started an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that housed several Cambodian children.  Over a period of years beginning in 2005, Johnson engaged in sexual abuse and attempted to sexually abuse at least nine children who resided at his orphanage.  The victims ranged in age from eight to 17-years-old.  The sexual abuse continued until December 2013 when Johnson was arrested by the Cambodian National Police.   Based on disclosures made by children at the orphanage, Cambodian officials charged Johnson and detained him pending trial. In May 2014, Johnson was convicted by a Cambodian judge of performing indecent acts on one or more children at the orphanage and sentenced to one year in prison. Following his release from prison, Johnson was escorted back to the United States by the FBI.  He will be sentenced on Aug. 22 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.  

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“While Stephen Johnson held himself out as a selfless missionary helping orphans in Cambodia, in reality he exploited that cover to sexually abuse the children entrusted to his care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan.  “Today’s conviction is a testament both to the courage of the victims, who traveled to the United States to provide critical testimony against their abuser, and to the steadfast commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to seeing that Johnson be held to account for his terrible crimes.”   

 

“The despicable nature of this defendant’s conduct is beyond understanding,” said U.S. Attorney Williams.  “Whether you are abusing children in this country or abroad, you will be pursued and held accountable in a court of law.  The fact that this defendant abused children under the guise of being a missionary and orphanage operator is appalling.”

 

“Daniel Johnson’s promises of charity and a better life were nothing more than lies as he dragged these children into his dark world of abuse,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Cannon.  “This case should serve as warning to those predators who believe they can hide their crimes – whether here at home or half-a-world-away. We will always stand with the victims, and we will always work to bring justice in their names.”

According to evidence presented at trial, while in custody awaiting trial, Johnson made multiple efforts to tamper with witnesses and obstruct justice. Johnson contacted his victims online, encouraging them to lie and offering money and gifts. One message, sent via his relative’s Facebook account to an adult in Cambodia, discussed visiting a victim’s family and encouraging them to convince the victim to retract their statement, potentially in exchange for $10,000. Another message explains the need for a victim to say they were under duress and “pushed by police” to thumbprint a document.

The FBI investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Lauren E. Britsch of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey S. Sweet and Ravi Sinha of the District of Oregon prosecuted the case with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Potter for the District of Oregon.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this case.

 

  • This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY WORKER RAPES AFRICAN CHILDREN and DOESN’T GET LIFE IN PRISON!

A White Missionary Man 21, who sexually abused neglected children as young as five in Nairobi is sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Missionary Matthew Lane Durham, 21, was convicted on four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. He was sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison and must also pay more than $15,000 in restitution. Durham sexually abused children as young as five while doing missionary work in Nairobi in 2014.

Matthew Lane Durham

A former missionary from Oklahoma convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya has been sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison.

U.S. District Judge David L. Russell handed down the sentence on Monday to Matthew Lane Durham, 21, who had faced up to 30 years on each of four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. He also ordered Durham to pay restitution of $15,863.  Durham showed no emotion when the sentence was issued.

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In 2014 Durham worked as a missionary in Nairobi, Kenya, with neglected children in an orphanage

‘These were heinous crimes committed on the most vulnerable victims. He was their worst nightmare come true,’ Russell said. Durham asked the court for mercy prior to the judge’s order.

‘All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,’ he told the judge.

Prosecutors alleged Durham targeted orphans while volunteering at the Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi between April and June 2014. Durham had served as a volunteer since 2012 at the orphanage, which specializes in caring for neglected children.

He also molested several other children and forced others to perform sex acts on him, according to court documents.

In the alleged confession, he detailed forcing one young girl to have sex with him several times. ‘Any time I try to read the Bible or pray, this image comes to my head,’ he allegedly wrote.

Durham’s lawyer Stephen Jones, who has previously defended the likes of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, says Mrs Menja forced a false confession from the Durham with ‘pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo’ and accused her of running a cult out of her orphanage.

He told the Oklahoman newspaper that the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney was ‘shot through with inaccuracies.’

‘The events that occurred in Kenya the last maybe five six days that Matt was there frankly reveal some sort of pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo practiced on him, including confiscating his passport, false imprisonment, keeping food from him one day, delay in allowing him to depart from the country, misleading his parents,’ Mr Jones told the newspaper.

‘I don’t think Hollywood could make up what happened at this so-called orphanage. We’re on the ground in Kenya now. We’re finding out a lot about these people. This place is right on the outskirts of Nairobi. It’s like some cult over there.’

This was Durham’s third mission trip to the orphanage in recent years and Mrs Menja had previously praised his compassion and eagerness to work with the troubled children at the shelter, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal district court in Oklahoma City.

Durham helped raise money for the orphanage in his Oklahoma hometown, including giving a presentation at the Edmonton Rotary Club.

Mrs Menja and her husband – both Kenyan immigrants who live in Oklahoma – founded Upendo Kids International, a Christian charity, that looks after troubled, unwanted and neglected children in a community on the outskirts of Nairobi. Every year, young Christian missionaries from the United States travel to the orphanage to work with the children. 

A 12-member jury convicted Durham in June on seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, but Russell acquitted Durham on three of the charges in January.

 

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During that time, Duhram sexually abused and said he raped children as young as five in a 33-day span

letter

The letter reads: ‘I took her to the bathroom and forced her to have sex with me. This has happened on more than one occasion.’ This is one of the horrific confessions that Durham allegedly wrote out.

The same jury cleared Durham of accusations that he planned in advance to abuse the children before he left the United States. Defense attorney Stephen Jones has said Durham plans to appeal his convictions.

Orphanage officials and five of the children traveled from Kenya to testify at the trial. The children, who speak Swahili, testified through an interpreter only after Russell cleared the gallery and closed the courtroom to the public and media.

In a sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors asked Russell to sentence Durham to 120 years in prison — the maximum punishment he faced. Prosecutors also asked that Durham be placed under supervision for the rest of his life in the event he is ever released from prison.

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Excerpts of Durham’s confession were read in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gifford, including a section pertaining to the alleged assault of a 12-year-old girl

 

‘The defendant’s offenses were undoubtedly serious. He raped or sexually molested by force or threat four children ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years — some multiple times — in a span of just 33 days,’ prosecutors wrote in the memo.

Prosecutors also said Durham’s actions have had a chilling effect on the lives of dozens of foreign volunteers in Kenya and elsewhere ‘who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent and resources for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond.’

‘There is a real perception among Upendo’s local Kenyan community that more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the young male volunteers,’ prosecutors said.

Evidence produced by prosecutors included handwritten, signed confessions that Durham gave orphanage officials after he was accused of inappropriate behavior.

Jones has argued that the statements were coerced by orphanage officials who isolated Durham, took his passport and created the allegations to obtain $17,000 from the U.S. government for security cameras.

Defense attorney Stephen Jones has described Durham, who was 19 when he was charged in 2014, as ‘an emotionally vulnerable teenager’ who was struggling with ‘sexual identity and development’ while also being a devout Christian.

  • Authors note: How could this MONSTER violate these innocent children who were already suffering in an impoverished country but were SAFE from perverts and receive anything less than the death penalty?! These children will be damaged FOR LIFE all because they trusted a white missionary worker who came in the guise of Christianity!!!! He even raped a 5 year old! This is not the first time Christian missionary workers have traveled from the West to African countries only to engage in homosexual activities, paid child sex and rape, many of these sexual violations are not publicized in the news media or reported to the local authorities.  

Willow Creek Megachurch Paid $3.25M in Lawsuits Over Sex Abuse of Disabled Boys

The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”

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Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois reportedly paid $3.5 million in lawsuits over the sex abuse of two developmentally disabled boys.

The evangelical megachurch, which recently saw its entire elders board resign over unrelated accusations that former lead pastor Bill Hybels sexually abused women, made the payments in the lawsuits over several years, court records obtained by The Chicago Tribune show.

One payment of $1.75 million was apparently made in February, while another one of $1.5 million was made last year.

Former Willow Creek volunteer Robert Sobczak Jr., now 24, pled guilty in 2014 of abusing an 8-year-old with special needs at the church, alongside an older boy not connected with the church. A year earlier, he admitted to sexually abusing another disabled boy at the church, believed to have been 9 years old.

Willow Creek said that the experience was “heartbreaking,” and insisted that it has made changes.

“We have worked with law enforcement and security experts to learn how this happened and how we can ensure it never happens again,” the church said, according to FOX 32.

Cook County prosecutors had described in the lawsuits that Sobczak separately took the two boys to an isolated area of the church, where he molested them.

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What is more, the document shows that another church worker had raised concerns in January 2013 that Sobczak was “emotionally unhealthy.” The volunteer was allowed to remain with the program, however, and went on to abuse the second victim.

The second victim reportedly suffered “great mental and emotional harm” due to the abuse he suffered, and underwent therapy.

The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”

When the child sex abuse charges first came to light back in 2013, the megachurch said in a statement:

“Willow Creek engages in a rigorous screening and training process for all volunteers and staff in our Special Friends Ministry that includes a detailed child protection application process, checking of references, a national background check, cross checking the sex offender registry, and offering training in child protection. Mr. Sobczak had completed and passed this screening process before he began serving with the Special Friends Ministry.”

Heather Larson, who would go on to become Willow Creek’s executive pastor, before resigning this August over the Hybels scandal, insisted back then that church leadership is “very concerned for the child as well as the family.”

“We take rigorous steps to protect our children,” she stated at the time.

Larson, along with Willow Creek’s entire elder board, resigned earlier in August, admitting that they should have believed the multiple women who accused Hybels of sexual misconduct and abuse this year.

The church initially sided with Hybels, who has continued to maintain his innocence in the face of all claims. It later admitted that its founder had “fallen into sin.”

“While Bill Hybels was our founder and pastor, he was human, broken, and self-admittedly sinful. We believe that his sins were beyond what he previously admitted on stage, and certainly we believe that his actions with these women were sinful. We believe he did not receive feedback as well as he gave it, and he resisted the accountability structures we all need,” said in a statement about the issue Missy Rasmussen, one of Willow Creek’s elders.

Willow_Creek_Community_Church_sign

Youth Pastor Resigns 37 Years After Sexual Abuse of Children

They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth

On April 8, Pastor John Finley stood before his congregation in Tennessee with an announcement. After 31 years at the church, he resigned.

He held a microphone and read from a piece of paper.

“I made some poor choices and was involved with two females in inappropriate behavior,” Finley said. “There was no sex. Both ladies were over 18. In the best interest of our church, I choose to resign immediately.”

But the women who sent a letter that spurred Finley’s resignation from Bartlett Hills Baptist Church near Memphis have a different story to tell.

 

They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. It was true he hadn’t had sex with them, but he’d done more than kiss them, they said. He touched one’s breasts and put the other’s hand on his naked erection, they said.

The alleged abuse began 37 years ago at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Finley served as the youth minister for five years. Travis Avenue is well known in the Southern Baptist community, with strong ties to Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One of the women said she never told anyone about the abuse until college. The other tried once, telling a youth worker at the church. A rumor even reached a deacon. Still, Finley stayed at the church.

The Travis Avenue of today is pastored by Mike Dean, who arrived in 1991, five years after Finley left. He has worked with both women to confront Finley’s church in Tennessee and now wants his own church to acknowledge what happened, while also trying to make Travis Avenue a place of healing.

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 John Finley, former Travis Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, in the 1980s.

“That angered me, that we missed that opportunity to set this straight 30 years ago,” Dean said. “I was just angry that it happened and we couldn’t stop it or didn’t stop it.”

The story of Travis Avenue unfolds against a backdrop of the Southern Baptist Convention’s own recent reckoning with how it deals with abuse. In May 2018, Paige Patterson, head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was fired over mishandling reported sexual abuse. At June’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place in Dallas, much of the conversation revolved around the treatment of women and how churches ought to deal with reports of abuse.

It took 15 years’ worth of attempts to reach out to Bartlett Hills to get Finley to resign, according to the women and their advocates. Bartlett Hills leaders maintain that the two women were adults when the incidents took place.

Finley’s wife, Donna, told the Star-Telegram there had been no more than kissing and that both women were adults. She said her husband would not comment and provided the name of his lawyer, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“It’s been life-altering for me,” said Maria, one of the women who said she was molested by Finley. She’s 51 now and has asked to be identified by a pseudonym. “I believe that God has blessed me with a full life and a family and love and friends, but I don’t necessarily think this is the life, originally, that I was meant to have lived.”

The youth pastor

John Finley, now 62, became Travis Avenue’s youth minister in 1981, according to the church’s history book. In his mid-20s, he favored bright shirts with bright ties. The kids called him “John.” His favorites loved him and remembered him as quick with a joke and easygoing, just like a youth minister should be; the boys not in his inner circle bragged about dumping a toilet in his yard.

Sarah Beth — a pseudonym — said she was 15 when her abuse began in 1981. She’s 53 now and up to that point had attended Travis Avenue her whole life.

The first incident occurred on a youth trip bus, she said, when she thinks Finley thought she was asleep. She said he sat next to her and touched her breasts. She froze and waited for it to end.

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 John Finley, former Travis Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, left, on a choir tour in the 1980s.

 The alleged abuse went on from when Sarah Beth was 15 until she was 18, from 1981 to 1983, she said. She remembers one time when Finley rubbed her leg on a youth group trip to a Fort Worth buffet and arcade while she played a video game. Another time, she said, he pinned her against his truck door, kissing and touching her. Still another time, she remembers him touching her breasts.  Sarah Beth blocked out some of the alleged abuse.

“One time — and I’m not sure what age this is — I remember I was kind of watching it happen. It’s like I wasn’t even there. I was kind of ‘up here,’” she said, gesturing to the ceiling, “and I’m like, ‘Oh, is this happening?’”

As an adult, she said, having had normal relationships, she looked back and thought, “How was that enjoyable to him? I didn’t reciprocate.”

She went away to college in 1983. She’d never told anyone at the church what happened.

When Sarah Beth was at college, Maria, a girl two years her junior, came to Finley’s attention. Like Sarah Beth, Maria was a leader in her grade. She always wanted to do the right thing and considered herself a rule follower.

 

In August 1984, when Maria had just turned 17, the youth choir was on a bus trip to Colorado. Maria said the group was playing cards and trading seats, sitting on one another’s laps and lying down, and she wound up on Finley’s lap. She didn’t realize it was inappropriate — she had barely even kissed a boy then. So she didn’t think about it, she said, until Finley started touching her from behind.

“You know how when you’re nervous and you can feel your pulse just beating?” she said. “I remember that feeling, and I’m sure my face was red, my ears were red. I just couldn’t believe it was happening. Then he started just kinda raising his knee up underneath me, and I knew then that something was very weird and wrong.”

Little incidents happened throughout the trip, she said: pointed looks, Finley rubbing his arm or leg against hers. To this day, she remembers his blue eyes and the puffy bags under them, staring at her.

When the bus pulled up to drop the youth group back at church, Finley helped unload suitcases. Maria went to get hers when Finley, she said, grabbed her arm.

“He looked at me with his big blue eyes and he’s like, ‘Hey, hey, I love you. You know I love you, right?’” she said. She felt furious. She hadn’t processed what had happened and she felt sure Finley was trying to cover himself.

Mark Leitch was a member of the youth group at the same time as Maria, an active member but not a favorite of Finley’s. On the bus home from that Colorado choir trip, he said, he saw Finley touch Maria’s bottom with an erection.

Leitch told his parents, who didn’t believe him. His girlfriend, he said, told her parents — and her father believed her enough to speak to others. One of the others was a deacon and the father of another 17-year-old in the youth group, who was one of Maria’s best friends.

Amanda — who, on advice of her attorney, has asked to remain anonymous — remembers her parents called her into the kitchen and told her to ask Maria if Finley was doing anything inappropriate with her.

Amanda and Maria went to McDonald’s. Over soda and fries, Amanda tried to get Maria to tell her if anything was happening.

By the time the church’s ice cream social rolled around a few weeks later, Maria felt like she had to tell somebody what was happening. She asked one of the youth volunteers — a younger adult — if they could talk.

They sat down on the steps on the side of the church, and Maria talked in circles, not making eye contact. She rocked back and forth. Finally she told the youth worker what happened on the choir trip.

Looking back, Maria thinks the youth volunteer didn’t know what to do. The woman’s first reaction, Maria said, was to ask if the man touching her was her husband. No, Maria said, and she told her who it was. The volunteer asked a few details, if it had happened since the trip.

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 John Finley, former Travis Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, playing pool in the 1980s.

“Thank you for telling me,” Maria remembers her saying. “I’ll check on this.”

The youth volunteer wrote a statement in January 2018 about what had happened. She said she had heard about rumors of Finley and Sarah Beth before Maria approached her. She said she approached Finley in his office in 1984 with the rumor about Sarah Beth and Maria’s accusation.

“He admitted to the relationship with [Sarah Beth] but that it was over,” she wrote. “As far as [Maria] was concerned, he told me it only involved a kiss, and that he would leave her alone.”

The statement was provided to the Star-Telegram on the condition that the woman who wrote it not be identified.

Finley, she wrote, said he would talk to the then-pastor of Travis Avenue, who is now dead. The youth volunteer didn’t know if he ever did. She declined to comment further.

The youth worker told Maria she’d spoken to Finley and that he promised the behavior would end. But the incidents, Maria said, continued, and by then, Finley had warned her not to tell or he’d get in trouble. At that point, she decided it was useless to press it further.

Maria said the abuse happened once or twice a week. Finley, Maria said, made a point of driving her home after youth events. He would grab her and kiss her and touch her in his car. With a few exceptions — once, putting her hand on his penis — she said, he usually touched her.

Sometimes, she said, he would express guilt. He’d kiss her and touch her in a parked car and then move back to the driver’s side, repeating, “I don’t know why I keep doing this. I’m a good person, I love God. I’m a good man. I just don’t do this.”

Maria said she thought, “How come people don’t see this? How come people don’t know this? Surely people see this.”

Church flyer
Printed material for Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth from October 4, 1981 is shown in this photo.

John Finley left Travis Avenue Baptist Church in 1986. When Maria found out, she was working in a Fort Worth department store with a couple of other friends from church. When a friend told her, she ran to the back room and sobbed.

A 1989 directory from the Tennessee church John Finley would resign from almost 30 years later shows him smiling from a page of staff members in a red tie and a gray suit. He has the same tight curly hair the Travis Avenue kids remember. He’s listed as the church’s minister of education and youth.

‘I knew this day would come’

Away at college, Sarah Beth began telling some friends — several of whom have spoken to the Star-Telegram and confirmed her accounts — what had happened. In the early 1990s, she told her parents. Watching the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — and Anita Hill being questioned as she testified about being sexually harassed by the soon-to-be Supreme Court justice — rattled her enough that her mother knew something was wrong.

“It felt like, ‘This lady’s saying stuff, and people aren’t believing her,’” she said. “And that’s on the national stage. What’s going to happen to me if I tell anyone?”

In 1994, Maria and Amanda drove to visit a friend’s new house in Fort Worth. Brad Ward had been a member of the youth group and had been told what happened to Sarah Beth. Ward asked if Maria and Amanda had heard about Sarah Beth and told them that she had been abused by Finley.

Maria started crying when she and Amanda got back in the car. She told Amanda that Finley had molested her, too. Through some friends, she got Sarah Beth’s number, and the women talked about their experiences.

After she heard about Maria, Sarah Beth called Finley. She confronted him about what had happened. She remembers him saying: “I wish you girls would leave me alone.”

Maria also called Finley. She asked, “Why did it happen?” She described his response as flippant. “It’s just one of those things, and I’m sorry,” he told her.

In the late 1990s, Sarah Beth wrote two letters to Finley’s church in Tennessee, one to the head of the deacon board and one to the personnel chairman. She can’t remember their names now, but she detailed the allegations against Finley and had a phone conversation with one of the men.

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 John Finley, former Travis Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, center, is pictured with members of the youth group. Faces of the other members have been blurred to protect their identities.

From Sarah Beth’s point of view, she’d done what she could. They’d been warned.

The church would be warned again. Scott Floyd is the minister of counseling for Travis Avenue and serves as the director of the master of arts in counseling program at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in Irving, Texas. Sarah Beth went to him for counseling in 2003 about what had happened to her, and he learned there was another woman who had been abused as well. He heard Maria’s story separately and said he realized there were similarities between the two.

“It disturbed me a lot, and I struggled with it,” Floyd said. “I felt like I needed to do more than just try to help them individually.”

He got the women’s permission to do research. He spoke to Mike Dean, the Travis Avenue pastor, who agreed to let Floyd do anything the women were comfortable with. Floyd spoke to others who had been members of the youth group at the time. And then, with the women’s permission, he reached out to two officials at the church with a letter laying out his findings — and to Finley himself with a letter and phone call.

“The first thing he said to me is, ‘I knew this day would come,’” Floyd said. Floyd provided details about the allegations against Finley on the phone. Finley, he said, denied nothing.

Finley said there was no intercourse, there had been only two girls and that he was repentant. He also said he had not worked with children since being at Travis Avenue (according to the old church directory and Finley’s resignation statement, this is untrue: He worked as a youth minister at the Tennessee church before becoming the pastor).

 At Floyd’s urging, Finley agreed to get counseling and allow Floyd to check in with the counselor, Floyd says. Floyd said Finley went to several sessions.

“What I was hoping to do is make other people aware of what he had done in the past,” Floyd said. “I was trying to contain the likelihood he could do anything else.”

Finley would stay at the church until 2018.

What more can our church do?’

On April 3, 2018, just after he resigned from his position as the student minister of Tennessee’s Bartlett Hills Baptist Church, Nick Daniel received a package that had been FedEx-ed overnight to his home address.

When he opened it, he found a letter detailing five years’ worth of alleged sexual abuse by John Finley at the Travis Avenue church in Fort Worth during the 1980s. Finley had hired Daniel at Bartlett Hills.

“This day will serve as a line of demarcation for those receiving this document,” read the letter, written by Amanda and Sarah Beth and approved by Maria, dated April 2, 2018. “It will mark the day each of you became aware that your Executive Pastor committed sexually criminal acts and now have a responsibility to act in order to protect your church and its congregants.”

Daniel was shocked. John Finley had been at Bartlett Hills for 30 years. But the accusations in the document were detailed — and there were enough to make him doubt Finley, Daniel said.

Five other Bartlett Hills officials received identical letters the same day.

The next Daniel heard, Finley had resigned — with a statement different from what the documents said had happened.

“For me personally, it becomes a struggle,” Daniel said. He is now working at another Tennessee church. “I worked with this man for eight years, I never knew any of this. It makes you question your own ability, your own discernment.”

Spurred by the #MeToo movement and its spillover into the church world, Sarah Beth and Maria had decided they were ready to try again. This time, Amanda — their old friend from youth group — took on a role as their advocate.

In January 2018, both women said, they filed reports with the Fort Worth Police Department.

The report filed by Sarah Beth alleges that Finley sexually assaulted her several times from the time she was about 15 to the time she was about 17 years old. The report says Sarah Beth told police Finley kissed her on multiple occasions. Once, while fully clothed, he lay on top of her on the floor, kissed her and became aroused, the report said. On another occasion, Finley put his hand under her shirt and rubbed her breast, Sarah Beth told police.

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John Finley, former Travis Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, is shown in the 1980s.

Maria provided the Star-Telegram with a portion of the report she said she filed with police. It does not identify Finley but says Maria reported that she was assaulted by her youth minister on and off for two years, beginning around 1984. The report alleges the youth minister touched her buttocks, then pushed his knee into her groin. It also alleges the youth minister kissed her, fondled her breasts and asked her to kiss and touch him.

In the letter to Bartlett Hills, Amanda put herself forward as the advocate who would be the point of contact with the church. Ted Rasbach, chairman of the personnel committee at Bartlett Hills, responded to Amanda and declared himself the spokesman for the church.

In an interview, he said he and the other recipients immediately took the letter to Finley. Finley, he said, “acknowledged he had committed inappropriate behaviors but that they were not with minors.” Rasbach, who has been at Bartlett Hills since the early 1960s, thought Finley had been a wonderful pastor. He’d never heard any allegations against him of inappropriate behavior until the letter arrived.

“The communications in the letters had no basis in facts,” Rasbach said.

On April 8, Finley read his resignation speech to the church, saying as much. Backlit by the chancel’s purple lighting, he told the church that he had been involved in “inappropriate behavior” with two women, both over 18, over 30 years ago in another church. “Nothing like this has happened in our church,” he said.

As he walked off the chancel, a congregant called out, “John, John, please don’t do this. We’ve all made mistakes.”

Rasbach provided a transcript of Finley’s remarks.

“I was angry when I saw that,” Maria said. “I was like, ‘How can you sit here and lie? You have the opportunity to come clean.’ ”

Amanda sent an email the day after Finley resigned, demanding that the church correct his resignation speech. Rasbach asked for police reports. Amanda promised to travel to Tennessee with other documents and obtain the police reports. Maria would travel with her, ready to tell her story to the entire congregation. Ultimately, Rasbach replied that the committee decided a visit would be unnecessary.

“We’re not sure what the two ladies are wanting, at this point,” he said. “John Finley has resigned. What more can our church do?”

 

Moving forward

Donna Finley, John’s wife, picked up the phone at the couple’s Tennessee home on July 3. More than anything, she wished this whole thing would go away.

“I can tell you for certain it was no more than kissing,” she said. Referencing Sarah Beth, who signed her real name to the letter to Bartlett Hills, Donna Finley added, “She should be over this. She cannot live her life trying to destroy my husband.”

Donna Finley said her husband would not comment and deferred comment to his lawyer, Jeffrey Jones, an attorney based in Bartlett, Tennessee.

Jones did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls over the course of the last week. The Star-Telegram sent Jones a list of 34 questions regarding each accusation Maria and Sarah Beth made against Finley, as well as recollections others had of interactions with Finley over the nearly four decades of his time at the Travis Avenue and Bartlett Hills churches.On Sunday, July 8, Pastor Mike Dean informed his congregation at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth of what had happened. He put out a statement from the church, outlining that the church had learned about the allegations in 2003 and had worked since to help Sarah Beth and Maria warn the Tennessee church.

“Our first instinct is self-defense, and yet I knew we needed to resist that,” he said in an interview. “This is something that happened. It happened here at our place.”

The church has more safeguards in place than it did in the 1980s: background checks, windows between rooms, a two-adult policy for staff working with children. And the youth minister copies his wife or another worker when texting a student.

He hopes that Travis Avenue can help other churches deal with such circumstances in the future and use the situation to minister to abuse victims in its own congregation.

In December 2017, before confronting Bartlett Hills, Amanda had sent an email through the Southern Baptist Convention’s website asking how to turn in a pedophile. She never got a response. She wrote an email to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission — the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention — and presented the situation. She asked for guidance.

“Specifically engaging in this matter is not in the scope of our role, authority or ability,” Lauren Konkol, the commission’s team coordinator, wrote in an email back to Amanda on Feb. 3. “Within Southern Baptist churches, the local church is the highest authority, and we as a denominational organization have no authority to remove or rebuke any local pastor.”

Konkol deferred response to the commission’s vice president for public policy and general counsel, Travis Wussow.

“We’ve been grappling with what is our responsibility, what is our mandate,” he said. “But what autonomous doesn’t mean is we are autonomous from every authority.” Criminal justice, he said, belongs to the state to execute.

The autonomy of the local church — a backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is technically a voluntary association of local churches — can be a sticking point in rooting out abuse. The SBC itself is hesitant to publicly rebuke pastors and churches.

A proposed database of offenders, which has been talked about since 2007, has been repeatedly defeated. In 2008, the SBC executive committee announced it would not support it, citing the “belief in the autonomy of each local church.”

After this year’s convention and its focus on abuse, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has been tasked with studying the viability of creating one. No church has yet been kicked out of the SBC for mishandling abuse, but Roger Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s executive committee, said it could be done.

“Who has the authority to go to a church and say: ‘Your pastor has a problem?’ There isn’t an authority within our convention with the legitimacy to do this,” said a lawyer familiar with the SBC, who required anonymity to speak freely. “Southern Baptists as a whole have to look at each other and say: ‘Let’s do something about this.’”

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 A 1982 Travis Avenue Baptist Church Youth Choir tour belt.

After Finley’s resignation, Amanda sent an email to Mitch Martin, executive director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association, a Tennessee-based network of Southern Baptist churches, outlining what Finley had allegedly done and the discrepancies in his resignation speech. In an email to Amanda, Martin promised to “discourage John from pursuing vocational ministry” and, if a church came asking about him, he would “tell them that I cannot in good conscience recommend him.”

Martin told Randy Davis, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, that Finley had resigned and that there had been accusations made against him. Davis said he didn’t know the specifics. He hasn’t informed other churches about Finley, he said, because he doesn’t have enough firsthand information. He said he wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to alerting the churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s network to an abuser, though.

“It is pressing the envelope of church autonomy, but I believe we need to become more involved in informing our network of churches how they can understand their responsibilities in vetting someone,” he said. “We’re desiring to be very proactive in helping churches to deal with these things openly.”

Long-term effects

Maria never dealt with her emotions until she wrote her impact statement to send to Bartlett Hills. For a while, she felt like nobody cared. For years, she carried blame and self-loathing for what happened. 

Mark Leitch, the boy on the bus who tried to alert his parents to what he saw happening with Maria, is 51 now and still living in Fort Worth. He’s carried the incident with him ever since, as well.

“As a young man, I felt like I should have done something to protect my friends,” he said. “I just hurt so bad that I didn’t do anything.”

Sarah Beth feels like the alleged abuse — though it was physical — affected her more psychologically and emotionally than physically. As an adult, she asked herself how the abuse kept happening. She was disappointed when she found out recently that a youth worker had been told what happened to Maria and that there had been rumors about her, yet Finley remained at the church.

“Why didn’t anyone check into that?” she asked. “I feel like the opportunity has come up to help other people — to either prevent something or help people who have been hurt. I’m trying to do what I wish someone would have done for me.”

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 This photo shows Fort Worth’s Travis Avenue Baptist Church in the 1980s.

Former SC Baptist Convention Employee and Missionary Charged in Texas For Sex Assault Accusation From 1997

Mark Edwin Aderholt, of Columbia, has been charged by the Arlington, TX Police Department following an allegation from 1997 in Texas.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) –

A South Carolina man has been charged with the criminal sexual assault of a person younger than 17 that happened in a different state two decades ago – and before his arrest, he resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, headquartered in Columbia. 

Mark Aderholt
 According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mark Edwin Aderholt has been charged by the Arlington, TX Police Department following an allegation from 1997 in Texas. (Source: Tarrant County Jail)

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mark Edwin Aderholt, of Columbia, has been charged by the Arlington, TX Police Department following an allegation from 1997 in Texas. He was originally booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on July 3, the newspaper says, and then booked into the Tarrant County, TX Jail on July 9. 

The newspaper did not expound on the details of the assault claim or what Aderholt is being accused of specifically. 

The newspaper says Aderholt, “prolific as an international missionary,” graduated from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 2000. 

According to the SCBC, he resigned as the associate executive director and chief strategist in June prior to his arrest. The SCBC released a statement on June 15 following Aderholt’s resignation, saying: 

Dr. Gary Hollingsworth, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, has received and accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Mark Aderholt who had been serving for the past year and [a] half as the Associate Executive Director and Chief Strategist for the Convention.

While accepting this with a heavy heart, Dr. Hollingsworth did so based on the importance of staying focused on the Convention’s Vision statement of “seeing every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel.”

Hollingsworth informed the Executive Board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the staff of the SCBC, all the Associational Directors of Missions and leaders of the Convention’s Institutional Ministry Partners and wanted to make sure all South Carolina Baptists were made aware of this staff change.

He and the SCBC staff are committed to continuing to see the Gospel advanced here in South Carolina and around the world by working to fulfill the Convention mandated priorities of evangelism, church strengthening/discipleship, missions mobilization and church planting.

 Aderholt is now out of jail on a $10,000 bond with conditions. The conditions of his bond are not known. 

 

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Pastor Charged With Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Parishioner

“Pastor” Freeman said “We insert things into people” and “you don’t ask what happens [during deliverance]…

MMF
 “Pastor” Meally Morris Freeman 

A Minnesota opportunist who calls himself a pastor sexually assaulted a 28-year-old woman after she became unconscious during two “anointing sessions”  and has now been charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct that could land him in prison for 15 years and a fine of $30,000.

A criminal complaint against Meally Morris Freeman, the 55-year-old “pastor” of Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota said the woman accusing him of criminal behavior saw him as a “spiritual father” when she went to him for spiritual guidance starting on Sept. 20, 2017, according to Fox 9.

In January, however, she told police that Freeman sexually assaulted her at the church which led to his arrest on Tuesday.

MMF2

She explained that during an anointing session at the church, the pastor anointed her with oil and advised her that she was in need of “deliverance” that would require a one-on-one session with him.

Trusting the spiritual guidance, the woman said she attended a one-on-one session with Freeman and he gave her small cups of ‘oil’ to drink. Soon after they began to pray, the woman says she lost consciousness…

When she woke up, the woman explained that her underwear was wet and there was oil on her stomach and near her breasts. The pastor told her he had “anointed all places, but that he didn’t see all places,” and informed her she needed a second session that would take place after Bible study that night. The woman said in their second deliverance session she became unconscious again but when she woke up this time her pants and underwear were hanging ripped at her ankles and her shirt and bra were pulled up over her chest.

She said the pastor, who was spraying a water bottle filled with oil on her private areas, also inappropriately touched her genitals and anus.

It wasn’t until she shared what happened to a friend that the woman realized she was sexually assaulted. 

The woman eventually confronted Freeman and recorded their conversation without him knowing. Freeman did not deny touching her genitals, but instead discussed the “deliverance process.” He admitted he anointed her breasts with oil and told her, “We insert things into people” and “you don’t ask what happens [during deliverance], you don’t go into details and that deliverance can be very tempting.”

The woman said at another meeting a church elder, Freeman and his wife [who should be arrested too] told her not to report the incident to police.

This disgusting so-called pastor Meally Freeman was arrested by Brooklyn Center Minnesota  police Tuesday around 4 p.m. and is in custody at Hennepin County Jail.

MMF3

This is an absolute mockery of God and His Kingdom…. Psalms 118:8 says It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man; it’s funny how Christians seem to overlook that verse.  If you need “deliverance” from sexual sins make a decision to live above all evil and  JUST STOP DOING IT, then you’ll be delivered! James 4:7~ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Many unfavorable “church” situations can be avoided if Christians would obey whats written in the bible instead of just reading it.