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.

Two Priests Caught Performing Sex Act Publicly IN BROAD DAYLIGHT

“The fact that they are priests is above and beyond shocking,” “They’re supposed to be leading good example and they’re doing exactly the opposite.”

According to MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) —  On September 04, 2018 two Chicago-area priests were charged Monday with Lewd and Lascivious behavior and Indecent Exposure after being caught performing a sexual act inside a car parked on a Miami Beach street. 

The Car

According to Miami Beach Police, 39-year-old Diego Berrio and 30-year-old Edwin Giraldo Cortez were in the front seat of a car performing oral sex.

Police got a 911 call about a lewd and lascivious incident taking place in the 1300 block of Ocean Drive.

When officers arrived, the police report states, the two were performing sex acts on each other “in full view of the public passing by on Ocean Drive and the sidewalk.”

It was 3:20 in the afternoon. 

Chicago Priests
 Diego Berrio (left) and Edwin Giraldo Cortez were arrested and charged with Lewd and Lascivious behavior and Indecent Exposure after being caught performing a sexual act inside a car on Miami Beach. (Miami Beach Corrections Department)

“Yesterday, we received a call indicating that two men were performing a sex act inside of a car. This is in broad daylight, 13th Street and Ocean Drive. There are no tints on the window,” explained Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez.

When police arrived, it was still going on.

Police said Berrio and Giraldo Cortez were so engaged, they didn’t even notice that police were there.

Dirty Priests

“We observed the two males performing the sex act, the officer had to tap on the window to get their attention,” said Rodriguez.

Both men were placed under arrest without incident.

Candice Parker was with her son at the playground.

“The fact that they are priests is above and beyond shocking,” she said. “I don’t understand this kind of behavior. They’re supposed to be leading good example and they’re doing exactly the opposite.”

The arrest reports state both men are priests from Arlington Heights, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago.

The address they gave comes back to the Mission San Juan Diego Parish in Arlington Heights.

“Their profession is irrelevant, in fact our trouble with this is that this is broad daylight, for anyone to see including children.  There’s a time and a place for everything and this certainly was not the time and place,” said Rodriguez.

Police point out there is a children’s playground near the intersection of 13th and Ocean Drive.

Berrio was charged with a misdemeanor charge of Lewd and Lascivious Behavior and Giraldo Cortez was also charged with a misdemeanor charge of Lewd and Lascivious Behavior plus Indecent Exposure.

Late Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement regarding the two priests.

“We were informed this morning that Rev. Diego Berrio, pastor of Misión San Juan Diego in Arlington Heights, Ill., and Rev. Edwin Giraldo Cortes, an extern priest from Soacha, Colombia who served at St. Aloysius Parish in Chicago for one month, August 1 to August 31, 2018, were arrested in Miami on September 3, 2018.

“Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, has removed Fr. Berrio from ministry and withdrawn his faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago, effective immediately. The archdiocese will appoint an administrator for the Misión San Juan Diego as soon as possible.

“Archdiocese representatives have been in contact with Fr. Cortes’ home diocese of Soacha, Colombia and informed them that Fr. Cortes will not be granted additional faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“It is our responsibility to ensure those who serve our people are fit for ministry. We take this matter very seriously and will provide updates as they become available.”

The two men have since bonded out of jail but had nothing to say as they left.

Out of Jail

 

Housekeeper sues Pastor Marvin Winans for “Church Slavery”

Marvin Winans is accused of requiring a worker to donate money towards birthday gifts and pay 10% of her income as a “tithe” as a condition to maintain employment

 

Her job was to clean the church. But the church tried to clean her out instead, she claims.

Perfecting Church

In a blistering lawsuit against the Grammy-winning Rev. Marvin Winans and his Perfecting Church, a housekeeper named Lakaiya Harris claims the gospel music star and church officials shook her down for money. They required her to donate money toward birthday gifts for supervisors and managers and to tithe 10% of her salary to the church, the lawsuit claims.

When she refused to pony up, Harris says, she was fired.

According to the 18-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, it was Winans who demanded that Harris donate 10 percent of her $18,000-a-year housekeeper’s salary to the church. Winans allegedly did this during a meeting in a conference room in 2017, telling Harris  “that it had come to his attention” that she earned $18,000 the year before.

” ‘So you owe us $1,800,’ ” Winans allegedly told Harris, the suit states. “When she stated that she didn’t have the money, he offered to deduct the $1,800 directly from her biweekly paychecks.”

Harris refused, stating she was not going to let the church deduct $1,800 from her paycheck and “complained that her job had already been threatened for not giving ‘birthday money,’ ” the suit states.

According to the lawsuit, supervisors repeatedly required Harris to give $10-$25 to buy birthday presents for managers and once offered to deduct the money from her paycheck “if need be.” One supervisor allegedly pestered Harris when she refused to donate to the birthday fund, telling her “Well, you’re going to have to give this $10. … I know you have $10 floating around in your little world, you just don’t want to give it up. Everybody has to give this,” the suit states.

Marvin Winans 2
 Marvin Winans

 At issue for Harris is that she is both a member of Perfecting Church, and an employee. In her lawsuit, she claims that other employees who work for the church but don’t belong to it aren’t required to tithe as a condition of employment.

But she is. And forcing only church-member-employees to give back 10 percent of their earnings violates employment and civil rights laws, Harris claims.

As of late Wednesday, Winans could not be reached for comment. It is not clear whether he knows about the civil suit as such lawsuits typically take longer than a day to get served on defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the church not only demanded money from Harris, but also cheated her out of overtime pay by manipulating her time clock records “in order to avoid paying her for overtime hours worked.”

“Perfecting also implemented an unlawful time-docking policy to penalize employees who arrived late,” states the lawsuit, which cited the church’s Tardiness Policy.

“Each time an employee is late he or she will be docked according to the following schedule,” states the policy, as cited in the suit. For example, if an employee is tardy 1-15 minutes, they get 15 minutes of pay docked from their check.   

offering plate

According to the lawsuit, this is what prompted Harris to sue:

Harris was employed by Perfecting from March 2012 through January 2017. She worked as a housekeeper and spent the first several weeks of her employment cleaning the Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts, an elementary and middle school headed by Winans. After several weeks, she was transferred to Perfecting’s main church on East Nevada, on the city’s east side.

Winans is the founder and president of Perfecting Church, which owns at least 90 commercial and residential properties in Detroit and employs about 40 workers to clean and maintain them. Among them was Harris.

At a staff meeting in 2016, Harris openly stated to Winans that she was not happy about not being paid for work she was doing. In October of that year, Winans directed Harris to meet with him in his office, where he asked her why she hadn’t attended church recently. According to the suit, Harris said that she was exhausted from working long hours and not being paid, and complained that her job was being threatened for refusing to donate toward birthday gifts to supervisors.

Three months later, Harris was summoned to another meeting with Winans and another church official. It was at this meeting that Winans mentioned the tithing issue, and deducting $1,800 from Harris’ check.

Harris wouldn’t hear of it.

So Winans responded: ” ‘Well, that pretty much terminates your employment with us. … You can go ahead and proceed with the exit interview.’ “

Harris was fired that day. 

Editors Note: This is what “the church” has reduced itself to! A money hungry, non God fearing, unholy business organization! Today’s Christianity is a man made kingdom that has every spirit present in it except the Spirit of God! 

Click this link to read what CeCe Winans did for money

 

 

Pastor and Step-Dad Raped Teen Girl For A Year, and Threatened Her With Voodoo

Perverted Pastor Ricardo Strachan and Avo Roker arrested for molesting the same little girl

Two perverts

The step-father of a South Florida teen girl was arrested Saturday after police say he sexually assaulted his 13-year-old step-daughter for a year.

The arrest of Avo Roker was made about a week after 40-year-old “Pastor” Ricardo Strachan was placed behind bars for molesting the same girl. Police say Roker introduced Strachan to the girl at church and that the duo threatened to kill her and conduct voodoo rituals on her family if she told anybody.

Both men were booked into Broward County Jail. Avo Roker was held without bond and Ricardo Strachan, who used to preach at The Prophetic Worshippers International Church, was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 years old and held on a $100,000 bond. According to a police report, Strachen had sex with the girl more than 36 times either in the parking lot of a high school during school hours or at a nearby motel between January to December of 2016.

Catholic Church Guilty Of Covering Up Sexual Abuse of Over 1000 Children in Pennsylvania

…priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera.

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  • More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania had been sexually abusing little boys and girls for over 70 years.
  • A thousand children were identified as victims in the investigation, but there are possibly thousands more.
  • The Vatican refrained from making any comments about the situation.

More than 300 “predator priests” across Pennsylvania were reportedly sexually abusing children for over 70 years, according to a new grand jury, who got internal documents from the state’s six Catholic dioceses dating back to 1947: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

The grand jury states, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

On Tuesday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the cover-ups and abuse were reported by other state grand juries and they reviewed the information included in the “secret archives” — referring to the reports that hid the abuse that church leaders did for decades.

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The jury report, consisting of 1,400 pages, described the gruesome details of some of the alleged abuse. A boy was raped repeatedly from age 13 to 15 and later suffered from severe spine injuries because of the priest who raped him. The boy later died of an overdose due to painkiller addiction.

In Pittsburgh, priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera. The report states that because of the cover-up, “almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted.”

In Pennsylvania, victims of child sex abuse have until they reach age 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges. The oldest victim who spoke to the grand jury was aged 83.

James VanSickle, 55, recounts the sexual abuse he suffered under the hands of a priest in Erie back in 1981, but because the statute of limitations had passed, the priest was not prosecuted for it.

As he testified before the grand jury, VanSickle said “This is the murder of a soul. We don’t have a statute of limitations on the crime of murder. We don’t go after victims . . . and question their ‘repressed memories’ or ‘recovered memories.”

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Many questions now arise about whether high-level church officials could still be covering up their criminal actions.

The grand jury called for a law allowing older victims to file a case against the church for the abuse they’ve suffered as children, in addition to ending such limitations for criminal cases.

The Vatican press office refrained from making any comments to the situation, as the attention is now focused on Pope Francis, with many Catholics waiting on how he would handle this situation of abuse to restore the Catholic Church’s integrity.

Across the country, Pennsylvania is believed to have steered the most number of investigations on child sex abuse.

The recent grand jury report was described by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro as the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”

Source: Fox News

Pro-Gay Church Plans to Build Worship Space/Brewery & Donate Profits to Planned Parenthood

“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.

Pro Gay Church
 Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., plans to convert former bookstore into a worship space and public brewery.  (Google Street View)

A building in Santa Cruz, Calif., is being converted into a worship space and public brewery by a pro-gay church that plans to donate some of its beer proceeds to Planned Parenthood, according to reports.

Members of the Greater Purpose Community Church now meet on Sundays at a food lounge to pray, listen and drink beer, KNTV reports.

“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.

Planned Parenthood has offices in the former bookstore VanHall plans to turn into a brewery by next summer, The Santa Cruz Good Times weekly newspaper reported.

“A church that serves beer and gives the profits away to places like Planned Parenthood is really exciting to me,” the pastor told the paper.

Santa Cruz’s recent Pride Parade included a contingent from Greater Purpose, the paper reported.

VanHall told KION-TV in a report Friday that on Sundays there will be church in the bar “but it’s going to be before we open to the public.”

The pastor told KNTV that holding services at the food lounge gave him the idea for the brewery.

“I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be great if a church could figure out a way to make a product where they split the profits with local community service organizations?’ We were like ‘hey, we love beer, we love making beer, why not do a brewery?'” he said.

Anyway, he said, his sermons are always better after a couple of beers.

A White Maryland Priest Threw a Black Family Out Of Church At Their Mother’s Funeral Because Someone Accidentally Broke A “sacred chalice”

… his focus was on a stupid material item- a stupid chalice, an item that doesn’t even have life in it!

 

In Maryland, Rev. Michael Briese was caught on camera last week in an unbelievable confrontation with relatives of the late Agnes Hicks at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Charlotte Hallnews station WTTG reported.

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The feud began when someone accidentally knocked over the church’s sacred chalice before the start of the Wednesday morning service. The chalice looked something like the below photo.

chalice

“That’s when all hell broke loose,” Hicks’ daughter, Shanice Chisely said. “[Briese] literally got on the mic and said, ‘there will be no funeral, there will be no mass, no repass, everyone get the hell out of my church.”

Briese could be seen in a very disturbing cellphone video near the casket chastising loved ones over the incident. The family contacted police who escorted them to a funeral home willing to perform the service.

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Relatives, however, were devastated that Hicks’ service was not at the church where she was baptized as a young girl.

“This was uncalled for and it really hurt me,” her brother, Larry Hicks said. “It really did, to see your loved one come there to rest and to be shut down like that.”

The priest apologized for his actions Thursday in an open letter published in the Maryland Independent.

“I uttered words I never use, and treated people I have lived with and committed my life to serve in an unacceptable manner,” he said. “Instead of care and compassion for the grieving family and friends, my focus turned to anger.”

  • Editors Note: No, his focus was on a stupid material item- a stupid chalice, an item that doesn’t even have life in it! His true nature came out, he spoke to the black family as if they were animals because that’s what he really thinks of them and most likely of all people of color. I’m sure that his apology wasn’t volunteered but suggested by his overseer. Besides all of the children who have been and are most likely still being sexually molested in the Catholic church, this has to be one of the most disturbing things that I’ve ever heard. May the soul of  Ms. Agnes Hicks rest in peace, and I pray that her family will find solace- somehow.
rest mama
 Ms. Agnes Hicks

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.

Finley
 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.

Travis 3
 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.

Travis 4
 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.

Finley 5
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.’”

Belt
 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.”

Travis church
 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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