Because It’s Time to Take Down That Post

UPDATE: As of tonight, 9:20 PST, Leadership Journal’s Marshall Shelley and Christianity Today Int’l.’s Harold B. Smith posted a full apology for the post (note the new subtitle) and REMOVED it. You can read their apology at the former link. It’s a really, really kind one, and I’m grateful they saw the light and grateful for every person who cried out that they needed to.  You can read more about it here where Dianna Anderson, the first blogger on the scene earlier this week, sums it all up.

TW: Discussion of child abuse

Dear Leadership Journal and Christianity Today,

I’ve written to you privately already, like so many others. I’ve spoken out on Twitter about this, like so many others. And now it’s time to join others in blogging about it too. (Please see Dianna AndersonSuzannah Paul, and Elizabeth Esther, among others.*)

You let a convicted statutory rapist tell his “side” of things in a pages-long post where the victim’s youth was relegated to a side note and the word “abuse” is never mentioned. You let him discuss it as if it were a mutual, consensual affair, as if you have forgotten the influence that a 30-something youth pastor would have over a vulnerable teenage girl. Maybe you don’t know. Maybe you don’t understand how these things work. If you don’t … if you’re really that naive, I beg you to start studying cases like this. Follow the life of a teenage girl in a scenario like this as she journeys into adulthood.

“But he says it was ‘mutual,’ ” is probably your argument. And, sure, she might have thought it was “mutual” at the time too. Do you understand that’s what happens when a man with power and control sets his eyes on someone vulnerable who is NOT his for the taking?

Do you understand that even small children who are abused often believe it’s “mutual” and believe that they share the guilt and that they “wanted it”? They believe this, because their predator  skillfully convinced them that it was true. And surely you GET that it’s never the fault of a small child, right? (Please tell me you do.) So what you seem to be missing here, what’s important here is that you understand that a teenage girl, whether 13 or 17 may have the body of a woman, but she is NOT a woman, and she is NO match for a much older man, her spiritual leader, who has made her his prey.

Spare me the Lolita speech, men of Leadership Journal, because I have seen up close what this scenario does to a teenage girl.

Do you understand that as this girl grows into adulthood she will very likely be more and more horrified by what an adult spiritual leader in her life led her into? Do you understand that it’s statutory rape for a reason? Do you get that he is in jail FOR A REASON? Do you even understand what a horror it is that you let her abuser go on and on and on for pages and pages talking like this was an adult consensual affair, when she was obviously young enough that it LANDED HIM IN JAIL? Do you have any inkling of what he’s done to her and her life and her self-esteem and her sexuality and her emotional health and her spiritual health and everything about her not just for right now but most likely for years to come?

He has taken something from her, and that’s why this is a crime, and I’m not just talking about virginity. If you don’t understand this, I beg you to start listening to the people who do. I beg you to set your egos and need to defend aside and start listening to the people who do.

Did you ask her family for permission to let this predator tell it this way? Did you ask his wife (former wife?) for permission to let him tell it this way? Did you consider getting perspective on him and his sermonizing of his sin from ANYONE who is a victim here?

Did you even think about the message you are sending other youth pastors who you are supposedly “trying to warn” here? What you have actually done is you have let a predator tell any other potential predators that their attraction to students is just something they should tell someone about. You’ve made it an “accountability” issue and you even tagged it accordingly. As if it’s an attraction to an adult of the opposite sex or some minor temptation that doesn’t have the potential to destroy a young and vulnerable heart, as if someone in that position–considering committing a sex crime–doesn’t have a ticking time bomb strapped to their chest ready to take out another human being at any moment.

Any supposed warnings to other pastors out there about a scenario like this should have simply read:

“If you find yourself attracted to one of your students, get out of youth ministry ASAP and get yourself into counseling, because you are contemplating doing something against the law. You are entertaining the idea of ruining another person’s life. You are toying with the notion of doing something that makes you a sex offender. YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING A SEXUAL CRIME. Wake up and get yourself out of ministry and get yourself some help before it’s too late.”

THAT’S a warning. And if this man were truly repentant AND UNDERSTOOD THE GRAVITY OF WHAT HE’S DONE, that’s what he would have said.

We don’t need even one more sex offender preying on our kids under the guise of doing great ministry, and we certainly don’t need even one more evangelical ministry that doesn’t get it. Leadership Journal, you really should have known better, and the fact that you didn’t speaks volumes about you. It speaks volumes about why this is a problem in our churches. It speaks volumes about all the advocacy work still left to do in regard to sexual abuse. Why men like this get a pass, why men like this will get nothing more than a slap on the wrists if no one has the courage to call the cops. You’re already letting him preach a sermon–that’s exactly what it was–and he hasn’t even finished serving his time.

Please, please, for the love all things, TAKE DOWN THAT POST.


Tamara Rice


If you agree, please join me in Tweeting #TakeDownThatPost, write to Leadership Journal at or share one of the many articles circulating about this right now.

*If you must see the post for yourself, I get that. Please do so by using this link, provided by reader Joseph: It allows you to read the post without becoming another click for them to count.


UPDATE as of Friday, June 13, 2014:

Editors at Leadership Journal have added a new letter at the beginning of the article that basically tries to address the controversy but falls very short. This note highlights the problem of law suits in churches (no, really) and briefly mentions caring for victims of abuse before going on to make it known that they have altered the criminal’s wording. Yes, they have now put words into his mouth. For example when he used to say “we” regarding the girl, it now says “I.” This is not nearly good enough, friends. They needed him to sound more sorry, so they put words into his mouth. The whole essay was fundamentally problematic and offensive. It needs to come down. 


100 thoughts on “Because It’s Time to Take Down That Post

      • Thanks for reading, TheologyArchaeology.

        I did try to go to your sites (all three) and find out who you are before approving this basically anonymous comment, because I have a policy (read it up there above) that when anonymity is chosen to give someone the freedom to speak rudely, those comments will not be published. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on TheologyArcheology to indicate your identity. And unfortunately it seems you like your voice, which you repeatedly describe as “for the glory of God” on each of your three related sites, to be anonymous… for the glory of God? Nameless AND faceless. And for that reason this will be the only time I let one of your comments of this nature through. Anonymity on my blog is reserved for those who speak kindly or those who have been abused (or through any other hard thing) and would like to speak freely about their pain.

        Your statements are perplexing and frankly rude, coming from an anonymous stranger couched in no grace and no genuine concern for me. You will not be allowed to comment here again on my blog, which I willingly put my name and face on, for accountability to all who know me, unless you identify yourself by your full name, acknowledge that you are the author of this comment, and are willing to set aside your assumptions about me so that we can have an actual conversation about the matters at hand.

        If you look through past posts I frequently allow dissent in my comments and am happy to spend a bit of time in dialog with those who are constructive in their disagreement. I do not have time to write dissertations here in the comments section, but will answer actual questions from actual people MOST of the time.

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    • I am exhausted too. Sometimes it’s too much and I wonder if we’ll ever see a marked change at the highest levels of the church. Thanks for reading.

  2. Tamara, this is SO well said, so true. As a counselor, bear witness to the suffering and struggles of those who have suffered sexual abuse and you are SPOT ON! Its really disheartening that such a large publication would have so little insight into this.

    I just appreciate your voice a lot. Its a gift.

    • Thanks, Sam. Yes, thank you for the encouragement. And, yes, it’s as if these men at Leadership Journal have never known a teenage girl who’s walked that road and what her life might become. He was in the driver’s seat. It’s a crime for a reason. You don’t get to describe crimes as an affair, no matter how much it felt to this man like an affair. It. Was. Not. When he speaks of her guilt, I shudder. It’s just sad.

      • I appreciate your defense of the victim. I know both the abused and the perpetrator. You are right to say its a crime for a reason… I am equally disturbed to hear an “affair” is somehow a lessening of sin. There was a time it was also a criminal act. Many in the church still consider it so. Perhaps his use of the term seems a lessening of sin… or it was the strongest term he could latch on to. I hope he hears from you and thank you for hate of sin.

  3. As a mother of two children, one of whom is moving into adolescence, the Leadership Journal piece horrifies me. Thank you for helping me to understand it better. Giving the perpetrator a platform simply feeds his narcissism. Disgusting.

    • Yes, narcissism is what most people are saying and narcissist is what most abusers are. As many have said, the ones who are pastors are great with words. They sermonize away their guilt. They are good at doing exactly what he’s done. I’m just horrified that Leadership Journal can’t see it, and I’m starting to wonder whose friend or relative he must be that they are not seeing in those 5 pages what so many others with experience with abusers can see.

  4. Pingback: Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost | Defeating the Dragons

  5. For some reason I cant seem to post on their site, but if I could this is what I would say…

    Dear Anonymous Pastor,

    I don’t know if you will see this. But I hope so because we need to talk.

    By the time I was 14 my family was a mess. I looked to the Church to be my family. I gave my heart to the Lord and was at church any time the doors were open. I came early and stayed late – just so I could be with “my real family.” I loved Bible study, I sang in the choir. I lived for summer camp and other trips that would let me be with people who loved me for longer periods. My church family was everything to me.

    My youth pastor and his wife took notice of me. He was about your age, good looking and wanted to serve the Lord by leading kids. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven the day he and his wife asked if I wanted to stay at their house indefinitely instead of staying in my chaotic home. I loved it. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to stay with them. My faith grew and I soaked up every bit of love they had for me. I was a naive kid and I had no idea what was coming.

    One day I came home from school and he (this pastor) was lying in bed. I remember feeling disappointed because we would always have such good talks after school and if he was ill or tired, I would need to leave him alone. But as I came in the door, he called me to come to the door of the room. I did. We talked for a moment and then he said, “Well, you can at least give me a hug.” And as I did, he pulled me into bed with him. While an emotionally healthy girl of my age might have known to get out of the bed, I did not. Why? He had groomed me in such a way that this seemed safe and ok. “You’re special,” he said, implying that others wouldn’t understand. I was so starving for love that I didn’t even dream of protesting what happened next.

    Later he told me to read Psalm 51 and pray for forgiveness.

    Much later, years later, he would characterize our relationship as mutual. “It was an affair.” And I was confused and devastated.

    When he pulled me into his bed that day (and what happened for a long time to come) was not something I could possibly consent to. I was a girl, he was a full grown man. I was from a chaotic family, he was a pastor. Even if I had thrown myself naked at him (which I didn’t), he should have known better.

    He was a pastor to me – a representative of God. Try to imagine what his abuse did to my relationship with God. He held a privileged place and he betrayed me and God by using his position of trust against me.

    So, Anonymous Pastor, no you did not have an affair with this girl. It’s not that you both had trouble controlling yourself – it’s that you molested her. You used your position of power and privilege to prey on her, and you did it in the name of God.

    • Jennifer, I’m so sorry. My heart is with you for this old wound tonight. I think they’ve shut down comments. Word is they’ve deleted at least 60 that had previously been there, which upped the post’s rating from 1 and a half stars to 3, then they closed comments. I wish they could see this. Please email it to them, if you are up for it. They NEED to understand that it can never be “mutual” when the girl is a teenager and you are her 30-something youth pastor. They NEED to understand that his story won’t help a youth pastor in risk of repeating this behavior. (This crime!)

      Thank you for sharing that with me and other readers here.

  6. Thank you Tamara for your post. I did go read the whole article then I went to comment and could not find a place there so went to CT main page and under another article made an objection to their publishing such an article.

  7. Thank you for your advocacy. My mother was a victim of her pastor at 16 years old. The abuse continued into her late teens, and resumed again in her mid-twenties, after she was married with two small children (one was me), when he forced his way back into my parents’ life, and our home, while my father was at work.

    The fact that my father was oblivious to the scenario for the subsequent 16 years is still something that baffles me – but I’m sure the culture that is in play to ‘restore’ sexual predators to ministry is the same culture that perpetuated the myth that their ‘relationship’ was consensual, and that she had agency over her decisions. She didn’t, and it was wrong. It’s articles like the Leadership Journal one that continue to display a grossly unbalanced perspective on abuse in the church.

    Again, thank you, so much.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Bree. What a sad story. As many have said, it just can’t ever be “mutual” when the girl is just a teenager and it’s her minister coming on to her. Even girls with “crushes” on the man end up in a cycle of fear that mixes with all kinds of other emotions, because these situations are twisted and they twist girls–even many women–up inside. There is power at play. You are so right about the culture. So right. And it’s very sad.

  8. It’s exactly 30 years ago this year that I researched sexual abuse in the evangelical church in the U.S. while a seminary student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and was alarmed by what I found at a time when NO RELIGIOUS GROUPS (and certainly not evangelicals) were seriously engaging the topic. Today, as a pastor and board member for an international agency addressing sexual abuse, I find it very, very disconcerting that the self-professed leading journals for American evangelicals still don’t “get it” and continue to naively publish such material as this which, by virtue of the very terminology employed, reveals that the writer still doesn’t “get it” either. SHAME ON YOU CT/LJ for this egregious reminder of why I cancelled my subscriptions to your myopic perspectives so many years ago.

  9. Pingback: My Innocence Was Stolen From Me | Redemption Pictures

  10. Yes yes yes yes yes to ALL of this. I literally wanted to stand up and shout when I read what the warning to youth pastors SHOULD have been. Raping a child is NOT the same thing as having an affair or being attracted to someone other than your wife. NO SIR. Thank you for speaking out. It is truly mind boggling that NO ONE at CT or the Leadership Journal can see this.

  11. Emailed them. That article is disgusting and makes me ashamed of being called a Christian and a man and a leader. If they had any masculinity or a leader’s bone in their body, it never would have passed editorial review or in the least would have been written with a completely other perspective added in for a balanced view… and it would have been done with the express written legal consent of all other involved parties (parents, children, whoever).

    • @ Zadok: Seriously! What is the victim supposed to think when she reads this? “We sinned”, indeed. For shame.

      • Oh wait, they’ve now changed the “We” to an “I”.

        I guess the editors are making sure he’s “taking responsibility”. Me, I’m not buying it.

      • I mean, they are putting words into his mouth now … that’s how bad they want to keep this post up.

  12. Hopefully if many of us write something will be done.
    Sent to

    Dear Leadership Journal and Christianity Today,

    I feel convicted to plead of you to take down your article titled “My Easy Trip from Youth Minister to Felon” immediately and issue a formal apology to your readers and all of the sexual-assault victims who have had their voices stolen from them by this piece.

    You have allowed a man guilty of sexual assault four pages to explain that his sin was something being done to him rather than something he actively chose to pursue.
    You have allowed a man guilty of a child abuse four pages to explain how his relationship was a mutually initiated extramarital affair.
    And most grievously, you have allowed a man guilty of a federal crime four pages to declare that the abused teenage girl is guilty too.

    Please wake up! I’ll wager to say you are even promoting rape culture by seeking to sympathize with the perpetrator rather than let the victims speak. This poor man needs to repent, accept God’s unimaginable grace, and experience unconditional love but he does not need to be preaching a sermon.

    No small paragraph at the beginning or end of the article briefly declaring him a sexual predator can justify having four pages worth of this man painting himself as something different.

    It will go down now. Otherwise, I warn you that you are choosing ignorance and pride that not only deludes members of the body but also hurts the oppressed rather than choosing humility.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  13. Let me begin by saying that I am in no way justifying what this man wrote about. And I do understand, at least to a small degree, the ongoing pain and effect such abuse can have. At the same time, there seems to be a complete vilifying of this man. Again, not saying what he did was not horrendous and everything else wicked, but what do you do with repentance? I’m not sure if you have seen this, but here is a quote at the bottom of the article, “Author’s Note: In response to readers’ concerns, the author of this piece has offered the following clarification: “I recognize that what I initially considered a consensual relationship was actually preying on a minor. Youth pastors who do the same are not “in relationship” but are indeed sexual predators. I take 100 percent of the responsibility for what happened.” This sounds like he gets it.
    Is it wrong for this man to share the work God has done in his heart? I read what was written and it seems, in general, that he is laying out the journey he took as a warning to others and in no way as a explanation or justification. Perhaps it has been changed since originally posted. If so, perhaps a ‘thank-you’ post would be in order.

    • Thanks, Michael. I’m glad you spoke up. Yes, I’ve seen it. That was added before I wrote this. But for me, true repentance does not go on and on for 5 pages with zero acknowledgement of responsibility for–and THIS is key–what he has DONE to this student. For me, true repentance is not found in an editor’s post-publication footnote after the first day of protests. His words bleed narcissism in the other 5 pages and only deep regret that he ruined his own life … not hers. I feel a man who indeed “gets it” would have gone with what should be “I have abused my authority over a minor and committed a sex crime” throughout the piece. It reads like a story of adultery, when it was statutory rape, and that’s the problem.

      • Tamara – I get that. But I still think that there is a huge lack of grace in the overall reaction to this man’s situation. How long does God pursue a man in his sin before He turns him over to his own lusts? Does the beginning of repentance look like the end? How long does that process take? Is it not repentance until it is perfectly processed? And to what standard do we judge his repentance? If I remember correctly, this took place not that long ago.
        If I reacted to every one of my counselees the way most are reacting to this man, who clearly acknowledges in many direct and indirect ways that what he did was wrong, than I would be discouraging most of them and possibly affecting their heart towards legalism. You can’t give someone a to-do list for repentance.
        I get that he may not understand the full impact of what he did. Do any of us? My point is that, instead of torching this guy, maybe we should rejoice that he is willing to admit his wrong – however faulted and unlike what we think is best it may be – and pray that his words of warning will reach many.
        I also think that the literary style is more of a story-telling of what happened and that may be setting a few people off. No one wants to relive horror that has happened to them, but sometimes it is the only way to understand it.
        I just wonder how many people who are crying foul would have the decency and compassion to sit down with this man and lovingly counsel him to a more mature understanding of his sin and God’s grief over it? I think maybe some want him to be unrepentant so that they can have another whipping boy.

      • Not really my place to sit with him and love him, Michael, though I hope a few people in his life do. What is my business is Leadership Journal’s poor editorial decision. This is about their decision to take what he wrote and parade it around as anything useful other than a cautionary tale of what “still not quite getting it” looks like.

        Please understand … this is about Leadership Journal not recognizing the problem in his writing and how detrimental that writing was.

      • Fair enough and a helpful point. But it is worth noting that they have once again made clarification on the article. This time at the beginning. As one who writes and edits, you must know that you can never satisfy everyone, but lets at least give them credit for hearing, listening and responding to criticism – no matter how it may have been leveled against them or their unnamed author. Thanks!

      • Sorry. They aren’t getting any credit from me. The appropriate response was pulling the article with apologies for how grossly misguided it was from start to finish, and please DO NOT talk to my readers about loving rapists. You have no idea what some of them have been through. That’s spiritually abusive for a total stranger to put that on them, and I will block you from commenting if it happens again. Thanks.

      • Tamara,
        Please forgive me. I did not realize that all here have been abused. I didn’t know that was the intent of this blog. I apologize for any harm I may have caused. Please know that my intent was never to pressure anyone. But I can say that I believe God works miracles and my prayer is as stated above.
        But I wish you would allow me the same grace you are asking of me. Should I have assumed that someone who stands up for victims has themselves been one? Should I not follow scriptural mandates to encourage people towards love and good works?
        I do understand that I am not to dictate, but you are wrong to say we are not to encourage. I agree that victims need space, love and time. But be fair to me, please. Should I have known the history of all here? Should ignorance of any or all participating in a conversation demand silence? This is unreasonable. I know this is your blog and I will withdraw out of respect for what you are trying to do. I am fine if you don’t post this. But please read it and prayerfully consider it.

      • Michael, if you aren’t aware of the boundary that is crossed when one person tells a total stranger specifically that they should have love for rapists–whether from a pulpit or in blog comments–then I really can’t help you. While I agree that we are called by God to love others, I do NOT agree that it is my business to tell another person–particularly those I do not know–that they need to love rapists. That is a very personal and huge thing that is between their heart and God’s and I will NOT go there and neither should you if you are wise. If you believe in the Holy Spirit, let him do that work. This should not have to be explained or further expounded upon. The reasons are self-evident. If you don’t understand how completely unhelpful and even cruel it is to encourage strange women on the internet to love rapists, then this is not the place for you.

        I HAVE extended grace to you by kindly explaining rather than blocking you and deleting your comments. THAT was grace. This will be the last I say about that.

      • Michael I have worked with an abuser. I did not cross him off as worthless. But I did counter him every time he in any way tried to pass the blame. This happened often because that is how abusers think. I made him take all the blame, made him realize he could be a real man and stop hiding behind victims. Eventually he did change. So I am not saying an abuser can not change. But he was not a child sexual abuser. If he wants to make this confession to his counselor that is fine and I hope his counselor will point out the areas where he is refusing to take responsibility. My real problem is not so much with him as it is with CT and Leadership Journal why did they publish it. The only ones really needing this kind of info are the professionals not the church in general. The church in general needs to know that abusers look good and will do anything and say anything to keep it that way. They have no trouble not speaking the truth they have usually had years of practice hiding the truth. The church needs to believe those who say they were abused. The percentage of people lying about being abused is very small. The percentage of sex abused who lie about abuse is very high.

        Michael I suggest you not make so many comments and spend the next six months listening to those who have been abused. Really try to identify with them and their hurt. I really don’t need an apology and I am not a poor abused helpless person who can’t join in a discussion such as this. Your statements don’t hurt me they make me want to make you really see from the eyes of someone abused. Your apology and I am sure you do not understand this, is a put down to all abused. Victims do not need pity, nor special treatment, they need people to listen to them and accept how their abuses has totally changed their lives. If you really care listen for six months there are may sites where you can read the stories of the abused.

        Thanks Tamara you don’t have to take his comments off for me.

      • We all have a perspective that we preach from. I think I get Boz’s and he makes great points. And yet he implies that this man may not really even care about his victim. Kind of takes the edge off of his point when he makes suggested assumptions like that. We have to be careful not to let our passion for a good thing to cloud our judgement about everything else.

      • Boz’s implication (rapist’s apathy/lack-of-empathy) doesn’t dull the edge of his point. If you think it was about the rapist, I think you’ve misunderstood. That article was written to ChristianityToday, LeadershipJournal, and everyone else connected to people. Look at the first sentence: “If child molesters depend upon our ignorance in order to hurt little ones, what steps can the faith community take to eliminate the edge and make sure that they don’t succeed?”

        Rapists are scum. Full stop. Put them away and shut them up from ever hurting anyone else or excusing themselves. “I didn’t do it,” and “When you put it that way, it sounds worse,” is heard in pretrials everywhere.

        Boz is addressing everyone else. How do *we* respond.

      • But it does dull it in that it is speculative. Again, I understand the article and agree with it’s intent. But my point is that he implies that this man may not care at all about the other’s involved. I just think that is treading on dangerous ground. It could be true, but it may not be.
        “Rapists are scum.” I’m with you all the way. Stop them from ever hurting anyone else or excusing themselves. Still with you. But can you go further? Can you say you love the rapists enough to help them understand? That’s all I’m saying. We are too often quick to crucify and slow to lovingly confront.

      • Yes, Michael, you’re right that part of the solution is to love rapists enough to educate them to understand the heinousness of their behavior. And it’s also loving the victims enough to not publish a rapist’s story while they are still deluding themselves and attempting to delude others.

      • Michael, Boz’s article is a call to those in ministry (and everyone else) to come back to our first priority, which is to stop abuse. I know you’ve said you agree, but I’m pointing out that his article only exists because this first priority has been woefully and regrettably ignored over and over again as we hear about more and more rapists being found within Christian ministries.

        Let me repeat that: The first priority is to the victims and has been woefully and regrettably ignored in favor of protecting and reconciling unrepentant rapists and other abusers.

        That is why I didn’t even address the flipside of reconciling the rapist with their Maker. Too many others jump to that too fast and leave the victims in the lurch.

        Full Stop.

        Until that is fixed, there can be no conversation on reconciling the sinner. Our own state of being is in question when we stand by and do not address the first priority. It would be better for us to have a millstone tied around our necks than to skip the first priority.

        After the first priority is taken care of, then…

        Step 1: Double check priority 1. Are the victims fully safe now? Is the abuser incapable of harming anyone? In the least, this means protective custody, in the extreme it can mean witness protection program.

        Step 2: Double check priority 1: Are the victims being fully cared for? Do they have the time, resources, and listeners around them that they need?

        Step 3: Away from and separately from the victims: confront the sinner. Alcoholics Anonymous has 12 steps that are not perfect, are pretty generic, but they exist for a reason. Without full repentance and recognition of the depths of depravity that a rapist is, there is nothing else.

        Ellen said it well, “We respond by listening to the victims of sexual predation, understand how it has affected them, realize that sexual predators are self-deluding and seek to delude others to stay in or get back into others’ good opinion.”

        Only after a rapist has reformed and fully repented and understood the fullness of their actions and ****isn’t just manipulating the system or traditions****, can there be any reconciliation between humans.

      • Right, Zadok, how do *we* respond? We respond by listening to the victims of sexual predation, understand how it has affected them, realize that sexual predators are self-deluding and seek to delude others to stay in or get back into others’ good opinion.

    • Michael,

      I couldn’t reply to your reply, so I’m replying to your original comment.

      The author is in jail because he has been convicted of a crime. True repentance demonstrates understanding and remorse of the damage done to the victim. Read through the original post again by the child rapist and pick out where he shows concern for his victim. Perhaps read it from the perspective that he raped you thinking it was a mutual romantic relationship. For a victim’s perspective see:

      • Ellen,
        The article has changed, so it may not be helpful to get too precise in dissecting it at this point. And I fully agree with your statement about repentance. But arguing from omission is a tricky business. And until you have walked with someone and looked into their eyes, I think we would all be wise before making judgement calls on whether or not they are repentant. I think he wrote this as a warning and not a confession of repentance. Would I have loved to hear different wording? Absolutely. No question there. Am I going to go on a witch-hunt against people that claim the name of Jesus as I do? Nope. That is directly opposed to the very thing that defines a Christian.
        Thank you for the link. I have shared many tears with those who have been abused and am sickened when the next story comes out. I’m not on the sidelines in this. But I’m not taking sides either. By that I mean that I want the victim and criminal to understand what it means to live in the forgiveness and freedom that only comes from Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the advocates of the victim and I pray for those whose minds are still clouded with selfishness.

      • Ellen, I couldn’t comment on one of your other comments, but I mostly say “bravo!”

        My comment to both you and Michael would be this:

        “It is not love when we protect abusers and allow them to continue in their delusion unabated. It is not love when we allow victims to be repeatedly victimized and had their paradigms changed for the worst. It is not love to allow another to control, threaten, harass, manipulate, or be otherwise less than what Christ’s love calls us to be. It is not love to allow one person to steal another person’s peace and safety. That’s why we lock people up in prison sometimes, because it is for the public good — and it isn’t our decision’s, a legal authority is required. It is not love to allow abuse to block the experiential love, mercy, and justice of Christ. It is not MERCY or LOVE to allow an abuser to access a victim through an online publication declaring his lack of responsibility. It is not love to allow sin to continue. These things appropriately are sin. And these sins blacken many Christian ministries. I love the Church deeply, but the Church’s sins are many, its robe is black with dried blood of victims, and it is naked before the world and doesn’t realize it.” — Me.

    • If he was truly repentant he would have researched abuse and what it does to the victim. First he would have never said it was mutual. Second he would have confessed the damage he caused his wife and children and the victim, instead he wants us to feel sorry for him that he can not see his children. He admits what he has done but he is not guilty of anything serious. That is not repentance. Please study up on how abusers are the nicest people around and loved by everyone because they are grooming not only their victims who they intend to sexually abuse but also all the others they know so people will say “But he is such a wonderful man he would never do something like that, she must have really lead him on.” Since when are men such weaklings they can’t control temptations? This harms all men. It makes women hate men when this image of no self control is excused just because they are men. He said some nice words that were meant to deceive but there is no evidence of real change. Christians are so gullible to believe him just because he uses Bible verses.

      • Shary, I’m sorry for any hurt that this discussion or article has brought to you. I think we have to be careful to make judgments about exactly how repentance will look. I agree with your statements about what it should look like, but am not willing to cross over to declaring him unrepentant just because the full process has not manifested itself in this one article. Perhaps the comments will lead him to a greater understanding. But I will take my chances with a kind and forthright word of Scripture or encouragement over a firm declaration and/or assumption out of anger or passion. Not that God couldn’t use either, but we are responsible to act according to what we know to be true. I hope the hate you speak of is not your own towards men but that you understand what true love is and are able to share it will all – even a rapist.

      • I’ve already stated this above, Michael, but if you pressure any of my readers here to love a rapist, when you know nothing about who they are and what they’ve been through, I will block your comments. It’s not for you to dictate or even encourage. Please understand that, give victims space to deal with their abuse, give victim’s loved ones space to deal with their pain, and let it be.

    • Michael, reading your responses here, I would strongly suggest that you educate yourself some more about the dynamics of abuse and abusers. It is actually not helpful, graceful or loving in the least to refrain from pushing back hard against those who prey on others. As this man shows in his writing, his abuse was driven by the lies he told himself. In his mind, this was a relationship. He saw his grooming as flirting. He thought of his victim as culpable. When someone has delved so deep into that kind of deluded thinking, nothing but the straight, unvanished, horrible truth can save them.

      Do you understand that? Do you get that simply accepting, “oh, I’m sorry. My bad” from someone who is that deep down the rabbit hole is actually harmful to them? That it enables them to hang onto many of their delusions and thus never obtain complete freedom from the sin that has sunk so deep into their being? When someone has done something so awful, and they have built an entire false narrative surrounding what they did, facing reality is their only way out, but they will fight and resist it every step of the way. It’s a survival mechanism.

      If this man really understood what he did to the people around him, he would not be writing a piece warning others not to follow his path lest they suffer as he has. He wouldn’t even be capable of it. All he would be able to do is explain in graphic, excruciating detail the damage he had wrought on innocent people and implore others to never cause such harm to someone else. The weight of knowing that you have destroyed other human beings is unbearable. There’s a reason Jesus said it would be better to tie a millstone around your neck and throw yourself into the sea.

      Even taking his added explanation into account, this man obviously is not yet aware of what he has done. And the only hope for his redemption is for all of his lies and justifications and self interest to be utterly shredded until he has nothing left to hide behind. He NEEDS to be subjected to this level of pushback and refusal to cut him slack. Do you get that? His soul depends on it. He needs to be completely broken by the full weight of what he has done and that will not happen if the church refrains from challenging every little shred of defense he has. This is love at work, for both predator and prey. Love isn’t always nice and squishy. Sometimes love says, “no, you cannot enter into the promised land. I will send you into Babylon and to your utter destruction if that’s what it takes to bring you to repentance. But I will not stand by while you find comfort in your own righteousness. I will persue you into the sea to bring you out of the delusion of sin.”

  14. Pingback: The church should really learn to understand abuse: Tell Christianity Today to learn it | Biblical Personhood

  15. Pingback: Please, Leadership Journal: Take down that post.

  16. Tam, thank you a million times over for raising the alarm. hhere is what I wrote on their Facebook page. In case it is deleted, I wanted to put it somewhere. Many of my other comments on Twitter, Facebook, and the article itself have been deleted. My heart is breaking:

    You have given a preaching platform to a convicted child molester. If you have not been on the receiving end of such manipulation, maybe you don’t see it like those who have. Perhaps you should trust experts in the field when they tell you your article is shamefully ignorant. I have followed your magazine for as long as I can remember. But unless you remove this post, I will not any longer. This is not about feminism or terms like “rape culture.” This is about love for people which have suffered at the hands of clergy and now view God through that lens. A man in prison for a year, whose victim may still be a minor for all we know, should not be given the space to speak God’s Holy Word to his brothers and sisters in Christ in this forum. How about proof of his repentance which can only happen over time. You are perpetuating the ignorance of the church, not enlightening it. This is not helpful. Please, out of compassion for your brothers and sisters in Christ who have endured abuse at the hands of a preacher, shut off his voice. You have no idea what you are doing to their hearts. This is a giant step backward for abuse victims. And I will repeat this everywhere I can: You have given a preaching platform to a convicted child molester currently serving only one year into his sentence.

    • Yes!!! This: “Perhaps you should trust experts in the field when they tell you your article is shamefully ignorant.”


  17. Tamara and Zadok, all well said and explained here. I understand completely your points. I’ve thoroughly read the article and the response on Redemption Pictures. Clearly, Christianity Today (Leadership Journal) did not have experts vet the article before it was published. (Already submitted my comment there.) In this season, they really should know better.

    Michael, I also understand your concern. Yes, we are called to pray for our enemies. We also, however, must not condemn the victims here. Yes, forgiveness is essential; yet we are also called to protect the downtrodden. Many times we are called to hold dissonant commands in our hearts. As human beings that is most difficult. I think when we are unable to do that, we set priorities. We may be able to, at some point, have the grace and mercy to forgive – but first we must ensure that the vulnerable are safe.

    Once we attend to that, then maybe – just maybe – we will allow the Spirit to move us toward forgiveness of the perpetrator. If not, we must rely on those who have not been victimized to pray for them – to pray they will never harm another, to pray their eyes will be opened, to pray they will educate other predators. And pray for us, too; that we will be released from the hurt that continues to hold us captive like a wall of thorns. Pray that one day peace will be upon our hearts.

    Thanks again, Tamara, for bringing this to our attention.

  18. Heh. Finally tweeted this article. Twitter is intermittent here at home.

    Thanks for hosting this discussion, Tamara. Before yesterday, I didn’t realize how self-deluding abusers could be. Reading the comments on the offensive article sure educated me in a hurry. How come editorial team at non-leadership journal are so slow to understand what so many voices are saying??? Are they really that dimwitted?

    • It’s soooo hard to understand at this point. Like … beyond run of the mill ignorance about abuse. At this point it just seems like total stubbornness or even that maybe one of them knows him personally and refuses to let this go. I can’t imagine any other reason they wouldn’t want to just bite the bullet. The longer it’s up, the more attempts they make at editorial changes and notes, the worse they look.

      • I completely agree with you. This stubbornness and crap so-called-leadership is the aspect that angered me most about the Roman Catholic church in which I grew up: we’re right, we’re always right, and you have to bow to our authority. Um. NOT!!!

        I’m so thankful for our current church. It operates on the principles of love and service: What does The Word say and how do we best put it into practice? Before this current debacle, I was unaware of non-leadership journal. I won’t be reading anything else put out by them. They have completely ruined their credibility.

  19. Pingback: Child Sex Offenders and Their Excuses | The Common Room

  20. Pingback: No Really, #TakeDownThatPost : An Open Letter to Christianity Today & Leadership Journal | Bethany Suckrow

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  23. I’m hopeful that all the negative attention to this article will highlight the whole narcissistic mindset of the author and those like him. Besides failing to acknowledge the nature of his sexual abuse of a minor, there are so many other elements of the article that are off. He spends much time talking about his success as a youth minister and all the praise he received, as though he’s still glorying in it. It seems as if he blames his wife for his abusive behavior because she didn’t properly appreciate him. There is no real acknowledgement of how he devastated his wife, his children, the girl he abused, his church, the testimony of the gospel, etc. The overarching theme is how much loss HE suffered, and now he’s such an expert that he needs to be instructing others. Spare me.

  24. has reversed its position on the article. Very impressively so.

    A note from the editors of Leadership Journal:
    We should not have published this post, and we deeply regret the decision to do so.
    The post, told from the perspective of a sex offender, withheld from readers until the very end a crucial piece of information: that the sexual misconduct being described involved a minor under the youth pastor’s care. Among other failings, this post used language that implied consent and mutuality when in fact there can be no quesiton that in situations of such disproportionate power there is no such thing as consent or mutuality.
    The post, intended to dissuade future perpetrators, dwelt at length on the losses this criminal sin caused the author, while displaying little or no empathic engagement with the far greater losses caused to the victim of the crime and the wider community around the author. The post adopted a tone that was not appropriate given its failure to document complete repentance and restoration.
    There is no way to remove the piece altogether from the Internet, and we do not want to make it seem that we are trying to make it disappear. That is not journalistically honest. The fact that we published it; its deficiencies; and the way its deficiencies illuminate our own lack of insight and foresight, is a matter of record at The Internet Archive (
    Any advertising revenues derived from hits to this post will be donated to Christian organizations that work with survivors of sexual abuse. We will be working to regain our readers’ trust and to give greater voice to victims of abuse.
    We apologize unreservedly for the hurt we clearly have caused.
    Marshall Shelley, editor, Leadership Journal
    Harold B. Smith, president and CEO, Christianity Today International

    • YES! I really thought it was very well written. I’m thankful wisdom and compassion prevailed. (And the new subtitle didn’t hurt either, did you notice it? “An Article We Never Should Have Published.”)

      • I’m glad they heard too. When you talk of wisdom and compassion prevailing… don’t you think that is the roll needed? Some variation of the article is still needed. Their “blindness,” on the topic is part of the problem. The intent was to enlighten others in positions of leadership trust. It is not to ward off a predator towards greater cunning. Is it possible to reshape the dialogue to not prevent one’s own fall so much as it is to undo “leadership,” a far more secular word than Christian, and refocus ministry to the defense/service of the weak?

  25. Pingback: A preferential option for predators: Christianity Today hires the Rev. Humbert Humbert to serve as a spiritual adviser to its readers | Christian Reforms

  26. Pingback: @Leadership_Jnl, #TakeDownThatPost & What You Need to Do so the Apology Means Something | incarnationalrelational

  27. A lesson for all of us who are fighting abuse. We can’t hide we must make our voices heard. It worked! Let us untie until the church realizes what abuse is the powerful controlling others for their own gratification. It can be such as this a youth pastor using a teen ager for his own glorification. Or leaders using stories to get senior citizens to give up the money they need to live so the leaders can live in luxury. When are church leaders going to go back to washing people’s feet attitude that Jesus so well demonstrated. True Christianity never uses power to hurt another.

  28. Pingback: Survivors Awaken A Powerful Media Outlet | SurvivorsAwakenTheChurch

  29. Pingback: Wow! Look what happens when Leadership listens to its people! - Your The Man Jesus

  30. Pingback: A Tutorial on Sex Abuse: What Evangelicals Must Learn From the Leadership Journal Debacle | The Wartburg Watch 2014

  31. Pingback: A Cautionary Tale About Rape Culture In The Church & #TakeDownThatPost | The Junia ProjectThe Junia Project

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