Thursday, September 24, 2015

Child sexual abuse lawsuit filed against TX pastor Billy Bob Burge and First Baptist Church of Rockwall after victim's abuse leads to suicide

DALLASSept. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Carla Sweet and Ed Gomez of Dallas, Texas, filed suit today in Dallas, Texas, state court against First Baptist Church of Rockwall: seeking justice for their son, John "Jeremy" Sweet-Gomez, who was repeatedly sexually abused by a Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church of Rockwall.
The suit alleges that a Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church of Rockwall began sexually abusing Jeremy when he was approximately thirteen years old. The abuse included sodomy, oral sex, and inappropriate sexual touching. The suit states that the sexual abuses and assaults occurred "on church property and during church-sponsored religious trips." Jeremy suffered repeated sexual abuse as a teenager; he later committed suicide. 

SNAP responds:

The lawsuit alleges that “Defendants entered into a civil conspiracy, accompanied by a meeting of the minds regarding concerted actions, the purposes of which were to conceal and minimize public knowledge of sexual misconduct and/or abuse by Pastor Burge. This conspiracy and concerted action was carried out by Defendants to conceal the fact that they individually and collectively committed acts of neglect, gross neglect, concealment, fraud, and breached fiduciary duties. Officials and agents or representatives of First Baptist Church of Rockwall, acting in concert, engaged in this conspiracy to avoid prosecution, to cover up sexual misconduct and abuse, and to conceal claims arising from crimes or conduct of their Youth Pastor.”
We urge officials at First Baptist Church of Rockwall to come clean with any information and to immediately report any known or suspected abuse by Billy Bob Burge to law enforcement. We hope that any other churches or places where Burge has had access to kids, including his current church employer Grace Community Church in Greenville, Texas, will aggressively reach out to anyone else that may have been harmed by Burge and urge them to call police.
We urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered pastor Burge’s alleged child sex crimes to come forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoers, protect kids and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is
Yesterday I was notified that Billy Bob Burge was listed as the athletic trainer at Greenville Christian School.  I took a screenshot today on the school website that lists Burge as a trainer for the football team.

As of 2 pm today, Billy Bob Burge's name no longer appears on the link to the football staff, after I responded in an email to the Greenville Christian School administrator that Billy Bob Burge's name was listed as the trainer for the football team.

Below is an email exchange with Greenville Christian School administrator Steve Bowers:

Thu 9/24/2015 11:53 AM

Mrs. Smith,

Billy Bob Burge has never been “on staff” at Greenville Christian School, he has volunteered on and off helping with our football team.  He is no longer a volunteer ball boy / water boy with our football team at Greenville Christian School.  Most definitely, we are currently putting a plan in place to notify parents of the situation so they can take proper action.


Steve Bowers

From: Watchkeepamy []
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2015 10:59 AM
To: Steve Bowers
Subject: Re: Billy Bob Burge

Will he be remaining on staff at your school? Will you be notifying parents and urging anyone else that may have been or being abused by him to call police? We are concerned there may be more kids at risk. I've heard from a concerned parent today who described a pattern of red flag behavior by Billy Bob. 

On Sep 23, 2015, at 6:05 PM, Steve Bowers <> wrote:
Yes - we were just made aware of it.


Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 23, 2015, at 5:26 PM, Watchkeepamy <> wrote:
Are you aware of this?

Amy Smith 

Yesterday morning I tweeted to Steve Lawson, Founding Pastor at Grace Community Church in Greenville, Texas where Billy Bob Burge is on staff as the Connection Pastor. 

He immediately blocked me on Twitter.

I received this email from Haley Lawson yesterday afternoon.

I have received a few calls from people concerned about more victims of Billy Bob Burge. One concerned parent said that we need to ask about the many sleepovers Billy Bob Burge had at his house with boys. There seems to be many red flags of predatory behavior displayed by Burge where he has had access to kids in Rockwall, Commerce and Greenville, Texas: First Baptist Rockwall, First Baptist Commerce, Commerce High School, First Baptist Church of Greenville, Grace Community Church in Greenville and Greenville Christian School. 

We urge anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered any abuse by Burge to come forward, contact police, seek justice, begin to heal and protect kids.

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

How to Prepare Your Kids for the Dangers of Sexual Predators

If you are looking for a guide on how to prepare your children for the dangers of sexual predators, The Well Armored Child: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse, by Joelle Casteix, might be the book for you. Casteix outlines how to take your child from being an “easy target” for sexual predators to a “hard target,” one who is not likely to experience sexual abuse. She summarizes: “The purpose of this book is to give you the tools to identify and stop the 90 percent of predators who are never arrested or convicted.”
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines sexual abuse as:
The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.
All of these avenues of abuse can leave a lasting and devastating impact on children.
The book’s author, Joelle Casteix, writes from a perspective of a child sexual abuse victim. She includes a thorough explanation of why she is qualified to write this book and the abuse that she endured throughout her high school years. Her personal experience bleeds through to each page. She now works to advocate for and mentor other child sexual abuse victims.


Burge could not be reached for comment, and Don French, business administrator at First Baptist Church of Rockwall, said “it was 25 years ago” and would not comment.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reckless endangerment of children at First Baptist Church Bedford, Texas

Photo by Danielle Grobmeier of Dallas Morning News

Earlier this week, FOX4 News in Dallas broke the story locally of a Baptist minister indicted on 29 counts of rape and sodomy of a child in Alabama who is now working at a church in the Dallas area. First Baptist Church Bedford hired Charles Kyle Adcock about 8 months ago as a music minister. Pastor Steve Knott apparently was aware of Adcock's charges when he hired him. Church leaders spoke with Elizabeth Dinh of CBS11 yesterday saying that they spoke with Adcock and believe his story that he is not guilty. We know about this story now because concerned parents spoke out.

Yesterday, we held a SNAP news conference at FBC Bedford to protect kids. 

“We think it’s incredibly irresponsible and reckless to have hired him in the first place,” says Amy Smith, who works with SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Smith say she took to twitter to blast First Baptist’s pastor for hiring Adcock, and says she was immediately blocked from the church’s feed. Smith and another supporter staged a hastily arranged protest outside the church this afternoon. And although they were outnumbered by press, she insists it doesn’t take a crowd to warn parents.
“What we know about predators is they rarely have just one victim” says Smith, “and they’re very manipulative and often will find places like churches to have a position of trust. That word ‘minister’ signals to most churchgoers that he is safe.”
And there are also children at Bedford’s First Baptist Church. SNAP advocates are encouraging parents to talk to their children and if they suspect any inappropriate behavior or contact, they’re asked to take those concerns to police. And by all means, says Smith, avoid church leadership.
“Sadly, many times, it’s a very typical, dangerous response– which is to protect the institution of church, and the image and reputation of the perpetrator or the pastor of the church, or the name on the building… instead of children,” says Smith, “and we say, `why take the risk?’ Why take the risk of hiring a guy who’s about to go on trial for 29 counts of rape and sodomy of a child? Why take the risk? Err on the side of caution and place the safety of kids, first.”
Yesterday afternoon, Adcock's bond was revoked and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Thursday, WHNT News 19 also learned Adcock has a new arrest warrant in Colbert County for violating the terms of his bond, for working around children.
Assistant District Attorney Angela Hulsey filed a motion to revoke Adcock’s bond stating, “the State has received information that the Defendant is employed by First Baptist Church in Bedford Texas as a Worship Pastor, which would allow him unsupervised contact with minors. This type of employment is a violation of the conditions of the Defendant’s release on bond.”
WFAA News 8 Dallas
At First Baptist in Bedford, Pastor Steve Knott hired Adcock to lead the adult choir and work with the church's audio/video equipment.
"We think it's incredibly irresponsible and reckless to have hired him in the first place," said Amy Smith with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Smith said it doesn't matter that Adcock was not directly working with children in Bedford.
"Having a position as minister automatically places him in a position of trust," she said.
The church member who spoke with News 8 said a group of members talked to the pastor after learning of Adcock's past.
He said they also had a long talk with Adcock and decided to support him. The choir director has pleaded not guilty.
Adcock was arrested in Frisco in August of 2014 on the Alabama charges. First Baptist in Bedford hired him while he was free on a $500,000 bond.
"That's very alarming," Smith said.

We hope that anyone else who has been harmed by Adcock will come forward and contact police to begin to heal and to protect others.

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

I will update this post with any new information.

Former Bedford minister in jail in Alabama
Judge revokes bond of former Shoals youth minister charged with sex crimes
Charles Adcock turned himself to Colbert County authorities on Monday morning and appeared in court, where Judge Hal Hughston revoked his bond.  He ruled that Adcock's new job would have put him working around children, a violation of his bond agreement. Prosecutors in Muscle Shoals requested his bond to be pulled as soon as they found out about the position.
"This is a flagrant disregard of the court's order," said Colbert County Distict Attorney Bryce Graham. "It is beyond belief."
He is now back in the Colbert County Jail, where he will await trial in January.
"Given what he's been accused of and indicted for,  it's incredibly irresponsible and reckless to take that risk with children's safety," stressed Amy Smith with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "He's been here long enough, he's had a chance to possibly groom other families to trust him, other children."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An open letter to every senior pastor whose church wants to minister to those who pose a risk of harm: guest post by Simon Bass

Simon Bass is the CEO of CCPAS (Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service), the leading independent Christian child protection charity in the UK. CCPAS has been safeguarding children since 1977. In light of my most recent posts on churches' mishandling of pedophiles and registered child sex offenders volunteering and employed in positions of leadership and trust in churches, I have asked Simon to give his expert guidance in context of these "offender-focused" churches. 

The Village Church

Elevation Church

Fairfax Community Church

Simon Bass:  The Christian Social Worker Who Protects Children From Christian Abusers

An open letter to every senior pastor whose church wants to minister to those who pose a risk of harm

It is commendable that your church wants to support sexual offenders in being part of your worshipping community, after all the gospel is for the ‘whosoever’. It is not meant to be critical in pointing out that as a pastor you are likely to have an optimistic view of people borne out of the Christian doctrine that no one is beyond God’s redemption; we are all sinners, but our sins are redeemed by God’s saving action in Jesus Christ. We are unworthy and undeserving by ourselves but God’s grace is poured out for the redemption of all who believe. Sometimes it is difficult to see beyond this, to have a critical understanding of the nature of perpetrators of sexual harm.

As shepherds you have a duty of care towards your flock, and especially those who are vulnerable; those children and adults in your congregation. As a good steward it is vital that before contemplating ministering to anyone who has committed sexual offences such an undertaking is not done so naively – the risk of harm to children is just too great. I say this based on the recidivism rates for sexual offenders, which sadly includes those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ. If we have learned anything from the clerical abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church and other major denominations it is that professing faith does not mean we become sinless. Those who have sexually molested children will always pose a future risk to them. This is not to deny the transforming work of Jesus Christ but recognition of the addictive nature of sexual crimes.

In every fellowship there will be survivors of sexual abuse (based on national and international statistics of the number who have been victims of abuse in childhood). Many look to the church as a place of sanctuary and struggle when churches have sympathy and mobilise resources for perpetrators of abuse, whilst the pain and safety needs of victims are ignored.

How you as a pastor respond to perpetrators who have molested children must always have as a starting point the safety of children. Then you should give due consideration to the needs of survivors, and the affect ministering to perpetrators of abuse can have on them. If you appear to be one-sided you will alienate many in the church, and especially those who have been harmed. Survivors of abuse will only ever have confidence in your church if their voice is heard when you are working with those who have committed sexual violence against them.

I would urge you as pastors to use appropriate language when talking about sexual offenders, and by this I am talking about those who have molested and raped children, and filmed then shared these abusive acts. Don’t describe sexual offenders simply as offenders, nor describe them as ex-offenders, as it can be perceived that there is a denial of their offence and ignoring that they will always be a risk, and it consigns the abuse to the past. Certainly don’t describe their behavior as being about mistakes in the past, which is just too dismissive.

Ensuring your church is a safe and welcoming environment requires that you have a child protection policy in place, and that all your leaders have been trained in child safety, including safer recruitment, that you have clear working practices including what to do where abuse is disclosed or suspected. This would also include how you address the pastoral and counseling needs of those who have been affected by abuse. With this in place you will be better equipped to minister to sexual offenders, remember they will look for acceptance, and the church is often the only place where this can be found. It is understandable why sex offenders are drawn to church.

Some manipulative sex offenders will target churches, professing faith and using language and acting in ways suggestive that they are repentant, knowing they will be accepted, in order to gain contact with children in order to abuse them. Other sex offenders who truly want to turn away from the crimes they have committed will show fruit in keeping with repentance. One clear way is for the sex offender to agree to never working with children or wanting to have any position or authority within the church which would give rise to a child believing them to be trustworthy. This requires wisdom in considering what roles and titles you give to sex offenders to ensure they are not seen as a person in a position of trust.

Children are trusting, and if they believe a person is safe to be around because that is the impression you give at church, they are not going to be weary when approached outside of church. It is imperative that you engage in a covenant contract with the sex offender, outlining the boundaries they are expected to keep and how the church may be able to support in their rehabilitation to prevent the likelihood of them re-offending. Living with the consequence of the crime isn’t denying redemption. This should be written drawing on a professional risk assessment from their probation or law enforcement officer, or others involved in their aftercare. It should clearly state the crime they committed, and any sanctions or restrictions they are under, and what sex offender management plan that may be in place. Key leaders in the church need to be aware of this contract. Don’t assume that members of the church will refer to the sex offender register.

Be very clear as to what offences have been acknowledged, and dealt with by the courts, as further admissions can lead to you as pastors needing to mandatorily contact law enforcement. A situational risk assessment should also be undertaken to ascertain if you are able to provide the level of support and supervision needed to ensure the sex offender can be monitored sufficiently so as not to put children at risk. Churches don’t just operate in one building but include meeting in homes for bible studies and as a church family there will be offers of hospitality. These need to be included in the contract, which should be constantly reviewed, and remain in force indefinitely.

Other considerations
I have known sex offenders who have said the church should cease the contract such as at the time of the end of their probation. The risk they posed though had not changed so the contract should remain. Certainly don’t give public ministry to sex offenders or opportunity for them to share their testimony. It is grossly offensive to survivors of abuse, for some it is an opportunity to groom a congregation and other sexual offenders will get sexual gratification from re-telling their story. It is unfair to their victims, not least because it risks identifying them.

I believe that sex offenders can be part of church but because of the nature of the offence there are many aspects of ministry that they should not be involved in, starting with not having any role where they are in any position of trust. Many churches provide pastoral support and recovery programs but again this is not something a sex offender should be involved in. Due to the predisposition to sexually abuse a child, this is a matter for long term intense therapeutic intervention; this disqualifies sexual offenders from acting as facilitators within certain recovery programs, for example where providing care or counsel to anyone dealing with addiction, especially sex addictions or pornography. This is simply foolhardy. I have known sex offenders who began viewing pornography and then downloaded child abuse images. Some victims of sexual abuse have become addicted to alcohol or drugs in order to cope with that abuse. For these reasons it is therefore totally inappropriate to have a sex offender involved in these ministries.

Churches should always be a place of acceptance and refuge and welcome, so let’s first ensure that survivors of abuse believe this first. Working with sex offenders require you as pastors to recognize that this is a specialist area where you should be working collaboratively with appropriate professionals and their agencies.  It’s therefore vital to work with law enforcement and get support from organizations such as G.R.A.C.E. and Stop it Now!,  and survivor advocacy organizations such as SNAP.

Simon Bass
Chief Executive, CCPAS

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Convicted child sex offender listed as violent on VA state registry is "Care Director" pastor at Fairfax Community Church

It's come to this: as I told my husband a few days ago when I was alerted to this story, we now must caution parents and church members/attendees to search for church pastors and staff on sex offender registries.

Child sex offenders "hiding" in plain sight, elevated to positions of spiritual authority and trust? Alarmingly, yes.

How would the public react to news that a violent registered sex offender worked at a school with kids? Daycare? Coach? Counselor?

Church? Yes, a church: Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia.

Eric Nickle is the Care Director at Fairfax Community Church. The senior pastor of FCC is Rod Stafford.

Eric Nickle is on the Virginia sex offender registry. He is listed as violent.

Eric Nickle was convicted on October 13, 2000 for Indecent Liberties with a Child by Custodian. VA law code 18.2-370.1 is listed on Nickle's sex offender registry. His initial registration was on July 17, 2000 and renewed on July 20, 2015. 

§ 18.2-370.1. Taking indecent liberties with child by person in custodial or supervisory relationship; penalties.

A. Any person 18 years of age or older who, except as provided in § 18.2-370, maintains a custodial or supervisory relationship over a child under the age of 18 and is not legally married to such child and such child is not emancipated who, with lascivious intent, knowingly and intentionally (i) proposes that any such child feel or fondle the sexual or genital parts of such person or that such person feel or handle the sexual or genital parts of the child; or (ii) proposes to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus or any act constituting an offense under § 18.2-361; or (iii) exposes his or her sexual or genital parts to such child; or (iv) proposes that any such child expose his or her sexual or genital parts to such person; or (v) proposes to the child that the child engage in sexual intercourse, sodomy or fondling of sexual or genital parts with another person; or (vi) sexually abuses the child as defined in subdivision 6 of §18.2-67.10 is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
B. Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this section is guilty of a Class 5 felony, provided that (i) the offenses were not part of a common act, transaction or scheme; (ii) the accused was at liberty as defined in § 53.1-151 between each conviction; and (iii) it is admitted, or found by the jury or judge before whom the person is tried, that the accused was previously convicted of a violation of this section.
1982, c. 521; 1986, c. 503; 1991, c. 517; 2001, c. 840; 2005, c. 185; 2014, c. 794
Is the senior pastor aware that Nickle is a registered child sex offender listed as violent? Are church members and attendees aware of this information?

Elevating a child sex offender to a position of trust and authority does not create a safe environment for kids and abuse survivors.

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

UPDATE: July 30, 2015

A grand deception: The successful response of sex offenders

When the Church prefers perpetrators

A careful grace: Accountability for sex offenders in the church
A church should not ask a sex offender to be part of the public platform.
Fairfax Community Church: Why you should check the sex offender registry before joining a church

UPDATE: 8/4/15
Last Saturday, I was in the DC area attending and speaking at our annual SNAP conference. A group of SNAP members and leaders held an awareness event outside Fairfax Community Church about convicted child sex offender and FCC pastor Eric Nickle.

We handed out leaflets to church congregants as they left the worship service.
SNAP believes that church officials are being reckless by employing Nickle and telling only some congregants about his past. 
Fairfax staff say they’re restricting Nickle’s activities at the church, but SNAP is skeptical.
“It’s dreadfully risky for church staff to claim or try to monitor shrewd sex offenders,” said Amy Smith of SNAP. “The outcome is often more child sex crimes surfacing years later.”
The group also challenges the church’s notion of “forgiveness.”
“We can forgive a drunk driver but shouldn’t give him school bus keys. We can forgive someone who commits violence but shouldn’t give him a gun,” said Becky Ianni of Burke VA. “We can forgive someone who abuses kids but shouldn’t give him any role in a position of trust and authority.”
“Putting a child sex offender in a position of trust and authority endangers innocent kids and hurts abuse victims,” said Smith. “Why take this avoidable risk with the most vulnerable among us?”
Shortly after we arrived, Loretta Cooper, spokesperson for FCC, came out to meet us. She gave us copies of the 2nd Fairfax Community Church statement in a week on Eric Nickle.

We spoke for a few minutes with Loretta Cooper. When I expressed concern that a convicted pedophile would be given a position of trust and authority as a Care Director, Loretta informed me that I am inflating his job responsibilities as Eric "mostly just carries boxes."

I assumed since Loretta was sent to deliver the official church statement that she is on staff. She said she's not on staff, does not speak on behalf of the church, and that she is just a member.

Loretta is married to Kyle Cooper, FCC youth pastor. I discovered that the senior pastor Rod Stafford has designated Loretta as the spokesperson on Eric Nickle.

Giving title Care Director sends wrong message! Hope church takes advice recognising perpetrators shouldn't be given positions of trust. ~ Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service

We ended our conversation with me asking Loretta Cooper if she or the church had contacted Boz Tchividjian of  G.R.A.C.E to get his input. She said they had not done so, but she promised that she would.

We have heard that senior pastor Rod Stafford addressed the situation regarding Eric Nickle in his sermon in the worship services last weekend in detail, even going into the specifics of Nickle's child sex crime conviction and discussing the identity of his victim. 
I went to the service yesterday at 5PM. It is not going to be streaming, nor put up on the internet. These are a few points, questions, and comments I got out of last night.
– There still seems to be a discussion surrounding the limitations and restrictions put on Mr. Nickle, yet those topics of discussion seem to have been addressed in the response Mr. Stafford sent out, or were they not addressed to the level that you feel is appropriate? (I ask that seriously and not in a sarcastic tone).
– Mr. Nickle’s dad was a swinger and his mom was sexually molested by a pastor before he was born. His parents thought having a child would keep their marriage together but, instead, they got divorced when Eric was 1 year old. As he was raised, he was exposed to pornography at a very young age.
– The victim was Mr. Nickle’s daughter. When she was 12 – 14 (I forget the exact age), upon her falling asleep he would come in and touch her (first through her clothing and then underneath it). The first time he touched her underneath her clothes she awoke and immediately told her mom (Eric’s wife).
– The sermon stated that, according to Virginia law, all crimes committed in such a way (even though no physical violence (in the traditional sense of striking, etc.) was caused, the term “violent” is still attached). @LawProf: This is your area of expertise so your words regarding whether this is true or not may help further elucidate the matter.
– Many years have passed and they have both gone through a tremendous amount of counseling (both on their own and together) to the point where they meet (in public) and Mr. Nickle gets to spend time with his daughter and grandson/granddaughter (I forget if it’s a boy or a girl but it was stated in the sermon).
– A second story was told about a woman who works at the church and is the supervisor of Mr. Nickle. She was a victim of molestation at the hands of a pastor when she was younger. I am refraining from using her name because of this. She has been Mr. Nickle’s supervisor for the entirety of his employment at FCC.
– Upon leaving the church, a few SNAP members were standing at the entrance to the church and offering pamphlets to drivers. Upon declining to receive the literature, the woman said, “That’s alright, thank you anyways”. I write this because I was “happy” to see that no animosity of any kind seemed to be outwardly demonstrated.

Anonymous said...
I've attended the church for 2 1/2 years. I attend almost every Sunday. I volunteer in the nursery and as a greeter. I was never told. Should I have asked?

I am highly offended that you think that touching his daughter is not violent. ANY unwanted sexual content is violent. That is why VA law requires this label.

Mr. Nelson may be a sex addict, addicted to porn or addicted to substances. The real issue is that he is a pedophile. Pedophiles should NOT be employed by churches.

Pastor Rod's sermon made me, as a survivor, no longer feel safe at FCC.
 Not sure if people who are attending this church are aware that Eric Nickle is on the sexual registry list for taking liberties with a minor. Since I am a mother of four children who have interacted with Eric I have notified the church staff several times. They wrote me off. I think the church has a responsibility to let its members know that Eric Nickles is on the sexual registry list. Look up the zip code of the church 22030 on the fairfax sexual offenders list and you will see a picture of him.

I will no longer take my family to this church.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Elevation Church "appears in denial" about a convicted child sex offender called a "hero" by Steven Furtick

This is a follow up post to my post: Steven Furtick and Elevation Church publicly support, celebrate, and elevate a convicted child sex offender before, during and after federal prison: registered sex offender Norman Vigue now leads Elevation Church Bible study

I am featuring an excellent comment that child protection expert Simon Bass left on my original post on Elevation Church and Norman Vigue. Simon Bass is the CEO of CCPASChurches’ Child Protection Advisory Service:
CCPAS is the only independent Christian charity providing professional advice, support, training and resources in all areas of safeguarding children, vulnerable adults and for those affected by abuse.
We exist to safeguard both children and vulnerable adults throughout the UK. We also work to help those who are, or have been, affected by child abuse and similar issues.
CCPAS is consulted and used by places of worship and groups across the church spectrum. We also assist other faith groups and a wide variety of statutory agencies and non-faith organisations keen to benefit from our resources and expertise.
We regularly give advice to government, Safeguarding Boards, Children's Social Care, Adult Social Services, the Police, the Probation Service, Health, voluntary bodies and other agencies across the UK.
Here is Simon Bass' full comment:
Elevation church appear[s] in denial about Norman Vigue, so the concern has to be for the safety of all children in the church. 
God is a God of the second chance, ( Luke 15:11-32) God wants us to be restored to him, but that right relationship is conditional on our willingness to repent and seek his forgiveness. God’s grace through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ makes a way for all who have sinned regardless of what that sin is (Ephesians 2:8). 
 We know that sex offenders often have multiple victims some liken it to an addition. Vigue served time for the offence of possession of child abuse images. I prefer not to use ‘child pornography’ as it can distort some peoples understanding with the word pornography. What we are talking about is not just naked pictures of children but the recording of the sexual abuse of children. This shows that Vigue has a sexual interest in children, and whilst undertaking treatment and therapy is helpful he will always remain a danger to children. He will not be helped if he is part of a church that is in denial about his crimes (calling them mistakes is a denial, suggesting that mistakes lead to miracles is just a dangerous statement, as it infers that the miracles is removing that sexual attraction to children, leading to the question how this can be tested?)

For the truly repentant sex offender there is never an issue about having any form of public ministry in the church. They will welcome a contract outlining the boundaries they must keep. This should include conduct in the church and in the wider church family. This will have been written following a risk assessment of the church (can the church safety accommodate the sex offender, or would say another church with no children’s ministry be a better church) and informed by risk assessment from law enforcement, etc. Importantly it should be recognised that the principle aim of the contract is not the integration of the sex offender into the church but the protection of children who are part of the church family. Children are trusting, particularly in churches so we must never place sex offenders in positions of trust and responsibility which tells children that they are safe to be around. Why risk sex offenders targeting children away from the church building. Children may be reluctant to talk to a stranger but show less concern talking to someone they believe is a trusted adult. 

We don’t judge, true repentance is demonstrated by their fruits the journey they are on (Matthew 7:16-20). Viewing child abuse images is not a victimless crime, they are thousands of victims who have not only been sexually abused but continue to be re-victimized by the sharing of those images. 

I have no issue with churches who welcome the modern day lepers that is sexual offenders into their community. I have issue if this is done without careful grace, and this starts with recognizing that our churches have victims of abuse within them. Let us care for survivors of abuse, have our leaders and workers trained in child protection with clear policies and procedures in child safety. Then our churches will be better equipped to care for sex offenders. 

Being careful as to what role you give a convicted sex offender is not about denying God’s power to work miracles and to restore the sinner. It is about enacting Galatians 6:10 in doing good to everyone as we have opportunity. Being a good steward in church is not only about finance it is about conduct. We should not place a convicted sex offender in a place of temptation. I know of no church who would give a convicted embezzler the job of the church treasurer, and our children’s welfare is more important than our finances.

It is not about time scale. In what we know about grooming and how some sex offenders manipulate circumstances it is worth noting that, no sex offender is any safer because they have been part of the church for a particular period of time. Be wise as Matthew 10:16.
Last Friday, I began a Twitter conversation with Geoff Schutlz, the lead Motion Graphics Designer on staff at Elevation Church asking a question about registered child sex offender Norman Vigue who is in public leadership roles at Elevation Church.

We have heard from some concerned people that Norm has been greeting people at Elevation Church and oversees guest resources in addition to the class he leads.

Several others joined in on the Twitter conversation and for a while on Friday night, Geoff Schultz responded. In his last tweet on the matter on Friday night, he said he would read the federal criminal court documents, USA vs. Norman Vigue. The next morning I noticed that Geoff had deleted all his tweets about Norm Vigue. He had also blocked me and several others.