Archive | January, 2013

Covenant Life Issues Statement Concerning Amended SGM Lawsuit

16 Jan

Special thanks to thetollingbell.org  for posting CLC’s emailed response the the SGM lawsuit.

Having trouble reading this e-mail? View it in your browser.
Dear Church,We’re writing to update you on a new development in the legal process that began unfolding last fall. The lawsuit that was filed in October has been amended. It now names our church and our school as defendants. In addition it alleges sexual abuse by an unnamed “pastor and teacher” and “children’s ministry worker” (though it does not make clear what institution these persons are connected with nor when the events allegedly occurred).

We’re currently working with legal counsel to investigate these allegations. But our counsel has confirmed with counsel for the Plaintiffs that these unnamed persons are not current employees of the school or pastors at the church. 

It will take time for us to review and investigate these new allegations. We ask for your patience—it’s very likely that this is going to be a lengthy process. Please continue to pray.

We are sickened by the thought of such abuse—sexual abuse in any form is evil and unconscionable. We are grieved by these allegations. We also recognize that we don’t have all the facts. We would encourage everyone to withhold judgment until an appropriate legal process can be completed.

We want you to know our commitment is to do what is right before the Lord throughout this process. We want justice and truth to prevail—whether this indicts past actions or vindicates them. If wrong has been done, we want that to be revealed and for there to be appropriate accountability. We also know that it is possible for people to be wrongly accused, and so we pray that God will protect anyone from inaccurate or distorted or false accusations.

Please join us in praying for God’s will to be done and for our church to walk through this difficult process in a manner that demonstrates our hope and trust are in him. Let us pray that this testing will make us more dependent on God, more compassionate to the hurting, and more effective in sharing the love and tender care of Jesus Christ with others.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV)

Sincerely,

The Pastors of Covenant Life

Covenant Life Church
7501 Muncaster Mill Rd., Gaithersburg, Md. 20877
301-869-2800

I’ll just offer a few thoughts about CLC’s response.

To be blunt….it sucks.  It sucks big time for one big reason.  It sucks because it fails to show any proactive effort to make sure that current members with knowledge of these abuses step forward and speak to authorities.

Instead, it takes the typical defensive “wait and see’ posture that your pastors are doing everything to investigate these allegations, so “you all” just sit tight and withhold judgement until we get back to you.

Where is the sense of urgency to make sure that no stone has been left unturned and the encouragement to speak to proper authorities if you are aware or are a victim of this type of abuse?  It’s not there…

In my opinion, this response seems to indicate that CLC’s pastors wish this whole mess would just go away.

I’m still waiting for Josh Harris to put on his big-boy pants and do something that remotely looks like moral courage…

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Amended SGM Lawsuit Alleges Naked Beatings by Larry Tomczak

16 Jan

As I’ve finally calmed down enough to digest the shocking allegations in the latest SGM drama, one of the most shocking, is the allegation that Larry Tomczak  (co-founder of SGM Ministries) administered naked beatings to one of his children for over 25 years.  The following is an excerpt of the allegation.

Carla Coe was repeatedly assaulted by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirators during a 25-year period spanning her childhood and young adulthood.  Defendant Tomczak assaulted Carla Coe with his hands, as well as with various instruments, including but not limited to, plastic and wooden sticks.

On multiple occasions, including occasions after Carla Coe reached the age of majority, Defendant Tomczak forced Karla Coe to strip out of her clothing against her will, and be beaten on her bare buttocks.  Defendant Tomczak continued to engage in this forced undressing and beating of Carla Coe until she fled and escaped from the abuse.

On several occasions, Defendant Tomczak imprisoned Carla Coe and denied her food for extended periods of time.

Defendant Tomczak verbally admitted on one or more occasions to the individual Defendants and to the Church that he abused Carla Coe.  No one reported the beatings to the secular authority.

The assaults by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirators’ assaults primarily occurred in Maryland and Virgina.

You can find more of the amended lawsuit here (thanks yo Kris & Guy at SGM Survivors).

Such a short few sentences packed with a lifetime of excruciating pain.  I guess Larry Tomczak wasn’t kidding around when he penned his book God, The Rod, and Your Child’s Bod.

God, the rod, and your child's bod: The art of loving correction for Christian parents

A book in which he talks about spanking children when they are teething (in other words, less than 1 years old).

Some folks have reacted with disbelief that a young woman in her twenties would submit to this type of treatment.  I can tell you from my own experience in SGM, that many a leader in the movement spoke about spanking children that were of age.  I remember one conversation with Mark Prater, then a care group leader at Covenant Fellowship Church, in which he praised a teaching tape that spoke about a Father spanking his son who was in his late teens.  This idea that children could be spanked at just about any age, was certainly discussed by different leaders in SGM at the time that many of the alleged abuses occurred.

The other thing to understand, is that SGM preached that to obey God, one had to unquestioningly follow those put in authority above you.  For church members, it meant obeying your pastors, even when they were wrong (no kidding-I was told this by a pastor at Covenant Fellowship in my exit interview), for wives it meant their husbands, and for children it meant their parents.  Simply questioning or disagreeing with any of these “God-given” authorities was tantamount to being in full-blown rebellion to God.  This atmosphere of unquestioning obedience is a perfect breeding ground for abuse.

Another wicked aspect in SGM’s teachings was the idea that you as an individual could not trust your own feelings.  Only if a pastor or parent confirmed them were you to trust yourself.  Again, saying that you felt wronged or abused meant nothing, since your own judgement could always be called into question as flawed and horribly sinful.  Multiply this times 100 for a child who is trying to grow up in this environment and you can begin to scratch the surface of why some would allow themselves to be abused for so long.

Lastly, I just want to highlight the extreme bravery it took for these victims to come forward and tell the truth.  I’m sure for some, it will cost them many relationships.  My thoughts go out to them on this night…I hope they find the justice, peace, and refuge that should have been theirs growing up.

Amended SGM Lawsuit: Shocking Allegations of Rape/Child Abuse by Pastors at CLC/ Larry Tomczak

15 Jan
Tsar Bomba mushroom cloud

Tsar Bomba mushroom cloud (Photo credit: andy z)

I’m still trying to digest the newest allegations in the upcoming civil lawsuit against SGM co-founders CJ Mahaney andf Larry Tomczak.  One of the more shocking allegations is that a pastor and a principal at CLC private school, engaged in a coordinated effort to rape children under their care during the school day at CLC’s private school.

The amended lawsuit also alleges sexual and physical abuse by Larry Tomczak of one of his daughter’s, spanning a period of over 25 years.

Personally, I’m feeling shell-shocked that I ever gave a dime to these ministerial shysters.  My sympathies are with the victim’s who have endured years of shame and guilt at the hands of men whose public image was one of humility and godliness.

I have so many more thoughts on the subject and will be posting them over the next few days.

For now, you can read the various media reports covering this latest development in the SGM Lawsuit.

 Louisville Courier

Washington Post

ABC Affiliate WJLA

New Year, Daily Devotionals, and My Utmost For His Highest

8 Jan
Cover of "My Utmost for His Highest"

Cover of My Utmost for His Highest

Happy New Year!  I hope you had your fill of Christmas celebrations, picked over veggie trays, and white elephant parties.

In all seriousness, our family had a really great Christmas/ New Year’s break.  I hope yours was just as enjoyable.

New Years Resolutions….Daily Devotions

At my current workplace, conversations of new diets and more exercise could be overheard at every turn.  Hearing folks discuss their resolutions reminded me of the frenzy of daily devotionals that would fly off the shelf after New Years, at our local Christian book store.

There was an amazing array of devotional books designed to jump-start this spiritual discipline.  For the light-weights and newbies, there were devotionals like “My First Thirty Quiet Times” and the ever popular booklets “The One-Minute Devotional” series.  If the original “One Minute Devotional” didn’t suit you, than you could always purchase the One Minute Devotional for Men, Women, Children  Grandparents  Business people  etc….forever and ever Amen.

For the more experienced devotional reader, Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning & Evening” proved popular.  Popular authors such as Charles Swindol and Charles Stanley also penned popular devotionals.  (What is it about being named Charles and writing devotionals?).

Lastly, for the expert devotional reader who had exhausted Spurgeon and the like, there was the One Year Bible.  It was a Bible formatted into daily readings from the Old Testament, Psalms/Proverbs, and the New Testament.  My guess is, that the editors knew that anyone attempting to read straight through the Bible in a daily format would lose interest once they hit Numbers and Leviticus.  Hence the reason for splicing it into daily doses from both Testaments and the wisdom books.

The Mother Of all Devotionals-My Utmost For His Highest

In my opinion, the book that started it all was Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest”.  My Utmost was published after Chambers death, serving as a YMCA chaplain to British troops in World War I.

As a book, it was a one page per day devotional, that usually derived its teaching from a small phrase of Scripture.  And this is one of the reasons why I dreaded this book.

First off, often times the simple phrase chosen by Chambers would be ripped out of its Scriptural context to make its point.  Even if what the devotional taught was consistent with other parts of the Bible, why tear another phrase out of its context to make your point?  I simply hated this approach to the Bible.  It seemed like cherry picking at its worst.

The other thing I disliked about Chambers style, was a subtle tone of legalism.  I can’t exactly place why I felt this way, but I can honestly say that I never could get through the thing without feeling worse about myself.  A more appropriate title may have been “My Lamest for His Overbearingness”, or something along those lines.

The Oddity Of It All

In hindsight, I now view daily devotionals as odd.  They promise to help bring the Christian closer to God and help them in their obedience and love to God.  But if God is ever-present, then why would you need a human compilation of writings to usher you into his presence.

Secondly, if the Bible is truly God’s word and is sufficient to lead into all knowledge and wisdom, than why would you even need or want another book to read?  It’s like saying you need a supplement to help your diet of the Bible to be digested properly.  How come the Holy Spirit can’t help you understand all that is needed to be known?  It just seems silly to me now.  How could a human author supplement the infallible word of God?

What I think now, is that the Bible is hard to read and hard to understand.  Devotionals actually replace Bible reading because reading the Bible usually leads to questions, frustrations, and contradictions that are not easily reconciled.

Recommended Link:

The Powerlessness of Prayer