Tag Archives: Abuse

Former VA Beach Area Director Found Guilty of Sex Crimes

9 Aug

Young Life Watch

According to various news outlets, Jeffrey Bondi, former Young Life Area Director in VA beach, was found guilty of sexually assaulting an 18 year old babysitter in 2001.

During the trial, it was brought out that Bondi had been investigated as far back as 1997 for being accused of fondling a 15 year old student on a bus coming back from a Young Life camp in North Carolina.

You can read the local reporting on the conclusion of Bondi’s trial below:

Former Virginia Beach youth pastor found guilty in 15-year-old sexual assault

Former Va. Beach youth pastor found guilty of object penetration

https://pilotonline.com/news/local/crime/former-virginia-beach-youth-ministry-leader-found-guilty-of-sexually/article_c8dad024-423c-5faa-ae2c-df39da2b9f49.html

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Dear Christian: Stop Tithing (and other assorted advice)

9 Jun

Dear Christian-

I know you think I’m just out to poke holes in your faith.  Sometimes I feel that way, but mostly I hate seeing good people, who happen to be Christians, taken advantage of by dishonest clergy who are only out for themselves.

Tithing

Tithing simply means a tenth, and it is a term used in the Old Testament for offerings of cattle, grain, food, and sometimes money.  These offerings of a tenth (10%) were used for the sacrifices of the Temple in Jerusalem and for special feasts throughout the year.  It acted like a type of National tax that funded the Governing bodies of ancient Israel.

As a Christian growing up, I was consistently taught that Christian were supposed to tithe to their local church, just like the Israelites.  I accepted this teaching at face value and began tithing in my late teens.  Once in my early years of marriage I faced some daunting financial situations.  Talking to my pastor at the time, his first question was whether I was tithing.  I told him we were tithing and he seemed pleased and instructed us to keep tithing-even though we were in dire financial straits.

After many years of tithing, I decided to study the topic myself and was surprised to find that tithing is not taught in the New Testament.  Not once are Christian believers commanded to tithe. I also realized that in ancient Israel, the tithe was more like a tax than a donation to a local body of believers.

Non-Profits

Some Christians I knew had come to similar conclusions about tithing, but still felt obligated to give 10% of their income to good causes (missions, feeding the poor, etc…).

The problem I’ve learned, is that many non-profits have loose accountability, and many of the funds can go to expenses totally unrelated to the cause they claim to represent.  So while you may feel good about giving to a poor child in another country, in reality, much of your donation may be going to the overhead of running a non-profit instead of helping out those in need. Not to say that there aren’t good non-profits out there-but do your research before turning over your hard earned money.

Take Care of Your Finances First

My own opinion on finances, is that you should always be able to take care of your own obligations before giving or tithing. What good does it do if you give money to the poor and then end up poor yourself?

Final Observation

It has been my experience, that church leaders who preach a hard and fast rule on tithing are abusive.  They typically are quick to line their own budgets with conferences, expensive offices and church buildings, multiple family vacations, and are often content to preach about giving to the poor and not much else.

If you care about where your money is going…then don’t give to these sort of people.

In my opinion-stop tithing….   Best Regards-CA

CA’s Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church

13 May

Ok…it’s not scientific by any stretch of the imagination.  But here’s my Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Wait for it………….

You are attending an abusive church if you do not know the salary of the Senior Pastor.

Seriously, if your church does not publish an annual budget including the pastor’s salary, then run for the door.

Here’s the caveat, some churches may not publish the specific salary, but are more than willing to share specifics when asked by members or at an all church finance meeting.

But to my point, if you can not find out this information with relative ease, then you are most likely dealing with leaders who are not trustworthy and are abusive.  You’ll here all sorts of excuses as to why this information is not disclosed, but I’ve never heard an adequate reason to withhold this information from the people whose generosity has provided the church with it’s financial resources.

Without transparency, there can be no accountability.  And where there is no accountability, abuse is ripe.

So there you have it….don’t make say I told you so by ignoring this

Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Peace-CA

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

Musicman’s Story Part 1

14 Nov
SGM

SGM (Photo credit: AJC1)

First off, I apologize for neglecting the blog this last month.  A couple of car problems and a whole lot of overtime have kept me away.  I’ve had quite a few new readers and I promise to address some of the topics you’ve raised.  Thanks in advance for your patience as I catch up with you all!

A few weeks back I promised to post my SGM story.  Here’s the first of three posts I wrote for SGM Survivors back in 2008.  As the lawsuit against SGM unfolds,  I wanted to share a little of what we saw during our almost 10 years among SGM.  

A couple of notes,  I wrote these posts as a Christian and I’ve kept them unedited to reflect my thinking at the time.  Secondly, I make reference to PDI, which was what SGM was known as before they changed their name.

 

I started attending a SG church (PDI) while still in college. I mostly attended the Sunday services since they did not have a college ministry. I found myself drawn to SG because I had begun to experience the Holy Spirit in a new way, but was wary of the other Pentecostal/ Charismatic churches I had tried. Having become a Christian at a Presbyterian Church, I was still leery of what seemed like emotionalism and a loosey goosey approach to scripture. I found PDI to be upbeat in it’s worship and a more serious tone in their preaching, and I liked that a lot.
During my last couple years of college, I invited or transported many different friends and friends of friends to come and check out my new church. Many of which are still there today, and a majority of them are pastors or leaders within SG as a whole.

It was after getting married and joining a care group that I began to know more about SG and it’s particulars. I began leading worship at our care group and quickly became good friends with our leaders. My wife and I really looked up to this other couple because we were struggling to figure out this crazy little thing called marriage. Most of the time, this couple showed genuine concern and love to us and made us a part of their lives and family.

It was also at this time that I attended a small men’s group where extreme prodding into the men’s lives were the norm. We were often chastised in front of others and grilled about our sins. Confessing specific sin in very specific detail was the norm. At first I found it exciting and addicting-it was like a drug to hear someone bare their soul and sin for all to see. I was amazed at how some of the older men could seem to sniff out and sometimes even tell someone what their problem was (pride, lust, weakness in leading our wives, etc….) men would cry, I would cry. It seemed so real, and to some extent, I think some good may have come from it.

But there was a dark side that emerged later-I realized that 2 of the “older men” who pretty much lead our discussions and sin sniffing missions, were not being open about their lives. They were willing to go after (even to the point of very stern rebukes) other men but they themselves had become almost silent about their own lives. I even confronted one of the men, asking why he would always talk about someone else’s confessed sin, but never his own. I don’t remember his exact reply, but I remember being dissatisfied with his answer. The other one would always confess (in excruciating detail) some lustful thought he had about some women’s breasts at a train station, etc…but would never talk about his wife or kids or things close to home. I felt like he was being evasive about real issues. This wasn’t the tipping point for me, I just assumed that this type of behavior was not the norm.

It was later that I found out that the 2 men leading were very much in conflict with each other and that some of the others in our group, were cheating on their wives. But at the time, there was a lot of puffed up talk on how this was leading us to be God’s men, men above the others, this was “Biblical” fellowship, we were building “community”, blah, blah blah….makes me sick to think that we were avoiding God while we so boastfully applauded ourselves for our “radical” commitment.

As much as I had some doubts about what was happening in my men’s group, I still had drunk deeply of all that our pastors said upfront about “the local church” and the commitment to be about the Lord’s business in the proper church structure. So my wife and I signed up to be on a church plant-we were about to enter “alternate reality”

The Stories…Shedding Light on Sovereign Grace’s Abuses

24 Oct
Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1=

Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1= (Photo credit: Sheba_Also)

I’ve had a huge uptick from folks searching for more information about Sovereign Grace Ministries and the lawsuit filed against current and former pastors (including CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak).  The lawsuit alleges that sexual abuse of children was covered up and not properly reported to the police and to the churches.  Many that read here are very familiar with the alleged abuses and the years of stories of heavy handed abuse and deception by SGM leaders.

To an outsider, who might only know of CJ Mahaney and Josh Harris as Christian authors/speakers, it can be intimidating to understand the unique culture and abuses that have occurred over the decades.  I would like to recommend a  link that may help you understand the types of abuses that have occurred and why SGM is now being sued.

Kris, over at SGM Survivors, has a  link called The Stories.  It is a huge compilation of stories from past members of Sovereign Grace and the abuses they endured.  The document is equivalent to a 140 page PDF file and has years of posts from former pastors, small group leaders, worship leaders, average church goers, and children that grew up within the Sovereign Grace family of churches.

This link alone should give anyone a pretty good idea of just how deep and wide the problems of abuse have dogged Sovereign Grace, because of their cultic view of pastoral authority.

As a side note, I wrote 3 posts for SGM Survivors back in 2008.  They are included in this link under Musicman’s story.  Musicman is the handle I’ve used at SGM Survivors since I began posting back in the fall of 2007.

I actually hadn’t read the posts I had written in a couple of years and will post them here at the Christian Agnostic over the next few days.  It may be of interest to some of my readers, since these posts were written a few years before losing my Christian faith.

Regardless, it is the true story of the abuses I saw and endured during my time in SGM.

Until next time….

Future Mad Scientist, DB…Responds to Creflo Dollar and the Issue of Spanking

14 Jun

In my last post (which you can find here), I commented briefly, that Creflo Dollar is claiming that he did not hit and choke his 15-year-old daughter, he only spanked her.

Future mad scientist DB had this to say

First, as a still-Christian, the rod is symbolic of parental authority not permission to beat your kids.

Second, why is everyone up in arms because of her age? Why is it ok to beat little kids but spare older kids? No one should be hit period.

One of the things I regret as a result of my time in the same cultish church as our dear host is that I ever physically assaulted my children.

Nothing will take away that shame and regret.

What you may not know about DB and christianagnostic, is that we used to go to the same church.  In fact, we used to go to the same small group, at this church.

It was at this church that I was first exposed to the teachings of Gary Ezzo.  DB approached our pastors about some concerns she had with the Ezzo and his parenting advice.  They kicked her and her family out of the church and forbid anyone to speak to her.  They shunned her family for merely asking them to justify these extreme parenting ideas.  You can read DB’s story about these events here.

So there’s a little context as to why DB and I fell so strongly against spanking.  It’s because we were parenting young children at a church that encouraged parents to spank at almost any infraction and at any age.

In the parenting classes I attended, we were instructed to begin disciplining children as young as 3 months old.  And when I say discipline, I mean we were specifically taught to flick a baby’s  backside if they were crying and showing their “sinful” nature.  All of this was  according to Mr. Ezzo and our pastoral staff, the “Biblical” way to raise “Godly” children.  This same pastor, went so far as to suggest that we NOT take our children to any doctor that would inspect their backsides for marks, because then the doctor might be obligated to report suspected abuse.

He went on to say he could recommend a Dr. who “understood” Biblical discipline and was always careful to never inspect children’s backsides for bruising.

If you’re sitting here with your mouth now open and wondering if anyone actually followed this advice….I’m sorry to report that I witnessed young babies being “flicked” for crying too much.  As a parent of a toddler, I had been encouraged to begin spanking with a foot long glue stick.  Yes, a glue stick.  I was told that it ensured that pain was felt and that it left very little bruising.

Now call me crazy, but this sort of teaching is all about control through violence and intimidation, not discipline.  And you want to know the other side of it.  It doesn’t work….I could list family after family that used to follow this regime, believing that they were raising “Godly “children that would never rebel or disobey (yes-they actually pitched this as a way to insure that you did not ever have rebellious children).  Only to have major issues with their children.

I actually attempted to follow this parenting model, but just couldn’t.  It seemed so wrong and harsh.  As a new parent, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just harsh, it was abuse.  We chucked it pretty soon into it and decided we didn’t care what our church thought.  But I still have regret for ever giving heed to such an abusive outlook and it has weighed heavy on me, at times.  Once I realized how awful it had been, I would cry (almost uncontrollably) at how adversarial I had been to my own children.  They were young and tender, and I was assuming the worst of their tiny hearts.

So when it comes to spanking, I say “Buyer Beware”.

You might be able to control your children in the short-term with such tactics, but you could be sowing seeds of resentment that could last a lifetime.

Story of Child Abuse from the Mothership of SGM-featured at Exchristian.net

3 May

exCLCer has posted her story of abuse at the hands of two pastors from CLC.   For those not familiar with Sovereign Grace Ministries, CLC (Covenant Life Church) was the founding church of the cult.  One of the founding pastors is CJ Mahaney, author and speaker in many of the new Reformed conferences.  CLC’s current  pastor is Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

I attended SGM churches for almost a decade, including a brief period at CLC in Gaithersburg, MD.

I’ll let her story speak for itself:

http://new.exchristian.net/2012/05/losing-faith-gaining-facts-my-story-of.html

How Smart People Get Sucked into Cults

14 Apr

I was a few months into my new job and really enjoying my position and co-workers.  I was taking a quick break and jumped on a computer in the break room to check email.  After checking email, I decided to click over to the SGMSURVIVORS board for current and former member of the cult I used to be a part.  I was just about to wrap it up when one of my newest co-workers came up and enthusiastically asked what I was reading.   AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!  Do I just kinda fudge it and say nothing while I quickly close the page?  Or do I just tell the truth?

I hesitated and she asked “What?”-you know, the kind of one word question that says “did I just say something wrong to you” sort of what.

I breathed deep and said, “I was checking on a Survivors blog  for former members of an abusive church I used to attend…..a cult.”

My co-worker looked surprised and said “But you’re smart, how did you end up being a part of a cult?”  Without getting too deep into the details, I explained that I was raised Christian, and while at college I attended some churches to try to stay involved with my faith.  Unfortunately, I ended up at a church that seemed so friendly and nice at first;  but after being involved for years, came to realize that they would suck people into their relational network, only to threaten to take it away if you dared to disagree with church leadership.

It took me years to admit it….but it’s true.  I was part of a cult.  And you know why it took me years to admit it…pride.  You see, only gullible and naive people get sucked into cults, right?  I mean, if I admit that I was part of a cult, than what does that say about me?  That I’m gullible and naive, of course.  And what intelligent person wants to admit that there a sucker…I certainly didn’t.

Emotional Creatures Are We

The experience of getting sucked into a cult has taught me something-we are emotional creatures first, rational creatures only when forced to change.  This is a generalization of course, but I think it holds true and is why thinking people get caught up into cults.

From my experience, I can look back now and see how the church I attended would Love Bomb visitors and then exploit the relational needs or vulnerabilities of these folks.  They would draw their new-found recruits into a deeper relational network composed of only members of the church.  Once someone became intertwined in the church, that’s when the additional demands (both doctrinally and practically) would be trotted out.  At this point, I am forced to make a choice.  Do I reject this new doctrine/demand and risk losing  my new-found relationships, or do I try to make a go of it so that I can continue to enjoy the relationships that I now depend on for support and self-worth?

It’s this exploitation of our emotions that makes leaving a cult so hard.  It hurts like hell, in fact.  All of the sudden, people you thought you could depend on are treating you like you’re a criminal.  Or acting as if you don’t exist anymore.  All the while, you thought you were building relationships to last a lifetime, only to see them washed away in one fell swoop.

It’s then that you realize that all the phone calls, the meals when you were sick, the invites to hang out as couples all hinged on you being a part of the “best church” since the New Testament was written; maybe even better.  Now that you’ve voiced some concerns, or pointed out an area where they do not practice what they preach, you become “persona non grata”.

And that’s it in a nutshell.  It almost doesn’t matter what the particulars of the belief system are.  It’s the fact that you will be punished through your relationships, with cruel efficiency and forethought by people you love.  It’s this threat of relational banishment that holds current members in fearful check, while those being banished find themselves overboard and drifting on a sea of emotional turmoil and confusion.  Have I mentioned it hurts like hell?  Well just in case you missed it, it hurts like hell.