Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Vision

To this point in my blog, I have tried to avoid some current hot-button issues in an effort to woo my Fundamentalist readers with love and logic. I'm going to break that a little bit today.

We need to talk about Tina Anderson and Pastor Chuck Phelps.

Stay with me, Fundy readers. Please.

For those who don't know, the short version of the story is this:

Tina Anderson was raped twice by a married fellow church member named Ernie Willis. (Recently convicted of all 4 counts in a court of law.)

Tina became pregnant from the second rape.

Tina's Pastor (Chuck Phelps) became aware of the situation, counseled both of them, and called the police to report the incident. The police, for whatever reason, did not follow up appropriately.

Tina and Ernie were both put before the congregation to be disciplined as separate issues: Ernie for being unfaithful to his wife; Tina for being pregnant after "allowing a compromising situation to occur".

The decision was made for Tina to be moved to Colorado and to put her baby up for adoption. She was homeschooled and largely isolated from other teens.

Ernie was allowed to stay in the church.

Those are incontrovertible facts, without bias. Nobody, unless they're lying, tries to dispute any of these. There is much more to the story, but I'm trying to be as non-inflammatory as possible. Let us be clear, however, just those facts are appalling enough. Chuck Phelps was wrong to put a rape victim up in front of the church for discipline. He was wrong to make it appear to the congregation that the two events disciplined that night were unrelated. He was wrong to send Tina away as though *she* were the pariah. He was wrong to allow a rapist to continue to function in the church, at the very least, without strict supervision. And he continues those wrongs by refusing to admit publicly that he did anything wrong in the entire situation.

Recently at a prominent Fundamentalist conference, another very prominent Fundamentalist leader made this comment about Pastor Chuck Phelps:
”The only way you get publicity is to have somebody hate you, as brother Chuck Phelps has had, and they come up with evil reports [about you,] then you get in the papers. And by the way, thank God he [Chuck Phelps] stood right all the way through all of this and we ought to stand with him and encourage him, but I don’t suppose newspapers here in Indianapolis write a whole lot of articles about Crosspointe.” (full sermon here; quote at 21:55 mark)

I'm sorry, but I cannot believe that anyone with a heart for crime victims or who desires to do what is right rather than what is popular could say something like that about Chuck Phelps. I am angry that Fundamentalist leadership appears to be more concerned with patting each other on the back than truth and repentance.

And then I read a response to this Fundamentalist leader by Tina's husband, Tim. With his permission, I am reposting the majority of it here.

I grew up being taught in an IFB church, Christian school, Christian college for over 30 years. I have two bachelor degrees from two different IFB colleges. I'm not tooting my own horn. I just want to point out that the IFB way of life is about all I knew about church and education.

Growing up, I always admired the leaders in the IFB. I'd like to believe that the pastor I grew up under, Pastor James Singleton, a major force in the IFB, if he were alive, he'd be addressing these things. I'd like to believe that he's turning over in his grave right now with all that is going on in FBFI.

I grew up being taught that a person of character will admit when he/she has made a mistake, no matter the consequences. I was taught that a man of God should be above reproach. Over this past year, I've been having a hard time grasping the mentality of the leaders in the IFB. It's not what I was taught. It now looks like, "Do what I say, not what I do."

I don't understand Dr. Ed Nelson and his comments. I would have understood it better if he had just not said anything but to say that Chuck Phelps has "stood right through all of this" is beyond comprehension. I guess you could say that if you're looking at the situation through rose colored glasses or an IFB prism that distorts your perspective.

His comments make me realize that my wife and I made the right decision over a year ago.

Before Tina's story was made public last May, we decided to leave our IFB church, which is part of the FBFI. We were never asked to leave. We didn't make a fuss or try to cause any problems. We knew there would be enough of that when Tina's story became public. We decided to leave quietly. She gave her letter of resignation to the IFB college where she taught voice and we walked out the door.

My sisters, although they don't agree with us for leaving our church and are currently in their own IFB churches, still love and support us. Fortunately, blood is thicker than church affiliation. I know this is not always the case and I'm extremely thankful to God for that. My sister asked me if we'd ever go back to a Baptist church. Although I had not really thought about it, I told her "I doubt it." After watching everything going on in IFB land, and after watching Tina finally being vindicated through the conviction of one of her rapists, and still no admittance of wrong from the leaders inside the FBFI, I would now answer my sister and say, "No, I'll never be a member of another IFB church." Would I visit? Yes. In fact, I have friends who are pastors of IFB churches. I'm going to visit one of them this Sunday. I have not seen him for about a year and so I'm looking forward to my visit.

Ed Nelson says that the only way to get publicity is to have somebody hate you. If hate is the only way for fundamental baptist to get publicity, I feel very sorry for them. If hate is the only way that you are getting publicity, then you need to examine what you are doing. What you saw was public outrage (hate) at the injustice that was done to a 15 year old. What you saw was hate that a man who claims to serve God kept spinning the truth to try and make himself not look so bad. The only people that worked on are the people who don't want to face the fact that Chuck Phelps did wrong and has not been able to admit it.

What we, my wife and I, saw was hate from the people who claim to love God but were more concerned about their image than doing what was right. What we saw was hate from people who slandered, created false scenarios, assumed false motivations, and downright called Tina a liar and manipulator for finally standing up for herself. This is the kind of publicity that we would have chosen to avoid. In fact, publicity was one thing we never wanted. We never realized how big of a story this would turn out to be when the police asked Tina to tell them her story and what happened 14 years ago.

Hate was never our motivating factor, justice was. It was justice against Ernie Willis, the man who raped Tina twice when she was 15. We finally saw justice this past May.

Tina and I do not hate Chuck Phelps. We don't hate Ernie Willis. We don't hate the IFB or the FBFI or anyone else associated with this whole situation.

What are our feelings? We'd like to go back to living a quiet, peaceful life serving God, raising our kids, and growing old together. We'll see what God has planned for us. I'm excited about our future and looking forward to the journey that God has set before us.

This response reaffirms that Tina and her husband are interested in truth and justice. Fundamentalist leaders are not.

I cannot, in good conscience, follow leaders this corrupt. For me, this debacle is also another confirmation that my decision to leave Fundamentalism was the right one.

1 comment:

  1. Such a difference in the tone of Tina's husband and Chuck Phelps. It is wrong that people have been so concerned about defending a movement that the victims are forgotten. You stated the facts well.