Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Message from Tina

Tina has posted a thought provoking post on her personal blog that cuts to the chase and needs to be spoken. She asks the question, "What message are you sending," to those that choose to support an abuser. 

I will never be able to understand a mother that chooses the abuser over her own children. 

It is not just those that choose the abuser that need to hear this message. Those that choose silence are also giving consent.
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel
"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NH Supreme Court Unanimously Rules to Deny Ernie Willis' Appeal

The NH Supreme Court handed down it's unanimous ruling today that Ernie Willis' conviction stands on ALL counts.

The Concord Monitor has it's own story: "Supreme Court upholds rape conviction, rejects religious privilege argument."
"The state Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the rape and sexual assault convictions against Ernest Willis who is serving a 15-to-30 year prison sentence for forcibly raping his teenage babysitter twice, whom he knew through Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, in 1997." 
AP picked up the story, so it is in the media nationwide. Here is the version published by the Washington Post:  "NH high court rejects church rapist’s appeal of conviction; victim, 15, forced to apologize."
 "Ernest Willis was convicted in May 2011 of raping the girl in 1997. His lawyer argued that statements he made to the pastor of the fundamentalist Trinity Baptist Church should not have been used against him. But prosecutors countered that Willis’ statements were not protected by religious privilege because they involved the sexual abuse of a child."
The ruling of the justices is interesting reading and includes some trial testimony excerpts. You can read it in its entirety here.

It is good to see justice stand. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tina took Aria to National Jewish Hosp. in Denver

Tina is currently in Denver with our daughter, Aria, at National Jewish Hospital. She just finished up her first week and will be there at least another week.

Please pray for the doctors as they examine Aria and try to determine the best way to treat her. It's very possible Aria will have at least one & possibly two surgeries next week.

If you'd like to read Tina's updates about her visit, you can go to her blog. The first two entries are linked below.

Blessed - Day 1 & 2

Multiple Tests - Day 3 & 4

Looking Ahead - Day 5

Tina and Aria could use your prayers for strength. It's hard being away from home, in a strange place, and dealing with doctors and hospitals on top of it all.

Thank you!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


While my body was imprisoned,
My soul was free.
Now that my body is free,
My soul is restless.

How could this happen (or be)?
Have I not dreamed of total freedom?
The dream that stayed with me for years
I dream no longer—shed no tears.

Embraced with memories so vivid,
I suffer quietly alone.
There’s no one left who shared my sorrows,
Who walked with me the road of horrors.

How many thoughts remain unspoken,
But memories can’t fade away.
The horrors of the past still haunt me,
The ghostly shadows won’t dissipate.

I tried to free myself, pretending it never happened.
Oh, what a fool I was in thinking I could easily forget.
My nights are long, my thoughts are lingering.
The past will always be with me.

No matter how I try, there’s no escape from what was real.
Should I continue to reveal?
Should others learn the true life story
Of more than one who can no longer tell?

Bannister, Nonna (2009-03-20). The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister (pp. 239-240). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I know that there are people who can relate to this poem and so I thought I would share it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Life in Fundyville by Fundy Rebel

I want to encourage you to read this woman's blog at My Life in Fundyville. This is a brand new blog. I'm sure you'll want to read all her entries and definitely read the comments where others have told their stories. I know this is going to be interesting and I'm looking forward to future posts.

Everyone's journey in/through/& out of "fundyville" will be different. I have considered what I grew up in as an average fundy church. I've been to "fundy lite," average, and even a couple of extreme fundy churches and there is a difference.

In some ways, I think that "fundy lite" can be more dangerous because it's subtle. It's easier to overlook because you don't realize the hold it has on you. As I went through life, what I thought was the Holy Spirit was just the "principles" and "guidelines" that I was taught to be a good Christian. It's not that the principles and guidelines were wrong but the things that we did and didn't do based on them caused us to think we were sinning, that others were sinning, or if they were better Christians, they wouldn't do certain things.

When you only show up for church services and not involved in any part of the ministries of a "Fundy lite" church, it is very easy to think that you're church is different and not involved in the power, manipulation, and control that you hear about it "other" churches. It's easy to miss that only certain people get "loved on" when sick or having a baby. Or, that only certain people, no matter talent or experience, get to teach a class, sing in front of the church, or be visible beyond working in the nursery.

You also come to believe that all other churches outside the baptist "umbrella" are wrong and teach a false gospel. When you finally venture out from under that "umbrella", you realize that this is not true.

One of the problems of growing up "fundy lite" is that it preps people for "hardcore fundy." I've seen multiple people make that step and it seems to be a natural transition. Unfortunately, these people see this step as a growth of spirituality instead of another level of control.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading Fundy Rebel's blog. I know there are too many people out there who will be able to relate to her story.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ABUSE: People just don’t “Get It”

People who have never been abused will never understand. If you’ve never been in a highly authoritative religious environment, you’ll never understand what it means to be spiritually abused. If you’ve never lived in a home where your father and/or mother physically abused you, you’ll never understand what it is to be a child in that environment and how that abuse will affect you the rest of your life. If you’ve never been raped or physically violated, you’ll never understand the trauma, emotions, conflicts, reactions, etc. that happen before, during and after an assault. 

I’m one of those people. The closest one that I understand is spiritual abuse because I have been in some spiritually abusive churches and organizations but my experiences are extremely mild compared to some I’ve seen and others I’ve heard about. My parents didn’t beat me. Although I’m sure some of my punishments were excessive and I did get spanked, I would never consider myself abused. I do know numerous people who have been raped and even though I live with someone who has, I’ll never truly understand what she’s gone through and what she’ll deal with the rest of her life because I’ve never experienced it.

Here are some other things that I don’t “get.”

#1 Parents…
a.       Who abuse
b.      Who marry a known abuser
c.       Who don’t protect their children from an abuser
d.      Who chose an abusive spouse over their own abused child
e.      Who reject a child that’s been abused

I just don’t understand anybody who abuses another person but even more, a parent who abuses their own children. How can a parent kick, punch, hit, slap, push or use any form of physical violence against their children? I do understand spanking but even then there are other forms of effective discipline that don’t require you to hit a child.

I understand even less raping your own children. How can a parent do this? It’s so disgusting and revolting that I just don’t understand how any person can do that to another person, let alone a child. 

How can a person turn their back on their children? Why would a parent stand up for the abuser and turn their back on their child who has been abused? I’ve heard too many stories of parent(s) turning against their child because the child finally had the courage to speak up. The mom doesn’t want to send her husband to jail but would prefer he keep abusing. The parents blame their daughter or son for being molested by a relative, friend, sitter, or church member. 

I’m just disgusted and I don’t understand the mentality of parents not supporting their abused children.

#2 Church leaders and Religious Organizations who…
a.       Abuse by leaders and church members
b.      Cover up abuse
1.       “You don’t want to break up a family, do you?”
2.      “We’ll deal with it internally.”
3.       “If this gets out, it will hurt our ministry.”
4.      “You shouldn’t take another Christian to court.”
5.   "Let's not dig up the past. He's changed. He's not the person he used to be." 
c.       Give Platitudes
1.       “forgive and forget”
2.      “just get over it”
3.       “let God deal with it”
4.      “you need to give it to God”
5.      “don’t become bitter”
d.      Disregarding
1.       "Our church is not like that."
2.      "We’re autonomous." or "We're not responsible for what that church does."
3.    "Those bloggers, advocates, and victims are just bitter."
4.   "Your PTSD, nightmares, and other problems are not real. It's all in your head. You're just dwelling in the past."
5.   "You're just being vindictive."

It really bothers me that some churches don’t “get it.” They just don’t understand and what’s worse, they don’t seem to want to understand. They’re more concerned about image than justice. They’d rather enforce rules than practice grace. They’d rather be on the defense for religious leaders and organizations than on the offensive for the abused.

 I don't understand why church leaders and organizations will condemn another church over music, clothing, and other standards but they won't address that same church or organization when there is a known issue that the pastor or leader who is abusing, has abused, or has covered up an abuse.

Those of us who don’t experientially understand are not excused from understanding the people that are involved. We love and support. When we don't, we're not much better than the abuser. We don't have to understand what it is to be abused to do what is right.

We need to understand that helping a victim is what God wants us to do. We need to worry about our heart being right with God, not protecting an "image." Let's have character and let God worry about His image. Let us worry about doing the right thing. When we do that, we show the world how God loves.

God’s love is what I want to understand. His love is what I have experienced and that is what I want to demonstrate to those who’ve been abused.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why Would a Pastor Cover Up Abuse?

Ever since Tina's story first became public in May of 2010, I've had a dozen or more conversations with people that just can't wrap their minds around how Chuck Phelps could have made the decisions he did. Why did he call the police but not follow up by submitting a written report? Why did he decide to allow Ernie Willis to remain in the church, even serving as an usher and attending youth activities with his children while Tina was sent away? How could a pastor that professed to love people seem to have more concern for Ernie's family than a 15 year old girl that was raped? How could he have participated in a 15 year old girl being brought before a congregation full of people to apologize for her part in a "compromising position" (pregnant from a 38 or 39 year old man who admitted to the pastor he was the aggressor)?

For those that did not grow up in independent fundamentalist churches, the situation is beyond puzzling. It seems bizarre -- obscene even. How could the adults in the congregation not interrupt or intervene? I came across a video online that may help some asking those kind of "why" questions understand a little bit better. The video is of Bob Wood teaching a counseling class at Bob Jones University back in 1994. Bob Jones University is where Chuck Phelps got two degrees. Did he sit in this class I wonder? How many other graduates of Bob Jones University went on to teach similar classes to this at other schools in the BJU orbit? Did any of them teach at Hyles Anderson College? How many churches (along with their attached schools) and mission agencies (and attached schools) have been infected by this insidious, disgusting teaching?

Darrell over at Stuff Fundies Like posted the video with Bob Wood's teaching with his own comments.

Scriptural Principles for Counseling the... by EricITGuyatTHGC

I just can't help but wonder how many students sat under teaching like this at Bob Jones University and later applied the principles in the lives of children still suffering the damaging effects today. It is completely heartbreaking.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reactions to Abuse

I’ve been thinking about the different reactions that people have when it comes to abuse. The idea of abuse just boggles my mind. I don’t understand the mentality that goes into harming another person. I know we’ve all done it to one extent or another but to purposefully set out to abuse another person physically, sexually, spiritually, and/or mentally, is something I have a hard time understanding. I sure we can boil a lot of it down to one person wanting to control another.

Most people struggle with the idea that a pastor can be spiritually abusive or that a relative might be sexually abusing children, especially when it comes to their children. It’s hard to imagine that your neighbor or co-worker physically abuses their spouse or children. It’s hard for us to recognize in ourselves that we might be abusive in our words and actions to those around us. 

Some of the reactions that we might have when it comes to abuse in any form is….


“Why?” and “Where were you, God?” are always big questions when bad things happen but it seems to be a bigger question when you’re raised believing that God loves you and has your best interest at heart. It’s also harder because you might think that you’re sinning if you’re questioning God but there are many examples in Scripture that shows that asking God “why?” is a valid option and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. We all want answers. Who better to ask than our Heavenly Father.

Some even go so far as to wonder if there is a God. If you’re taught that God is good and loving and in control of everything but then you’re abused by the people (parents, family, pastors, leaders, etc.) who are telling you this, is it any wonder people start to doubt? Is it any wonder that a lot of formerly religious people stopped going to church and some have become agnostic or atheist.

I like what Wade Burleson said regarding …Our Mistake About God on his blog. The entire article is good but I’ll quote a couple things. Wade says,

“Since evil is not part of God's nature, His allowance of evil to occur simply means He has a greater good in store, a greater good that would not exist were the evil to be prohibited. This is why God can hold the wicked accountable and responsible for their evil, but overcome their evil for good.”

“But God works ultimate good out of all things, including evil. For God to do this, he MUST know the end from the beginning.”

“But God works ultimate good out of all things, including evil….We can't comprehend how evil can be present for a greater good to occur. We can't fathom how One is outside of time and independent of time and has no need of time, but uses time for His glory and our ultimate good.”


I have noticed that a lot of victims start wondering what’s wrong with them or what they did that made someone hurt them. Some start questioning their value as a person and some start questioning their sexual orientation. The abuse a person received from others sometimes turns inward to where they start to abuse themselves.

This questioning only gets worse if a victim does not get the support he/she needs from their family, friends, and spiritual leaders. There a many reasons why a person is not supportive but when it’s to protect someone other than the one who has been abused, it’s just despicable. For some, it’s just ignorance. We don’t understand what someone has gone through or we don’t understand how something that is said or done causes someone to question themselves.

The questioning of self may never go away but maybe with the right support a person might be able to accept themselves more. When the people around a survivor accept them for who they are, it’s easier for them to accept themselves. I know I have tried and I know I have failed at times but I have noticed a few things that have helped. First, it has helped me when my wife lets me know when something’s been said or done that has been or could be a trigger. Second, and probably the biggest, was encouraging and supporting her to seek justice. Third was moving out of our comfort zone of fundamentalism and into the unknown. We found a new church, friends who love God and have been a part of exposing abuse in fundamentalism.


My biggest surprise is that religious leaders have not been supportive of victims. Many deny helping a victim in lieu of  "protecting" their churches by covering the abuse. Unfortunately, the leaders are sometimes the ones doing the abuse. All the "protecting" only puts more people in danger. There are numerous stories of abusers who were "forgiven" and allowed to continue in the church only to find out years down the road a trail of victims because leaders denied help to the abuser and are basically complicate in the abuse of others they should have been protecting.

And then we have people who deny the validity of a survivor's story. It doesn’t matter the reason why you may want to question their story. They shouldn’t have to provide you with DNA evidence or even their name if they want to remain anonymous. Listen to them. Offer support and if possible, help them get justice.

Don’t deny that there is a problem. Don’t deny the fact that it might be happening in your church or religious organization. Just because people and organizations call themselves “Christian” or “Christ-like,” it does not mean that they are behaving themselves as Christ would behave.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Please Pray for Tina

I'd appreciate it if you would take a few moments and pray for Tina. Most of us can only imagine the stress that a survivor of abuse deals with throughout their entire lives but then imagine that your life is lived in the media for the world to see and that stress just multiplies. Sometimes the story dies down and you can go on to live a semi-normal life but for Tina her life's struggles just keep popping up into the public through the newspapers, courtroom proceedings, Facebook, survivor groups and blogs, religious organizations, and the list goes on. It's very overwhelming.

You may have heard that Ernie is appealing his conviction.
Cached text version of Concord Monitor article

      In the article it says, "Willis’s lawyers, though, believe those conversations should have been off limits, protected by a religious privilege that allows a minister to not disclose confessions made to him in his 'professional character as a spiritual advisor.' On Wednesday, they’ll argue the issue before the state Supreme Court, asking that the justices overturn Willis’s convictions."

Tina needs your prayers. Even though some say it's highly unlikely that the conviction will be overturned, just the chance that it might can really cause some sleepless nights.

Here are some specific things you can pray for.
  1. God's peace in Tina's heart.
  2. God's wisdom and strength in Tina's life to go through the challenges that she must face.
  3. God's healing of Tina's body, soul, and spirit.
  4. Wisdom for the State Supreme Court that justice will continue to be served.
  5. Whatever else God lays on your heart.

Please pray and I'm sure she could use some words of encouragement.

Thank you for all your prayers. Thank you for your love and concern for our family. It is greatly appreciated.