Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adventists Face Abuse of Minors


Though Adventists claim sexual and physical abuse is not at "crisis" level in their church... (many former SDAs and current SDAs would vehemently disagree)... at least the church is now beginning to openly deal with it...

Abuse is a Challenge for the Adventist Church; New Campaign is Launched to Counter It

Submitted: Aug 22, 2012
By AT News Team

Although the number of cases has not reached the crisis level that it has in some denominations, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does face an incidence of abuse suffered by its children and teens sufficient to result in the launch of a new, world-wide campaign. In a scan of public records over the past 30 days, Adventist Today found at least four serious cases of sexual abuse, physical harm and even murder by ministers, teachers and lay leaders. This is not a scientific sample and it is not intended to imply that this is a typical period, yet it is disturbing.

A 23-year-old Fifth Grade teacher in an Adventist elementary school in St. George’s, Grenada, was arrested during the last week of July and charged with murder. According to the Jamaica Observer, the remains of a 19-year-old young woman were found in a refuse container along with a weapon and personal belongings. An autopsy showed that the woman died from strangulation and bleeding. To date, there is no report of how the young teacher pled in court.

Last week a 46-year-old man in Berrien County, Michigan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he pled guilty to sex crimes against a nine-year-old girl which occurred at the Niles Westside Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was also convicted of failing to register for prior convictions of criminal sexual misconduct. The prosecuting attorney was quoted by the South Bend Tribune, “He’s done this before. He said that he couldn’t control himself with children.” There was no comment about why he was allowed to have contact with children at the church.

On July 29 The Times of India reported that a female teacher at the Adventist school in Virudhunagar allegedly hit a seven-year-old girl with a wooden ruler causing injuries that made it difficult for the girl to walk home. “Police sources said they had filed a complaint under section 323” of India’s criminal law and “section 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000.” An unnamed police official is quoted as stating that the teacher had “accepted that she caned the girl.”

On August 20 the tabloid London Daily Mail and the South Africa Press Association (SAPA) wire service both reported that Elder Steyn Venter, pastor of the Adventist church in Bloemfontein, South Africa, had been fired for “improper advice” in marriage counseling. The newspapers reported that he had encouraged young couples to engage in public nudity and kept photographs in which at least one couple appeared naked. Elder B. M. P. Ngwenya, president of the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State Conference, told the Die Volksblad newspaper that the pastor had been fired.

Among those who might have access to statistics on cases of this kind, no one was willing to give Adventist Today any hint if this is a typical month or not. What is widely reported is that the Adventist Risk Management (ARM) insurance company owned by the General Conference used the occasion of the recent North American Division Teacher’s Convention in Nashville to launch the Seven Campaign, a “grassroots” effort “stop child abuse.” In February ARM had launched a Child Protection Plan and it has presented recommendations that led to the adoption of strong prevention measures in the NAD Working Policy over the last decade or two.

“We want to not only make it clear that we stand against child abuse, but we want to get our members talking and actually engaged in spotting and preventing misconduct,” an ARM spokesman told the Adventist News Network (ANN), the official news service of the GC. He stressed the involvement of local church members as a major goal of the campaign in his comments to ANN.

Yet, to some observers the initiative stumbled out of the starting blocks when convention planners pulled the plug on an Adventist group that is involved in anti-bullying efforts. Someone to Talk To is an independent organization pulled together by Carol Grady, the wife of an Adventist minister, who has written a book entitled My Son, Beloved Strangerabout her gay son and the problems he faced growing up in the Adventist denomination’s schools and youth ministries. Her group had applied to be one of 160 organizations that had exhibits at the convention. Because her web site does not take the official position of the denomination regarding gays and lesbians, she was told she could not participate.

An article about refusing Grady as an exhibitor appeared in The Huffington Post and a response was released by the denomination, stressing that the NAD Office of Education provide eight contact hours of in-service education on bullying during the convention, including a preview of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, “a whole-school program that has been proven to prevent or reduce bullying.”

The Church “recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus,” the statement quoted from the denomination’s position paper on homosexuality. “We hold that all people, no matter their sexual orientation, are children of God. We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse.”

“Being a gay, lesbian or bisexual teenager in the United States is risky business,” pointed out Elder Ryan Bell, senior pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. “According to the 2009 National School Climate Survey nearly 85 percent of LGBT teens report being harassed in school and nearly two-thirds report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation.” Adventists and other Christians have found it difficult to balance a belief that homosexual behavior is sinful and a belief that all people should be respected and treated without discrimination.

At the same time, it is clear that there are problems of abuse and violence that do not appear to be related to tensions over sexual orientation. “Sexuality and spirituality are both powerful things,” one veteran pastor told Adventist Today. “All human beings are sinners. It is only by God’s grace that things do not go wrong more often than they do. This is why those of us who are preachers must constantly hammer on the duty of compassion and the core doctrine of grace. If we let off the emphasis, more people get hurt.”


Anonymous said...

Sexual abuse of children by church leaders IS at a staggering amount. What's worse, when conference leaders know they are hiring a sexual preditor to work with children then as soon as they realize the man is going to prison and a lawsuit is eminent, they all get promoted, some to the GC, some to the Union. I never want to be a part or an organization that promotes this type of behavior.

Teresa Beem said...

Do you have any proof this is happening or are you just assuming it is?

I know statistically Adventists have a higher rate of incest and sexual abuse of minors than other denominations and churches, but I have rarely heard of a KNOWN sexual offender being promoted (at least since I have been an adult.) I knew SDA predators were are in leadership position and probably there were allegations against them, but pre-1970 I don't think anyone was willing to discuss it. It was a taboo subject and no adult knew what to do with that information during those times. So, they may have been promoted into leadership positions with "shadows" people didn't discuss.

But today?

I suppose since it happened in the Catholic Church, it could happen anywhere, still.

I cannot believe that any Christian would knowingly place a child in danger by promoting a known sexual predator.

Christians make mistakes, but if a church leader is doing such a thing, I think that takes them out of the realm of being a Christian. They are a false shepherd.

An you are right false shepherds/wolves are attacking the sheep in every denomination and church. Rachel is weeping for her children.

These people need to be exposed and thrown out of their positions and helped--AWAY from where they can harm others.

Surely it is not happening in Adventism. If it is, that's the last thing the church needs.

Anonymous, if you do have proof of this, I beg you to expose it. The wolves need to be exposed.

Other churches are dealing with this. When I was trying to help out in the children's department of my church, I was told all people must go through a program to prevent any type of child abuse. People are finally waking up and doing something. Adventism is trying--at least it seems to be, but if you know of something. Expose it!!

Anonymous said...

I was abused by an SDA school principal in the early 80's, who abused one other student that I know of for sure. I did try to tell on him. I spoke with the Conference President on the phone while I was in the presence of another teacher from the school who was offering me support. The Conference President asked me all kinds of personal, intimate questions, and at the end of the conversation, told me there was nothing they could do because the principal had moved to another Conference. Later, I tried to tell in other ways, and was told I would be sued for slander/libel, and charged with harassment. I talked to other church leaders at the new school where this teacher went, and was told that there was nothing I could do, but hopefully I had learned my lesson and would no longer commit such "sins." The man is, last I heard, no longer a teacher, but he is still involved with youth at church. I cannot put his name here without risking a lawsuit, and maybe even criminal charges. They are out there, in churches and schools everywhere, and that definitely includes SDA churches and schools.

Teresa Beem said...

I'm so sorry. I know it was hard to even post this as anonymous. Please know that we will be praying for you. I know of hundreds of others who have gone through the same thing.

If you still are needing to talk to someone about this, contact a counselor who specializes in it. I would be cautious about an SDA pastor, often those who go to them get told to get over it, or are offered therapies that are a little non-orthodox.

And, you might think about turning the person over to the police. If there is any possibility this person could do this to another person, you have to turn them in.

So, so many people suffer all their lives because of sexual abuse by church leaders. God is the only one who can heal.

Blessings and blessings upon you.

Anonymous said...

There has been Warragul Seventh Day Adventist church child abuse happening. The victim’s family are being harassed and abused by the church leaders and accomplices who refused to restrain the abuser who is their close friend and instead turned on the victim's family because they took legal measures to protect their defenceless child. Warragul Church including their minister will have to answer to God for their wickedness. Please pray for this family and that little boys will be safe at Warragul sda church.

g. svrcek-seiler said...

Since my birth I now am almost 80 years in the same SDA church. I have observed several sexual abuses - - -But :Since about three years one man, Conference or Union Leader in Germany and meanwhile his team because of him being overworked is assignet to deal with the treadening matteraddening matter.At least in German speaking areas. This - self evaluation - Conservative to his astonishment and embarrassment found : Abuse is linked to orthodoxy. , as he told us from the pulpit So te attitude shown in the painting "American Gothic".

My personal deman is : To do something for the perpetrators before they get perpetrators. Have any idea or concept ?.

Teresa Beem said...

No, I am so sorry! I wish I did have a suggestion about how to prevent abusers. All I can think of is that it seems to be a cycle. An abused person often becomes an abuser. So the cycle must end somewhere...