Christa Brown writes about the case of Robert Dando:
- Dando was very closely connected to the highest levels of Baptists’ worldwide leadership. He previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance. This was a guy who ran with the big dogs.
- Dando “was embroiled in another child sex abuse scandal when he was a minister at Orchard Baptist Fellowship” in the United Kingdom. In 2001, when the leader of the church, Dr. Anthony Gray, was convicted of serious sex offenses against a 14-year-old boy, Dando said this: “All our youth work is carried out within proper guidelines.” Yet, we now know that Dando too was sexually abusing kids, and had been since at least as far back as 1995. (Do these guys run in packs?)
- At the time of his arrest, Dando was the prominent senior minister of Worcester Park Baptist Church in suburban London.
- Dando pled guilty to repeatedly abusing 2 boys in Virginia, starting when they were 7 and 8 years old. Virginia prosecutors said that, under questioning, Dando also admitted to sexually abusing boys in the United Kingdom.
- Dando had plenty of access to kids. His wife was a national vice-president of the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organization with more than 500,000 members in 60 countries. Dando also worked for a children’s charity in India.
- Dando previously worked as a magistrate on a family court panel, which dealt with child care and child access proceedings.
Update: Dando target of UK investigation
Claire Fox of the Guardian writes:
A Baptist minister who admitted abusing children in the US faces a British police investigation after confessing to similar offences.
Reverend Robert Dando, 46, a senior minister at Worcester Park Baptist Church, pleaded guilty in Fairfax, Virginia, to four counts of sexually molesting the two young sons of family friends.
Dando sexually abused the boys between 1995 and 1999, from the ages of seven and eight.
Officials told Fairfax County Circuit Court one of the victims said Dando molested him by touching his genitals on 50 to 60 different occasions.
Fairfax County prosecutors have also revealed Dando admitted under questioning to touching young boys in the United Kingdom in a similar way.
In responses to the four lawsuits filed against him and New Birth Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long denied coercing the young men into sexual relationships, but admitted other key aspects of their accounts. The responses were filed in DeKalb County (Georgia) State Court on Monday.
In September, four young men — Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande — filed suits against Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The young men claimed Long coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish gifts, trips and jobs. In the filings, Long said it has been a practice of his to occasionally share a room with members of his congregation. However, he said “the plaintiff’s claims of sexual misconduct are not true.
He admitted that he took the men on trips, but he denied the complaints of sexual contact. He did admit to hugging some of the men.
Long also admitted to giving the plaintiffs gifts, including cars, and helping them financially, but he denied that it was in exchange for sex. He said he has “provided sporadic financial assistance,” and he routinely pays for rent and other expenses for New Birth members, according to the filings.
Almost 75 people led by Bishop “Prophet” H. Walker of True Light Pentecost Church in Spartanburg, S.C., called for Long’s resignation in a ralliy “on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol” Sunday,
Natalie Sherman of the Boston Herald reported:
Two Massachusetts survivors of clergy sex abuse led fellow victims in a march toward the heart of the Vatican yesterday but were blocked from reaching St. Peter’s Square by Italian paramilitary police
Two people of the throng of about 100 protesters— which included 55 Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona, where dozens of students say they were abused by priests — were later permitted to leave letters and a dozen stones near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square to mark a symbolic path so other survivors might know they have company in their suffering.
“This is the first time that a group of survivors this large has come together, and people have listened in Italy. In Italy! That’s success to me,” organizer Gary Bergeron, a former Lowell resident, told The Associated Press after the march.
Read the rest here.
Victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests will try to march on the Vatican on Sunday despite the lack of a police permit, to demand the Church do more to protect children and hold abusers accountable.
Bernie McDaid and Gary Bergeron, founders of http://www.survivorsvoice.org, told a news conference on Friday they would start a petition drive to ask the United Nations to declare systemic paedophilia a crime against humanity.
“We are not crippled. We are injured people who are willing to talk about it now. The guilt and the shame is in the cover-up,” said McDaid, who become one of the first abuse victims to meet with Pope Benedict in Washington in 2008.
Read the entire story here.
Emerald Baptist Church Associate Pastor and Minister of Music Norman Henley Keesee has been barred from church activities and the church grounds pending resolution of charges of sexual misconduct and lewd acts.
Keesee, a Southern Baptist, was arrested by Greenwood, S.C., police after “the mother of a 13 year old girl and attendee of Emerald Baptist Church met with authorities to alert them to allegations made by her daughter.”
The victim stated that during private keyboard lessons conducted in the victims bedroom, Keesee would touch areas of her body that were not conducive with the lesson. The victim said that she would pull away from Keesee but that he would continue his actions during the lesson. According to the mother, Keesee had given her daughter keyboard lessons from February to July of this year. The victim had told her mother at the end of July that she no longer wanted to play the keyboard, which according to the mother was very strange at the time. The victim also gave a second child’s name with which Keesee had given keyboard lessons.
Associated Baptist Press reports that Pastor Curtis Eidson said:
As the pastor of the church, I am not here tonight to defend anyone’s innocence nor to declare anyone’s guilt. It’s not my place. I am here to say tonight, though, that with all that is going on Norman is still my brother in the Lord and the victim is still my sister in the Lord. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will change that.
North Carolina youth minister arrested
Thomas L. Elliott, who is a youth minister at Autryville Baptist Church in North Carolina, was arrested in an undercover internet sex sting by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Thursday evening, the Sampson Independent reported.
Elliot was a volunteer youth minister at Evergreen Baptist Church before being hired at Autryville Baptist.
The passion of religious faith transmuted into meanness, explains Christa Brown:
I never imagined a world of so much meanness until I stepped onto the terrain of Baptistland with pleas for clergy accountability and for care of abuse survivors.
Worst of all . . . it’s a malignant meanness that masks itself as religion.
The comments deserve a read too.
When Independent Baptist Bishop Eddie Long declared “spiritual warfare” was at the center of his scandal, he inadvertently summarized arguments against his ministry and the ministries of others like him.
In Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady wrote that a even before the Long scandal, he had noticed a “sinister spirit of perversion has invaded the ranks of charismatic churches.” While careful not to pre-convict Long, Grady offered examples:
- The leader of one supposedly Christian ministry encouraged the wives of two men to have adulterous affairs, and then asked the women to provide detailed descriptions of their activities
- A group of traveling ministers routinely met for weekend getaways that included wife-swapping
- The male leader of a “prophetic” church on the West Coast seduced several men in his core leadership team. (The church shut down after the sin was exposed.)
- A pastor learned that members of his staff were having sexual affairs in the sanctuary of his church, and he did nothing to stop the debauchery.
- A church in the Southeast hosted a marriage seminar in which Christian couples were encouraged to install poles in their bedrooms so wives could engage in pole dancing prior to sex. (Question: Didn’t pole dancing originate in strip clubs? Did someone visit a strip club to get this idea?)
But such power also has its financial uses.
Keith Burton, director of the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center at Oakwood University, said there is an undeniably “spiritual warfare” swirling around Long:
Like many other mega-church moguls, Eddie Long’s empire was built like a massive pyramid scheme maintained by a host of tithe paying downliners – many of whom give sacrificially with the hope that next Sunday morning their spiritual lottery number would be called. This scandalous gospel of wealth with its “name it and claim it” heresy has the masses so mesmerized that – even now – they fail to hold their leader accountable. Together with the millions of gullible who contribute to similar clergy greed, they allowed him to build his kingdom on their unquestioned loyalty. They defended the right of the “man of God” to have a $350,000 Bentley, multiple items of jewelry, six to seven figure salary, and expensive suits; and gave no thought to the fact that excessive materialism has long been successful in transforming “men of God” into “men of gods.” This, my friends, is the undisputed scandal – a scandal for which neither the Bishop nor New Birth have a defense.
And as Wall Street bankers, megachurch preachers and other prosperity pimps live like lottery winners, people in America are suffering. The Census Bureau recently reported that poverty is higher than it was 10 years ago, with nearly 15 percent of Americans in poverty. The gap between rich and poor has tripled in three decades, and is the highest it has been since the 1920s. Meanwhile, unemployment is entrenched and not going anywhere anytime soon.
Surely, Bishop Long and his supporters would maintain that his reputation is being dragged through the mud. But his reputation was already muddied via his homophobia and corrupt bling theology. Rather, Long should worry far more about what Dr. King would say about him.
lthough King fought against and even disobeyed unjust laws, Long supports them. Dr. King decried the triple evils of racism, materialism and militarism, and called for a radical revolution of values, from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. Figures such as King and Malcolm X walked the talk by fighting for the people — and for causes greater than their personal bank account — through great personal sacrifice and a modest existence. Remember that Dr. King donated all of his $54,000 Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement.
Weigh Dr. King’s philanthropy against Rachel Tabachnick’s detailed account of how Long’s ministry is apparently structured to make him wealthy. It may indeed be a “pyramid scheme,” accumulating revenue from perhaps 275 churches in 38 states.
That self-serving corporate structure appears to be what the conundrum of being a Baptist bishop means to Long.
Openly gay and bisexual Rev. Dennis A. Meredith, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta, has posted a YouTube video admonishing scandal besieged Lithonia Eddie Long to “tell the truth:”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Shelia M. Poole wrote:
The nearly four-minute video was posted on YouTube on Monday, the day after Long made his first public comments about the scandal in which four young men sued the pastor, accusing him of coercing them into sexual relations.
. . .
Meredith said he decided to make the video because he was “saddened and disappointed” that there seemed to be little concern for the four men by Long and members of the 25,000-member church, who were interviewed later by the media. Meredith, who describes himself as openly gay and bisexual, said he called on a film crew, that’s also making a documentary about himself and his church, to shoot the video with downtown Atlanta as a backdrop.
Meredith said his congregation is about 85 percent gay, lesbian and bisexual. Meredith said he has lost some members to New Birth because they disagreed of his views about welcoming gays in the church.
For Eddie Long, whatever remains in his metaphoric sack of rocks, important words remain unspoken. Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes:
Yet, after days of awkward silence, Long could not look the members of that family in the face and tell them plainly that he was innocent, that he had not engaged in sex with four young male church members who looked to him for guidance.
Other pastors at the church have things to say:
In the latest news update, the Chief Minister Elder Darius Wise at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, told WSBTV that they got pictures of Bishop Eddie Long over the past week and he doesn’t know that guy being portrayed. Wise stated that the man that he knows wouldn’t do what he is being accused of in the lawsuits.
His ex-wife has joined the fray via divorce documents. Christian Boone and Ty Tagami of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution write:
Dabara S. Houston said she was the victim of “cruel treatment” and was afraid of Long’s “violent and vicious temper,” according to Fulton County Superior Court records. She and her son “had to flee [the couple’s Fairburn home] in order to ensure their safety,” the documents say.
The couple was married in 1981 and separated after a couple years, according to the documents. Long’s first wife made the abuse allegation in a counterclaim after he petitioned for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
There is an element of combat to it, a sociologist explained:
“There’s a lot of theater here, it’s a live chess match,” says Tulane sociologist Shayne Lee, author of “Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace.” “The plaintiffs want to keep the blood flowing, and Bishop Long is trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding. But the longer this goes on in the media, the more [church] members are going to demand cogent responses to the claims instead of vague denials.”
Time is not on Long’s side. The longer it runs, the more his supporters will understand that as Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post observed, Long has his self-pitying David/Goliath analogy backward:
Let’s see, on one side we have one of the most prominent and influential clerics in the country, the pastor of a suburban Atlanta megachurch that claims 25,000 members. On the other, we have four young men who claim in lawsuits that Long abused his clerical authority to lure and coerce them into having sex with him. Unlike the bishop, as far as I know, none of the accusers is driven around in a Bentley. Or is constantly attended by a retinue of aides and bodyguards. Or cultivates and maintains first-name relationships with famous politicians, athletes and entertainers.
His failure to directly and personally confront the accusations with persuasive denial suggests a failure of accountability for his exercise of a trust — a topic Christa addresses well:
The allegations, if proven, involve conduct that is far more troubling that mere hypocrisy. And they involve conduct that is something far different from consensual gay sex. They involve conduct in which faith itself — the faith of trusting teens — is twisted into a weapon so as to serve the sexual ends of a powerful religious leader.