Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?
By JEN ZAMZOW, FEBRUARY 2, 2018, Christianity Toda
Many observers were troubled when Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, received a standing ovation from his congregation for his admission of a “sexual incident” with a 17-year-old high-school student when he was a youth leader at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas. They have reason to be troubled.
Though the congregation was probably unaware that the woman involved described the “incident” as an assault, at least one pastor at Woodlands and the leaders of Highpoint were aware. The alleged victim claimed that Larry Cotton, an associate pastor of Woodlands at the time, urged her to stay quiet about what happened. And only after the alleged victim made the case public did Highpoint’s pastor Chris Conlee admit that the information was not new to him or to the church leadership. Conlee went on to support Savage and his continued ministry at Highpoint Church.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for churches and religious organizations to try to handle sexual assault allegations internally . . .
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.