DALLAS (Special to the NNPA from the Dallas Examiner) - Researchhas shown that allegations of clergy sexual abuse can have a greatimpact on victims and their families, affecting them spiritually,socially, economically and psychologically.
And after the abuse, many victims become even more disillusioned atthe response of the church as some churches place greater emphasis onblind forgiveness and restoration of the perpetrator, rather than thehealing and support of the victim, as in the cases of Sherman Allen,Terry Hornbuckle and Ruben Thankful, ministers convicted of sexualassault against women in their congregations. Countless victims suffersilently in the pews of Black churches for years, with feelings ofshame, guilt, fear of reprisal and disbelief from those meant to guideand protect them. Meanwhile the Black Church consistently fails to lifttheir voices with a collective moral outcry against this devastatingact of betrayal
Wolves in sheep's clothing
€ Sherman C. Gee Allen
In May, Ft Worth pastor Sherman C. Gee Allen of the ShilohInstitutional Church of God in Christ was suspended by the nationalbody of the Church of God in Christ. Allen was originally indicted onsexual assault charges in 1983, after a 21-year-old woman accused himof drugging, then sodomizing and raping her with a club.
According to local reports, allegations have once again been madeagainst Allen. In fact, 35 women are accusing the local pastor ofabuse. Among the complainants is 33-year-old Davina Kelly, a formermember of Shiloh. Kelly, a married woman attending Allen's church.
Kelly first became acquainted with the charismatic Allen afterseeing the changed life of a friend but soon found that Allen was verydifferent from the character he displayed to the rest of the world.
Kelly said that by their third meeting in 2001 he was asking her tograb her ankles and take a paddling and by 2005 her punishmentsescalated from paddling to the use of sex and physical threats ofviolence to both she and her minor children in an effort to manipulateand control her.
"I was very scared," Kelly told reporters. "I was even scared in away that I wouldn't even stop in the middle of that and really questionhim. I thought I deserved it."
Allen has been suspended from all leadership positions and his church has filed bankruptcy.
€ Ruben Thankful Thompson
52-year-old Ruben Thankful Thompson of Waverly, Florida wasarrested for five counts of incest. The charges stemmed fromrevelations made by Thompson's 32-year-old daughter who told policethat she had been molested by her father since she was age 17.
According to Lake Wales police detective Lynette Townsel, the then32-year-old said she kept the secret of the abuse for 15 years becauseshe was fearful, ashamed and did not believe that anyone would take herword over that of her father.
Thompson, founder and pastor of Real People Church of God InChrist, was charged with five counts of incest for allegedly fatheringhis own grandchildren with his daughter. Some in the church recountedthat there had been rumors for some time but that many disbelieved anddismissed the allegations.
€ Terry Hornbuckle
"You have hurt me beyond belief," said one of Hornbuckle's victims."My faith has been shattered. There are no words to describe what I gothrough every day. You have been my only pastor. You baptized me. Youwere my spiritual leader. You were the person who raped me. You took myvirginity from me."
Another of Hornbuckle's victims had this to say: "You should loweryour head in shame. You preyed on people you were supposed to protect.You temporarily destroyed my life. You stole what little trust I had inpeople."
This past September Hornbuckle was convicted of three counts ofrape. Hornbuckle's wife Renee now shepherds what is left of the churchministries, which include a ministry to women and a day care.
According to the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and DomesticViolence in Seattle, there are two categories of clergy sexual abusers- predators and wanderers. These abusers tend to have little sense ofthe damage their behavior causes, have little impulse control, areoften charismatic and secretive, confusing sex with affection withlittle idea of just how much power they actually wield. And yet, theBlack Church, despite the severity of this modern-day plague on itspeople remains largely silent with respect to a collective anddefinitive plan toward working to end clergy sexual abuse and sexualassault among its members.
This was confirmed in a recent conversation with the Rev. Dr. MarieFortune, Director of Faith Trust Institute. Fortune pointed out thatmuch work has been done with various denominations toward empoweringsurvivors and strengthening the faith response to the all too prevalentproblem of clergy sexual abuse.
Faith Trust Institute's National Declaration of Religious andSpiritual Leaders shows that more than 40 national religious leadershave signed a pledge indicating their acknowledgment of the severity ofthe problem of sexual abuse and their commitment to eradicate it. But,Fortune acknowledged, little has been accomplished across the religiousisle when it comes to the response of the Black non-Catholic churchtoward taking an active role in the eradication of clergy sexual abuse.
Protestants lag behind in handling of sexual assault allegations
In the past 15 years more than $1 billion has been paid out incourt and attorney fees and victim/survivor awards by United StatesBishops to deal with the clergy sexual abuse convictions(http://biblia.com/christianity/clergy.htm#Cover) and recently theSydney Herald reported that lawyers for more than 500 people who saythey were sexually abused by members of the Catholic clergy havesettled their claims against the Los Angeles Diocese for $760 million.
But real figures for clergy sexual abuse in the Protestant churchhave been a bit more difficult to come by and are sketchier becauseProtestant churches, as opposed to their Catholic counterpart, tend tobe less centralized and more independent, making reporting of sexualabuse by members of the clergy more difficult, the Associated Pressreported.
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