On May 26th, I did a post about the rape of a 15 year old girl in 1997 in New Hampshire by a leader in her Church, Trinity Baptist Church of Concord, NH. The girl was raped twice by the man and became pregnant. The pastor of the Church at that time was Chuck Phelps (now the Pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis). According to the rape victim, Tina Anderson (she has made her name public), the Pastor of the church told her that even though the man was to blame, she bore at least some responsiblity, even if only 1%. Since it was going to become obvious that she was pregnant, Pastor Phelps had her stand before the church congregation and read a letter. She did not mention that she had been raped and did not identify who the father was but merely asked for forgiveness for the sin of fornication. The culprit, Ernie Willis, was also made to stand before the church and admit that he had been "unfaithful" to his wife and ask for forgiveness. The church was never told that Willis "unfaithfulness" was with a 15 year old member of the church who was now pregnant.
Since a pregnant girl is not allowed to continue in the Christian school operated by Trinity Baptist Church and since her mother did not want her to go to public school, the mother and the Pastor agreed that she should be sent out of state where she could be home-schooled by a Christian family. Within 2 weeks of her "confession" before the church, she was shipped to Denver, Colorado and put under the care of a Christian family and Phelp's Pastor friend, Matt Olson. One of the things that Olson had her do was to write a letter of apology to the rapist's wife for violating her trust (Tina was a babysitter for the Willis family).
Phelps says that he reported this crime to the local police and to the Department of Child Services in New Hampshire but that the police never followed up. He said he would have told them whatever they wanted to know if they had followed up. He essentially says that he did all that was legally required of him.
Last month, Tina Anderson, now 28, decided to come forward. Ernie Willis was arrested and charged with statutory rape. Willis was allowed to continue in a leadership role in the New Hampshire church for years after the incident. He left the church a few years ago after another act of "unfaithfulness" and his wife's divorce of him.
What has piqued my interest in this case is that the Pastor's and churches involved are all within the orbit of Baptist fundamentalism that I used to be a part of. Both Phelps and Olson are graduates of my alma mater, Bob Jones University and both went on after these events in 1997 to lead Baptist colleges that were sister colleges to the one where I used to teach. Phelps was the President of Marantha Baptist College in Wisconsin from 2006 to 2008. Olson is currently the President of Northland Baptist College also in Wisconsin. As a matter of fact, the connection gets even closer because Tina Anderson taught at my former employer, International Baptist College in Arizona, up until she went public on this rape case last month. She resigned from IBC, the day before Willis was arrested. No one has said yet why she resigned. I wonder, but it is only speculation, if the administration at IBC did not want her to go public about a case that happened 13 years ago and involved Pastors who have an association with the fellowhip that IBC belongs to, The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. I am not accusing anyone but it will be interesting to find out why she resigned from IBC. The chairman of the board of IBC is Mike Sproul, who is also on the board of directors of the FBFI. Phelps is the Vice Chairman for the FBFI. Sproul also attended Bob Jones University, although he did not graduate from the school. All three, Sproul, Phelps, and Olson are closely connected and share the same basic ideology.
Interestingly enough, the annual meeting of the FBFI will be taking place next week in the Denver area church, Tri-City Baptist, where Anderson was shipped back in 1997 to get away from New Hampshire. One of the speakers is Les Heinze who recently had his own scandal to deal with. The principal of his Christian school, Daniel Brock (who is the brother of the President of IBC, David Brock) was charged with sexual assault involving male students in his high school. A jury acquited him of all charges in February of this year and shortly thereafter one of the alleged victims committed suicide. The jury was not told that gay pornography was found on the Principal's computer. I guess one of the topics at this year's FBF meeting will be how to do damage control when sex scandals hit your church.
There seems to be a pattern among conservative Christians to blame the woman when something like this happens. It may be because of the low view of women that is found in the Bible. I did a two part series a few days ago about how the OT condones rape. What is clear is that many of these scandals are "hushed up" because of the fear of what the revelations would do to the "cause of Christ." As with the Roman Catholic scandals, there seems to be more concern for the reputation of the church than for the well-being of the victims.
More on this story and the connections will definitely be coming out and I will be watching with interest.
Here are some TV and radio reports related to the incident involving the Anderson rape case.
1. Tina's interview on CBS Early Show:
2. Chuck Phelp's inteview on Radio Station WKXL in New Hamphsire.
3, Report, June 3, 2010, on Local News Fox 59 in Indianapolis:
4. Local TV newsreport on CBS 4 in Denver.
There has been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about this case. On the fundamental Baptist website, SharperIron.org, many of the commenters were sympathetic to Phelps at first but as more information has come out, most seem to be distancing themselves from him.
Two women, Jeri Massi and Christa Brown, who run websites exposing Baptist predators have multiple posts on the subject. Another website called, StuffFundiesLike, has also discussed the case.