Third-party investigations have become increasingly common as churches and Christian institutions continue to be rocked by scandal. But how can you tell if an investigation is truly independent—or just another attempt to cover up?
En esta edición de El Informe Roys, experts address the red flags and key features to look for in any so-called “independent” investigation. And they answer questions like: Can a third-party investigation by a law firm ever be truly independent? What advantages are there to hiring an investigative team that’s familiar with church culture to conduct investigations involving Christian institutions? And what are the hallmarks of a “trauma-informed” investigation?
The answers to these questions are especially relevant due to the current controversy over the third-party investigation announced by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, or IHOPKC. Mike Bickle, IHOPKC’s founder, has been accused of abusing multiple women and IHOPKC leaders have been accused of mishandling reports of abuse. After announcing it had hired a national law firm to conduct the investigation, IHOPKC changed course and dismissed the law firm. Then, it hired another law firm, but is refusing to divulge the name of the new firm.
Joining us on the podcast is a top American litigator and former GoDaddy general counsel, who’s also a Christian with a passion to protect victims. That litigator is Christine Jones, who also serves on the board de El Informe Roys. She has considerable expertise in this area and her insights on this issue are incredibly helpful.
Two other experts joining me, Pete Singer and Robert Peters, are known for the organization they lead—Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment, or GRACE. GRACE has become the gold standard in the Christian survivor community because of the quality of its investigations and its commitment to protect survivor interests.
Listen now for a lively, and eye-opening discussion that will help you discern whether to trust a third-party investigation—or to cry foul.
christine n jones
Christine N. Jones is a top American litigator, business executive, and civic leader who has a passion to protect the vulnerable. Until 2012, she served as general counsel for GoDaddy. During her time there, she helped drive federal Internet-related legislation, including laws to keep the internet safe from child predators like the Protect Our Children Act and the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act. Christine also practiced law at Beus Gilbert, which has been ranked as one of the top law firms in the country. She also served several years as the COO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Christine recently launched her own firm, Newman Jones, a private law firm in Arizona, which specializes in representing victims of abuse in churches and Christian organizations.
Pete Singer is Executive Director at GRACE, which focuses on abuse prevention and response in faith communities. He is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with 30+ years’ experience across settings. He received his MSW and certificate in Trauma-Effective Leadership from the University of Minnesota. He trains and writes on trauma-informed practice and his counseling practice focuses on children and adults who have experienced trauma. He has published and contributed to a number of articles and book chapters including Wounded Souls: The Need for Child Protection Professionals and Faith Leaders to Recognize and Respond to the Spiritual Impact of Child Abuse and forthcoming work Toward a More Trauma-Informed Church: Equipping Faith Communities to Prevent and Respond to Abuse.
Robert Peters has been with GRACE over 10 years and is currently the Director of Institutional Response, where he oversees all investigations and assessments. He served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Special Prosecutor in multiple West Virginia jurisdictions, where he specialized in the prosecution of sexual offenses, civil child abuse and neglect, and online child exploitation. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Visit netgrace.org
CHRISTINE JONES, PETER SINGER, Julie Roys, ROBERT PETERS
julie reyes 00:05
Third party investigations have become increasingly common as churches and Christian institutions continue to be rocked by scandal. But how can you tell if an investigation is truly independent, or just another attempt to cover up? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And our topic today has become a big issue because an organization facing a major scandal just hired a law firm to conduct its third-party investigation. That organization is the International House of Prayer in Kansas City or IHOP. And if you’ve been following this story, you know that IHOP founder, Mike Bickle, has been accused of abusing multiple women and IHOP itself has been accused in mishandling multiple reports of abuse. The Roys Report has published several articles about this scandal. So, if you need some background on the story, I encourage you to go to JULIEROYS.COM, and then click on the investigations tab, and you can find all those stories on IHOP.**
julie reyes 01:05
But joining me today to discuss these issues is a top American litigator who’s also a Christian with a passion to protect victims. That litigator is Christine Jones, who also serves on the board of The Roys Report. And she has so much expertise in this area. So, I’m very excited to pick her brain on this issue. But also joining me are Pete Singer and Robert Peters of Godly Repose to Abuse in a Christian Environment or GRACE. GRACE has become the gold standard in the Christian survivor community because of the quality of its investigations and its commitment to protect survivor interests. So, I’m very excited about today’s podcast.**
julie reyes 01:45
But before we dive in, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out just go to BUYACAR123.COM.**
julie reyes 02:49
Well again joining me today are Pete Singer and Robert Peters from GRACE which stands for Godly Repose to Abuse in a Christian Environment And GRACE is one of the most respected organizations in the Christian survivor community when it comes to independent investigations. And I’m really looking forward to talking with them and getting a behind the scenes look about how these investigations are done. But first, I’d like to introduce Christine Jones. Christine is a top litigator, business executive, and civic leader who has a passion to protect the vulnerable. Until 2012. she served as general counsel for GoDaddy. She also practice law at BS Gilbert, which has been ranked as one of the top law firms in the country. And she recently launched her own firm Newman Jones, a private law firm in Phoenix, Arizona. But her greatest claim to fame by far is serving as a board member for The Roys Report. So, Christine, welcome. I’m so glad you could join us.
CHRISTINE JONES 03:43
Thank you, Julie. So great to be here. And that is by far my best claim to fame for the record.
julie reyes 03:48
Absolutely. I’m glad that you clarified that. So, Christine, I wanted to talk to you first because there’s been a lot of buzz lately about law firms conducting third party investigations. And this is nothing new, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. For example, when they did their investigation, they brought in a law firm Miller Martin, there was a law firm Husch Blackwell, that investigated Cedarville University after it hired a known sexual predator that was a couple of years ago. But right now, the International House of Prayer in Kansas City IHOP is facing a major crisis. So IHOP has just announced that they’re going to do a third-party investigation, and they initially hired a law firm Stinson LLP, to conduct this investigation, but there’s been a lot of pushback because there are a lot of people saying that no investigation by a law firm is truly independent. Well, then last Friday evening, IHOP announced that it had decided not to proceed with Stinson. And the reason that IHOP gave was that third parties claiming to represent the victims had communicated a lack of trust in Stinson. So now IHOP is said that it’s hired a local law firm to investigate, but when I asked IHOP to identify the law firm Lenny LaGuardia, a member of IHOP’s executive team replied, and I quote, We will not be publishing her name out of respect for her privacy. When I asked an additional clarifying question about the attorney, LaGuardia responded, IHOP, KC will not be providing any personal information about its attorneys, they are not the story and you should know better, unquote. So, Christine, say hypothetically, that one of the alleged victims of Mike Bickle is your client. Would you advise your client to cooperate with this investigation?
CHRISTINE JONES 05:35
So setting aside the attorney independence for one moment, I would say , all else being equal, if you have some information that’s germane to the discussion, then you know, and you’re not being re traumatized or re victimized and you have the capacity to do it, probably, I would advise them to go ahead and give the information because that is going to be helpful to the outcome, the recommendations or you know, whatever the third party investigator is doing. Now, I have to say that with a caveat, as always, these people may be bound by preexisting contractual relationships that limit what they can say. And in that case, they should probably seek the counsel of an attorney before they do that.
julie reyes 06:14
So, the fact that the attorney isn’t being named to the public, do you see that as a major problem?
CHRISTINE JONES 06:21
Well, this entire scene has unfolded in such an unusual way. And I have followed a little bit of the back and forth on social media. Stinson, a well-respected law firm being named actually probably was positive, because they do have such a good reputation in the legal community, I don’t know that they had a previous attorney client relationship with IHOP. So that could have at least set a path for them to have independence in this scenario. But here’s the thing, not disclosing who the lawyer is for the sake of protecting the lawyer’s privacy is a very unusual suggestion. And the answer that you got on that inquiry is puzzling to me, because the attorney’s privacy is not the issue here. So, I hate to use the word excuse, Julie. But it does sound to me like they’re just using that as a cover up for their own lack of transparency in this process.
julie reyes 07:16
Well, the lawyer is the professional, I mean, this is their job, their public, it does seem like a very odd response. development that happened over the weekend is that Ben Anderson, who I guess is a former IHOP staff member, posted on Facebook, the name of the person he believes is the attorney that’s been hired by IHOP. I have tried to confirm it again, went to IHOP. And they will not confirm or deny that this person is the person but the person that he has named publicly on Facebook is friends, apparently with IHOP executive leadership. And apparently, after he posted some social media posts showing this relationship, this attorney deleted her Facebook account and some social media. So, it does seem to be a little fishy, what’s going on. But let’s say that this person is the person but again, we’re not able to determine for sure whether or not that’s true. If somebody is friends with the executive leadership, if perhaps and I guess there’s some indications that she may actually attend IHOP’s church Forerunner, essentially, if that’s the case, correct me if I’m wrong, has it moved from being a third party independent or some semblance of independent investigation? Now we’re really looking at an internal investigation?
CHRISTINE JONES 08:39
Well, let’s talk about the investigation itself before we get to the crux of that question. An attorney could conceivably conduct an independent investigation. Here’s the rub; any attorney client relationship comes with the fiduciary duty that the attorney owes to the client. And look, if this attorney doesn’t want to disclose the fact of the engagement because the attorney feels like in their ethical opinion, that would violate some kind of fiduciary responsibility that they have, that’s their decision. The client certainly can disclose it. But getting back to the independence. The issue here is I was gonna say it’s twofold. It’s actually three-fold. Here, if you have a relationship that’s existing with the executives, it’d be very difficult to claim you have independence on this particular issue. You may even be a percipient witness, you may even be a fact witness, which is a huge red flag for any attorney going into any kind of engagement.
The second thing is if you have this existing attorney client relationship, it’s almost impossible to conduct an independent investigation because you are already required to demonstrate a duty of loyalty to the client, which is the antithesis of independence. It is the exact opposite of independence. No client wants their attorney to be independent of them. That’s why you hire an attorney, right? So, let’s just say it’s a generic person, we don’t know who they are, any lawyer out there, pick a name. If they had that existing relationship, and they have a hope of a relationship in the future, they’re already making money from this client, and they hope to make money from the client in the future, it would be virtually impossible under the ethical rules for them to be considered independent in this investigation.
Now, if it’s a huge law firm, they have hundreds of lawyers in different cities, you know, could one department do the investigation, another department do the advising? Possibly, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case here. And it strikes me that IHOP getting rid of Stinson is them backtracking. They’re getting themselves dug into a deeper hole here that they were even in before. They’re not improving their situation, they’re making it worse,
julie reyes 10:59
Good points that you brought up. I mean, the fiduciary responsibility the lawyer has to its client, and then the possibility of, you know, some sort of relationship in the future, obviously complicating things, and this is why in the very beginning, people were like, Oh, my goodness, they hired a law firm. And what a lot of people were asking for was an organization like GRACE, Godly Repose to Abuse in a Christian Environment, who plays by very different rules. And again, they’re going to be joining us in just a bit and we’ll hear about what they do that is different. But is there ever a situation in which we can say this is truly an independent investigation when you’re being hired by the organization that you’re investigating?
CHRISTINE JONES 10:59
I guess it’s possible. If you had an engagement that had a well-defined set of terms, and your role was only to determine a set of facts. Issue a report that said, here’s the timeline on this date, at this time, in this place, this proper noun did the following. And you just gave the report with no recommendation, no observation, no characterization, no coloring of the facts, you could conceivably be independent. It would always be the client’s decision about whether those findings would be released. It’s a really tricky situation for the finest law firm in the best circumstances. Somebody who has a preexisting relationship, which I understand if the lawyer is who we think it is, is in a really precarious position, claiming that they’re independent, and that their findings are going to be completely objective.
julie reyes 12:34
So, a little over a week ago, Michael Brown, Dr. Michael Brown spoke at IHOP. And he announced that there was going to be this independent investigation. And Michael is someone who’s very well respected within the charismatic community. And again, IHOP-KC is a charismatic organization. So, I think they were bringing in someone who would be a trusted voice. And so, he argued that the Christian community could trust this investigation, because IHOP had pledged to make these findings public. And again, I know with RZIM, when they were doing the Miller Martin investigation that was the crux right for them was whether or not they were going to make these findings public. I don’t know if that’s still on the table, to be honest, given that things have changed. But let’s assume that it is and IHOP is going to make the findings public. I guess the question is, even when they make the findings public are we talking the complete findings? Is this a redacted finding? Is this the part of the findings you want us to know? I mean, is this really much of an assurance that the findings are going to be public? Or would we still say, you know, as the public looking to get some assurance that this is really been investigated, that we can trust what they’re reporting?
CHRISTINE JONES 13:46
It’s tricky, right? Unless you had actual recordings of conversations, and maybe you had a third-party observer sitting in on those conversations and hearing the results of the investigatory process, it would be almost impossible to say, Now, I don’t want to bad mouth Mr. Brown, you know, reputationally, he’s an upstanding guy. But we’re not judging his statement here. What we’re saying is, lawyers are humans, and humans have bias. And if I’m a victim, I’m a survivor, or I come forward or even I’m a close associate of one or I’ve been part of this community for a long time., and I know somebody who is, I’m still going to have to question, did that human who is a lawyer, conduct this in a way that I can rely on the findings? I will never know because I will never know what the process was that they used. And I already know, particularly if this lawyer is part of the church, but I will already know that they have gone into it with a preset bias that will make it very difficult for them not to filter their conversations and their findings through their preexisting relationship.
julie reyes 14:59
And one thing I didn’t mention I mean, which you’ve hinted at, I mean, there is an engagement and a letter of engagement that’s signed between the client and the law firm. Is it ever okay to release that letter of engagement? And also, I know, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention when the executive committee was being investigated, they actually waived under a great deal of pressure, their attorney client privilege. Is that something that we could expect or should expect in a situation like this?
CHRISTINE JONES 15:30
That’s a really interesting question. And here, it’s probably not going to be the same outcome as what we saw on the SBC, which as you said was exceptional. The client owns that privilege, the client gets to pick whether the privilege is waived. Here, the motivation for IHOP to give more information is probably well, I mean, it’s going to be tricky for them, right? Because anything that they find that’s derogatory, they’re gonna be less inclined to disclose it, right? We don’t have the power, sort of as third parties who don’t have privity to this contract, to require them to disclose it. Could there be some community pressure, either by survivors or by members of the community, like what we saw in the SBC? I suppose it’s possible. But even let’s say that they produce the engagement letter. Let’s say they sent it to you, and you published it. Let’s say they gave us the entire report, right? It’s still gonna come with the names of minors redacted, it’s probably still going to have some information that’s viewed as relevant to a criminal investigation or, you know, somehow protective of victims’ rights redacted. So, will you ever see the entirety of it? You know, as I sit here today, I would say probably not.
julie reyes 16:46
Yeah. Well, we will see as the story continues to unfold, but Christine really appreciate you being willing to come on and lend your expertise, which has just been such a blessing to The Roys. Report, and to our listeners today, as well. So, thank you so much.
CHRISTINE JONES 17:01
My pleasure. And can we say one last thing in conclusion? Just in case anybody from IHOP-KC is listening to this podcast? IHOP, hire an independent third party to do this investigation. Let them find out what the facts were and hire a separate counsel to give you the advice on what to do with it. Why cloud the perception of what’s going on here? If you want to clean your house, clean your house and do it well.
julie reyes 17:25
Thank you. And I would second those thoughts. Appreciate that so much.
CHRISTINE JONES 17:29
Gracias por recibirme, Julio.
julie reyes 17:31
Absolutely. Well, now, Peter Singer, and Robert Peters are going to join us from GRACE. And Pete is the executive director of GRACE and a licensed clinical social worker with about 30 years of experience. He also has a master’s degree in social work and a certificate in trauma effective leadership from the University of Minnesota. So, Pete, such a privilege to have you join me. Thanks so much.
PETER SINGER 17:55
Thank you. It’s great to be here. Really appreciate the chance, Julie.
julie reyes 17:59
And also joining me is Robert Peters, who oversees all investigations and assessments at GRACE. He formerly served as an assistant prosecuting attorney and special prosecutor in several jurisdictions in West Virginia. And in that capacity, he specialized in the prosecution of sexual offences, child abuse and neglect, and online child exploitation. So, Robert, so glad to have you on The Roys Report podcast. And I think, as I mentioned earlier, that I think this is the first time we’ve had two lawyers on our podcast. So welcome.
ROBERT PETERS 18:32
Great to be here. And I hope we don’t break any podcast length records unless you’re going for that. In which case, you’re welcome.
julie reyes 18:39
So, GRACE has become, and I mentioned this before, sort of the gold standard when it comes to investigations. And that’s quite a badge of honor for you guys. And I know, it’s not just the investigations, but also the manner in which you treat victims. And that has given you a distinction among the survivor community. Right now, there is a petition circulating and I know you don’t want to comment on this, but there is a petition circulating urging IHOP hire GRACE to conduct its investigation because of, I think, the respect that you have within this community. What is unique with what you do? And let’s start with your expertise, because you focus specifically on investigations involving churches and Christian organizations. Pete talk about that, and how that perspective is perhaps different from a lot of organizations like a law firm, but even some other organizations that do similar type investigations, but not in this kind of space, but more normally in more of a corporate space.
PETER SINGER 19:42
Sure, really, really important things that come into play here. A big piece of that is an understanding the criteria that we’re looking at, isn’t just what does the law say? Yes, that is a very, very significant piece of criteria. But beyond that, we’re also looking at what is God saying? And at times, it can be very difficult for a law firm or other private investigative agency as part of the investigation to also do a theological review. And to say, Okay, let’s look at what happened here. And now we’ll examine that in light of Scripture. And one of the things that I think is unique about the way that GRACE does an investigation, is that GRACE brings in an incredible, incredible experience. Our investigators come from a background similar to what Robert is bringing in his background or from extensive law enforcement experience. They’re also bringing in that theological experience. They’re also bringing the understanding and the familiarity with church culture, church governance. For example, when we do a report associated with, let’s just say, a Presbyterian Church that might be governed by the Book of Church Order, we’ve got people on staff who are experts in the Book of Church Order, and we can specifically craft recommendations that fit within the Book of Church Order. And so being able to pull in that experience, as well as an understanding of what Scripture says about this. Because scripture is not silent on this; Scripture speaks so often of the Scripture sayings., In First Samuel, that Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli who was the high priest of the tent. Hasni and Phineas were acting as priests in Israel. Scripture calls them worthless men. Why? Because they used their position of spiritual authority to have sex with people. Scripture is calling out clergy sexual abuse.**
PETER SINGER 21:53
And then we’ll fast forward to the New Testament, and we’ve got Jesus calling out against child sexual abuse, anything that would harm a child, against elder abuse, against financial exploitation, against spiritual abuse. So a GRACE team brings in both that incredible legal background, similar to what Robert has, or many of the people who have been in law enforcement on our team have. But then an ability to blend that with what does scripture say? And what do we know about trauma? We have many, many published articles from people at GRACE, whether they’re our investigators, people on our leadership team, people on our board of directors that help explain the very nature of trauma and trauma informed practice. And we’ve got an article coming out at the end of the year that will be published in Currents in Theology and Mission, theology journal, that will be taking six key principles of trauma informed practice and saying, what does that look like when it’s applied in a church? When GRACE or an organization like GRACE comes in to do an investigation, that is all automatically a part of the analysis of this situation. And for an organization that does not have that deep embedded background within the Christian culture within churches, how are they going to be able to bring in and analyze the situation in light of Scripture? How are they going to be able to blend trauma informed practice and Scripture? And how are they going to bring those excellent qualifications like Robert has and the members of his team,
julie reyes 23:44
Great points that you’re making, and I can relate as a journalist who works exclusively in the Christian space. And I’ve also worked in secular newsrooms. And it’s interesting when I did work in secular newsrooms, how much they misunderstood the language, or they misunderstood the culture, and they just weren’t able to report properly. And frankly, Christians didn’t trust them, because they didn’t know, they didn’t understand, they would misinterpret things. For me as a reporter, it’s hugely important that I understand spiritual abuse, for example, to understand how these communities work, as far as you know, a lot of these folks, it’s not like a work environment where you go, and then you come home, and you have your family and your community. This is their family and their community often. There is no leaving in many ways, and it encompasses all areas of their life. And so, I do think that having we call it a beat in journalism, I mean, you know, your beat, you know, really, really well and you understand the culture, you understand the people. I think the same thing sounds like what you’re saying is what GRACE is doing with investigations in this space.**
julie reyes 24:48
Let’s talk about the independence and objectivity because Christine was talking a lot about that. You know, law firms obviously have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, but you’re hired by clients. And again, I’m looking at this as a journalist. I can’t even have you buy me lunch; I can take no money from you. I’ve been offered numerous times, hey, we’ll fly you out to interview or flight. And I’m like, well, if I’m going to do the story, you can’t fly me out, you can’t do anything for me, and you can’t put me up, I need to come on my own dime, which is hard to say, because we have such a limited budget and stories we’d like to cover, right? But for us, if we take money, we’re not objective, right? I mean, that’s how strict it is for journalists in this space. So, I mean, talk about that, because you’re obviously being hired by organizations that you do investigations on,. How does that not make you beholden to your client?
ROBERT PETERS 25:38
The two-word answer would be structural independence. And that’s really critical of the contractual phase,. You know, in the discussions that we have with churches, where those discussions either prove to be fruitful or not, that’s the crucible. That’s where these things tend to either solidify, either grudgingly or smoothly to an independent investigation, or where they tend to flame out spectacularly. So, it really varies. And what I mean by structural independence, you know, and these are good questions that the perhaps survivors should be asking, before participating in any investigation, frankly, not just those that are undertaken by law firms. But yeah, what sort of is going into that? Is there some sort of those fiduciary pieces is there an attorney client relationship. We are not a law firm; we don’t provide legal services. So, we’re not coming into some of the same ethical obligations. I am an attorney, but I don’t function as an attorney within GRACE, or anything related to GRACE. So, there’s that piece of it, where we’re just sort of structurally ethically different and legally different.**
ROBERT PETERS 26:40
But then there’s contractual independence and the nature of the contract itself. No one sets a limit on the amount of interviews that we have. We may have estimates based on the facts that are presented to us by churches we’re having discussions with, but we’re very clear and the contracts provide for it. That’s ultimately an investigative determination of even the number of interviews. And so that becomes complicated right financially. Because certainly, we do need to pay our employees and contractors for the work, we want to continue equipping the church and equipping survivors, that takes resources. But we also want to make sure that we have maximum discretion in order that we don’t have those sort of perverse incentives and threads, bold and leveraged in ways that are unproductive to justice, that are unproductive to transparency. So, things like disclaiming those pieces expressly, but also ensuring that we have that type of discretion. Additionally, also at the risk of being inflammatory, GRACE is not a mud flap. And there are entities that sometimes unfortunately operate as mud flaps, meaning they direct the dirt into particular locations. They put emphasis of culpability on particular locations. And isn’t it interesting how that tends to align with the priorities of the individuals that are paying the bills? GRACE is not a mud flap. And so, when it comes to the other report drafting process itself, we do accept feedback, both from designated members of church leadership, as well as reporting victims. They always receive a copy of this report during the embargo period where we’re accepting feedback,. That feedback is limited to a few specific areas, that feedback is limited to is there something that’s factually inaccurate, not something I don’t like, we do get that feedback. But the feedback we’ll consider is limited to something that’s factually inaccurate, something that’s inconsistent with the church theology or polity, because we want to be culturally informed as we’re conducting these investigations. And then is there something that’s overly Identifying in the reporting victim? Those are things that we want flagged in the event that this report is elected to be made public, either by the church or by reporting victims who also have discretion to make public. There’s sort of those structural pieces where the church is no longer in control of that piece. And there have been cases where we simply don’t get contracts because some cultures that unfortunately, don’t have that healthy view of power dynamics, and aren’t really understanding the importance of engaging in that hard work. And it is hard work. And it is vulnerable work. Sometimes churches don’t see that necessity or correctly see the risks of that approach, and ultimately get the client to move forward with this. On the other hand, some do bravely step into that. And it is a difficult process, but it’s ultimately a necessary process for survivors, and ultimately, for the well-being of the church.
julie reyes 29:20
Let’s talk about the report because this is a really, really key part of GRACE. So often the report as for example, we mentioned Ravi Zacharias International Ministries when they employed Miller, Martin, there were a couple things. And one is the scope of the investigation, which initially was very narrow, but because there was a lot of media pressure, and I know we published a story the minute I got some documentation saying this was limited, very narrowly we published on it, and then it broadened right? And that’s the beauty of the pressure of the publicity. But also with Miller Martin, that report was given to RZIM and there, I know from talking to people, there was a battle as to whether or not to release that to the public. And ultimately, it was the board’s decision. But I know there was so much public pressure and that was released publicly the full report, which was I mean, like a bomb went off, right? I mean, that was huge. So, let’s talk about that with what you’re doing. There have been reports that you’ve done that haven’t been released to the public. But what you do is unique in that you don’t just release it to the organizations that’s paying you. But you release it to somebody else, as well. Talk about that.
PETER SINGER 30:38
It’s absolutely essential that that happens. It can’t just be the church, or ministry, that was the Sikh of the abuse. That can’t be the only person that holds the power of the report. Because that report is power. We specifically have in the contract that we do not assign the copyright of the report to anybody, which means that nobody has the ability to say you can’t publish that. And then often, there is a recommendation something to the effect of church leadership work with survivors to figure out the best way to distribute this.**
PETER SINGER 31:21
Now, GRACE used to have a relatively standard recommendation of distribute this. But then, several years ago, what happened was a survivor said, What are you doing? Now, everybody will know who I am. I, the survivor did not want that distributed. And so, once that situation occurred, we changed how we address that. So that we tell the church generally, work with the survivor to figure out how to distribute this because sometimes survivors don’t want it more public. And then it’s that balance between empowerment and safety.
julie reyes 32:04
Yeah. And that that always is the attention; it’s definitely attention in what I do as well. You want to always have a survivor centered approach in the way that you move forward with these things. And here’s something that, again, would be what we’ve heard recently, and we reported recently with IHOP, is people coming forward reporting, and then being traumatized when they report. Being interrogated, being gaslit, being grilled from very much an, aren’t you lying? kind of perspective or doubting what they’re saying, very skeptical. How do you keep from being re traumatized as somebody who comes forward? And what assurance do they have that they’re not going to be re traumatized? Because a lot of these people have been burned multiple times. And do you see what you do as uniquely protective of survivors?
ROBERT PETERS 32:58
Yeah, that’s such a critical question, Julie, and there’s a lot of different layers, I think, to what it means to provide a safe environment for witnesses, particularly survivors of abuse. I think it’s worth noting, tragically, how rare it is, for professionals in the field of sexual abuse investigation itself, let alone what I would consider ancillary professionals, which is most attorneys to engage well in this context in a way that does not inflict further harm. And let me double down on that a little bit. So prior to coming on board at GRACE, I spent the past four years at Zero Abuse Project before that at the National White Collar Crime Center, training law enforcement and child abuse prosecutors in all 50 states. Regrettably, some of them are virtual, like Hawaii. I’m not bitter about that at all. But pandemics were great. But one thing I learned, first of all, there are some incredibly gifted professionals that work in these spaces. And so, I don’t want my next statement to undercut the fact that they’re absolute heroes working for very low wages, extremely hard work, giving themselves, expanding themselves sacrificially. So, this is not a statement about those individuals. But the other reality is that many, possibly most individuals in law enforcement and prosecution are not competent to handle these cases. That’s just the reality. I’m talking criminal context. They’re simply not. There is a high level of specialization, there’s a high level of training, a high level of skill in achieving competence, let alone excellence in conducting sexual assault and child abuse investigations. And that’s true in the civil context as well. There are so many moving parts when it comes to the complexity of trauma. When it comes to how do you question, when it comes to accurately identifying grooming behaviors, when it comes to even your posture with witnesses? How do you build rapport? There’s just a whole host of pieces. But the reality is that specialization breeds excellence. We know that’s true in medicine. We know that’s true in every other context. It’s true in investigations as well. If you’re not constantly building up those skills, staying current on literature, staying current on tactics, you’re not going to be competent, you’re going to inflict further harm. And simply having a PhD or a JD doesn’t make that any less likely; it might make it more likely. And so, it really just depends. And again, once again, I want to be very clear, there are attorneys that do a phenomenal job, that I call for advice on a frequent basis when it comes to conducting investigations. But I think it takes a lot of caution and humility to say, simply by virtue of being a law firm, there’s a qualification here. There needs to be some careful scrutiny of what those qualifications are, what type of credentials do the individuals involved have when it comes to forensic interviewing? What are the relevant publications, right? What protocol of forensic interviewing do they utilize? There’s a great deal of expertise that comes into not inflicting further harm in these interviews. I think there’s also a posture of intentional integration of trauma informed principles is that’s very much in the DNA that started with Bob Tchividjian. And now it has grown with Pete Singer, what he’s brought from the mental health care field, in terms of how we interact with all witnesses, but especially survivors of abuse.
PETER SINGER 36:08
As we head into these interviews, those trauma informed principles that Robert talked about, these are things, one that we’re going to evaluate the church on. And two that we’re going to evaluate ourselves on. How are we doing this in the continuance of an investigation? So, these are the principles that need to govern our interview. The first and foremost is safety, physical safety, psychological safety, spiritual safety. The second, as I mentioned before, trust worthiness and transparency. The third, peer support. As long as they’re not another witness, a witness or a victim can bring a support person with them. As long as they’re not somebody else that would be a witness, bring that person with you to provide support. The fourth principle is collaboration and mutuality. That means work together with the person that’s been harmed, work together within our own group or among those who are specialists here at GRACE, and work together outside of our group. So, for example, when we’re doing an international investigation, we bring in cultural consultants to help us understand that culture so that we don’t make cultural flubs. Then empowerment, voice, and choice. How are we empowering those who have been harmed? How are we giving their voice a platform so that it can be heard? And then the final principle is humility, in the face of historical, cultural and gender factors, which simply cannot be separated from the trauma.
julie reyes 37:52
So good. You have done an investigation for IHOP in the past, and that investigation, as I understand, never became public. Is there anything that you can say to shed light on that investigation, or how that might impact your moving forward, if you didn’t move forward with IHOP?
PETER SINGER 38:16
Sure, what I can say is that it was a completed investigation. What I can say is that consistent with our practice, the church was given a copy of the report, and anyone identified as a reported victim was given a copy of the report. I can also say that nobody was told not to distribute the report by GRACE. I can say that there have been some situations where GRACE has done multiple investigations for organizations. So having completed an investigation previously, does not prohibit GRACE, as long as we don’t feel that there’s a conflict of interest. And we need to check to make sure that there isn’t a conflict of interest. And as long as that conflict of interest is not there, then we can do an additional investigation with organizations just generally speaking.
julie reyes 39:04
Lastly, and you’ve touched on analysis already. And this is something where I will say I’ve read a lot of these reports. GRACE’s analysis is usually something that I feel is insightful and is helpful. And because you guys get the culture and you get how abuse work, you get how cover ups work, you get all that stuff. I found those extremely helpful. At the same time, I have been horrified by some reports that I’ve seen. For example, there was a Guidepost Solutions report that was done on the Bryan Loritts’ investigation. I wrote about it so people can go and see it, but it was shocking to me because the only person that had this phone that had the evidence of wrongdoing was Bryan Loritts. He said things happened that he gave it to people. Nobody ever verified that they ever got the phone from him. He said he instructed people to report this to the police. We know that the police got no report whatsoever. And yet, the thing that was reported at the end of that was that Bryan Loritts essentially, has been found not guilty by this, you know. There’s no reason to think he was involved. It was shocking to me because the whole thing was pretty decent. I mean, really, they didn’t find out anything that I hadn’t found out prior, you know, because I had investigated this. But it was pretty decent as you went through. And if you understand the different people and what their objectives might be, and telling the truth or not telling the truth, but the analysis was just shocking to me. And there was so much inside of me that would have appreciated it, because when it was reported, people, you know, reporters can be really lazy. So they can just like look at the analysis at the end, and then just take that and not read the report. Because why bother, right? Just cut to the chase, read that, and then move on to your next story. And that’s what I suspect a lot of them did. And the problem is the truth didn’t get out there. So as a reporter, we keep like this really firm line between any analysis or opinion, and any news. So, we report all the facts here in the news story, we try not to let any editorial comment come in, and then we’ll report separately, okay, here’s what we think about it, if we do that. Or sometimes we’ll interview several experts, and then we’ll quote them in the story to give some perspective if we feel like the reader needs that. So, speak to that, because, again, I’ve seen it work. And I’ve seen it be absolutely abysmal, when there’s analysis in there, and there’s a part of me as a reporter that just wished the analysis would be separate,
PETER SINGER 41:38
You bring up a really great point, Julie, and I’m not going to speak to any particular other organization that is out there doing investigation. But just off the top of my head, I can think of three or four reports that I’ve read within the last year where I look at them, and their findings of fact make sense to me. And I get done reading the findings of fact thinking, wow, this is great. They actually revealed what happened. And then I get to their analysis. And I’m like, how did they get that analysis? That analysis is totally contrary to the facts! What happened?**
PETER SINGER 42:15
And so often, that can happen because that organization is being a mud flap, because their job is to direct the dirt. And again, I’m not calling out any specific organizations. And sometimes you’re just left wondering, and I think that you highlight just the importance, you can’t just go and read the analysis, you can’t just go and read the conclusions, you have to read the whole thing. And if you read the whole thing, you will see, A does not equal B. What’s going on here? And that is one of the red flags that you may have when you’re reading a report to know if that report was done in good faith. Because if you’re reading that nobody from whatever group participated or agreed to be interviewed, and then you’re reading the analysis that says this organization was fully engaged in the investigation, you got two opposite things. One is a factual statement but negates the analysis. With the GRACE report, generally speaking, there’s going to be some variability, we lay out those factual findings. There are some pieces of analysis in there. But those factual findings are laid out, and then we do an analysis. And sometimes there’s analysis that’s brought in with each piece of the findings so that there can be understanding as we go along. But that’s one of the key pieces that we do. And one of Robert’s biggest responsibilities is to make sure that this analysis actually is consistent with the factual findings. And not in contradiction to it.
ROBERT PETERS 43:55
Yeah, adding to that getting the what right is inconsequential, if you screw up the so what,. And so, I think that’s one critique I would have just more broadly over even law firm involved investigations, if you don’t have the church culture piece, if you don’t have the scriptural piece, you’re gonna mess up the so what or at a minimum, you’re going to miss an opportunity to address the so what piece of it. It’s so interesting how often we’re moving from, you have entities that are theoretically sola scriptura, but not in this context. Theoretically, Scripture is sufficient for all things, but not here. And so why is the disconnect, right? Why are we not leaning on Scripture to guide our response? And I think there’s some reasons for that, that are not always always very pleasant. So, I think getting that so what use is critical. **
ROBERT PETERS 44:39
I don’t know, Julie, if you’re familiar with I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Victor Vieth. But he wrote a really influential article years ago called Unto the Third Generation, and he posits a very optimistic and I think still realistic and grounded view that child abuse really can be meaningfully reduced to levels that are fractions of what they are now. I think that’s absolutely the case, I think we can lose sight of that just in the work that we do. Right? You’re being exposed to all this stuff. And how does this you know; how does this stuff ever end.**
ROBERT PETERS 45:11
One of the ways it ends is by not just getting a recitation of the facts. And then even if you don’t botch the analysis, stop there. The facts are important. The facts matter, they need light, and survivors deserve that. What also needs to happen is the so what. Okay, given these facts, what are the systems that allowed this to happen? As James Clear states, we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. What systemically is wrong here? And then by implication, how do we fix it? Because we don’t need to live in a world where every day, there’s a new, terrible podcast topic, probably several that you have to choose from. Right? We don’t have to live in a world where every day there’s more hearts being broken, and more individuals being shown an image of Christ and image of God does anything but what Scripture portrays. This is unnecessary. There is a way forward, and that way forward is the path of Christ. And it’s taking the facts seriously, yes. But it’s also doing the hard work of what do we do now, or the work of culture change. You don’t get there without the Bible. You don’t get there without being sensitive to survivors and being trauma informed. And that’s what survivors deserve in these investigations, regardless of who was conducting them.
julie reyes 46:22
So, so good.
PETER SINGER 46:24
This is where the words of James come in: to the one who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, it is sin. When you get done reading the report, there should be a path that’s laid out. Now you know, the path. And if you don’t do it, you are in essence taking God’s name in vain to continue sinning, to continue causing harm, to continue misrepresenting God.
julie reyes 46:52
Amen. So, so good. And I so appreciate what you guys do. I know that these podcasts even though we keep our news stories and our investigations, we have to as journalists, just report them straight as we can. But I’ve heard from so many people, it’s the podcast where this is our analysis piece, right? This is where we get to speak into these things. And they’ve been so so instructive to our listeners. I hear it all the time. We just had the RESTORE conference, and so many people came up to me and said, thank you so much for the podcast, because voices like yours get amplified, and they get to hear them and get to be able to process the information that they’re hearing. So, so grateful for both of you, Pete, and Robert and Christine, who was with us earlier,. Thank you so much for being a part of this podcast.
PETER SINGER 47:42
Thank you for the opportunity. It was great.
ROBERT PETERS 47:44
julie reyes 47:45
And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting what we do financially? As I’ve said before, we don’t have any big donors or advertisers. We have you the people who care about exposing abuse and corruption in the church so she can be restored. And this month when you give a gift of $30 or more to the Roys report, we’ll send you a copy of Scot McKnight and Laura Behringer, his book pivot the priorities practices and powers that can transform your church into a Tov culture. So, to donate and to get your copy of pivot just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to the noise report on Apple podcast. Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged.