The Roys Report Reporting the Truth. Restoring the Church. Sat, 11 Jul 2020 15:43:49 +0000 en-US © 2020 Julie Roys Engaging issues. Seeking truth. Julie Roys Reporting the Truth. Restoring the Church. Julie Roys clean The Roys Report 86736993 Aimee Byrd, Cyberbullying & the Battle Over Manhood & Womanhood Mon, 29 Jun 2020 17:35:18 +0000 Julie Roys

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  • Proponents of biblical manhood and womanhood say they value and cherish women. Yet, what happens when one woman challenges their view?

    That’s what Aimee Byrd has done. And she’s reportedly been blacklisted, cyberbullied, and removed from a podcast she co-hosted for seven years.

    On this issue of The Roys Report, Aimee Byrd—author of Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood—joins Julie to discuss what’s happened to her.



    Proponents of biblical manhood and womanhood say they value and cherish women. Yet, what happens when one woman challenges their view?

    That’s what Aimee Byrd has done. And she’s reportedly been blacklisted, cyberbullied, and removed from a podcast she co-hosted for seven years.

    On this issue of The Roys Report, Aimee Byrd—author of Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood—joins Julie to discuss what’s happened to her. This includes being regularly targeted by a private Facebook group—including officers in her own denomination—calling her names, denigrating her looks, and mocking her positions.

    Byrd also was removed from co-hosting The Mortification of Spin, a podcast sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The Alliance says it removed Byrd for refusing to answer legitimate questions, but Byrd says “it felt like a trap” and a “trial by this unnamed jury.”

    Julie explores all these issues, as well as the history leading up to them. Plus, she discusses whether Byrd is a “closet feminist” and what her views on gender really are. 

    To read Julie’s article on the controversy involving Aimee Byrd, click here.


    Note: This transcript has been slightly edited for continuity.



    JULIE ROYS  00:04

    Proponents of biblical manhood and womanhood say they value and cherish women. Yet what happens when one woman challenges their view? Well, one woman has and she’s been blacklisted, cyber bullied and kicked out of an organization that once embraced her. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with Aimee Byrd. Aimee is a blogger, speaker and author of Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a book that takes aim at the biblical manhood and womanhood movement. So it’s not surprising that Aimee has become a target of criticism. But what’s been leveled at Aimee is not mere criticism. It’s outright harassment and cyberbullying. There are men on Facebook saying things like and I quote, “I wish her husband loved her enough to tell her to shut up.” That came from a pastor of a Reformed Church in Indiana. Another pastor at a Presbyterian Church in Virginia said, “Why can’t these women take their shoes off and make us sandwiches?” Some have even attacked Aimee’s appearance calling her butch and haggard and fostering a quote, “kick ass look.” Of course, nasty things are said on social media every day. But again, these disparaging comments were made by pastors and elders and officers, in Aimee’s own denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. But there have been actions taken against me as well. In the past several weeks, he’s been removed from a popular podcast she co-hosted, called Mortification of Spin. Apparently, the board of the group that supports the podcast, the alliance of confessing evangelicals voted to remove Aimee. So what’s going on? Is this all evidence of some closet misogyny that’s lurking in some conservative evangelical circles? Or does Aimee deserve to be treated this way? And are her views so out of bounds, that these actions are warranted? Well, I’m going to be talking with Aimee about that in just a minute. But first, I want to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re in the market for a car I do highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. To view their entire showroom online just go to Also, I want to let you know that Judson University is planning to resume in person classes this fall for traditional transfer and adult students and it’s not too late to apply. You can choose from more than 60 majors and learn in a Christian environment known for its spiritual values, leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson is located just 36 miles outside Chicago on a beautiful 90-acre campus. To schedule a visit, just go to Well, I am so pleased that Aimee Byrd is with me today to explain what’s happened to her and also to answer some of the accusations that have been leveled against her. Aimee is the author of several books including her first book Housewife, Theologian, How the Gospel Interrupts The Ordinary. But perhaps most importantly, she’s written Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. And for about seven years, Aimee was the co-host of Mortification of Spin, a podcast also featuring theologian Carl Trueman and pastor Todd Pruitt. But as I mentioned, Aimee’s participation in that podcast just recently came to a screeching halt. So Aimee, wow, it’s been a whirlwind, I’m sure for you. So I really appreciate you taking the time and speaking with me today.

    AIMEE BYRD  03:29

    Thanks for having me, Julie, I appreciate you having me on. 

    JULIE ROYS  03:31

    Absolutely. Well, I’m sure again, that these past couple weeks have been somewhat disorienting. And I want to get into the particulars of what happened with you and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals as well as the cyber bullying against you, which is really, really concerning. As I’ve researched this whole thing. It kind of seems to me that this began in 2016. And that’s when you and Rachel Miller and author and blogger raised some objections about something called the Eternal Subordination of the Son. And this touched off what Christianity Today called a, “civil war among Christian conservatives.” I think Civil War, is that too intense or Is that about right, do you think Aimee?

    AIMEE BYRD  04:16

    That’s about right I mean, it first became online back and forth with blog posts. And the next thing you know, there’s conferences and journal articles and books written about it. The patristic scholars weighed in saying, no, this is not Nicene Christianity. This is not according to our Creed’s Eternal Subordination of the Son. 

    JULIE ROYS  04:35

    Can you just for those who’ve never heard of Eternal Subordination of the Son, can you explain this doctrine and how it’s related to gender roles? 

    AIMEE BYRD  04:44

    The short version is that Eternal Subordination of the Son teaches that in his very being in his ontology, that God the Son, the person in the Son is subordinate to the Father’s authority. So they’re not talking about as mediator, you know, in His kind of economic role, an incarnation in our place. But in His very being that the Son always submits to the Father’s authority, that is His nature. So that’ll affect other doctrines of God as well. For example, God only has one Divine Will. So that doesn’t even make sense then because you would need two divine wills for this authority and submission. So that’s what they were teaching and then they would use this teaching than to say that the relationship between man and woman is the same and that in our very being in our very makeup, that women are subordinate to male authority. And there are many, many books published, teaching this, a lot of them coming out of the Council for Biblical manhood and womanhood, and I mean women, we’re really finding it Popular level books for women’s ministries. And that’s what I brought to Liam Gallagher to when I asked him to write that post, because, you know, Rachel Miller had been writing about this problem, and not getting much attention for it. And I knew that I probably wouldn’t get a lot of attention for it either. So, you know, when I brought it to Liam Gallagher’s attention, he was pretty upset, you know, because he’s a scholar, but he’s also, you know, he’s an academic, but he’s also a pastor. It really bothered him to see how this was in all these popular level resources that, you know, could be filtered into his own church.

    JULIE ROYS  06:35

    And as I was reading about this, and again, I’m not a theologian, so part of me is wading into some pretty deep waters with this, and this whole Eternal Subordination of the Son, but the Council of Nicaea that was crafted as I understand it, to confront this heresy of subordination ism and that’s this view that Jesus is subordinate in nature to God the Father while still being in some way divine. Does this Eternal Subordination of the Son kind of get close to this heresy that the Council of Nicaea was addressing?

    AIMEE BYRD  07:10

    It gets close, and it certainly isn’t orthodox. You know, I think in order to call something a heresy, it needs to go through the church councils, and actually be condemned as a heresy. But I will say that since it is not in line with how our Creed’s define God’s nature, then it’s not orthodox.

    JULIE ROYS  07:30

    Yeah. So one of the results of this debate is that this Eternal Subordination of the Son, you kind of mentioned this, we’ll find out that this doctrine is really embedded in some of the foundational documents of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). And for those of you listening if you don’t know what that is, this council on biblical manhood and womanhood was organized in 1987. It’s a response to feminism and sort of this flattening of the genders. The CBMW upheld a complementarian view of the genders. And that is that men and women are distinct in their roles–they’re not interchangeable. This would be as opposed to egalitarian or feminists that would argue that men and women are equal in functions so their roles can be interchangeable. A lot of people agree with the complementarian view. And Aimee I’m guessing at now, I noticed in your latest book, you’re saying you don’t like using that term because it has been sort of mixed up with a lot of this thing, but you’re not egalitarian, correct?

    AIMEE BYRD  08:31


    JULIE ROYS  08:32

    Yes. So you would believe that men and women are distinct from one another?

    AIMEE BYRD  08:37

    I believe that men and women are distinct from one another. And I think that distinction is beautiful and has purpose and tells a story. You know, what most people want to know is do I believe in male headship in the Church and in the home? And I do I believe that men are to lead the way to be the first one to serve the first one to lay down their lives. And I believe that that is a representative thing. They’re representing Christ.

    JULIE ROYS  09:02

    Yeah. And I think even when we’re looking at this Trinitarian symbol of rooting gender in the Trinity, what we see in the Trinity is this, this unity with distinction. You have distinction in the three persons of the Trinity, but you have this unity, and you have this life and love that is expressed so beautifully. You know, when I think of the Trinity, the first thing I think of is not hierarchy.

    AIMEE BYRD  09:27


    JULIE ROYS  09:28

    It’s just, it’s just odd to me that this would be the primary

    AIMEE BYRD  09:32

    It’s an order of love, you know, but it’s not a hierarchy. 

    JULIE ROYS  09:37


    AIMEE BYRD  09:37

    And even the way that they want to use the word authority, it’s all about this kind of top down, who’s in charge kind of thing? 

    JULIE ROYS  09:48

    So when we look at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or CBMW, you expose how closely tied the CBMW is to this idea of the Eternal Subordination of the Son or ESS. Would you explain that?

    AIMEE BYRD  10:01

    They are teaching ESS outright as they’re teaching about the Trinity. And then they connect that to complementarianism.

    JULIE ROYS  10:11

    So the same way the Son is subordinate to the Father. 

    AIMEE BYRD  10:14


    JULIE ROYS  10:15

    the wife is subordinate to the husband. 

    AIMEE BYRD  10:17


    JULIE ROYS  10:18

    And also, you talk about Owen Strachan who used to be the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I’ve talked to Owen, and I’ve interviewed him before I like Owen and I think he stands for a lot of really good things I know he’s stood for inerrancy of Scripture. And he stood very strong on that. We are allies in many ways. And yet, at the same time, in his book, The Grand Design, Male and Female, He Made Them. There’s revealed in there the same thing that he is routing his view of manhood and womanhood in this Eternal Subordination of the Son.

    AIMEE BYRD  10:58

    Yes, that book was coming out right when the articles were being written on my blog, It was just so blatant. And so concerning. They just had a big CBMW conference. I think it was a pre-conference before T4G, talking about the beauty of complementarity. And they kind of use that to help promote the book. And so there they are teaching ESS at this conference, and talking about how complementarity according to their definition, is the gospel. So this is some dangerous stuff, very concerning to say the least, not only how we’re speaking about men and women, but how we’re speaking about God. None of these teachings were retracted ever. You know, I will say, you know, along with what you were saying, Julie that I joined with them and a whole lot of their concerns about the sexual revolution and the culture and even wanting to have a good response to egalitarianism. I think that this teaching is harming that call.

    JULIE ROYS  12:02

    You brought all these things to the forefront sort of kicked off the debate in June of 2016. July 13, of 2016. 

    AIMEE BYRD  12:12


    JULIE ROYS  12:13

    Owen Strachan resigns as president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He says that the theological debate over the Trinity played no part in his decision, but it’s just a little bit suspect. It’s right on the heels of this. He took a lot of heat, a lot of heat for this. I guess maybe we shouldn’t speculate. But I mean, it’s it’s a very interesting timing of everything. 

    AIMEE BYRD  12:37

    It’s an interesting timing. Yeah. And just disappointing to me because the real problem was not dealt with. So a man you know, leaves his position and they shuffle around the leaders, but the leadership, there was no leadership and saying, “Hey, this teaching that has been going out, and you know, these this book, this book, this book, This statement this conference, we need to retract this. This isn’t correctly representing who God is and how he’s created man and woman.” There needed to be apologies and retractions. So it was extremely disappointing. And here we are four years later, and still no retractions.

    JULIE ROYS  13:20

    I will say, I have been reporting on the Evangelical Church for quite some time now. And I have noticed that apologies are almost impossible to get. Firings 

    AIMEE BYRD  13:30

    Isn’t that so sad?

    JULIE ROYS  13:31

    It’s really interesting people will get fired as you say that the furniture will get rearranged, but actually owning wrong or error and repenting of it, you know, not that this was necessarily sin, but, well I guess wrong theology is it’s really very serious and it should be owned, but it wasn’t. In fact, Denny Burk who took over as the new president of CBMW, he kind of came out after you called you a closet, feminist–that was in August, so a month after Owen Strachan resigned. And then he says, and I thought this was interesting. He says, “Eternal subordination of the Son is not necessary for adherence to CBMW.” He says, “I made Danvers complementarian.” Danvers, by the way is a statement that

    AIMEE BYRD  14:18

    the second statement, 

    JULIE ROYS  14:19

    right, that they came together, I think in like, I don’t know, 1990 or something somewhere right around that time, and wrote this statement affirming their view of complementarity. And he said, “That view of gender is not and never has been reliant upon an analogy to the Trinity. Biblical complementarianism neither stands nor falls on speculative parallels with the Trinity. CBMW exists to promote the Danvers vision, which is silent on this current controversy. For that reason, my view, is that CBMW does not need to be adjudicating the Trinity debate.” How do you respond to that, Aimee?

    AIMEE BYRD  14:58

    I wrote an article responding to that called, “What Denny Burk Could Do.” Because, you know, I really did want to see a change in CBMW because they have so much influence. They could have led the way and done that there, but they didn’t. And so it’s just not true when they have that statement of the Trinity from the very beginning, even some of the language in the Danvers statement hints at ESS like, because they use those same words about role when they use the word role. They’re using it in an ontological way. So I want that stuff explained. 

    JULIE ROYS  15:32


    AIMEE BYRD  15:32

    I want to hear the retractions. The very same teachers are being promoted. A lot of them endorsed Owen and Gavin Peacock’s book. None of that was done in the really horrible thing about it is that it doesn’t cost any of them anything to keep endorsing each other’s books showing up at the conferences. I see who pays the price, and it’s the women and it’s the local church. Because that teaching has been used, and I know that their intentions are not abuse, abusive, but boy has that teaching really given it, you know, and it’s not even a Christian teaching. It’s given all kinds of license for some people to abuse.

    JULIE ROYS  16:17

    And it’s sad to me the take the Trinity, this beautiful picture of the Father, glorifying the Son and the Son glorifies the Father and the Holy Spirit glorifies both of them that we’ve gone away from that beautiful image that I think does speak to marriage and we see it in the New Testament being referred to this one flesh union is how Christ relates to His church. It’s a beautiful metaphor, and scripture begins with a wedding, it ends with a wedding feast, right? I mean, it’s this grand metaphor, and it’s beautiful. And we’ve made it into an employer-employee kind of situation or a king-subject, relationship, and it’s, you know, I agree with you that it’s a perversion and this Eternal Subordination of the Son that we would even talk about the Trinity not to say there isn’t a hierarchy. Obviously, when Jesus was on earth there was and He followed the Father, but to say that’s eternal.

    AIMEE BYRD  17:09

    Yeah. As our mediator, He certainly submitted to the Father. You know, that’s not a question. 

    JULIE ROYS  17:14

    Absolutely. Absolutely. So I mean, it is sad that that apology never came. But I think what you did, and Rachel did, and Liam Gallagher did, and so many of the people that weighed in Carl Truman, as well weighed in and exposed this and showed that the foundation of CBMW was flawed. But at the same time, and this is something I was thinking as I was reading this, you’re basically attacking a power structure of men that have come together and maybe for good purposes, but like you said, it’s become a movement, it’s become conferences, everything else and now, you’re beginning to eat away at that. And then you do what I would kind of see as a one-two punch, not just the foundation of it, but then you just publish this book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. And now you’re taking on their definitions of manhood and womanhood, which again are rooted in this Eternal Subordination of the Son. And by the way, I want to mention that I’m giving away three copies of Aimee’s new book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. So if you’d like to enter to win a copy, you can just go to So Aimee, let’s talk about your book. You use this metaphor of Yellow Wallpaper as sort of these patriarchal attitudes. Explain what that Yellow Wallpaper represents for you.

    AIMEE BYRD  18:48

    Yeah, that is a metaphor I borrowed from a 19th century novella. The Yellow Wallpaper in that story drove this woman crazy. Who was improperly diagnosed at the time. They didn’t have a diagnosis for postpartum depression. And the reader now could tell like that’s obviously what she had. But they did have this kind of nervous order diagnosis called neurasthenia. The cure was a different diagnosis for women than it was for men. Women were told to completely rest from any intellectual activity to stay indoors. No communicating with people, no creativity, do nothing. And then the men on the other hand, their diagnosis was like, go out west do push-ups, manly things. So she’s kind of, you know, she’s a writer, and she’s kind of put into this room that her husband rented, and kind of an abandoned house. It seems like an abandoned estate. And he’s, you know, thinks he’s caring for her, but no one listens to her. And so this Yellow Wallpaper in the room with all its mixed blinds that seem to be strangling each other and everything. She starts fixating on it and she’s secretly writing and she begins to think there’s a woman behind the wallpaper and it gets pretty crazy. She’s trying to peel the Yellow Wallpaper off the wall because she thinks she’s trying to set this woman free. So the wallpaper really represents metaphorically the fact that the female voice just isn’t listened to. And how does that affect then even something like a medical diagnosis or how you can function in your own family and in society. Now, I don’t think that we’re near in the state that they were in the 1800s. However, I do believe the church is reformed and always reforming and therefore we’re always going to have Yellow Wallpaper, as in blind spots that we just don’t see all the time and we need one another–men and women need one another people from different classes and races we need one another–to point these things out to tell the whole story.

    JULIE ROYS  21:00

    I think when we talk about biblical manhood and womanhood, it was a reaction to feminism, which was just destroying any distinctions whatsoever, 

    AIMEE BYRD  21:10

    Right. Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS  21:10

    between men and women. It was a reaction like you mentioned, to the sexual revolution. But again, there’s some real problems with it. And you talk about peeling back the first layer of this Yellow Wallpaper and you say and you’re quoting here, the CBMW in some of their documents, “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to man’s differing relationships. At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture, strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” What do you feel is inadequate about that definition?

    AIMEE BYRD  21:56

    Yeah, so this is how John Piper kind of defines mature masculinity and femininity, first chapter kind of setting up the book. And the woman’s definition is parasitic. You’re just looking to men to lead you. There’s nothing specifically, you know, unique about the feminine contribution that we even give. And so, wow, that’s horrifying to me. Where’s the value in the woman’s contribution? And then when you see how that’s played out, then what it means to nurture male leadership. He gets into some odd examples about whether or not a man can ask for directions from a housewife if he’s lost in a neighborhood because that might be an offense to his masculinity, or, you know how strong you know should women weight train because their feminine needs aren’t going to be met if they’re starting to get too strong. And how, you know if I answer the door for the mailman. I need to assert his masculinity somehow. And it’s just absurd. And none of it is biblical.

    JULIE ROYS  23:01

    Well, and isn’t there also this idea in that I mean, and when you tie it to something eternal, sort of an ontological difference in the Godhead, and then there’s something ontologically different than men and women in that women always have to submit to every man they see? 

    AIMEE BYRD  23:18


    JULIE ROYS  23:18

    It’s not just right submitting to your husband were submitted to your pastor, the word we’re talking now, that every man every lay man becomes someone that every woman needs to submit to. And I don’t see that in Scripture.

    AIMEE BYRD  23:31

    Of course not. And he says that to the degree that a woman’s influence over a man is personal and directive, it will generally offend a man’s good God-given sense of responsibility and leadership and thus controvert God’s created order. So a woman is never to speak up. She’s never to give her own thoughts directly or guide. She’s never to have input with a man.

    JULIE ROYS  23:58

    And when you talk about the book, you’re referring to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 

    AIMEE BYRD  24:03


    JULIE ROYS  24:03

    It’s a little over 500 pages. I almost think of it as sort of the CBMW Bible, you know,

    AIMEE BYRD  24:09


    JULIE ROYS  24:10

    These are all the foundational

    AIMEE BYRD  24:12

    It used to be known as “The Blue Book.”

    JULIE ROYS  24:14

    Sure. So that book has been extremely influential. So now you’re saying these views of masculine and feminine don’t seem to be quite what match the truth. And so you’re saying we need to peel that back. You also say we need to peel back layer two, which is kind of the concept of complementarianism, completely. You say, “The word complementarian has been hijacked by an outspoken and over published group of evangelicals, who flatten its meaning and rob it of true beauty and complementarity. Complementarity presupposes difference, but also communion through giving of the self in and through these differences.” Can you explain that a little bit more of what you think complementarity needs to be?

    AIMEE BYRD  25:00

    Right, I think it needs to be a lot more reciprocal and dynamic. Rather than this top-down, take-charge hierarchy between men and women of constant authority and submission. I’m not denying that there’s a need for authority and proper places. But even in those situations that that does not mean dictatorship. It never has. I tried to do at the end of every chapter this kind of peel away the Yellow Wallpaper and then reveal what scripture shows when we peel that back, which is something extremely beautiful. And so I see a synergetic relationship happening between men and women. And yes, we do have some particular calls and our relationships, but there’s contribution that is masculine and feminine. And our aim is the same and our aim is communion with the Triune God and one another eternally. So we need to help each other get there And that’s why it’s so dynamic when we do have this reciprocal, synergetic relationship because it’s fructifying. It produces. It’s one whole plus one whole produces more.

    JULIE ROYS  26:12

    And that’s a beautiful image, and yet so often lost in the church. There’s one thing that I did notice in your book that I kind of went, wait, what does she mean by that? And I noticed in some of the reviews as well, when we talk about, okay, faulty definitions of masculine and feminine, what do we replace it with? As far as you know, true, accurate views of femininity. At one point you write, “I do not need to do something a certain way to be feminine. I simply am feminine because I’m female.” I have to say the first thing I thought about when I read that is, “Wait, we’ve got biological female women out there that if I look at them, I think it’s a man.” You know?

    AIMEE BYRD  26:52

    But see they’re trying to be a man. 

    JULIE ROYS  26:54


    AIMEE BYRD  26:55

    They’re taking on that language of, “I want to act like a man even though I’m a woman.”

    JULIE ROYS  26:59

    So I guess what I’m left asking is what is the essence of femininity, then?

    AIMEE BYRD  27:05

    Yeah. And I do think that pope John Paul II has a lot of great contribution in that area. You know, one thing that I really think that he pinpoints well, is that, you know, masculine represents Christ, and feminine represents His bride, the church. And that is an order of love too. Christ is the lover, and the bride is the beloved. So I think that that’s something that’s masculine and feminine, in a sense. And I also talk in my book about how you know, in going back all the way to creation and to this picture of Christ and His love for the church, that when the first woman is created, she’s not created at the same time as Adam and she’s not created in the same manner. She’s not created from the dirt. Adam has to be put down. He’s a sacrifice for her and she’s taken, you know, a bone from his very side is taken to create woman. And we see this picture of Christ, the church kind of flowing out of Christ’s side there. When Adam sees woman, he sees his Telos, like what he is to become. She’s an eschatological marker. She’s not made of the dirt. She’s kind of beckoning and calling him to what he is to become, which is the collective Bride of Christ. So I think that there’s a great story being told in our masculinity and femininity. And I don’t want to detract from that at all. It’s beautiful. And so when we’re trying to look like men or when men are trying to look like women, that’s what I’m getting at, in that quote, it’s like, “I don’t need to try. I am a woman. That naturally is going to come out of me.” But when you try to force some kind of gender on yourself, then you’re kind of going away from your created, you know, the way that God created you. And that is strange.

    JULIE ROYS  28:54

    And I do think that’s true. When we’re nurtured and loved, it naturally blossoms out of a woman to be feminine; it naturally blossoms out of a man to be masculine.

    AIMEE BYRD  29:05

    And if we focus on those stereotypes, and I get this all the time in emails, people who, you know, grew up a tomboy and thought that they didn’t fit into that box. And they did struggle with their sexuality. They were very awkward and uncomfortable and because they didn’t like makeup or whatever those things are, that are supposed to be quote unquote, feminine. But when they understand that our body and our soul, they’re connected–they’re not two separate things–then they can be more comfortable that the definition for a woman is much bigger and much more complex than you know, something like, “trying to look feminine.” 

    JULIE ROYS  29:43

    And that’s where this is. This is personal, because there are men and women involved. And how we view each other, how we view masculine and feminine. But this became especially personal to you. And I want to talk a little bit about this cyber bullying. And what appears to be just a grotesque misogynistic undertone of some of the attacks against you. And it’s part of this group called The Genevan Commons. You’ve known about it for what, since the fall, is that right?

    AIMEE BYRD  30:15

    Oh, well, I’ve known about Genevan Commons for over two and a half years.

    JULIE ROYS  30:19

    Right. But as far as the kinds of 

    AIMEE BYRD  30:21

    The screenshots. Yeah, I started I actually over two and a half years ago, I did get some screenshots then, because I was added to that group. They used to like me, until they didn’t.

    JULIE ROYS  30:35

    What turned? What turned? Because you were saying like with the Eternal Subordination of Son, that whole debate, many of them were on the side of saying, “Yeah, that’s that’s not a correct view.”

    AIMEE BYRD  30:46

    Mm hmm. What happened was when Valerie Hobbs posted an article that was posted on The Aquilla Report about a church trial where a husband was brought charges, were brought against him for not forcing his chronically ill elderly wife to physically go to church every Sunday. And it went all the way to G.A. And 

    JULIE ROYS  31:12

    What’s G. A.?

    AIMEE BYRD  31:13

    General Assembly. I’m sorry. It’s like the highest court in the presbytery. And so it was appealed and went there. And she reported on it. And there were some real issues in her report about just how the feminine body is treated, although he did end up winning the case, which you know, is very encouraging. But one of the elders from this church that pressed the charges is the administrator of Genevan Commons. And then, at Mortification of Spin, we interviewed Valerie Hobbs, not on the trial, but on women in the church. And so then that’s when I kind of became public enemy number one for Genevan Commons. And so two and a half years ago, they were talking about me real bad in there, I wasn’t paying attention to the group at all. Like I got added to a lot of groups. Like I was saying, you know, online this week, I understand that. However, I got tagged, and then I could see that oh my goodness, they’re saying some pretty bad things about me in here. And I tried to confront it and I got kicked out. So somebody sent me the full screenshot of what happened after I got kicked out. I was called, “ungodly,” “not catholic,” with a lowercase c, “not biblical,” “feminist outrage machine.” You know, all kinds of stuff. So there was harassment online; I mean, terrible things. Just name calling. There’s going to be people who disagree with my work. But misrepresentation–I wrote a book on friendship between the sexes, called Why Can’t We Be Friends? And I really focus on siblingship of brotherhood and sisterhood in the church. And you know how Timothy is told to treat the men like brothers and the women like sisters. And so I’m talking about promoting holiness. And but you know, they’ll say things like, “Aimee’s telling married men that they can drive women to a hotel room late at night or have candlelight dinners.” It’s not even close to what I’m teaching in the book, but then get anonymous accounts all after me too. And then later, like you’re saying this fall like I saw the interconnection of these anonymous accounts with the Genevan Commons people and how it’s all being orchestrated. And Genevan Commons, this harassment that’s happening online. And they were calling ahead of my speaking engagements, warning whoever booked me or warning the churches that would be attending that, to guard their families, because my teaching has a dangerous agenda, and that I’m infecting the OPC and other denominations. And I’m just seeing all this plotting to sabotage my Amazon page without having to buy many books. And then yeah, like you said that misogynistic language, I mean, it physiologically affects you.

    JULIE ROYS  34:06

    Oh, I can imagine. I mean, let me let me just read this. I’ve got a thread here. And it’s not a complete thread and we can talk about that. But it’s kind of pulling out some of the most offending things. But you had a YouTube video that you did on Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, your book, 

    AIMEE BYRD  34:23

    Zondervan did it. Yeah. 

    JULIE ROYS  34:25

    Okay. And that was posted up on YouTube. So one woman says, “Where’s her husband? What does he think? I’d love to hear his thoughts about this. Does he support her?” And then one man says, “More housewife, less theologian, please.” Then there’s a picture of a sandwich. Again, I read one of those comments at the very beginning, about how these women just need to make sandwiches for us. Somebody named Shane Anderson talks about, “You continue to circle the drain of unbelief and lawlessness. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I have zero obligation to listen to Amy’s whining and fussing that masquerades as a biblically oriented position.” Then they attack your looks, “You’re looking Butch.” “Her femininity is withdrawn.” “She looks hardened.” I mean, just nasty. By the way, you look fine. You look lovely. Good grief. And then somebody says, “I honestly thought this was a parody of her because of the photo.” Somebody else’s, “SNL haggard look.” I mean, this is just nasty. The one that gets me the most though, is the one at the end. He says, the Vocal Fry, “Lack of logical reasoning and eisegesis are feminine.” If that isn’t misogyny, I don’t know what is.

    AIMEE BYRD  35:36

    Well, they talk about how, “women are incapable of the same amount of logic as men,” in there. They’ve actually shared you know, website that said misogynistic quotes by the church fathers and they were talking about, “Oh, why can’t we go back to these days?” Like this is the way it’s meant to be. And like a person who was in the group couldn’t believe how much it escalated to the point where–they’re a total stranger to me–reached out to me and said, “You need to know what’s going on in here.” And so they start sending me screenshots last October. And, Julie, I’m telling you, they were continuously coming in from morning to night. Like what you were just reading, tons of stuff like that. Thread after thread after thread. Anything that I would post as an article, any interview that I would do, like, I’m telling you right now they’re gonna listen to this interview with you, and they’re gonna tear it apart.

    JULIE ROYS  36:28

    Well, I’ll be in there with you. So at least you’ll have company.

    AIMEE BYRD  36:31

    You will, because they go after everyone who hosts me. It’s, it’s harassment. And it’s reviling. It’s verbal abuse. It’s spiritual abuse, because a lot of these men are officers in the church. And that is my big thing. Because there’s going to be jerks on the internet. 

    JULIE ROYS  36:52


    AIMEE BYRD  36:53

    And so if you’re going to write books, there’s going to be jerks on the internet. But these are church officers. A lot of them who are leading the way in there. And that kills me. It kills the name of Christ. And what are you doing? And the people that he loves? And that tears me apart. And yeah, to see that stuff is just so surreal. You know, my husband is a loving man. To see that stuff said about my husband angers me.

    JULIE ROYS  37:26

    Well, it’s evil. I mean, it is absolutely evil. There’s nothing godly about this. And if this group is listening, I hope they hear that. Because there is nothing godly about denigrating women who are as much image bears as men. And there’s something beautiful that women uniquely

    AIMEE BYRD  37:45

    They should be laying themselves down. 

    JULIE ROYS  37:47

    Yeah, that we uniquely bring to the table as do they–as do men. And we should be loving each other and building each other up. I was so heartened, as I know you were too, there was an open letter from leaders in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, that’s your denomination. And they wrote this letter on June 22, expressing concern about The Genevan Commons they wrote, “We are greatly concerned that members of our church, including Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller, along with others have been subjected to disparaging comments, which are corrupt, foolish talking and coarse jesting. Such words are never acceptable, and certainly not from officers in the church.” They talk about the secrecy of this group–it’s a private Facebook group–and they say, “We are greatly concerned about the overtly misogynistic tone of the critiques leveled at women authors, who many Genevan Commons members have not honored as fellow image bearers.” What is the impact of a letter like this?

    AIMEE BYRD  38:43

    There’s been criticism that, “Oh, you need to follow the Presbyterian process.” And, “Instead of speaking out against this, charges need to be pressed.” And this is true. Charges do need to be pressed. And so I’m hoping this is happening. And I’m unconfident that that is happening. I don’t want to just raise awareness. I want to transform consciousness here. Ministers need to be trained better in seminary and in presbytery meetings, on and off maybe, about how to spot abuse, how to confront it, how to navigate it. I want these conversations to be had in my denomination. And I know that there’s a lot of church officers in my denomination who agree with this. I mean, yeah, there’s this anger, this hurt this pain. And I have to tell you, it’s such a violation of trust to see officers in my denomination talk about me like this. And I do want there to be consequences. If we’re going to talk about male ordination and if we’re going to get our arms in the air about female ordination. Well, that’s because of qualification of an elder. And so we need to care about the whole qualifications of an elder. And so we need to take action. And it’s not the worst thing in the world to not be an elder. Most of us aren’t. So I don’t think that we should treat having them stepped down as excommunication. I hope that they could work on their souls with the LORD. I would love to see a change of heart and true repentance. I would love to see reconciliation because I don’t like having enemies. And I don’t you know, these other women and even some men that they go after in there, nobody deserves this. So, I would like to see something be done. I would like to not be harassed anymore. 

    JULIE ROYS  40:28

    Well, and speaking of masculinity, to me what these pastors did, and calling this out and saying this is wrong, and protecting the women,

    AIMEE BYRD  40:35

    That’s masculine. 

    JULIE ROYS  40:36

    That is masculine. What these men are doing, 

    AIMEE BYRD  40:38

    Absolutely. that’s just brute force. That’s just nasty. That’s not masculine.

    JULIE ROYS  40:43

    It is not the true masculine.

    AIMEE BYRD  40:44

    Right and addressing that procedure, so I’m confident that that will go on. But when somebody is publicly reviling and abusing people, that needs to be publicly called out. And for some reason, these people have no problem saying stuff about me and everything that they think that I’m doing wrong without taking it through the courts. But if I confront abusers, that isn’t right. I’m happy that officers in my denomination–and the list keeps growing. They’re just adding their names–I’m so encouraged that they’re speaking out. 

    JULIE ROYS  41:15

    Me too. One of the people, though, that was caught speaking in this group, Steven Wedgeworth, he’s the associate pastor of Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, he wrote a post defending himself and his participation. And he said, “I wasn’t really paying attention to the tone of the group. It is possible to be a part of this group, and you don’t even know what’s going on.” Because maybe you’re not on Facebook very much and somebody added you. 

    AIMEE BYRD  41:42


    JULIE ROYS  41:42

    That’s understandable. And he said he left when he noticed an unhealthy ethos there. In addition, he says that The Genevan Common’s screenshots don’t present an accurate picture of the group and are posted by malicious people who are deepfaking him. That’s a new term for me. 

    AIMEE BYRD  41:58

    Yeah, me too. 

    JULIE ROYS  41:59

    And then he says, “A deepfake is something like an extension of a doctored photograph to include audio and especially video,” these don’t have audio or video, “which is only really possible using advanced machine learning algorithms.” And he goes on to talk about this, but basically saying, these screenshots, which again, if you go to the website, you can see the screenshots, and the first screenshot on a lot of the threads, it’s a compilation of the thread. So it doesn’t pull out every single one because I mean, these are really long threads that are very long, but you can click below the graphic and see the full thread, right. But he’s saying, you know, I’m just, everybody’s just being completely misrepresented. “It isn’t nearly as bad as it’s being presented.” And, “we’re the victims,” and all this. How do you respond to that?

    AIMEE BYRD  42:47

    That is outrageous to me. He proposed that these things are doctored. And so obviously, like you said, the compilation is a collage. And so, by definition it is doctored. Everybody knows that it’s made to look that way. You know, some of the highlights from the thread are put together. And then you’re supposed to click to see it in its full context. So there’s nothing misrepresented there. The reader can go for themselves. I think what he’s employing is the typical–and I hate to say it, but it’s used in the context of abuse–is the tactic to Deny, Attack and Reverse the Victim and the Offender (“DARVO”) instead of “sorrow.” He wasn’t somebody who was uninvolved in the group. He’s somebody who participated in a pretty regular basis in inappropriate threads and inappropriate ways, and then left. Coincidentally, at the same time that it was leaking on social media that people were taking screenshots, and, you know, as a church officer, to admit to an unhealthy ethos for, first of all, that’s really minimizing what’s going on in there.

    JULIE ROYS  43:57


    AIMEE BYRD  43:58

    But second of all, it should have been confronted. I mean, is it okay for you to just silently leave a group while your sister in Christ is being demolished? And her reputation is? And they’re plotting against it on a regular basis? Is that okay?

    JULIE ROYS  44:17

    It’s cowardice.  Yeah. That’s not manly. 

    AIMEE BYRD  44:20

    Where is the sorrow? Where is the sorrow? And here you are, again with this inability to apologize. A little bit of humility would go such a long way. And these people, these church leaders, they should be leading the way and showing us repentance. Christian repentance. This is the gospel that we preach. That’s good news. We can repent. I mean, it’s really the essence of Christianity.

    JULIE ROYS  44:47

    It’s just stunning to me how every single abusive situation that I seem to cover, whenever you call out the abuse, the abuser becomes the victim and the true victims become the abusers. I mean, the switching of roles and the 

    AIMEE BYRD  45:03

    It’s called D.A.R.V.O. Deny, Attack, Reverse the Victim and the Offender.

    JULIE ROYS  45:08

    There’s a lot of D.A.R.V.O. going on. 

    AIMEE BYRD  45:09

    Lots of, and It’s so painful, you know? It’s so painful because these are our leaders.

    JULIE ROYS  45:18

    Let’s turn to what happened with the Reformation 21, which is the whole e-zine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE). Mortification of Spin is the podcast you’ve been a part of for a very long time with Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt. And Jonathan Master, who’s the editorial director of Reformation 21, incoming president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, three days after your book published–so your book published on May 5, three days afterwards, on May 8–he published nine questions. But he said not all of them were his own. He says, “I didn’t form these entirely on my own. Some are from readers who did not feel comfortable raising these concerns publicly,” which come on, if you’re gonna raise a question, have the guts to put your name on it. 

    AIMEE BYRD  46:07


    JULIE ROYS  46:07

    They were leveled at you. And they wanted you to answer these questions. And I know there’s a lot of people saying, “Well, Amy, why didn’t you answer the questions?”

    AIMEE BYRD  46:19

    So the nature of the post was very strange. And I wrote about that. I mean, here’s an organization that I’ve worked for for seven years. And he doesn’t even mention the title of my book in the post, out of what, fear that somebody will click on it or something? I don’t know. There’s not a picture of my book on it. So it’s just kind of this, you know, “Amy has written this book. There’s this group of concerned people. We’d like to propose these questions.” And I thought, “Wow, there are so many different ways we could have gone about that.” He could have set up an interview with me. I felt like an outsider would have gotten a little more respect. Maybe.

    JULIE ROYS  47:00

    Did you have any idea it was coming? Did you know he was

    AIMEE BYRD  47:03

    He gave me a heads up email the night before.

    JULIE ROYS  47:05

    But other than that you didn’t know he had any problems with what you had written?

    AIMEE BYRD  47:09

    No. So the night before I got a heads up email saying, you know, “Here’s the post. I’m going to post tomorrow, I thought I’d let you know. I actually saw a review from someone who ended up sharing the same concerns that we do. But then, at the last minute, he backed out. So now I’m just going to ask you these questions.” And I kind of pushed back saying, “Why are you doing it like this?” I found out later that he had actually sought the review from Mark Jones. Mark Jones told me this.

    JULIE ROYS  47:40

    And who is Mark Jones?

    AIMEE BYRD  47:41

    He is a pastor at the same church as Steven Wedgeworth. He’s the head pastor, and he is in Genevan Commons as well. And I knew that from the screenshots, so you know, I’m not going to respond to Mark Jones. I’m not responding to any of these guys. Mark ended up posting it on another website. So anyway, I’m left with these nine questions that would take a really long time to answer. Some of the questions don’t have anything to do with what I’m trying to write about in my book, asking me questions about marriage and church office. My book’s about discipleship. It’s about what lay people can do. Some of the questions misrepresented my writing, saying that women led churches in my book. And I don’t say that. I ask the question, “Did Lydia lead this church?” And then I answer it in the negative. Or that Junia was an “apostle.” Well, I do use that word because that’s the word in the Bible to describe her, but I don’t use it in the sense of one of the 12 apostles, but in the sense of the smaller way that it was used as “a missionary.” And then some of them were okay questions. So I answered the first one in my response, which blew my mind because it was talking about male and female ontology and authority and submission. Same language as the ESS! And natural theology. So I couldn’t even believe that question. So I went ahead and like, “Alright, I’ve gotta answer this one.” So I answered that. And I actually answered the rest of the questions. But I’ve been seeking counsel from different officers in my denomination and some other ones, as I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate through all this. And I was counseled by, I think it was like it was six different people, “Don’t answer the questions. Here it is this unnamed jury behind them. Why would you answer questions from people who aren’t revealing who they are?” The whole nature of the post is very odd. And John Masters told me in the email that you don’t have to answer the questions, but here they are.

    JULIE ROYS  49:45

    So I mean, it’s interesting that then after this, you got an email from the chairman of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals board, imploring you to answer the questions. Now it’s for the board of directors. Is Jonathan Masters on the board of directors?

    AIMEE BYRD  50:01

    Not to my knowledge. And I didn’t even know who was on the board of directors. Never been told. It’s not on the website. Couldn’t find it anywhere. 

    JULIE ROYS  50:08

    I was able to find it. But that’s because it’s on the the tax form. The 990. Very few people know that you can look that up. And a lot of Christian organizations

    AIMEE BYRD  50:16

    People brought that to my attention later.

    JULIE ROYS  50:18

    Yeah, well, a lot of Christian organizations don’t file 990s because there’s kind of a loophole for religious organizations and they don’t want to report their money. So they don’t. So I, good for them that they file it. And you can see who the board is. But again, it becomes, again asking you a lot of questions. But in their clarifications, which they just posted this week, they denied any speculation–Robert Brady is writing this. He’s the executive director of Reformation 21. Again, this is the e-zine, connected with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is executive director. He’s also on the board according to the 990. So he’s both a director and on the board–he denies speculation that Alliance contributor perhaps Carl Trueman or Todd Pruitt or any other contributor or editor is personally responsible. “Decisions of this importance are made solely by the Alliance Board of Directors.” Yet you’re saying Mark Jones, someone who was associated with Genevan Commons, you have good evidence to believe he was behind some of these questions.

    AIMEE BYRD  51:18

    I don’t know that he was behind the questions. I don’t know if maybe some of that, there was some similar language in his review. But that’s the whole thing–I didn’t know who was behind the questions. Except for John Master. So you know, and I’ve always had a good relationship with John Master. I don’t want to say anything bad about John. You know, I’ve had a good relationship on the Alliance. This was all just so strange to me, with all the violation of trust that I’ve been had having and been under. Because there’s just been a lot. So to then be asked to submit to this unknown group. You know, I already have these unknown men coming after me like crazy. I felt like there was like a gun to my feet saying “Dance, Aimee. Dance.” And, you know, I just felt like, “Here’s my book. If you want to critique it, critique it.” Me and Carl and Todd did a podcast on it just like, that aired just the week before. I think we had a really good conversation. There didn’t seem to me any major problems. You know, even Todd thought that he was going to have some big disagreements with me. And he said that he was pleased and relieved to see that he had nothing in principle to disagree with me and my theology. The only disagreements he had were kind of applicatory. Because we wanted to model good disagreement on the show about the book. And to have Todd say that I felt like, “Wow, I’m really glad I communicated that.” Well, then, you know, and then to get this, it was very strange. And so I just directed them back to my book, and I explained that not all these questions even have to do with my book or represent the writing in it. Well, you know, I tried to give a friendly reply. You know, I’ve heard about that. And the thing is, you know, the Alliance isn’t the same type of people as Genevan Commons or anything like that. And if they don’t think that my work and my writing and my contributions on the podcast or anything is in line with their mission anymore, that’s perfectly fine. They have every right to get, to ask me to leave or to remove me. It was a little weird how it was done.

    JULIE ROYS  53:24

    And the way it was done, you did get an email saying, we’d like to part as amicably as possible. I’m paraphrasing.

    AIMEE BYRD  53:33

    They said they strive to be gracious upon my exit. 

    JULIE ROYS  53:35

    There we go. But then you found like, before that you had been told, “Oh, we’re not going to be booking any more interviews with you” 

    AIMEE BYRD  53:43

    Yeah, like the week before that or so, producer told me and Carl and Todd that she was told not to book anymore interviews right now, or recordings–that they’d be running reruns, which has never happened before. And then it had been a little while since I replied to hadn’t heard back. So I just had a feeling. And I tried to log in. And my credentials didn’t work. 

    JULIE ROYS  54:05

    Log into your I mean, your own blog is housed there, correct? 

    AIMEE BYRD  54:08

    Yeah. Yeah, I was just trying to log into that.

    JULIE ROYS  54:11

    And you told me something about you’ve been trying to move your blog to, which is spelled A-I-M-E-E-B-Y-R-D, and you haven’t been able to just like import it all from your URL. You’ve had to copy and paste it.

    AIMEE BYRD  54:28

    I thought it’d be something easy, but apparently all my work is embedded in their website, and it needs to be manually done. So I’ve been spending hours trying to cut, paste, reformat, re-link.

    JULIE ROYS  54:41

    Wow, that’s like hundreds of posts, isn’t it?

    AIMEE BYRD  54:43

    Oh, it’s like 700. I’m never gonna get it all. 

    JULIE ROYS  54:48

    That’s I mean, that’s tragic. That really, really is.

    AIMEE BYRD  54:50

    I know, cause it’s my work.

    JULIE ROYS  54:52

    Well, I mean, the two reasons that were given by Robert Brady, he said one, “Those asked to leave at one thing in common. They have caused our audience to respond in a largely negative way. They have caused other contributors to either speak up, sit out or leave altogether. These situations often and recently have kept other contributors from joining us.” He also said, “We expect contributors to defend their views in a gracious and ready manner. When they can’t or won’t provide clarification. We must part ways.” And that’s got to be just painful to hear.

    AIMEE BYRD  55:29

    Um, no, that wasn’t painful to hear.

    JULIE ROYS  55:32


    AIMEE BYRD  55:33

    That was like over a month or so after I went through all this with them. So I’d already kind of gone through that and kind of clarified some things that I wished that I would have been told earlier. You know, people, maybe donors, maybe you know, board members are complaining and aren’t thinking your work’s in line with what they want to represent here at Reformation 21. I can handle that. Actually, I don’t really have a problem with hearing that.

    JULIE ROYS  56:00

    Well, final question. And I know you need to go–our time’s reaching a close. But throughout all of this, obviously, it’s been a very trying situation, a difficult situation. And much of what you’ve received, as far as you know, some of it. I think abuse is not too strong to say. There’s other that’s just been criticism or rejection. But it’s been at the hands of men. And here you are writing on womanhood and manhood. What is your hope for us as a church, as men and women? What’s your vision for the church?

    AIMEE BYRD  56:39

    Well, I mean, just after going through all this, I just have to say, a big hope I have is that we can start communicating better. It’s really so difficult and frustrating to even be able to communicate. I write within the bounds of my confessions of the OPC, which is a pretty conservative denomination. And one great thing about that denomination Is that these confessions that we uphold, they give us great boundaries then to work within and to explore scripture together as a covenant community. And to have that freedom then to disagree in some areas within that. So I would love to be able to see men and women both being able to contribute well and have conversations in that way. And I wrote the book because I think the church needs this. You know, I’ve spoken in a lot of churches all around the place. And I hear the same thing all the time. The women coming to me saying that they want, they’re dying to be invested in more as a disciple. That they don’t want to be a troublemaker. They don’t want to stir the waters, but they can’t seem to get that communication, get that message across. And they’re kind of left in these women’s ministries that don’t even have the best resources. They’re frustrated with it. And they want to be able to contribute to the whole body as well. Not just in the nursery, not just with the potlucks but theologically and in conversation and growth and sharpening one another. And there’s just a lot of, you know, when we’re talking about lay work and a general office, there’s a lot that we can be doing as brothers and sisters to invest in one another. We are all called to be [unclear] to be passing down what we’re learning, promoting one another’s holiness, communicating the gospel to one another so that we can commune in it together.

    JULIE ROYS  58:30

    Well, let’s hope that we move towards that. And I do pray that there’s some reconciliation, some repentance, where it needs to be that we can come together as a church and learn from this and grow from this instead of it just being a destructive thing. So, Aimee, thank you so much for being willing to share your story and just share vulnerably about what’s happened to you.

    AIMEE BYRD  58:50

    Yeah, and I want to say too, I’m overwhelmed with all the encouragement that I’ve received from both church officers and laypeople. And I know that Genevan Commons’ view is not the dominant view. They’re just the loudest right now. So I’m just so thankful for all the encouragement that I’ve gotten. And I know that Jesus Christ loves his church and I really hold fast to that.

    JULIE ROYS  59:13

    Amen. Well, thank you, Aimee. And thanks so much for all of you who are listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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    clean no 59:37 Julie Roys
    Author Mary DeMuth on Church Sex Abuse Crisis Wed, 17 Jun 2020 14:08:10 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Transcript

  • The church is supposed to be a haven for the weak and the vulnerable. But what happens when it’s not—and the powerful prey on the weak?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Julie discusses the sex abuse crisis in the church with author, speaker, and abuse advocate, Mary DeMuth. Why is sex abuse running rampant in the church? How should churches respond to the problem?



    The church is supposed to be a haven for the weak and the vulnerable. But what happens when it’s not—and the powerful prey on the weak?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Julie discusses the sex abuse crisis in the church with author, speaker, and abuse advocate, Mary DeMuth. Why is sex abuse running rampant in the church? How should churches respond to the problem? And how can abuse survivors begin telling their stories and experiencing healing?

    Julie and Mary discuss these questions. Plus, they take a look at some recent cases where the church has failed and explore possible solutions.


    JULIE ROYS  00:04

    The church is supposed to be a haven for the weak and the vulnerable but what happens when it’s not in the powerful prey on the weak? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m going to be speaking about the sex abuse crisis in the church. And joining me is author, speaker and abuse advocate Mary DeMuth. As you probably know, sex abuse is not just a Catholic problem. The Southern Baptist Convention the largest Protestant church in the country is reeling from a massive sex abuse scandal and investigation by the Houston Chronicle found that in the past 20 years, dozens of pastors and deacons have sexually abused people in their care. And shockingly, the victims number more than 700 What’s especially awful about these stories isn’t just the pastors and the church leaders who abuse. That’s bad enough. It’s the pastors and the denominational leaders who protect them as well. Just recently I reported that Bryan Loriits, someone who’s been accused by several eyewitnesses of covering up sex crimes, just got hired by summit church. That’s the church where J.D. Greear pastors. J.D. Greear is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention who pledged to end the pattern of sexual abuse and cover up in the church. And then there’s another story I recently reported concerning Dr. Anthony Moore. Dr. Moore got fired from The Village Church in Fort Worth, Texas for secretly videotaping and male youth pastor in a shower. But Dr. Moore said he’s sorry, cried some tears. And then his good friend, Dr. Thomas White president of Cedarville University hired Moore. And if some bloggers and I hadn’t reported the story, Dr. Moore would probably still be teaching at Cedarville. He’d even be coaching the basketball team. And it makes you wonder how many other leaders are in churches preying on the vulnerable, how many others know about the predators and do nothing and how many sex abuse victims are there who are wounded and alienated from the church because of these wolves in shepherd’s clothing. Well, I’m very much looking forward to exploring this topic with my guest today, Mary DeMuth but before I do, I just want to take a minute to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re in the market for a car I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington, the most honest car dealership I know, owners Dan and Kurt Marquardt are friends of mine and I trust them implicitly. To view their entire showroom online, just go to BuyACar Also, I want to let you know that Judson University is planning to resume in person classes this fall for traditional transfer and adult students. And it’s not too late to apply. You can choose from more than 60 majors and learn in a Christian environment known for its spiritual values, leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Judson is located just 36 miles outside Chicago on a beautiful 90 acre campus to schedule a visit, just go to Well again, joining me today is Mary DeMuth. Mary is a sex abuse advocate and author. She’s also a sex abuse survivor and knows the deep pain and wounding that sex abuse causes. Her latest book is a devotional called Outrageous Grace Every Day. She also recently wrote We Too: How the Church can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis. So Mary, welcome. I’m so glad you could join me. 

    MARY DEMUTH  03:30

    Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. 

    JULIE ROYS  03:32

    Well, Mary, one reason I’m really excited to speak to you about today’s topic is because you haven’t given up on the church. Despite everything, you still believe in the bride of Christ. In fact, in your book, we to you write, “I write this book not as an indictment against the church, but as one who dares to have prophetic imagination for what it can and should be. I love the church.” Mary why after everything we’ve seen, especially in the past, you know, 10-15 years, why do you still love the church? Why do you still believe in the bride of Christ?

    MARY DEMUTH  04:06

    It’s the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. It’s how we experience the love of God is through the church. And unfortunately, there’s been wolves in sheep’s clothing who have marred the image of the church by hiding under the radar, so to speak, and looking like a lot of us. And I think that was one of the things that really struck me in the years of ministry that I’ve been in where I’ve run into some of these folks and it’s very bewildering and excruciatingly painful to uncover someone who you thought was one thing and then was another, it can cause you to leave the church and and of course, you know, when you get to the idea of sexual abuse and cover ups and all of that, it’s no wonder people are leaving. I have to say that as a sexual abuse survivor, my abuse did not happen within the walls of a Church, although the boys that molested me were Mormons and very strong Mormons. So I don’t have the same kind of brokenness as maybe someone who has been abused by a pastor or someone in leadership in a church. And so perhaps I have a little bit more of an ability to stay in. But I have great empathy for those who have been molested or harmed through church leaders and cover ups.

    JULIE ROYS  05:25

    And I know from speaking to a lot of sex abuse survivors in the church, they say, often it’s not even the abuse so much that wounded them. It’s the people that then covered for the abuse over and over again. That’s what was so disillusioning for them. And I’m sure you see that disillusionment when you’re working with sex abuse survivors, don’t you.

    MARY DEMUTH  05:46

    all the time. It’s rampant in it. All I have to do is think about Jesus and how he would respond to someone who’s broken. You can find how he responds to broken people throughout the gospel. You see it in the narrative of the Good Samaritan, and I liken this to the babysitter that I told when I was five years old, so I was under her care. She was like the institution for me. And I, it’s very rare for a little five year old girl to tell someone that she’s being sexually abused. But I told her, and she chose to look the other way. And she chose not to rescue me. And she continued to push me out into the arms of those perpetrators. And I think that’s where that betrayal comes in. When someone who’s supposed to protect you, instead maligns or keeps letting you be harmed and does not intervene, it’s an excruciating pain that’s extremely difficult to get over. Hmm.

    JULIE ROYS  06:40

    And there are so many I know even listening right now who are feeling that and I want to get into, you know, how we change that and also how we find healing because I think that’s so crucially important, but I kind of feel like there is an elephant in the room because J.D. Greear wrote the foreword to your book We Too, and We Too, is a great book. In fact, we’re giving away five copies of We Too. And if you want to enter to win a copy of we to just go to But again J.D. Greear, who’s the president of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote the foreword to We Too. And Greear is in hot water right now because of something I reported. He hired Bryan Loritts and there are credible witnesses saying that Bryan Loritts participated in a cover up of sex crimes at Fellowship Memphis, the church that Loritts pastored, 10 years ago. And unfortunately, what what we’re seeing from the church, at least from my perspective, is some statements that aren’t necessarily addressing some of the discrepancies, some of the issues and so far they’ve been standing behind Bryan Loritts and saying, Now, you know, he didn’t do anything wrong. We have missing evidence. We have victims saying that he told them, you know, if they speak about this, there’s going to be trouble. Discipline exercised against them. I mean, sounds like some pretty serious allegations. So how do you process that? I mean, J.D. wrote some pretty powerful stuff in your forward. In fact, he wrote, “During abuse, the voices ignored or marginalized or silenced outright, how do we dare turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the vulnerable in our midst?” We have J.D. Greear saying he’s going to change this pattern. And yet he just hired somebody. And the sex abuse survivor community is going what what are you doing? So how do you reconcile that? What do you think of all that?

    MARY DEMUTH  08:35

    Well, as I think about just in best practices of all churches, it is always better to have an independent investigation. So my encouragement would be to hire someone like G.R.A.C.E. to have them look at it from the outside looking in, because there’s really, when you’re looking internally at a situation like this, it’s hard not to protect the institution. But if you have an external person or people or entity looking at it to give you the actual what this is the play by play, this is what happened, we’ve done this investigation, and then you can appropriately respond to it. And it’s very egregious when churches err on the side of PR, rather than doing what is right. And I’m not gonna say that I know, you know all the facts in this particular case, but having that independent investigation would set everybody’s mind at ease. And then the other thing I would say, and again, I’m not deeply familiar with this yet I need to be but I am not yet deeply familiar with it. I would say that our position as believers is always to err on the side of over-apology, and deep humility. And so instead of carefully crafted statements, it’s really important that we own anything that may have the appearance of evil; and almost over apologize for, you know, any sort of wrongs that we’ve done. So, I know J.D. we’ve met at the Southern Baptist Convention last year. He’s a good guy. He wrote the foreword to my book. I don’t know all of the facts, but my recommendation looking from the outside and would be to have someone independently investigate this.

    JULIE ROYS  10:22

    Sure. And I appreciate you bringing up the independent investigation. However, I will say in the church, this independent investigation has become a buzzword that in some cases seems somewhat meaningless, because, for example, one of the cases that I just brought up was with Cedarville University where we had Anthony Moore, who had confessed to voyeurism, those types of crimes, and then went to Cedarville. Then when this all came out, and Cedarville said, Okay, we’re going to remove, the trustees removed Thomas White from his position and said, “we’re going to do an independent investigation.” Then they hired a law firm. And so you’re laughing because I’m guessing you know what I know. So why can that be . . . so what’s the problem? 

    MARY DEMUTH  11:12

    The problem is is the investigation we saw this with, with Willow Creek, you have this kind of connected investigation that’s about protecting reputation, versus truly hiring someone that has no connection to the institution, whether it rises or falls. And so I guess that’s where we have to really start finding those places that are truly independent. Now the press of course, is part of that and we saw that in the willow creek situation as well that it was the press that ended up revealing what was going on. And the kind of side elder investigation never really amounted to anything. Whenever you have institutional protectionism, it can get very dicey because you simply cannot see everything and it takes A great deal of humility to be able to take the blinders off and see the problems within your myths. And that’s why you need someone external. And also not a PR firm or a law firm necessarily to it can be a law firm. I know that G.R.A.C.E. has lawyers in it. So it’s not that that’s only bad for us as a public to trust it. There needs to be some sort of independence that’s not connected to the leadership of the entity that they are serving or serving under.

    JULIE ROYS  12:28

    Yeah, in law firms, as I understand because I’ve talked to boss division about this as well and the founder of grace, godly response to abuse in Christian environments. And boss says that this fiduciary responsibility between a law firm I mean, law firms have to represent the entity that hires them, whereas grace, if you hire them, an organization like that doesn’t have that same fiduciary responsibility, even if they are paid by the entity. It would be nice if we could work out a way where there’s no You know, money exchanged between the organization being investigated or the person but that’s hard to do. But again, there’s a bit of a difference there. Well, let’s turn to just abuse in the church and kind of why it happens and why churches, which should be the place where abuse is unheard of. Yet, in another way, they’re ripe for abuse. And it’s my understanding, because you have trust because you have power differential and because you have sinful human being so can you explain that a little bit?

    MARY DEMUTH  13:34

    Yeah, I would love to be one of those naive people that say, okay, it’s only this particular entity’s problem and not ours. I think human nature is such that we would like to point to everybody else doing it poorly. Like I think the Protestants did a pretty good job of pointing to the Catholic Church saying, Oh, it’s so bad. Not realizing that guess what sinners live in every institution, an organization and religious institutions. So I think that was actually what was so bad on the Protestant side of things is that there was this pride. And as I traced it through one of the couple of things I did, and We Too was I traced rape throughout the Bible, but I also traced our response to it throughout church history. And what you find is there were a couple really light instances and like piercing of light throughout the Catholic Church of people that brought up particularly priest abuse of young boys. And there was reform that happened at least twice. But after the reformation, the church had kind of a PR problem. And they kind of closed in on themselves and it was all about protectionism. And the Protestant church absorbed that DNA. And so Catholic and Protestant have been keeping this issue silent for centuries. And so when it came out with a Catholic Church, it was only a matter of time before it came out in ours as well. And like you said, it is a ripe place for predators. Because we, in the church love to trust people, or we think it’s the right thing to do. And of course, it’s good to trust people. But we have a very naive view of predatory people. And because we have that naive view, predatory people are able to walk all over and take advantage of children and the vulnerable and lots of different kinds of people. It’s not just children. It’s not just girls, it’s men, women, boys, girls, everybody. But we have to become as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves to know what these predatory people are like, and then to expose them and want to kick them out, obviously, and send them to the authorities when they have committed a crime, which most of the time they have.

    JULIE ROYS  15:45

    And I think part of the issue too, is the fact that we can’t wrap our heads around the fact that this man who sounds so good, and brings the Word of God to us, could possibly be a wolf, right? I mean, because he’s maybe a minister to us through the word and I remember, in one of my investigations, I was speaking to someone and he was telling me about the origin of the word hypocrite. And it actually comes from the word that in Greek means actor. And that to me was was kind of like a light bulb went on. It’s like, yeah, they’re actors. But they’re not who they say they are. And I think that’s what’s so difficult a lot of the time is that we want to trust that person who’s up in front, is who He says He is. And when he’s not, it’s, I mean, can it often be like a worldview kind of shift for for people because they’ve always trusted that pastor? And it’s hard, isn’t it? I mean, as you talk to abuse survivors, do you hear them saying this sort of thing?

    MARY DEMUTH  16:43

    Yeah, I call it the perfect world syndrome. And what that means is we love to have a perfect world. And we understand that in the Big Bad world, things are not as they should be. But we want to be able to close our doors in our home and have a perfect world there. We want to be able to walk into a church and have it be perfect there. If there’s someone that damages that perfect world that we want, we will do everything to fight against it because we just can’t live in a world that’s not perfect. Now, if you read your Bible, you know that we’re living in the now and then not yet. I mean, we’re in this place of the kingdom of God is advancing, awesome things are happening through the Holy Spirit and his church. But there is sin. And I think with gifted leaders in particular, we have to be very cautious about assigning fruit to gifts. So when someone is gifted, we assign the fruit of the Spirit to that person automatically we connect them, and we just assume that they have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control. And so that’s why it’s so hard when one falls, we think, well, they were so gifted and we were thinking actually, they were full of fruit, but giftedness and fruitfulness are two different things. And you can be an exceptionally charismatic person who leads people to Christ and then behind closed doors, be ruining people’s lives.

    JULIE ROYS  18:03

    I want to talk about grace too, because I think that’s something a word that’s used and abused. And you talked about the history of the church. I thought it was really interesting in your book when you talk about St. Basil, for example, he said that those who seduce young men or boys should be publicly flogged and defrocked and shall quote, never again be allowed to associate with young men. Yep, I heard it. I mean, with take the Anthony Moore situation, Dr. Thomas White. I wanted to show him grace and give him a second chance. So we bring him in and we allow him to coach men right now on the basketball team is it it’s mind boggling to me how we have taken grace to mean that not just that you can be restored to the church, but you can be restored to positions of leadership. Do you feel that if you’ve sexually abused someone, is that a disqualifying sin where you shouldn’t be in pastoral leadership or any kind of leadership role? You have responsibility for the young and the vulnerable?

    MARY DEMUTH  19:03

    Absolutely. They have been disqualified. They have broken the law. And I think part of the time we just forget that this is a law that has been broken. When you molest someone when you rape someone you have broken the law now whether or not you were convicted or not, it is still you’re still the law breaker. And we as the body of Christ need to exercise discernment and wisdom. And otherwise we will be just guilty of the cheap grace that Bonhoeffer talked about and cost of discipleship, cheap Grace is the grace you just throw everywhere. And you never require any repentance will repentance from a perpetrator, which is exceptionally rare, seldom happens, but if it does, repentance for them would look like not just words, but they would actually say, I struggle with wanting to perpetrate against this particular type of people. Therefore, I’m never going to be in a position of authority over those folks. And I won’t even walk into a church, if that’s going to be a place where I’m going to be tempted to pray, I will watch church online or I will go to a support group, but because I love Jesus and I have repented, and I feel so terrible about what I’ve done, I’m going to remove myself from those positions that tempt me. That’s what repentance looks like. And when someone has done something terrible and broken the law like that, if they demand that they be automatically put back in the pulpit, then they have not repented. I’m sorry, they have not repented. I’ve seen I’m going to get on a roll here, but I’ve seen so many disgraced pastors just jump they give themselves like five months of restoration and they jump heartily back into the very place where they have abused people. And it’s egregious and I just I can’t imagine that that’s a godly thing to do. I understand that that’s the only thing they know how to do but they need to go learn how to be a plumber or something because they have abused people and if they have especially if they’ve you know, spiritually abused people That is no place for them and they should understand their weakness and walk away from it in repentance.

    JULIE ROYS  21:04

    Amen. Amen. I’m so glad to hear you say that, because I think you’re absolutely dead on. And I think that needs to be said, and I think people need to start practicing it throughout the church, but we’re not. So tell me, let’s just go for how do we change the dynamic that we’re seeing in the church where we are protecting perpetrators instead of protecting victims, and I’m going to throw something out. This may be a little bit dicey. And I’ll just say upfront, I’m not even egaltarian. But at the same time, I wonder sometimes when I see this, if it’s part of this, that there’s a good old boy network and we don’t have some women who are speaking to leadership and a part of leadership in some form, where this dynamic continues to just happen again and again and again.

    MARY DEMUTH  21:56

    I absolutely believe that that’s true and one of the things that’s happened recently with me is I’m in contact with a church leader, male church leader. And he said, I, I feel like I’m being accused of some things of not being sensitive or whatever. And I feel like I need to learn from you about how I’m responding and to just have an honest conversation with you so I can see where I where my blind spots are. Now, that to me, gives me hope. That’s the way forward is that we stopped siloing ourselves, in groups of men and women, but we begin to have these kinds of conversations, honestly, without viewing each other suspiciously and, you know, seeing each other as friends. I am happy to have these kind of conversations. And I don’t think it’s inappropriate for me to have a phone conversation with someone of the opposite sex to talk about how to be more sensitive to sexual abuse victims. I think more of these kinds of conversations need to happen.

    JULIE ROYS  22:56

    Amen. You talk in your book about silence. And how abuse victims are so often bullied into silence and we see this dynamic happening where you just wish people would speak up. Yet it’s so hard to speak up when you’re on the receiving and why are perpetrators so successful in getting their victims? To say nothing?

    MARY DEMUTH  23:18

    That’s a really good question. I wish I had, like all the sociological and theological reasons for that, but I, I think I kind of go back to evil. And you know, they have an ability, an evil ability to persuade because they have created a kingdom for their for themselves with them as the king or queen, and they become very persuasive in having the person be a part of their subject of their kingdom. And if the subjects rebel against the kingdom, you’ve got all sorts of anarchy. And so there’s great amounts of persuasiveness and shame and a lot of threatening things and a lot of Jesus-y language, you know, “you don’t want to bring shame on the church do you?” I mean, this people will. I’ve heard this before, “you’ll cause people to go to hell if you bring this up,” which is a lie from the pit of hell, but it’s all about controlling a narrative at any cost. And I believe that is just from the pit of hell.

    JULIE ROYS  24:21

    We’ve seen in bolding of victims with the me to movement with now the Church Too movement and it is encouraging because you’re seeing people say, I can speak up and I’m actually going to risk it and believe that people will believe me, but they’re still every time someone speaks, it’s a scary thing to do. And there will be people who will say you are lying. So speak to the person right now who’s maybe currently being abused or has been abused in the past and is never spoken up has never brought this thing to light speakers. That person, what should he or she do?

    MARY DEMUTH  25:03

    I tell my audiences and write in my books is that an untold story never heals. And it’s desperately important to find a safe person and share that story. My own story did not have that. And so when I finally told somebody when I was 10 years old or so five years old when it happened, I was 15 after I met Christ, and I told someone, they would not believe me, they refused to believe me. And so I retold the story like five different times in five different ways, thinking there must be some sort of formula to tell the story, to get someone to believe me. And finally, the person did believe me. But right around that time, too, I was also being discipled by my young life leaders, and those folks loved me and they listened. And so that was more healing to me than having to tell the story over and over again and not being believed. So my encouragement is go into it knowing that someone might push back and not believe you. Try to choose someone that you know who’s the most empathetic person that you know. But if they don’t believe you, just cross them off your list and go to the next person because you cannot bear that untold story it needs to come out of you. And you will find you’ll begin the road of healing once it’s led out into the fresh, clean air.

    JULIE ROYS  26:20

    What’s so sad is that often those who have been abused, though, they shrink from the church and with good reason. I mean, if I had been abused by someone who was in the church, I can understand not even wanting to go near the institution. But when you say tell somebody you trust, there’s probably some people listening who say, I don’t know that I have someone that I trust. What do you do when you’re in that situation?

    MARY DEMUTH  26:45

    In that situation, I would at least grab a journal and write the whole story out so that at least it’s not inside of you but out on the neutral page, and then perhaps begin to pray and ask God to show you someone to show that journal to or write it on a letter form, and sometimes it’s easier to write it and hand it over then to say it out loud. And people have a little bit better ability to absorb it if it’s written than if it’s told to them kind of off the cuff or they’re not expecting it. But if you say, this is something I need to get off my chest, I’m really struggling. I need to know that someone sees me. Here’s this piece of writing that I’ve done. Would you please read it and let me know what you think?

    JULIE ROYS  27:28

    I know it’s interesting you mentioned that because Ann Lindberg who was someone a sex abuse survivor who had been allegedly abused by Gilbert Bilezikain, who was a co founder of Willow Creek Community Church. And I remember when we sat down to record something, and she had written out I forget how many pages I think it was like 64 pages. And that process of writing out all of that enabled her then to succinctly tell her story and to share her story and she had already done the work inside the process. So I think that’s just a powerful word. I think that’s important, important advice and really, really helpful. We’re running close to the end of our time, and I do want to talk about the way forward as a church. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of starts and stumbles, and we’re not doing this very well. But I sure would love to see us do this well. What are you know, one or two key things that you feel the church can do right now and pastors who are listening can do right now in their local church, that will make a difference and will make their church a safe place a truly safe place for the weak and the vulnerable?

    MARY DEMUTH  28:43

    I would first say that as a shepherd, you are to shepherd and that means even bringing up uncomfortable things from the pulpit. For decades, I have been sitting in the back of churches never hearing my story. There are people saying Oh, my marriage was, you know, ruined. I was addicted to porn or I was addicted to drugs and Jesus intervened. But I haven’t heard the story of I’ve been molested, I was raped. And this is how Jesus intervened. So here’s my challenge. If you’re a pastor out there, have someone like me, come to your church, and share a story of how Jesus intersects a rape story. Because I’m guaranteeing you if you do that, the floodgates will be open. And I’ve, on the If you go to, there’s a whole PDF of all sorts of resources because I know I’m very empathetic toward people who are in church leadership, they’re so busy, they’re so stretched, some of them are facing burnout. You don’t have to bear the weight of every single story of your congregation, but you can certainly pass people you know, listen, and then give them some great resources from your community to be able to help the people you know, work through that. Another resource that I’ve created is called Into the Light. It’s a Bible study for women. And it’s for those who either have a difficult story or those who want to help others that have difficult stories. And that’s something I’ve found that’s been really heartening over the past couple years is hearing from people saying, “I want to help. I don’t understand trauma. I don’t understand sexual abuse. My friend is hurting, I want to help but I don’t want to do the wrong thing,” or, “what how do I . . .” so I wrote that study, just came out. And that can also be a really good resource, but really, really think about having those stories from the front of your church and don’t be afraid, Shepherd your people. Theyu have that story. Lots of them do. So just say it out loud. So people don’t feel so dang alone anymore. I can’t tell you how alone I have felt in church because of that.

    JULIE ROYS  30:46

    Do you have a success story where you’ve seen a church turn it around and actually make a real change from being a place where people really weren’t safe, but now they do feel safe.

    MARY DEMUTH  30:59

    I did mention in We Too, and I can’t right now off the top of my head, remember the name of the church, but it involves the the pastor from decades before who is tickling men’s feet. If you remember that story, and the new pastor apologized on behalf of the church, even though that wasn’t even on his watch, and they did hire an independent investigation, and they searched for victims, and they repented of whatever, you know, happened in the past, and that, to me was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. And it shows me that this is actually what people want. I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of cover up. I’m so tired of, well, you know, I’m worried about money, or I’m worried about my people coming and I don’t want to have any disasters. You know what, I would rather go to a church where a pastor stood up and said, you know, 12 years ago, we had a youth pastor, and he did this terrible thing. And we’re going to publicly repent before you and we’re going to help the victims and we’re going to, you know, do this and do that. I would trust that leadership over leadership that said nothing.

    JULIE ROYS  32:05

    Isn’t that just the gospel? Sometimes I wonder when I see the lengths that churches go to to try and protect their image, have we forgotten the gospel? I mean, it’s just so basic, its own your sin, confess your sin, repent of your sin. I mean, it’s really not complicated. And yet, we have such a difficult time doing it that way.

    MARY DEMUTH  32:29

    Well, I just crafted a prayer this week for about racism and racial reconciliation. And as I did, I remembered Daniel and Nehemiah and how they repented of the sins of their nation, even though they didn’t have those sins. And that was my take. I’m going to repent on behalf of others who have done this, because that’s a biblical imperative. And so, you know, we’re so afraid about confessing sins, and we don’t want to have them pinned to us, but why not? We’re supposed to be like Daniel and Nehemiah, we’re supposed to own the sins of the past and say, we did it wrong. Yes. Okay, let’s go. The best place to be is that humble place. Jesus says, Take the last seat at the banquet hall so that they can lift you up in the proper time. instead of always trying to take the first seat of the banquet hall, we need to take that last seat.

    JULIE ROYS  33:19

    So good. Mary, thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for your ministry. I just pray that God will continue to bless it and give you favor and just increase your ability to administer. So thank you.

    MARY DEMUTH  33:31

    Thank you for having me. I really appreciate all that you’re doing and it’s, I feel humbled and grateful to be on

    JULIE ROYS  33:37

    Well thanks so much for listening to The RoysRreport, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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    Eyewitnesses Accuse J.D. Greear & Summit of “Sham” Investigation Thu, 11 Jun 2020 12:50:30 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Transcript

  • Are J.D. Greear and The Summit Church protecting someone who participated in a cover-up of sex crimes? And is their investigation of Bryan Loritts legitimate? Or, is it a sham investigation intended to obscure the facts?

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie continues her interview with two eyewitnesses who say they observed Bryan Loritts cover up the sex crimes of his brother-in-law, Rick Trotter.


    bryan loritts

    Are J.D. Greear and The Summit Church protecting someone who participated in a cover-up of sex crimes? And is their investigation of Bryan Loritts legitimate? Or, is it a sham investigation intended to obscure the facts?

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie continues her interview with two eyewitnesses who say they observed Bryan Loritts cover up the sex crimes of his brother-in-law, Rick Trotter. These same eyewitnesses say they tried to tell Greear and The Summit Church about what Loritts had done, but the church would not listen to them. They add that even after their conversation with Summit leaders, the church continued to communicate to others that everyone at Loritts’ former church absolved him of responsibility for the church’s mishandling of the case. 

    We pick up our interview where Trotter is fired from Loritts’ former church, Fellowship Memphis, but then is passed on to another church where he preys on more women, and potentially children. 

    “There’s a dark evil presence to be able to blind you to that, ” Greg Selby, one of the eyewitnesses says. “If it was just Bryan and he said, ‘Well it’s my family,’ and he never passed (Trotter) on, I would get it. But that you had an entire group of people, and now, the Southern Baptist Convention covering up this stuff, when they know they’ve got a guy who . . . covered up his brother-in-law, passed him on to another church, has clearly lied about it . . . I couldn’t hire that guy to work in a secular business, much less would I put him on the pulpit.”


    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Are J.D. Greear and The Summit church protecting someone who participated in a massive cover up of sex crimes? And is their investigation of Bryan Loritts legitimate? Or is it a sham investigation intended to obscure the facts? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today’s podcast is a follow up to a podcast I released last Thursday. That podcast featured two eyewitnesses who had a front row seat to an alleged cover up of sex crimes involving Bryan Loritts. Loritts is an author and speaker and a new executive pastor at J.D. Greear’s Summit church. And according to my guests, Loritts in 2010 covered up sex crimes by his brother in law, Rick Trotter. Those crimes involve secretly recording multiple women and likely children in a bathroom at Fellowship Memphis. Fellowship Memphis is the church where Loritts was lead pastor and Trotter was the worship pastor. My guests today say Loritts helped to destroy evidence, silence victims and whistleblowers, and even tried to secretly funnel money to Trotter and his wife, Heather Loritts. If you missed that first podcast, I urge you to go back and listen to it. You can find it at It is truly stunning what happened at Bryan Loritts’ former church, and it is stunning that despite having Trotter’s camera, with numerous secretly recorded videos on it, Trotter’s crimes were never reported by anyone at Fellowship Memphis in 2010. And today, we’ll pick up the story there. And you’ll hear how Loritts and Fellowship Memphis allowed Trotter, an admitted sexual predator, to get hired by another church in Memphis. In fact, Loritts himself hired Trotter to lead worship at a conference Loritts organized in 2015. It’s absolutely mind-numbing. But perhaps the most surprising thing is that despite everything Loritts has done Summit Church, the church pastored by J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., has just hired Bryan Loritts as an executive pastor. And according to my guest today, they met with leaders at Greear’s church on a conference call about two weeks ago. They tried to warn them about what Loritts had done, but Summit reportedly was not receptive to what my guests had to say. So, are Greear and The Summit Church covering up the cover up? I’ll explore that today with Jennifer and Greg and you’ll hear all about that conference call with Summit’s leaders. But first let me thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a car, you can’t find a more honest dealership than my friends at Marquardt of Barrington and you can shop their entire selection of cars by going to Also, I want to remind you that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. The speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four-star general and former director of the C.I.A. I know that’s a few months away, but I want to encourage you to mark your calendars now. For more information, just go to Well returning to our topic today, again, joining me is Greg Selby and Jennifer Baker, and we pick up our discussion where I note that Trotter, after being fired from Fellowship Memphis for sex crimes, then goes to Downtown Church where he again repeats those same crimes.

    JULIE ROYS:  One of the most mind-numbing parts of this whole horrible situation with Greg Trotter is that he leaves Fellowship Memphis in 2010. He gets hired at a new church plant in 2011. And then we know it came out in 2016, so five years later, that he did the same thing at this new church, that he had done at Fellowship Memphis and victimized more women. The mother church that was planting the new church is Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis that is pastored by Sandy Willson.

    GREG SELBY:  It was at the time. Sandy has since retired.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. The new church was called Downtown Presbyterian, later changed to Downtown Church, Greg, you’re watching this happen. So, you saw Rick Trotter leave Fellowship Memphis and now go to this church plant and begin leading worship there. You did something about it. You called Sandy Willson. What happened when you called?

    GREG SELBY:  He deferred. And said that was not his department, to go ahead and talk to Richard Reeves who was at Downtown Pres., later Downtown Church.

    JULIE ROYS:  Richard Reeves is the pastor of the church plant, which was Downtown Pres., which then became Downtown Church. So yeah, go ahead. You talked to Richard Reeves.

    GREG SELBY:  It was such a casual dismissal. It was astonishing to me because, again, it was one thing that I’d seen this happen at Fellowship and I believed, “Well, maybe it’s because everybody was literally familiarly related.” Maybe that’s why a lot of the cover up had happened and that complicated issues. But to see somebody outside the church be a part of it. I mean, I can’t imagine leading a church if I had a church plant, somebody said, “Hey, by the way, you have a sexual predator leading worship at your church plant.” Then I wouldn’t say, “I’m gonna get right on this. We’re gonna get to the bottom of it.”

    JULIE ROYS:  And when you say there’s a familial connection, you’re speaking of Rick Trotter who’s a brother in-law of Bryan Loritts. But there are some other pretty tight connections between some of the players inside and outside of Fellowship Memphis. And those include Crawford Loritts, who’s the father of Bryan Loritts . But there’s others too. So let me point some of those out. Fellowship Memphis is an Acts 29 Church. John Bryson was on Acts 29 board. Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition are two organizations that are part of the reformed movement. They partnered to provide resources for churches. Many of the same leaders are on Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition. Well, The Gospel Coalition, a board member is Crawford Loritts. He’s a council member. Sandy Willson, who you just talked about, is actually on the council emeritus of The Gospel Coalition. Crawford Loritts’ connection, not only is in the board of The Gospel Coalition, which has a connection to this church that Rick Trotter ends up at, but also another place that Trotter has worked and my understanding—you can fill me in more on this, Greg—where he had actually recorded women as well, is Chick-fil-A. Well, who’s on the board of Chick-fil-A? Crawford Loritts.

    GREG SELBY:  Right.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, do you see this as just, I mean, is it possible that Bryan is unaware of what’s going on and now Rick is going from church to church to church?

    GREG SELBY:  Not at all. And if you look, Sandy Willson’s also listed as being part of the staff of Downline Ministries.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, it’s all part of the same thing.

    GREG SELBY:  It’s all part of the same thing. He’s at various points tried to deny he ever knew that . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  When you say, “he,” you mean Bryan?

    GREG SELBY:  Bryan, that Bryan knew his wicked brother in law was going on to go do this. At other points. He said, “I told Downtown everything that I knew. And in fact, I’ve always wanted him prosecuted and I told them that,” which is also implausible because the teaching pastor at Downtown Pres., named Downtown Church, was Chris Davis, who was Bryan’s protege. So what he’s asking you to believe is, “My protege who I helped go get a job at this new church plant, when I called and told him, ‘Don’t hire this sexual predator,’ said, ‘I don’t care that you’re my mentor, Bryan, I’m hiring anyway.'” That’s, that’s completely unbelievable.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Well, Chris Davis was at Fellowship when originally when Rick Trotter was discovered the first time. So Chris Davis knew intimately of the details about what happened to Rick Trotter because he was there.

    JULIE ROYS:  So Chris Davis, you’re talking about the intern or resident or something?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  He was a resident at Fellowship Memphis on staff before he went to Downtown Presbyterian.

    JULIE ROYS:  Before he went to Downtown Presbyterian, where Rick Trotter, again, in 2011 got hired, stayed there and then went on full time staff. They’ve made actually, it’s interesting, The Summit statement initially said that he was hired several years later by Downtown Church. Now it’s saying that Rick Trotter was a contractor initially, but then he was hired full time. Greg, you said that these distinctions are kind of irrelevant. Am I right?

    GREG SELBY:  It’s parsing. That’s what they said about Pete Newman too. “Well, he was just a contractor.” Well, at what point do you hire pedophiles as contractors? At what point do you hire sexual predators as contractors and put them out. Now hiring Rick Trotter as a “contractor” who’s your worship leader, all that really means is he didn’t get health benefits. Because on the website at the time–and this is viewable in snapshots, you can go back in the Wayback Machine–he was listed on their website as their worship pastor.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah.

    GREG SELBY:  He also had an official email address at the church.

    JULIE ROYS:  At one point, you had also contacted Crawford Loritts, and Bryan Loritts, you had sent them a letter—this was back in 2010—what was in that letter? And what did you urge them to do?

    GREG SELBY:  The letter was mostly counseling in terms of the financial elements of what was going on. I wanted to see Rick restored. Now “restored” is different from “being in ministry” and even necessarily, “being in public.” I thought he deserved to go to prison. And my hope would be that God will get a hold of him and he might have the greatest prison ministry of all time, that God could use that. But I started seeing that they were throwing away evidence and doing this sort of thing that that was not going to happen. So, where do we go from there? Part of in my letter I mentioned to them that I would suggest that they not throw the evidence in the Mississippi River, that it would be best in a safe deposit box. I tried to approach it from a back end from their perspective. By the way, you have a lot of liabilities here too, that you ought to be able to protect the church from the liabilities that might arise, by having the evidence—to be able to accommodate victims or people that wanted to know. I mentioned in there that by the way, it was immoral to go ahead and try and pay your sister to avoid looking like you’re paying Rick, and that sort of thing. So, the letter went into a lot of details that were really about me wanting to see, okay, if they’re throwing away the evidence, if this is gonna end up in the papers, if this is going to happen, how do we come up with what’s best. Crawford called me back after he received it and went on to tell me how his daughter had always been a failure, the one that was married to Rick, which I found odd to tell a stranger and two, would actually be sort of disqualifying from the Ministry for him. So, at that point, without getting into details of all the family members, three out of the four had issues that should have disqualified Crawford from being in ministry. And I would have encouraged him to step down from the pulpit for a while and take care of his family. Apparently, he didn’t mind his wayward son in law getting on with Chick-fil-A again, which he was on the board of, or getting on with Second Pres. and their church plant and had no problem with that. So, I did have a problem with that. I sent a letter to the elders at Fellowship, admonishing them for passing this guy along. At that point, the Joe Paterno scandal at Penn State University—he  was the football coach that had turned a blind eye to a pedophile on his . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  Right.

    GREG SELBY:  . . . staff—I said, “If you guys turn a blind eye you guys are Joe Paterno. Don’t turn a blind eye to this. God will hold you accountable.” I sent that and Bryan did receive that because I’d send it to three different emails. I sent it to every email address he had, or every one that I was aware of at least three of them at that point. And their response was to send the elder fixer out to talk to me about it and said, “This must stop.” By, “this must stop,” he didn’t mean, “This must stop—we must stop passing predators along.” He meant, “this must stop—you must shut up.”

    JULIE ROYS:  “You must shut up and we’re gonna continue to employ Rick Trotter.” And then again, he did it again. And when you mentioned Crawford and Bryan Loritts—somewhat ironic—this week, Moody Publishers just published a book called The Dad Difference written by Bryan Loritts, with a foreword by Crawford Loritts.

    GREG SELBY:  Right.

    JULIE ROYS:  Again, these are two men with a national platform.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Amazing. I can’t wait to get my hands on that.

    GREG SELBY:  And when I mentioned that he said that about his daughter, I hope that she’s grown quite a bit, too. I think she was part and parcel to some of this and turning a blind eye intentionally. 

    JULIE ROYS:  I want to point out that in 2015, that was the last year that Bryan Loritts was at Fellowship Memphis. He left there, went to a church in New York City, stayed there for about a year then went to a church in California. And he now has been hired by Summit Church, where J.D. Greear is the pastor. But in 2015, the last year he’s at Fellowship Memphis, Bryan has an organization called KAINOS. And he did a conference—2015—and he posted on—he had a Tumblr account at that point—and he posted just some meditations on KAINOS 2015, this conference, and he said, “Some thoughts on the conference.” “The worship was Christ exalting and prepared our hearts to receive what the Lord had for us.” “Shout out to Rick Trotter, Darnell Harris and the worship teams for their labor.” Rick Trotter, the man who he knew—Bryan knew—had made multiple videos of women secretly in the bathroom at Fellowship’s offices, at Rick Trotter’s home—Rick Trotter had confessed this—so Bryan, knowing all of this, has Rick Trotter be the worship leader at KAINOS. And I’ve heard he may have been at other of conferences too, maybe in 2014. We know he was in 2015 because this Tumblr post was up. Interestingly, as I started investigating this—Bryan also had it when he transitioned his Tumblr account on to a new blog—he put this post up. It had been posted up until just about a week ago, and then it vanished off of there as I started digging and looking into that. However, he forgot to delete his Tumblr account. So, I was able to go get this and look at it. What does that say to you, Greg?

    GREG SELBY:  It says to me that he was intentionally hiring him along the way. He could have stopped him at any point. So this whole, this whole, “I wanted him prosecuted and I would have never hired him,” is hogwash, because he, in fact, did hire him. Because, again, it benefited his family financially. It helps his sister out. This whole thing has been, as I told him at the time, when he and I met again at his office at that occasion I described, he said, you know, “I’ve always hated Rick Trotter.” I said, “Well, then why did you hire him?” The church cannot be the employment agency for wayward Loritts children. And he did it again. And kept doing it again at these conferences. It tells me he has not learned a thing in there. And at a minimum, his judgment is bad. Even if he said, well, he believed that Rick was restored and deserve that, then again, he needs to crush tinfoil on his spiritual antenna because Rick did in fact do that again and may have been doing it at those conferences. You know, Hamp Holcomb, the elder who, who was also part of passing him along to the new church in town, said at the time, “Rick—I have talked to all the experts in this field—Rick has a better chance of kicking a crack cocaine habit than he does of this paraphilia.” So why is so why are you going to pass him on? So at the time, he said, “We’re gonna send him to sex rehab for looks. It’s the right image that we need to we need to portray. Here’s what we’re doing.” But he didn’t believe for a second he was going to be healed. And Loritts knew better than that, too. And I told Loritts that I had those discussions with Loritts. And he knew better and passed him along anyway.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I did ask you at one point, you know, we have the connection with Bryan Loritts, so obviously, there’s a vested interest maybe in taking care of a family member. But beyond that, Rick Trotter was the voice of the Grizzlies—Memphis Grizzlies—kind of a local celebrity. And you were saying he kind of gave creds as far as the church being multiethnic because when he led worship, it wasn’t your typical “white” worship. It was much more of an African American expression of worship. It was very attractive to Memphis correct?

    GREG SELBY:  Rick’s a very talented musician. He’s very talented at what he does. In fact, more than Bryan Loritts, I would credit the growth of Fellowship to Rick, because at the time Rick came on it was it was probably, while they were claiming to be a multiethnic church, it was probably about 90% Caucasian. Rick came on and broadened the appeal to a much wider audience. And so I want to say kudos to him and I don’t. I mean, I think he’s talented in that regard. In fact, I think he’s more responsible for the growth Fellowship than Bryan Loritts is. That’s attractive. Why would Downtown Pres. hire him? In addition to Crawford Loritts knowing all the players involved and whatnot, he puts butts in the seats. As a performer, he’s good. As a human being, less so. You know, why would they continue to do this? Because all these guys are in cahoots. So when I when I would talk to other churches, literally, they’d say, “Greg, you need to fight this. You go.” I said, “Great. you’ll stand by me, right?” And they’d say, “Well, no, I’ve got to be on the lecture circuit with these guys. I can’t do that.” Because it damages their capability to earn a living. I mean, there’s a lot of double dipping and triple dipping that’s going on with all these churches. I mean, for Bryson, Bryson’s taken, you know, he’s getting paid from Fellowship. I presume he’s getting paid from Downline as well. Probably gets paid from Sage Hill. Gets paid from his Authentic Manhood. None of the rest of us in normal business world get to triple dip. If I have an electrician company, my electricians don’t get to go work for somebody else for a while and get paid. They don’t say, “Hey, by the way, I’m gonna take this week, you’re gonna pay me, it doesn’t count as vacation, and I’m gonna go work at some other place and get paid from them too.”

    JULIE ROYS: Yes.

    GREG SELBY: It’s a huge, huge cabal of people involved in a profiteering one hand washes the other.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yes.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  We’ve seen that at every juncture, when we reached out to different staff members about standing up and speaking up against this. Greg and I both had staff members that have said, “We can’t get involved. This is how we earn a living. We can’t speak up against this.” And didn’t you speak to the youth pastor at Fellowship currently at Fellowship Church? 

    GREG SELBY:  Sure. 

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Brian Crenshaw.

    GREG SELBY:  He and I had this discussion. He said, “Greg,” he said, “You need to go. You need to pursue this.” He said, “I’m afraid of what God’s gonna do to this place because of this.” I said, “Great. You’re gonna stand up with me right?” “Well, no, we’re building a new house.”

    JULIE ROYS:  And that, you know, I hate to say it, but that’s just been pervasive—that’s the evangelical industrial complex. I write about it all the time, but it is pervasive. And the double dipping—you have pastors that get full time salaries for preaching sermons, and then somebody edits them, recycles them and puts them on radio, and then they take, you know, a couple hundred thousand dollars salary from the radio ministry. It’s just unbelievable,

    GREG SELBY:  Right. And that’s how you get to be a paid member of the board at Chick-fil-A and all this sort of thing too, is because you give them both ethnic and Christian cred, by being a popular African American pastor that does this. It’s a crazy deal. You know, we’ve always, Evangelicals have always been quick to jump on the Catholics and for the corruption and the sexual corruption within the Catholic Church. But Evangelicals have been much better about monetizing than the Catholics are. The Catholics monetize it, but all goes back to the Vatican. Ultimately, there aren’t a lot of rich priests standing around. The Evangelicals have figured out how to get rich doing this. And they built bookstores and monuments up for sale speaking engagements. In fact, some people had some concerns about this at the seminary and I mentioned to him I said, you know, “The funny thing is, they always will tell you from the pulpit church is a battleship, not a cruise ship. But we’re supposed to be fighting for the gospel.” I said, “Meanwhile, when the real battles come up, the first thing these guys do is go get on a cruise ship and lead a cruise conference.” And I swear to Pete, the day after I said that, my wife came home she said, “Oh, do you hear Bryan Loritts is going to be leading the,” whatever it was, the K-LOVE cruise. 

    JULIE ROYS: Oh my gosh, I don’t even. It is unbelievable. 

    GREG SELBY: I mean, it was entirely literal. And the day after I told them that they really are leading cruise ships. And this is nonsense, and they lead very lucrative lifestyles. Loritts was living in a million-dollar home. You know, John Bryson, here, lives—despite the fact Fellowship is not nearly the biggest church in town by any stretch of the imagination—John Bryson lives in the house that was owned formerly by the family of the founder of Holiday Inn. Many, many thousands of square feet. 1000, 2000 square foot guest house, for their pool house and all this sort of thing. And it’s just, it’s ridiculous. And it is not above reproach. And the simplest thing to me on any of this for Summit with the Loritts is, “Is he above reproach?” I’m telling you he’s not. I’m telling you he hired a pedophile and tried to cover it up. I’m telling you that he tried to cover up for his brother in law. He passed him on to another church. He tried to pay off his sister so it wouldn’t look like that—and speaking of which Rick and Heather got six months severance. Do you know anybody else that sexually preys on the church, on their business, and get six months severance for it?

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I’ll say this. It’s not that unheard of to provide for the wife who’s seen often as an innocent victim. So there is some precedent for that. I think the fact that they were trying to do it secretly, that certainly is concerning

    GREG SELBY:  And that they were staying together and they were going to be paying his bills. I mean, that would have been different if they’d been open and said, “You know, we ought to have? We need to take care of Heather’s needs. This was not her fault. Her husband did a wicked, wicked thing, and now they’ve lost their income.” I would say one of a couple things. One, either Crawford or Bryan was well financially capable, being able to take care of their sister. And I would have, if my sister were in a situation, I’d take care of her. I wouldn’t expect the church to have to cough up for it. But secondly, it’d be easy. You just have a heave-ho. Oh, great. We’re gonna put an ice chest in the back here. Everybody throw a little extra money in there. We’re gonna take care of Heather and the kids for well, while she sources out. People would have been happy to do that, but they didn’t want to be open and honest about it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I know you have spent years trying to expose this and even contacted a number of churches where Trotter was going to be and tried to warn them, even colleges. And it’s been unbelievably frustrating because nobody has seemed to care. And really had J.D. Greear not hired Bryan Loritts, we probably wouldn’t be talking about this. Had Bryan not made a video and put it up on Instagram recently which caught my attention when he basically blamed the Christian media and bloggers for Darren Patrick’s death. A former Acts 29 pastor, former vice president of Acts 29. Seemed to me very self-serving as I started to get into this because there’s a reason why Bryan Loritts would not want bloggers speaking. Because then I realized everything that was in his past, all the skeletons in his closet and of course, he doesn’t want people blogging because the bloggers were the only ones that were talking about this. Everybody else was silent. And the Christian media, by and large, was silent. And so now it is coming to light. I want to talk to you, we can’t go into everything that’s happened over those years, although it’s absolutely fascinating because there is a lot more and there are a lot more people involved. And sadly, I know both of you are like, “We can’t even go to church anymore. We don’t feel like we can trust any of the church leaders.” And that breaks my heart. Although hearing your story, totally get it. But you recently participated—what  I understand, there was a conference call with Dave Thompson, who is an elder at Summit Church. And Todd Unzicker, who is an associate pastor there at Summit. Todd, by the way, I’ve been asking, I had sent him a list of questions, very detailed list of questions concerning Bryan Loritts and his involvement, wanting answers to those questions. That was more than a week ago. He has not gotten back to me on those questions. What I do have is an email that someone forwarded me from Dave Thompson saying some of these things about how they’re reconciling conflicting information. However, you had this conference call. My understanding, Rachel Denhollander put this together. Rachel again, one of Larry Nasser’s victims, a lawyer, an advocate for sex abuse survivors. She put together this call with you and Jennifer and one other person who doesn’t want to go on the record, so we won’t name him. But then Dave Thompson, an elder at Summit, Todd Unzicker, a pastor and I know you suspect there may have been other people in the room, but those were the ones that were named. You had this conversation. Again, at this point, Bryan Loritts had already been hired. So they didn’t come to you and interview you before they announced that they had hired Bryan Loritts, but you had this call. I would like to hear—Greg, maybe you could go first—what your impression of that call was with the Summit leaders who ostensibly say they’re trying to research this fully and get to the bottom of it.

    GREG SELBY:  It was not actually a research mission on their part. It was a mission to find out what Jennifer and I were willing to say. So how could they defend whatever we said, and they needed to do some sort of jujitsu. So a conversation involves questions back and forth between parties, right? They wouldn’t answer any questions whatsoever. And they’re always pauses before they’d say anything, which leads me to believe—in fact, Rachel, again, who’s a lawyer herself fully believes there was a lawyer in the room with them trying to tell them not to go further, not to answer the questions we’d asked and this sort of thing. They’d made a number of claims that everyone they talked to, in fact, even in the email you received, in there, as I understand it, everything they say is that boy, everybody’s got the same story and everybody says Loritts is a great guy. Well, they talked to Jennifer I last week. And Jennifer and I don’t say, “He’s a great guy.” But that’s never mentioned in there. And given that they didn’t interview very many people, I would say, Jennifer and I at least make up a pretty high percentage of the people they talked to, much less than people who shared very specific details about what went down. Their defense is, “We called these people and they said, ‘Great, thanks, we talked to the elders and the elders said Bryan wasn’t at fault.’” Well sure, because the elders also wanted to say they weren’t at fault. Because if Bryan was at fault, so were they and everybody should have done jail time. So if you asked a criminal, “Did you and your cohorts do anything criminal?” They always say, “No.” Ask the other people who are involved. They did with us. It didn’t go well. They didn’t answer any questions, at all, and it was strictly to see if we what we were willing to say so that they could figure out how to have their PR flacks and legal counsel do it. I said, “Great.” I said, “Todd, so do you want me to give them your email when the newspapers start to call?” He said, “Uh, Uhhh,” he said, “Uh, uh, no, no. You just send them to send them to the to the uh PR, you know, we’ve got a department that handles those things.” I said, “But you’re the one who’s here in this conversation. Why shouldn’t they talk to you?” And there’s no answer for these sorts of things.

    JULIE ROYS:  Jennifer, what was your impression of that meeting?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Well, it was interesting that Rachel had told us that the staff at Summit had some concerns about bringing Bryan Loritts on and so they had gone through all of the reports that they could find, all of the blogs, all of the comments, and that they couldn’t reconcile that with what Bryan was saying. And so that they had an interest in talking to someone who was there at the time that could provide clarification, could provide facts and could give some firsthand testimony. And so, this Zoom call was set up. And at the last minute, we were told that it wouldn’t be on Zoom, that it would be a conference line. And it was a little unsettling because then we had no way of knowing who was on the call. We were told that it was going to be just the two staff from Summit and then Rachel and us. And so it was a little disconcerting. And then once we got on the call, it became immediately evident that they weren’t interested in discerning or bridging the gap between Bryan’s statement and what they had been reading. 

    JULIE ROYS:  How did that become evident? What was it that made you feel that way?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  They have asked me what if any proof I had, and—I think they wanted access to that proof and evidence—and I pushed back a little bit and said, “What kind of proof and evidence did you ask for from Bryan? Who did you talk to? And what victims have you talked to? Because I now know a list of 50 names of people that are involved. And I’ve started reaching out to them and none of them have been contacted.” And they said that they were not here to speak, or to ask questions. They just wanted information on what we knew. And when I asked them, “What specific information do you need from us? What questions can we answer that can fill in some of the discrepancies between what has been reported and what Bryan Loritts has said?” And they said, “Nothing. We’re just here to listen to whatever you want to say.” 

    JULIE ROYS: They wanted to listen to what you had to say. They wanted to know what proof you might have. But they didn’t ask you any questions? They didn’t seem inquisitive or curious about your first-hand account of what happened?” 

    JENNIFER BAKER: No, not at all. Not at all. It was astonishing to me. So I stopped and restated my question and said, “You’re telling me that there’s absolutely no information that would be useful for your proceeding with an investigation. There’s no information that Greg or I could give you have first-hand knowledge, conversations that would be helpful in discerning what’s true between what’s being reported by Loritts and what’s being reported in the media. And they said, “Absolutely not.” 

    GREG SELBY:  Almost as concerning as not trying to get to the bottom of the truth is that there was no desire on their part to do any ministry. When we started this phone conversation, we started with a prayer. There was no prayer. There was no, “Hey,” –by the way, because of all this, I can point to the specific date, I haven’t been in a church in nine years and I don’t envision I will ever go back. There was not a, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I hate to see a guy who’s been in leadership derailed by this and how can we help?” No concern whatsoever.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  That was such a striking point to me that there was no time to pray and even starting from the very beginning, the people that in ministry, in leadership at Fellowship Memphis, all the way till the time when I left the church, not once did any single one of them ask me spiritually, how I was doing, if I was okay, mentally, emotionally, why I was leaving the church. And it continued this conversation with Summit. You mentioned that they have Care Well or Caring Well. And I thought that is unbelievable that the leaders of what is supposed to be a ministry, caring for others, not once asked how we were spiritually and if there was anything that they could do if we were back in Church how we had wrestled with that. And that’s their whole business. That’s their whole purpose is to minister and care for the souls of others. And not once was that a part of the conversation. Not once was that brought up as a concern. In fact, the only person that ever asked me how I was doing spiritually and how I was doing emotionally and mentally with this was Greg Selby. And I remember that was so striking the first time I talked to him about what all it happened. He said, “Gosh, I’m sorry. I had no idea that that it was you.” And, “Are you okay?” And it was just striking because I thought that was the first time anybody had said, “This is terribly wrong.” And “Your relationship with God and your Savior is the most important.”

    JULIE ROYS:  In that conversation, though, I remember you did mention to me that at one point, I think it was near the end and I think the conversation had gone kind of sideways at that point. They did say to you, that they were sorry about what Rick Trotter had done to you.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  I was beyond . . . okay. In that conversation, it wasn’t a discussion about what Rick Trotter did or the incidents that happened. We didn’t get into that. We didn’t discuss the ramifications of that, or the details of that. What we did spend our time talking about was Bryan Loritts’ personal involvement in the cover up. And so at the end of the call, one of the staff members said, “We’d like to apologize for what Rick Trotter did to you.” And that was just unfathomable. And I told them like how offensive that is. That wasn’t even what we were here to talk about. We hardly even covered any information about that. What we spent the majority of time talking about was how Bryan Loritts was actively covering up abuse and using his power to silence victims. And they wanted to apologize for what Rick Trotter did. When I called that to their attention, they just said the call was over. And that was the end of the conversation.

    JULIE ROYS:  You’ve told me Jen that compared to what Rick Trotter did to you and the trauma that you felt, which was sizable, but compared to the cover up and the way the church has treated you and has responded to it, what Rick did pales in comparison. Correct?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Every victim that I’ve talked to has agreed that that was a terrible, terrible, terrible thing that shouldn’t have been allowed to continue. But the real damage has been done by the manipulation, the intimidation and the effort to silence and keep separate and discredit all of the victims, has been the most traumatic and ongoing harm. Far greater than the incident that happened in 2010. And it’s had so many longer lasting effects than just that incident in 2010.

    GREG SELBY:  Rick, oddly, is a much better guide than the other people in here despite the monstrous things that he did. His brain is clearly broken. And he has a sickness and an illness and shouldn’t be on the pulpit but again, but he’s somehow more sympathetic than these other guys. These other guys have been systematic in their evil and are unapologetic about it. Rick would probably at least have the self-awareness to apologize for what he’d done. These other guys don’t. And that’s the real sickness. I’d be back in church, and no, I didn’t abandon church because I can’t believe somebody did something as wicked as Rick did. It was hard for me to get my head around because it’s so sick and gross. But I understand the sinful nature. What I couldn’t understand was that everybody was complicit. That was the part that got me. It was that Bryan Loritts and these other guys were part of a systematic cover up and it went beyond their church, went to other churches. Again, you know, the Downtown Pres. that you mentioned, he got caught again, ironically, taking videos of that pastor’s daughter, which is that pastor is too ignorant to even see the irony in there that God is basically beating him over the head with it going, “By the way, you screwed up.” And now we’re putting this guy back in leadership again. At a very minimum, even if he didn’t think what he was doing was evil and maybe he tried to disassociate himself, you’d have to say he’s got less common sense that God gave a grape-nut. My 13-year-old can tell you that this is immoral, and you don’t do it. And you don’t pass along somebody that’s been taking videos of women and children in the bathrooms. And these guys can’t discern that. That’s weird. That’s the part that I can’t reconcile is that there is a dark, evil presence to be able to blind you to that. And to have it happen over and over again. It’s not just, if it was just Bryan, he said, “Well, it’s my family” and he never passed him on, I would get it. But that you had an entire group of people and now the Southern Baptist Convention, covering up this stuff, when they know they’ve got a guy who hired a pedophile, covered up his brother in law, passed him on to another church has clearly lied about it, and you’re going to get into another element that totally calls his character into question. I couldn’t hire that guy to work in a secular business, much less would I put him on the pulpit.

    JULIE ROYS:  And let me just say, because you mentioned this, Jennifer, the other victims. And that you know, of 50 victims now. I have not gone through that entire list. I have contacted some of them. And because I mean, right now I feel like it’s important to get this information out as quickly as possible. I have contacted 

    Rosanne, the woman who first discovered this video. She hasn’t called me back. I’ve tried. It is hard to get victims to speak. But I’ll say this: even right now, if you’re a victim and you’re part of this and you know some of the truth about it, contact me through my website, There’s a contact form right there, you can reach me. I would love to hear your story. We need to get the truth out about what actually happened. But let me just read—again, I didn’t get, even though I’ve asked repeatedly for a statement or for answers my questions, I have not received those from Summit. However, I have received an email that was forwarded to me from somebody who asked several questions to Dave Thompson an elder at Summit. And the response that he received, he forwarded to me. And it’s, it’s kind of long. I’m not going to read everything. Dave Thompson writes, “Pastor Bryan freely admitted that he has learned a lot over the past 10 years. Looking back, he now sees that he could have done things better. Among the changes Bryan would have made in hindsight is a more careful process of documentation that ensured greater accountability. Moreover, he wishes he had done more to prevent future ministry assignment for his brother in law. Indeed, some crimes particularly those that involve abuse remove a man or woman who commits them from any potential future church office.” It says, “Despite these reflective assessments of Bryan’s leadership in this matter, it became abundantly clear to Summit elders that Bryan had not attempted in any way to cover up the incidents of abuse that occurred at Fellowship Memphis in 2010, protect the abuser or discourage victims from seeking justice for their abusers. In fact, our thorough background check interviews and examination revealed quite the opposite.” Let me just say this letter was written after your conversation with Dave Thompson and Todd Unzicker there at Summit so they don’t mention any of that. But he does say, “Bryan reported to us that he spoke tonally to victims at the time of the incident before being removed from the case by the elders. He was removed by the elders due to his familial relationship with both the perpetrator and the victim. We spoke directly to the other victim and who was not a family member,” one of the victims was a sister of Bryan, “that person confirmed that Bryan did indeed encourage them to prosecute going so far as to say that Bryan told them that he would pursue a prosecution if he was in this person’s shoes. The victim also confirmed that Bryan was removed from the matter early in the process.” Let me just stop there. What do you think of the statement so far? And this talking to victims, apparently, they talked to two victims. One is a family member of Bryan’s, but the other one said, “Bryan encouraged us to prosecute.”

    GREG SELBY:  The one he would have talked to was the one that handed in the video in the first place. That would be Rosanne, who was on the video and was ultimately went to go live and presumably rent free and eat free and all that at Hamp Holcomb’s place.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  And they didn’t even talk to her. They did not even reach out to her. So Summit didn’t even bother to reach out to the most vocal or well-known victims. They failed reached out to me. They failed to reach out to Rosanne. They failed to reach out to Greg. And it wasn’t until Rachel had set up that meeting that we spoke and none of our statements are included in in their statement at all.

    JULIE ROYS:  And we don’t know who this other victim as you’re saying you think it was Rosanne.

    GREG SELBY: Well, he had to have talked to her to some degree. She handed him the video. 


    JULIE ROYS: So yeah, that the statement doesn’t make sense if they’re referring to the only two victims that he talked to before being removed from the case. Right? It would have to be Rosanne and his sister, right? 

    GREG SELBY: Right. 

    JULIE ROYS: And yet they’re saying they spoke directly to the other victim who was not a family member. That has to be Rosanne. And yet, you’re telling me, Jennifer, that you’ve talked to Rosanne—she hasn’t talked to me, so I don’t have this directly from her but you’re saying you’ve talked directly to Rosanne—and she didn’t even know about this. Correct?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Summit has never reached out to Rosanne. That’s unbelievable. If he’s saying that she was one of the people that he talked to, he hasn’t followed back up with her and Summit has not followed back up with her. It’s inexcusable.

    GREG SELBY:  They put some Flex Seal on this leaky raft of a story that they’ve got. Because it’s sinking. And the fact that they talked to they talked to his sister and his sister backed him up, that doesn’t hold a whole lot of water with me to say, “Oh, yeah, the sister said Bryan did exactly the right thing.” Well, yeah. It’s all bogus.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I would like to know who this victim is because I don’t know how it could be anyone other than Rosanne. 

    GREG SELBY: Right. 

    JULIE ROYS:  But they’re saying somebody backed up Bryan’s story. So, would like to know who that person is.

    GREG SELBY:  Maybe Bryan had his wife pretend to be somebody. I mean, I’ve got no idea. This investigation is such a sham. Given that again, they never contacted Jennifer and they never contacted me because they can’t claim they didn’t know or didn’t know how to get ahold of me because somehow in two prior incidents, the private investigators seemed to be able to get ahold of me just fine. When Fellowship’s trying to cover this up, they know exactly how to get ahold of me. He’s not gonna call me because he knows I know the truth, and I will blister his behind.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Well, Bryan Loritts and I were on a texting basis before this happened in 2010. So I know he knows how to reach out to me, but if he was so adamant about prosecuting Rick Trotter, then why didn’t he do that when he was in possession of the recordings. There was nothing stopping him. If he felt like justice needed to be done, there was nothing stopping him from moving forward with a police report and prosecuting him. Why did he put the responsibility on his sister, and on other victims to take the lead and to take care of this when he was in possession of the recordings, when he had knowledge of the incident? And when he was likely on videos that were recorded, he was using the same restroom I was using. So why did, why didn’t he then press charges and report this to the police and pursue prosecution if that’s what he so adamantly wanted?

    GREG SELBY:  Moreover, if you say, “I didn’t know,” then who told you that they went to the police? Because you need to throw them under the bus? The reason you won’t is because they’re gonna throw you back under the bus and they’re gonna say, “You knew it all along. Who are you trying to kid?”

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, it is interesting. Nobody is taking responsibility for what happened to that phone. 

    GREG SELBY:  Right.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, Bryan either knows, or one of the elders know. Nobody’s taking responsibility. And if this story is going to be believable, whoever destroyed this phone needs to come forward and own it.

    GREG SELBY:  Summit supposedly asked Bryan and he would not tell them. I said, “Who told you that?” If I told you, “Who told you that?” He wouldn’t answer. And that was apparently good enough for them. “Okay, well, he didn’t want to answer. Fair enough. Welcome to Summit.”

    JENNIFER BAKER: “We care well.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Here’s what they’re saying now. “Bryan told us that he turned over the phone to the elders the day after it was given to him, that he never saw it again. And because he was subsequently removed from the matter, he has no knowledge as to what the elders did with the phone. We connected with Fellowship Memphis, both current and former pastors, to attempt to confirm matters as Bryan’s involvement in the 2010 matter. We wanted to see if there were any significant discrepancies in the story. While they could not verify all the detail due to passage of time, personnel changes and poor documentation, they did not dispute in any part of Bryan’s statement.” And let me just say to your point a little bit earlier, Greg, this seems a little bit like investigating Nixon by asking Liddy and Haldeman, “What happened?” 

    GREG SELBY:  Right.

    JULIE ROYS:  I mean, seriously, this is laughable. 

    Let me get back to this letter. Some other things they said: “Out of concern that minors may have been involved, Bryan instructed his staff to call Child Protective Services, CPS and advise that he received oral reports from a staff member that CPS was contacted. We also spoke with an additional staff member who served at Fellowship Memphis at the time and confirmed that CPS was contacted. We contacted CPS to find out what reports they had received. They told us they would not release the information except to a victim and their attorney and that, if any such records exist, they likely have been destroyed due to their policy of keeping information on file for only a fixed amount of time.” I don’t know even what to say about that. Apparently, there’s a staff person an unnamed staff person,

    GREG SELBY:  Right, so not even an elder. So basically, it’d be like if this happened at my company, and I said, “Hey, I told the Secretary to report it. And then I didn’t follow up on it to see if she really did or not. And I didn’t fire him.” If he didn’t, that’s crazy.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I don’t remember CPS being mentioned in the statement that Downtown Church and Fellowship Church made in 2016. Nothing about that. In fact, there was talk that there were no minors involved. And then I published recently, a tweet that Bryan Loritts had had sent out back in 2016, saying, “What are you talking about?” “I contact,” or “we,” he used, “we,” “we contacted DCS and the police.” Then I said, “why was it that he contacted DCS if there were no minors involved?” Now there’s a statement about DCS, and now they’re talking about it. Whereas this is somewhat new outside of that, that tweet but again, not confirmed.

    GREG SELBY:  The story is malleable on their part to, “Whatever we have to change the details of the story to cover ourselves we’re willing to do,” is what they’re saying. It’s wicked. I mean, to me, again, if there’s this much doubt, there’s any of 10,000 pastors you could have to come take that position that they have opened at Summit right now. Why are they so determined to protect Bryan Loritts on this when they get no reasonable person would?

    JULIE ROYS:  Let me go back to this statement. They also talk about Bryan reaching out to authorities, “A Fellowship Memphis staff member,” unnamed again, “from 2010 confirmed to us that they did contact appropriate authorities based on Bryan’s instructions to do so. Our legal counsel contacted the Memphis Police Department and their central records office to inquire if a police report or any documentation on this matter existed. They advised that no such report or documentation existed regarding this matter, in part because they no longer retain such records due to the passage of time.” That in and of itself, to me, I just take a little bit of umbrage on that, because in 2016, as you mentioned earlier, the records did exist. And the police said, “We were never contacted.” Jennifer, you contacted police, they said, “We were never contacted.” 

    JENNIFER BAKER:  That’s correct. 

    JULIE ROYS:  Now, they’re claiming that there’s a staff person that says, “Police were contacted.” There’s no corroboration for that. So, there’s a number of assertions in here that one, either can’t be corroborated or two, involve the exact people who were involved in this cover up to begin with,

    GREG SELBY:  who have a vested interest.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And to be able to say, with conclusive, like they do here, and then they close, “There is an unresolved question about the records.” And they’re a little bit frustrated that they can’t get these records. “However, even with that unresolved questions, it was clear to us for his part, Bryan did not attempt to protect the abuser or discourage the victims from pursuing justice. It was clear that he not only communicated openness to prosecuting the offender, he desired and encouraged it. Furthermore, he is expressed not only his regret for not doing more to ensure that the church he was a part of was ready to deal with such an event, but also an eagerness to learn more about what best practices are for prevention, reporting and care and to help promote them in churches so that churches are safe from abusers, and places of safety for the abused.”

    GREG SELBY:  Right, which part of it was clear that he tried to do this involves church discipline—anybody that opens their mouth.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  When was the statement made? 

    JULIE ROYS:  Monday June 1,

    GREG SELBY:  After they talked to us last week.

    JULIE ROYS:  last week, in May.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Okay. Shame on Summit for taking full hour to meet with Greg and I to gain more insight and information, and then put out this blatantly false statement in complete contradiction to what we testified to and what we spelled out for them.

    GREG SELBY:  Well, you might say, whose testimony holds more weight Bryan’s or mine? Here’s what I would say to that. One of us has ever, ever in his life stood up to protect the church from a sexual predator. And it’s not Bryan. And that’s the one that want to hire. That’s weird.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, he is hired right now. He is the executive pastor at Summit right now. Moody Publishers just published his new book, The Dad Difference, and from what I hear through the grapevine, Bryan is being groomed for a large leadership position in the Southern Baptist Convention. Friends, I hope if you’re listening right now, that you will take these matters to heart, that you will speak to people. If you’re related at all to this church or to the Southern Baptist Convention, to Moody Publishers, that you will say something, and you will let your voice be heard, just like Greg and Jennifer did today. Jennifer and Greg, I am so appreciative. I know you guys have taken so many lumps for what you have done and for speaking out. But thank you from the bottom of my heart for the sake of the church, for the sake of victims, and most of all, for the sake of the reputation of Jesus Christ. Thank you. 

    GREG SELBY:  Thank you.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Thank you for having us. And thank you for your perseverance on this.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I am glad to do it and glad to be a part of it. And thanks so much for everybody who’s listening right now to The Roys Report, a podcast that’s dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to Also, if you’d like to help me continue my investigative work, please consider making a donation and support this ministry. Also pray for this ministry. I desperately need your prayers and I rely on your support. Thanks again for listening and engaging. And again, please work on your own part. Fight for the purity of the church. You’re a part of this too. God bless.

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    Eyewitnesses Say Bryan Loritts Covered Up Sex Crimes Thu, 04 Jun 2020 22:10:13 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Transcript

  • Did Bryan Loritts participate in a cover up of sex crimes at his former church? And given what he allegedly did, should he be hired by Summit Church—the megachurch where J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastors?

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie interviews two eyewitnesses who had a front-row seat to a sex crimes case, involving Loritts’ brother-in-law and convicted voyeur, Rick Trotter.


    acts 29,bryan loritts,Fellowship Memphis,Greg Selby,J.D. Greear,Jennifer Baker,summit church

    Did Bryan Loritts participate in a cover up of sex crimes at his former church? And given what he allegedly did, should he be hired by Summit Church—the megachurch where J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastors?

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie interviews two eyewitnesses who had a front-row seat to a sex crimes case, involving Loritts’ brother-in-law and convicted voyeur, Rick Trotter. Loritts, who was just hired as an executive pastor at Greear’s church, says he had nothing to do with the mishandling of Trotter’s case. However, the eyewitnesses say Loritts participated in an extensive cover-up, which included destroying evidence, silencing victims and whistleblowers, and then allowing Trotter to repeat his crimes at another church.

    This story has far reaching ramifications, given that Greear has pledged to make sweeping changes in the SBC, following a massive sex abuse scandal that has rocked the denomination.


    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Did nationally recognized author and Pastor Bryan Loritts participate in a cover up of sex crimes at his former church? And given what he did should he be hired by Summit Church—the mega church where J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention pastors? 

    Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with two eyewitnesses who had a front row seat to what happened at Bryan Loritts’ former church. One of them is a victim of Rick Trotter. Trotter was Bryan Loritts’ brother in law. And in 2010 Trotter was the worship pastor at Fellowship Memphis, the church where Loritts was the lead pastor. 

    In February of 2010, someone found Trotter’s camera secretly recording people in the bathroom of the offices at Fellowship Memphis. One of my guests today is one of the women recorded on Trotter’s camera, a woman by the name of Jennifer Baker. My other guest is Greg Selby, a former insider at fellowship Memphis who said he witnessed the cover up of Trotter’s crimes. By the way, Trotter’s camera containing those recordings was given to Bryan Loritts the day it was discovered. Today, that camera is nowhere to be found. And Trotter’s crimes were not reported to police. At least Memphis Police say they no record of anyone ever reporting Trotter in 2010. And sadly, after Trotter was fired from Fellowship Memphis, he went to another church where he did the same exact thing. And it wasn’t until 2016—six years after the first recordings were found—that Trotter’s crimes were finally reported to authorities.

    In a recent statement, Loritts says he gave Trotter’s camera to the elders of Fellowships Memphis the day after it was given to him. And he says the elders then removed him from the Trotter case. So Loritts is claiming he’s not culpable for what happened.  J.D. Greear and Summit Church say they believe Bryan Loritts’ version of events. And that’s why they’ve just hired Loritts as an executive pastor at Greear’s church.

    But just a bit of context here. The Southern Baptist Convention that Greear heads is reeling from a major sex abuse scandal. And Greear, as the president of the SBC, has assured his denomination that he’s making major changes to insure that covering for sexual predators will not be tolerated. So if Loritts covered up sex crimes in 2010—and now is being hired by Summit—that’s a big deal.

    And that’s exactly what my guests today say happened.

    Well again, here to help shed light on this situation is Greg Selby. Greg was a part of the initial group of leaders that planted Fellowship Memphis. This is the church, again, where Rick Trotter was the worship pastor, where Bryan Loritts was a lead pastor.  And Greg had a front-row seat to what happened in 2010 with Rick Trotter. So, Greg, welcome! And thank you so much for being willing talk about this.

    GREG SELBY:  Oh, thank you for having me. That’s a difficult subject to talk about.

    JULIE ROYS:  I know it is and it’s rehashing a lot of stuff that I know has been very painful for you and also painful for my next guest. Also joining me today is Jennifer Baker, one of Rick Trotter’s victims. Baker was Jennifer’s last name in 2010 when the events that we’re discussing today happened. Jennifer expressed a desire for me to use that last name for her for privacy purposes. So I am honoring that request. So, Jennifer, welcome. And thank you so much for being willing to talk about what I know is probably a very traumatic time for you.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Thanks for having me. And thanks for addressing this really complicated, sensitive topic so thoroughly.

    JULIE ROYS:  We do want to cover it thoroughly. And there’s going to be a lot of moving parts. I want to start with you, Greg, because we almost need to back up to 2009 because there was something that happened in 2009 that I think establishes a bit of a pattern. And that is in 2009, you found out that Downline Ministries—at least you think it was Downline Ministries—hired  someone named Pete Newman. Tell me what Downline Ministries, what their connection is to Fellowship Memphis and who this Pete Newman is.

    GREG SELBY:  Downline Ministries is a ministry in Memphis that actually was an outgrowth of a discipleship program I had done with some of the fellows that started Fellowship Memphis. This was Denton, Texas. Pete Newman was a fella who had gone to school with the founder of Downline. And Pete had admitted to molesting kids at Kanakuk Kamps. He was out on bail, and I was out to lunch with one of the elders at Fellowship and he was telling me how they had provided housing for him and were taking care of Pete Newman. So, whether it was Downline paying him or Fellowship paying is a bit unclear. And in fact, Fellowship has never denied that they were the ones who paid him. In fact, they tried to say he was just a contractor. So there’s a tight business relationship between Downline and Fellowship to where they become somewhat interchangeable. The staff members are somewhat the same and all that. In fact, after Rick Trotter had been fired, he went to live in a home that was owned by Downline that was provided by Downline donors, presumably to minister to the neighborhood not to put sexual predators in the neighborhood.

    JULIE ROYS:  So Pete Newman, here’s a man who’s on bail for sexually molesting children at a Christian camp. He eventually was convicted,

    GREG SELBY:  Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  but he’s working at Fellowship/Downline. In 2009, you find out about it. Did you take your concerns—you  mentioned one individual you took your concerns too—but did take your concerns to Bryan Loritts?

    GREG SELBY:  I ultimately had those concerns addressed with Bryan Loritts at the point his brother in law was fired. The elder tried to tell me that everything was under control. And I didn’t know the extent of the problem with Pete Newman. I started researching that and became pretty dismayed. And about that time, they made an announcement that Rick Trotter, Bryan’s brother in law had been fired, for reasons unknown. They wouldn’t admit it. They wouldn’t say why he was fired–this sort of thing. And I had actually done some counseling, just helping with some of their finances and this sort of thing—for Rick and his wife. I’d called Rick to try and find what the problem was. And I sat with him and talked to him. And he said he was under direct orders. He was not allowed to tell anyone why he’d been fired.

    JULIE ROYS:  This would be February 2010 now.

    GREG SELBY:  He was fired on February 4th I believe.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And at this point, February 2010, he’s fired. You don’t know what’s going on. Jennifer, at this point, do you have any idea what’s going on with Rick Trotter?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Absolutely not. We had no idea why he was let go from the church. We were not told.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So you’re both in the dark about this. But for you, Greg, the situation’s a little bit stickier because Rick is asking to live in your home. Is that right?

    GREG SELBY:  Right. So for some of the issues that you might imagine he was having in his own home, he said, “Well, you know, could I stay in your house for a little while?” He knew my wife and child well, had been over at our house before, but something that frankly, my “Spidey sense” was tingling, that something was wrong here that under normal circumstances, I’d say, “yes.” If he’d said, “I’d had an affair,” that would have been something we might have discussed. But given that he was not telling me and said he was under orders not to tell what had happened, I had concerns about that. So I went to the elders and said, hey, you know, here’s what’s going on. He’s saying he’d like to come stay at my house. I’m not gonna let him unless I know what was going on. At that point, elder they had there, Randy Odom, told me what the story was. I had concerns with that. The long and the short being, I let people know whose kids were baby sitting in his house because Rick had made it clear to me once Rick was able to openly talk to me, he had been cleared by the elders, he admitted that he’d been taking videos not only in the church bathrooms of women and potentially children, that he knew that they were children on his videos, that he’d been taking videos in his own home and setting up the cameras in his own home, where I knew that there were children of people in the congregation who had babysat over his house.

    JULIE ROYS:  And how long did it go on that nobody knew what had actually happened, that there’s all these potential victims throughout the church. And they don’t know that Rick Trotter had videotaped people, maybe them, maybe their children. How long did that go on that they didn’t know? And they’re still going over potentially could go over to babysit the children of the Trotters?

    GREG SELBY:  For months.

    JULIE ROYS:  Months.

    GREG SELBY:  Months. Yeah, not, “Hey, we need a couple of weeks to sort this out and figure out what we’re going to do.” This went on for months. And in fact, they had no intention of telling the church what happened. And it wasn’t until I told them that if they didn’t tell the church, I was going to. And in fact, I had warned, as I said, people whose kids were babysitting over there and that sort of thing to which I was threatened with church discipline.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yes. You were threatened with church discipline. And actually, Jennifer, you said in your story, and we’ll get to that in a minute. That church discipline was brought up with you too, that if you talked about this, it was considered gossip, and you would be subject to church discipline. And you sent me, Jen, the membership covenant that people would sign who became members. And I think this is really interesting. On one of the last points, it says, “I will seek to maintain the unity of the church body by acting in love toward other members,”  that sounds good, “seeking open and honest communication when I have concerns,” that’s good, “dealing biblically with conflict and refusing to gossip.” That sounds good. But how that’s used in this situation was to keep people from knowing about a sexual predator in the church according to what you’re saying. And the last one, “following the leadership of the church, and submitting to the principles of church restoration.” And that one, again, it sounds good, but it can be twisted in a spiritually abusive environment to keep things quiet. So, Greg, in your case, when they threatened church discipline, if you talked more about this, they didn’t realize you hadn’t signed this covenant. Is that right?

    GREG SELBY:  Right. I’ve worked in ministry for quite some time, and I know enough to be skeptical of folks and how they like to proceed with that power. My wife and I never signed it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Mm hmm.

    GREG SELBY:  And so, the threat was empty to me. They didn’t realize I hadn’t signed it. They hadn’t checked their paperwork. But I don’t ever sign membership covenants. So, they could not do anything to me. But they were threatening nonetheless, thinking that they could.

    JULIE ROYS:  So this whole time this is going on, at what point did you go and talk to Bryan Loritts in person?

    GREG SELBY:  When I was told I was being threatened with church discipline, I showed up the next day. I showed up at Bryan’s office, unannounced, to have a conversation with him about this. And very enlightening and tragically enlightening conversation to have with him. Led early on with the fact that, you know, I said, “Why haven’t you gone to the police?” He tried to claim that they had gone to the police, and that the police found nothing interesting there, which I found hard to believe. And it made me believe that they probably had a connection in with the police, if that were true at all, that they got to the police. Because again, I can’t imagine that you’d hand over videos like that and not have some knowledge about what’s going on. Also, Rick had told me the day after when I’d called him to see what was going on. He had said that he had to go to the computer repair shop and take his computer to the repair shop, I believe it was probably to wipe his hard drive clean and that the church gave him time to do that. I said, “The police didn’t do anything with this. Where’s the evidence?” He said, “Our attorney told us to throw it in the Mississippi River.”

    JULIE ROYS:  And was Bryan claiming that they had given the phone to police and police didn’t find anything interesting on it?

    GREG SELBY:  Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Or was he saying they just had a conversation with police?

    GREG SELBY:  He said that they’d given it to him and that there was nothing, the police would not pursue charges.

    JULIE ROYS:  So according to Bryan Loritts, they gave the phone to police. Police looked at the phone, said “There’s nothing interesting,” gave it back to him or to the elders?

    GREG SELBY:  That I’m not clear as to which person took possession, except that later Bryan would claim that he had possession of it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay,

    GREG SELBY:  So maybe it was just straining credulity that the police would not find anything on there unless you had an inside person with a police department somehow that was doing your bidding.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and it is interesting when it comes to that issue. There are a number of different accounts about what happened with police, the most recent being that David Thompson, an elder at Summit, sent an email. And I got a hold of this email. And first he says, “A Fellowship Memphis staff member from 2010 confirmed to us that they did contact appropriate authorities, based on Bryan’s instructions, to do so. Our legal counsel contacted the Memphis Police Department and their central records office to inquire if a police report or any documentation on this matter existed. They advised that no such report or documentation existed regarding this matter, in part because they no longer retain such records due to the passage of time.” So currently Summit the church that J.D. Greear pastors. that just hired Bryan Loritts, is claiming that there was a police report made by somebody but for some reason there’s no record of it. But the Commercial Appeal, who reported on this repeatedly—2016—they said, “According to the Memphis Police Department, no one ever contacted police to report the incident or file a complaint.” The church’s statement makes no mention of contacting police after the camera was discovered at Fellowship. So, again, no, there is no police report anywhere from the Memphis police department showing that this was reported.

    GREG SELBY:  Right. The plausible deniability Summit would like to have is that they only keep those records for seven years and they said, “Well, they say there’s no records.” Well, sure. The year is now 2020. This happened in 2010. Ten years have passed. Conversely, the Commercial Appeal report happened in 2016, which would have been before the seven-year statute. And in fact, when the Commercial Appeal reported it, they found that there was no evidence ever. And in fact, the police said that there was no report filed as did Child Protective Services. So, there was no report filed, which also would indicate that there were children on there because you wouldn’t contact Child Protective Services [CPS] were there not.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yes,

    GREG SELBY:  But that was part of the conversation I had with Bryan Loritts that day in his office was that Rick is concerned because Rick knows there were the kids on there. Now, do I think that kids were the object that Rick was going after? I don’t think so. But I have no idea what goes on in someone’s twisted mind. I can’t imagine somebody was taking the kind of videos that they were, that he was in the first place.

    JULIE ROYS:  Let me just say something right there. If there were children, if there are minors on there, that takes it to a different level. The crime goes to a felony.

    GREG SELBY:  Sure.

    JULIE ROYS:  Then Bryan Loritts and everybody on that church staff is a mandated reporter. You have to report this. That’s the law.

    GREG SELBY:  Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  You can’t not report what happened. And yet in this statement from Fellowship Memphis in 2016, it was a joint statement between them and another church. We’ll get into that. But neither one of them said that they reported this to the police. In fact, they said that the victims were offered independent professional counseling paid for by the church. “It is our understanding that none of the victims at that time chose to press charges.” So even then, in 2016, nobody was claiming that this was reported to police. Yet in the latest statement just made by Summit and by Bryan Loritts, they’re saying that somebody had reported it to police. But that’s news. That had never happened before.

    GREG SELBY:  Well, the Commercial Appeal acknowledges that there were children involved on this as well. The other thing that you have to keep in mind, particularly with this parsing statement that Summit’s issuing is they’re wanting to act as if every victim was contacted. Well, then who watched all those videos? Because those were hours and hours and hours of video. Who watched them all? They were people saying, “Well, we can’t watch all the videos, that wouldn’t be fair.” So, but at a different point Bryan would claim to someone at a seminary here in town, “There were 100, there were 100 people on that video.” You mean all 100 get contacted and not a single one of them wanted to press charges? I find that hard to believe.

    JULIE ROYS:  It is an amazing story. There’s something else that you told me earlier when I talked to you about this, that in that conversation, you brought up something about this hitting the newspapers. Tell me what happened when you said that.

    GREG SELBY:  He had already said that the police found nothing interesting in the videos. So [I said,] “If you guys don’t handle this, right, this is going to hit the newspapers, and I’ll make sure that it does.” And he said, “The newspapers already know and they don’t find anything interesting about this either.” Which again, in the power structure of things and because I knew who some of his friends were in context, was it plausible to me he could have it buried in the newspaper? Sure. I’ve seen it happen with other churches in town. Unfortunately, I’ve seen actual video reports that were on the news suddenly disappear off the websites and that sort of thing. So this is not unusual. And so it sounded to me like it was just people calling all their power brokers to cover this up. You know, again, this was showing a pattern. I talked to him about Newman being there. He said, “Well, I thought he’d just been caught skinny dipping with little boys. I didn’t know he’s the most prolific child molester in Missouri history.” Well, if he’d been caught skinny dipping with little boys at his last job that should have raised some concerns for you. And you shouldn’t have hired him. And you shouldn’t have brought him on. And he shouldn’t have been writing curriculum for your church. Given the timing of things it may turn out to have been John Bryson’s Authentic Manhood manual, ironically.

    JULIE ROYS:  And John Bryson for those who don’t know,

    GREG SELBY:  John Bryson was the co-pastor,

    JULIE ROYS:  co lead pastor with Bryan Loritts at Fellowship, Memphis. And that name will be coming up, I’m sure some more in our discussion. There’s one other thing. Was there some talk with Bryan about paying Heather and Rick Trotter and you being involved with that in some way?

    GREG SELBY:  They’d asked me to do some financial counseling and provide help for them. And he said, “As a businessman, Greg,” he said, “maybe you can help me with this. We need to pay Rick but not make it look like we’re paying Rick.” And I said, “You can’t do that ethically. Because,” I said, “as you well know, he has wage garnishments against him,” tax issues, they had not paid their school loans back at that point. So you’re basically, Bill Garner, who was in charge of finances there, should know that there are wage garnishments. “And so if you try and pay your sister to circumvent paying, Rick, you’re trying to avoid a wage garnishment. That’s illegal.”

    JULIE ROYS:  So Bryan Loritts was suggesting that you somehow pay his brother in law and sister in a way that couldn’t be traced somehow to the church. That’s what you’re saying?

    GREG SELBY:  Right.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow.

    GREG SELBY:  Oh, absolutely. Doesn’t deny this. Again, within the whole Summit’s “investigation.” “I would do some things differently.” Well, yeah. Pete Newman would do some things differently too now that he’s been in prison for 10 years. But I wouldn’t hire him.

    JULIE ROYS:  You gave me a letter that you sent to church leaders on March 5th, 2010. I’m guessing this letter was after talking with Bryan Loritts. Is that correct?

    GREG SELBY:  That was actually I believe, before I talked to Bryan.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, that was before. So you talked to him in March.

    GREG SELBY:  Yep.

    JULIE ROYS:  But this is going through all the things that you just said. That, “We sat on this matter too long.” “We have not told church membership the basic facts of what happened with Rick’s sin.” “We enabled sin.” “People have known about this for a while.” “We put people at risk . . . denied members of the body the opportunity to come forward with any other damage that may have been done by Rick and denied them the ability to make their own decisions.” I mean, it’s interesting. At the point you had this discussion with Bryan Loritts and he said, “the police found nothing interesting,” the victims hadn’t even been talked to. They didn’t even know.

    GREG SELBY:  No.

    JULIE ROYS:  So Jen, you didn’t know at this point what had happened. From, I’d like to hear your perspective, how did you find out that Rick Trotter had made these videotapes and you were actually on at least one of those videotapes?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, I got a call from Ben Parkinson and he had asked me,

    JULIE ROYS:  Who is Ben Parkinson?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Ben Parkinson was one of the pastors at Fellowship Memphis during that time. And he had told me that it was discovered that Rick Trotter had propped up a cell phone camera in the bathroom that was shared by all of the staff, visitors and volunteers. There was one common bathroom, it didn’t have any stalls in it. It was just a one-room bathroom. And on a bookcase hidden behind some other items, he had propped up a cellphone camera and had been videotaping and that I was recorded on that video. I basically was hysterical. I asked, “Who was on the video?” How they knew who was on the video. “Who watched the video? Where were the videos now? Who had them? Had they been uploaded to the internet?” I had so many questions and couldn’t get any answers whatsoever. Couldn’t get any answers. When I asked who was on the video, he said that he wasn’t allowed to talk about that. When I asked if it was uploaded to the internet, he said they had checked and it had not been, which, you know, seems ridiculous in hindsight. I don’t know how they would have checked to see how these videos were or were not uploaded to the internet. But I asked, “Who had watched the videos?” And he said, “Ricky Jenkins,” who was a resident or an intern or associate pastor or something at the church, I don’t know what his exact title was. But Ricky Jenkins and Bryan Loritts were the only ones that had watched the video. And his answer to where it was; he said, “The video was put in a safety deposit box,” and that they had consulted with an attorney and the attorney had told them to, “destroy it and throw it in the Mississippi River.” But that they wanted to ask if I wanted to press charges. And I said, “Yeah, what would I have to do to do that?” And he said that I would have to file a police report. And that if I did decide to press charges that my videos would be shown in court, that they would be made public, that no one else was pressing charges, they did not want to see Rick and Heather’s life destroyed. You know, that would devastate their family and the church. No one wanted to see that happen. And more concerning to me was these videos, these private videos from these bathroom recordings, would be made public. It just was paralyzing. And so I told him that I needed to think about it. I said I wanted to talk to some of those people that he said were recorded. He said that he couldn’t give me their names. And in fact, I was not allowed to speak about it with anyone or it would be gossip. And that if I did that, you know, they were going to exercise church discipline on anyone that was talking about it. This was, “very sensitive.” “It could be damaging to the church.” “It could be damaging to the other victims.” That we were just not allowed to talk about it whatsoever.

    JULIE ROYS:  And when they say, “exercise, church discipline,” what does that look like?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  At that time I didn’t realize that I had signed the covenant, the membership covenant that they call it was in effect binding me to their authority in some way. But I had seen them exercise church discipline before, which meant they gathered the church together, told them that a member was sinning against the church or a member of the church and that they would be basically disfellowshipped. No one in the church was allowed to have any contact with them or talk to them until the church deemed that they were restored.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm.

    GREG SELBY:  So this church discipline is something that if you saw somebody in the grocery store that was under church discipline that was a member of your church, you’re not supposed to talk to them. I mean, it’s very Scientology-ish.

    JULIE ROYS:  So you had seen this before as well, other people

    GREG SELBY:  Yep. Yes, I had.

    JULIE ROYS:  excommunicated or under church discipline.

    GREG SELBY:  I knew when they were threatening me. I knew what they were threatening me with.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. And Jennifer, from my understanding, you have a daughter who had babysat in the Trotter’s home. And again, he took videos in the bathroom in his home. Your daughter also used the bathroom at the church office. And she was a minor. Did you have concerns? And did you ask Parkinson about your daughter specifically?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  I did. I asked specifically if she had been videotaped at that time. It was not told me. I was only given very limited information and kept in the dark about what was going on other than my specific recording. So, I did not know that there was recordings in his home. I was not told any of that information. But I knew that my daughter had been volunteering at the church office and had been around during some of those events and had to ask, and was told, “No.” That she was “not on the videos,” which in hindsight, if they’re saying she was not on the video, then someone would have had to watch all of those videos on the phone. When I specifically asked him how they knew that I was on the videos if they had not watched all the videos, I said, “How did you know that I was on there?” And they said that Bryan had scrolled through all of the thumbnails that were on the video, the paused videos that were there and seeing me on a still video. And that’s how he knew I was on there. And I asked him if he had watched that video. And he said, that he couldn’t tell me that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow, I can only imagine the emotions there. But basically, you’re told that one, you’re on the video, which is traumatizing enough. Two, that your pastor may have looked at them. Three, that if you press charges, it’s going to mean that an entire courtroom’s gonna look at them and this is going to be public. And that nobody else is pressing charges, but they won’t give you the names of any of the other victims. So, you can’t even talk to them. Correct?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  That’s correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. After that, I’m not sure how you knew this, but you knew who had discovered the phone, a person by the name of Rosanne Elmore, who was on staff. How did you find out that she had discovered the phone? Was that something that Parkinson told you?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  No. Much later, Roseanne told me herself that she was the one that had found the phone. And she had taken it to Ricky Jenkins and Bryan Loritts immediately after deleting her video off of the phone and gave it to them because they were the ones in the office at the time. And she told me that Bryan took the phone, instructed her to go home, and that he would take care of it. And I believe that’s the last anyone’s seen the videos or the phones since. She had told me that at that same time that she had also kind of scrolled through to look to see if there was anything else that she saw on there. And she said there were multiple videos, tons of videos, and that she, in some of the stills, she saw Bryan Loritts’ sister on—not Heather Loritts Trotter, but another sister—getting out of the shower in Rick Trotter’s home. And that there were also children on the video, some of the videos, that she had seen.

    JULIE ROYS:  And there was something she told you about how the phone was set up in the bathroom. Can you tell me about that?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  She had said that it was mounted in the bathroom, which just struck me as odd because before when Ben Parkinson had said, “It was propped up in the bathroom on a bookcase,” and I don’t know why that struck me. I think at that point it clicked how this wasn’t a casual one-time mistake. That this was well thought-out, well planned. It spoke volumes to me, I think about how Ben Parkinson had kind of framed it as, “well, this just happened.” I guess that conversation with Roseanne solidified how many potential victims there were, how long this had been going on, and just how pervasive it was.

    JULIE ROYS:  And how premeditated.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Absolutely.

    JULIE ROYS:  You don’t just do this by mistake. It’s very premeditated.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yes. I think that was the first time all of that clicked and was just, yeah, even more devastating.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so sometime after that the church was told what had happened, at least to some point, because Rick Trotter got up and confessed. How did that finally come out, Greg? How did the church finally decide to tell people? 

    GREG SELBY:  They had told me and I had discussions with other elders, including Hamp Holcomb

    JULIE ROYS:  Hamp Holcomb is an elder at the church.

    GREG SELBY:  And was the senior most elder at that time, and others had told me they had no intention of having Rick confess to what he’s done and letting people know. In fact, when I talked to Ben Parkinson about it, he said they weren’t notifying all of the victims, he said, “Because we don’t have the counseling capacity to counsel all these people.” To which I said, “You won’t have to worry about it. Because if you tell people that you’ve been covering this up for a few months, half the church will leave. And you won’t have to worry about having too many people to counsel anymore. You guys will be overstaffed at that point.” But anyway, I told them if they didn’t let the church know I was going to. Period. Writ large one way or another on that. So, they finally had him issue a statement that was very watered down, the equivalent being, “Hey, we’re all sinners. I’ve been a sinner. I’ve jaywalked. I’ve sped. One time I stole a candy bar. I may have taken some pictures in the bathroom. I have gossiped.” I mean, it was in a litany of things. In fact, if you look at it, the statement he read is 870 words, of which 15 of them admitted to anything. So that’s 1.7% of his words, was admitting to anything. And the admission on his part was, “I used a video camera to invade the privacy of several women in a restroom.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay.

    GREG SELBY:  Which is pretty vague. And this is while, you can imagine, “Cue the music. Cue the sobbing in the background.” Everybody liked Rick. Nobody wanted to see this happen within their church. And so people were filled with tears and deeply moved and saddened by this. If you’d ask people afterwards, “What did he just confess to?” They have no idea.

    JULIE ROYS:  And Jennifer as someone who was a victim, when you heard him give this confession, and I understand, was there some sort of greeting or reception line for him after this?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, just kudos to Greg for none of this would have ever come to light if he hadn’t been so brave to stand up against all of these men trying to cover this up. I don’t actually remember the words of the statement. I was absolutely mortified. Why was Rick there? Why was, what was he gonna say? Were there other people there that had seen the videos? Who else there knew what was really going on? I was angry. Embarrassed. I could not, yeah, I don’t even remember the statement. But afterwards, they had an event in fellowship hall where you could go and you know, say goodbye to Rick and Heather and there was lots of hugging and crying and you know, “We hate that you have to leave. It’s terrible that you’ve been going through all this. Thanks for your confession.” It was just absolutely insulting.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. And there you are a victim and who knows however many other victims that knew they were victims, how many didn’t know they were victims hard to say. Nobody’s offering you comfort, but they’re offering the perpetrator a lot of comfort in this whole process.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, that’s how the whole thing was framed and focused and, you know, even after Rick went away to sex camp or rehab or wherever it was he went, we were not told. In fact, I asked specifically where he was sent, who was paying for it, how long he would be there, and I was told that it was out of town, I couldn’t know the place that, you know, money had been raised to cover the cost, and that when he returned, I was told that Rick and his wife Heather wanted to meet with me and it was part of the process that the church had laid out to complete his treatment for the restoration. And so each person was asked to go meet with Rick and Heather and another pastor so that that Rick could talk to the victims and offer some explanation and apology. And again, it was one of the most traumatizing events and I don’t remember what was said and how long it went on. I just can’t fathom why anyone in their right mind and especially these guys who profess to have training in counseling and conflict management and conflict resolution, and then for them to say, in unity that this was the next step was, it’s just mind blowing.

    JULIE ROYS:  And there you are being asked to meet with someone who has made a video of you naked or partially naked, and you’re asked to talk with him.  I mean, that in and of itself is incredibly traumatizing.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah. beyond words.

    JULIE ROYS:  Did you feel like you had a choice in this? Or that you had to do it, the church was telling you to do it and this is something you had to do?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  It was an expectation that everyone was to meet with them individually. That was part of the process. That was part of the next steps, that was part of the plan, part of the restoration, part of his, to complete his treatment.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so Greg, during this whole thing, according to Bryan’s most recent statement that he gave to Summit Church, and J.D. Greear, he was kept out of the process again. Did you get any sense from anyone that Bryan was a part of this whole process or that he was, indeed kept out of the process and pretty much in the dark as to what was going on?

    GREG SELBY:  To me the discussion that he and I had even that day in his office is he was part of the process. So he knows about this “throw the evidence in the Mississippi River” stuff. Part of the process and trying to pay off Rick and make it look like he’s not paying Rick and pay a sister and circumvent the wage garnishments and that sort of thing, he knew about there being minors on there, he’s trying to convince me that the media would have no interest in this whatsoever. So to me that’s being part of the process. Later, he was asked about it by some very kind members of the church body who actually had their girls babysit over there, too, and said, “What happened to the video?” And he said he was the last one to have it. But then he said, “I have no idea what happened to it after that.” So, one of those two things is false.

    JULIE ROYS:  So he never, according to them, he never gave it to the elders

    GREG SELBY:  Did to give it back to the elders at the end. I mean, nobody’s admitting where this video is. Partially—and when people say, “Well, wait, why would all the elders and why would all the church leadership say the same thing?” Because it was a crime. If there was a felony on there, which church leader is going to stand up and say, “You know what? Looking back on it, I should have gone to jail for that.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Jennifer, you did go directly to Bryan Loritts at one point and talk to him. This was after you’d had this meeting with Rick and Heather after the whole rehab thing. But it sounds like at this point, after several months of thinking about this, you wanted to go forward. You wanted to go to police. And so, you went to Bryan had a discussion. Tell me what happened in that discussion.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  When I initially met with Ben Parkinson, I had told him that I needed time to think about it. This was very complicated. I had very little information about what was going on and when. So I went back to Loritts and told him that I didn’t feel like it was being handled, I did feel like something had to have been done and asked where the recordings are. And he said that the videos had been destroyed. And I said that I felt like authorities should be notified and that I did want to follow report. And he said that there wasn’t much that could be done because the videos had been destroyed and that there wasn’t anything to do at that point. And I was so upset, I was absolutely distraught that I guess that I hadn’t been notified that they were going to destroy these recordings, that I didn’t have a say in what was going to happen. Next I asked him who destroyed it. And he said he couldn’t tell me that. And it was at that time, he said that I had signed the membership covenant and that I was not allowed to talk to anyone about it. And I was not allowed to bring this up to anyone else. And that they were exercising church discipline on anybody that chose to gossip about this.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So do you think knowing just who Bryan is the role he played and your discussions and then everything else, do you think there’s any possibility that he was kept out of this process? Or was there any indication in anything that he said to you that indicated, you know, “This is out of my hands, the elders are controlling it?”

    JENNIFER BAKER:  No way. There is no way he was hands off of anything. Anyone that knows him knows he’s a raging egomaniac. And he and John Bryson had a mission coming into this. And no one was going to step in their way. Absolutely no one was going to stop them. And Bryson’s on the record as saying that he himself was not involved in the investigation. And now that’s what Loritts is saying is that he was also not involved in the investigation. So who was left in charge? The two lead pastors, Bryan Loritts was the head pastor, John Bryson was the founder and another teaching pastor. And both of them are saying that they were not involved in this, you know, investigation whatsoever. So who was left in charge? Who was left in charge? Was it their secretary, who incidentally was also a victim? Like, this is ridiculous for them to claim that.

    JULIE ROYS: And you told me about a friend of yours, Cindy Rogers, who was at the church, she’s no longer at Fellowship Memphis. And you said at one point she posted on Facebook about what was going on, that she was a little bit frustrated by this. But in 2016, it finally did hit the press that he had taken videos of women at Downtown Church. And there were articles. And apparently she posted one of these articles. And she said again, it’s been a while so I reached out to her. She texted to me, “I honestly do not remember what I commented on that post, but I am sure it was a comment made out of frustration, anger and grieving.” Then she said, “I got a call from Bryan very shortly after I posted it. Sadly, I don’t remember all that was said. I know I got more frustrated as the conversation went on. Where’s the video? Why wasn’t it turned over to police? And why wasn’t every person contacted who could have been on the video? If I remember correctly, I posted again on Facebook, that Bryan or maybe I said someone in leadership called me. And Bryan texted me and told me he didn’t expect me to post that on Facebook. I don’t remember what exactly I posted, but I was confused why it would be upsetting to him and explained to him. Our conversation ended cordially.” 2016. At that point, Bryan Loritts was off staff. He wasn’t even a part of staff.

    GREG SELBY:  Correct. He was he was living in California at that point.

    JULIE ROYS:  But yet, he’s monitoring what’s happening on social media and calling former members that he’s unhappy with what they posted on social media about this situation. Interesting to put that together with this narrative that he wasn’t involved at all.

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, and Cindy actually called me as soon as they got off the phone and had told me that it was in that conversation that Bryan Loritts had told her that he had taken the videos to his house and he didn’t know what had happened to them after that. That, you know, there was no accounting for them after that. So, yeah, there was no way that he was out of the loop on what happened.

    GREG SELBY:  And I believe that probably had to be after 2016 because I do know he was in California by the time he called.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, you went to John Bryson as well, one-on-one to talk to him about this situation? Is that right, Jennifer? And if so, what happened in that discussion?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, after I talked to Loritts, I went to John Bryson and was concerned about the way that it was handled. And I felt like something needed to be done. And he just confirmed that the evidence had been destroyed and that he had confirmed that with Beau Garner. And that continuing to talk about it at this point was gossip.

    JULIE ROYS:  Again, that threat and the no talk rule. At one point you did call police Jennifer, is that right? What happened in that conversation?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  I called police just to ask if I could file charges and what that would entail. And they said that, because there was, the evidence had been destroyed, and there was no evidence available, that that would be very difficult to press charges at that time. Months had passed. And I asked them what had happened to the original report, and why nothing ever came of that. And I was speaking to the head of the sex crimes division at the Memphis Police Department. And they said that no call had ever been made on that. So this was the first they had heard of it. They did some research into the records to see what they could find. They called me back and said that absolutely no one had ever called them about it. That it had never been reported.

    JULIE ROYS:  So let me ask you this. How can it be that so many people knew about Trotter’s crimes in 2010 and we’re talking multiple victims, we’re talking church staff, we’re talking church leaders. This is pretty extensive as far as how many people were involved. You have him making a statement from up front at the church. How can it be that no one reported this to police? I know Greg, when I talked to you earlier, you talked about fear and the way that Fellowship Memphis, and the City of Memphis and the businesses and everything is connected. Explain that. 

    GREG SELBY:  When John Bryson came to Memphis to establish Fellowship Memphis, they had a big white board in their office that said, basically, here are all the power players in the city, and here’s how we’re going to infiltrate all that and make sure that we’ve got our hands on everything that makes this city tick. And they developed ancillary ministries, city leadership, some things that ostensibly didn’t look like they were church organization. They wanted me to lead up one that there were going to call “Engagement,” so that it wouldn’t look like it was Fellowship. Instead of, “Hey, this is Fellowship Church,” they wanted to have ancillary entities. They’ve got an adoption agency here in town. And they’ve got all these sorts of things that are fully related, much like Downline is, but in very complicated ways. And the monies are fungible between them. Well when they have control of these major power players in town, including politicians who are very, very powerful, those kind of things are threatened. When I had the conversation with Hamp and Randy, Hamp started throwing out all the names, all these big time names. “Don’t you know who our attorney is?” “Don’t you know who this person is? This is a powerful political figure.” And it’s clearly meant to intimidate. And I think most people are. Right? I mean, it’s natural. In fact, a rational person should be intimidated by that sort of thing. And so, particularly, because you had a very young church at the time, I mean the average age was in the 20’s to be sure. Hamp at the time was the most senior person and he was probably in his early 50’s. So you had a very young church. So if you were to go tell a 24-year old that some major politician was involved with this, that 24-year old would shut down completely. And in fact, most 44-year olds would shut down. And combined with an element that they can exercise church discipline, which is ugly, combined with an element that you’ve got very powerful people at the church—these guys are all connected—Bryson claimed he didn’t know any of this was going on because he was busy pitching his Authentic Manhood series on Focus on the Family, and Bryan’s father is Crawford Loritts—that’s a very powerful and popular pastor in the country—that they’re so well connected, the people are afraid at that point. And, quite honestly, it changes your worldview to have to admit that these guys are creeps and that they are profiteers. Because if you start to admit that they are covering up pedophiles, that they’re covering up sexual predators and this sort of thing, it turns your worldview upside down. And you have to say that the church is not what I thought it was.

    JULIE ROYS:  And Jen, this had to have been very, very difficult for you. You described as well almost like a systemic abuse. We talked about membership being a tool of control. But also, you talked about counseling even being a tool that the church was using. And one that it used against you. Is that right?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah. It’s brilliant. They have their own counseling systems set up. And you’re encouraged to go through their counseling program. So I’d previously gone through and did some marriage counseling through their marriage counseling ministry. And one of the scariest things was when I did start speaking up about it, a friend had contacted John Bryson about my allegation saying, “What happened?” “Was this ever reported?” “Was this covered up?” And their response, not just from John Bryson, but their response was that I had been in counseling there—they failed to mention that I’d gone through marriage counseling with my spouse—and that I was “known to be a liar.” That I was “known to have issues and that nothing I said could be believed or trusted.” And then they had, they actually had people on staff at Downline and Fellowship reach out to others and tell them that I was lying, that I couldn’t be trusted, that I had been in counseling with the church before and that there were grave concerns, which felt like another complete violation. And they were bullying me into silence and trying to discredit me just because I was outraged by this. And felt like justice had not been served. And that there were countless victims. By this time, I’d found out that there were children involved, it had never been reported, and that they were aggressively going after me, who was a victim standing up for other victims. They were going after me to protect themselves and the interests of the other leaders involved.

    JULIE ROYS:  And you said to me at one point, and we don’t really have time to go into this, but just speaking of the counseling and how that’s used, that maybe 75 to 80% of the church is in counseling?

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Yeah, there’s a large number of members in counseling. One of their goals was to develop their counseling program and put it in other, actual other church denominations so that they would also have a feeder of information. And so it is a very, very systematic funnel of information and power over other people.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and that’s the thing. There is maybe a power if you’ve been in counseling. And Greg, would you say that’s correct? That a large proportion, maybe as many as 70 or 80% of the church was a part of the counseling?

    GREG SELBY:  I couldn’t speak to that exactly because I wasn’t privy to any of that. I’d never participated in that direction, so that wasn’t something I knew at the time. I’ve come to see what they’ve done. And again, sort of when you combine it with the restrictive covenants, that you sort of have blackmail that J. Edgar Hoover would have been proud to see them pull off. And isolation. That they tried to keep things separate and keep people siloed. I had no idea Jennifer was a part of this because Jennifer and I had known each other. We would have been able to stand up together and would have been stronger and probably could have fought this at the time had we known. But they wanted us separated. They didn’t want her to know that anybody was on her side. 

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Greg and I knew each other. And not once were either one of us allowed to bring this up, to talk about it. I felt like I was the only one standing up against the church. When I first found out Greg knew what was going on, I said, “I was the only one fighting against this.” And he said, “Nope, I was the only one fighting against this.” And so definitely, there is power in keeping everyone silenced and separate. And you know, two pieces of advice that, and I’ll defer to Greg to see if he agrees, two pieces of advice that I could give every member of every church is never, ever, sign a membership contract. And never ever ever attend counseling in the church where they are able to collect information and use that over you or against you.

    JULIE ROYS:  Do you know, or did anybody tell you that Bryan Loritts was a part of that? 

    JENNIFER BAKER:  I don’t know. I know that the members that were instructed to make calls to discredit me on behalf of the church were actually in Bryan Loritts discipleship group. It was never told to me who instructed them to do that. But I know that the men that  participated in that were the few that were in his discipleship group.

    JULIE ROYS:  So you would find it a little bit incredulous that he didn’t know that was happening. 

    JENNIFER BAKER:  Ah yes, that’s ridiculous. 

    GREG SELBY:  To say the least. 


    JULIE ROYS:  Well, there’s much more to cover in this story. Rick Trotter went on from Fellowship Memphis to be hired by another church. And this story gets even messier as top figures from Acts 29 church planting group are involved. Two members of The Gospel Coalition Council are involved. But of course, most recently this story is connected to J.D. Greear and

    Summit Church. Again, Summit is the megachurch where J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the lead pastor. It’s also the church that just hired Bryan Loritts as an executive pastor. Greg and Jennifer recently spoke on a conference call with Summit and shared their concerns about Loritts. But according to Greg and Jennifer, that discussion

    did not go well—and Summit was not interested in hearing Greg and Jennifer’s perspective. Again, this is a critically important discussion because the Southern Baptist Convention reportedly is turning a corner when it comes to sexual abuse. And Greear says that no longer will the SBC tolerate those who cover for sexual

    predators. But is that precisely what J.D. Greear’s church is doing right now? Stay tuned. Part Two will be releasing shortly. And if you want to make sure you get a notice as soon as it’s published, go to You’ve been listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. Thanks so much for joining me and for caring about the purity of Christ’s Bride. Have a great day and God bless.

    Read more
    clean no 53:23 Julie Roys
    Rape Victim at Cedarville Asks: “Where was my protection?” Tue, 19 May 2020 13:00:00 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Transcript

  • “You told us you would protect us like your own daughter. Where was my protection when your vice president and dean of women attacked me for being the victim?”

    So asks a rape victim at Cedarville University of university president, Dr. Thomas White, in this episode of The Roys Report. The student says the school failed to protect her when she filed a Title IX complaint for sexual harassment, so when she was raped, she didn’t feel safe to report it.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    “You told us you would protect us like your own daughter. Where was my protection when your vice president and dean of women attacked me for being the victim?”

    So asks a rape victim at Cedarville University of university president, Dr. Thomas White, in this episode of The Roys Report. The student says the school failed to protect her when she filed a Title IX complaint for sexual harassment, so when she was raped, she didn’t feel safe to report it. She did, however, repeatedly plead with Dr. White to do something, but says her pleas fell on deaf ears.

    Hear this heartbreaking but important podcast, exposing what some are calling a “toxic” environment at Cedarville that needs to change.

    UPDATE: In an earlier version of this podcast, I noted that I could not confirm that Joy Childs is a licensed professional counselor. Since recording, I have confirmed that Childs is licensed. 


    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Over the past month Cedarville University has come under fire for hiring a known sexual predator. The board has placed Cedarville President Thomas White on administrative leave and is conducting a third-party investigation. But is the problem at Cedarville bigger than the president’s office? And is there a culture at the school that fails to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse? Welcome to The Roys Report–a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m going to be speaking with a former Cedarville student who says she was a victim of sexual harassment and rape. But when she reported her views to school officials, she says she was re-victimized by the school. I’m going to get to that interview in just a moment but I do want to thank our sponsors: Marquardt of Barrington and Judson University. And if you’re looking for a car, I encourage you to go to Also, I want to remind you that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. The speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four-star general and former director of the CIA. For more information, just go to Well returning to our topic today, again, joining me is a former Cedarville University student who was a victim of sexual harassment and rape and she says Cedarville under President Thomas White has a toxic culture that fails to protect victims of abuse. In fact, in a letter to Dr. Thomas White that she sent after withdrawing from Cedarville earlier this year, she writes and I quote, “I went to Cedarville. And you Dr. White told us you would protect us like your own daughter. Where was my protection when your vice president and Dean of women attacked me for being the victim? Where was your protection when after I was held down and my pleas to stop weren’t listened to, that I couldn’t report it because of how your staff treated me? I pray you never experience what my parents did. The midnight phone calls when I woke up with nightmares. The fear that their daughter wouldn’t go to a hospital the next time she was suicidal. Or last week getting a phone call that I passed out because I cut too deep and I was sitting in a pool of my own blood. Where was this school’s love for others then?” Well, again, as you can tell, this podcast is going to be dealing with some rather intense issues. We’re going to be dealing with sexual abuse, attempted suicide. But friends, these are realities. And I’ve heard from numerous current and former Cedarville students, especially women, who complain about the culture at Cedarville. And so often when I hear these stories, I hear the emotion, I hear the pain. And sometimes that’s just hard to communicate in print. So, I’m really glad that my guest today agreed to be on this podcast. Now, because of the nature of the abuse, my guest today does not want to give her last name. However, she did want to use her real first name. And that was her choice, because she wanted those close to the story to know who she is. So, I’m honoring that. Her name is Kiara. And up until February of this year, she was a student at Cedarville. So, Kiara, welcome. And thank you so much for being willing to tell your story.

    KIARA: Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, also joining me today is Kiara’s mother Gail. Gail was a witness to many of the things that Kiara is going to be talking about, so I wanted to include her. Gail, welcome. And thank you as well for joining us.

    GAIL: And thank you. And thank you for covering this for her.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I’m glad to do it. And I know it takes a lot of courage to come on and to talk about a story like this. So, thank you to both of you to be here and to be on this podcast. I also want to mention that I reached out to numerous employees at Cedarville, who will be named today to offer their side of the story. However, none of them have responded. I do hope, however, that the trustees at Cedarville are listening, those conducting the independent investigation into how things were handled recently, I hope they’re listening as well. None of us want to see Cedarville destroyed but we would like to see it reformed and real change happen. So, Kiara, let’s start with the fall of 2018. That’s when you came to Cedarville. And in that first semester, you began having some issues. Would you tell me about that?

    KIARA: Yes, I moved in in August of 2018 and I moved in with my former roommate who I met on the Facebook page at Cedarville and had talked to her. And starting with “Getting Started Weekend,” she had started talking about me behind my back and saying things to other people about it. And I had tried to just push it to the side because I had to live with her. And then when I got to Christmas break, I found out that the rumors were going beyond like the eating disorder rumor and other gossipy rumors to that she had started sex rumors about me and one of my close guy friends.

    JULIE ROYS:  And so, at this point is I’m understanding during the fall you’re hearing about some of these rumors and you know, initially when you’re at school, things can happen. I mean, there’s messy relationships, but this from what I’m understanding went beyond the normal like this was being spread pretty widely and it was impacting your mental health. Am I right?

    KIARA: Yes, it was. I was that’s when I started to skip classes more. And I would stay out until curfew, so I don’t have to be in the room with her.

    JULIE ROYS:  And at this point, did you seek any help from the school as far as counseling or anything like that?

    KIARA: I started counseling in the fall of 2018. It was about a month or two into school. And I sought counseling through the counseling center. And right after Christmas break, I talked to my RA, who’s our resident assistant—who she’s also a student at Cedarville—about the rumors.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, let’s just talk about the counseling first, because I know that’s an important part of the story. It’s also one that’s touched on in some other stories I’ve done as well. The counselor you had was Joy Childs, is that correct?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. Did you find the counseling that you received from her, I mean, what was that like? Was that a positive experience?

    KIARA: It was very toxic. I felt that it did more harm than good in my personal relationships and my mental health. She told me that I needed to be more vulnerable. And the other counseling I’ve gotten and classes—because I am a psychology student—trauma victims need boundaries, not vulnerability. And she just gave me like a lot of worksheets to do outside of counseling which on top of full-time school and a job like I never like actually did them because I didn’t have time and they didn’t seem helpful. And like she would talk to me instead of listening to my issues.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I know this is just a part, a sliver of your story, but I did do a little bit of research.* Jennifer Beck was the director of the counseling center there at Cedarville when Dr. White became president. Jennifer Beck was independently licensed as a clinical therapist since 2008. When Dr. White came in, she was just the interim director. They actually interviewed several people and hired a new interim director. And it wasn’t Jennifer Beck. And she said at the time that she got asked a lot of questions from the administration, felt like there wasn’t a lot of trust with the professional counselors that they had. And the person that got the position, which I know is going to come up a lot in your story, is somebody by the name of Mindy May. Mindy is not a professional licensed counselor. So she was hired as the head of the counseling department and she’s not a licensed professional counselor. Beck told me that during a meeting with administrators and some of the counselors at Cedarville, when they announced that Mindy Mae was going to take over some of the counselors said, “Well, is this a problem, that she’s not a licensed professional counselor?” And the response that Beck said that they got from an administrator was that that was baffling that they would ask that, and that reportedly, the administrator said that the state licensure is just the state imposing its standards and worldview on a Christian institution. So, there seems to be a culture from what she’s reporting where the counselors aren’t necessarily licensed. It sounds like from what you’re saying, Kiara, that you didn’t really get the kind of professional counseling that you had hoped.But you did report to the RD (Resident Director.) Did you feel at all like they were concerned and they were going to do anything?

    KIARA: No. They were both really good friends with my roommate. And they encouraged me to confront her, which I did. And I told them that she admitted to it. And the day after I had the conversation with my RD, my resident director, she had posted a picture with my RA and my roommate about how much they meant to her, which made me feel like what I had just told her meant nothing.

    JULIE ROYS:  This is the fall semester then you have Christmas break, then the spring semester. You begin having some of these conversations, nothing seems to be resolving. You leave and you go home. And this is where I’d like to talk to you Gail. You saw your daughter come home. And what was Kara like when she came home after that year at Cedarville.

    GAIL: She came home pretty broken and I had talked to her throughout the spring semester. I didn’t really realize how bad it was until she got home. Although I did know she actually had called one night. I didn’t answer the phone—I was sleeping—that she was even at that time having some really strong mental health struggles with suicide and contemplating and thinking about it. And I had talked to her about that on the phone. And so, I didn’t really realize until she got home, just how broken she was. And at that point, she decided that she would reach out to the Dean of women, Mindy May, and let her know what had happened.

    JULIE ROYS:  All right let’s pick it up there, then. Kiara, you reached out to Mindy May, who is the head of the Counseling Center also now she’s the Dean of women. Did you feel like you were heard?

    KIARA: The first time I emailed her, I kind of did. Like her response to me like she gave me options. And like it was the first person who actually like gave me the option of going to Title IX. But that was about the last time I felt any support from her. And it was all over email. It was once I started talking to her in person, I kind of realized she wasn’t very supportive, and it was very fake.

    JULIE ROYS:  But you did at that point begin the Title IX process of complaining about this. It’s my understanding that it qualified as a Title IX type of infraction because there was considered sexual harassment, right? Because there were rumors that had been spread about you concerning that you had been hooking up with a certain student on campus, correct?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, you started that Title IX process and just help me understand. I went to a Christian College and it’s a small community. But for those listening, maybe they went to big university, rumors get started, whatever. But when you’re at a small school, can you explain what that’s like when there’s that kind of a rumor being spread about you?

    KIARA: You feel like everybody is talking about you and looking at you, I lost friends, because they thought that it was true, and they didn’t want to be associated with that. And then I also got text messages from boys on campus thinking it was true trying to get me to hook up with them. And like then as soon as they found out I wouldn’t, they would like stop talking to me or call me a flirt. And like it just like dropped my self-esteem. I started keeping to myself a lot and I’m a very like, outgoing person. I was a cheerleader in high school, and I was always with people. So that I think was where like, I noticed the differences when I didn’t want to be around anybody.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, after this conversation, though, this summer it sounds like you felt like you were going to be heard. And you must have felt assured enough that you decided to go back in the fall.

    KIARA: Yes. I had a phone conversation with Title IX. And she made it sound very clearly that my roommate would be revoked of the RA position leadership position that she had been given until the investigation was over. And that made me feel like, “okay, they hear me, I’m safe. They won’t let this happen to me again.” And which is why I went back. And I also went back, because I knew that if I didn’t report it, nothing would be done. And I wanted to protect other girls from going through what I went through.

    JULIE ROYS:  And this is a very big part of the story is that your roommate had applied to be an RA a Resident Assistant, so she was getting this position on campus. You felt like given what she had done, she shouldn’t get this position. But you felt somewhat reassured when you went back to campus. Now it’s my understanding that your parents came with you when you went back to campus. And you had a meeting—and you had emailed about this and set it up ahead of time—with Mindy May, your parents and you.

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  But it didn’t exactly go down the way you thought it was going to go down. And actually, I’d like to hear from your mom about that if I could. Gail, what was that meeting like when you got to campus? I believe it was like August 20, because we have emails that go back and forth. Or maybe it was August 19th this happened, because you emailed Dr. White after this. What was that meeting like with Mindy May and you when you got back on campus?

    GAIL: Well, we live 1200 miles from the school, and we had driven our daughter out. And we did meet with Title IX first and had a very professional meeting and we had also been in contact with Mindy May. And we were told to go to the field house. So, I’m thinking, Okay, we’ll meet her and we’ll go talk. And we get to the field house where students are registering for classes, and we find her. And she starts talking to us. And my husband was like, you know, this is kind of strange. And we stepped over to the side of the table she was working at and my daughter was visibly upset. And so, my husband said, “Is there someplace private we can talk?” She literally opened the curtain and we stepped behind the curtain in the field house.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. To talk about some pretty private things.

    GAIL: Yes. And the fact that parents, students, faculty, were all in the field house and so we didn’t feel it was professional or private or important.

    JULIE ROYS:  Did you in that discussion feel like you got any assurances from her that this situation regarding your daughter and the rumors and this woman who had been responsible for them being held accountable for doing that?

    GAIL: Not at all. I felt like she hadn’t given it any thought at all during the summer or anything. And I directly asked her if the girl had admitted that she had started these rumors. And she said, “Yes.” And at that point, my daughter fell to the floor crying, because she was told, “Yes, she admitted it, but I still gave her the RA position.” And that was kind of where the conversation ended for me.

    JULIE ROYS:  Kiara, tell me, when that happened—when she responded that way—how did that feel to you? I mean, obviously, you had a very strong emotional reaction.

    KIARA: I, I kind of gave up. I felt so unheard so unimportant. I felt like I meant nothing. And I know that before that, I had said to her, that the girl was more important than me, because of how they took care of it. I had a panic attack. And I like kept like saying to my mom, “I need to get out of here. I need to get out of here.” But I cannot tell you anything that was going on around me at that point.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, Gail, I am in possession of a letter, an email that you sent to Thomas White the day after this meeting. And it’s a long letter, so I’m not going to read all of it, but I want to just read a part of it where you talk about this Saturday meeting with Mindy, and you write, “My daughter was falling apart in front of me as she learned that the girl had only been spoken to a few days prior to us arriving, that she was remorseful, and she was a new RA. At that point, I wasn’t sure if my daughter was going to be able to stay at the school. I directly asked Mindy, if the girl admitted to what she did and was told, ‘Yes.’ So there was my baby girl on the floor of the Fieldhouse crying, not being able to breathe and feeling totally ignored. The lesson she learned was that by being strong, holding someone accountable and taking the proper steps, she was ignored. She wasn’t important. She was told by Mindy that it was just ‘gossip,’ and she didn’t feel that she had evidence, so it wasn’t slander. She had the evidence as the other girl had confessed. My daughter was the victim once again and the girl that had committed this injustice was rewarded with the position of being an RA, where she could lead and guide others.” And then you reference in this letter, the school handbook saying that slander, libel and the use of vulgar obscene or threatening language—violations of these guidelines may result in dismissal. “We are questioning why was she rewarded and given a position of leadership in the school?” You got a response from Dr. White. Yeah. And I’ve been given that as well. Basically, he said, “I’m greatly concerned about the situation. I followed up. Our policies allow for a thorough investigation because she had filed for Title IX. And that all parties involved will be investigated all sides of the situation before coming to a conclusion. Per our policies, I cannot interject myself into any situations that could be perceived as undue interference or an attempt to bias an outcome.” Gail, what did you think of that response?

    GAIL: I tried to think that maybe he couldn’t do anything because of, you know, it being sent to Title IX. I don’t feel that my questions were answered about the handbook. And I think going back to why my daughter was so affected by these rumors, as you said, going to a Christian college, they can kick you out of school for less than what happened to her. Those rumors could have resulted in her being removed from that school. And that was one of the reasons they were so serious, like you said at a big school they may not be. So, I didn’t really feel that I got what I needed from the president of the school.

    JULIE ROYS:  Right. And there’s Title IX investigation but then there’s also policies of the school. And again, I don’t have Dr. White here to respond. I did email him numerous times and through the communications director there at Cedarville, asking, saying, “I’d like to talk to you about what happened.” And there just was no response. So that just didn’t happen. At that point, Kiara, you asked for a No Contact Order. And this was something, it sounds like it’s very similar to a kind of legal order of protection or something like that. Can you explain what a No Contact Order is at Cedarville?

    KIARA: A No Contact Order is, it can be anywhere from very light to just, “don’t text me, don’t call me.” Or very strict, like, “you aren’t gonna be in the same room as me.” I made mine somewhere in the middle. I didn’t want her in my classes. I didn’t want her like in the same vicinity as me and I didn’t want her talking to me or about me. But it wasn’t enforced in any way shape or form. And what I was told about it by the Title IX director and then what Mindy May told me were very different things.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay,

    KIARA: The Title IX director told me that like, if I was in line at Rinnova, which is a coffee shop on campus, my former roommate was supposed to leave the vicinity and not get in line, like go into the bookstore, which was across the hall. If she was in line, I was to do the same thing.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay.

    KIARA: However, when she had followed me, like, less than a step behind me, I had reported it to Mindy May and Mindy May told me that was not a violation, that we could be in the same vicinity. But she also told me that she thought the girl was about a football field away from me, which our sidewalk wasn’t even that long, where we were. And there was an alternate route she could have taken.

    JULIE ROYS:  And so, did you get the feeling that she was trying to harass you and giving you a hard time?

    KIARA: I felt like she was trying to make me uncomfortable. Okay. And like there was one time she walked past me that she was with a friend and as soon as she got next to me, she just started laughing. And it just made me very uncomfortable.

    JULIE ROYS:  At one point, she sent you some pictures, is that right?

    KIARA: Yes, from another person’s phone, but it was a picture of her. It was on Snapchat, so it disappears, but it was sent directly to me. Because you can pick who you send them to.

    JULIE ROYS:  You complained to Mindy May about that correct?

    KIARA: The pictures? Yes, I did.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And the response was?

    KIARA: My mom was there for this one because I didn’t get a response from her until I got out of the crisis unit because I ended up in the crisis unit right around then. But that she didn’t think Alison knew I was getting the pictures and that it didn’t come from Alison’s phone. So, it wasn’t a breach of the No Contact Order. And they weren’t going to do anything.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. So according to—you had sent me some emails and I put together a little bit of timeline—on September 23rd, it was after you’ve gotten these pictures and you sent an email to Dr. White. And in this letter, and again, I’m not going to read the whole thing, but it does say in here, “Last year, I spiraled into habits of self-harm and active suicidality. There were a few factors that caused this. The largest however was my roommate.” You talked about the gossiping, how you had reported it, again, told the RA. Now he would have known this because your mother had also complained about this. But you sent that to him. And then on the 26th, he responded again with, “I can’t be involved. It’s an ongoing Title IX investigation. But I’ll be praying that this matter will soon come to resolution and that God ultimately will be glorified through this regrettable situation.” That was on the 26th. As I understand it on the 28th, you went into a crisis unit?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, what caused the breakdown that sent you to the crisis unit?

    KIARA: The pictures, and the fact that Mindy May, in some of her emails had like said that I was lying. And just that I wasn’t being heard. And I felt that I would just be a better off gone because obviously, nobody cared about what was going on in the first place, which isn’t true, I know now. But from what I was getting from school, it’s what they were showing me.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And your parents got a call I’m sure from the hospital saying, your daughter is in this crisis unit. She’s actively suicidal. Gail. I can only imagine what it’s like being, you know, more than 1000 miles away and getting a call like that from a hospital.

    GAIL: We actually got a call from Kiara.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, you did? Okay.

    GAIL: Thankfully, Kiara had started seeing an outside counselor off Cedarville campus. And with this counselor, they had actually made a plan that if she was feeling suicidal, and thank the good Lord, and by His grace only, she followed that plan and she called me. And I received a call at 9:30 at night that she was suicidal, from her. She had contacted a friend and the friend was with her and was going to take her to the hospital. So, by 10:30, my husband and I had plane tickets. We have to drive two and a half hours to get to an airport that’s large enough. So, we left our house at 10:30 and drove the two and a half hours and took a five o’clock AM flight. And I think we were at the hospital by 11 o’clock the next morning.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow.

    GAIL: It was, thankfully she did have a professional counselor that had set up a plan with her and that she was strong enough to follow that plan. And that she did have some very good friends that communicated with me and got her to the hospital.

    JULIE ROYS:  Thank the Lord that that happened and that she had that plan and how wise on all of your parts to have that plan in place and to have her seeing a professional counselor. I think there’s probably a lot of people listening right now that I mean, that’s really a model in many ways, of care. It’s my understanding, then you got there. And you signed her out. Again, she went into the crisis unit on the 28th. On the 30th, you had a meeting with the school—Jon Wood, who is an administrator there at Cedarville, and Mindy May. Tell me how that meeting went.

    GAIL: Not very well. As we tried. I have a very strong daughter, very independent daughter. And we allowed her to speak on her behalf. And I don’t, didn’t feel that was received very well. I am also pretty outspoken; my husband is pretty quiet. So in hindsight and reading what’s going on now, I’m pretty sure they didn’t like the fact that two women were sitting in their office speaking as my daughter was telling them how she felt, and, you know, our disappointment in what had taken place with the girl that was given the RA position, the whole Snapchat story, which they pretty much, you know, said that was nothing. And I kid you not, at one point, Jon Wood rolled his eyes at my daughter. And she and I looked at each other and I said, “This is done.” And we walked out.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. Kiara. I’d like to hear your perspective.

    KIARA: Yeah, it was one of the most emotional meetings I have ever had. And I was very outspoken, and I said what I needed to say. And some of it was not very nice, but it was very true. At one point, I looked at Mindy May and told her there was going to be a suicide, and their blood would be on her hands and that I hoped she could live with it. She just sat back and was like, “That’s not true.” And I just, every time I was trying to explain why it was slander with legal definitions, and dictionaries stuff and like laws that are in place, Jon Wood would say, “No, no, no, that’s not true. It’s just gossip. It’s just gossip.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, on October 1, which would have been the day after this meeting with Jon Wood and Mindy May, you Kiara again sent an email to Dr. White and you tell him, “I was in a crisis unit this weekend because I almost took my life. I can tell you with no doubt in my mind, if I had done it, it would be on Mindy May. My parents flew out here.” You talk about the meeting, you talked about Jon Wood rolling his eyes, how you cried, how difficult this was for you. And you said, “I don’t want to withdraw, though.” And you said, “I love the Christian education I’m receiving. I don’t want to feel like I failed. But I don’t deserve to be punished for something someone else did to me.” You still wanted to stay at Cedarville despite all this. You, I mean, obviously, you were enjoying your classes. There are other parts of it you must have been getting a lot of good out of. Is that correct?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And so, when you sent this letter, what kind of a reply were you hoping for?

    KIARA: Just something that he was going to look into it. That he would figure something out. I wanted to be heard.

    JULIE ROYS:  I don’t have a response from Dr. White. Did you get an email response?

    KIARA: He did not respond to me. I was called into the Title IX office the next day and given the phone number of the head of campus security in case I became suicidal again, but he never responded to me. He never said he was concerned. I did not get a response from him.

    JULIE ROYS:  Then the end of October, you received the Title IX investigation results. Can you tell me what those were?

    KIARA: They found that she had said the rumors, she admitted to it. Other people said that she said them. And that she was not going to be removed from the RA position. It recommended that she go to sensitivity training. But they can’t implement that—Mindy May has to—and I was never informed that she was made to go to that. There’s not really any disciplinary action even though the Title IX found that she had said them.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, your emotional state at this point—I can only imagine—very fragile.

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Reeling from all of this. And then it’s almost unbelievable that after all this had happened, what we’re going to talk about next happened. I don’t feel we need to go into any details, but you were sexually assaulted, I believe it was a week and a half before Thanksgiving. How did that happen?

    KIARA: I had met this boy who didn’t go to Cedarville. But he went to the same church I went to out there. And we had started talking through social media because I knew he went to my church, and we hung out, but his parents were home the first time we hung out. We hung out in public places. And I had really enjoyed myself and before I went on that I text my parents and one of my guy friends out there, the address and check in times so that like, you know, this is the first time I’m hanging out with someone. I wanted to take all the precautions. 

    JULIE ROYS:  So, that first time you hung out with him he seemed like a gentleman. Things went fine, right?

    KIARA: Yeah, he seemed so nice. He bought me dinner. He brought me for ice cream. He introduced me to his parents.

    JULIE ROYS:  No red flags.

    KIARA: Very nice. None.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, then you go out again.

    KIARA: Then I go out again. And we’re at his house. His parents are home and his brother is home. We’re upstairs on their loft. I was doing homework and he was playing video games. The loft is like over their living room but is blocked from view. It’s just up the stairwell. And I had finished my homework. And he kept trying to push me to do things with him that I wasn’t really comfortable with. And I kept trying to stop him. And eventually, he just told me that I was going to try something new even though I kept telling him, “No.” And he raped me. And I kept telling him to stop. I told him it hurt. But he didn’t. He kept getting like angrier when I would tell him that. It was hurting me more. So, I started to try to tell him that like it was okay. Because I thought maybe then he would stop hurting me. But he put his hand over my mouth when I went to yell, and then he choked me. And then he finally stopped. And I was bleeding. And I really just wanted to get out of there. But I was so in shock. And someone, like one of his friends had shown up to pick us up. And I kind of just floated through the night until I finally like could get a hold of a friend who called and said they had an emergency so that they could get me out of there.

    JULIE ROYS:  I’m so sorry. That night, you called a friend. 

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Bri. I talked to your friend.

    KIARA: Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  And she told me you told her everything that had happened.

    KIARA: I don’t remember much of the car ride home. I was in a state of survival. So, I do remember telling her that I said, “No.” And I remember crying. But I don’t remember much of what I told her.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, I do remember she said she was very concerned, obviously. And you were on the phone for she said probably about an hour. She asked you if your parents knew. Did you call your parents soon after this?

    KIARA: I called them a day or two later.

    JULIE ROYS:  You went that night, though. to a friend’s room. Was it a dorm room?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  And it was a friend of yours at Cedarville who was a student as well, but you felt safe going to her because you knew something had happened to her. Can you tell me about that?

    KIARA: I knew that she was a victim as well. She, we had become close that semester. And she had told me some of it. And she was the only one on campus that I had known that had gone through that. And so, I called her and she met me in her room. And I just, like I sobbed to her. And it took a very long time for me to tell her what happened. And then I ended up sleeping in her room for two days.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that friend, when she had been raped, that was in the fall of 2018, correct?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  She had wanted to get counseling at Cedarville. What had she done as a result? Did she report it?

    KIARA: I know she went to Title IX but didn’t report to police. I know she requested counseling, but they put her on a waitlist and said that they didn’t have anyone that could counsel her. And I know that she ended up going home for a couple weeks for the end of the semester.

    JULIE ROYS:  But she did come back to school then?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  You did reach out to her. She didn’t want to talk. I haven’t talked to her. Why didn’t she want to talk?

    KIARA: I know that she still goes to Cedarville. And a lot of people don’t know her story. And that like she likes Cedarville. And she just didn’t want to talk bad about the school. 

    JULIE ROYS:  And is there a decent amount of pressure that way to not necessarily share your stories or is that just kind of

    KIARA: Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay.

    KIARA: It’s very, like, “Don’t tell anyone.” Especially if you’re a girl who has a story, I felt like I should not be talking. I had a meeting with, I had one with Jon Wood. I had one with their outside investigator who he’s not really an outside investigator. He’s a lawyer, but he knows them very well. He’s their lawyer, and that’s who they use as an outside investigator.

    JULIE ROYS:  Cedarville’s lawyer?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay.

    KIARA: At least that’s what they did in the Title IX case. He did some of the interviews. The person he interviewed, later told me that he had asked if I have a tendency to overreact and if they thought that really had happened to me or I was just being dramatic.

    JULIE ROYS:  I see. So, you didn’t feel like this lawyer was someone who respected you and respected your opinion?

    KIARA: Nope. He was kind of cold. Very lawyer.

    JULIE ROYS:  Sure. I can only imagine what your emotional state is like, like you said for two days you were kind of walking around in a fog—or not even walking around—you were in this room. Monday before chapel, that’s the first you came out, right? And you talk to the Title IX coordinator who admittedly I mean, this woman had been a friend to you and very kind. And you felt like you were heard by her? Correct?

    KIARA: Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, when you talked to the Title IX coordinator there at Cedarville what was her response when she heard that you had been raped?

    KIARA: She cried with me. And she wanted me to seek help. She offered to go with me to the police. She offered to go with me to the hospital. But she also admitted that she understood why I couldn’t, because the last–just like with sexual harassment, which isn’t even as severe as rape–I wasn’t heard. I was blamed for it and it almost broke me, that she understood why I wasn’t in a mental state to report what had happened. But she did encourage me to go to at least get medical tests. And I did get my bloodwork done for STD screening just to make sure that I was okay.

    JULIE ROYS:  But you felt if you reported to the school that they would blame you for it? I mean, is that what you thought would happen?

    KIARA: Part of me thought they wouldn’t believe me. Or that they would say that it was something I did, because part of what happened when the rumors went around, my old roommate had said that it was because I was flirty. And like they never thought anything of that like she hadn’t even written that in her response letter to me–before Title IX had started–that it was because of how I acted. And if rumors are okay, because of how I act like I could only imagine like, what they would say, because I was raped. And I was just, I was scared that if they shut me down again that I would kill myself.

    JULIE ROYS:  And you felt that if you reported to police, that they wouldn’t be responsive? Or did you just feel that you didn’t have enough emotional reserve to do that? Or why didn’t you go to police?

    KIARA: I just, I felt I was gonna get the same response either way. I felt really broken and alone. And I just, I didn’t think I was strong enough anymore.

    JULIE ROYS:  Gail, I can’t even imagine as a mom getting a call from your daughter that she had been raped. How did you respond to that?

    GAIL: Well, my first response was, “You need to report it.” And I know Kiara hasn’t been able to explain really why she didn’t. But I think I understand because as soon as the words were out of my mouth. She was attending a Christian school. And on the first day of her school, Dr. White gives a speech to all of the parents about how he will protect those girls like they were his daughters, and that he would go to jail for those girls. And they didn’t support her in something that compared to a rape is very minimal. They didn’t support her when she was talked about, lied about, gossiped about. And it’s a Christian school. So now she was going to go into a secular world–into a police station–and report that she was raped. How she just felt, “If I’m not supported in a Christian school, how will I be supported in a secular world?” So as soon as the words came out of my mouth that she had to report it. I instantly knew why she couldn’t.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. Did she come home for Thanksgiving?

    GAIL: She did. We wanted her to stay home. And she wanted so bad to fight and to stand up for others. And she tried with everything in her because she didn’t want this happening to other people. So yeah, we wanted her home. We didn’t want her there. But we also tried to support her that if, if that’s what she wanted.

    JULIE ROYS:  And she went back between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kiara, it’s my understanding you went back. You didn’t go to class very much. You are an “all A” student. You got your first “C,” which for some students would be very normal. For you, that’s probably rather traumatic.

    KIARA: I cried.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I have no idea how, but you somehow gutted it out and you made it ‘till Christmas break.

    KIARA: Survival Mode.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. You had a choice whether to go back. You actually decided to go back in January. Tell me what influenced your decision to do that.

    KIARA: I was really struggling with low self-esteem. And I felt that if I didn’t go back, I was failing myself. And I was failing my parents, because I was like, not going to school. I wasn’t finishing my degree. And so, I just felt like, if I didn’t go back, I would be disappointing myself and everybody around me.

    JULIE ROYS:  It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so heartbreaking. Because you weren’t failing anybody. So much was done to you. I’m amazed that you had the strength to go back. But you went back and tried to make it through. And it sounds like you really had a very tough time. You had, what, panic attacks. You had trouble getting to classes. In the past, something happened between that first semester and the second semester in that the Title IX administrator changed. So, you had one that was very sympathetic towards you. A new Title IX administrator came in, and you didn’t feel like she was nearly as sympathetic. And if I’m understanding correctly, the previous one if you would email her and say I can’t make it to class, she was cool with that. This one, what kind of response did you get?

    KIARA: She responded to me saying that I needed to follow the attendance policies or I could be ex’d out of my classes. She told me—before she knew about the rape, she told me—that my anxiety was not an excuse to skip class, because what had been done to me was the previous semester. After she knew about my rape, she said, “I still can’t have you skipping class. If your anxiety is bad, you need to figure that out.” And she like sent me to disability services. But that’s not what they handle. And like they told me that they didn’t handle that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. So, you made the decision you were done, right? At some point, what the end of January?

    KIARA: End of January. I kept trying. I really, I just wanted to finish. I just wanted to get through it. But, just the stress on me was affecting other relationships because I was pushing people away, and I was lashing out because I was so angry about everything that had been done to me. I had stopped going to church ’cause I met the guy at church, and these people who were supposed to protect me were part of a church. And so, like I just felt really far from God. And the self-harm was getting really, really bad. And I remember one day I was sitting in my room. And I had a razor blade. And I was cutting my arm. And I passed out because I cut really deep, because I couldn’t feel it. When you’re in that point, you can slide a razor across your arm and just feel the pain that’s in your head. And I woke up in a pool of my blood. It was all over the floor. It was all over my arms. And that’s when I knew that if I stayed there, I was going to kill myself whether it was an accident or on purpose.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. I’m so sorry. So, you withdrew from Cedarville. You flew home.

    KIARA: I drove home.

    JULIE ROYS:  You drove home. Wow.

    KIARA: Yeah, we packed up all my stuff. My parents drove out, packed up my stuff, and my mom and I were in one car and my dad was in the other truck. And drove 21 hours.

    JULIE ROYS:  Thank God for parents at times like that.

    KIARA: Yeah. Yup!

    JULIE ROYS:  You got home. And I’ve got an email that you sent on February 3rd to Dr. White. And I read a portion of this at the beginning of the podcast. But you started it out saying, “I withdrew from Cedarville University because of my anxiety and depression. And truthfully it is the University’s fault. Yes, I had depression and anxiety before, but the University’s actions worsened it. I was raped at the end of last semester. You truly don’t deserve my story, but I’m sharing it in hopes to help others. It’s not something I talk about. Not because I blame myself, but because after the way Mindy May and Jon Wood treated me, I’m afraid to. They blamed me for sexual harassment rumors about having sex. They continued to side with my roommate as she lied to them and continued to harass me. Jon Wood made it clear he wanted me gone in front of my parents. It wasn’t me being suicidal that was a problem to him. It was that I threatened the image of your school. That stemmed from slanderous rumors. What was I supposed to do with an actual physical action? It took the last ounce of self-worth and strength that I had. Yet I couldn’t report it because that’s a bad image for Cedarville. And I would be punished.” And then you reiterated this thing about, “I went to Cedarville. You told us you would protect us like your own daughter.” You didn’t get protected. And you write at the end, “I’m finally home and safe. My youth pastor and his wife are helping me on my path with the Lord, because Cedarville harmed it more than anything else. I pray that you rethink your student life staff so more people don’t live through what I did.” And I know that this is why you agreed to talk with me and tell your story. What needs to be changed at this school? What needs to be done?

    KIARA: They need to protect their victims. And I feel there’s a fine line between grace and redemption—and protecting those, restoration—and justice. But I deserved justice for what happened to me. And I’m not saying that doesn’t mean I couldn’t eventually find forgiveness for my old roommate, or even the guy that raped me. But it also means that I needed someone to protect me and tell me that it wasn’t my fault. Because God teaches justice in the Bible. He teaches that He wants His victims protected. And that we will get protection. And we will get justice one day. But Cedarville doesn’t do that. I feel like Cedarville cares more about what they look like to everybody. That as long as they look perfect, and you don’t talk about your problems, you’re fine. But because I was someone who would admit, “I am a sinner. And someone’s sinned against me,” I wasn’t a good enough Christian for them. That’s not biblical. I think they need to start admitting that there’s problems and working to fix them. Because if they don’t, other people are going to get hurt. People are going to hurt themselves.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I know there was a petition that was launched after news came out about Dr. Anthony Moore being hired there—someone who had admitted to being a sexual predator in the past and videotaping men showering in a shower, or a man, his youth pastor, actually when he was a pastor. A petition was put up and there were a number of people who complained. In fact, you were one of them—that’s how I got contacted with you—complaining about not being treated—women saying not being treated—properly. They were raped and felt like they couldn’t report it, Title IX cases that were mishandled. It seems like your experience is not isolated. I haven’t talked to those other victims. But my guess is that they will continue to come out as this continues to be reported. You did get an email from Dr. White where he said, and this was his response to your email again, telling him that you’ve been raped, that you tried to kill yourself, that you are in a pool of your own blood from cutting yourself. “Kiara I’m sorry that you feel we have failed you. And while aspects of this situation may be viewed differently, I am sorry that your experience at Cedarville was not what we had hoped it would be. We only desire God’s best for you. In addition, I’ve requested Dr. Wood consider what may be done to alleviate any additional financial burden to you and your parents in light of your withdrawal this semester. Please know we are praying for you. In Christ, Thomas White.” What do you think of that email, Kiara?

    KIARA: That email made me very angry when I received it. I felt like everything I just told him didn’t matter. I felt like they were paying me hush money. And that’s why they were giving me my tuition back. And I just felt like, “How do you hear a story like that and have no compassion?” I just, I was, I was done at that point.

    JULIE ROYS:  By God’s grace, you seem to be doing okay. You’ve re-enrolled in a school, correct?

    KIARA: Yes. I was home like two weeks. And I decided after talking to my youth pastor’s wife about everything that school was important to me and that I knew that trauma counseling was where God wanted me. And so, I enrolled in a secular University online so I could stay home with my parents and heal while still getting my education.

    JULIE ROYS:  And how’s that going for you?

    KIARA: It’s wonderful. One of the hardest things for me was reading through the syllabus and in every single syllabus for each class they have a Title IX disclaimer that if you–even on discussion posts—if you write anything that comes across as sexual harassment—or like blaming someone for putting someone down for their gender—that you will be punished. It will be taken care of, which could result in either you being expelled or failing the class because of something you write. And I, it just took me aback that a secular university would care so much more about sexual sin than a Christian University. But I feel like at this school, I’m thriving, that they’re teaching me solid psychology, where some of my classes at Cedarville were solid psychology depending on the professor, but some of them were very—I had one teacher who’s actually the new Title IX director (she was one of my psych professors) say in a class that she thought you didn’t, or not just students, but people only took psych medication for panic attacks because they felt like they couldn’t get through them without it—that they couldn’t live without them. And like she kind of denied the need for psych meds.

    JULIE ROYS:  Is it shaming a little bit?

    KIARA: Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah.

    KIARA: Yeah. And it was the class after I had told her, “I couldn’t be in class because I took panic attack medication.” And so, I felt very attacked by it. But my new school, they teach different perspectives on it that some people don’t like medication, but some people need medication. And it’s just it has shown me even in my ethics class that I can use my Christian worldview, but do real psychology.

    JULIE ROYS:  And how are you doing spiritually right now?

    KIARA: I’m doing better. I did start going back to church. I took about a month of being home. And I finally just, and I walked into my church at home. And it’s a completely different atmosphere than the University—like church systems there—that people hugged me. People, like they didn’t even know my story, they didn’t know what happened to me, but they just told me how glad they were to see me and how much they loved me. And I got cards from people telling me that if I ever wanted to get coffee with them, or talk about anything to like, call them. And that just really reminded me that it wasn’t God, that it was people that hurt me. And I got a new job that I love.  And I’m helping people. And that just brings a lot of joy into my life. And I just, I’m rebuilding my support system with people that I feel actually support me and not people who claim to be Christians. People who actually show Christianity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, it has been an incredible pleasure and an honor to speak with both you Kiara and your mom, Gail. Thank you so much for taking the time and for so honestly and vulnerably telling your story. Thank you.

    KIARA: Thank you.

    GAIL: Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  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. If you’d like to find me online, just go to Also, if you’d like to help me continue my investigative work, please consider making a donation today. And please pray for this ministry. I desperately rely on your prayers and rely on your support. Thanks again for listening and engaging. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.

    * An earlier version of this podcast mentioned that I could not confirm that Joy Childs is a professional counselor. But I have since confirmed that Childs is licensed. 

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    clean no 56:39 Julie Roys
    Dr. Diane Langberg on Narcissists in the Church Wed, 06 May 2020 12:30:00 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • Narcissists are, by definition, self-centered, and leave a path of relational devastation in their wake. So, what happens when a pastor, or church leader, is a narcissist?  

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Langberg joins Julie for a second discussion—this one focused on the issue of narcissists in the church. As Langberg notes, “When you put (narcissistic tendencies) in the Christian world, and add position and verbal skill, and theological knowledge and Bible language, it can be extremely harmful and extremely confusing.”

    So, what are the characteristics of a narcissist?


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    Narcissists are, by definition, self-centered, and leave a path of relational devastation in their wake. So, what happens when a pastor, or church leader, is a narcissist?  

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Langberg joins Julie for a second discussion—this one focused on the issue of narcissists in the church. As Langberg notes, “When you put (narcissistic tendencies) in the Christian world, and add position and verbal skill, and theological knowledge and Bible language, it can be extremely harmful and extremely confusing.”

    So, what are the characteristics of a narcissist? How prevalent is this condition among church leaders? And what do you do if you suspect someone in leadership over you has narcissistic tendencies?

    Diane Langberg Ph.D.

    Diane Langberg Ph.D.  is globally recognized for her 47 years of clinical work with trauma victims & clergy. She has trained caregivers on six continents in responding to trauma and to the abuse of power. She also directs her own counseling practice in Jenkintown, PA, Diane Langberg, Ph.D. & Associates, which includes sixteen therapists with multiple specialties. She has authored numerous books, including Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse, On the Threshold of Hope, and Suffering the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores. Her latest book,Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, will be released October 2020.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Though self-centered and cruel, narcissists can also be charming and magnetic and draw large groups of people to themselves. So what happens when your pastor is a narcissist? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today, I’m going to be discussing narcissism in the church with Dr. Diane Langberg. Dr. Langberg is a psychologist, author globally recognized expert in trauma and abuse. And she has so many insights to offer from her more than 45 years of clinical experience. And narcissism has become a very hot topic in the church because of repeated scandals. And so often at the center of these scandals is a church leader who is or at least appears to be a narcissist. Narcissism is bad enough among secular leaders. But when a narcissist is in a position of spiritual authority, the results can be absolutely devastating to the souls of so many people. By the way, this is the second conversation I’ve had with Dr. Langberg. Our first conversation focused on restoring abusers and the recent controversy at Cedarville University. The feedback from that podcast has been phenomenal. And if you missed it, just go to You’ll find all of my podcasts there. Also, before we dive into this week’s podcast, I want to take a minute to thank Judson University, a sponsor of The Roys Report. And I want to remind you that Judson University’s next World Leader’s Forum is October 20th at the Renaissance Schaumberg Convention Center. The speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four-star general and former director of the CIA. I know that’s several months away, which is a good thing given the current COVID crisis. But I encourage you to mark your calendars now for the World Leader’s Forum on October 20th. For more information, just go to Well again, joining me today is Dr. Diane Langberg. And in addition to being a psychologist and author, she’s also a board member with GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment. So, Diane, it is such a pleasure to have you join me for part two of our discussion. So, thank you so much. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  You’re welcome. 

    JULIE ROYS:  So, we’re going to be talking about narcissism today. And this has become such a big issue, I think, because, at least in my line of work, so many of the investigations that I do, when there’s corruption or abuse in the church, it seems like at the center of it, so often, is someone who is a narcissist—who is preying on the sheep instead of protecting the sheep. And it’s grievous. I’ve done several podcasts on the topic of narcissism. This is one of many, but it seems like every time I interview someone else with expertise in this area, I learn so much more. Something that I thought was really helpful—you define, very clearly, about the characteristics of a narcissist. I believe there’s what nine characteristics? 


    JULIE ROYS:  Could you describe some of those characteristics that will help us understand who a narcissist is?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes. I would like to preface that with saying that the nine characteristics are not my idea. They are from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that psychologists and psychiatrists use for diagnoses. And so, the nine characteristics are those of someone who has narcissistic personality disorder which is something that has to be evaluated and diagnosed by somebody who is a professional. Unfortunately, what’s happened in the church is that that word is being tossed around so much, that it could include people who have the personality disorder, which is a really entrenched kind of thing. Or people who have flavors. And everything human is on a continuum. I mean, on one level, we could say that that’s just human nature. It has a lot to do with being egocentric and more concerned about myself rather than how am affecting other people. Well, welcome to the human race. I mean, that’s what sin is in part. So, I think sometimes what the church does is normalize or equalize things like that when they have no business doing that. And other times they say things as if they have diagnostic proof that somebody is something when it’s not been evaluated. And everything in between. So I can give you, I will give you the nine characteristics, but it’s not license for people listening to run up and diagnose people in leadership. It may give . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  Do not use this. Do not try this at home.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Right. However, it can inform them and help them understand, perhaps, some things that they are seeing in people either to lesser degrees or even absolutely. You know, they go check nine times, then, you know, somebody else needs to be brought in to help.

    JULIE ROYS:  My understanding is that you don’t need to have all nine of these characteristics. Was it five of them?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes, you have to have five to meet diagnostic criteria. 

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  So one of them, which seems so obvious that you might fall over it, is a grandiose sense of self, you know—a bigger than life way of thinking about yourself and having other people see you. People are also often very preoccupied with themselves as a success. They’re either fantasizing about it or they’re demanding people treat them as if it were true whether or not true. And another one is that they’re special—there’s nobody like me. Well, on one level, that’s true since we’re all uniquely created, but it is a category that elevates. And it is also a way sometimes a narcissist will not only think that they’re special, but they only will allow people in their lives who are special—nobody ordinary, whatever that means. They usually demand submission to their authority. And this is a very tricky one in the Christian world because it’s so often laden with Biblical language and concepts. You know, what do you mean, you’re not going to do what I say? I’m your shepherd. And so it’s very cloaked, often in ways that are confusing to people. They demand admiration from people. They want to be praised all the time, and it’s excessive. They are exploitive in terms of people. And so people are used to feed them. The main thing in many ways, that is really the troubling thing, is the fact that they don’t have empathy. Which means they’re not able to feel what’s going on with other people. And, you know, if you go back to the original story of Narcissus—I mean the word narcissism comes from the word “narc” in the Greek. Which means basically that you can’t feel. I mean, we talk about narcotics. So, narcissism is a way of not feeling what other people feel. And so, when you have somebody with this, and they are in a position of power, they are not aware of and cannot enter into the impact that they are having on other people that they are damaging. They often, and the others, anybody that seems like they’re as good as or better than, they have a problem with that. And needless to say, they’re generally very arrogant. 

    JULIE ROYS:  You know it’s interesting where you mentioned the lack of empathy. I know that was one of the things that really struck me in my Harvest investigation on Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald. I must have interviewed—it was over two dozen people. And I would get done and sometimes I’d be in tears. I’d just have to process because I felt so bad for what had been done to these people—so punitive, just so nasty. And that’s what I thought. How can you do that to somebody and be so vindictive and not feel for them? Why is that that there’s no empathy? What causes that?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, I’m not really sure we know. For example, in an extreme case, you could go back to a little boy who, you know, would set bugs on fire or hurt animals or something like that. I mean, so there’s probably possibly a genetic component in some of these things. Oftentimes, you go back to significant neglect and abuse. It depends. I mean, it’s not—first of all, it’s not like there’s one cause, probably, and secondly, we don’t know. Not really.

    JULIE ROYS:  And people are so complex. It could be a myriad of factors that have to combine in just the right way. And the same factors might produce narcissism in one person and something totally different in another.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes. And the other thing is with of course, narcissists is that they’re very hungry for the power. And there’s some really interesting research out there that talks about the descriptions of those with high power and low power. And when it talks about high power, you know, it talks about how they don’t have social restraints on them. You know, they make exceptions for their behavior. They can’t judge or have empathy with other people’s emotions. They don’t react to them. They don’t respond to them. They stereotype people. They don’t read distress in somebody’s voice. You know, if you’re talking to somebody who’s upset, you read that and you respond to it. But a lot of the research on people with high power is that they don’t do that. Their behavior is self-serving. So high power people are often quite narcissistic in some of those tendencies. And when you put that in the Christian world and you add position and verbal skill and theological knowledge and Bible language, it can be extremely harmful and extremely confusing.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, absolutely it is. Well, let’s talk about it in the Christian context. And this is something that I don’t know unless you know of a study. I don’t know of a study where we really know what the prevalence is of narcissism in the church among church leaders. I know there was one that was done by Darrell Puls, and I actually interviewed him and then found out that the study was seriously flawed.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes, it was.

    JULIE ROYS:  And it had said that it was, you know, extremely prevalent among pastors. And so now, I think with the lack of data, we only know, maybe anecdotally, what’s going on. But what is your sense—because you do work with so many church leaders and you work with people who have been victims of narcissism, which might make your perspective believe that it’s a larger problem than it is. Although, I think there’s very few people that would say this is not a major problem in the church right now. But how prevalent is narcissism in the church right now according to your perspective?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, as you’ve said, number one nobody knows, in my understanding from the research in general, is that it’s actually not that high a percentage of individuals, you know, if you were to evaluate an entire population or something. However, I would assume that people who either are or have tendencies in that direction—and again, that’s two different groups—are drawn to positions of power with audiences. I mean, that makes sense. If you throw in, “God is on my side,” you know, you’ve upped the ante. But the other thing I think is the way that we think about the church invites this. Again, it is institutional. It is about statistics. You know, how many people are coming? How much money do we have? How big is our building? How many programs do we offer? None of which have anything to do with bearing the fruit of the Spirit in a character. Zip. And what we have lost sight of is the fact that churches can be statistically marvelously successful and an utter spiritual failure.

    JULIE ROYS:  And we’ve seen that. And eventually, the failure catches up and there will be an implosion of the numbers and the church and everything else, like we’ve seen at so many churches, unfortunately.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes, but there’s a very vulnerable time there because I have had experiences with churches where that’s happened. And because they feel so little, the people, because they feel big when the person in front is big. So, if they lose the person in front, they don’t feel special. And so they’re extremely vulnerable for some other messiah to ride in on a white horse and hire another one.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that’s so important, I think to mention, because I think there is a dynamic between, “we’re getting what we want,” and what we put in our job description for a pastor. And we need to deal. I think congregations—I mean, this is the thing that stuns me because I’m in the business of exposing some of the corruption and financial abuse and it’s like people will not hear it. And I think when they will not hear it, to the point where it’s just like they’re plugging their ears and trying to drown you out, there’s something going on inside of them. And I want you to speak this.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Oh, yes, yes. 

    JULIE ROYS:  What is going on inside of them that they need this narcissist?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, first of all, we all need a messiah. That’s why there was One.

    JULIE ROYS:  Exactly.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  So human beings are vulnerable to being rescued—to having the best person for whatever job it is or anything like that. There’s a fascinating book that came out years ago called The [Seduction] of Eva Volk. And it is about the church in Germany prior to World War II. And how he was the messiah on the white horse. He was going to restore their honor, he was going to raise them up, he was going to do all of those things. And so, it’s like being in junior high, and the person who’s most popular in the school wants you for a friend. You’ll cover up for that person. You’ll follow them anywhere, because they are feeding off of you. And you are, in turn, feeding off of them to feel big instead of little. It’s catching. It’s contagious.

    JULIE ROYS:  But it’s false. That’s a false sense of . . .

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  It’s all false. And that’s where I go back to the church, which Oswald Chambers—whom I think I’ve read since I was 14 years old—but one of the things he says is that crisis reveals character. And so, you could have a big crisis or a small crisis. But a small crisis might be that somebody confronts you with something as a leader. But what’s going to tell us who you are? How you respond, whether you care about your impact on that person, how you respond to the damage that that’s done, whatever. And the same thing is true with institutions or systems. Crisis reveals the character of those systems.

    JULIE ROYS:  And the character the people who are sitting in the pews. Because, that’s been interesting to me to see. I mean, it’s a horrible betrayal. It is a horrible betrayal when you have someone who’s a pastor, and you realize he wasn’t who you thought he was, and you thought he was caring for you and really loved you. And it turns out, he’s a narcissist and he cares only about himself. And that’s just a shocking reality for folks and it’s disillusioning. And I don’t want to minimize that. At the same time, I have been able to see people who are 10 years out of that. And some of them are more compassionate—I say compassionate at the same time, boy did they see the reality of things. They’re not easily deceived anymore. I mean, they really get it. Once you’ve been through something like that, you get the difference. And they speak the truth. But you see this depth of spirituality in some of them. But I’m also seeing an awful lot of folks who are angry and bitter. And who can blame them? And not to minimize. I mean, to me, it’s such a grievous sin against them. That, I mean, I have compassion for people who have ended up there, because this is a horrible betrayal. But it does reveal, doesn’t it, where our faith is, where our hope is? 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes. Part of it is, I think, there are people who have been so wounded in life before they ever got to that kind of church. You know, that the resources and the sense of safety in a relationship or the sense of truth telling, and all of those things, have not even been part of anything in their lives. So they don’t really have—and so then this person comes and they feel like they’re going to be rescued by this person, and then they feel absolutely let down again. And so, in many ways, it’s often a collective bitterness. Plus, you know, human beings are pretty entitled folks. Just in general. And when people don’t deliver what we want from them, we don’t like it. And they’ve been under a leader who, again, has no empathy. And they have not been taught how to enter into the suffering of others. I mean, a leader like that you can’t. And when we talk about narcissism in the church, we’re talking about wolves and sheep. I mean, this is not a new concept. Jesus just named it differently.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, and I’m glad you mentioned people who have been wounded. Because I have found, especially in churches, whether you call it heavy shepherding or a lot of these churches where you have a narcissist, people are attracted to that because they maybe have a father wound or they had just . . .

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Or they’re hungry for somebody to care for them and shepherd them truly. But they wouldn’t know a true shepherd from a false one if they fell over it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Right. And after having that experience, so many are just so devastated and they feel like they can’t trust their own judgment. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  They can’t. And so, the damage just piles on top of the damage.

    JULIE ROYS:  It does. Well, you mentioned power and how the narcissist uses power. I’d like to explore that a little bit. Can you explain the role of power in the narcissist?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, you have to back up and explain the role of power in all human beings, first. I mean power is simply the ability to influence. Every single human being has it. Doesn’t matter how important they are or how smart they are, or anything else. If you think about when your children were small, if you have a two-month-old infant crying in the middle of the night, exhausted adults jump out of bed. That’s influence. It’s just inherent in who we are. So as we get older, of course, we acquire more levels of power, more kinds of power. We also learn that some people don’t have so much and we have to figure out how we respond to them. We can feed off of them, we can reject them, we can care for them. We can look for ways to bless them. And so I think it’s important to understand that a narcissist is not the only person with power in the room. They may be filling the room with their power and things like that. But everybody has some. Most people think if they don’t feel powerful, they’re not. And oftentimes leaders of churches and things like that feel not very powerful at all because of their own history of wounding. And yet they’re the biggest person in the room and they’re damaging other people because they don’t see their impact. But they don’t feel powerful. They’re looking to feel powerful. They’re looking to have impact. Hence, the seeking for compliments and all of those things. What it is, is power given by God. I mean, you go back to Genesis, you know. He said to Adam and Eve before the fall, “Rule and subdue the earth.” Those are power words. Not, “over each other,” but, “over the earth.” So now the whole thing’s messed up. Right? We’re trying to rule each other and everything else and not be ruled by God and all of that. And so you have a continuum of people who feel completely powerless. Who, actually, there’s all kinds of people in United States who don’t have very much power at all.  They’re taking a bigger hit on this virus. All of those things. And then you have people who insist on having all the power in the room because of their own damage or their own lack of empathy and all of those things. And that power then is used to care for the self, not for those under your care.

    JULIE ROYS:  You know, it’s interesting that you bring this up. And I know, even in your writing, you talk about how the effects of the fall—I mean, one of the first effects was that for the woman, your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you. This ruling, which had been over creation—over the animals, over the plants, bring order and subdue the earth, now has been changed to really abuse and ruling over one another. But it’s interesting to me in the church, we tend to think that that might be okay. 


    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:   Yes. I find it fascinating because, you know, we’re okay with anesthesia for surgery if we’re going to have it. We’re okay for things that kill weeds in our lawn. Those, you know, those were part of the curse, right? But ruling over her is treated as if it weren’t part of the curse. (Laughter) So okay, you can rule over her because you’re told to do that. That was a curse actually. So, no more weed kill. (Laughter) No more anesthesia for surgery.

    JULIE ROYS:  Right. Right. I mean, we’ve institutionalized that and condoned it. And it was interesting to me because we were having a discussion on Facebook. And I just remember one woman’s comment, in the comment thread, is, she said, happened to say, well the job of the pastor is to rule over his congregation. And some people responded. Thank God that that triggered some people. But I thought, we have this view sometimes of our pastor—that he should rule. So, explain to me what would be the proper understanding?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  He’s a shepherd. And a shepherd leads his flock. A shepherd goes the right way so that those who follow him will go the right way. And if you think back about Jesus, who, of course, is the good and great Shepherd, He doesn’t rule. He says if you will follow Me, if you will be My disciples, if you will love Me, then this. There’s no coercion. He stands at the door outside and knocks. You have control over the door. It’s a completely different concept. We’ve injected cultural stuff and all kinds of things into it that have nothing to do with what the Scriptures say. And the word, in terms of husbands in the New Testament, is love. Not rule. Love. Usually means a cross, at least that’s what it meant in its ultimate.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that’s, yeah. Love is defined—no greater love has a man than this that he lays down for his friends. Or if you want to talk about the male/female relationship, we’re supposed to follow the example of Christ. Husband’s should give themselves up for their wives—sacrifice themselves for their wives, for their families as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. And yet we, we’ve changed this whole view of what it means to be a pastor. And somebody said, “Boy, there’s an awful lot of talking about servant leadership. There’s just not an awful lot of actually doing it.”

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, and maybe perhaps given our propensity as human beings, we should drop the word leadership and just call us servants. His first and then of others. That’s what He did. That’s who He was. 

    JULIE ROYS:  Well that would be healing, wouldn’t it?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Oh, it would. It would bring lots of hurt people out of the woodwork if it happened. Which, you know, lots of hurt people came out of the woodwork when Jesus was here.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. You use this metaphor and you do it when talking about narcissists or sexual abusers or, I mean, really anybody who is preying on their people. But you use this metaphor of food. That one, a wolf eats his sheep, but that the victims are often food for the predator. Can you explain a little bit more about that? Why you use that metaphor and why that’s helpful?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, if we all are honest and think about ourselves, we can think of some memory, of a small way, where we navigated a conversation in order to get a compliment. That’s feeding. If I do that with you, I’m using you to make me feel better or bigger or smarter or something. That’s in all of us, number one. And when you think about that in contrast with the Scripture’s description of who Jesus was when He was here—as a servant, and a shepherd, and all of those things—He didn’t feed off of anybody except the Father. That’s where His food came from. He was food. He said, whether you were sick or dead, or a tax collector or whatever. He said He gave what people needed, not necessarily what they wanted, which was always truth and always love. But it was never to give Him something. So, I think about it that way because, you know, if you think about, for example, somebody who grew up in a home, let’s say with incest, so the father is sexually abusing the children. He is doing all sorts of things, exploiting and everything else, but what he’s doing is feeding himself with his children, which is diametrically opposed to what a father is supposed to be with his children. But there’s something in doing that, that gives him something or several somethings.

    JULIE ROYS:  Seems like so much of breaking out of narcissistic systems involves, obviously, there’s awareness and being aware of how you’re in it. I want to talk from the standpoint of someone who has been on the receiving end, or suspects that they might be the victim of a narcissist or in a narcissistic system. Because this is what I’ve noticed is that narcissists do not operate in isolation, at least not in the church. It’s often a part of the system, and it’s inherent in every part of the system. So, if you’re on the receiving end of that, or suspect you are on the receiving end of that, what are some steps you should take to get free?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, I would suggest that one of the first things you need to do is talk to somebody not in the system. And then, in other words, in the office, we have lots of people coming in who, I mean, even if they don’t the Word but they know something’s not right. And but you can’t find a real pair of eyes unless you’re outside the system. Because the people in the system are drinking the Kool-Aid. They were part of it. They’re inhaling the oxygen. And so, they’ll find ways to excuse it or minimize it or only name one part of it when there’s actually twenty-five parts, you know, or something like that. And so, it needs to be looked at with another or others who are outside and who have some knowledge of such things—who can help you figure out what to call things and what the right names for things are as opposed to what they’re being called.

    JULIE ROYS:  If you believe that you’re in relationship with someone who’s a narcissist, or your pastor’s a narcissist, does confronting, does that help? It seems to often just make things explode.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Well, it’s wounding and wounding is not allowed. So, if somebody would find themselves in a marriage where they would, or something like that, where they would feel like they were in relationship with somebody who at least had some of these qualities, whether they’re diagnoseable, or not. The fact, again, I keep saying this, but you have to talk to somebody outside your system. Because if you’re going to approach it, you need to know how to do it. And you need to know, understand, this particular person and what maybe fed into these feelings or characteristics that they have and how to approach them in ways, which what you really want, especially if it’s somebody you love, or at least did love, what you really want is for them to see. So, you have to find ways to speak to it that invites seeing without doing such damage to them that they can’t bear to take it in.

    JULIE ROYS:  Or to yourself, ‘cause they’re going to lash out, right?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes. Yes. So, you know, I just think whether it’s a family system or a church system or a business system or whatever it is, when these things are there, you need to have outside—no breathing the oxygen of the system kind of person—sit with you. Help you look at who you are, how you’re responding, what you’re seeing and experiencing and ways to handle it that will not, hopefully, increase the damage but invite change. And if no change comes, then you have a decision to make.

    JULIE ROYS:  It’s hard for us, as Christians to even suggest this but I’ve heard so many say that the narcissist—that this isn’t a curable condition. Yet I’ve heard some people say, well, no, it’s not an incurable thing. Nothing’s beyond the reach of the gospel. So, what’s your opinion? Can narcissists change? Can they be healed of this disorder?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  The classic psychologist answer that I’m going to give you is, “it depends.” But we have the same question with pedophiles. We have the same question with serial rapists. We have the same question with really violent men in the home. And it depends. The work that is required is gut wrenching and long term. Not everybody will do that. Lots of people won’t. It’s too hard. It’s too time consuming. They’d just like to go back to the way that it was. So, on the one hand, do I think anything is beyond God’s redemption? Absolutely not. But, unfortunately, I think in Christendom we often use that idea to say, of course it will be okay and, you know, whatever. Which, I mean, Jesus is capable of redeeming anybody and having them be like Him. And they crucified Him. They didn’t listen, not only that they were full of hate. So just because redemption is always possible, doesn’t mean we should count on it, or see it just to make ourselves feel better when it really isn’t there.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, Diane, thank you for taking the time and exploring this issue with me. Looking forward to—also you have a book coming out in the fall. Is that right?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Yes. It’s called Redeeming Power— Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. It will be out in October.

    JULIE ROYS:  Fantastic. Well, I hope when the book comes out, we can discuss it. I would love to do that and revisit this discussion and this topic. So thank you again and God bless.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG:  Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, 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’d like to find me online, just go to  Hope you have a great day and God bless.

    Read more
    clean no 31:36 Julie Roys
    Dr. Diane Langberg on Cedarville & “Restoring” Abusers Mon, 27 Apr 2020 13:51:06 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • Should a Christian leader, who sexually abused someone under him, ever be allowed to lead again?

    On this episode of the The Roys Report, Dr. Diane Langberg joins Julie to discuss the controversy at Cedarville University involving a professor, who was hired despite a known history of sexual abuse. Last week, Cedarville fired the professor.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    Should a Christian leader, who sexually abused someone under him, ever be allowed to lead again?

    On this episode of the The Roys Report, Dr. Diane Langberg joins Julie to discuss the controversy at Cedarville University involving a professor, who was hired despite a known history of sexual abuse. Last week, Cedarville fired the professor. But the situation has raised many questions about the wisdom of trying to restore sex abusers to positions of leadership and influence.

    Dr. Langberg is a globally recognized expert on trauma and sexual abuse, with more than 45 years of clinical experience. And she offers keen insights on how the church should respond to leaders who have sexually abused those under them.

    This Weeks Guests

    Diane Langberg Ph.D.

    Diane Langberg Ph.D.  is globally recognized for her 47 years of clinical work with trauma victims & clergy. She has trained caregivers on six continents in responding to trauma and to the abuse of power. She also directs her own counseling practice in Jenkintown, PA, Diane Langberg, Ph.D. & Associates, which includes sixteen therapists with multiple specialties. She has authored numerous books, including Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse, On the Threshold of Hope, and Suffering the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores. Her latest book,Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, will be released October 2020.

    Show Transcript

    JULIE ROYS:  How should the church respond to pastors and leaders who have sexually abused those under them? And should abusers ever be put in a position of leadership again? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be discussing a major controversy at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. And it involves a professor who was recently fired for sexual misconduct. Joining me to do that is Dr. Diane Langberg, a globally recognized expert in trauma and sexual abuse. If you follow me online, you likely already know what happened this week involving Cedarville university but for those who don’t, here’s a brief recap. Cedarville this week fired Dr. Anthony Moore, who had been serving as a Special Advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity and as an assistant professor of theology. He also served as an assistant basketball coach, but here’s what’s surprising. Some may even say shocking. In 2017 Dr. Moore was fired as a campus pastor from The Village Church in Fort Worth, Texas for sexual misconduct. According to the elders at The Village Church, Dr. Moore had secretly videotaped a male youth pastor showering at Moore’s home on multiple occasions. And what’s even more surprising is that Cedarville hired Dr. Moore, knowing about his history. According to Cedarville University President Dr. Thomas White, the hiring was part of a five-year restoration plan for Dr. Moore that involved accountability and boundaries. Yet within one year, Dr. Moore was made a professor and in February more even chaperoned a group of students on a service trip to Boston. Now White told me that he knew all about Moore’s past when he hired him except for one detail. That detail was that Moore’s abuse occurred over a span of several months. In an interview last Wednesday, Dr. White told me that he knew Moore he had made multiple videos, but Dr. White claimed that he was told that Moore’s abuse was not habitual. And White said he assumed that Moore made maybe at most two videos over a short span of time. But White said when he talked with Moore’s victim on Wednesday night, he confirmed that there had been five videos recorded over a period of at least five months. As a result, Dr. White on Thursday fired Dr. Moore. Of course, there’s a whole lot of questions surrounding this story. The elders of the village church, for example, told me that they told Dr. White everything before Cedarville hired Dr. Moore. And it wasn’t until Cedarville knew that I was going to publish a story with these facts about Moore that the school took action. But laying those details aside, what I’d like to explore today is this idea of restoring sexual predators and then putting them in a position of authority and influence. Is that ever okay? Well, again, joining me today is Dr. Diane Langberg, a psychologist, author and co leader of the Global Trauma Recovery Institute. She’s also a board member with G.R.A.C.E. which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment. So, Diane, thank you so much for joining me today. It truly is an honor to speak with you.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Thank you, Julie. I’m privileged to be here.

    JULIE ROYS: I’d like to start today by discussing this idea that someone who’s done something like Dr. Moore did, could possibly not have an habitual or deeply entrenched problem. Diane, is it possible for somebody who secretly recorded videos of somebody showering in his own home like that—is it possible for someone like that to not have a deeply entrenched problem, given the nature of what he did?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, it’s possible for them not to have abused a particular person before in terms of an actual victim, but there has to be an infrastructure an internal thing going on in somebody in order for that kind of behavior to occur. And the odds are very high that ways of coercing, manipulating, confusing, whatever, from a position of power to someone have occurred in perhaps verbal ways or emotional ways, not sexual at first. So, there’s already probably a dynamic in the relationship. The fact is that we don’t just wake up and do these. There’s a whole internal world that precedes that, which could be years of ways of thinking or fantasizing or in your mind doing certain things with certain people sexually or whatever, without the behavior. And so, what happens when an incident occurs, number one, we don’t know if that’s the only incidence. And my understanding from this particular case is that what actually happened was not necessarily made public. And so there was no space for victims to come forward had there been others. But what we don’t know is the infrastructure. You know, Jesus is very clear what comes out of a man comes from the heart of the man, not from the circumstances. And so if something like that comes out of the heart of a human being, we need to understand what’s behind it. Because the tree that bore that fruit is still in there. Even if the fruit stopped for a while.

    JULIE ROYS: Help me understand what the infrastructure is that leads to that kind of abuse.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, first of all, it is a lots of self-deception. Because you have to deceive yourself into thinking that things that are not okay are okay to think about or okay to—like with pornography and things like that—okay to look at. There’s some way you talk to yourself to make what is not okay, okay. And the longer you do that, the more likely it becomes that the thing that you’re thinking about will become an action. Because that deception increases over time and you are inured to feeling afraid to do it or too guilty to do it. Or, you know, whatever, putting it aside because you have other things that are more important or whatever. And so you deceive yourself over time. And it’s that self-deception, that that is so strangling people’s lives. And what we see is an action of abuse. And we forget about the whole thing that’s gone on in terms of deceiving the self. And then eventually, as is evident in this case, deceiving the person in front of you. And so, we stop the action. And we don’t look at the whole self-deception process that’s going on probably for years. And we leave a person in that prison.

    JULIE ROYS: So, do you ever think that it’s okay—like in this case, Moore was fired from his church, things were said rather cryptically about his past abuse and what had happened, but then he’s brought to Cedarville and within a year’s time is given a job as Professor—do you think it’s ever okay to take someone who has a history of abusing and put them in a situation, in this case, it had been a young man that Dr. Moore had abused. Is it ever okay to put them in a situation or in this case, Dr. Moore with young men?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: A couple of things. The first one is we seem to be rather enamored in the Christian world with restoring people to position. Restoration is actually restoring a heart in its relationship with God, which then shows itself in different behaviors. And in this case, you have a good example of the fact that there’s poison inside, it’s hurting the man himself, certainly has hurt his family. It hurt the church. And now he’s in the same, they’re going to restore him to a position where all of that stuff is still in there. And we’re going to put up external controls to keep it from happening again. But there is absolutely no indication or awareness of the internal control that needs to be there. So, in spiritual terms, my most important thing in my life is love and obedience to Jesus Christ. And that starts internally and manifests externally in the flesh. So, to put up external controls, is to prevent somebody from really ever looking at those things in themselves, that are not love and obedience to Him and are therefore poison to them. Not only to them, of course, but to their victims. And what we don’t think about and I often will say this to churches in terms of, you know, they want to put a pedophile back in the church service and well, you know, we’re gonna have all these people around them, so he’s not ever going to do that again. He’s going to do it in his head, with your children while you’re singing. And you’re putting him in a place where he can continue to feed and deceive himself, even though the actions can’t occur. That’s not what love looks like when somebody needs help. We’re letting them inhale their poison. And we’re saying, “You’ll be okay as long as I tell you not to do something.”

    JULIE ROYS: I want to talk about that path of restoration and what that looks like. But before I do that, I’d like to know, just in this particular case, you have someone who was discovered doing something wrong and the elders become aware of it. They did fire him right away. But when they fired him, they didn’t say exactly what he had done wrong. And I understand there’s reasons for that. I mean, Moore was fired when he was fired, it said for grievous, immoral actions against another adult member, and they did say that it disqualifies them as an elder and staff member. I can understand for reasons of the victim not wanting to necessarily say who it was. Maybe not spelling out exactly what happened, but I don’t know. I mean, what should a church do when a church leader is found to be involved in this kind of grievous sexual sin?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, part of what you’re doing is exposing something to the light, you’re taking a deed of darkness and exposing it to the light, but only sort of. And on the one hand, the victim is not the issue in the sense, the victim doesn’t need to be named, the victim needs to be protected. 

    JULIE ROYS: Right.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: What failed to happen originally. And so I don’t see that as necessary at all. They may choose to be named, that’s up to them, but they get the choice about that. But to not say that it was somebody that he was in a power relationship with and to not say something about what actually happened means that if there are others in your audience who have either had the same thing happen, or who, you know, when you talk in the article, you talk about the verbal and spiritual manipulation and abuse that this young man experienced, there are probably quite a few people who also experienced that, whether it ever became anything sexual or not. And so, you have not named those things, you have not dragged them into the light, called them by name. And also ask for anybody else who has been wounded in those ways to feel free to come forward and to get help.

    JULIE ROYS: I know part of this situation and the problem with this one was that the victim was really not aware, as he said he was kind of in a fog. And it really wasn’t until he had gone through counseling that he could even identify sort of this verbal and spiritual controlling kind of abuse. He wasn’t aware or able to even see it at that point. So, he said that it would have been hard to really name it because ‘I didn’t know it.’ Do you need to bring in a professional expert when something like this happens because I’m guessing most of those elders aren’t experts in this they don’t know. I mean, they’re trying to do their best but they don’t know. And pastors unfortunately, I don’t know that many seminaries offer much training on sexual abuse or abuse in general. So, what do you do as a church to really understand what you’re dealing with?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: You do need people who have expertise in it to advise you. If somebody is embezzling money from the church, I daresay they’re going to call a lawyer in order to deal with that. Part of it is to protect themselves, of course and deal with that particular issue. But the other pieces they don’t know what to do. And so, if for some reason, whether it’s sexual abuse or domestic violence, or things like that, we seem to assume that we know what to do. And again, going back to what I said earlier about what’s inside of people, you know, we think it’s a wrong choice, which it certainly was, but that’s just the fruit of what’s wrong. And so, we have little awareness of that. And the other piece is that when we are in leadership in an organization that is a pretty human thing that most of us we do is we want to protect the organization. And so we want to say only what we have to say, to protect it, but not blow it up. In the meantime, understanding the issues of power in the relationship, the abuse of power, which the victim did not understand until later, which is very common. You know, victims are usually so stunned by what happened to them, it takes a good while for them to articulate all of the pieces of that. And so if there had been another voice outside the system, saying, look, this didn’t just happen overnight, you need to look at the kind of relationship you need to look at the verbal issues that happened and the spiritual position of power that was used, and how that was used wrongly, and all of those things. And it has to be somebody with fresh eyes, who isn’t there just to preserve the system, but to expose for the sake of all concerned.

    JULIE ROYS: Now, in this particular case, in Texas, it’s actually a felony to record someone secretly, when they’re naked or exposed in any way, there was not a police report at the time. In fact, the police report I believe the incident happened January 2017. The police report isn’t filed till the fall of 2018. And I understand some of the issues that were going on with the victim and he’s traumatized. He’s hurt. He’s confused. But should there have been some urging on the part of the church? And do you as a church have a responsibility when you find out that a crime has been committed, does that need to be reported to authorities?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Absolutely. I mean churches that are reporting child abuse, those are crimes.

    JULIE ROYS: Well, it’s not a child. He was an adult.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes. But the point is, we don’t even report crimes of minors like that. We’re not very good at that.

    JULIE ROYS: Right.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: So when a crime has been committed it needs to be reported and dealt with by the justice system. One of the things I often hear from pastors and sort of church leaders is, “Well, then we can’t be the church.” Oh yes you can. It doesn’t hinder the role of the church. But there is a justice role when a crime has been committed. And if there’s ever a doubt, you go in and say, here’s something that happened, is that against the law? And if they say “yes,” then you tell them exactly what happened.

    JULIE ROYS: How much are you reliant on the willingness of the victim to speak? In the case where a victim isn’t willing to report it, can you as a church, understanding what has happened in your knowledge of it still report the crime?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes. If you know about it, and you know it’s a crime, or you’re not sure and you ask to find out, then you report it. You may have less information than you would have if a victim wanted to be an active part of that. But the fact of the matter is, somebody in your church has done something criminal.

    JULIE ROYS: Couple of things were interesting to me in my interview with Dr. Thomas White. And I’ll be honest, my impression was—and I could be naïve in this—is that Dr. White had a heart to want to help a brother in Christ and to see him restored, maybe clouded somewhat by a desire to save him. But one of the things that Dr. White said to me that that was surprising was that he didn’t see Anthony as a predator. Can you explain a little bit about what grooming is and why these sorts of things happen to grown adults, and there really is a predatory kind of nature to them?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, part of it is the there’s an imbalance of power in the relationship which we see much more obviously, when it’s an adult and a child. We see it much less obviously, when it’s an adult with another adult. But it means that vulnerability, which anybody could be vulnerable doesn’t matter how old they are, how bright they are, how gifted they are, any whatever. We all have vulnerable times in our lives. It means that someone who is vulnerable is being used to feed the self. Now you can do that by wanting compliments all the time, whether they’re true or not, and things like that. Or you can do that with sexual abuse. You can do that with all kinds of things. But I need you to do certain things. But grooming is a way of anesthetizing people over time. And so they get used to certain behaviors or certain verbal things. And over time as those increase, they aren’t quite aware of the hit that they’re taking. And also when people are vulnerable, particularly if they’re vulnerable because of things in their own history, but even if it’s just current circumstances, when people treat us in ways that are a mis-treatment, we often wonder what we did to bring it on. And so, we assume that somehow, we’re failing or we’re not doing the right thing or we didn’t say something right or whatever, and there’s confusion there. And so you end up listening to their statements about you and submitting to that. And if you do that long enough, you can put somebody in boiling water and they won’t know it’s boiling. 

    JULIE ROYS: So it’s kind of the frog in the kettle. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: It is. That’s exactly what it is.

    JULIE ROYS: And grooming, you know, like, again, in this case, it sort of culminated with the sexual abuse, but they’re involved sort of this emotional and spiritual abuse that was part of kind of the whole dynamic. Is that really common when there’s sexual abuse, that there’s a much wider web of control and manipulation that leads to that point?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes, absolutely. I mean, a rape can be a more of a sudden thing, though, most victims know [the perpetrators are] rapists. So that’s really not the case. Stranger rape, which is quite not common. You know, it’s not common like knowing your rapist but the is obviously people could sexually abuse somebody they have no relationship with. That is the very tiniest bit of sexual abuse. Years ago, I taught a course on some leadership issues for a seminary. And I was talking to the students about power and vulnerability, and that what proceeds out of someone comes from their heart, not the person in front of them. And I used to give this example Okay, you know, you’re all finished seminary and you’re out there and you have a position as a pastor, and somewhere down the road, a very distressed, disturbed whatever woman comes into your office and asks to see you for counseling and help. And so you see her and she comes back another time and another time and then one time she stands up in front of you in the office and starts taking off her clothes. What happens next will tell us who you are. And so, because typically in a situation like that, somebody would say, “Well she [pause], therefore I [pause],” which is diametrically opposed to the scriptures. Yes, she [pause] but therefore you [pause] because of something in you. They always got very quiet. You could hear a pin drop in the room. So when somebody is grooming somebody like that or whatever, it’s not the victims responsibility, it’s not their fault. There’s a way in which they’re vulnerable. Maybe it could be somebody [phrase not transcribed] Harvey Weinstein, so somebody who could get you a job or not get you a job. There’s all kinds of human vulnerabilities that people use and exploit in order to give themselves something.

    JULIE ROYS: I think that’s one of the hardest things about sexual abuse. At least you have way more experience than I do and talking to victims, but when I talk to victims, is that even though they didn’t do anything wrong, in most cases, this abuse, there’s nothing consensual about it. There’s a power dynamic and someone that you thought was safe to turned out to not be safe. Despite all that, the victim so often feels the shame. The perpetrator often doesn’t feel shame at all.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: No, it was it was an “oops” for the perpetrator. And for the victim, it screams who they are, which it doesn’t, but that’s how they experience it. I have a very graphic example of what that’s like for a victim, which I have used with victims through the years. It’s not a very pleasant example, but it does make the point. And that is if you’re standing next to somebody and they’re sick and vomit all over you who’s gonna smell like vomit? You are. Whose is it? Theirs. That’s the shame thing vomited all over somebody and they take it as if it says something about them.

    JULIE ROYS: I know that there are going to be people listening to this who have experienced that dynamic who are experiencing right now they’re feeling that shame. Speak to that person.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: I would speak to them certainly with something like I just said in the sense of, “Look who’s heart did that come out of?”  “Well, but I,” “Okay. That tells us about you the fact that you whatever. But whose heart did that abuse come out of?” The other pieces, which I think we haven’t done very much with in the church teaching wise is that Jesus bore our shame, our vomit. It didn’t come from Him. He took it on Himself. And so when, if I, as a victim carry the shame of the perpetrator, it’s something already borne by Jesus, whether the perpetrator will avail him or herself of that or not. I can. It’s not mine. It never was mine. But even if it had been, it’s been borne. I don’t need to carry it.  It doesn’t say who you are. God says who you are. No perpetrator gets to say who you are.

    JULIE ROYS: I think there’s perhaps a naiveite in the church when you have something like in this case where there was videotaping, there was no actual physical contact. I’ve talked to people in cases where there’s been sexual abuse. And because intercourse didn’t happen, I’ve heard them say, well, they didn’t actually have sex. So, it’s not that serious. Would you speak into that? You know, why is something in this case where there was no physical contact? Why is that so serious? How does it need to be viewed by the church?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, I would go back to what you said earlier, and say number one, Texas obviously thinks it’s very serious, ot would not be a felony. 

    JULIE ROYS: Exactly. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: My body belongs to me. And I get to say, who has anything to do with it. Not anybody else. It was gifted to me by God. It was put together in my mother’s womb by God. It belongs to me. And He’s the one I answer to about that. Not anybody else. What you’re talking about in a situation like this, though there was no physical contact is someone who is feeding off another person’s body, which does not belong to him, who is doing it deceptively, and using it for his own food, so to speak. And he is doing it not only just with the body, but with the sexual parts of the body. So, that’s why it’s sexual. You can have somebody abused you as a female and never have intercourse, but they touch everything sexual on your body. It’s not theirs. That’s an abuse. It’s a mis-use of the power that they have to take something from you that is only yours to give.

    JULIE ROYS: So, let’s talk a bit about restoration. Obviously, you don’t agree with putting somebody in a situation and saying we can put in these external controls, and we can control this person from abusing again. What would you say is the appropriate way when you have someone who has abused the way that Dr. Moore did? What does restoration look like?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: First of all, we don’t know whether that can be accomplished, because a lot of it depends on many, many factors. However, we can certainly help them move in that direction. But I think the first thing you have to do is take it all away. I mean, you know, if you have somebody who has been a drunk all their life, you don’t take them to the bar and say, “Don’t drink.” You don’t even let them go in. Because the smell and the feel of the place and all of those things are feeding something on the inside. And so there has to be a complete shutdown of those things. Somebody who’s done something like this, I would insist on professional care with somebody who has expertise in these fields because they will know the infrastructure, they will understand the self-deception, they will also understand that it’s possible that there’s some very deep wounds in that person from way back that never got dealt with. And that that’s the root of it. It isn’t always, but it often is. And so, the central point is caring for the perpetrator in a way that exposes and challenges and enters in and does not allow anything—as much as we can control it—that will feed the old ways.

    JULIE ROYS: I read a blog post that you did about the church and dealing with pedophiles in this situation and saying, instead of allowing the perpetrator to come and sit in your services and be a part of the church, you can’t allow that to happen for the reasons we’ve already discussed. But you talk about taking the church to the perpetrator. What does that process look like?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, it varies and unfortunately, it isn’t done very often. So there’s not a whole lot of comparisons I can make at this point. But what it means is that people who are not vulnerable, who are certainly not part of the group that this person would have been abused or anything like that. But people from the church who are mature, who understand these issues, because they’ve studied them, meet with this person, and they are the church. Part of the bigger issue, I think, for me is that we’ve made the church an institution. It’s not an institution. It’s a body of human beings. So, you take three of those human beings who are godly and have wisdom and who’ve studied these issues and put them with somebody. They’re in church. That’s the church. That’s how it started. They didn’t have big buildings or anything. And so we seem to think that depriving them of the institutional setting is depriving them of the church, which it absolutely is not. And so usually when I’ve worked with churches who want to do this, they will meet with somebody every week, they will listen to the sermon that everybody heard on Sunday, they will discuss it, they have to have access to that person’s therapist. So there has to be a release signed. If there’s a probationary officer, they have to have access to that person. And so they do that for a long, long, long time. Maybe always. It depends on the person. I mean, if you have a serial pedophile, you’re not going to put them back in the church.

    JULIE ROYS: And what about somebody like Moore, where you have a situation where he did what he did? Can someone like that be acclimated back into the church? And if so how?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well again, I don’t know his story. So it’s really difficult to say that. I can’t make a judgment whether he can or cannot be brought back in, in that way. But what I do know that if you love your brother, you’re going to pursue him in these ways. And we’ll see what happens. I dare say on some level, he’s a tormented man. That this is probably not who he really wants to be given other things in his life. But there’s something there or maybe many somethings—I don’t know—that need help. But I also think that when somebody really begins to understand who they have been, how they have deceived themselves and others, and the impact that they have had on vulnerable human beings, the person most afraid of them being around that population is them.

    JULIE ROYS: Hmm. So that’s a way of almost gauging what the level of sincerity and repentance is.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: It’s one of the ways. Yes. I mean, obviously, somebody could say those words, and not mean them.

    JULIE ROYS: In the stuff that you’ve written, there’s always just seems to be a firm conviction that God can transform, the Holy Spirit can transform even the worst of sinners. Have you seen people and just describe what you’ve seen as far as them receiving healing and becoming healthy and overcoming these sorts of things.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: First of all, our God is capable of redeeming anyone. And you know, you look at Saul who was a murderer. And he talks about that. So yes. What we fail to often think about when we look at him is how much time he spent in the desert and away from people for years before he ever began ministry. We know we just sort of do the transformation thing and off he goes. It’s not the facts. When you begin to see consistently over time two things that are very assertively pursued: One is, “I cannot do that. I cannot go there. I cannot see this. I cannot whatever.” So that the thing that would have been externally monitored is voluntarily seen, understood and internally monitored. This is a sort of off the track but not really. There was a man who was imprisoned for a pedophilia, who when his lawyer came to see him once after he’d been in there for I don’t know how long but he said, “Don’t ever let me out. I’ll do it again.” There’s something redemptive in that awful statement. But that kind of change in any human being is extremely slow. I mean, if we’re all honest, change in terms of who God has called us to be from the inside out is really pokey. None of us are very good at it. You’re looking at years. You’re looking at years. And then that person takes over, you know, their awareness of impact grows and grows and grows, which means their grief grows. You know, somebody who has, let’s say, committed incest actually would come to the place where they really understood what they’ve done to their own child. I don’t know if they’d ever want to get out of bed again. So that those things that we want to avoid that internal monitoring that restraint, that refusal, that deep grief of the impact of what we’ve done—all of those things—human beings look for narcotics for those. We don’t like them. And such repentance is very rare, frankly, in all of us, in many ways. These are the more flamboyant ways, but it is obvious what’s wrong and that the repentance is either superficial, external, whatever.

    JULIE ROYS: Well, last question I have for you. And I’ve often wondered this and I think this is why I’d never be cut out to be a counselor. But when you hear these stories, and you deal with sex abuse victims, how do you keep an inner sense of joy and keep from like you said, feeling like—you use the metaphor of the victim being vomited on—but as you, as the counselor, when you hear all these, I mean, it must be just so incredibly hard. How do you keep and maintain just a proper perspective and joy in your life?

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Well, I almost quit once, years ago. I told God I was quitting. I said, “That’s it. I’ve done it. I can’t do it anymore.” That’s how I felt. And He very lovingly pursued me. And I was inclined to sit down. I have a chair where I start my day every morning reading and praying, whatever. And so I was in my chair and had the thought, which I’m sure it was from Him, “Write down the characteristics of what you’re quitting.” Well, that was easy. It’s ugly, it’s evil. It’s this. It’s this. It’s this. You know. And then the thought came, “Write down the antidotes.” Well, if it’s ugly, beauty is the antidote. If it’s chaos, order is the antidote. You know, like so I went down and did the whole thing. And when I did it, I realized that the antidotes were descriptions of Jesus Christ. That ultimately He’s the antidote, but that I am a person of the earth. And so I need those antidotes in earthly ways. So, if it’s ugly, I go to the woods, or a garden. If it’s chaotic, Bach never had a chaotic note in his life. I go to music whenever . . . . My home, my husband, my sons, my daughters in law, my grandchildren, you know, those are antidotes. But I have to be very earthy and very deliberate. Or I’ll die. Something wrong will happen. I will get twisted up by this if I don’t do that.

    JULIE ROYS: That reminds me of a friend of mine who’s also a pastor and he was asking me about the work I do because just investigating you see a lot of the underbelly. And he said to me, Julie, you need to regularly practice the discipline of celebrating beauty. 


    JULIE ROYS: And having that be a part of your life. And so I really I’ve made that something that’s important to me. And whether it be just going out and, you know, walk on, we have a prairie path near us or cutting flowers and bringing them inside and just having them in the house just so important to bring that beauty and to bring Christ, life and beauty into everything that we do. It’s rejuvenating. Its life.

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: Yes, it is. And certainly the spiritual disciplines are also critical. But unfortunately, we often forget that we are of the earth—earthy—and we needed it in those other forms. I’m still in.

    JULIE ROYS: Yeah, after, what? 45 years?


    JULIE ROYS: 47 years of doing that. It’s amazing. It truly is and speaks to the fact that obviously, you found the well to go to so, Diane, thank you so much for taking the time today and having this discussion with me. I truly appreciate it. 

    DR. DIANE LANGBERG: You’re welcome, Julie. 

    JULIE ROYS: 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 want to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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    clean no 36:15 Julie Roys
    Chuck Bentley: How to Survive the COVID Crisis Financially Wed, 22 Apr 2020 13:35:17 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • We’ve heard a lot about how to survive the coronavirus pandemic physically. But what about surviving financially?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries joins Julie to discuss this crucial issue. Chuck offers practical steps people should take immediately to weather this storm. He also discusses an Open Letter he wrote, urging churches and Christian ministries to exercise extreme caution when considering taking government money to stay afloat.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    We’ve heard a lot about how to survive the coronavirus pandemic physically. But what about surviving financially?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries joins Julie to discuss this crucial issue. Chuck offers practical steps people should take immediately to weather this storm. He also discusses an Open Letter he wrote, urging churches and Christian ministries to exercise extreme caution when considering taking government money to stay afloat.

    Perhaps most importantly, though, Chuck offers spiritual insights about overcoming fear so believers can honor God with their money during this time of uncertainty. 

    This Weeks Guests

    Chuck Bentley

    Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian music and talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book Money Problems, Marriage Solutions.

    He also serves on the board of Foundations for Farming in Zimbabwe, an initiative dedicated to helping the ultra-poor learn to flourish using local resources.

    Chuck is the founder and executive director of the Christian Economic Forum, a global community of high achievers with a higher calling.

    Chuck and his wife, Ann, both graduates of Baylor University, have been married since 1978. They can be found reading and spending time outdoors with their family at their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, when they are not traveling the world together to advance Crown’s mission.

    They have four adult sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren.

    Show Transcript

    JULIE ROYS:  We’ve heard a lot about how to survive the Coronavirus pandemic physically, but what about surviving financially? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home in the Chicago suburbs instead of our normal studio, like most of us who are all sheltering in place and just trying to get through this Coronavirus crisis. And of course, our first concern has been surviving this pandemic physically, but many of us are suffering financially as well. And we’re wondering how we’re going to make it. Christian ministries, as well, and nonprofits are getting hit really hard. In fact, I heard from a major sponsor of this podcast saying, “Man, we just can’t afford to do anything that’s non-essential at this point.” So, they’re having to pull back and I get it. Donations are down. We have to tighten our belts. But now, the government has passed, what’s called, The Cares Act which provides money for nonprofits. Yet some say this is a Trojan horse and Christian ministry should exercise extreme caution before taking that money. Well, joining me today is Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries. And I’m so looking forward to getting his input on these critically important issues. But before I do, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsors. One of them is Marquardt of Barrington. And right now, you can shop for a car at Marquardt from the comfort of your own home. To see their showroom, just go to And if you live in the Chicago area, Marquardt will drop off the car at your home for an extended test drive. Plus, right now Marquardt is offering 0% financing for 84 months. That’s seven years of zero interest. So again, you can just go to Also, I want to remind you that Judson University’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. And the speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus—a four-star general and former director of the CIA. I know that’s several months away, which is a good thing given our current situation, but I encourage you to mark your calendars now for the next World Leader’s Forum on October 20. For more information, just go to 

    Well, again, joining me today is Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. And I know Chuck has been extremely busy managing so many people’s questions and their financial issues right now. So, Chuck, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Julie, it is my pleasure. I’ve been a follower of yours for some time, from a distance, and so to be invited onto the podcast is a real honor. And I mean that. Thank you so much.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well the feeling’s mutual. I really appreciate what you’re doing and your entire ministry. So, thank you. There’s two areas that I want to explore with you today. And one of them is just how to survive this whole pandemic, financially, when it comes to our own personal finances. And then secondly, I’d like to get into just exploring how Christian ministries will survive the crisis and whether they should take any money from The CARES Act. But let’s start with surviving this crisis personally. How can we prepare ourselves, our households, to survive what’s obviously going to be a very hard financial time?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, I like the way you framed it out, Julie, because it’s true that we have one crisis, which is a health crisis. And that’s being managed with measures that have caused the second crisis, which is the economic crisis that’s upon us. Record unemployment, literally a vertical line of people losing their job, it’s skyrocketing. Uncertainty across the board, lots of moving parts and ambiguity. I’ve been talking to ministry leaders all over the world who just simply don’t know what to expect. But we know this, it’s going to be rough. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. So, I called my staff together and I actually called my children together. And I said, “You know, I do this professionally. I do this for a living, but I want to talk to you. I want to just give you just exactly what I think you need to be doing now.” And Julie, if you don’t mind, I’m going to give you the same talk that I gave to our staff and to my children. I said, the first thing you need to do is cut back your spending by at least 25% for the next 90 days. Now, that’s difficult to do and some people roll their eyes. I still have a teenager at home that thought, “Man, what are you talking about, Dad? Why?” Well, the economy is going to shrink by at least that much. We know that all the forecasters from Goldman Sachs on are saying at least 25% contraction in the next quarter. And that means that we need to contract as well. That’s difficult because we also need to support small businesses. And at the same time, we need to just be spending money on what’s essential and pull back on what’s non-essential. That’s been done for us during a shelter- in but I suspect that’s going to be lifted here before long. And what we need to do is just decide where we can cut now. Pull back on the spending. That’s number one, Julie. And feel free to jump in there if you want any clarity on these. But number two, I said to those that I’m advising, it’s time to save as quickly as you can. If you headed into this unprepared, you’d better get prepared because it’s going to be a really bumpy ride. And most people need at least $1,000 in emergency savings. 40% of Americans went into the pandemic without that, and they need to get $1,000 in saving as soon as possible. Three to six months in saving would be best. And so, when you pull back on that spending, do so in a way that you can increase your savings. But then the third advice and we can, I’ll pause and let you ask some questions about it. But the third advice is to prepare to give sacrificially. If this were a fire or a flood or a tsunami or an earthquake, there would be a huge outpouring of support. But it hurts my heart to hear that people are pulling back on their giving. And they’re not being sacrificially generous. But that’s what’s necessary at this time. And with the stimulus money that’s coming into our mailboxes, I think you can look at that as either, you know, the second goal I gave—if you don’t have savings, and then suddenly you’ve got some, and you need to hang on to it. And you need to be prepared to ride out the storm. But if you don’t need it, and you have savings, that’s the time to give it away.

    JULIE ROYS:  There’s two things that I thought when—because I read these steps that you have at your website. You can download, actually, all of these steps that you give as advice, and this is so helpful. When I saw the cut expenses 25%, I was thinking, well, I hadn’t really thought that much about that. Because I thought my husband’s income is pretty steady. My income will likely take a cut. We’ve kind of gauged for that but we just hadn’t thought that much about that. And so, I mean, I appreciate that. And I’m like yeah, that’s probably just wisdom. That whether we think we’re going to contract or not, we need to be cutting and just preparing. Because we really don’t know, for sure, what’s going to happen. But secondly, I’m guessing a lot of people, when you’re talking about increasing that savings gap, are thinking, “My income has already gone down. So how on earth can I increase my savings and be sacrificially generous at a time like this?” So, what do you say to those folks?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, there’s certainly no advice that I could give, or anyone could give, suits everybody at the same time. We have to contextualize each person’s individual circumstance. But there are those that are not hard hit. You mentioned your husband. He may be in an industry where his income’s not affected at all. I know people like that. I’m speaking to the people whose income is affected—who they are going to be in more pain than others. And you can actually save and give at the same time. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, Julie, and it’s not easy. But I’ve seen people do it. I’ve seen people do it, whether they’re widows who have very little to live on, or people who are actually on government assistance, and they’ve been able to do it. But those are two Biblical principles that have to coexist in tension, actually. But it’s clear that those are the things God wants us to do. You can save by cutting back your spending even more than 25%. I’ve had friends who’ve done it 50%. And that means they got rid of everything, no more Netflix. Some of them canceled their phone plans. Some of them have upped their insurance coverage deductibles. They’ve gotten very, very creative to find margin to be able to set aside money and have some emergency funds so they can stop going into debt. And then sacrificially giving means that even though your maybe uncomfortable, you’re still putting other people’s needs first. And what I’ve seen Julie over and over, is just the faithfulness of God. When people act unselfishly—because our natural tendency is to hoard. Look at what happened to toilet paper. When we act on selfishly, we see God go to work and help us in ways we never could explain or understand.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, I so believe that. And I think as we are generous, it comes back. Because I’ve seen people in their neighborhoods communicate to their neighbors, hey, if you need anything. And I know, my neighbors and I, we’ve been exchanging stuff. Because we don’t want to run to the grocery store when we don’t have to. So, we’re calling each other all the time, “Hey, do you have this, do you have that?” And we’re helping each other out. And then I heard from somebody else who said, “Yeah, we live out in the country. We got a shotgun in case anybody wants to come and take our stuff”. And I’m like, really? That’s the disposition we’re having as Christians? I mean, that’s not a Christian disposition. And I do think there’s something to just keeping that open-handed. And trusting, I mean. Chuck, are we at a point where so many of us, for so long, have grown just sort of feeling like we’re comfortable and don’t need anything from anyone? And to have a situation where we feel we’re aware of our weakness. We’re aware of our dependency. This can be a healthy thing, spiritually, especially.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, I think so. Our life founder, Larry Burkett, used to say all the time, “Do you trust God or do you just say that you trust God”? And we’ve gotten an opportunity to find out if we were just saying those words, or we really believe them. And I love what you’re talking about—neighborhood generosity, considering your neighbors during this time. We started a private Facebook page just for our neighbors and each other posted online. It’s fantastic. We had trees blown down during a recent storm. One of our neighbors is a widow. We showed up in her front yard all eager to help her and turns out it was more complicated than we could do. So, we hired a tree service to come and help her with the damage in her home. And we all chipped in $400 a piece, which was, you know, that was sacrificial for us. But she just loved it. And it made our connection to our neighborhood like we’ve never had it. So, you’re right, good things are coming out of this.

    JULIE ROYS:  Absolutely. Well, and when you are saying cutting back and looking for areas you can cut back, I know our family has found one of the places where we’re spending zero where we used to spend, you know, several hundred a month to be honest, is eating out. And now we don’t eat out at all. And I know, probably, those who are in the restaurant industry don’t like to hear that. And we will certainly try to help our neighbors who own restaurants as soon as we feel that’s a good thing to do. But right now, I’m just kind of like I would rather prepare this food ourselves, in our own home. But that preparing all your food yourself and not going out to eat, that’s got to be, I’m guessing (I don’t know what the average is for Americans, you probably have a better idea) but that’s got to be an expense that most Americans spend quite a bit per month. Am I right?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, you’re exactly right. It’s 10% of the American budget, which is food. Normally, families spend about 10% of their total income on food. And that includes eating out. And right now, eating out is down almost 90-95%. They’re surviving by take-out orders. And we’re seeing some people designating churches or churches are designating restaurants that they’re trying to help. Or they’re buying food for shut-ins, and they’re distributing it that way. And they’re helping these local businesses. But, you’re right, that’s a category that’s down significantly. Also travel. You know, entertainment, all those areas. Retail shopping—they’re down substantially. And what we’re finding out is that we can be okay. We can find contentment without going through retail therapy.

    JULIE ROYS:  Absolutely. And a lot of people probably—I know we had a vacation planned for spring break. That’s not going to happen. As a result, we didn’t get everything refunded. Got credits with our airline tickets, which is what most people are getting. But obviously, we didn’t spend that money that we would have spent on that vacation—a lot of it. And so that’s one area of savings, too. We are looking at summer, whether we’ll be able to take a vacation this summer. Do you think people should cancel their summer plans? Or do you think we’ll be able to go through with those?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, it’s hard to know. I think that the pressure on the government, right now, is immense to open up, what I call, a targeted strategy for restarting society. It can’t be just one-size-fits-all. But there’s going to have to be some protection on the most vulnerable once they find the common denominators of those who are most vulnerable to the disease. And then those who are not vulnerable, allow them to go back to work. We’ll probably all be forced to wear a mask. But look, I think wearing a mask—we went to the grocery store recently, and we wore our mask and made them at home and we kind of had fun doing that. I think it’s a way to show love to the people who are out working and serving.  I don’t consider it a restriction on my rights or something that I need to be complaining about. I’m happy to wear the mask. Probably look better in it, you know. And it’s just be kind and considerate to other people, and accept that as part of what we need to do to help society at large. It’s frustrating to me to see people who are bucking the system and saying they’re going to hold their church services anyway. And their rights are being violated. This is just common sense. Let’s help one another.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve said from the beginning, I think one of the ways we love our neighbor is by not infecting our neighbor or getting infected because if you get infected, you will likely infect two to three others. And that’s how this pandemic spreads. So, it’s so important that I think we follow these common sense measures. I want to turn to those who have lost their jobs. Because I know there’s a sizable number of Americans right now who are dealing with having lost their employment. Speak to that person right now. How do they get through this?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, a couple of ways. Number one, the unemployment packages are unprecedented right now. In fact, I just talked to an employer before we got on the call today, Julie, that he’s not able to get some of his employees back right now because their unemployment package is better than if they went back to work. So, you can draw federal unemployment benefits now for 10 months. That’s up from a previous level at 6 months. It’s now up to 10 1/2 months. That’s some indication of how long they think this may last. Secondly, you can get $600 a month stipend as in addition to those federal benefits, and you can draw staple unemployment benefits. So, they’ve really created a package to help people whose industry may be completely shut down. That’s one way to get through it. And I think it’s appropriate to receive those funds and to use them for this time to take care of your family. Secondly, I’ve seen—you know the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. In a crisis, oftentimes your creativity increases. And you begin to do things that maybe you never thought you would do. Look all over our neighborhood. And I live in an area where there’s a lot of clusters of homes. There’s somebody delivering these balloons for birthdays, and they’re all in the front yards—these Happy Birthday signs and all these balloons. People have started a business delivering things. There are people that are now driving food from one house to the other or driving packages from one house to the other. We’re seeing innovative ways for people to supplement their income. I’ve seen a guy start a business helping elderly people know how to do Zoom. And you know, what is FaceTime? I mean, my father is 87 didn’t know that his phone allowed him to FaceTime and when he learned it, he was like, “Oh, this is cool. I can see you guys when we talk.” And there’s a service of an IT person who’s now helping the elderly. You know, these shut-ins, or people in senior care facilities, can’t see their children right now. So, they’re teaching them technology and it’s been a beautiful thing to watch. While some industries are hurt, others are booming. I have a kid, in our neighborhood, who said his summer job is now restocking the grocery shelves in the evenings. And they’re just exhausted. They’re working so hard. People in health care are overworked and they need backup reinforcement in those areas. Logistics companies doing online selling, they need help right now. So, what we’re going to see, Julie, is a shift in skill-set that’s needed. We will recover. We will come back and people will get re-employed. But, look, if you don’t have the skill sets needed into the future, start using your time learning them now. What you invest in today will pay rewards and dividends in your future. Watching a lot of Netflix movies, that’s not going to help you get a job. But watching things that improve your skills, that will help you get re-employed.

    JULIE ROYS:  I just have to giggle. I was just talking to my father, about Zoom, trying to explain it to him recently. I think I need that service.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  My dad, it’s so funny to watch them. And, you know, it’s a joy for them to be able to connect. I got to talk to my father by Zoom on Easter Sunday. He’s 87. He’s been sheltered-in for almost a month and it was just such a joy to see him and talk to him. And I appreciate people who know how to work the technology better than I do for sure.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, well, it’s something that we’ve gotten very used to using the Zoom. We’re doing it with our small group. We’re doing it with our extended family. We’re doing it with our good friends and it’s life. It really is. Because you can feel so isolated at home especially if you’re an extrovert like I am. I need that. I really need that. And it’s the only way I can see my grandson right now. So, it’s—that’s been killing me. But at least I see him on video. I want to hug him but that’s all I could do right now is see him on Zoom. Let’s turn our discussion now to this CARES Act. For those who, maybe you’ve just read the headlines and they’re not really aware how this might affect nonprofits and ministries and churches. Can you explain the portion of The CARES Act and the way that it impacts ministries and nonprofits?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Yeah, Julie. 350 billion dollars was set aside for the not-for-profit sector. That includes Christian ministries and even churches. And the idea, it’s under what’s called the PPP—the Payroll Protection Program. It’s really the payroll protection loan program, where you can apply for a small business administration loan and get up to two months of your payroll advanced to you in the form of a loan. And if you don’t lay people off, it actually becomes a grant. And so that was presented to us. Our board of directors looked at it. And obviously, we’re an employer. And we wondered, “Do we need to do this?” And so we took it to our board, and our board actually decided that we did not want to participate. And I published a letter to other pastors and ministry leaders, asking them to consider whether they should or not—not telling them what they should do, but just asking them to pause and to pray and consider the pros and the cons of this decision. Because my understanding is that the people who are promoting it, were so busy, they were overwhelmed. In fact, one Zoom call maxed out at 3,000 pastors. And so they had to roll over into Facebook Live, and they had 3000 standing by to hear how to make application for the loan. And we were like a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Wait a minute. Do you really need the loan?

    JULIE ROYS:  And do you—and this is what I’m hearing on Facebook a lot. So, this is a social media conversation around this –is do you, especially as a church, but even as a Christian ministry? Do you want to be indebted to the state, to the government? And so, I’m hearing Christians raising red flags and wondering, “Is this a way for government control?” I’m also hearing some Christian ministries say, “Well, now it’s a temporary loan. It’s not a permanent indebtedness. It’s just for to get over the crisis.” What’s your feeling on that particular discussion?

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Well, we’ve studied it pretty closely. And there’s two factors that I think people need to understand. Number one, it is legal. The Small Business Administration—the rules have changed where they can make a loan to people who discriminate on the basis of faith. In the past, they could not make that loan, but those laws have been suspended or rewritten for this particular act. And so, it’s legal and I don’t think that you’re causing—you’re not going to be in sin by taking the loan. In fact, we did some research on it, Julie. And there’s a number of times in the Scripture where the government does help God’s people. You know, the pharaoh provided land in Goshen for the Jews in the great famine in Egypt. Or Artaxerxes provided help to Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. And there’s just a number of places where it’s okay. It’s not necessarily compromising if that help is available and you deem it as appropriate. But the other factor is the money—is it truly coming from taxpayers? A lot of times we say, well, it’s a small business administration loan. No, it’s taxpayer money. And typically, the people I’m talking to are tax- exempt charitable organizations, 501C3’s, running Christian ministries, and Christian churches. Now if you have transaction revenue, like from a school or some sort of program, where it’s run more like a business in a not-for-profit wrapper and not-for-profit legal context, that’s a different situation. But if you’re an organization that depends on the donor, we believe that if you want to preserve your tax-exempt status going forward, it’s wise, although it’s legal, you can take it, it’s wise not to take it. Because I think it’s going to become a political football to challenge those organizations, or even the whole sector, with their tax-exempt status in the future. That’s already been under challenge. And no sooner had I published my article, a group of people who are not happy that Christian organizations are getting this money—they’re an organization for the separation of church and state—filed a complaint and they’re threatening lawsuits for the constitutionality of this act. So, I would like to be counted among those who said, “Well, we had access to it. And it was okay if we did it. We’re not going to condemn or judge anybody for doing it. But we chose not to.” Alan Mulally did that when Ford Motor Company qualified in the 08-09 great financial crisis for the bailout from the government. They were the only American automobile manufacturer not to take the bailout money. And it improved the goodwill among his customer base. And I thought it was a courageous decision. And one that I would expect Christians to be able to make, Julie—that we have we have a better support plan than the taxpayer, in my perspective.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, absolutely. And on the whole non-for-profit and losing non-for-profit status. I mean, I’ve done a lot of reporting, as you know, on financial mismanagement of ministries and churches. And we’re in a precarious situation right now because of some of our mismanagement and not being transparent, not filing 990’s and misusing funds. Some churches, for example, obviously, I’ve been publishing a lot about Harvest Bible chapel and what happened there and they’ve made some changes, and I hope it’s better. But the public is—and, in some cases, rightly upset, I think, with the Christian community and its financial management or mismanagement. And so, I do think you’re right, that there could be a real backlash, and we’re hearing it from some of these organizations. I know a piece I did recently got picked up by The Friendly Atheist, and I wasn’t really pleased about that, because I like to report within the Christian community. I want us to reform ourselves, right? I don’t want it to come because the world is telling us to clean up our act. I want it to come because we are, as Christians, purifying what’s happening within the church. But I think that point is well taken—that if we don’t abide by best practices, and again, taking taxpayer money for our ministries, maybe that should be a real caution, I think, to us. And so I’m very, actually appreciative for what you did Chuck and putting that open letter out there. Again, you’re not sinning if you take this money, but I do think, and I agree with you 100%, that we should be very, very cautious about doing that—a lot of unintended consequences.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  I want to thank our board of directors for that decision, Julie. Because, you know, I took it to our board, and they asked me to write a sort of an analysis of whether we should or shouldn’t. And I put it in—I did my pros and my cons and just some Biblical context to it. Put it in their hands. And they unanimously said, “We want to be an organization that says no.” And they liked the letter I wrote to them so well they said, “Why don’t you publish that?” So I did. And it’s gotten lots of traction and not all of it positive. And you know how that goes, Julie?

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, yeah.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  One pastor said to me, “Well, all of my staff members are taxpayers, and therefore if they’re taxpayers, we should be able to qualify to get some tax money.” And I wasn’t—I mean, I appreciate that perspective. It’s true. I’m a taxpayer, you’re a taxpayer, but we get a taxpayer stimulus individually. And I think we should take that, and I think it’s appropriate for that. But I don’t think for an organization that is tax-exempt, that we don’t pay taxes like other corporations. That we should turn around and say, “When we get into trouble, the taxpayer comes to our rescue.” And look, the bottom line for our board was this—and I’m so proud of them. They said, “Would you rather be at the mercy of God or at the mercy of man?” And the bottom line was we will take the mercy of God every time. We will trust Him if we fail if we crash and burn, we did it. With our full confidence in the Lord. And that’s where we want it to be. And we’ve gotten some of the sweetest letters from people who said, “Oh, I am so comforted by knowing you really do trust the Lord. You know, you really do.” Because it’s oftentimes the money that separates us from exercising faith. And I think it’s why so many organizations get into trouble. They get into a lot of debt and get in over their head, because they haven’t learned to wait and trust God with everything that they’re about. And how could we, as an organization, who’ve been teaching this for 44 years, turn around and do differently? You know, we couldn’t tell other people to do that, and then not walk the walk ourselves. So happy to be in this position. We feel vulnerable, in one sense, that what if, you know, we made a mistake and we end up the group that goes out of business? Well, we’ll go out of business fully trusting God and we’ll be happy with that.

    JULIE ROYS:  And there are worse things.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  There are worse things. God would just tell me I wasn’t very needed for such a time. And I’ll have to find something else.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, well, I have a feeling that’s not going to happen. But I appreciate what you’re saying—a couple things I appreciate about what you’re saying. One is that you went to your board, and your board obviously, has voice. And just that one thing right there, that Chuck didn’t go into his board and say, “We’re going to do this.” And the board was a bunch of rubber stamps. That’s important. And I just appreciate that because it’s sorely needed in a lot of organizations, I think. So I appreciate your board did that. But two, when you’re talking about this, I do think finances are the one area where we are so easily tempted to sin. And I think it’s because of fear. I think exactly what you’re saying—trusting the Lord, overcoming our fear. And I know I told my son recently actually because we were talking about this very thing and about finances. And he’s trying to figure out an employment situation and whether or not he’s going to launch out on something he’s really feeling called to do. And I told him— because I remember very vividly back in my 20’s, there was an agreement we had made with some family members and involved money. And then when the rubber hit the road, and there was a lot of fear involved. And I remember at the time, I was like, they were saying, “Well this was what you agreed to.” And I’m like, “No it was this.” And, you know, that’s really how I remembered it. But again, I had a vested interest in remembering it that way. And I remember about six months after everything had happened, and we were close. It was a little bit of chaos, but we’re close today and actually it didn’t destroy our relationship then either. But six months after, for some reason, I recalled what I had said and that they were absolutely right. And I had to go back to them and just ask for forgiveness for that. But I realized I was so blinded by my fear, because I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to make it financially. And that was hard for me. And that stuck with me. I mean, that was again when I was in my 20’s. Now, that’s like 30 years later, but it’s stuck with me throughout my life. I’ve realized that whenever finances are involved, or a job is involved, that is when we are most likely to do things we would never otherwise do and to sacrifice our integrity. And so, it showed me my own vulnerability. And I’ve tried to communicate that to my kids. Watch it with money because money is that one thing. And it’s not that you’re greedy, it’s probably just that you’re fearful.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:   Right Julie. Because the number one reason people aren’t more generous, it’s not greed, it’s fear. We fear that if we give today God won’t provide tomorrow. And I think that’s one of the things that we are going to have an opportunity to get over that fear during this time. We can give now trusting God for tomorrow. The same goes for churches. I think it’s important for churches to talk to their people before they take the taxpayer money. You know, we have—and I’ll be careful to say this—but we haven’t had any church, or any organization reach out to us and say, “We’re, this downturn has caused us pain, we need your help.” And so, I’m wondering if churches are going to do the right thing and reveal to their congregations, or the ministries like ours revealed to their partners, that they applied for the loan, and they got the funding. I even saw one organization saying, “Call in and I’ll tell you how to leverage the loan” you know, to raise more money with it. And I thought, “Oh, no.” You know, that’s about the last thing we need to be commingling is our donor base with the taxpayer bailout. To me, you have to choose one or the other. And if you do take the money, I think it’s important for churches to let their congregation know that they received that help. And, you know, the other dilemma they’re going to face if they’re in trouble now and this economic downturn goes on for a while. What if they can’t pay it back? What if they can’t meet the covenants of the loan and the people in the congregation don’t appreciate the fact they took the loan and they don’t want to be a part of paying it back? It could get really complex, quick.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Better to tighten your belt than to take a loan. And that’s for our personal finances, our ministries, everything. Much better to do that and to stay out of debt. Chuck, I know we’re running out of time and I know you have some things you need to get to but would you just pray for individuals listening right now who are really fearful and ministry leaders? Because, I think, both are just really needing to trust the Lord and yet it’s a really difficult time to do this. But this is where the rubber meets the road. So, if you would pray for them, I would really appreciate that.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  I’d be honored. Lord Jesus, we’re so grateful to know You, to be allowed to be in Your family, to be redeemed from our sin and redeemed from the darkness that we once walked in. And to have the joy of calling You, Abba Father. And knowing that we really can trust You. You care for us. You know our needs and You identify with our hurt and our pain and our sorrow and our grief and especially our fear. Thank You, Lord, that Julie pointed out today that oftentimes, we experience financial problems because of fear. We’re driven to overreact or to do things that maybe don’t make any sense at all that because we’re just afraid of tomorrow. We’re afraid of what might happen if we don’t have provision. So, Lord, I want to pray for three groups right now, as Julie mentioned. I want to pray first for pastors. I pray that they will pause. That they will pray—they will seek leadership and counsel and input before they apply for the loan. And Lord not to feel condemnation if they, if that’s the way You provide for their needs right now. Lord, I just pray they’d look to You first. And they would communicate to Your people openly and transparently what their real needs are and allow You and the church to be the first responders to the crisis. Lord, I want to pray for ministry leaders who are in the same dilemma that we’ve been in. And we’ve experienced the pause and the concern about tomorrow and the fear. Lord, we don’t know what’s going to happen to charitable giving. And so we just pray that they will not be driven by fear—that they would be strong and courageous. But they’ll have that different Spirit upon them, like Caleb and Joshua had. Who, in the midst of fear, we’re able to take faith-driven action, and to be bold, even though the circumstances were frightening. And I want to pray for families who are listening. Lord, I pray that they’ll implement these three simple steps—that they’ll truly cut back on their spending, Lord, that they will be able to increase their savings and increase their generosity. Lord, I pray this is the opportunity for the church to show itself to be different and to be the fragrant aroma of You who came to be unselfish—that You poured out everything for our benefit and gain. And I want to pray against the spirit of fear that You did not give us. That fear that’s in families right now, where there’s stress or somebody lost a job or somebody feels under enormous pressure in their marriage because of their finances. Lord, that You would be present tending their needs, giving them new ideas and new hope and helping them through the crisis, Lord, as they depend on You. I just pray for families to stay strong. And to be the salt and light we need in the culture right now—to be people who truly demonstrate faith. That if we try to walk by sight, it’s all frightening. If we walk by faith, and we can have peace and contentment, and joy. I thank you, Lord, for Julie’s commitment to integrity and finances and calling out those who have misstepped. Lord, I do pray that there’ll be reformation in our own hearts starting with me. And we think about You and having complete transparency and integrity with finances. I thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.

    JULIE ROYS:  Amen. Chuck, thank you so much. I’ve so enjoyed our discussion and just really appreciate your ministry especially now. So needed.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Thank you, Julie. I want to say the same thing. Thank you for what you stand for and the courage that you’ve had. I know it’s not been an easy journey for you and your family. But God bless you and I pray for your provision. I know that when a sponsor pulls back, that’s not easy, but maybe the Lord will raise up a new one today.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, we hope so. And we know God is faithful. So, whatever happens, we trust. We trust.

    CHUCK BENTLEY:  Thank you, Julie.

    JULIE ROYS:  Thank you. 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’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.

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    clean no 38:29 Julie Roys
    ICU Nurse Reports from COVID-19 Epicenter Thu, 16 Apr 2020 14:50:50 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • You’ve heard that New York hospitals are like a war zone. And in this episode of The Roys Report, you’ll get a glimpse of that war from an ICU nurse serving in a New York City hospital at the COVID-19 epicenter.

    Julie’s guest, Anne Frers, is a veteran nurse, working in an ICU unit that’s dedicated to COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    You’ve heard that New York hospitals are like a war zone. And in this episode of The Roys Report, you’ll get a glimpse of that war from an ICU nurse serving in a New York City hospital at the COVID-19 epicenter.

    Julie’s guest, Anne Frers, is a veteran nurse, working in an ICU unit that’s dedicated to COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Anne told Julie. Though Anne said she’s certainly seen death before, she’s never seen it on this scale and “I have never seen patients dying . . . without having a loved one holding their hand.”

    Anne also gives an update on her life. As you may recall, Anne was a source for a story Julie. wrote months ago, exposing how Harvest Bible Chapel failed to protect wives from their abusive husbands. Anne was one of those abused wives and is still involved in a legal battle with her ex-husband.

    This Weeks Guests

    Anne Frers

    Lives in Virginia with her 3 children.  Works in DC as a nurse on a Pediatric Cardiac ICU. Loves: my Pug, the beach, hockey, and coffee.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  We’ve heard that New York hospitals are like a warzone. But today we’ll hear what it’s like from a nurse who’s serving in New York City on the frontlines. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home where we’re all sheltering in place. And we’re actually recording this podcast over Zoom. So you may notice a little difference in sound quality, but I appreciate your patience as we’re trying to make the best of a hard situation. And I so hope you’re staying well and safe in your homes as well. But today, I’m going to be speaking with someone who in my opinion, is one of our heroes. God bless our medical personnel and first responders. These people are so brave, instead of fleeing the danger, they’re battling it head on. And joining me today is someone who’s serving at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens. This is the epicenter of the pandemic right now. And so, I’m so looking forward to our conversation. But before we dive into our discussion, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsors. One of them is Marquardt of Barrington. And right now you can shop for car at Marquardt from the comfort of your own home. To see their showroom just go to And if you live in the Chicago area, Marquardt will drop off the car at your home for an extended test drive. Plus, right now Marquardt is offering zero percent financing for 84 months. That’s seven years of zero interest. So again, just go to Also, I want to remind you that Judson University’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. And the speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four star general and former director of the CIA. I know that’s several months away, which is a good thing given our current crisis. But I want to encourage you to mark your calendars now for the World Leaders Forum on October 20th. For more information, just go to Well again, joining me today is Anne Frers, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens. You may also recognize Anne’s name because she was a source for an article I wrote several months ago. That article exposed how Harvest Bible Chapel failed to protect wives from abusive husbands. And Anne is one of those wives who bravely shared her story of abuse. So in my book, and as a hero for that, as well, so Anne welcome. It’s such a pleasure to have you join me.

    ANNE FRERS: Thanks for having me, Julie.

    JULIE ROYS:  So Anne, as I recall, you live in Virginia, not New York City. So I’m curious, how is it that you ended up working in the epicenter of this Coronavirus pandemic instead of home in Virginia?

    ANNE FRERS: Sure, well, a typical week I work at Children’s National in DC and I work in the pediatric cardiac ICU, which does a lot of open heart surgeries and stuff of that nature. Given the current situation most surgeries have been canceled or census is way down. So I just wasn’t working very much. And at the same point, I’m watching the news and these desperate pleas for nurses. And I just kind of couldn’t justify sitting around and having days off when there’s this desperate need. So I signed up. And three days I was on the ground in New York.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And so you go to New York City for several days, and then you come back home to Virginia. Is that how it works? Like you get several long shifts or how is it working with your work schedule?

    ANNE FRERS: Right, so I do three 12 hour shifts, I do a 36 hour . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow.

    ANNE FRERS: . . . back to back. And then I drive back to my home, outside DC quarantined, I don’t go anywhere else. I go straight to my house. And then I homeschool my kids the rest of the week.

    JULIE ROYS:  So I would love to know what is it like in New York City? Is it a warzone like so many are saying?

    ANNE FRERS: I see a limited amount in New York City because I go from my hotel straight to the hospital. I can say the streets are completely empty. And there’s police everywhere kind of monitoring the situation. I do drive by the tents set up from different providers that have come. You see the big ship there awaiting more patients. And then as you get to the hospital itself, there’s the tent setup outside directing people where to go. So it’s a very surreal experience. If you’ve been to New York City before, you would hardly recognize it without the people.

    JULIE ROYS:  It sounds a little bit like after 9/11. I happened to be there after 9/11, two weeks after 9/11 because my mother was having surgery and there happened to be a hospital there. It was the only one that would perform this surgery on my mother. And I remember walking down to ground zero with my father and it was several miles to ground zero and it was like you described. It’s quiet. Like, there were people on the streets, but it was just there was a somber feeling. And I’m sure they’re different experiences but at the same time dealing with so much death. Such a serious situation. I’m sure it just impacts the whole city. You feel it? What about in the hospital itself? Are you jam packed with people non stop?

    ANNE FRERS: So I was put in, it’s a converted pack U usually seem to come patients coming out of surgery. It’s been converted to an ICU. It’s a unit dedicated to the sickest of the sickest. All on ventilators. All sedated, this nature. So I am in that makeshift ICU with approximately 13 patients. And I’m in there the entire shift. You don’t leave. You’re in full protective gear. And that’s where you stay And you care for those patients as they kind of go for different reasons.

    JULIE ROYS:  So are most of those patients COVID patients?

    ANNE FRERS: 100%. I’m on a COVID ICU. Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. Wow. I spoke recently to somebody who had had COVID and survived it and asked him this question, but I’d like to hear from your perspective as well. Because I’m hearing people say there’s both ends of the spectrum, right? There’s those that say, “Oh, it’s just a flu. Most everybody survives unless you’re in a high risk category. They’re making way too much of this disease.” And then I hear from other people who are like, “Oh, this isn’t like any flu you’ve ever experienced. It’s deadly. Even if you survive it, you still have suffered through two weeks, three weeks, however long. It is just an absolutely horrific experience.” Now I know you’re seeing the worst of the worst, but what’s your impression of this disease?

    ANNE FRERS: So first, it’s unlike anything I have ever seen. Working a DC on an ICU with regulators ECMO pumps, I’m familiar with seeing flu patients need, who need those comfort cares in the end stages. I would say COVID is completely a different ballgame. You feel completely helpless. I think as a healthcare professional because there’s nothing you can do. These patients are receiving the highest level of support. And even that is often not enough. So it’s. I think it’s hard for people to really get a picture of how serious it is unless you actually see it. And I think once you’ve seen it, you’re going to be okay with staying inside for a couple weeks. And, and that’s not something that I think a lot of people just understand because they don’t see it. I think it’s it’s not tangible to them.

    JULIE ROYS:  Does it make you scared to be working so closely with people who have COVID? And obviously, there’s, you have the protective gear and everything else. We’ve had first responders, a lot of first responders, and especially in New York City who have gotten this disease. Are you scared? Or how do you manage that fear?

    ANNE FRERS: Sure. So yes. I think you should have a certain level of fear when you’re going into these situations. I think that keeps you safe. I feel like once I’m in my gear in the room, I’m not scared, I feel protected. I feel like the protective equipment, if it’s doing its job properly, I’m safe. When you’re taking off the protective equipment is your most vulnerable time. So I think those moments for me, I do feel those nerves of, you know, turning everything inside out as you’re taking it off. You also notice people aren’t taking breaks because they don’t want to get in and out of that equipment. Because that is your most vulnerable state. I think there’s a lot of risk involved with being a nurse in general. And I’ve been exposed to different things at different points. And so I think some of it isn’t maybe as difficult to wrap your mind around as it would be someone who has a desk job somewhere. You kind of sign up for it. And you see a lot of drama, working on an ICU constantly. So I’m used to living with a pretty high level of adrenaline.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, so I’ve talked to others. I talked to a doctor who said a similar thing, who was saying, “This is what we live for. This is what we’ve trained for.” I’m just curious for you, what made you go into this profession and obviously expose yourself to that risk?

    ANNE FRERS: Sure, as a lot of people who know me know my first pregnancy was twins resulted in one surviving twin. They had a lot of complications–twin to twin transfusion syndrome. And we spent a lot of days in an ICU. And after I was done getting her through those early years, and there’s different delays and different appointments that need to be made, I really wanted to go back. I remember being in the hospital. And sometimes the way the nurse treated me or smiled at me that actually like kind of made it, made my day or broke my day if I didn’t feel like no one’s seeing me or giving me information. So I wanted to be that for someone else. And that’s kind of what I do on the pediatric ICU is I care for the patients. But I always have in the back of my mind what those parents are wanting to know. And not just smiling at them. And so I went into it for that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, that’s wonderful. And I will say for the few times that I’ve been in the hospital really just for the the birth of my children, but the nurses made the experience. And it’s such an opportunity to touch somebody in a point where they’re really open and receptive to that. And needed. And so yeah, I think it’s a beautiful profession. And one of the things I’m really curious about because we’re hearing a lot about how our healthcare system isn’t prepared to deal with the level and the volume of patients coming in right now and even if there’s enough equipment. So I’m wondering one, is there enough equipment for doctors and nurses and people who are working with patients, the facemask, the shields, all of that? And secondly, are there enough ventilators especially in New York City where you have so many people that are needing them?

    ANNE FRERS: As far as the protective equipment, yes and no. We have the protective equipment we need, but we need to reuse it for the entire shift. So you don’t want to take a break. You don’t want to leave the room and have to put it on. Because when you’re exposed to it, it’s going to be when you’re taking it on and off, right? Because it should be on the outside of your protective equipment. So we have a visor, we wear over both or mask. We only get one visor per shift. And we’re wiping it down with antibacterial wipes. When we come back into the room, we have one N-95 mask for the entire shift. And we cover that with a surgical mask to keep it clean, to keep it from getting saturated. But obviously you are hot, you’re sweaty. It’s just, it’s hard to properly take off a mask and then come back and put it back on. So I think that there’s a huge risk for exposure by doing that. So it’s a yes and no. As far as ventilators, “Are there enough?” I don’t know. Because all my patients are on ventilators right now. But what I do know is even if we get a bunch of ventilators, I don’t know where they’re going to find people to work them. So that’s the problem right now is that we do not have enough beds. We don’t have enough staff. A typical ICU ratio for a nurse would be one sometimes two ventilated patients. I’ve had six or seven. I mean, that’s outrageous. So I don’t know about the ventilators. But you can manufacture ventilators rather quickly. You can’t manufacture healthcare workers that quick.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. Well, and so you really desperately need health care workers right now in New York City.

    ANNE FRERS: Desperately. Desperately! They will plug you in the next day. And they’re making all kinds of exceptions with licensing, I think. Some healthcare professionals worry they’re not licensed in New York. There’s ways around that. So I’m only licensed in Virginia and DC. Yes. Absolutely, desperately hundreds of positions are open. And, you know, I do hear a lot about with the economy, a lot of people don’t have jobs. And so I would say at least for healthcare professionals, there’s a ton of jobs out there. And they’re begging for it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. If there’s people listening right now, who are able to do that . . .

    ANNE FRERS: Oh, I hope so.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I know I’ve talked to some healthcare professionals who are feeling the pull and feeling guilty staying home and I think feeling exactly like you did when you were in Virginia. “Why don’t I go?” Tell me, do you have any stories of interactions with with patients or with their families that have impacted you? Because, I mean, obviously, you’re dealing with people who are really close to death. And I’m guessing there might be some of those opportunities, I don’t know. Because you might just be working with them when they’re intubated. There’s not going to have much of an interaction. But maybe with their families. Have you had any of those?

    ANNE FRERS: Sure. Majority of my patients by the time I get them up, they’re already intubated, sedated, often paralyzed, chemically paralyzed. So a lot of my interactions have been with the family members. One patient in particular, we would consider him on the younger side, 40s, the daughter constantly calling in on his phone. So it’s sitting there and ringing or vibrating on his table. And, you know, he’s not going to be able to get to that. I have full protective equipment on. I have an insane caseload. And I see this daughter calling in and just trying to make those connections, where possible to do the video feed where you can show the family member the patients.

    JULIE ROYS:  So you’re talking to to her on the phone and like showing her dad and trying to comfort her through that?

    ANNE FRERS: You’re trying to do that. One of the hardest parts that I think some people can’t maybe visualize is the lack of information the families get. And even that the patients are getting from their families. There’s no visitors. Every person in the hospital is overworked and taxed. And so when it comes to a choice of making a phone call, or giving a life saving medication, you’re you have to go with the medicine. And yet on the back of your mind is always like, “the family doesn’t even know what’s going on right now.” In some cases, I haven’t experienced this, but I’ve heard family members don’t even know which hospital their family member was taken to. So that is a new element to this position that I’m not used to. I’m used to dealing with the medicine and the family in the room. I’m not used to being first of all the sole emotional caregiver for the patient while I’m caring for them, but then also trying to navigate how to update the family and find the family.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow.

    ANNE FRERS: That definitely adds a level of complexity.

    JULIE ROYS:  I’ve heard that one of the really sad things about this is that when you die from COVID, you die alone, because nobody’s with you. Right?

    ANNE FRERS: That is true. And by far the most horrific element of COVID, in my opinion. You never get used to seeing people die, ever. But I do see it a lot in the work I do at at home and in New York City. But I have never seen patients dying and knowing they’re dying, without having a loved one holding their hand or telling them how much they love them. And I would say the same is true for the families. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be waiting by the phone wondering. Or, “Am I going to get a call, ‘They’re better?'” “Am I going to get a call, ‘They died?'” That’s horrific.

    JULIE ROYS:  The family doesn’t even come into the hospital, do they?

    ANNE FRERS: No. They’re not allowed. Period. No visitors. And once you’re intubated, there’s no way for them to talk. No. So it’s horrific.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh! That’s just awful! So of the people on your unit, what percent are getting better and what percent are dying?

    ANNE FRERS: I don’t want to cast a negative light. I guess I fear sometimes saying these things because of the people who come, we treat them actively. Like, they’re able to recover. But we do see 95 to 100% of the patients who make it to my unit will die.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow.

    ANNE FRERS: And so, they have different levels of ICU in the hospital. And there’s different, you know, levels of care. And so, we’re getting the sickest of the sickest of the sickest. They’re very sick.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And I’m guessing you’ve never seen that much death?

    ANNE FRERS: No, never.

    JULIE ROYS:  I don’t even know. I mean, at this point, you’re going from working at the hospital, quarantining a couple days, homeschooling your kids and then back to the war zone again. Have you had any chance to process this? Or do you feel like it’s one of those things you just kind of set on the shelf and I’ll process this when I’m done?

    ANNE FRERS: Yeah, I do. I do process it. I go back to the hotel by myself. So my kids are not in the hotel with me when I’m coming back. And I am so overstimulated from sounds and sights and chaos. I usually just end up sitting there. I’m so tired. I don’t watch TV. I don’t do anything. And I think that’s when for the first time I actually am processing, “What just happened?” It’s not in the moment that I’m feeling heartbroken for the family or the patients. I mean, I’m there to do a job. I am just constantly bombarded with tasks. It’s afterwards that . . .  Honestly, I’m thinking about the families. And I’m wondering, “did they get the call ready?” Or you know, who was part of this man’s family? “Does he have a wife? Does he have kids?” That kind of stuff. So yeah, definitely. You think about it. You think about it a lot.

    JULIE ROYS:  Sure. I know one of the things that you mentioned is that through this spiritually, it’s just been hard. And you had come out–and this was in the story that I did–you’re still in the midst of a struggle with your ex husband, who you were in an abusive relationship. And those who have read your story–and I’m guessing a lot of people who are listening have read your story. And it’s been a difficult journey for you. But spiritually–and you can share as much as you feel comfortable with but–how are you processing this with the Lord? Do you feel that you are–how is your faith doing in the midst of all this?

    ANNE FRERS: Yeah, that’s, that’s a complicated question and answer. I would say my faith most definitely has taken a hit over the last few years. But particularly in the last year as things came to the front with Harvest and  going through the court system with the trials. And now with this. It’s hard for me to pinpoint where I’m at, I would say, on my spiritual journey. I think my faith looks very different than it did two or three years ago. I think parts of it are stronger and that I am absolutely assured there is a God. Yet at the same point, I feel very disillusioned in some ways by the church. And by Christians themselves. And just kind of working through the bitterness, I think, of that. I would say I’m fighting for it. I’m not ready to give up. But I think I have right now more doubts, perhaps, right now than I do answers. I think those doubts are probably a lot louder to me right now than scripture is. And so I don’t know where this is going to take me at this point. But . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, and and for those who are listening, if you haven’t read an story, you can do it, you can read it, her story at my website And there’s a story there about it, “How Harvest Failed to Protect Wives from Abuse.” And you had a husband who was a pastor. And for 12 years was pastoring within the Harvest Bible Fellowship, the former church planting network of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. And you weren’t protected by the very people who should have protected you. And by the people who were supposed to be shepherding. And they didn’t. And the church did  let you down. And I think we all grieve with you over that. And and I’m sorry. What happened to you should never happen to anyone ever. And it’s wrong. And it was sin. And you were so brave in telling your story and bringing some light into a situation that for so often, you know, it’s just sort of put in a corner, nobody talks about it. And I think as a result, there’s, I mean, I heard from a lot of women who have been abused who were really ministered to through that. So I just want to thank you for doing that. That took as much bravery or maybe more even than what you’re doing now serving in New York. So thank you.

    ANNE FRERS: Well that’s kind, Julie. I appreciate it. And that makes me think just going back to the beginning, how you opened things, with saying about the medical professionals being heroes and these very kind words. And certainly, I take them to heart. And believe me, I think we all need the encouragement for sure. I think that ties into what we were saying even with the church and how it’s affecting my faith is I think I’m surprised sometimes by how heroic Christians think I have been through this. Because sometimes I just see these events as, “Isn’t this what we should be doing?” And I would say that even going to New York, I’m trained for a job. And there’s a demand for that job. So I go. And I guess things that we might consider heroic is what I’m seeing lacking in some senses in some churches, not all churches, I see a limited amount. And just seeing people do things that it might cost you, it might cost you to stick up for that woman. Or it might cost your ministry to speak out on abuse. Or it might cost you to leave your family and go. But if you have it within your means, and ability to do something to do good, do it. And I appreciate people telling me, they’re going to pray for me, and I appreciate people sending me scripture. But sometimes I think, just go do something. And I don’t even know as Christians, if we should say that’s heroic, to stand up for abuse victims or to stand up for dying patients as much as it is. That should be a very regular occurrence. And that’s the part where I feel a little bit disillusioned with the church and watching the response to COVID. To abuse. To any of these hardships. I guess that’s been a challenge to me.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. And I don’t know how many people, well I guess why I see it as heroic is because I do ask so many people that have the capacity to tell their stories and to bring light. And there’s a sizeable proportion who don’t. And the reason they don’t is exactly what you said. That it would cost them something. And I think we have forgotten Jesus’ words that if we want to follow after Him, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. That should be normal for Christians. And so I hear you and Amen. Amen to everything you said. Lastly, because I know people would want an update with your situation, I think at the end of my article, you had just gone through a court battle with your husband to get custody of your kids. You obviously do have custody, although I think it’s shared. But your husband recently–I’ve seen the documents, which are public documents–where he was charged recently with assault. And you got a protective order against him. So, I mean, what’s next for you? And how does that impact your situation?

    ANNE FRERS: There’s limited amounts I can share because it is an ongoing case with a pending trial. I think things continue to move forward, but very, very slowly. The court system, it’s slow. It’s extraordinarily expensive. It’s taxing. But there’s forward movement. I’d share more about that, but the pending trial. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.

    JULIE ROYS:  I totally understand that having been on the receiving end of a lawsuit. I know. Often, there’s much more that you could say that you can’t say because of that. So I think Lastly, I just like to know how we can pray for you and pray for others who are serving with you on the frontlines of this whole COVID crisis.

    ANNE FRERS: I appreciate that. Really, my my biggest prayer would be absolutely you could say from a sanctification. I think it can be easier for me to go into work than it is to come home from that experience and then yet still be fully present patient loving and kind as I’m homeschooling my kids. So there’s just a lot of dynamics. So just for me as a single mom, there’s a pretty big amount of isolation and loneliness. I think you feel as a single parent during this time, I think people feel lonely for different reasons, but not having someone you know, at the end of the day to come home and process the hospital with. No one to share that burden with schooling. I think it’s just kind of amplified that isolation that much more.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, I mean, all of us are kind of, we’re at a stay-at-home order. A lot of people are around the country. Most everybody is now. And that has its own challenges, but you’re with your family. And for you so much of your life right now is in isolation and then being on an ICU. That’s, that’s intense. So can I just pray for you right now?

    ANNE FRERS: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  Father, I thank you for Anne. And I thank you for her sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many nurses and doctors and first responders right now. Lord, we ask that you would be with them. You would protect them. And Lord, we asked for lifting of this scourge, really, that’s on our country and on the whole world right now that You would quickly bring this Coronavirus pandemic to an end or at least to an easing. But Lord, we ask in the midst of it, that You would use this difficulty for our own sanctification. And like Anne said, to be able to process this in a way that would move us to a better place Lord as people. And Lord I do just ask for for Anne, Lord that as she so openly and vulnerably talked about her own doubts and struggling with bitterness with those who have really disappointed her in the church. Father, I pray that you would bring healing to that. And Lord that she would know the depth of Your love and the depth of Your grieving over what happened to her and the depths of Your anger at Your church for not behaving the way that it should have. And for people, Christian leaders who didn’t protect her in a way that they should have. And Lord, we pray for her ex-husband Lord that you would bring him to repentance over his sin. And over what he has done. We commit all these things into Your hands, and in Jesus name. Amen.

    ANNE FRERS: All right. Thank you Julie.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, you’re very welcome. Thank you. And just so appreciate everything you’re doing. And thanks for being willing to come on this podcast and take this time with us. Really appreciate it.

    ANNE FRERS: Thanks for having me.

    JULIE ROYS:   Well, 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’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. And God bless.

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    clean no 28:58 Julie Roys
    Colleges & COVID: An Interview With Judson President Gene Crume Fri, 03 Apr 2020 14:30:17 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Judson University President Gene Crume joins Julie to discuss how his university responded to the coronavirus crisis. They also explore the controversial decision at Liberty University to keep its campus open.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Judson University President Gene Crume joins Julie to discuss how his university responded to the coronavirus crisis. They also explore the controversial decision at Liberty University to keep its campus open. And Julie & Gene talk about whether Christian colleges and K-12 schools will be able to survive financially in the wake of the pandemic.

    This Weeks Guests

    Gene Crume

    Dr. Gene C. Crume, Jr. was named Judson University’s sixth president in February, 2013. Before coming to Judson, Dr. Crume served as an independent consultant working with institutions such as Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and the Peru State College Foundation (Nebraska) on issues related to external relations (marketing, communications, fundraising) and strategic planning. Dr. Crume spent a significant portion of his career at his alma mater, Western Kentucky University (WKU), where he served as the Executive Director of the WKU Alumni Association and taught as an adjunct instructor. His career also includes serving as Executive Vice President and Assistant Professor at Midland Lutheran College (now Midland University) and President of the Indiana State University Foundation.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home where we’re all sheltering in place. So, you may hear a bit of a difference in sound quality, but like many of you we’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation. And I do hope and pray that you’re doing well and staying safe right now. Well, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University. And Gene, like thousands of college presidents around the country, has been trying to deal with the coronavirus pandemic while also educating students, protecting their safety, and keeping a college afloat. And as you can imagine, it’s been an extremely intense ride. So, I’m very grateful that he’s taken the time to join me today and I’m looking forward to hearing about what that’s been like at Judson during this crisis. We’re also going to discuss the debacle at Liberty University. As many of you have heard, that’s where University President, Jerry Falwell Jr., decided to keep the school open. And now one student has tested positive for COVID-19. Another is awaiting results and eight students are in self-isolation. So, kind of a crazy situation there, a very controversial situation. And we’ll be getting to that a little bit too. But before we dive into our discussion, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Of course, one of them is Judson University. And just a reminder that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20th, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. And the speaker will be General David Petraeus—a four star general and former director of the CIA. That’s a ways off but you’ll want to mark your calendars now. Also, I want to encourage you right now to support your local businesses. They need our help. They really do and if you plan and if you happen to be looking for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. At Marquardt, you can do your shopping online at And if you want to test drive a car, Marquardt will drop the car off at your home for an extended test drive. Plus, right now Marquardt is offering 0% financing for 84 months. So again, just go to 

    Well again, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. He’s also a friend, and a great supporter of The Roys Report. So, Gene, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me. 

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Thank you, Julie, for the opportunity. Look forward to chatting with you. 

    JULIE ROYS:  So, I would just like to hear the story of how things unfolded at Judson. When did you first find out that this is going to be something where you’re probably going to have to move classes online and close the school for all intents and purposes? When did you find out about that and how did the decision-making process go?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, we’ve, you know, like everyone else, we’ve been following the story of COVID-19 from its beginning, and tracking the impact as it was starting to hit the country. And, you know, we had talked about that. One of the preparedness scenarios you go through when you do tabletop exercises in higher education is pandemics and specifically the flu. What happens if a flu outbreak hits? I know school superintendents go through that. School principals go through that. My dad was a school principal years ago. And, you know, flu would disrupt the school year at that time for only a week maybe or several days. But it’s not an unusual exercise to talk about how you respond to a pandemic. What is unusual now is the length of time and the uncertainty as we go forward. So, at Judson, with our senior leadership, what we talked about at length was if the time came that we needed to shift to a digital learning space, we knew two things. Number one—that the decision was going to happen very rapidly, meaning within a matter of hours, not necessarily days that we had days to think about it. And number two was once we made our decision, we are going to stick with our decision. And so, our decision was to go to a digital learning format. We’ve been very blessed because God prepared our institution 25 years ago, by having an adult program. And so we’ve been delivering learning through a digital platform now for, you know, well over a decade. But it’s always a challenge when you have traditional students who live on campus in a residential environment. And how do you respond to them? And how do you have a conversation in regard to our decision will be to move as many people off campus as we can—move to a digital learning platform and encourage the residential students to shelter in place with their families, because that is the best place for them to be. So that was sort of our thought process. And what really helped me was chatting with some presidential colleagues at other Christian universities as well too—Kurt Dykstra and particularly at Trinity Christian. You know, we just kind of have a nice fabric and network there to talk about what this looks like. And obviously on March 13, we made a very different decision than maybe Liberty and some other schools did. And that was—we were going to respond immediately, move to digital learning format, and protect the public health and safety of our faculty, staff and students.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, so it was a different decision than Liberty made and that one has been such a really a lightning rod in just the headlines. Everybody’s talking about this and a lot of criticism now, especially now that someone’s tested positive for COVID. And I do know there are some extenuating circumstances. And for example, Liberty, I know, has a number of international students who they say didn’t have a place to go. Although my understanding is 1,800 students returned to that campus after spring break. 800 of them have already left at least. So clearly 800 of them didn’t have to be there. Don’t know how many are international students. I actually reached out to them, but I haven’t heard back—not a big surprise. I’m sure they’re hearing from a lot of people. But what do you make of that decision in—and that’s on the east coast where it was even, at that point, more prevalent? COVID was more prevalent than it is here, I think, at the time. What do you think of this decision to keep the college open, especially with a school like Liberty that can do online classes so well.? I mean, they have over 100,000 online.

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.: They do. I think there’s a couple of interesting perspectives in which we can examine the case at Liberty. Number one is just a basic leadership lesson. You know, one of the things that I try to teach from a leadership perspective is—it is very difficult to walk in the shoes of another leadership team, and to look at the decisions that they have to engage in at the moment in time they have to engage in them. It is much easier to sit outside of that and look into it and observe, criticize, even at sometimes, applaud, which could be inappropriate, the decisions that people are making. Because we don’t have all the facts, we don’t have all the details. I think it’s one of the reasons Julie, it makes your work particularly hard—is that, as a Christian journalist, you know, you’re like a marketer and a high school coach. You get second guessed all the time on what you’re doing because your job is to look outside-in. And a lot of people respond to you—well, you just don’t know all the facts and details. Which is true. We don’t know them all. But we do know some things that are pretty clear and that is Liberty’s schedule was different than Judson’s. We’re blessed that we start early in the year. And that means our spring break was that first week of March. And we were blessed to get three mission trips in the first week of March to Belize, the Dominican Republic, and to Scotland. All three trips came back—no health concerns with any of the people on the trip. Those were three low priority areas at the time that they went. So, we were fortunate because we had Spring Break early. They had a different Spring Break schedule. They start their school year differently. So that’s point number two—context is everything in these situations. Because of when your school year runs, when it operates, what your student body makeup is, and what that looks like. We still have, at Judson about 36 students on campus. Most of our students on campus are either international students, which makes up the majority of that group, or they are graduating students that have—this is their transition plan. I mean, it’s not going to be fair to them to send them far away, in a couple of cases, only to come back here and look for a job. They’re working through finishing their internships from where they are. And we have a couple cases, too, with a couple of our students that staying on campus with their room and board and their meal plan. Because of their economic environment, that is the best option for them. They’re safer, they have three meals a day, they’re in a nice secure location, and that is—it doesn’t place them back in a vulnerable position. So, every school has context. That’s number two to go through. And then number three, you know, with President Falwell and Liberty, it just—he is who he is as a person. And some people will appreciate that if you’re in his orbit. And for a lot of people, on the outside looking in, you know, he’s going to make the decisions that he’s going to make. And he’s taken a brazen approach to those. And when you teach crisis leadership, sometimes at moments like this, it really exposes you to be second guessed, and it exposes you from a liability standpoint. So, I’m sure they’re wrestling with all that at Liberty. I just know our context, at Judson, was much different, as were many of the schools here in the Chicagoland area.

    JULIE ROYS:  So different in that you got your Spring Break done earlier. You also were further along in your semester, but not different in the sense that you’ve got students living in dormitory housing and trying to feed them in cafeterias. And I mean, I’m looking at that, and I know I’ve heard from some healthcare professionals, had Lina AbuJamra on, who I know—Dr. Lina, is somebody that you know well—last week. And she was just like, “Communal living is a nightmare when you’re dealing with a virus. I mean, not advisable.” I know professors at Liberty who told me, and sent me texts, that they had received. saying, “Hey listen, we want you reporting to work, doing your classes online from your office as opposed to at home.” I know some people who wrote back and said, “I’m not doing that.” And some of them had health situations that are outstanding. But why? I mean, I just don’t understand the logic of it. I mean, some of this seems ill advised. And I know you’re probably loath to criticize another college president but it seems a little bit nuts to me. I mean, sitting from my standpoint. Again, I’m looking from the outside-in. But I’m thinking, hmm, that was quite a stand to take that you may really regret and does it expose the college to liability?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  You know, obviously at Judson, we made a very different decision. So, I think, my best response is our decision was probably the polar opposite of theirs. And that probably reflects our thinking as juxtaposed to what they were thinking at Liberty. With that being shared, I will tell you, Julie, the day we announced that we were going to encourage our students to move home, within two hours, I had a phone call from a parent who asked me immediately about refunds. And I used the terms crisis and global pandemic, both of those terms were challenged by this individual, because, “the government hadn’t declared anything” even though here in Illinois, Governor Pritzker had already declared an emergency situation. So, you know, we had a different legal authority where the governor had already clearly stated that this was going to be a concern. And so, you know, either way, you’re in a tough spot, because I mean, my wife’s sending out, the night of the decision, before we announced it the next day. I’m on the phone. We’re talking with our team. And I’m looking at my wife, Cindy, and I said that we’re going to make the decision to go digital—get people off campus. And her response was, “What if this is a wrong decision?” And I said, “Well, here’s what one of my presidential colleagues said, do you want to be that one school that delays this decision?” And I think that’s the case with Liberty. They’re the one school that delayed the decision. And there are circumstances and consequences that come with that. And they will now have to walk down that path given those circumstances. We made a different decision. And I think, for our community, that has worked out very well. And we think we really, really minimized the exposure to our faculty, staff and students with the decision we made. So, unless you’re sitting in there in the room and unless you know Mr. Falwell as a leader, the best I can do is sit here and just sort of speculate on what they were thinking. But given what our decision was, we pretty much had a different plan than they did.

    JULIE ROYS:  But I’m guessing you didn’t call any parents “dummy” on Twitter for their (laughter).

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  I teach a very different communication style in my marketing and public relations class and I don’t advocate confrontation with your clients.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, yeah. That seems a little ill advised. I was a little shocked by that. Any of you listening—there’s a story up on my website about that. So, you can check it out at But you mentioned Governor Pritzker and your situation when you’re deciding to close the school. But we also had, here in Illinois, elections at about the same time. And you’re a polling place and that put you in a very interesting situation, too. Because Governor Pritzker said we’re going ahead with elections. So, tell me what that was like in interfacing with the government on an issue like this?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Yeah. And let me let me start that response by saying this. I really believe one of the unsung heroes, in the decision in Illinois, were the polling workers. Wow. In our conversation with the director of elections for Kane County, what he had to go through and the exposure that the state put the polling workers—exposure that they put them—that position they put them in. That was very challenging and the fact that they did run the election and it went as relatively smoothly as it did. You know, they deserve a lot more credit than we’ve given them. And I don’t think people spend enough time thanking them and lifting them up because they were in a very vulnerable position. That was our conundrum. We did not want to be a polling place. We had already made the decision that we move most of our folks off campus. The prospect of bringing in over 1000 individuals, outside of campus, onto campus, into one of our facilities went against everything we had been told—everything we had been told. And so, it was an inconsistency that troubled us a great deal. So, we shut down the entire campus. We locked every building and we only made available that particular polling location. The Kane County officials had been gracious. They’ve offered to come in and clean the building, which we appreciate. That still hasn’t been done and we understand the bumps with that. But, you know, that’s been several weeks now and we still have a building that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned because of the promise of coming in and doing that. And to me, that’s on the state decision by moving forward with the elections. But other states made a similar decision so we can sit and criticize Liberty for the decision they made. And yet we sit at a paradoxical spot here in Illinois when it seems like we made a similar decision for political purposes and politics. Voting is politics. It is a community service but it was disconcerting to us to say the least. I do appreciate our county election workers—the grace they provided us—but we were basically told we’ll pursue legal action if you don’t keep your polling place open. So, you know, we felt like we were backed into a corner. I think we managed it about as well as we could have. But, you know Julie, even Scriptures are clear about this as well too in regard to the things of politics and the things of man versus the things of God. And it’s going to reshape how we look at our community service outreach. God willing, we will host Love Elgin Day, which is a very large, comprehensive community outreach effort that has a Heal Elgin Day and free dentistry and free clothing and the food bank. And God willing, we will be the host site of that in November. That we find as our Christian witness. That’s serving the underserved. Being a polling location, we’re gonna have to really reassess that. I don’t know that that’s necessarily Scripturally directed from our perspective. Now, it is a nice public service, but it’s not necessarily connected to our Christian witness.

    JULIE ROYS:  It’s interesting with elections. We’ll never know how that impacted the spread of the disease. I mean, because with something like that, it’s unlike a church that has a meeting and or choir practice. If you read that story, it was that one state where a choir came together and 45 of them now are, I mean, 45 are tested positive with COVID.  Two are dead. And I know that’s changing all the time. But with I mean elections, people from all over come in and there’s no necessarily connection. So, we’ll never know. And I just hope and pray it didn’t make it a lot worse, but we don’t know. You know, one of the things I am concerned about and I know this concerns you is the online learning platform. And it sounds like Judson was pretty well prepared for this to go online. I know my husband’s a teacher. They’ve gone online. So that was kind of new for his school because it’s a high school and high schools don’t generally teach online unless you’re a homeschooling platform or something. But there are people saying this is going to set back education. I know you’re committed to finishing out the spring semester, but there was a Washington Post commentary by Kevin Hoffman, who’s the former head of education in Tennessee. He writes, “Years of research shows that online schooling is ineffective and that students suffer significantly learning losses when they have a long break from school. Now they’re getting both in a hastily arranged mess. And kids who suffer most from the summer slide are the low-income students, the ones already struggling to keep up.” So, let’s talk about this. I mean, I have homeschool friends who are just like, “yeah, we’ve been doing this forever. This is no different for us.” You know, we’re kind of glad the rest of the world is getting a taste of this. When you’re used to it, when you’re prepared, you can do online. But a lot of places aren’t and how is this gonna set back education?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, I don’t think it’s going to set back education. I read that same article. I would be comfortable challenging his knowledge of the data about learning environments and how well students learn in different environments and whether or not there’s a setback or not. I would offer two pieces of data that have been pretty consistent over the last 30 years. Number one, the quality of the educational experience is directly connected to the quality of the teacher in the classroom, whether it be homeschooled, or whether it be in a public-school environment or private-school environment. The quality of the instruction, the quality of the teacher absolutely shapes the quality of the learning environment for the student. That’s where students perform. We’ve seen lots of studies on class size. We’ve seen lots of studies on blended models of having technology enhanced learning and making it all in-person learning. And the data goes both ways on a lot of those. The second piece of data that people don’t talk a lot about is that for the past 20 years, the data seems pretty consistent now, that when a student enters their freshman year high school, by the time they graduate from high school, and even if they go on to college—if you’re a B student as a freshman in high school, you will probably graduate college as a B student. So, there’s very little academic performance above the level you enter that your educational experience. So, B students in high school tend to be B students in college. A students tend to be A students and C students tend to be C students. The only thing that does change, that dramatically, is overcoming trauma, or coming out of different socio-economic environments. But mostly students stay pretty consistent with their academic performance from their freshman year high school. So, learning online or digital learning in person, doesn’t really seem to affect that as much. So, I think, with all respect to homeschooling parents, they’ve got a really good point of saying, “Yeah, we’ve been using blended models for a long time and it’s pretty effective.” Now the challenge is, a good number of teachers in the K—12 environment, and with traditional, residential colleges and universities—a good number of those teachers only use technology to augment the learning experience. And it’s still very much in-person as a foundation. So those professors learning to adapt to an all-digital environment is a bit of a challenge. There’s a famous saying that the teacher arrives when the student is ready. And that’s true in the classroom. And that’s true on the digital format. So, I have to be more diligent with my class in staying connected with my students right now to make sure that they are staying on top of their coursework. Because I will not see them two days a week right now. And so, there’s a little bit more diligence. But I’ve got a lot more resources now than relying on waiting for them to walk into classroom D at Judson University Lindner Tower. I could email them. I can’t tell you, Julie, how much texting I’ve been doing with my students and or replying to them via social media. It feels like, at times, the most difficult way to get in touch with my students is send them an email. And the easiest way is to send them a Facebook message and I’ll get a response back. So those are adaptive pedagogical structures that we can work with to help encourage them to be engaged, check in on them, find out what’s going on. The other thing we do know is that there are some students that will gravitate towards learning in-person as a more preferred learning structure. That doesn’t mean that they can’t adapt to the digital means. I think we’re seeing that, with schools switching to pass-fail as their grading system for this semester, there’s nominal data, if any really at all, that says pass-fail structures right now will actually benefit the students. I understand the anxiety and the trauma and reducing stress. And those are all very good, valid points. But when you’re a faith-based institution like Judson, it seems like God has created us for moments like this to walk alongside of our students to help provide support and comfort and a sense of, you know, peace and grace to them. And to let them know that, “Hey, God’s walking alongside side of you. We’ll get this figured out. Take a deep breath. And let’s talk about what you can get accomplished between now and the end of the semester.” So yeah, that wasn’t one of my favorite opinion pieces. But you know, he’s entitled to his opinion. And I don’t know that I would hold that that is entirely accurate.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, we’re living this, in our household, because we have a 17-year-old senior who’s just finishing up school. And she’s kind of, I mean, she’s bummed that there’s not going to be a prom this year. She’s never gone to prom and she was kind of hoping to do that. But she’s loving, actually, the freedom of the online and she’s doing quite well. I think she’s almost doing better now than when she was at school. Because maybe the social environment is so distracting that it’s a little more difficult to study and to keep your head there. My husband is an AP Statistics teacher. They just found out, not too long ago, that the test, the AP Stats test, isn’t going to have the last two chapters on it. So, there was great celebration in our home because not only is he a teacher of that, but my daughter is in his class. So, she was very excited to hear that. But it does make me wonder. I mean, here’s—my daughter is not going to probably be going into a mathematical field, knowing her. But I thought, you know, my son, who by the way, was a B student in high school and became an A student in college. So, there is hope parents. But he was going into an engineering field. Stats would have been probably important for him to have those last two chapters. I mean, what about some of these students who test out? I mean, I’m just thinking they’re testing out of a college course. But they didn’t really fully complete it. And is that going to be a problem?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, it will be in certain academic disciplines. And that’s what we’re looking at on a course-by-course in an academic program, academic program basis. There is a big difference between general education courses, which are designed to broaden your overall knowledge base and to help you learn how to think critically. And certainly, at a liberal arts school, like Judson, that’s a big part of it. It’s to help you learn how to think critically about issues, problems, information that you’re receiving, data that you get. In certain academic programmatic areas, it will make a difference. And, for example, we have a nationally recognized architecture program. And there’s just no shortening those classes. I mean, it is important that they complete the majority of their academic requirements in the term. Nursing courses are much the same way as well, too. And so, you know, there are certain academic programs where that requirement is going to have just a different level of stringent expectation than other academic areas. Now, that doesn’t mean in those other academic areas, they’re easier. It just means that there’s a different educational structure and expectation with that. Because what we often see, is that if you’re gifted in mathematics, mathematics is going to feel a little easier for you. If you’re gifted in the humanities, and if you’re gifted in public speaking, those are going to feel easier to you as well. And so, it depends on the course. It depends on the structure, the instructor. And it just depends on what did your syllabus say and what were you trying to convey, throughout the full course of the semester, that they needed to learn. And it’s really a course-by-course basis more than anything else.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, let’s look at finances because I know this is the big issue right now, right? We’ve got a disease that we’re trying to stay alive, as a society, but financially, some are asking is the cure worse than the disease? Because financially, so many businesses are going to go under. And it is a crisis economically. And I know for small Christian schools, you guys have been tightening your belts already. And now this hits. What is going to be the financial impact in our small Christian Schools, not just colleges and universities, but also K-12. Are they going to weather this? 

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  It’s going to be challenging. That’s the short version of it. And in that regard, we’re no different than small business owners. We’re no different than people that own their own hairstyling salons or restaurants, or they own a local store. It’s going to be hard for everyone. Because the economics of this just don’t add up. You know when you take people out of the marketplace, it can only have a negative consequence to it. So there will be lots of businesses that will unfortunately not make it during this challenging time, economically. And I think there’s a fair question to be asked about stay at home orders and the scope of those orders, and the types of businesses that are required to shut down. But that also needs to be blended with—we’ve seen so many examples of crowds gathering that people tend to do foolish things in large groups. So, it is a complex formula for Christian schools, K-12, as well as higher education. We’re already starting to see some of the effects of that. You know MacMurray here in Illinois, as an institution announced this week that they will most likely be closing at the end of this term. So, they can’t meet the ongoing concern clause. And so, they’ve already agreed to teach, arrangements with some other schools downstate. And a small Catholic institution, not small compared to us, but a Catholic institution in California already announced that they were closing as well, too. And so that’s before the CARES ACT relief package from the federal government was finalized. And these schools have already announced that they don’t feel like they can continue. So yes, it’s going to be a real felt effect in terms of the economics of it. In some ways at Judson, we’ve been working through the tough economics of this state because Illinois suffers from three challenges when it comes to enrollment at colleges, universities. Number one, is the fact that more people have been moving out of state than moving in. Number two has been there’s just fewer 18-year-olds being born and that birth trend will continue to decline now pretty rapidly between now and 2035 and 2040. And then the third part is in the year 2000, roughly between 15 to 20% of the 18-year-olds going to college went out of state. Last year that was 50%. Those are three big market losses that Illinois has already been languishing under for the last six years. So, we’ve been tightening our belt at Judson for the last five or six years. And in many ways, Julie, that was God’s provision to us for this moment right now. I can’t imagine how much harder this would be for us had we not already made some operational budget decisions to tighten our economic belt last August, September, October, November, December and January. This would be a lot harder for us had we not, and our team had done a great job of just cutting our operational expenses. So, it’s going to have a felt impact. The CARES ACT—what they did on the federal level will help. That will certainly help us provide economic relief to our residential students who we will find some way to help refund a portion of their housing and of their meal plan. So that will be very helpful to them from an economic standpoint. That federal CARES ACT will help us provide those funds to do that. But the underlying business conditions are going to be tough, but we are blessed to be on stable ground. A lot of schools aren’t. And a lot of K-12, Christian higher education institutions aren’t because the birth rate has just declined and there’s fewer students interested in that type of educational environment.

    JULIE ROYS:  But I think an encouragement to people who obviously are being stretched right now, economically—everyone is. But to remember those institutions, the nonprofits, that you believe in, they need your donations now probably more than at any other time. And they’re the hardest to give. So, it’s going to require more sacrifice. But just a reminder to us that if you love what the mission of an organization is and what they do, don’t forget to give to them during this time. And some people can’t. And, you know, I’m sure institutions understand that but important to support and to give. But you did bring out something that—because I posted this on Facebook about the CARES ACT and the fact that Christian institutions, nonprofits, even churches will be able to take some federal money or loans. And a lot of people pushing back saying “Man, you don’t want to take any money from the government.” Of course, Christian schools, I mean, you’ve been—your students have been taking federal funds for a long time. S,o there’s very few Christian schools that don’t take any federal funds. And I think, probably, Grove City and Hillsdale might be the only ones. But do you—does that make you nervous at all taking money from the government with that ACT?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  No, it doesn’t make us nervous at Judson University. But part of that is understanding, you know, at least for me, as a President. The way I lead, you know, Christ made it very clear or what Christ said, well, whose pictures on the coin? It’s Caesars. So render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and unto God, what’s God’s. And any time you deal with the state, whether it is with state sanctioned marriage, from a moral standpoint, whether it is taxes, whether it is monies that are distributed from the state, there’s always political conditions and human conditions and human requirements. And that’s just part of it. And you either agree to those rules or you don’t accept the money. And like you mentioned, there were two great examples of the institutions you shared, that have already made that decision. And so, if the conditions are too onerous for us, then you know, we understand that may not be an economic resource that we want to tap into. There are certain grants we don’t apply for. There are certain foundations that we don’t apply to just because of the conditions or from a Christ-centered perspective, we just don’t feel like that’s a good fit for Judson University. And taking money from the State of Illinois, or from the federal government, is much the same way. You have to be careful. You have to understand that there are conditions that come with that. And at least for Judson, if those conditions ever truly jeopardize our faith identity, that’s no longer worth the cost to us.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, we have time for just one last question. And it’s probably one of the most important. And that is—spiritually, how are you helping your students, your faculty, your staff really grow during this time? Because we know, whenever there’s hardship, this can be a time—maybe even more than normal life, right—where here we can really see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually, to come closer to the Lord. So, what are you doing and how are you seeing people being impacted, spiritually, by all this?

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, the important part of the spiritual piece of it is that you really understand if you had made the right investments leading up to this moment in crisis. That’s true with everything. You know how prepared you are, by how you’ve been living out your spiritual identity every day up and to this point. And so, with what we’ve done with chapel led by Chris Lash, and our provost. The way we invest in our students spiritually, the way that as a faculty and staff we invest with each other, with our prayer structure. The way our Board of Trustees prays for Judson. The fact that even simple things like every Sunday, we post on our social media ways that faculty and staff and alumni and friends and parents can pray for Judson University. How you live out your faith, day-to-day, should be strengthened through moments and times like this. Because when you’re in trauma or you’re in crisis, there’s no all of a sudden, trying to gorge and feed spiritually, really quick, just to get you up to speed. That doesn’t work out, generally, pretty well. But the second part is, then there’s a great opportunity to witness—to talk about if you’re sitting in a place of peace. Again, it’s hard, it’s challenging, God’s gonna get us through it. And people look at you and go, “Why do you have this confidence?” Then it opens up your mission field and saying, “Well, because that’s how we live every day. You know, we’re not promised anything tomorrow or promised this moment in time and how we invest that is incredibly important.” So that’s what we’ve been sharing with our students. So, chapel has switched to moving the content online and Chris Lash posts, on a daily basis, messages that our students can then tap into. We did suspend chapel credit. So, we moved all the students in that environment. We do give a chapel grade, but we move them to basically pass-fail so that we just encourage them to take advantage of those materials as well. Different prayer groups—making sure that we stay connected. Asking simple things like as a faculty member, or as an administrator, asking our students, how can I pray for you? Letting them know that our faith leads us and guides us at a time like this, too. So, because of the investments we made, we feel like switching and moving into a slightly different format. Just—it’s God’s just giving us a different way to share the message God wants us to share. And I think Julie, you see that exact same thing with the ministry that you do. The fact that we’re now doing this through zoom and your podcast continues on, all be it in a different format, maybe not in the studio. Even though Eric you know, sitting in a studio it looks like but we all have different ways of showing or casting that. The churches are the same way. The churches have done the same thing. They’ve moved to providing their church services in a digital format. And some do it on Facebook. Some play some on YouTube. Some still do local broadcasting as well. So, we’re no different than the church. If you’ve been investing in your flock, and you’ve been diligent on how you live out the faith day-to-day, you just feel confident God’s going to help you move into this new format. And spiritually, people should thrive in this environment because you’re experiencing how God helps us overcome challenge.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I was somewhat amused by—I was listening to Chris Lash and he was he’s talking about St. Benedict. And I thought, well, that’s good to talk about the monks because we’re all living kind of a monastic life right now. Right? We’re sort of in our abbey so to speak. But I think Christians, throughout time, have dealt with very difficult situations. Isolation sometimes can be a good thing—solitude with the Lord. But at the same time, I think you’re right that this is an opportunity to connect. And some of us are connecting through online platforms or texts or whatever with people that normally we just see and it’d be casual. And now we’re engaging in more substantive conversations with them because of the crisis. So, it is an opportunity. And I just appreciate, Gene, what you’re doing—the way you’re providing leadership, both in an academic way, but also in a spiritual way there at Judson. And I do appreciate you so much taking the time. So, thank you. Appreciate you.

    DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Absolutely. Thank you, Julie for the opportunity, and thanks for your ministry. 

    JULIE ROYS:  You bet. Well, again, joining me today was Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.

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    clean no 40:46 Julie Roys
    Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront Thu, 26 Mar 2020 18:24:47 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • What’s happening on the COVID-19 battlefront? And how should Christians respond to this rapidly changing crisis?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Lina Abujamra, a pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries, joins Julie to discuss this crucially important issue. Lina has been working long, ten- to 12-hour days, responding to those with medical issues in the midst of this pandemic.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    What’s happening on the COVID-19 battlefront? And how should Christians respond to this rapidly changing crisis?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Lina Abujamra, a pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries, joins Julie to discuss this crucially important issue. Lina has been working long, ten- to 12-hour days, responding to those with medical issues in the midst of this pandemic. And she offers not just sound medical advice, but spiritual guidance for Christians seeking to navigate these uncertain times with wisdom and faith.   

    This Weeks Guests

    Dr. Lina AbuJamra

    Lina AbuJamra is a Pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries. Her vision is to bring hope to the world by connecting biblical answers to everyday life. A popular Bible teacher, blogger, and conference speaker, Lina has authored several books including: ThriveStripped, and Resolved. You can listen to Lina’s podcast on iTunes or Podbean and find her boosting your faith all over social media. Lina is the host of Today’s Single Christian on Moody Radio and of Morning Minutes, a daily audio devotional available on her website.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, how should Christians respond to the Coronavirus pandemic? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home in the Chicago suburbs. Like many of you I’m sheltering in place. So instead of recording at our studios at Salem Radio, we’re recording this podcast through Zoom. And I believe the sound quality is still good, but perhaps not as good as it is normally. But like everyone else, I’m learning to make do and I’m just so grateful that we live in a time where we can work from home and do classes online and churches online and podcasts online. So, praise God for that. I’m also grateful to have with me today Dr. Lina AbuJamra. Lina runs her own ministry called Living with Power, but she’s also a pediatric ER doctor and has been on the front lines dealing with the coronavirus crisis. So, I’m super grateful that she’s taken time out of her extremely busy schedule to join us. And I know she’s going to have just some really important insights on how we, as Christians, should be responding to this crisis. But before we dive into today’s podcast, I want to just take a moment to thank our sponsors. Again, a main sponsor of this podcast is Judson University. And they’ve been fantastic friends and supporters of my work. And I would just ask that you pray for Judson and other Christian colleges and universities just struggling to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Our other supporters are the Illinois Family Institute and Marquardt Buick. If you want to stay current on policies impacting faith and families, I encourage you—check out IFI’s weekly podcast. Just go to Well again, joining me today is Dr. Lina 

    AbuJamra, founder of Living With Power, but also a pediatric ER nurse and a wonderful friend and sister in Christ. So Lina, welcome. I’m so appreciative that you took the time.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’m happy to be here, Julie.

    JULIE ROYS:  So again, you’ve been up since very early this morning. What, for the past 10 hours doing, what do you call it, telemedicine? 

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I left the ER two years ago and after a career of 18 years in the Children’s Hospital in Chicago– and then at one of the community hospitals. And phased out into telemedicine because of the growing work we were doing in the Middle East with Syrian refugees. And so, my practice in telemedicine has grown tremendously as insurance companies have across the board basically recognized that as a service that alleviates cost and volume overload to urgent cares and ER’s. So over the years we’ve seen it grow to incredible numbers, but nothing like the last two weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. People have avoided going into the ER’s and the urgent cares and doctor’s offices. So, it is now a common thing to hear your patients say, “We called our doctors and they will not see us because we have a fever.” And so, patients have had to use the telemedicine services in order to get care, not only for coronavirus issues but also for regular health issues. And many patients, of course, are scared to go in, and smartly avoiding to go in if they don’t have emergent conditions—so urgent care type things. And so our volumes have gone from typically, and you know, you’ll have 50 to 100 patients waiting in the waiting room on a busy day—to 1500 to up to 1900 at one point, I think, a few days ago, on a regular basis—anytime I tap into the app and try to do work. And so for the past 10 days, I’ve been working a little extra hard, trying to do my share of helping the system and helping people who are looking for care and are willing to wait up to 15 hours at times—and still showing grace to myself when I call them at 4 in the morning because that’s when I start.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And so, what percentage of the people who are calling you right now have coronavirus related concerns?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I don’t have the actual data, but just my impression looking is about 50% right now, I would say, maybe less, maybe 40%, but not much less than that. And it’s grown tremendously over the course of the week. And the conversations have changed. And I said, literally, it’s a week today—it’s Wednesday, maybe a week and a half. But I remember a week ago Friday, so 10 days ago, I was back in visiting my mother in Florida and the conversations about coronavirus were growing. But still nobody was thinking we would be where we were today, even though we were watching Italy, kind of expand in their issues and in the severity of the problem there. And so, I remember coming home on Saturday, trying to scramble to get my own toilet paper not knowing what would happen. And just all of a sudden, seeing the waiting room go from like, again 100 to 1000 patients. And then that Saturday, Sunday a week ago, I sort of started to make sense of these conversations, knowing very little about coronavirus, and educating myself as I was trying to also figure out what the resources were for patients. And now, 10 days later, people have a good handle on some things and a lot of chaos on other things. And so, my job is to try to triage them appropriately and treat them when I can and provide some sense to most people, who are sitting somewhere in their homes, wondering whether they’re going to die.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, my goodness. And this must be so scary for folks that actually do have other conditions as well. Because, you know, I heard just this morning that a friend of mine has a kidney stone right now. And, you know, is in incredible pain. And what do they do with that? And she’s afraid to go into the hospital and rightly so. I mean, I can understand that. And so, there’s just the amount of anxiety for our friends and neighbors who aren’t healthy right now. I mean, I’m glad they have your service that they can call but, I mean, this is tough. This is really tough for Christians to be in this situation and not feel anxiety.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No question about it. It’s tough for any human and I think Christians are supposed to be able to get a handle on fear and anxiety. But I think we’re also human and I think we’re grappling with readjusting lives. And that’s just a medical part we’re talking about. And of course, so many layers of fear—loved ones who are now, of course, in the last week, as things have exploded, besides doing the medical work, and I’ve been averaging 10 to 12 hours of medical work a day but we’ve also done a lot online. I have a ministry where we do Bible teaching, discipleship and we have really gone on just full, you know, mode. We started a Facebook community group. I’m teaching online. I do these Facebook Lives. I’m educating about coronavirus on Facebook Live with a very, you know, growing people-group that is tuning in and listening. Encouraging people spiritually through what I’ve called “Covid Updates with Dr. Lina”—two, three-minute segments where I just handle you know, every couple of days, sort of an issue that comes up to the surface. And people just bombarding, you know, with of course, their questions. But opportunities to redirect the perspective of the conversation to Jesus and seeing Him just do a work of reuniting people in ways that maybe we had not expected before. People are listening. And so, we’ve really seen immense fruits in what God is doing in people’s lives. And the peace that only God can bring has become much more evident to me as I’ve been able to do some of those endeavors. It’s been exciting.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, that is exciting. And it’s neat to see how something that, you know, Satan intends for evil—no doubt about it—yet God can use it for good. And it is an opportunity, I think, for ministries, like yours and other Christian ministries and churches, to step up. I know, just this week, I was talking with one of our pastors. In fact, he called yesterday. And my husband and I shepherd a group, a small group, with another couple, and we’ve kind of divvied out. It’s kind of a medium-sized group. We call it small group, but it just keeps growing. So, it gets bigger and bigger. But we love, you know, these people under our care. And, so he was shepherding me, but then it was like, well give people in your group a call. And so, we’re all calling and I was saying, you know, some of these people, I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation on the phone. But because of this crisis, or having those one-on-one conversations—and I found out things that were that were going on in their life. And there was kind of that personal one-on-one connection that that we didn’t have. We’re doing our community group, we normally meet on Monday nights. We did a Zoom group. So, we met by Zoom. And it was neat to see how God was ministering through us, to each other, on Zoom on this group meeting you know, using online platforms. But really, I mean, don’t you see this as an incredible opportunity for the church to be the church. Because when there’s pain, when there’s suffering, that is when the church can step up in some ways and be the church in a greater way than maybe it even was before? 

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Oh, I mean, I don’t have a question that God is using this crisis to purify His church. I think that there’s a lot of money and time and energy spent on church activities that has, I will go as far to say zero value in terms of souls and ministry and care of individuals. And I really believe that all the negative of coronavirus aside and all of the fear, I think there’s something that is going to happen out of this in the way that we do church, that is going to massively and radically change the New Testament church that is now in existence. And I think that is for good. I really believe that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Boy, there’s so much I could talk about on that because I’ve seen it, too. And when we even met for church two weeks ago, not this past Sunday, because this past Sunday, we weren’t allowed to be in each other’s homes. But we had neighbors in our home to watch our church service online. And we prayed together. And it was powerful. Even my 17-year-old daughter was like, “Man that that was really cool doing church in a home.” And so, I do think there’s neat things coming out of that. And even with my neighbors, we put notes in some of their mailboxes just saying we’re here to help. If you need anything, let us know. So, I do think there’s opportunities for community. But, let me turn this to the seriousness of corona because it seems like in the Christian community, there’s two camps. There’s one camp that’s saying, “Man, this is really serious, and it’s everything its cracked up to be. And as Christians, we need to be, kind of, on the forefront of taking seriously what our governor tells us. Shelter in place, whatever.” But there seems to be another part of our community that’s saying, “This is a lot of hype. It’s kind of blown out of proportion.” In fact, let me play a clip. This is from Dave Ramsey. And Dave, I guess, at his workplace, one of his employees came down with coronavirus. And David sent out an email then on March 15, soon after, to all of his employees said, “Hey, listen, we’re keeping the offices open. I expect you to report to work.” That email then got published in the Nashville Scene. And we’ll talk about what happened as a result of that. But just a few days earlier, Dave was comparing the coronavirus to Y2K and saying, “People just need to calm down.”

    DAVE RAMSEY: You might get the flu; you might get a virus. You’re more likely to die of a car wreck. But you didn’t quit driving cars. I don’t understand you people. Statistical analysis. You didn’t quit. You still smoke. You’ve been smoking for 15 years. We know that kills you. And you don’t stop that. But you’re hiding in your house right now and afraid to come out. This is just, it’s crazy. Hysteria really makes smart people look dumb. Because they are. Their critical thinking skills have melted down. So just go back to Y2K. When your friends are going crazy right now, just look at him and say, “Bless your little heart,” which is Southern for “You’re stupid.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, again, that’s Dave Ramsey and kind of making light of it—kind of saying hey, if you’re going crazy in this whole thing. I don’t know kind of sounds like he’s saying you’re stupid. He did, after the Nashville Scene, published that he was staying open in an email that he had sent out to his staff on March 20. Then he reversed course and now they are closing their office. But Lina, let me throw this to you. Is this just like Y2K? And are people just overreacting to everything?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Look, about three or four weeks ago, when people started hearing about coronavirus in China—before it started crossing the waves and before it hit the dock in Italy—I think there was a sense that it was out there, not over here. And I think we all thought it was like the SARS. I mean, to cut people some slack. And so, there’s a sense that maybe it wasn’t that serious. I remember even being at the dinner table at my sister’s house and my nephew telling me that there was a patient at Northwest Community who had it. And even talking to some of my colleagues and we sort of thought, yeah, let’s see what happens. Like I think, there was maybe some skepticism early on. It didn’t take long to start to see. I think Italy was sort of that wake-up call to most doctors. I really do. I think the idea that a country could be pummeled by a virus to this degree, and of course, everything started happening very quickly at that point. And China had taken immense measures to keep people, you know, socially isolated. And then of course, Italy was late on the game and that. And people use Korea, of course, as a great example, and on and on. But it was very, very quick before people sort of woke up and realized. And the doctor community, the professional community was like, “This is not a joke. Like, okay, this is not the drill. We’re not going outside for fire.” It did not take long and you will not find anywhere right now—anybody in the medical field will tell you, “Yeah, this is just another Y2K.” So, with all due respect to that clip, I hope that was, I don’t know what the date on that was. But my hope is that that was at least 10 days ago, or maybe a week ago—to not make the person who said this sound like he is—so they’re stupid, I think is what he says at the end of the clip. And so, you know, when I hear things like that, that just seems—and again, with all respect, people love Dave Ramsey. He’s given some immensely wise counsel on finances that people will need financial counsel. But there’s a point where you sort of listen to this. And as a doctor, I sort of tune them out. I’m done with that. I can’t listen to that. It’s is just nonsense. And that puts people in danger.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and I think, too, he was thinking financially, don’t pull everything out. We’ve seen crashes before. And I think he brings some calm there. Although, I don’t think any of us know even financially what’s gonna happen with our stocks or retirement funds. It is a little bit nerve racking. But right, I do think they’re, to be fair to him, we have had disasters happen before in the stock market, and it’s recovered. And so, I do think there’s a point to which you should keep it calm. I’m a little less forgiving to Jerry Falwell, Jr, who recently decided to keep Liberty University open. Everything else is closing. Lina is it safe? Is there a way to do, “safe” being on campus in a dormitory type setting? I do think they have some tents outside and they’re trying to have smaller groups. But is this something we should be doing? I mean, it seems a little crazy to me, but maybe that’s just me.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, I mean, yes, of course. I mean, I think it’s sort of shocking it to a certain degree, and it’s surprising to me that it’s legal. I wonder what leeway the staff and the students would have. I mean, that always comes up. Is this something that they’ll lose their job or what happens if they don’t abide by that? Because I think humans have ultimately a personal responsibility to watch the news, listen and make decisions. You know, we’re not robots. And I think right now is too soon. Again, this is March, I guess, look at the dates, 25th is too soon for people to be in what would be considered sort of a communal living. Now, you know, I think if a teacher goes into her office or his office, and they’re alone, and they’re not meeting, you know, it’s socially isolated running a class from the office, I can understand that. But students in a dorm community, I think you’re putting the students at risk. And I think it is absolutely contraindicated at this point where the numbers in the United States are nowhere near their peak. So, we’re, we haven’t even I mean, I think we’re at what 60,000 today on March 25th. I predict that by the weekend, we’d be well over 100,000 cases. And you do the math, you know. And so, you’re just contributing to that. And so now the conversation of course in the US has been like, when do we go back to normal? And I put a video out yesterday that was, sort of, picked up a lot by people. Because the sentiment was in the video, and you can catch it probably on one of my social media pages. But, in essence, you know, we’re going from Chicago to Florida. We’re not even in Kentucky. And we’re asking, “Are we there yet?” And so, my fear, right now, when people are saying well, “we’re going to go back to normal”, my fear is if people go, “back to normal,” to any degree, is this—I think people think that coronavirus is like the flu. And if somehow you can integrate back into society, and some people will get it, and then you’ll be homesick for a little bit, but everything will sort of go back to normal. I think that’s sort of the crazy part of it is it’s not the flu, right? You’ve got a longer incubation period. You infect more people. And so now you’ve sent 10 kids into a dorm or 20 or 100. Say 5 of them have the coronavirus. They give it to 2.3 other people who give it to 2.3 other people. Now, you know, people who are saying, “Well, I don’t see the point. The ER’s are not, you know, overrun with people.” First of all, that’s ignorance. They are. And secondly, watch New York. I’ve been really sort of baffled by the fact that the American people think that New York is another country. Like they’re over there, and that’s their problem. And we’re over here and we’re okay. You know, we’re in Texas or Alabama or wherever, you know. Even Washington State has done a good job of keeping their numbers down for now, but it is a completely different setup than New York. And of course, Dr. Fauci’s made a point, I think, as of even yesterday to remind people that we’re not doing massive testing. We are doing more and more of it. So, we will have more numbers in the next week or two. So, for Jerry Falwell to say, okay, kids can go back to the dorm is so premature, that there’s just no excuse for it, let alone logic.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, and I think of our witness, what is this doing to our Christian witness? I know one of our—a business that I love. I’ve always been a big supporter of Hobby Lobby. They’ve taken some great stands. But I’m just baffled right now that they’re open. And I had a reporter—she’s not a reporter for a Christian outlet. She’s a reporter for a secular outlet. And she reached out to me privately. But I think she is a believer. But she reached out to me and this is what she said—just some personal venting. “Julie, these Christians such as David Greene, who are keeping schools and businesses open, despite government shelter in place orders, are making me so angry. I believe they are sinning. And the Bible specifically calls for us to obey civil authorities God has placed over us unless to do so conflicts with God’s higher law. They need to be called out for their sin. Church worship, one might have a First Amendment argument.” But again, she’s saying this idea that God will protect us from this virus and we can go out there and kind of flaunt our liberty and our freedom, as you said, we need to think not just about our own personal safety, but the personal safety of others—that we become a host and we can carry this disease elsewhere. And so, we need to, again, I’ve been sheltering at home. I haven’t gone anywhere other than a bike ride and a walk. And thank goodness, my husband’s willing to do the grocery shopping, and he does most of that. But, I mean, we need to be thinking about our neighbor as in, don’t infect your neighbor and don’t get infected, so you don’t infect your neighbor. Right?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, and I think it’s gonna become–I mean, the sad thing is, there’s really two scenarios. Really, at the end of the day. I mean, you can be pragmatic about the whole thing. And so, think about it. You can either abide by shelter in place until the numbers level off and there’s more data and there’s more medical not political but medical advice as to what’s okay. And input by doctors who, right now, frankly, are—many of them are too busy and too inundated. Like I’ll literally get asked regularly about things that will flash. Like somebody will write an article somewhere about some medicine or some blood type. And I’m like, man, I don’t—it’s not even in my radar. Like, you know, so you’re like googling it and you’re going, it is so irrelevant to the care of sick patients in that moment, that you can’t even—you know, you’re trying to bring people back to like, “Okay, you don’t need to know that.” That’s like you’re trying to read a Ph.D. paper when you’re still in like the sixth grade. And I’m not being insulting, I’m just being real. Like, I don’t even know that stuff. And so, I think people need to kind of to tune it back a notch and sort of let the medical community get to that stage where they can say, “Okay, now is okay, from a public health perspective, to be back out in the open.” And I think this is hard for people to hear. So, one scenario is, yeah, you listen, and you wait. And it is stressful. And I think we can talk in a minute about the financial implications of this. Which I think is the driver here. People live paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a six-month reserve, they’re not Dave Ramsey. It’s ironic that he’s pushing his people to go in because if he abode by his principles, they should be able to work from home for six months. And so, it doesn’t make sense to me. Now, in the meantime, there are other scenarios. You say, “Screw it, we’re not going to do that.” We’re going to go back to normal because we’re Americans, and we can do this.” And everyone goes back to normal and you live to see the consequences. Now, are you willing to do that? I mean, what I’ve seen in Italy,, and what I hear from my friends who are on the front lines, it’s already mass chaos. And today I had a conversation with a doctor who has friends in New York. It is not good in New York. And, that’s regardless . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  What is it like? What did he say it’s like in the hospitals?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Chaos. The word is chaos. People everywhere—even here in Chicago—everybody’s showing up to get tested. And so, and of course, you’ve got to tune out, you know, to tease out the sick people from the non-sick people. The difference is the volumes are bigger in New York, so the hospitals are full. The ICU’s are full. The doctors are getting—many, many doctors have gotten infected. It’s not like this is a real risk. So, I want to ask the American people, in those situations, like what are you going to do when, yes, you go back to normal, but now you no longer have doctors who can manage you? Because they’re all home because they’re sick, or they’re dead? Or they’re on two-week quarantine, you see. Now what are you going to do when you show up to the hospital? Not everybody can do what I’m doing, sit at home and see patients. I’ve seen 100 patients a day on the phone every day from 4 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon—every day for the past 10 days. And I have no foreseeable change at this point. And I’m constantly feeling guilty about the fact that there’s a thousand patients waiting when I hang up and say, “I’m done for today.” 

    JULIE ROYS:  It’s so hard.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  So now, yeah, so for the listener who’s like going, what are doctors are excited about? Because we’ve seen lesser disasters, nothing to this degree. And we know the impact of a lesser disaster.

    JULIE ROYS:  You know, and I’ve been thinking about what is our responsibility? Like I know my husband and I, a week ago when I heard about this, I’m like, shoot, we should order on Amazon some facemasks. Well, of course, you can’t really get them. But if I do get them now, I realize I can’t keep them for myself. I’ve got to give them to the hospital. I’ve got to give them to the fire department. I’ve got to give—you know, I can’t keep those. I’m not a first responder. And the first responders don’t have enough facemasks. I was reading today, as well, that the food banks—in fact I have a call into our Northern Illinois Food Bank trying to find out some more information. But a lot of these food banks are in crisis situations because they’re not able to stock the food right now. What’s our responsibility as a church to go and help some of these food banks? I think we need to be thinking. I mean, again, we’re believers, we should be different. So, what can we do? How can we reach out? And so, speak to people. Speak to us right now. I mean, maybe, you know, some things I’m not even aware of. What are some things that we can do to begin helping our communities and being a part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Well, I think that that is, right there, the case in point. I mean, I think Christians who are leading the discussion to break the rules set by governors in order to track the people. So rather than saying what can—I mean, we’re doing the very opposite of what one should be doing, right? We’re literally challenging. And now like I’ll give you another example before I– maybe some practical things. But like a Christian school in the Chicago community sent out a letter to students. And I know that because it’s very close to some members of my family. And in one same letter, they announced when the kindergarteners through whatever grade they have, is going to be going back to school. They’ve already set a date to go back in April. And in that same letter, talked about how there was an exposure of coronavirus in that school through a parent. In one letter. And you’re like, “Okay, that is not okay.” You want to know what a Christian should do? It’s not that. You see what I mean? And so now you kind of go well—okay, patience, like the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, patience. Let things play out. We are 8, 9, 10 days into this. That’s it. It’s simply prayer. Settle down and get on your knees. I honestly—I’m shocked. I see occasional people praying here and there. I am shocked that I have not seen massive movements of prayer in that greater evangelical or whatever we call the Eva-complex. Like it’s still articles on this, articles on that. But we have your prayer movements that are calling people back to God—that are calling people—calling on the Lord for healing. Like, desperate healing. Like, science is doing the best it can. Where are the leaders in the Christian community that are rising now and saying, okay, here’s how this is gonna play out? Now individually, I see a lot of good work being done by Christians. I have so many Christians that send me emails and ask me the question, “How do we help doctors? How do we support them?” And the face mask, sewing of masks for doctors, is something very practical that people have been able to do. Trust me, people have been so kind to me on the phone. Like I can tell, you know, Christians and non-Christians alike, you know, the little kindnesses. I call people after 12 hours of waiting and they’re not complaining. They’re asking—they’re thanking me for taking their call. And there is—and I can tell the Christians. They’ll even say to me, “We’re praying for you.” And little things like this, that when I’m at my wits’ end, I think, “Okay, I can do this a little bit longer.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, that, you know, that’s great to hear. And I will say, just actually a few minutes before got on this podcast, so I haven’t really looked into it. But I did get an email from somebody who, I guess, they’re doing a massive online prayer and call to prayer, . . .

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  That’s awesome.

    JULIE ROYS: . . . where we all get on and we start praying together. So, I mean, stay tuned for that. I’ll publicize it if get more information. And hopefully we can do these as a Christian—a larger Christian community. I mean, we’ve been doing it as our small groups and as our church community groups. But we need to do this, I think, exactly like you’re saying in a big, collective way be praying for one another. Let me ask you just some really practical questions, though, because I know a lot of people are asking about this right now. One is, and this is what’s so weird about this disease, is it seems to present itself so radically differently with different people. Like some people have no symptoms, zero symptoms, and they can be a carrier. So that’s scary. Some people, it sounds like the incubation period is 14 days. I’ve read an article today that said it could—there was somebody that it was 27 days. That it just can be a very large, long incubation period. So, it makes people wonder, okay, gee, my throat feels a little sore. Should I be calling? Should I be going in? Or wow, I had 102 fever for the past three days. What should I do? So, speak to those people who right now are thinking, you know, when do I know it’s time to do something? What do I do?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I mean, I sort of think I’ve read that there’s four categories. I’ve really boiled it down to three categories in my mind. And there’s the asymptomatic carriers, there’s the typical sick—fever, cough, trouble breathing, sort of that triad that everybody’s familiar with now. Plus or minus other things that will come up. Like now, the newest article someone sent me—it’s like loss of smell, taste and smell. So today, we had a person with a chief complaint, of course, I can’t smell. Like, I mean, it’s just funny because there’s no other symptoms or diarrhea. You know, so they’re like—and I remind people that part of the bad cases, like fever, cough, shortness of breath. So you’ve got asymptomatic. You’ve got the typical symptomatic of what would look like the flu. Another blessing is I think the flu numbers are trending down now. So, it’s easier sort of to tell the difference. And then you’ve got that—sort of a lot of people now that present with what I would call bronchitis/cold symptoms—that you’re like, I don’t know, I guess it could be. But it could also be a cold. But what I know for those people is you don’t have to be tested and you don’t have to go in because you’re going to get better. Now, if they have high risk factors, they might need to be tested for a number of other reasons. And so, that’s what I tend to do a lot with people is answer those questions. And apart from those very sick people—so, there was a season a couple of, maybe a week and a half ago, where the asymptomatic ones was, you know, we were hunting down like travel related contacts and exposures. And I think now we have enough numbers to where—I don’t know that those factors are a point anymore. I mean you might be an asymptomatic carrier. We don’t, I mean, it could be for anyone. I think that is what it is. I think really the people that I’m worried about now are the ones who present with fever, cough, shortness of breath. And here’s what I found. I’m finding more and more, as we get into this, it’s not that hard to see until when you have it. It’s not like an enigma. Do I have it or not? It’s getting now to a phase where I can tell who has it. And then when we get into it, and clinically, I now have a good sense of who has it. And that’s without exposure risks. Am I right every time? I don’t know because I’m not running the sample. But these people are sick. And those are the ones that need to be at the front of the line getting tested, go into the hospital and those numbers are going to continue to grow. And so, if you’re the person with a sore throat, a little bit of the sniffles, don’t stress it. You’re the person who should be using telemedicine. Don’t rush to the ER. Those are the people who are now going to the ER’s—going, “We want to be tested” and being asked to go home. If you have the coronavirus, it is so mild. It’s a moot point. And everybody should be taking some social isolation precautions, some measures of Clorox wipes the house, those things that we have been now trained to think about. Sneeze into your hand etc., etc. But if and I tell people now, the last thing I’ll say about this, like, I’ll get couples now who call and it’s clear that one of them might have it. Well, they’ve been in the house for a week, right? So, you can quarantine them. But what’s the point? Because the person who’s with—you know, yeah, now if you know they’re positive, sure, shut the door to the room they stay in, but you’ve already been around your spouse for the last week. And so, the odds are, they’ve already been exposed. So, it sort of seems like they’ll go out of your house, practice social isolation, but you don’t have to, like, wear some kind of astronaut suit in your own house. You just have to sort of still stay away from the kids, stay away from the grandparents. Take a little more seriously some of those things that you might have been lax on before.

    JULIE ROYS:  And what about—I was reading an article, too, that was saying, the first few days it often resides in the throat and that there are some things we can do like drink hot liquid?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  There’s no—I mean, all of these things are not harmful. It’s like when you have a cold, you take vitamin C. Is it gonna keep you from getting a cold? Maybe, but I mean, you know, like, it makes you feel good. Like you did something. But if you’ve got a virus, it’s going to give you a cold– that sort of many factors play into it including how stressed you are, how tired you are, how, you know, how much viral loads you’ve had. Which is, again, why we try to maintain distances and Clorox wipe everything in your house, etc. And so, no, I mean, these are all good things, you know. Do them. And it gives you something to do, you’re sitting in a house for now.

    JULIE ROYS:  But you’re saying it doesn’t really do anything, right? 

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No, there’s no treatment, other than symptomatic care—just supportive measures. Most people, 81% because the number that started now, will do really well. And 3%, again, the number that started, we don’t, not exact because we don’t know how many have it and how many are dying, but let’s say up to 3% are dying. And then sick people in between. The load on the medical system and I’ll repeat that why this is such a big deal. If you look at the percentages of how many people could get it in the United States, and just extrapolate based on what we’ve seen so far, how many of those could get really sick? And how many of those could need an ICU bed? And how many of those—the system cannot manage it. And we’re seeing that now play out in New York City. This is key. You’re seeing it play out. And you go, “Well, we’re not in New York City. We live in Iowa, everybody lives in,”—okay. Then go out to the restaurant and see what happens in a week. But that’s, again, you used the word at the beginning of the show. It’s just I’m not going to use the same word—that’s just not smart. I’m not gonna say stupid, but it’s just not smart. And so, when you go back to normal, I think you have to give it a little bit more time. I don’t know the answer to that. I appreciate the sentiment of optimism. But I think still, it’s too soon—that I can tell you—to make those predictions. It’s too soon.

    JULIE ROYS:  And right now, what is the situation when it comes to testing? I’m hearing—

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better.

    JULIE ROYS:  It is better?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better. You can get a test within, in some places, 4 hours, but 24 hours is sort of standard. We were at 4 days before. Now I have people, my friends, who will tell me. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I have a friend who’s diabetic, had a fever, I felt like they need a test.” I don’t order the test, I said to them, “Here’s what you need to do. Call the COVID hotline.” And I’m thinking they’re gonna be on the phone for hours. I had two people in the last 24 hours that I know outside of my work that called and have already been tested. 

    JULIE ROYS: Oh, that’s fantastic.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  If they need it. What you’re not going to get is that 24-year-old or a 35-year-old who has a scratch in his throat, or her throat. And they’re like, “I just want to know if it’s COVID.” You know, you might—there are some places in the United States that are doing random testing, but I’d be shocked if that person gets to test because you got to save it. There’s an order of—there’s clinical symptoms. It’s like if I went in today and said, “I want a flu test.” I’m not going to get a flu test. “Well, I want an X-ray of my chest. I want to see if I have pneumonia.” Well you have symptoms. And so, there’s a logic to it. So, if you meet criteria, and doctors quickly are very comfortable now in making those decisions and nurses and allied health professionals. I mean this is—a week is a short time but it’s also a long time when you’re thinking about it and seeing it. And so, trust the process. The health departments are working hard. It is much better than it was. Can it get better? It will be better. It will be better. They’re working on fast tests. So, I’m optimistic about all of those things. The numbers will come in. There’s no question in my mind. And you’re seeing it by seeing how many—today 60,000 patients, by the end of the week, I believe we’ll be over 100,000. Some of that is because people are being tested. We’re a big country with 300 million people, many of whom have flown through New York City. And we’re gonna start seeing those increases. Not a reason to panic. But now you can build data and you can make conclusions so that Dr. Fauci and his team can come on the news and say here’s a logical date when you can go back to normal as opposed to making a prediction ahead of time and you’re living to regret it. And I think people will start to regret it when close loved ones will start to hurt. And I think until then, I think people will complain. I grew up in Beirut in the middle of the Civil War and that’s the case. It’s when it hits you or hits close to home. When a bomb hits your house, it’s much more personal than when it’s done in another city. And so, I hope we don’t learn the hard way.

    JULIE ROYS:  I hope so, too. And I mean, it’s interesting, your perspective, having grown up in Lebanon and experiencing being in a war zone. I mean, this is a war zone. Right? 

    LINA ABUJAMRA M.D.:  This is a war zone. In some ways, I mean, different. But in some ways worse. In some ways it’s a new challenge. We I grew up in the war, we were used to it. This is a new product, a new way and against everything American. I’ve been in the United States long enough to know this is everything that is not what we’re used to.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, it’s so unusual. I mean, I’ve never in my lifetime, have I seen this, and I know people are comparing it to the Spanish flu. Well, none of us were alive during the Spanish flu. So, and we kind of think we’re beyond that with our modern medicine, but we’re really not.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  But wait. But we are. But I do think—I mean, I’m—this is my optimism is: A) We believe the world can heal any second and this can go away. Today in this, I don’t have any doubt about that. But even from a science perspective, I don’t have a question that a year from now there’ll be a vaccine. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to stay in the house for a year. No, but you don’t have to. There’s so much happening on the backside of science. But we’re a week into it. I go back to reminding people like, literally, there hasn’t been enough time for this, for us to be talking about, you know, about when we are going to go back to church, right? Having said that, I think—or, by the way, or the dorms or students who could be doing things online and now are putting themselves in harm’s way. Or a kindergarten class who could be doing—I  saw my nephew do a Zoom class with his teacher. I know it can be done. Sat through the whole thing. He could sit for four hours on that. It’s doable, it is doable. That’s the part that baffles you is why are we pushing to put people at risk when there are ways that you can creatively create space for the people who need to come up with the technologies, do it?

    JULIE ROYS:  Right, absolutely. And Liberty University, which we were talking about earlier. I mean, they have what 100,000 people who are taking classes online. They’re experts at it. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I did have a question regarding the tests. I know at one point—I’m glad to hear we can get them a lot quicker now. How long does it take for the results to get back?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  As soon as 24 hours. No, I mean, most people are within 24 hours. And the 4-day waits are no longer the case. Again, and I don’t want to I mean, I haven’t caught up today. I don’t. I literally finished seeing patients and got on the phone and everything is changing day by day. But I mean for me, expectation of 24 hours is not unreasonable. I think it can—it’s faster in some places. It’s much better. Yeah. This is, again, a week into it. It’s incredible. So, there is more testing. It will—and then I think people will always look back and say, “Could they have started it sooner?” I mean, in December, China was talking about the coronavirus. “Well, why didn’t we start doing it?” Then no. It was like it was over there. This is why again, play the same scenario. We’re looking at what’s happening in New York, and we just think it’s like another China, right? I mean, it’s just the way that we’re handling it. It’s like it’s some other city. You know, “everything  that happens there stays there.” On the contrary, how many people have flown in and out? How many? I mean, just start thinking about the implications. And it is a lot—and New York is a lot closer to Iowa than you might think.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and that’s the thing. Right now, we’re seeing how integrated our world is, you know. I mean, when the Spanish flu was happening, to get from Europe to the US, they had to take a ship, which took several weeks. I mean, now it’s a flight and we are, we have a global economy. It’s totally different. And so, we’re in unchartered territory. And we’re seeing people. you know, like you said, this is gonna really hit home when it’s loved ones. I know for me, something that made this hit home for me was and again, this is someone from kind of my generation. Sandi Patty, singer songwriter, so many of us familiar with her. And she recorded a video and put it on Facebook, and here she has tested positive for COVID now. And she’s in the high-risk group. And it really struck me, you know. Hearing her voice and hearing what she had to say. In fact, I pulled a clip from it. I thought it would be helpful to even listen to it and hear her, in her voice, describe what she’s going through.

    SANDI PATTY:  There was a thing I want to say to everybody. This is not fake news. This is real. This is everything that they say that it is. And we’ve just got to take it seriously. I’m really, really thankful that Don and I are first taking it seriously for ourselves. And when we make the right choice to quarantine ourselves, not only are we protecting ourselves and thinking about ourselves, it is the right decision for everybody else, too. And secondly, I’m really thankful that we have a church that decided we can still have community online. And so, you know, we’ve been doing online rather than bringing out our large numbers together on Sundays and Wednesdays. So more to come in the days to come. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re feeling and all of that. But do your part. That’s all you can do. We can’t do everybody’s part for them, but we can do our part. So do your part. It’s wisdom. And God has also given us faith, but He’s also given us wisdom. So, this is the time to utilize that wisdom. So that’s all I have to say about that. Except I wish you could see my husband sitting in the chair. He’s been yawning so bad. Because [phrase not transcribed.] So, thank you for being attentive. [phrase not transcribed.] And God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. So, I pray that all those aspects of God will be shown to you. Okay. Please take care of yourself. Wash your hands, moisturize and all that stuff. And be safe.

    JULIE ROYS:  I love the way she answers that, at the end you know, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. That’s what we can rest in as Christians. Did that hit you the way it hit me when you heard that Lina?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I mean it says—that was about four days ago I saw it on something like that. And I honestly my thought was, she’s not as well as—I mean, as a doctor, I thought man, she looks a little sick. I would honestly say that I felt like she was winded and trying to put a good face on for people. And I respected that she did that video. And yet that was four days ago before people, before the frenzy. Where now, the conversation I’m hearing now—again every day is a mass shift. Which, when I first saw that, people were still on board this, “Ah, we’re going to stay home.” We went on in my town in Chicago, we went on shelter-in-home, not quite on lock-down. And now, like in the last 24 hours, the shift and momentum of, “We want to be back by Easter. We want to be back out doing our normal stuff.” Okay, maybe not completely normal, but somewhat normal. And so, how quickly we forget. And so, all I think about when I hear even now, I think she sounds even more short of breath than I remembered. And so, she’s making it one step at a time. And I think this is the point that I think doctors are trying to make. It is not a simple flu. It is like the worst flu that you’ve ever had in your life, if you have a good outcome, as opposed to the people who get admitted. Once you get admitted, you know that you’re in bad shape. And of those a lot of people end up dying. If you get on the vent—you’re, that’s you see, that’s the problem. And so, I know that people have been sort of focused on, “Well it’s still elderly.” Or, you know, every asthmatic is nervous because there’s been a big press about the fact that it affects the lungs. And so, everyone’s calling in for inhalers. You know, but I think at the end of the day, it’s so, you know, it’s not just them that suffered. It’s everybody. I mean, Sandi Patty’s not that old. There’s been others now in the news that have been younger. And you can see it, they’re not well, you know. They’ve talked about their experiences, many of them and you can catch those. It’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m certainly not taking it lightly. And to be honest, as a doctor, they may come right now. I hear in New York, they’re calling all doctors not just ER doctors, but ophthalmologists, gynecologists, people that have not been in emergent care, to man the ER because there’s not enough doctors. And the doctors are themselves getting infected. So, they’re going to have to leave—some sicker than others—for a couple of weeks. And so, they’re calling all of those people in in Illinois. They’re calling retired doctors to come back and work. I know I’m doing telemedicine now, but the day will come—and I’ve looked at possibilities of deploying with Samaritan’s Purse and praying in wisdom over whether I should deploy to New York City. And honestly, I’m scared. And I have the Spirit of God in me. And, you know, I know that. But I also want to do the smart thing. And I want to help the most people. But I also want to live boldly and smartly. And so, think about that, as we’re thinking about integrating our lives. Think about people like me who don’t have a choice that they will come when there’ll be enough sick doctors. If we continue, you know, taking lightly, or if we go to take it. Because I don’t think people are taking it too lightly now. But if we change our stance and start taking it lightly, you’re putting us at risk. And we don’t mind it up to a certain degree. But there’s a point where, like I said earlier, like, what are you going to do when you don’t have a doctor anymore to care for you? And incidentally, many people have experienced that now in the primary care settings where they have fever, and cough, and they’re told do not come to the office. And so, what are you going to do when now you don’t have an ER doctor? You’ve got a gynecologist trying to manage your airway. Right? And that’s not a good place to be, Americans. And so that’s, I think, the dynamic of medicine that doctors are aware of and people are not. And so, you think what’s the big deal? Well it might not be until you’re in the hospital and wondering what’s going to happen to you because there’s not a doctor or a nurse or a respiratory therapist to help manage your care.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, yeah. And the best thing we can do right now is be as careful as we can be and be safe. And Lina, you mentioned prayer. And so, I want to end this by giving you an opportunity to pray for us as a Christian community, but also for our neighbors, for our country, for our world, as we face this coronavirus pandemic. So, would you pray for us?

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’d love to. Our Father in heaven, we are so thankful to know You. We’re thankful that our hearts are connected to You through your Son, Jesus Christ, and that we could come boldly into Your presence and ask for peace. And so, God, right now, I ask for peace in the midst of chaos. But there are so many people who are so afraid. I ask that Your Spirit would just immerse through Christians to touch the lives of those who are struggling with anxiety, with depression, with fear, with stress, with how they’re going to manage their families with the tensions in the home. But God, I pray with all my heart that You would bring healing to this coronavirus. God, simple prayer Lord but I pray that God, yeah, that You would be with the sick, that You would be with the American people who are trying not to spread infections. But God, simply put, that You would heal us of the coronavirus however You choose to do it. Lord, we believe that You are the God of all miracles. You’re the God of the Old Testament and the New. You brought up all the plagues and then You stopped them in a second. You opened the Red Sea and allowed Your peoples to go through it. God You did this over and over again. And then You brought yourself down to earth in the form of Christ and rose from the dead. So we know You can do anything. And so, God, in the name of Christ, I ask that You would heal our lands. God, not just United States but all over the world to think about the impact on countries who don’t have the infrastructure and the technology. India are populated with billions. God, we pray that You protect people, that You would shed Your light through to many, Father, so that many would come to faith through this disaster that has come upon us. So God, we recognize that we are sinners. We repent of our sins. We ask that You would use this crisis to bring us to full repentance as Christians, Lord. That we would come to a place of reckoning that there are things that we have done that have been contrary to the way that You want us to live. And God to do it, that we would go back to the purity of the gospel, to loving our neighbors, to understanding one another, to sharing Jesus with one another. And God, I pray that You would use this as an opportunity for us to see redemption in a massive way throughout the world. We thank You God, that You’re a God who hears us—that You’re a God who loves us, that You’re a God of healing, not of sickness. That You are a God of light and not of darkness—of peace and not of chaos. And that even in the midst of this, Your presence is real and near us. And we give You all the honor and the glory. God we ask Jesus that You would come back soon and reign over this world. Father, we long for You. Our hearts, in these seasons, long for more of You. Bring deliverance in every aspect of our life. And we give You all of the honor for all of these things. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

    JULIE ROYS:  Amen. And that’s a powerful prayer. And you can see why Lina’s—the name of her ministry is Living With Power. Lina, how can people connect with you if they want to get those daily updates that you’re doing? Which are fantastic, by the way. I’ve been following those and just really enjoying them.

    LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. The best thing to do is go to It’ll connect you to everything we’re doing. Join our community. We have live, every Thursday, from seven to eight. I’m doing live Bible studies with our community and then through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can access all of those from our site. You’ll be able to catch all of those videos. So email me on the contact page, if you have any questions. I’ve asked people to do that. And they have a lot of medical questions. I’m brief in my responses, but I try to answer just about everybody who’s emailed me. I think I have a couple waiting still for today’s email. So go to the contact page at LivingWithPower. org.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, thank you so much, Lena. I’ve so enjoyed this 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. If you’d like to connect with me, just go to I hope you have a great day. Stay safe. Stay well and God bless.

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    clean no 48:59 Julie Roys
    The Problem of Narcissist Pastors Thu, 19 Mar 2020 21:40:17 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing—pastors who are narcissists, who claim to be serving God but are really serving themselves, and leaving a path of devastation in their wake.

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Chuck DeGroat —a professor, clinical therapist, and author of the book, When Narcissism Comes to Church — joins Julie for an enlightening discussion. 


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing—pastors who are narcissists, who claim to be serving God but are really serving themselves, and leaving a path of devastation in their wake.

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Chuck DeGroat —a professor, clinical therapist, and author of the book, When Narcissism Comes to Church — joins Julie for an enlightening discussion. 

    DeGroat offers keen insights on how to identify narcissist pastors, as well as the church systems that protect them. He also describes the many faces of narcissism, explaining how narcissism manifests itself differently in various Enneagram personality types. And unlike many of his therapist peers, DeGroat explains why he believes some narcissists can be healed of their condition. 

    This Weeks Guests

    Dr. Chuck DeGroat

    Chuck DeGroat (LPC, PhD) is professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. He served as a pastor at churches in Orlando and San Francisco and founded two church-based counseling centers. He is a licensed therapist, spiritual director, and the author of Toughest People to Love and Wholeheartedness.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. Pastors who are narcissists who claim to be serving God but are really serving themselves and leaving a path of devastation in their wake. Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be talking about an extremely serious problem in the church—the problem of narcissism. And joining me will be Chuck DeGroat—a professor, clinical therapist and author of the book, When Narcissism Comes to Church. But before I talk to Chuck, I just want to say a brief word about the crisis we’re in concerning the coronavirus pandemic. And I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. I know I haven’t. And I’m glad that churches and Christian institutions are taking this seriously. Many are closing and encouraging people to just stay home. I think that’s a wise word right now, but I think it’s hard, isn’t it, as Christians, to practice something called social distancing, right? I mean, we want to love people and be near them. But one way to love our neighbor, right now, is to not infect our neighbor or be infected by our neighbor. So I think it’s wise that we stay home. And hey, you can listen to podcasts maybe or get caught up on ones that you’ve missed. But here’s what I’m noticing. Families are being forced to spend time together during this crisis. We’re doing church at home, right, as our churches are live streaming their services? Or we’re doing meals at home as restaurants are closing. And I know our family, in the past few days, have worshipped and prayed more together than we probably had in the entire month prior to this whole crisis. So friends, I really think that we need to embrace this crisis as an opportunity to grow together as families. I mean, obviously Satan wants to push us apart and get us to really come down on each other. And you know how sometimes too close a quarters can be a problem. But I think what God wants us to do is grow together. And so I really encourage you. Do family devotions, gather for meals, draw  together closer as a family during this time. But it’s not only an opportunity, I think, for our families to come together, I think our communities can come together as well. I got this idea from our pastor. His family put a note in the mailboxes of their neighbors. And the note just said something simple like, “Hey, we know this is a stressful time, just wanted to let you know that our family has plenty of food. We also have a stash of toilet paper.” (If that’s true for you, you can say that.) If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask and also know that we’re praying for you. And hey, if there’s a way that we can pray for you, especially, please let us know.” So that’s an idea. I just think of something we can do to reach out to our neighbors and love them during this crisis. Also, you may have heard, local blood banks are saying that there’s a critical shortage of blood right now. Many blood drives have been canceled. So if you’re not in a high risk group, and you’re healthy, you may just want to consider giving blood. And lastly, let’s remember that God is sovereign, right? This pandemic is not a surprise to Him. And His Word says, in Philippians 4: 6 & 7 —“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” So God’s got this. And no matter what happens, we can trust that He will work His purposes in all things. Also, I do want to ask that you pray for one of our sponsors of this podcast, Judson University. Like many colleges around the country, they’ve had to send students home and move classes online. Spring sports have been canceled and this is a huge transition for them. So please remember Judson students, faculty and staff in prayer and also your local schools and maybe colleges where your sons and daughters are going to school as well. They need our prayers. Also another one of our sponsors, the Illinois Family Institute, has been forced to reschedule its Education Forum that was set for April 25th. So stay tuned for more information on that in upcoming podcasts. And please pray for our friends at the IFI as well. I’m sure this is a trying time for them. 

    But again, today, we’re going to be discussing narcissism—a huge issue in our church, one that I honestly wasn’t even aware of probably two years ago, but has come crashing to our awareness as more and more of these church scandals have broken in the news. And I’ve been a part of breaking some of those. And often, at the center, is a narcissist pastor. So I am so glad to have professor, author, clinical therapist, Chuck DeGroat with me. So Chuck, welcome, and thanks so much for making the time.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, thank you for doing it, too.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and how are you guys facing this crisis? I know you’re at a seminary. So probably classes online and probably a trying time for you, right?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, it’s a trying time for all of us. I mean, I’m grateful that we’re into distance learning already. And so we can transition our classes online. But I was also a pastor for 15 years and I’m trying to be available to pastors because I know a lot of my friends out there are just really anxious right now. Right? We’re all anxious. And so just trying to be present to them and to my students and to my family. And I love what you said at the opening about connecting as families. We’re experiencing that right now with my 18 and 17-year-old daughters and it’s so good.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, it is good. I know we did church at home for the first time in, boy, I don’t know how long on Sunday. Our pastor live-streamed a sermon. So we were able to listen to that. We had neighbors of ours, that we do a home group with and they came over. We washed our hands and we practiced not coming to close and that, but it was such a special worship time that we had together. I pulled out my guitar for the first time in a while and we just worshipped the Lord together. We prayed for each other. There was an amount of sharing that was just probably a little deeper, a little more vulnerable than usual. And afterwards, my 17-year-old daughter said to me, “Wow, that was just really neat. Kind of like, what the early church probably did.” I think it is an opportunity for us. It’s always an opportunity, any crisis, to be the hands and feet of Christ. So, yeah, it’s an interesting time to be alive and to be the church, so. 

    Well, let’s talk about narcissism. And I think I’d mentioned before we went on this podcast, when we were just discussing, our number one, my number one podcast or radio show, has been on this topic of narcissism. And I think there’s just a hunger to know more about it. Because it has become a big issue in the church. And many have fallen prey or victim to narcissist pastors. But for the person listening, who is kind of new to this whole topic, what is narcissism, at least when it becomes sort of a pathological problem?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well, so, and I think you just said something important on it when it becomes a pathological problem, right? Because we know that narcissism exists on a spectrum. Theodore Millon did some research on narcissism years ago. And I’ve been using an assessment, that he put together a while ago, for the last 10 or 12 years with pastors. And it places each of us who take this assessment on a spectrum, between narcissistic style, type and disorder. And when we get into disordered relating, we want to use the DSM-5’s definition of it. We talk about a kind of grandiosity. They need to be on stage. It’s all about them—a profound sense of arrogance, self-centeredness. We talk about a lack of empathy—pastors who just can’t be present to the pain of another. Maybe what I’m finding, and I know maybe you’re finding this, too. I’m finding that pastors are becoming more psychologically savvy. And so, I’m adding to this the caveat that pastors can be, what I call, faux-nerable, not vulnerable.  They can sort of make you think that they get what’s going on in you. But that second piece is really important—that it’s not a real sense of empathy. And then the DSM-5 talks about impairments of identity, or pyramids in identity and intimacy. And that just means that there’s volatility in their relationships and volatility at work. And this is what we see—this grandiosity, this lack of empathy and this volatility in all areas of their lives.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and we are seeing it in the church more and more. And I know that’s, kind of, where you encountered it from sort of a personal standpoint. Tell me a little bit about how you experienced narcissism in the church and how it impacted you?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well probably for a lot of people, I didn’t have words for it early on. And even going back to seminary in the mid 1990’s, I experienced this sort of culture where narcissists could thrive. But I didn’t know, I thought it was me. I thought I was the problem. And often times when we talk about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, we talk about gaslighting, and that sense that we’re going crazy—that there’s something wrong with me. But, yeah, I encountered this early on in seminary and in pastoral ministry and I don’t think I fully realized the trauma it caused in my own life and in my own body, even during therapy over those years–that experience of feeling bullied or feeling manipulated or just feeling crazy—that I encountered. And I don’t talk about specific details of my story. I try to keep that story relatively private because it was a long, long time ago. But I know that I woke up the night before last at 3 AM with some anxiety. And I traced it back 17 or 18 years ago to some pain I experienced in the church. And lots of folks, who are survivors of narcissistic abuse, will talk about a kind of on-going trauma that they experience in their bodies over the course of days and weeks and years—the fight/flight, freeze/fawn kind of dynamics of trauma. And it can be really painful and debilitating for folks.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and you mentioned this term gaslighting. That is a term that again, two years ago I would have been like what’s gaslighting? I never heard of that before. I mean, this has become a part of our vernacular, at least if you’re in a survivor community at all or have access to survivor communities. This is just so common—this gaslighting. And you said, too, I thought I was crazy, like I hear that so much. But I’ve published things about, like most recently about James McDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. People will write me and say thank you for publishing this. I thought I was crazy. This is so affirming and healing for me to hear. I’m not crazy. But talk about gaslighting and this trauma how—what is gaslighting? And how does that kind of make you feel crazy?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, right yeah. It’s a way that narcissists manipulate by communicating in some way, verbally or non-verbally, that you are the problem. I was talking to someone just the other day who was experiencing this, even in the context of this coronavirus pandemic that we’re in right now, where she didn’t feel like she was doing enough for this lead pastor who was expecting her to get supplies and get video technology ready for an online worship service. On and on and on it went. And she thought she was the problem because he was communicating to her that it wasn’t fast enough and efficient enough. And as I talked to her, I said, I said these words again, “You’re not crazy. You’re doing as much as you can.” And she said, “I am?” And I said, “You are? You absolutely are.” And I think that’s just that dynamic. It’s a form—it’s a subtle form of emotional abuse. And when we talk about emotional abuse, we talk about abuse without a physical scar, you know? It’s a wound to the soul. The problem is you. And I think, if I had one go for this book more than any other, I hope people pick it up and understand better what they’re dealing with so that they can recognize that maybe they’re just not crazy.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that’s so important. I mean sometimes that’s just step one, because you. And people in the church are usually somewhat introspective and willing to look at where they might be a fault, right? I mean, that’s how we come to Christ. We admit our fault. And so when somebody’s telling us that we’re doing something wrong, or that it’s our problem. Even if we’re like, “Wait a second, I’ve done an awful lot. Why is it always my problem?” It’s still, we’re susceptible I think to those messages. And so it is so important to be able to put our finger on this and to begin to—one, name it, and two, to begin to work at our own healing. I want to dive into that a little bit. So you’re at a church, and you’re seeing some things with your pastor, say. And you see some grandiosity there, perhaps, but at the same time, I mean that the church is growing. Good things are happening. And so how do you know when this is really something that needs to be addressed? And if you’re in it, how on earth do you address it?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, that’s a great question. The first thing has to do with your own care. I think sometimes we move too quickly to addressing something that we’re not completely clear about. So I always tell people to get some time with a trauma-informed therapist—a therapist who understands narcissism and abuse. And not all do. Not all therapists are helpful, or a spiritual director or mentor at least who gets what’s going on. And do the work first of identifying how you’re experiencing it. That’s really critical before you can ever sort of lean into helping a narcissistic system. You’ve got to make sure that you’re clear on what’s going on inside of you. And you’ve got to make sure that you’re clear that that’s your call. It might just be that you need to step away from that system, or to protect yourself or to be safe. And that’s fine. I have to tell people all the time, people who think that it’s their responsibility to fix the system, no, it’s okay to step away if that’s what you need. But what you’re wanting to pay attention to are some of the classic signs of narcissism that we see from pastors—that sense that they make all the decisions, their impatience with others, feelings of entitlement, a sense that there’s, well, in staff at least of being threatened or intimidated by the lead pastor. They need to be the best and brightest in the room. I spell out all the characteristics of pastors who are narcissistic. And when you experience that, it’s a matter of taking that really seriously, first and foremost, as I said, what’s the impact on you? And then doing the work of healing so that you can begin to lean in and perhaps talk to someone who has some power—an elder, a leader in the church—in a way that you can begin to express the pain that you’re experiencing and talk about what might be done next.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so you’re talking about somebody talking to somebody in power, an elder or someone like this. And yet, at the same time, I’m hearing you say this word “church system.” And that’s something that you talk about in the book—about this is just not, it’s just not a man that’s at the top. There’s often an entire system that sort of forms around him so that often, those elders who are supposed to be protecting the flock and protecting the mission, are protecting the pastor. And they’re not doing what they need to be doing. So talk a little bit about these systems and how they work to protect the pastor.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  That’s right. So oftentimes, as you say, they are loyal soldiers. And it, those who report what they are experiencing find that it’s a dead end—that they protect the narcissistic leader. And so one of the things that I talk about, and I’m really convinced by, is that narcissism doesn’t exist in isolation. It takes a village, you know? It takes a system and there are always people who enable narcissism within the system. And they’re often deeply embedded beliefs or mental models, I like to say, that enable narcissism in a system. And so it’s a setup for people to sort of follow the charismatic, grandiose leader. And they participated in it. And they’re complicit in it. Every once in a while—Imean, I’m working with the church right now where there are a couple of elders who get it and they’re working hard to protect the flock. But every once in a while, you do see signs of life out there, like the one I just mentioned. But oftentimes it’s unsafe, even as you mentioned, to talk to another elder or leader. They’ll sweep it under the rug, or they’ll make you feel crazy. And they’ll say, “Surely it can’t be him. He’s a great leader. God used him. God has blessed our church.”

    JULIE ROYS:  And there are some systems, I mean, that are more conducive aren’t there to narcissism than others? And we’re hearing this a lot with mega churches and celebrity pastors. Because, obviously, to be up on a big stage and a big platform can be a big deal. But at the same time, we also have some who would rather be a big fish in a small pond. And you see narcissism there. There’s no place that’s probably immune from narcissistic leaders. But talk about where the systems that are most conducive to this and how, you know, how in these, if you’re in a church like this, yeah, how can you safeguard against it?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, so it’s a really good question. And I think you’re right about larger mega churches, perhaps being more conducive to narcissistic systems, in the sense that they are predicated on growth and success and efficiency and image management and things like that, right? At times, they’re sort of run like businesses. And I want to qualify that. And I want to say not all large churches are implicated in that but many are. They’re sort of like petri dishes of consumerism, right? They’re just modeling what sort of the corporate strategy might model out there. And so, yeah, this is where we see it. We see it implicated in structures within systems—structures that are very hierarchical or structures that give the lead pastor way too much power where there’s not accountability. Or where there are leaders within systems that are Yes-men or Yes-women. Even church plants often, because in church plants you usually have a charismatic lead pastor, and really a leadership team that that lead pastor recruited. And so the people that this person recruits are generally people who are on board, who agree, and, you know, with narcissism who probably adore that lead pastor. But you’re also right to mention smaller churches. And we see a kind of more vulnerable form of narcissism. It’s not as grandiose. But it’s more like, you know, “We’re the pure church. We’re the church of 50 people, but you know, we are—there’s no other church in town that preaches the gospel. We’re the only church that tells the truth for this long, right? We’re special, we’re chosen.” And that’s a subtle, vulnerable form of narcissism that we’ve got to be on the lookout for.

    JULIE ROYS:  I was really interested when I was reading your book, when you said that a colleague of yours says that , if ministry is a magnet for narcissistic personality, who else would want to speak on behalf of God every single week. And then you said that in your own work, which includes 15 years of psychological testing among pastors, the vast majority of ministerial candidates, on the spectrum of cluster B DSM V personality disorders, feature narcissistic traits. Most prominently that these rates are even higher among church planters. So what you’re saying is, I’m seeing a lot of this in pastors and in our planters. I mean, that’s scary to hear.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. I mean, I had to reckon with this myself as someone who started out in ministry over 20 years ago now. There’s something about it, you know—the Master of Divinity. And now I tell my students about this, right? Master of Divinity, right? And what a strange thing, we get up on stage, when most people are afraid of public speaking, right? We get up on stage and we speak, “This is the word of the Lord.” You know? And there’s something about that, that where, as you said, I’ve been doing this testing for a long time. And I think we were talking about this before the show. Sadly, there’s far too little research on narcissism in the church. But my own work, over the last 10 or 15 years of doing these assessments, really shows pretty clearly that pastors, the large majority of pastors, test in this cluster B. Now cluster B is narcissism, but it’s also histrionic personality, and borderline personality and antisocial personality. And all of those are sort of like shades of narcissism, right? And so, we can see whether it’s grandiosity or emotionality or drama or need to be the center of attention or whatever form it shows up in. This is why I really try to nuance narcissism in this book. I want people to see it, not just as the caricature of the big, bold, charismatic leader, but I want us to see it in its more subtle forms, as well. And there are people who don’t need a church of 1,000 or 10,000. They’re perfectly happy with their church of 50. Feeling like we’re special. We get it. We’re pure. We’re the elect. And no one else is. And that’s narcissism, too.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I hear that a lot when I interview sources at churches that have had issues like this—that there’s like this sense of purity, you know. It can be doctrinal purity, it can be, you know, just in the way that they practice. But yeah, we are the one and only church and that is, I think, a telltale sign. And you know, that’s pretty dangerous. I mean, to think that you have the corner on Christianity. I have been in so many different types of churches and denominations in my, you know, 40 plus years of being a believer and nobody has a monopoly on it. In fact, I find that there’s just a beauty in every expression throughout the church of who Jesus Christ is and how He wants us to express Himself to this world. And so, yeah, I find that really problematic when I hear that. And there’s something you said that I’d like to dive into a little bit. But you’re talking about like these—you didn’t, I don’t think, use the word faces of narcissism but you do in your book. You talk about these nine faces of narcissism. You actually tie it to the whole Enneagram of different personalities. I thought that was fascinating. So I don’t know if we can get through all nine but maybe give us a taste of a few of them.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well, you know, the Enneagram is really hot nowadays. People are reading all kinds of books on it. And I’ve found it over the years. I was first introduced to it over 20 years ago. So, I found it a helpful tool. It’s only a tool. It’s not the Bible, you know, but I do think that when most people talk about narcissism—and I asked them if they know something about this Enneagram—I ask them, “What’s a classic type of the narcissist?” They’ll talk about the three—who’s the achiever, the person who likes to be on stage, the person who likes to win and be successful. Or they’ll talk about the Enneagram Eight, who tends to be more powerful, and a charge, kind of command and control leader. I want to say what about the Five, the Enneagram Five, who tends to be more quiet and distant, but he’s intellectual? He knows better than you do. And I’ve done plenty of marriage counseling, over the years, where I’ve done counseling with a woman who’s pouring out her heart. And her husband, sitting there taking notes on a yellow pad, writing it all down, you know, he’s up in his head. He’s disconnected, not empathetic. Or what about the Enneagram Six, who I call the hyper vigilant narcissist, who always has to be in control? Who sort of always making sure that everyone knows the rules. You’re either in or out if you’re living according to her rules, you know. And so, what I want to say is that, in the narcissism conversation, let’s not get caught up on simply the definition of narcissism is grandiose. But there’s this more subtle form of vulnerable narcissism, that tends to be more passive aggressive, tends to be more subtle, tends to be more self-pitying, tends to, sort of, it’s almost like snake-like. Like it’s really sinister in its impact in that it draws people in and sort of uses them and spits them out. And that can be a really subtle form of narcissism that might not look like that grandiose, charismatic leader.

    JULIE ROYS:  And oddly enough, this person who, you know, can take different expressions, but normally they come across as sometimes feeling superior or very confident. All of these things, that you’re saying in your book, betrays a profound shame and often secret addictions. And so, they’re covering over something, right?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. I think that’s the thing that in my work over the years with narcissists, I’ve come to see like the behind the scenes story, right? And behind the scenes, when you’re dealing with someone who’s narcissistic, there is inevitably some sort experience of shame or insecurity if you can get there. And with narcissistic personality disorder, you rarely if ever get there. But when people are in the narcissistic spectrum, when you get down to it, it’s the bully who was bullied when he was young. And so, you know, there is always a story of shame. And what I like to talk about is it’s like at a very early age, they developed this self-protective wall within—sort of like they woke up at seven years old saying I’m going to develop a wall but sort of subconsciously this wall is put up and they begin living. They’re really hidden from everyone else because they’re scared to be vulnerable, right? And so, they live out of this self-protective strategy. They live from that sort of outward facing side of the wall. And that’s all you see. Sadly, what we don’t see and what they don’t allow us to see, is the vulnerable scared little boy or little girl within. And every now and then, when I’m doing this work, I’ll be working with someone who lets me, I often say, let’s be behind the stage, behind the curtain. And I will get to the story of this little boy, this little girl in a lot of pain. And they’ll say something like, “Chuck, I’m just so scared. If I show who I really am, I’ll be beat up, I’ll be rejected. I won’t be successful. I won’t be able to lead anymore. I can’t do that. I’ve got to show up as my stage self.” You know, and that’s, if they ever allow you to get there—and this is really, really rare—but if they ever allow you to get there, there’s a possibility that we can start doing some work. And we occasionally see people willing to do that, and who, over a long period of time begin to grow, but it takes a long time.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I want to just mention that I am giving away five copies of Chuck’s book, When Narcissism Comes to Church. If you’d like to enter to receive one of these books, just go to That’s And also this month, I’m giving away When Narcissism Comes to Church. If you donate to this ministry, any donation of $25 or more to The Roy’s Report, will get a copy of Chuck’s book. And this is how we fund all of the journalistic work that I do and those that I’m able to bring alongside me, sometimes as freelancers, to do this. It’s all through donations. So if you’d like to support this work again, just go to and either slash giveaway if you want to enter the giveaway or there’s a Donate button if you want to donate to this work. Chuck, I love what you said about getting beneath the surface, which normally with a narcissist they never let you do. But you, you know, I’ve talked to an awful lot of people who say they’re incurable. There’s nothing you can do with a narcissist. And honestly, as a Christian, I hear that and I’m just like, how can I really bring that together with what I believe in Christ? If anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creation, the old is gone the new has come. So I mean, I have trouble saying that anyone is beyond the redemptive work of Christ. And you say, no, I’ve seen some success. So tell us about that.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, this will probably be the more controversial piece of this. But as a Christian, my conviction is that each and every one of us are image bearers. And so, when I sit with someone, even if that person doesn’t have faith in Christ, I’ve got to believe that this is a person made in the image of God. And there’s something about that—that we know the design, they’re made for relationship. They’re made for connection. They’re made to know and be known. They’ve got that deep hunger within but it’s covered by 1000 layers of pain and of self-protective strategies. Now, the reality is that with narcissistic personality disorder, we don’t see much change. And oftentimes what I say is that what I attempt to do is I simply attempt to sort of mitigate damage, you know. I’d like for them to step away from the church, step out of ministry. The problem there is that there’s not a capacity for self-reflection often. I don’t like this language of, “They’re just wicked. And they’ll never ever change.” Some of them step away from ministry. I know a guy who has narcissistic personality disorder that stepped away. It took a lot of work from a bunch of us, but he stepped away. He went into real estate. And I was like okay. He didn’t become a more kind and empathetic person in general, right? But I would say for people on this, the narcissistic spectrum, kind of lower down, narcissistic style or type like we talked about earlier, if there’s a capacity for self-reflection and if they can see how they impact people. In other words, if they can say, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize how I was hurting you, I didn’t realize.” And for that to be really honest, that’s where we can begin to see some change. But, this isn’t quick change. And these turnaround stories, that we hear about often, and I know you’ve been you’ve been a sort of a leader in exposing some of this stuff. But these stories of quick turnarounds that we hear about, I’m always very, very suspicious of. Because if you are narcissistic, even on the spectrum, you’ve got to step away for a significant period of time—be out of any sphere of influence, any form of leadership, and do some really, really hard work. And as in the case of someone I worked with about 15 years ago, it took about 10 years, and then he dipped his toe back in ministry again as an assistant pastor. But it took a long time and a lot of care and a high degree of accountability. And that’s just, you know, there aren’t very many narcissistic pastors willing to go through those trials to get there.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and just recently, James MacDonald returned to the pulpit and announced that he’s coming back. And it was just almost surreal listening to him talk about it. Because he said that the Lord allowed us to be separated from the church that we loved for a lifetime. “It’s a time of intense suffering for us.” I mean, I’m listening to him and it sounds like he’s been victimized by his church, not that he has taken advantage and victimized the people in his church. Which was, in reality, what happened. But this is what I hear from so many people, that talk about these narcissists, that they can hardly ever see how they hurt others– that they’re the victim, not the true victim. They’re unable to see it. And they’re not only unable to admit their sin and repent of it, often they literally can’t see it. Right?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. They can’t see it. And they live in this, what I call “hero-victim-martyr complex”, you know, where they love to play the hero. But they can flip the script and very quickly become the victim and even barter, you know—of these people who are not gracious enough to realize the gifts that God, that he is and God and the fruit of the ministry and all these different kinds of things. And, you know, we were talking about gaslighting, but there are people I’m sure who heard James MacDonald, you know the story well, much better than I do, but they’re likely people who heard him and said, “Oh, I must have been, I wasn’t gracious enough to him. God really is using him.” I’m sure there are masses of people who said, “No, I was just really too hard on him. This has been a hard trial, and I’ve got to be more gracious. It was me not him.” And this is the really—I’m sure it was maddening for you to hear that. This is the maddening part of this.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, you still hear it. I mean, it’s on social media. It’s like, “Oh, we just need to forgive.” And you’re like, forgiveness involves repentance. And there is zero repentance. And, you know, I’m seeing the same thing. This I mean, unfortunately, it’s not you that unique. There’s other pastors. I just heard a podcast done by Mark Driscoll recently. And it was shocking to me. They’re talking about what happened at Mars Hill. And I’m like, this is a complete rewriting of history. He doesn’t mention at all the bullying and abusive behavior that he had in the plagiarism scandal, the deception and none of that. In fact, when they asked him, you know, about some things that had happened again, it sounded like he’s a victim. I mean, I’m listening to him talk about how his corner in the yard and you know, people come by and throw rocks at them and a helicopter goes above their house. And, and the interviewer’s asking, “Well, what happened? What was the cause of this?” And he said, and he actually said it was mostly theological. It was my stance on LGBT. And I’m like, what? What?

    JULIE ROYS:  I mean I just—and to him, he said he was just preaching biblical and it’s about his biblical stances he took. I was stunned because if you know the history of Mars Hill, you know that he was actually removed by his elders because of just severe problems with, you know, the way he treated people. And it was about to be, and this is where I think this is so instructive, he was about to be given a plan by his elders, a restoration plan. And that’s when he bolted. And so that’s what I’m seeing happens when you’re saying they need to step away for 10 years or whatever. There needs to be a submission, doesn’t there, to get to the place where you hurt people, not just go someplace else?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. And when we’re talking about narcissistic pastors, we’re often talking about an abuse of power. And that’s really important. Often times these pastors, when they’re painting themselves as a martyr—I know one prominent pastor who had affairs. He said, “You know, kind of, what’s the big deal? God forgives me. I had an affair. I’ve forgiven, let’s move on.” But the reality is, it’s an abuse of power. Those of us in leadership, those of us, particularly in pastoral leadership, are called to a kind of integrity and accountability that others aren’t called to. We’re all called to integrity and accountability, obviously, but as a leader of a flock, as a leader of a large flock, there’s obviously a higher call, right? And so, I think the sad thing about this, guys like Mark or James or others, is exactly what you said earlier. Like forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card. When we wound another or when we wound a flock, there’s reparative work that needs to be done over time. Just as if, you know, a couple, a married couple goes through a really hard season where there was some kind of betrayal. There’s often a kind of work that needs to be done to gain that trust. And to watch some of these folks go from one place to another, and sort of recreate their ministry, and then to point the finger and said, I got a bad rap. You know, I’m the victim here. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote this book. I want us to become really crystal clear about what we’re dealing with so that people can say, “Oh I’m not crazy. This is manipulative. This is gaslighting. I’m clear about it now. And we need to do something about it.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, lastly, I would like to talk about how a church heals. Because what we’re seeing and actually I talked to somebody just this week, who said, “You know, we’re seeing what some people have predicted that with these mega churches, they only last as long as their pastor and then they’re done.” And so, you have this huge building, this huge system all built up around really a cult of personality and then the guy turns out to be a narcissist.  And you know, damages his church. And he ends up imploding. And now the church is left with this huge hole. And a system that is created around the celebrity pastor. And what do they do at this point? I know there’s an awful lot of people who say, “Well, they should just fold and you know, start independent churches out of it.” And yeah, that is what happened at Mars Hill, in large. But is there a model or is there a way that churches can heal after having a narcissist pastor leave?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. That’s such a good question. And I think it depends. It depends on how honest they’re willing to be about their own participation and complicity in it. I was working with a very large church a while ago. And I try to make sure when I do this work that I cloud up the details. I get too many emails from people saying you were talking about me. And so I always mix details with my stories, okay? So that people don’t have to send me those emails. But I was working with a large church where the lead pastor was asked to resign after some work of naming the narcissism. And the leadership of the church, at that point, kind of said, well, that’s the problem. Now the problem is gone, and we’ll be okay. So they kind of put a band-aid on it, and they had a couple of congregational meetings and they appointed another leader. And I said, “You guys, there’s so much more work to do. And if you’re willing, let’s engage that work.” But unfortunately, they weren’t willing. The hard part is now they’ve got to get honest about how they participated in the problem. And that honesty—it’s really, really difficult when you’re still licking your own wounds, when you’ve been hurt, you know. I talk about this as below the waterline work. I mean, we put band- aids on big problems above the waterline but when we go below the waterline, we have to start naming things like deeper patterns that existed over time. We need to start talking about how our structures and our systems and our church polity and procedures play a role in this kind of thing, enabling narcissists. We’ve got to talk about mental models. In other words, implicit beliefs about who ought to be up there. As an example of this is at Willow Creek right now. And I think I could say this. They came out with a job description that looks a lot like their previously pastor job description. Which tells me that they’re not doing the hard work of asking, “What about our structures? What about our systems?” What about our implicit beliefs about who a lead pastor is?” One of those needs to change. And that’s really the hard work that takes a lot of time. That, speaking as a consultant, many, many churches don’t want to do that work because it’s just too costly.

    JULIE ROYS:  And it’s so hard. You’ve been operating on one paradigm, and you bought into that paradigm and that’s why you’re there. And then when you find out it’s broken, to go back, which is really I think is what needs to happen, is to go back to the drawing board and saying, we need to redo. God, what are you calling us to do and to be? And how did we participate in this? How are we complicit with it? And really have a season of repentance and of healing and of it bringing in outside people. That’s the other thing. It’s like bringing in some people with some objectivity because I don’t think if you’re in the midst of it, you can see it. Can you?

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  No you can’t. And that’s the hard thing. Is it’s sort of like you’re in that pot of boiling water. And at some point, you realize this is the scalding me, you know. This is hot. And so, yeah, you actually can’t see it until it starts to burn you. And this is where it does take wise outside investigators, who are trained in understanding these kinds of organizational dynamics, to do the work of truth-telling. And the work that you do often Julie of naming realities that people simply don’t want to name. And that’s hard. It’s painful. But we’ve got to do that work.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I remember when I was first embarking on some of this work, I actually thought the institution I was blowing the whistle on would embrace it, and the leaders would embrace it. And they’d want me to continue investigating what’s going on and really get to the bottom of it. I naively thought that’s what we would do. Because that’s what needed to be done. And unfortunately, it was more about image protection. And then soon I was booted out of that system because I was destroying the image, you know. So I became the problem. But man, it just is something where we needed a great deal of humility, I think, in our churches and in our systems. And we need to be willing to fail, too. That’s the other thing. I see this fear of failure where we’re so afraid of losing what we have that we don’t even ask, “Does God even want it to continue?” And can we just put this on the altar and bring it to the Lord and say, “You know, either heal us and make us healthy, or we don’t want to go forward? Either I go forward or I don’t go forward in it?” It just has become a real problem, not just in institutions, but I think throughout evangelicalism. So thank you, Chuck. I thank you for this book. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. And we just pray that God continues to bless it and increase your ability to help others. So thanks.

    CHUCK DeGROAT:  Well, we’re all in this together, right? So grateful for your work and it encourages me that there are a number of us who are working at this from different angles. And so keep it up, Julie. Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  Thank you, Chuck. 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’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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    clean no 45:39 Julie Roys
    How to Identify & Recover from Spiritual Abuse Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:20:41 +0000 Julie Roys Spiritual abuse has become a hot topic as more and more pastors and Christian leaders have been exposed as abusive or toxic. But how do you identify spiritual abuse? And how do you recover from it?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss this crucially important topic with Remy Diederich, a pastor and author of Broken Trust: a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    Spiritual abuse has become a hot topic as more and more pastors and Christian leaders have been exposed as abusive or toxic. But how do you identify spiritual abuse? And how do you recover from it?

    On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss this crucially important topic with Remy Diederich, a pastor and author of Broken Trust: a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse

    Remy knows first-hand the pain, confusion, and damage that spiritual abuse inflicts on its victims. And with compassion, he offers helpful steps to help victims know if they’re in an abusive and toxic system, how to break free, and then how to heal. 

    clean no 50:36 Julie Roys
    How Ministries Misuse Money Tue, 10 Mar 2020 16:30:17 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Book-buying schemes, inflated fund-raising claims, & cures for coronavirus! It’s stunning the ways some Christian ministries are falsely raising funds and/or misusing them.

    On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss these kinds of financial shenanigans with Warren Cole Smith, president of—a Christian donor watchdog group. We also explore how the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was formed to protect ministries, not donors—and how the ECFA has failed over the years to hold ministries accountable.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    Book-buying schemes, inflated fund-raising claims, & cures for coronavirus! It’s stunning the ways some Christian ministries are falsely raising funds and/or misusing them.

    On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss these kinds of financial shenanigans with Warren Cole Smith, president of—a Christian donor watchdog group. We also explore how the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was formed to protect ministries, not donors—and how the ECFA has failed over the years to hold ministries accountable.

    This is a must-listen for anyone who gives money to ministries and wants to ensure that those funds are used properly.

    This Weeks Guests

    Warren Cole Smith

    Warren Cole Smith is President of  Before joining MinistryWatch, he held leadership positions at The Colson Center for Christian Worldview and WORLD Magazine.  Warren also hosts the weekly podcast “Listening In,” a long-form interview program heard by tens of thousands of subscribers each week.  Before transitioning to a career in ministry 20 years ago, Warren 15 years in the corporate world, including seven years as the Marketing Director for a major division of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global accounting and consulting firm. 

    clean no 47:53 Julie Roys
    Karen Swallow Prior & Discerning “Discernment Blogs” Fri, 28 Feb 2020 15:29:49 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • She’s a popular Christian author, speaker, and professor at Liberty University. But according to some bloggers and critics, she’s also a liberal, a feminist, an animal rights activist, and gay-affirming destroyer of the faith!

    This week on The Roys Report, I talk with Karen Swallow Prior about what she really believes (she’s none of those things)—and why it’s important for readers to  discern what the “discernment bloggers” are saying.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    She’s a popular Christian author, speaker, and professor at Liberty University. But according to some bloggers and critics, she’s also a liberal, a feminist, an animal rights activist, and gay-affirming destroyer of the faith!

    This week on The Roys Report, I talk with Karen Swallow Prior about what she really believes (she’s none of those things)—and why it’s important for readers to  discern what the “discernment bloggers” are saying. We also talk about spiritual warfare and whether the bus that hit Prior in 2018, after she spoke out about misogyny in her denomination, was a spiritual attack.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful conversation and believe you will too!

    This Weeks Guests

    Karen Swallow Prior

    (PhD, SUNY Buffalo) is an award-winning professor of English at Liberty University. She is the author of On Reading Well, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Prior has written for Christianity Today, the Atlantic, the Washington PostFirst Things, VoxThink Christian, and The Gospel Coalition. She is a senior fellow with Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, a senior fellow with The Trinity Forum, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  She’s a popular Christian author, speaker and professor at Liberty University and come fall, she’ll become the first ever research professor at the [College at] Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. But she’s also a liberal, a feminist and gay affirming. At least, that’s what some bloggers and critics would have you believe. Well, welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with Karen swallow prior a fascinating Christian personality, but also a controversial one. And I’m really looking forward to talking with her about her views on some things about smear campaigns. I really think she’s been a target of some very vicious ones, and also delve into some of the issues that she’s passionate about issues like misogyny in the church, gay Christians, and pro-life advocacy. But before I do that, I want to just take a minute to mention the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, a university shaping lives that shape the world and Marquardt of Barrington. And I want to let you know that Judson has just announced its speaker for its next World Leaders Forum, which will be held October 20. At the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. That speaker will be someone who’s seen a bit of controversy himself, General Howell Petraeus. He’s also a four-star general and a former director of the CIA and I know it’s going to be a fascinating event. So, for more information on that, just go to Also, if you’re in the market for a new or used car, I encourage you to check out my friends at As I’ve mentioned before, Dan Marquardt is a friend but he’s also a whistleblower. He stood up to power and corruption within the church and he’s someone I can fully recommend without any reservation. If you want a car dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. Just go to Well, I am so excited to have Professor and author Karen Swallow Prior with me today and I know she’s just gotten out of class and gotten to on her phone so that she can be with us. So, Karen, welcome such a pleasure to have you.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Thank you, Julie. Boy, that was quite an introduction.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and you have been a lightning rod of sorts, I think because you’re willing to go across the aisle and make friends. And I think that makes you a target. And I know that you and I probably disagree on some issues. But I’m committed as a journalist to representing you fairly on those things. And what I’ve seen is that people don’t always represent you fairly. And so, I wanted to give you a chance to come on. Also, because I love the stuff that you write. I love engaging with you. And I love engaging with people who are very gracious in their engagements. So, I’m really looking forward to this podcast and I hope you are too. So you’re a professor at Liberty University. And that’s a school that’s had some controversy as well. But what I want to talk about is you just recently took this professorship at Southeastern. And when you did, boy, the internet erupted with people saying all sorts of things about you. And I know just this last weekend, we were doing some Facebook interaction and, and someone got on there was a guy by the name of Jordan Hall—does a blog called Pulpit and Pen—and started calling you things that I’m like, well wait a second. That’s not really who I know, Karen to be. And so, again, I would love to talk about some of these things. But why don’t we just start with, you know, a piece that was done a while ago, saying that you’re, for example, a liberal. That you’ve written for Sojourners magazine, and this proves that you’re a liberal. Are you a liberal?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Not by any definition of the word. So no, no. Just asked my liberal friends. I am a theological conservative. I’m a political conservative. Of course, those terms are always understood in context and our relative. I mean, I’m probably not as conservative as some people and more conservative than others. And so, we of course have to understand what the terms mean. But here I am, I’m finishing my 21st year teaching at Liberty University founded by Jerry Falwell who began the Moral Majority. This has been my home. I have always been in Baptist churches. Grew up for the most part Baptist and Southern Baptist. There are so many people out there in my world that would just laugh think that anyone would consider me liberal. Now, do I have some views that people more conservative server than me don’t have? Sure. I do. And I do write for secular, liberal progressive publications. And very intentionally so because I want to take my message to those places and do more than preach to the choirs.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and I think the first time that I talked to you and had you on a radio program, it was my previous program called Up For Debate, and I think we were discussing animal rights. And you happen to be with the humane—was it the Humane Society, I believe? 


    JULIE ROYS: And I, you know, I’d done some research on the Humane Society. They spent a lot of money on lobbying and lobbying for causes that you know, as Christians, I’m like, yeah, I’m not sure I really agree with that. And so I kind of, when I read that I thought, well, Karen Swallow Prior is going to be representing this viewpoint where, you know, people just don’t have a distinction between human beings and animals and, you know, not understanding that we’re—as human beings—the pinnacle of creation. Well, then I get to talk to you and I realize, no, you’re a part of the Humane Society for a very targeted sort of strategic reason. So, talk about that. Because I think that’s almost a great just an example of how you do sort of walk this line of trying to befriend somebody that might be a little bit different yet finding some common ground.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Oh, yes. This is actually a great example to use. So I believe in animal welfare, not in animal rights. And I am following a long tradition that began with evangelicals in the early 18th and late 18th, 19th centuries, including William Wilberforce who at the very same time he was working to abolish human slavery, also founded the first society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because the evangelicals of that time understood that being cruel to God’s creatures, needlessly, coarsens in human hearts and leads to other kinds of sins and vices. So they have this sort of holistic view, of stewardship of all of creation. And animal welfare was part of that. And so I had written a number of pieces on that talking about animal welfare as a stewardship issue for Christians. And got the attention of the Humane Society which was just beginning a faith Advisory Council, because it is a very secular worldly organization. But they saw the opportunity to have common ground with people of faith and so yeah, that’s how I became kind acted with them. And it’s a way of just—you put it perfectly—it’s not that I’m in total agreement with everything that they do. But they’re a big umbrella kind of organization, and they wanted to hear from people of faith. Why would I turn them down? And it’s been a really wonderful experience. And I don’t want to share personal stories, but I know that God has used me to help people in that organization, find Him return to Him and grow in Him. And it’s just a huge blessing.

    JULIE ROYS:  I think the fear often is that you know, who’s using whom in organizations like that, right? I mean, there’s a concern that sometimes if we come on and we give our credence to what they’re doing, then really, they’re just using us to get to the clientele that follows us, right. Did you ever feel like that might be happening?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I mean, that’s definitely a legitimate concern with any kind of organization that we would partner with. And it’s something to be aware of and be cautious about. But no, I never felt that way. I mean, really, I think it’s the opposite. I mean, they elevated my voice, I think, by supporting my work on evangelicals and animals. And so, it just expanded what for me is this more holistic view of what it means to be a Christian and a good steward of God’s creation. And so, it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, I think.

    JULIE ROYS:  Now, I think something that probably made you even more controversial perhaps, is back in 2018, when Paige Patterson and the whole controversy hit about that. And for those of you listening if you’re not familiar with this, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at the time was Paige Patterson who was sort of the leader of this conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. And yet, there were some videos that came out and some audio and it was some of it was shocking, you know of Paige Patterson defending encouraging a wife to stay in a physically abusive marriage because, “hey, it brought her husband to church so it was worth it.” Or calling this 16 year old, “built,” in this sermon illustration that just I mean, I listened to it—just sounded kind of creepy and doing things that were just really inappropriate. Here’s this hero of conservatives in one sense of, you know, the word. I mean, Paige Patterson had stood for inerrancy and brought those things back and at the same time, you’re hearing things that just sound horribly misogynistic. And so, there were conservative women who came forward and said, we’re going to stand against this. And I spoke out against Paige Patterson at the time I thought it was just indefensible stuff that he had said. And yet you did that it was I thought it was courageous to do because you’re a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, you’ve been part of Southern Baptists. You’re here you are at Liberty University, a Southern Baptist school, and yet you’re speaking very boldly on it. Pretty controversial stand yet. It really had an impact. I mean, talk about that, from your perspective, being on the inside and deciding to take a stand what that was like.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, thank you that really was a good recap of those events. And, you know, just to bring a little bit of perspective, more of a perspective where I’m coming from, I mean, when I was growing up, Independent Bible Churches and Baptist churches—the Southern Baptist Convention was too liberal for us. You know, this is a pretty conservative resurgence. And so, I watched myself and my family really come into and be part of the Southern Baptist Convention because of the conservative resurgence, because that reflects our views of inerrancy and gender roles and family and culture. And so, I only knew Paige Patterson really from that background like so many kind of a hero. And so when these video clips and audio clips from the past came out, yes, I was shocked as well. And I just believe that something like that is disqualifying for a leader. And I was approached by someone who was a victim. And because of that, was not in a place to speak out. And I have this platform. I have this visibility and I believe before God, again to go back to stewardship, that I need to steward that well. And so I said, “I will speak up for you and for others. And so I thought I could take a leading role, because I am not a victim. I have some vulnerabilities, obviously with my employment and my connections and so forth. But really, I felt I’m in a place where I can do what others cannot and I’m going to speak up so that’s what I did.

    JULIE ROYS:  And as fate would have it, or God’s sovereignty or Satan was against you, I don’t know how you put all those things together, but an awful thing happened. Yet something that you know, well, I’m really curious on your perspective of just how God has even used this event. But on May 23 2018, the same day that then president of Southwestern Baptist, Paige Patterson was asked to step down for these misogynistic statements he had made, you stepped in front of a bus in Nashville, Tennessee, and you were almost killed. And so, you made a statement. You said, “I believe this whole issue about women in the church and the treatment of women and the treatment of minorities, that is such an evil in the church and that those who are speaking out against it are vulnerable to the works of the enemy.” Did you feel like that was the enemy coming against you?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, I am a good Baptist. And I really don’t think and talk about spiritual warfare a lot except with my more charismatic brothers and sisters might do. So, I really do not speak in these terms often. But it felt very bizarre. It felt very mystical and strange. And I don’t mean to say when I talk about spiritual warfare that, “Oh, God is on my side and Satan is on someone else’s side.” It’s not that clear cut. But we know that we are fighting powers and principalities. And that Satan is sowing confusion towards one another and towards God,  and just what we should be doing. And so, it was actually, I had been up all night that night doing interviews, waiting for Southwestern’s decision. Got up that morning, had done some interviews. So this was very much in my mind. I got lost and distracted and that’s when I stepped in front of the bus because I couldn’t find my way. I was turning back to go to my hotel. And you know, I don’t know on this side of heaven, what was happening in the spiritual realm. But I also know that [when] I was released from the hospital, eight days later, I was strapped to a gurney going on medical transport to head back to Virginia. And that’s when someone sent me the news that the board had removed Paige Patterson. And those two coincidences are just seemed like more than coincidence. And what someone told me—I didn’t come up with this myself—I’m too Baptist to think in these terms—but a woman friend of mine who had been attending the same conference, I was there to go to just talked about how all of those broken bones in my body were kind of a symbol for the brokenness of women in the church. And you know, whether that’s what God intended it to be or not, it is that. We can see it that way. And I felt very much like that is how God has been using me in this issue and others. And it’s not easy. And it’s obviously painful in that circumstance. But I just, that’s all I want. If God is using me to reveal things, and to reveal hearts and expose what needs to be exposed. I’m here for it.

    JULIE ROYS:  And God has been doing so much in this area. This whole #ChurchToo movement. We’re seeing women who have been victims speaking and people believing them—people in power believing them. And it’s been, you know, honestly, I’ve just been dumbfounded, as I’ve seen, you know, just recently what happened at Willow Creek. And not just what happened with Bill Hybels but more recently with the other co-founder Gilbert Bilezikian and several people alleging sexual misconduct by him. And speaking. And almost immediately the church saying, “Yeah, we believe the victim. And we should have done something years ago.” And so we’re seeing just a real change in the church. And yet at the same time, I just heard recently Paige Patterson starting a new conservative group within the Southern Baptists. I’m like, really, this is who’s going to be leading? You know, a conserv . . .  really? What is that conservative group about really? Do you know much about this?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I don’t know more than what’s been on Twitter and Social Media. So, I don’t. I just, it is an opportunity. Again, I think the lines are being drawn more clearly. And it’s hard and painful to see it. But it’s also I think, a blessing because we can see, again, hearts are being revealed. And God is dealing with us and we have to choose sides, I guess. And we need his wisdom and discernment more than ever.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I mentioned this at the top and we’ve been talking about a couple, a few other things, but I want to come back to it. And that is some of the stuff that is being put out by so called discernment bloggers. And last weekend, I was on Facebook and happened to have written a story about Mark MacArthur who’s the son of John MacArthur—a member of the board of his Dad’s radio ministry Grace to You. Well, this Mark MacArthur just got charged by the SEC for fraud. And it’s a major story. We were talking about it on Facebook. Someone gets on there. I mentioned his name before, Jordan Hall, and somebody had mentioned on Facebook that MacArthur’s Masters University has been put on probation by its accreditor. And Jordan Hall responded, “MacArthur made a menopausal feminist accreditation hack angry and got dinged for it. It’s hardly a controversy.” And I was just, my breath was taken away. I’m like, “You did not just say that. You did not just say that.” This is a pastor and a blogger. And he’s calling somebody—well he’s deriding somebody for being biologically female by calling her menopausal. And so I said something about it. I was like, “That’s not okay. You can’t cut people down just because they’re biologically female.” And then he came back at me and deriding me as a feminist, which you’ve read my book, Karen. I mean, “a feminist?” I mean, there’s a lot of feminist Christians who are angry with me for some of the things I write, but I’ve never been called a feminist before. It was just so shocking. He wrote, “You’ve basically become a poor man’s feminist, liberal version of Janet Mefford. It’s been sad to watch your woke rebirth from afar.” And I said to my husband, I said, “Neal, watch, he’s gonna write a hit piece on me.” I’ve never had a hit piece before. This was kind of a new—I’ve had a lot of people mad at me for what I write. I get that. Because I report on things that people would rather not hear. But I’ve never been called, you know, I’ve never had a hit piece that just I mean, I read it and it was calling my journalistic integrity into question simply because I called Wade Burleson a, I think I called him a “Southern Baptist insider.” We can argue whether he’s a Southern Baptists insider. He’s been a pastor and a Southern Baptist Church for 28 years, was on a missions board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He may be on the outs more now, but he still gets contacts and he still gets me information. So, he seems to be. But that and calling me a feminist, and I’m like, “Really?” This is the most disingenuous post I’ve ever seen. I was just I mean, my breath was taken away. I was just like, this is ridiculous. It’s just not true. It’s a mischaracterization. This is my thing with being a journalist. I report on a lot of people I disagree with. But my goal is always if they read my piece, I want them to say when they read how I’ve represented them for them to say, “Yeah, that’s really what I believe.” And then we can argue whether or not that’s the right belief or not. But to misrepresent, that’s what really bothers me. And so, I want to look at a piece that was done about you. And you know what, I don’t have the date on this. This was put out a couple of years ago. It was 2015 right? This was the first time this was done on you. 2015. And in it, it says okay, it has a lot of things we mentioned. You know whether or not you’re liberal because you write for Sojourners magazine but let me look. I just want to even just dig into some of these things. So, it was said here that you did a glowing book review of Loving My LGBT Neighbor for Christianity Today that says, “The LGBT movement is much like the Christian community, in that it draws from diverse backgrounds and moral beliefs.” That’s a quote from you. In the article, Swallow Prior lauds the author for being or for arguing for nuanced positions of LGBT questions and, “a sympathetic portrayal of same sex attraction. For example, Swallow Prior writes, ‘The book also addresses some trickier issues with wisdom, humility and generosity. For example, Stanton’s call to accommodate transgender persons in their use of public restrooms is as commonsensical as it is refreshing.’” Now, you and I might disagree about that. I do want to say, Glenn Stanton is with Focus on the Family. He is not a liberal at all. I mean, if I were reading this and I didn’t know better, I would say, “Oh, that Glenn Stanton, that Loving My LGBT Neighbor. That sounds like a liberal book.” It’s not. Glenn Stanton actually has—I know Glenn a little bit. And he has a very orthodox view on this.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: But and the article doesn’t mention what Stanton’s solution was. The solution, the accommodation he was asking for is single stall bathrooms for everyone.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, he’s not, And what else it sound like is he’s for transgender men going in, you know, the opposite gender bathroom, right?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. So, someone else did a follow up blog too, because he couldn’t believe that Stanton and I would support what it sounded like. Because that’s what he was calling for. That was his accommodation which I even before the transgender issue, I always thought that, you know, single stall bathrooms would be my preference anyway, so.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and so let’s go over some of these other things. Because one of the things I’d like to do, I think, as we go through some of these is to help people become discerning consumers of the news. Because we do have—I  really actually hate the term fake news because I think it’s so abused as just, you know, it’s a derogatory term we use whenever somebody publishes something we don’t like, we call it fake news, right? But there is so much out there on the internet that may be true, may be false. And so, I want to go through this. And I want people to see how things are done. And I also want you to give you an opportunity to respond to some of these things. The Atlantic, he writes that the Atlantic ran an article entitled Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University, and alleged that Liberty University has backed away from its vocal opposition to gay marriage. As he came out he lists Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty—this is the author of the article—as one who was sympathetic and supportive of his decision. I sensed, at least this was my sense reading it, that that you were wanting to love people who identified as gay at Liberty yet. Would you say liberty is becoming, is dropping its vocal opposition to gay marriage?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, it’s not. Not gay marriage or homosexual behavior. We still have the same Code of Conduct rules that have always been in place. So, I really have no idea where that charge comes from at all. So.

    JULIE ROYS:  And yet, you’re friends with the author who wrote a piece that was quite critical of Jerry Falwell Jr. You’re friends with him, you know him. And he is openly gay. Why? Why do you have friends like that? Why do you associate with people like that?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, this particular person was a student of mine, here at Liberty. And that was the piece that he wrote long ago that that article refers to—when he was here as a student at Liberty—and was gay. And I was one of the first adults that he told. And I referred him to a counselor here on campus who holds to a biblical view of sexuality and who counseled the student and over the years. He tried to not be gay, but then decided to be gay, just as you know, it’s a long, complicated history. And he knows that I disagree with him. You knows that I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. But he also knows that I love him and he’s a person in my life who I keep in my life. And he has no doubt about either one of those things, what my beliefs about sexuality are, and that I love him.

    JULIE ROYS:  I have a friend like that. Brandon Robertson. He was a Moody graduate. And I remember being at National Religious Broadcasters convention and seeing him. He was on a panel and I just felt sorry for him. He’s like, 200-some. And he’s up there in what seemed like a pretty hostile environment. And they came at him pretty strong. And I remember afterwards, I just came up to him, and I’m like, “I’m so sorry.” Because I just didn’t feel it was hospitable the way he was treated. I disagree with Brandon. I really do. My heart breaks for him. Because I think he’s making a choice that will be for his own destruction, Yet I love Brandon. I care about Brandon. And I just, I remember when I just said that to him, he gave me this huge hug. And we ended up praying together. And we’ve since gotten together numerous times for coffee. When we’re at similar conferences. We don’t live in the same city or anything. But, you know, even to this day, if I reach out to him, he’ll always respond. He’s always gracious and kind and I care about him. And I think it’s important that we care about people and yet, what I see happening with you here, you attended, it looks like an LGBT Film Festival. You got your picture taken with a lot of people who identify as gay and what was said about you as a result?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, the irony of that is that that film festival was sponsored by an organization called Level Ground, which seeks to bring together different people at different faith backgrounds. It’s primarily Christian, but some who are affirming of the homosexual behavior and others who aren’t. And they invited me specifically to come—twice—to come and share the traditional biblical sexual ethic. And they have a difficult time finding people who will. So I came. And I was there to present that biblical view. And yet that part of the story is not shared. It’s just the picture as though I’m there approving that. Of course, I love these people and I, you know, and I’m there to enjoy the event. I was always there to do this specific thing. And I did. I’ve been twice. And others won’t go, but I will.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I can understand those who won’t go, I don’t know if I go, you know? I just sit there and think, “Oh, boy, I cannot be partners with them. Do I agree with what they’re doing?” And I can certainly understand those. And I might put myself in that group who would say I think what they’re doing is destructive. I don’t I think it’s helpful. I’m not going to be a part of it. At the same time,

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I can respect that. Yeah. 

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I mean, and we can have that conversation. “Is that really a healthy thing to do?” Because, I mean, “Either you’re for me or you’re against me.” And what? Are they for Jesus? And what they’re doing, does it help to be there? But here’s what I really don’t like. And I see this a ton with discernment blogs, is they get a picture of people together. And then they say—this is just, to me, it’s the biggest leap of logic—, “because so and so is in a picture with so and so, they must endorse everything that this person believes.” I mean, where do we get that? That is just the worst journalism possible. And yet people are getting away with it. And it’s not okay. When you see those pictures, I wish people would say, “Okay does this person really endorse him? Is that why they’re there?” And here’s a really, really radical idea. How about reaching out to that person and asking for their comment on why they were there and hearing their point of view? Has anybody from you know, some of these blogs that have been so vitriolic against you, have they ever reached out and tried to have a conversation with you?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: At one point, I believe that particular blog did. There was a claim that they called my office and that there was no message. But at that point, I probably would not have spoken to in anyway because it’s very clear to me, without getting into all the details, that I am being lied about intentionally and misrepresented. And that’s what’s not excusable. I mean, clearly, we can agree on whether we should go to this event or partner with this organization. Those are legitimate areas of disagreement. But what cannot ever happen is for intentional misrepresentation to take place. And that is what’s happening. And who that really hurts is not so much me although, you know, it does sometimes hurt, but it hurts the people who are being misled and who are believing things about the world and about the church and the state of things that are not true. That’s very, very grievous.

    JULIE ROYS:  While we’re on the topic of LGBT issues, I do want to ask you about Revoice. This is a conference where you’ve also spoken, where you’ve endorsed. And one where quite frankly, we disagree. We’ve disagreed on this. I don’t know if we disagreed openly on Facebook or whether we’ve, whether that’s been in private message. I can’t remember. But I know we’ve discussed it. And yet, we can disagree agreeably on this. I don’t think because you showed up at Revoice that you are necessarily endorsing everything at Revoice. But If you would, I mean, I don’t want to state what the conference you are there. I’ve only seen what’s what’s been written about it. I’ve never attended one. What is the purpose of Revoice?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, well, just one minor correction. I didn’t attend the conference. Before the conference was being organized . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  You didn’t speak?


    JULIE ROYS:  My bad. Okay.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, I just had an endorsement of the conference. I am friends with the main organizer and a couple of the other organizers. They are Southern, fellow Southern Baptists, who believe in the traditional biblical sexual ethic. They have same-sex attraction. In one case, he is married to a woman and they have children. He’s still open and honest about his same-sex attraction. Another friend who has helped to organize it is single and celibate. And the mission of the organization—and I’m just paraphrasing—but the mission is to help those who are same-sex attracted to live out the traditional biblical sexual ethic, whether in biblical marriage or in singleness. Now the difference, the thing that people have trouble with—and I understand this is an area of disagreement—is that these people have not abandoned the labels. They are open about their struggle. They in some cases have just simply—God has not removed that struggle from them. He does sometimes and sometimes it takes longer. Or sometimes that struggle will always be there. And so, they are open and honest about their attraction and their struggle. Yet they want to be and to help others adhere to the biblical sexual ethic. And so, I am in support of that mission. So, I offered an endorsement of the conference. I had a time to go on their website. And I think they’ve had two different conferences. And the first one did not require the speakers to be in support of the biblical sexual ethic. So, they had some different speakers there of different views. And I believe in the second one, or the one coming up, they have made that requirement, because they’re learning. And, again, it’s a mission that I support. I think that the conference and the organization has had some growing and some learning to do. But the mission has remained the same and that’s one that I still believe that we need to help our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters live biblically faithful lives. And there is no one size fits all for all of them in that struggle. And the church needs so much more conversation in that area. And they are going to make mistakes. We are all going to make mistakes. And we’ve made mistakes in the past. I’ve known so many Christians who had this struggle. And in previous decades, the approach was to be quiet about it, pretend otherwise, get married, don’t tell anyone. And I’ve seen that backfire so many times that I’m willing to take the risk to support my brothers and sisters who are trying a different way but still want to be faithful.

    JULIE ROYS:  By the way, I want to mention, the Illinois Family Institute is having a worldview event. I promised them I would mention this. But it’s coming up March 7. Saturday, March 7 10am, to 3:30pm at the Village Church of Barrington, Illinois. If you’re listening and you’re in the Chicago area, I encourage you to go to this. Dr. Michael Brown, who is a leading apologist has written some books about this actual issue and also answering your toughest questions. Always a great radio interview, by the way. And Dr. Robert Gagnon who’s a professor of New Testament theology at Houston Baptist University. He’s going to be there. So if you’re interested in that, I really encourage you go to and find out about that event. But speaking of same-sex attraction, gay identity, the one problem I had with that conference—is what you mentioned—is about embracing gay identity. And I feel like there’s a there’s a—what did I call it? It’s almost like just despair that God can do anything about that. And that it’s okay to embrace this identity that seems rooted in our, our sinfulness. And my passion in this area is—because I go to a church that has dozens of people, literally dozens of people that have come out of that. And have come out of it for 20, 30 years. Is it a place where they can’t talk about it? Now, actually, it’s a place where they can talk about it and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s fine. You know, we have other people that had that that struggle too.” The taboo is gone. And I love that. I feel like it’s one of the most healthy environments. But it’s also a place where there’s faith for transformation. Now, does that mean that God’s gonna make you straight? You know, that’s where I feel like when we’re talking about mischaracterizing people, I feel like the whole entire community that believes in transformation gets painted as, “pray the gay away.” Right?” And that’s not them. I’ve been to Restored Hope Network’s conference. And I’ve spoken at the conference. And this is a group that believes in transformation. But it is anything but, “pray the gay away.” I mean, these are people that live with the reality of how difficult this struggle is and yet have seen people transformed over time. And you know, the degree of that transformation is different in different people and but we have to believe in God’s ability to change, don’t we? I mean, isn’t that as Christians we have to say . . .

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Oh. Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think that, yeah, I don’t think that the people in Revoice necessarily don’t agree with that. I think they’re mischaracterized a great deal too. Now there are some of the presenters at that original conference that definitely were problematic. And I would have very different views. But in terms of the mission and the organizers of the event, I think that they have been mischaracterized. And I don’t think that they embrace this identity. That’s language that their critics use, not that they use.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, what I would love to see, I would love to see Revoice invite some of these people from say Restored Hope Network that believe in transformation strongly. I wish, I would love to see a conference where these two sides come together and really debate it and talk about it. Because I think there are different camps and they’re nuanced. And I think they often don’t get characterized as nuanced. But I would love to see some healthy debate and these different sides brought together. That’s just my two cents on that one. But . . .

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, I think that’s a great idea, Julie. I think that that could happen. And I think the biggest obstacle to things like that happening is the kind of attacks and mischaracterizations that make people afraid and vulnerable when they shouldn’t be because we’re having honest discussions about these things. And that’s why I’m having this conversation with you. I think it’s so important. Because there’s plenty of room for Christians to disagree with one another. But what I’m seeing happening more and more is that we actually don’t even know what we disagree about because there’s so much misrepresentation, mischaracterization going on, whether intentional or not. But that’s what we’ve got to get past.

    JULIE ROYS:  Agreed. Well, I wanted to get to one of the accusations against you which is—and this one floors me. Because I do know a little bit of your background. I want you to talk about your background with this issue. But you’re extremely pro-life. And this is something that you’re passionate about. And yet, because you wrote I guess at one-point you talked about a certain person’s book as “refreshing and hopeful.” And he’s pro-choice. And you said abortion is “radically complex, and there’s no conservative position or liberal position.” I’m not really sure what you meant by that, but I want to give you a chance to explain it. But then it was kind of said that you’re not really pro-life. How do you respond to that?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, I don’t know what either of those quotes or books are talking about. They may be distorted, or misrepresenting. I don’t know. I think the first one was a book by a pro-life person, actually, who was writing about pro-choice people. So no, I can’t explain. It was it was it

    JULIE ROYS:  It was Charles, I don’t know this guy.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Charles Camosy. Yeah, he’s very pro-life. He’s Catholic. He’s very pro-life. But he wrote a book looking for common ground between pro-life and pro-choice as a pro-lifer. Okay, so because he was doing that, somehow that’s compromise. No, I am very pro-life. I stood outside abortion clinics as a sidewalk counselor for 10 years and I was arrested a few times for doing that as well as for sitting in. This is all in the late 80s, early 90s. In my previous city, I’ve served as a volunteer in crisis pregnancy centers for years, I served on the board of directors. I’m a faculty advisor for the pro-life student club here at Liberty University. I write frequently on abortion. I tend to be compassionate about it and I’ve done post abortion counseling with women at crisis pregnancy centers. And so I don’t know what to say about that other than it’s just this complete misrepresentation. And I don’t know why. But again the result is that it is confusing people and sowing needless confusion and chaos within the church. Because people who are not doing their due diligence and checking out the facts are just simply believing that that the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is being overrun by people who don’t share beliefs when we do.

    JULIE ROYS: And you’ve been—I know you’re a part or you were a research fellow. Are you still a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No. I resigned last year

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And but I’m guessing you’re resigned amicably?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah. We we basically have some different strategic approaches to issues and so we’ve just, yeah, parted ways. But I love the work of the ERLC. And actually, that is, to be completely honest, it was becoming a fellow with the ERLC that put me on the radar for these discernment blogs. And that was something I walked into not really knowing that the ERLC is viewed as liberal by some Southern Baptists. And so, their attempt to attack me was really an attempt to attack the ERLC, which is, again, very grievous.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that’s headed by Russell Moore, who was an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. I haven’t heard him be as critical—because I mean, he got so much backlash. I haven’t heard him be so critical, although I think things he said beforehand, some of them needed to be said, And you know, we can disagree about whether that means you still vote for Trump or not. But he’s been outspoken on that. But, you know, his social justice issues, I think some people would say ERLC has been pushing more of a liberal agenda with that. Do you think that’s fair or not?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well again, we kind of go back to the beginning of our conversation where these terms liberal and conservative, really only have meaning when it who’s to the left of me and who’s to the right of me, right? Because they don’t, they’re not really tied to very objective absolute definitions. And I think we’re living in a time where some of the old categories and the old systems are falling away. And that is a good and beautiful thing because we have inherited a cultural Christianity, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, if I can say that. I mean, every denomination has but there are certain cultural traditions, history and baggage that comes with our denomination just like with any other. And we’re living in a time in history where some of those are falling away and most of us are striving to see the biblical truth apart from our culture. It’s very hard. It’s been hard for every generation and every part of the world. We’re living through a particular moment. And so we would say, I think we could say that the categories of liberal and conservative Republican and Democrat that was true in the second half of the 20th century are not true now. And we all need to—and we’re not going to do this in total agreement—but we all need to get past the partisanship, past the political parties, past liberal conservative labels that are tied to American political culture and not biblical Christianity. And we need to find that consistent thread of biblical Christianity no matter which party or which side it falls on. Because that’s the thread that we need to follow and our culture does not match up. It never has, it never will. But for far too long, we have been making our allegiance based on these cultural categories.

    JULIE ROYS:  Amen. Let me just ask you this. We’re running out of our time together, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But as Christians who represent Jesus in this current cultural era, and I think especially with the divisions within the church, how can we, as ambassadors for Christ, reach out and how can we really address those within the church? Who might disagree with us? What advice would you have?

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Wow, I mean, so much of this does take place on social media. And that that caused more harm than good, I think. But it is a mission field and it can be used for good. So I just urge every Christian who’s on social media to act on social media the way you would in person. Don’t say something on social media that you would not say to them in person. And if you are in person, and you have a question, or you don’t understand something that’s been said, you would say, “Oh, I don’t understand. Can you explain more?” We need to do more and more of that. We need to not believe every source that we see whether you know, I mean, we don’t believe CNN, or the New York Times, is giving us the entire truth or an unbiased perspective. Well, neither should we assume that the discernment blogs are doing that. We need to go back to the original sources. We need to not believe a picture or a meme or quote that might be taken out of context, but we have to be circumspect and sometimes we just have to be a little bit skeptical too. And the verse that just kept coming to me, as we were talking, Julie about all these issues, is one of my favorites is from the book of Zechariah. And it’s in chapter eight. “Speak the truth to one another. Render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your heart against one another. And love no false oath. For all these things I hate declares the Lord.” That verse covers so much of what we’ve been talking about this hour. 

    JULIE ROYS:  You know, and I think in the New Testament, when it says to always have an answer for the hope that you have within you, but do that with gentleness and respect. And if we’re supposed to treat non-Christians with gentleness and respect, how much more within the church should we be treating each other with that kind of respect that we want to be treated? It’s the Golden Rule right. Treat one another with that assuming the best. At the same time, there’s a time to be prophetic. There’s a time to speak out, there’s a time—and I will say, I love social media, because with the investigations I’ve done, and just seeing the change that comes as a result of people having power to speak. And I think that’s what social media has given the public, a place to speak, who don’t have platforms who aren’t, you know, the gatekeepers, and they get to speak and so, I love that, but we still need to do it with gentleness and respect. So, Karen, you’re somebody who does that extremely well. I appreciate you. And I appreciate talking. And I wish we—I would love to do it more. Talking about things on that we disagree about but doing it in a way that hopefully brings more light than heat. So, thank you, and thank you for your ministry and what you’re doing and just really Blessings to you as you go to Southeastern next year.

    KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, thank you, Julie. I so appreciate your work. It is an honor to be talking with you on your program.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, well thank you. 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’d like to find me online, just go to Hope you have a great day and God bless.


    Read more
    clean no 51:25 Julie Roys
    So. Baptist Insider Accuses Denomination of Abusing Power & Silencing Women Fri, 21 Feb 2020 17:26:35 +0000 Julie Roys The largest Protestant denomination in the country, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is facing allegations of back-door meetings, heavy-handed power-plays, silencing women, and trying to remove critics of President Donald Trump —all while responding to a massive sex abuse scandal. 

    This week on The Roys Report, Southern Baptist Pastor and longtime SBC insider, Wade Burleson, speaks with me about what’s happening behind the scenes within the denomination. Specifically, he talks about the refusal of the SBC Executive Committee to rent space for the upcoming SBC Pastor’s Conference if the conference keeps a female spoken word artist on the program.


    CBMW,Cedarville University

    The largest Protestant denomination in the country, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is facing allegations of back-door meetings, heavy-handed power-plays, silencing women, and trying to remove critics of President Donald Trump —all while responding to a massive sex abuse scandal. 

    This week on The Roys Report, Southern Baptist Pastor and longtime SBC insider, Wade Burleson, speaks with me about what’s happening behind the scenes within the denomination. Specifically, he talks about the refusal of the SBC Executive Committee to rent space for the upcoming SBC Pastor’s Conference if the conference keeps a female spoken word artist on the program. We also talk about the Executive Committee’s recent decision to commission a task force to scrutinize an SBC group whose leader has openly criticized Donald Trump.

    All this, and a disturbing story of how Burleson urged the SBC more than a decade ago to track sexual predators, but the leadership refused—this week on The Roys Report.

    This Weeks Guests

    Wade Burleson

    Wade Burleson has been the lead pastor of Emmanuel Enid for 28 years. He is an author of several books, and writes regularly on his award-winning blog called Istoria Ministries. Wade and his wife of 37 years, Dr. Rachelle Burleson, have four kids and 3 grandkids. He has served two terms as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and held many positions within the Southern Baptist Convention.

    clean no 50:10 Julie Roys
    Acts 29 & Bullying In The Church Sat, 15 Feb 2020 14:29:07 +0000 Julie Roys Last week, the church planting network, Acts 29, fired its CEO, Steve Timmis, for allegations of abuse and bullying. But now, there’s evidence that Acts 29 President, Matt Chandler, knew about Timmis’ abuse five years ago. But instead of dealing with it, he and the board fired the whistleblowers!

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie Roys talks about what happened at Acts 29 with Stephen McAlpine, an Australian pastor and popular blogger who helped bring Timmis’ alleged abuse to light.


    acts 29,Matt Chandler

    Last week, the church planting network, Acts 29, fired its CEO, Steve Timmis, for allegations of abuse and bullying. But now, there’s evidence that Acts 29 President, Matt Chandler, knew about Timmis’ abuse five years ago. But instead of dealing with it, he and the board fired the whistleblowers!

    In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie Roys talks about what happened at Acts 29 with Stephen McAlpine, an Australian pastor and popular blogger who helped bring Timmis’ alleged abuse to light. But the two also look at the larger issue of spiritual abuse and bullying in the church. And Julie airs some shocking audio from both Chandler and Acts 29 founder, Mark Driscoll, revealing abusive attitudes dating back almost a decade. 

    clean no 52:02 Julie Roys
    Abortion Survivor Tells Her Story Mon, 10 Feb 2020 21:42:19 +0000 Julie Roys Melissa Ohden is someone pro-choice activists would like to ignore. Ohden miraculously survived a saline abortion in 1977. And in a new, controversial ad, she and other abortion survivors ask, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me I shouldn’t exist?” 

    In this latest episode of The Roys Report, Ohden shares her amazing story of survival. She also talks about the battle to change Americans’ hearts and minds about abortion, and the work she does with The Abortion Survivors Network and Faces of Choice. 


    acts 29,Matt Chandler

    Melissa Ohden is someone pro-choice activists would like to ignore. Ohden miraculously survived a saline abortion in 1977. And in a new, controversial ad, she and other abortion survivors ask, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me I shouldn’t exist?” 

    In this latest episode of The Roys Report, Ohden shares her amazing story of survival. She also talks about the battle to change Americans’ hearts and minds about abortion, and the work she does with The Abortion Survivors Network and Faces of Choice. 

    clean no 41:09 Julie Roys
    Sex Abuse Victim of Willow Creek Co-Founder Speaks Fri, 31 Jan 2020 17:11:59 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Show Transcript

  • Ann Lindberg went public with her story of abuse by Willow Creek Community Church co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, less than a week ago. And since then, there’s been a firestorm of controversy surrounding her allegations and how the church handled them. This week on the The Roys Report, Ann shares vulnerably with Julie Roys about her harrowing story, which began 35 years ago.


    Willow Creek Community Church

    Ann Lindberg went public with her story of abuse by Willow Creek Community Church co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, less than a week ago. And since then, there’s been a firestorm of controversy surrounding her allegations and how the church handled them. This week on the The Roys Report, Ann shares vulnerably with Julie Roys about her harrowing story, which began 35 years ago.

    She talks about how Willow Creek’s failure to protect her and to restrict Bilezikian after she reported the abuse severely damaged both her emotional and physical health. And she responds to questions about how she could have stayed in a relationship for years with an abuser, sharing openly about the deficits from her childhood that made her vulnerable to abuse. 

    Note from Julie: In the podcast, I refer at one point to Bilezikian’s relationship with Ann Lindberg as an “emotional affair.” I realize now that was a bad choice of words because “affair” suggests a relationship between two consenting adults and misses the power differential present between a pastor and a parishioner. I’m really sorry about that and hope it doesn’t add to the shame any victim who hears this podcast feels. As Ann expressed, I also pray that this interview brings healing and understanding to other victims.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    JULIE ROYS:  Why would someone sexually abused by a spiritual authority stay quiet and why would a person ever stay in a relationship with someone who’s abusing her? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today’s podcast is brought to you in part by Judson University, a university shaping lives that shape the world. Well, today I’m going to be discussing a very sensitive subject. Yet sadly, a subject that recently has grabbed headlines and that is sexual abuse in the church. But more specifically, we’re going to be discussing the abuse that my guest today says she endured by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church. He’s also a professor of New Testament emeritus at Wheaton College, where he taught for 20 years. In fact, when I was a student at Wheaton College, I actually had Dr. Bilezikian he can for a class he was also known as Dr. B. That was back in the mid 80s, also when my guest today got to know Dr. B. And I remember back then he had a reputation for being a flirt. Everyone knew it. In fact, I reached out to my sister who also was a student. And she texts me back and she said she remembers Dr. B. She remembers the saying that if you wanted in a you sit in the front row, and you wear a short skirt. Friends, this was at Wheaton College. This was at the evangelical flagship school as a lot of people call it. But what everyone said was, “Oh, he’s French.” And somehow that excused his behavior. And I’ll be honest, I was super naive back then. I never would have thought that a spiritual authority a professor, a leader in the church could ever prey on unsuspecting students or members of a congregation. That thought just would not have entered my mind. If that’s what my guest today says Dr. B did to her. Her name is Anne Lindberg. And just a few days ago, Ann posted her story of abuse on Facebook, which started 35 years ago and she reported to the church 10 years ago. Up until this week, there’s been no public admission of any wrongdoing. Dr. B has continued to mentor and teach at Willow Creek. He was honored at the church’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2015 as the Living Legend of Willow Creek. Until 2008 teen the cafe at Willow Creek was actually named Dr. B’s but wow have things changed in a very short period of time. Just two days after Ann posted her account on Facebook. And then I and another blogger, Julie Ann, we re-posted to our blogs. Acting senior pastor Steve Gillen sent an email to staff at Willow Creek. In it he said that the church believes Dr. be engaged in, “inappropriate behavior.” And the harm that he has caused, “was inexcusable.” The next day Willow Creek elders published a statement which, was sent to congregants. It stated that the church is heartbroken over the abuse of a congregant by a church co founder Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian. The elders said that the victim came to them told them about it 10 years ago, and they believed her. The abuse included but was not limited to, “hugs kissing, inappropriate touching and sending overly personal communication.” At that time, the church said it restricted busy came from serving but “the restriction was not adequately communicated, resulting in Dr. Bilezikian serving and teaching in various capacities over the years.” Wow. So and welcome and thank you so much for coming in. You must be exhausted after this week.

    ANN LINDBERG: Thank you, Julie. This isn’t a position I ever thought that I would find myself in. And I had to think about it a long time and I didn’t realize how much the secrets weighed on my conscience and on my health. And the only reason I decided to come forward was for the sake of other people, because I was fairly sure that I wasn’t alone. And in that fact, I wish I’d spoken earlier. But I’m here for the people who haven’t had therapy since 1987. And I’m here for those who are still hurting, and still broken and still afraid and afraid to tell anyone. And so I want there to be something out of what I’ve gone through and just stand in front for those people.

    JULIE ROYS:  We started talking and corresponding months ago.


    JULIE ROYS:  And I know your story again, goes back years but could you have even imagined I mean, when you posted on Facebook and I didn’t even know you were going to do it, I saw it go up and then you sent me a private message and alerted me. But I didn’t know you’re going to do it. You You did that. mean one that took some guts. What made you do it now to go public? And what did you think was going to happen?

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, I really thought about it back in 2018 when I met with Manya Brachear of the Tribune, but I just wasn’t ready then. I hadn’t gone through all of my journals.

    JULIE ROYS:  And Manya, by the way, was the reporter who first broke the stories of the women who said they had been abused by Bill Hybels.

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  Former senior pastor at Willow Creek.

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct. Yes. And she left the Tribune before I was able to get all my information together. So I sat with that for a while. And it took me a year of going through 35 years of journals and emails and finding postcards and things like that, to write it. And it was a brutal year writing it. But my health is so much better than it’s been in years. So what finally made me I had been waiting for a go from God. And I didn’t know what it would look like or sound like. But I was listening to a sermon, and the person was talking about when it’s time to express your anger and not. And there was a line in there. And he said, “Sometimes it’s time for the whip.” And he talked about Jesus clearing out the money changers. And . . . I don’t hear God’s voice. But I heard “Go.” And so I thought, “Now? Now it’s time to go?” And so that was about two or three weeks ago. And so that’s when I started trying to reduce 57 pages to an article that people would actually read.

    JULIE ROYS:  You said 57 pages that ended up being 3000 words. Which again, I posted to my blog, Julie Anne with The Spiritual Sounding Board, she posted to her blog. The word of it spread so fast. And and then Willow Creek responded. But for all these years, my goodness, no one was responding.


    JULIE ROYS:  And I know for you that took a toll on your health, right?

    ANN LINDBERG: Oh, it was horrible. Everything from breast cancer to a stroke to a nodule in my lung to vocal cords disorder, damaged nerve endings. And my doctors told me it’s all from the stress. And in fact, one of my doctors said that every time I go to Willow, it’s like, ingesting poison and being re-traumatized. And I know that every week I shake every week that I go. But I’ve gone because I loved Willow, and I didn’t want to give up on the people of Willow.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So you’re still going to Willow Creek?

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. I don’t know, though that they’ll let me in.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, you have heard some communication, Jeff Mason an elder, did reach out to you.

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, yes. But . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  And this was, which night was this? This was Tuesday night, he reached out, right?

    ANN LINDBERG: Tuesday night, yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  Where they published their statement.

    ANN LINDBERG: And it was, he asked me a couple quick questions. I refused to do it except on a recorded phone call. So I called him back. But then he was ready to get off the phone. And I said, I have a couple questions for you. And so I wanted to know if it was finally, if Steve’s response meant and his calling me meant that the victims who have already come forward about Bill Hybels would finally have their chance to speak at Willow.

    JULIE ROYS:  You meant Jeff, not Steve.

    ANN LINDBERG: I’m sorry, Jeff. Yes, Jeff. And if Steve would finally have his day in and just speak.

    JULIE ROYS:  And when you say, Steve, you mean . . .

    ANN LINDBERG: Steve Carter.

    JULIE ROYS:  Steve Carter. Yes, former pastor who resigned in 2018 over the way that Willow Creek handled the women the victims of Bill Hybels.

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. So you confronted him for that.

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And the elder told me that they were thinking about that and considering that and can I say what happened after that?

    JULIE ROYS:  Sure,

    ANN LINDBERG: Okay. Well, I texted Steve Carter to say, “Guess what? They said they’re considering letting you speak.” And he responded back saying that actually he had talked with the gentleman that morning and they had told him, “Absolutely not.” So I just felt disheartened to get in another phone call with being told something that apparently wasn’t true again.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. And Steve’s wife Sarah has tweeted. I saved the tweet where she said they have spent $20,000 in legal fees trying to disentangle themselves from the church without signing an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement, which a lot of employees at Willow have done just to get the severance because it’s the only way they can, supposedly, I mean, this is the story that they’re telling. But good for you for asking for that, at least. During that conversation, any apology?

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, he said, “On behalf Half of the elder board, we’re sorry for what happened to you.” That was pretty much it. No, not really an apology. Certainly not an “I’m sorry.” One of those vague apologies that Willow likes to do.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So why did he call exactly?

    ANN LINDBERG: I’m not completely sir I’ve maybe to feel out where I was on it or do damage control or hope I’d say everything’s fine or something like that. He got off [not transcribed.] But when I told him I was recorded line he got off as fast as he could.

    JULIE ROYS:  Sure. By the way, I’ve reached out to Jeff Mason, the elder board, Steve Gillen, the acting senior pastor at Willow Creek. I’ve reached out to everybody that you named in your story. Some of them have responded. If you want to read an story. I did post it You can read the entire account. You can also read the stories as they’ve been breaking and the responses. I also reached out to Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian. At first he said that he would meet with me and interview with me along with his wife. And then after the account came out that Willow Creek was saying they believed you, then he said he didn’t want to meet anymore. And he retracted that, although he said he was postponing, I think till end of February. But we’ll see. And the offer’s still open. I would be happy to talk to him. But what I’d like you to do is take us back. I know,

    ANN LINDBERG: Please.

    JULIE ROYS:  I don’t want to say everything. Obviously, we can’t recount everything that’s happened in 35 years. But help people understand. Because I’ve talked to a lot of abuse victims. And especially when they’re victimized by a spiritual authority. How did you get drawn into this with Dr. B? How did it start and what was it in you that drew you to him?

    ANN LINDBERG: I’d already been through a tremendous amount of abuse from early childhood on. And then on top of that, I had an engagement breakup. And we were, I was attending a very small church with only a couple of hundred people. And the way I found out that he was breaking up with me was when his girlfriend told me that they were getting married. So I decided the church was a little too small for the three of us. And I’d been getting invitations to Willow for about four years. But consistently, what they would say was, “It’s really fun and there’s lots of cute guys.” And I thought those were terrible reasons for attending a church. So I didn’t take them up. But I finally decided to try it. And I thought, “God, I’m really serious about getting to know You. So I’m going to sit way up front where I can’t see the cute guys, I won’t get distracted, and where I can concentrate on You.” And so that’s how I picked fifth row, aisle, close to center as I could get because Lakeside [auditorium at Willow] didn’t really have a center aisle. And I sat there consistently. And starting late October. Dr. B preached a lot of the mid-weeks. And I think it was the very first week if not the very first, the second one then, that I saw his eyes fixed on me. And I thought, “That’s bizarre.” Because I was under the, I didn’t understand that you could see past the floodlights. And so I thought, “I can’t imagine why anybody would be watching me, so must be somebody behind me.” Or anything else. But week after week, this kept happening. So I didn’t do anything for over a year. I just sat there, tried to concentrate on God. And finally in December of ’85, so now more than a year later, I’d seen somebody off and on who was all into, speaking in tongues. And so I decided to stand after one of the services and ask Dr. B if he had anything written about speaking in tongues. And I also thought it would answer my question about whether he’d been watching me for over a year. So after the service, I stood in the back of this very long line that reached past the end of Lakeside and into the auditorium. So lots of people. And I’d been standing there maybe five or ten minutes when I saw him lean around the line and look all the way to the back and saw me and he left the front of the line, and came all the way back towards me. And I had no idea what why he was coming. I was afraid I was in trouble. And he grabbed both of my hands, kiss me on both cheeks, and said, “I have been wanting to meet you for so long.” And he said, “Will you please have a seat and wait for me?” And I just sat there in bewilderment. I had no idea what this was about. I could not think of a single reason why the Legend of Willow Creek would be watching me for over a year.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm, the Legend of Willow Creek because here he was, one of the co-founders.


    JULIE ROYS:  I know there’s quite the story of him mentoring Bill Hybels.

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  And the church getting started. So he then talks to you after this service.

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  And shows you a great deal of attention. I know when you told me this story earlier you said, “Wow, people here at Willow Creek are so friendly.” I mean, at first you were kind of taken, like just that he had a very pure interest in you.

    ANN LINDBERG: Exactly. I thought, “Wow. Somebody actually sees me wants to mentor me.” And I thought that was just really cool. I hadn’t had that.

    JULIE ROYS:  And something you said to me. “He was about the age . . .

    ANN LINDBERG: of my father. Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Father, why is that significant?

    ANN LINDBERG: That might make me cry. Loved my father. I think my father loved me as best as he could. But I don’t think he ever said he was proud of me. He said he loved me after I had a stroke and he was afraid I was gonna die. But other than that, not a whole lot of attention or affirmation from my father. And so Dr. B, being only one or two years younger than my father and him seeming to want to have a relationship with me or be interested in me or think I was interesting or anything like that felt like getting a father’s attention. And that that struck me deeply.

    JULIE ROYS:  You had this hole.

    ANN LINDBERG: Oh my gosh yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  And any hooked that hole. And I’ve found this with so many abusers or predators that they seem to sense. They have like a sixth sense for what that weakness is. And they know how to hook.


    JULIE ROYS:  And you know, I’ve been in co-dependent relationships before. Happened to me once actually. And it was enough. It was devastating. And learned a lot about myself and that whole process. But when you’re in it, you don’t realize what’s going on.

    ANN LINDBERG: No, no, I was clueless.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And you had no awareness that that might be a weakness. And yet, he kind of, describe what happened from there and how you got into, you know, and allowed the abuse.


    JULIE ROYS:  I shouldn’t say allowed because I know every time you objected.

    ANN LINDBERG: Every time I try to talk them into

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, and forgive me for saying that because I know that’s true.

    ANN LINDBERG: Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  But I mean, how you stayed in the relationship, despite the abuse would probably be the way to say it.

    ANN LINDBERG: Right. Well, when I finally got to talk to him that day, I told him that I was looking for some information on speaking in tongues. And he said, “No problem. I just wrote something.” He said, “Why don’t you stop by my office and pick it up?” And again, I thought, “My gosh, this church takes such a personal interest in people. I get to go to Dr. B’s office and pick up this literature.’ And I thought maybe learn more about God. I was kind of stunned. And so that afternoon in December, I went up to his office. It was a third floor office, and all kind of all by itself. And it was quite a meeting. He was already talking with three young college men. And so I had some time to look around his office. And it was a fascinating office, lots of books, lots of philodendron plants draped everywhere. But then my attention was caught by a banner that he had across most of his desk. It was about four inches high. And it said, “Better to burn than marry,”

    JULIE ROYS:  which is the flip

    ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

    JULIE ROYS:  of the verse.

    ANN LINDBERG: I knew there was the verse about being better to marry than burn. And I thought, “Why would he have this banner on his desk and that would hurt his wife’s feelings?” And, “What is that about? And he’s a professor.” And I just, I couldn’t imagine why. So that was top of my list of things to talk about. So, when the the young gentlemen left the office, Dr. B invited me to have a seat. You did ask me if you locked the door. And you know, I don’t know if he did. I wasn’t thinking to pay attention to that, or I’d have probably run.

    JULIE ROYS:  Right, because you were unsuspecting.

    ANN LINDBERG: Right. So we spent about five minutes talking about speaking in tongues, and he gave me the literature. And then I said, “Before we talk about anything else I need to ask you about this banner.” And I said, “Can you tell me why this is on your desk?” And that was all he needed. So I got to hear about his life from birth on basically. I got to hear that at four his mother died and you’d never known the love of a woman, never been hugged and told he loved him. And that his father was a cold, loveless man who never told him he loved him. And then I hate talking about Maria. I mean, I had guess I have to say that part too. He said that he had never loved her, that it was a marriage of convenience, that they both wanted to be youth pastors and they were under the under the impression that they had to be married to the youth pastors. And so he said it was more like a business arrangement. And that hurt to just hear that. I hurt for her. And then he said, once she started having children, Maria decided she did not want to be a youth pastor, according to him. And he said he discovered that Maria was a cold, bitter, heartless person, who didn’t even love their children and that he wished he hadn’t married her. And then he went on to say all kinds of things about me that he was, he could see me what this wonderful, empathetic, deep hearted person I was and how he needed somebody like me around to continue doing ministry–it’s draining as it was and all that. And I’m not sure if you talk for an hour, two hours, I just know it was getting dark by the end of the conversation. And so he basically told me he needed me. And this was at a time in my life where I wasn’t sure what God wanted to do with my life. So that was extremely confusing. And so I had enough to wrestle with right then. But when it was, you know, getting dark and it was time to go. We left his office. Well, we walked outside the door and he turned and closed it. And I was on the left side of him–the left side of the hallway, or of the stairs. And without warning, after he locked the door, he turned around and shoved me with both hands against the wall and stuck his tongue down my throat, which is really quite appalling. And then while I was still trying to push him away from me, he grabbed one of my breasts. And I was finally able to push him away. And he started skipping down the steps. I have never seen a 50 something year old man skip. But he was skipping. And he was laughing. And he sounded like a teenager or a child. And he got to the bottom of the steps, and he said, “You make me so happy. You make me feel like I’m a teenager.” And I mean, I was thinking, “What the heck just happened?” And I don’t remember the rest of that day. I kind of went into shock.

    JULIE ROYS:  I bet. So yeah, your emotional state, I can only imagine after something like that. How did you process that?

    ANN LINDBERG: I didn’t have anybody to process it with. I, he had already made it clear I was important to his keeping Willow going. So I loved Willow. So I didn’t want to say anything that might harm Willow. I couldn’t tell my parents, because everything was my fault, according to them, you know. And I didn’t have any friends that I felt safe. I mean, he told me I needed to keep a secret. So I didn’t. It just weighed on me and I didn’t even realize how heavy that weight was.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And he also really spoke to that need to feel important,


    JULIE ROYS:   . . . to feel needed, to all of those things. So then what happened from there? And it continued.


    JULIE ROYS:  Not specifically like that but . . .

    ANN LINDBERG: No, I never let him grab my breast again. And I never went to his office again. And there was never a time when he managed to suddenly attack me and give me a kiss that I didn’t have him away. And I never voluntarily gave him one for sure. In fact, my sole aim was to try to get him to get help, which he absolutely refused time after time after time.

    JULIE ROYS:  But you would have sort of an agreement. I don’t know if it was spoken or not.

    ANN LINDBERG: It was spoken.

    JULIE ROYS:  It was spoken. Okay. Where you would, whenever he preached, you would sit in your normal location. But you would wait for him afterwards because a lot of people would want to talk to him.

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And he would ask me to wait. I don’t remember how you initially asked me. But every time he spoke, he would ask me to wait for him. And I did. I still wasn’t sure what to do with the whole, “he needed me and Willow needed me,” and all that kind of stuff.

    JULIE ROYS:  And that went on. So afterwards you wouldn’t you go to the car and talk afterwards.

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And we’d wait until pretty much everybody was gone. There were a couple of hanger-on-ers that seemed to want to talk to him, but he didn’t talk to them. So I never have figured that one out. But we’d talk in the church for a while until they basically were vacuuming or something. And then we’d go sit in one of the cars. We didn’t make out in the cars. That wasn’t gonna happen. I did have a door I could get out of. But we would talk for a long time and sometimes we talked about God, which that was the part I liked. And then other times we would just talk about us his life.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. Did he ever physically assault You again?

    ANN LINDBERG: Wait it depends upon if you call grabbing somebody and kissing them when you didn’t want it, “assaulting.”

    JULIE ROYS:  That would be abuse.

    ANN LINDBERG: I never allowed them to grab any other parts. There were times that we took walks where we held hands or put arms around each other’s waist. And the only reason I agreed to that was it kept his hands tied up. It meant he couldn’t surprise me.

    JULIE ROYS:  It eventually broke off.


    JULIE ROYS:  And that’s when you started dating your husband?

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, I think I’d been seeing him less towards the end of 1987. I know that I saw him on October 31 in 1987. I have in my notes. But yes, my mother had picked out a husband for me. And I was the obedient child. And so this person was willing. I sort of gave in. And then said, this was around Christmas time, and he had Christmas at our house. And I agreed to marry him. And meanwhile, my mother came, was told that she had stage four cancer. And they gave her two weeks to live. And so she asked me to please get married before she died.

    JULIE ROYS:  So you got married. The relationship with Dr. B

    ANN LINDBERG: Changed.

    JULIE ROYS:  It changed.


    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. How did it change?

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, he no longer, I think he’s only, well, that’s my only guess. I can’t prove it unless I talk to other people. I think he only likes single women. So you know, maybe it’s just the thought that somebody else is having relationships that makes him uninterested. I don’t know.

    JULIE ROYS:  You must have been in a lot of conflict during the, what was it? About two and a half years?


    JULIE ROYS:  . . . that this was going on, even though you’re trying not to allow him physically to touch you. Yet, there’s an emotional affair going on. And you’ve got to feel bad, as a believer. You know, this is wrong. How did you, explain what was going on inside.

    ANN LINDBERG: You know, I was still, even though I grew up in the church, my church really didn’t teach the Bible. They just taught little passages. And so in a lot of ways, I was still a baby believer and still trying to figure it out. And, you know, my parents had told me that I was an accident, not an accident at birth but not the child they wanted, and that I shouldn’t exist. And so, I mean, I hate saying that to my brothers, if you’re listening.

    JULIE ROYS:  You had a sister who . . .

    ANN LINDBERG: . . . who died. A year ahead of me. Yes.

    JULIE ROYS:  So there was trauma in your family.

    ANN LINDBERG: And so I was the replacement child, on top of that. So I wasn’t, given that my mother said I was breathing somebody else’s air, that shouldn’t be there. I wasn’t sure if I had a purpose. And so I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life. I really didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know if I had gifts. I didn’t know if I had anything to offer the world. And meanwhile this person is telling me that he needs me for Willow to continue, that if I stopped seeing him, Willow will fall apart. And that I was the only person in the world that understood him. Everyone else had an agenda. They wanted to get close to a famous person. So I kept asking God, “Is this what you want me to do is to just keep begging Him for help?” And I wasn’t mature enough to know that, “No,” God would have said no to that. So that was a lot of it was I kept saying, and he asked me to call him Gil, I would say, “Gil, please get into marriage counseling.” And he would say, “It’s too late for me.” And he’d say, “And besides, I can’t divorce her since she hasn’t cheated on me. And I’d never be allowed to preach again, if I divorced her.” And I’d say, “Please get into a men’s group.” And he’d say, “I don’t like men.” And I’d say, “Please talk to Bill.” And he said, “Bill Hybels would never understand.” That part I’ve wondered about since then. So there are all these reasons I knew. But tell me how depressed he was. And that I was the only cheerful spot in his life and just on and on and on, to where I felt like I was in a cage and couldn’t get out.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So you got married, your first marriage ended in divorce.


    JULIE ROYS:  I know there’s a episode in between where as you were getting the divorce that you say he reached out to you.

    ANN LINDBERG: My divorce was final–I’d been separated for a year and a half–my divorce was final January 18, 1998. And he called me on New Year’s Day to tell me that I was this hero for going through a divorce from a very abusive marriage and parenting myself, that he had the greatest of admiration for single mothers. And then 10 days after my divorce was final. I got a postcard from him from I forget which country. And so I guess I was single again. But I didn’t ever allow him to touch me. Except for the one time in 2004 where he kissed me on the cheek.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, then there’s a lot of years in between. You marry your current husband, Mark.

    ANN LINDBERG: The love of my life.

    JULIE ROYS:  And you begin getting counseling, getting healthier. 2010 . . .

    ANN LINDBERG: . . . was brutal.

    JULIE ROYS:  That’s when you said, “I’m going to tell the church.” Tell me about that.

    ANN LINDBERG: I spent 20 years before I told my first therapist. And then the second therapist, I told. And she just went off the rails, she was so upset about it all. And so I started taking it more seriously and talking about it. So in 2010, I finally had the courage and I called and I asked Bill’s assistant, if I could talk to Bill. And she said, “No.” And I said, “This is a really important subject. Can I please talk to him? I want to keep it private.” And she said, “No.” And I actually liked this person. She was just following protocol. And then I asked if I might speak to an elder and she said, “No.” And I said, “Look, this is about Dr. B. And I really wanted to stay private.” And she said, “No.” And so I was referred to the now infamous or famous Elder Response Team, the ERT. And so we ended up having three different meetings that year in 2010, with Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta. And to say they were draining is an understatement. I shook and cried through the whole thing. I felt so shameful and wicked and just bad about myself. And they acted like they weren’t hearing anything that was a big deal. And so that just made it worse. Chris not so much. Chris Hurta is a kind person. But Scott Vaudrey is devoid of any of emotion. And I didn’t really get the feeling they took me seriously. And at the end, Scott Vaudrey kind of shuffled his papers, whatever and said,  “Well, you know, since this didn’t go to sex. This doesn’t need to go any farther.” And me with my, “Everything’s my fault” mentality thought that meant that that week they weren’t going to kick me out of Willow.

    JULIE ROYS:  You expected to get kicked out?

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. I thought they meant me. And that they’d let me stay because it didn’t go to sex. So every week,

    JULIE ROYS:  You must have felt so much shame.

    ANN LINDBERG: It was awful. So every week for until we talked to Chris again, I would shake coming into the church. I still shake, actually. I got there because I never knew, “Would this be the week they would kick me out?” “Would  this be the week that they told me I was a terrible, horrible person and get rid of me?” So it definitely started affecting my health badly. In 2010, I spent a lot of the year in bed with many doctors. In 2011, I had breast cancer. And at that meeting, yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Did they communicate to you that there will be a restriction put on Dr. B?

    ANN LINDBERG: Yes. My husband helped with this asking and we wanted to know, I wanted to make sure Bill Hybels heard about this. And I wanted to know what his response was. And I wanted to make sure the Elders were told. They never really did answer me about the Elders. But I was told that Bill Hybels said that Dr. B would never speak on a Willow Creek stage again. Now they, I didn’t realize that that was such strategic wording until the last few years.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so fast forward. There’s an incident where you get an email from the head of the marriage ministry, saying that Dr. B is mentoring.


    JULIE ROYS:  Is mentoring volunteers and there’s an Advance conference coming up and encouraging people to go to it. This was in 2017.

    ANN LINDBERG: 2017. Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Explain what happened there.

    ANN LINDBERG: You know, it’s not her fault. She didn’t know. She was old friends with Dr. B. And nobody had ever told her. And she was very excited about this opportunity. She told us she, I think she contacted everybody who’d ever been in the marriage ministries, and said, “What a wonderful opportunity this was that Dr. B would be doing a marriage leading seminar.” I always thought was so ironic when they were talking about him leading marriage seminars. And so I forwarded the email to Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta and said, “You know, you might want to be concerned about this.” And I thought the agreement was, you know, they wouldn’t do this. And the next day, Pat sent out another email saying, you know, “You still have time to sign up for this.” And he still spoke, Scott [Vaudrey] and Chris Hurta.

    JULIE ROYS:  And there was an email that went out encouraging people still to go to this Advance conference. Now I knowI have reached out to Scott Vaudrey. He said he misread the email. And then in 2018, after he resigned that then he went back and looked and read your email and he said he felt sick at that point and said it was the biggest mistake of his ministry life, that he didn’t respond, he didn’t do anything. How do you receive that?

    ANN LINDBERG: What crosses over into slander? My experience with Scott has not been good. I’ve had him yell at me before. I’ve had him say really nasty things. I’ve never had him look at me with anything like empathy. I’ve never heard anything remotely close to “I’m so sorry for what you went through.” I think he’s a very smooth talker, a very smooth rider. And I absolutely don’t believe that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Did he ever reached out to you and apologize?

    ANN LINDBERG: Golly, no, no, heck no.

    JULIE ROYS:  There also was a situation in 2015, where there was a 40th anniversary. And I have just a short clip from that anniversary. We’re going to play that and then I’d like your response to how you felt when . . .


    JULIE ROYS:  . . . you heard this.

    BILL HYBELS: [Recorded Voice] Tonight, we make our permanent contribution to this historic stadium by installing our one and only true legend from Willow Creek church. And I’d like to ask you to all stand respectfully right now. Stand respectfully.

    ANNOUNCER:  [Exciting music. Crowd Cheering] Standing five foot seven and weighing 170 pounds, former president of Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon. Professor at Wheaton College and Trinity University, earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Paris his graduate degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and his doctorate from Boston University. An author, a teacher, a much sought after counselor to world leaders. Put. Your. Hands. Together. For the One and Only. The Indomitable. The Living Legend of Willow Creek Community Church. Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian!

    JULIE ROYS:  The Living Legend of Willow Creek. They say, the church says, back in 2010, it believed your story. Restricted him from speaking. And then immortalized him in 2015. Did you go to that?

    ANN LINDBERG: I did.

    JULIE ROYS:  Wow. What was that like?

    ANN LINDBERG: I felt nauseous for one thing and a bit angry too. And then I thought, “You’re breaking what you said.” But then I paid attention. And he wasn’t “on the Willow Creek stage.” So . . .

    JULIE ROYS:  So technically,

    ANN LINDBERG: . . .technically, he didn’t violate what Bill Hybels had said. I had never said, “Please don’t talk about the Legend of Willow Creek.” So I just, It just made me aware that Bill Hybels had not disseminated the information to other people.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, I hate to draw this to a close, because I’m sure there’s so much more we could talk about. But I think the final thing I just want to know is what would you have to say to other women out there who have been abused by spiritual authorities and feel like they haven’t been taken seriously? Speak to that person.

    ANN LINDBERG: Well, something I’m learning is that you don’t have to always be controlled by your trauma, and that there is life after trauma. So that’s the space I’m starting to enter. And I would give them encouragement to keep doing whatever it is that helps them keep plugged into themselves. For me, it’s been journaling. And I would say, do that. Take the next right step, whatever that is for you. That doesn’t mean go confront immediately. Just, if there’s one tiny–I really believe in tiny steps more than big steps–take that tiny step that you can withstand. And then take the next tiny step that you can withstand. And hopefully have at least a couple people around you who will support that. But the little steps that you take, that you make part of your lifestyle, become permanent. And that’s what’s really important. And that’s what I would encourage other people with is to have hope. To believe that God really does love you and that he can take you through this.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well Ann, I want to thank you so much for coming in. I know it’s not easy to talk about this and to relive some of the trauma that you’ve experienced. But I’m deeply grateful. So thank you.

    ANN LINDBERG: Thank you. But can I just say that I would do this 100 times over if anybody gets helped through this. So, thank you for the privilege.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, again, you’ve been listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Julie Thank you so much for joining me. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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    clean no 41:47 Julie Roys
    How Should Pastors Relate To Power? Sat, 25 Jan 2020 17:58:56 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Show Transcript

  • Why do so many rock-star pastors implode under the spotlight? Why do modern-day churches become so entangled in growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? This week on The Roys Report, I’ll be talking with Author Kyle Strobel about how Christians have succumbed to the temptations of power. Then we’ll learn about Jesus’ seemingly contradictory path to power. To find out what Jesus’ path to power is, join us for The Roys Report.


    Willow Creek Community Church

    Why do so many rock-star pastors implode under the spotlight? Why do modern-day churches become so entangled in growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? This week on The Roys Report, I’ll be talking with Author Kyle Strobel about how Christians have succumbed to the temptations of power. Then we’ll learn about Jesus’ seemingly contradictory path to power. To find out what Jesus’ path to power is, join us for The Roys Report.

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    Segment 1: 

    ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  Why do so many celebrity pastors implode under the spotlight? And why do so many churches get so focused on growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And there’s no doubt that the Christian church, or more specifically the Evangelical Church, is going through one of the toughest seasons in her history. Megachurch pastors are resigning in disgrace. And megachurches are folding in the wake of scandals. And while some of this trouble can be chalked up to the age-old temptations of money and sex, there’s always this nagging issue of power. Power and the abuse of power has been a recurrent theme in all of these recent scandals. And as I’ve broken these stories about James McDonald or Todd Bentley, or Bill Hybels, people who have been victims of similar abusive  leaders, they always reach out to me. They email me or they message me. And the abuse can happen in either a small church or a big church. But the dynamic is always the same. Power-hungry pastors jockey to control their boards and their congregations. They take for themselves instead of thinking about the people under them. People get hurt and the cause of Christ is suffering. And you can’t help but ask in the midst of all of this, where is God? Jesus said whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily. But many Christian leaders, pastors even, aren’t doing that. Why not? Well, according to the late author and theologian, Eugene Peterson, all of us have a choice. He said and I quote, “We follow the dragon and his beast along their parade route conspicuous with the worship of splendid images, fond of statistics, taking on whatever role is necessary to make a good show and get the applause of the important. Or we follow the Lamb along a farmyard route—worshipping the invisible, practicing a holy life that involves heroically, difficult tasks that no one will ever notice, in order to become our eternal selves in an eternal city. It is the difference politically between wanting to use the people around us to become powerful, or entering into covenant with people around us so that the power of salvation extends to every part of the world that God loves.” Well, joining me today is someone who spent time with Eugene Peterson and theologian, J. I. Packer, civil rights activist John Perkins and several other respected leaders and explore this issue of power and godliness; the right use of power. His name is Kyle Strobel. He’s the co-author of a book called The Way of the Dragon or the Way of The Lamb—Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. So Kyle, welcome. I’m so thrilled to have you join me.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Thank you so much, Julie. So good to be here with you.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I should mention. Kyle is also a Systematic Theologian and Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology at Biola University. You’re also the son of this obscure Christian author and apologist. Some may have heard of him. His name’s Lee Strobel. (Laughter) Actually, a million seller, author and just very prominent apologist. And somebody I’ve known for over 30 years and had on this program. So it’s pretty cool to have you on, Kyle. And to speak to his son. And he is one of the, I mean, speaking of this whole issue of power and use of power and platform and everything. I know I have found your dad to be one of the most humble guys that I know and just unassuming. And you would not know when he walks in the room. I mean, he doesn’t act like he’s the most important person in the room. He actually makes you feel like you’re important. And it’s a pretty cool thing. So I don’t know him from living with him. But I’m guessing you’ve experienced him the same way.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Oh, totally. No, he’s a real gift. And I think, you know, in many ways, I think the Lord has been particularly gracious to him, in terms of never really—and I don’t know how much of this is just the Lord’s grace or his own discernment—but never really giving him his own thing. I mean, he’d never run an organization. You know, he never had a branding that had kind of names his own. It’s never really been about him. He’s always been partnering and doing stuff with folks. I mean, even in many ways, my own writing career, which is unusual to then, especially in spheres I work in, to do so much partnering in writing. In many ways is modeled after him—in the Mark Middleburg and him and he has several partners. You got a partners list and I think that’s, recognition that we don’t have to build things around our sole personality.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I’m sure an amazing mentor to have. But I want to say something. When I first became aware of your book, I was in the midst of reporting on James McDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. And you sent me your book with this note saying, “God bless you and your work. I hope this encourages you in all you’re doing.” I don’t even know you Kyle. And you said this to me and I was like, wow, thank you. That deeply touched me. But when you wrote this book, you couldn’t have possibly known what was going to happen and all these scandals that were about to break. Could you?

    KYLE STROBEL:  No. That’s right, yeah. When we started writing this, I mean, it took us about seven years total to write this book. And so when we started, this is way before you really saw any of these scandals coming out. It’s before the Mark Driscoll scandal. It’s before—I mean, at the time, of course, you have sex scandals and money. You have those sorts of things. But in terms of power, not a lot of people were talking about it. And for Jamin and I, you know, when we started this whole thing, it was driven—I mean, a big part of what we saw in the church, and we had seen these problems, even if they didn’t go public. We had seen things behind the scenes. We had friends telling us things they had seen in churches. But for Jamin and I, what really struck us is, when we really felt called to write this book, was how much of this problem was already in our own hearts—that we struggle with this problem. And we’re seeing what it’s doing to the church. And so we really felt called. We need to highlight this. We need to, kind of, shine a light in these dark places. And that means for us, in the dark places in our own hearts.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And you talk about that in your book. You say the first temptation of power is to view the problem as out there. It’s somewhere else and ignore the problem in our own hearts. And I know I’ve done a program on narcissist pastors. And I remember the expert that I was talking to was talking about how, yeah, there’s this narcissism that’s really toxic that causes real problems. And we don’t want pastors who have that. But, you know, all of us have a certain amount of narcissism. And that could be good, right? You know, and I’m like, well, okay. I can see how it can have a benefit, practically. But Biblically, there’s really nothing good about the narcissism in our own hearts. There’s nothing good about our own desire for adulation and power and control. And I love that you get very personal in this book. You get vulnerable and you talk about it in yourself. So talk about that. What did you see in yourself where you said it isn’t just out there? I’ve got this problem.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. Well, you know, I grew up in an evangelicalism and at Willow Creek where you know it there were passed the power. I mean there’s a reason why narcissists are oftentimes gravitating towards ministry because it’s a very quick path. And, you know, when I felt a calling to ministry, that calling was very closely tied to my own brokenness; to my own grandiosity. And as I grew in knowledge, which happens when you go to Bible college and seminary. And, you know, there was there was a lot of temptations there. And I think what the Lord did for me—and then going, you know, going back to my father, actually, he’s a great model for me of this—just incredible honesty about what is going on in your life. And, you know, I was, you know, in seminary, if I’m honest, you know, I do feel, I believe I was called. But when I was in seminary, I was here because I wanted to be great. I wanted to have a big platform. I didn’t want to sit by the bedside of a person dying in a hospital. Like that wasn’t my fantasy. And yet, you know, I’m keep reading Jesus saying the crazy kinds of things Jesus likes to say. Like the first will be last and the last will be first. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And over and over and over again, Jamin and I both were confronted with these things. And we kind of looked at each other and we said, we, you know, the Bible is talking about this other power that we don’t get. Like, we have to make sense of this. And so in many ways, both of us, as we wrestled with our callings to go into ministry—for him pastoral ministry, for me more academic ministry—was a path of kind of wrestling through our temptations. Naming what we see, not only in our own life, but what we see in the church. And then really honestly naming what Scripture very clearly states that Jesus and the kingdom have an entirely contrary power system than the world.

    JULIE ROYS:  And often to find your calling, your true calling, in Christ, you need to give up something. And even Jamin talks about that in the book. How at one point, he had this offer to go to this huge megachurch. And that’s where so often we see this grandiosity. Not always. I mean there’s some humble megachurch pastors out there. But we often see this grandiosity pool and it’s this big draw. So it was go to that big megachurch or go to this small church where you’re not going to have that big platform. And he had to really wrestle with that. And yet he felt God calling him to that smaller church. We need to go to break. But when we come back, I want to talk about some of these sages. You talk about traveling around the world. How cool that you were able to do that and talk to some of these people who have wisdom in this area. And can help teach us how to go the way of the lamb instead of the way of the dragon. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. With me today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb. We will be right back after a short break.

    Segment 2:

    ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  How should pastors and Christian leaders relate to power? Certainly, power isn’t inherently bad. But how do we distinguish between the good and godly views of power and the evil and worldly power that’s all around us? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And there’s no doubt that we’ve seen a lot of the world’s kind of power seeping into our churches. And sadly, some of our churches today look and behave more like Fortune 500 companies than like New Testament churches. And our pastors often act more like CEOs than shepherds. But how do we change that? And how does the church—and Christian leaders—how do we start using kingdom power the way that God and Jesus embody it? Well, joining me today to discuss this issue is Kyle Strobel. And he’s the author of the book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And by the way, I’m giving away copies of Kyle’s book today to two lucky listeners. So if you’d like to enter to win, just go to Also, if you’d like to join our conversation today on social media, you can do that. To get to us on Facebook, just go to And on Twitter our handle is @ReachJulieRoys.

    So Kyle, in your book, interesting, chapter 4, you start out with a description of a church that you visited. Sounds like you had some friends that attended their, correct?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, that’s right.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. So I can I ask how many years ago was this?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Oh, wow. I think about now probably 13 or 14 I guess.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And this was before I mean, anything had been reported about Harvest Bible Chapel or James MacDonald, at least [before] I had reported or started exposing anything there. There were some rumblings there, The Elephant’s Debt (a blog) had published and done some things. But what you noticed when you went there is fascinating. I’m just going to read the beginning of this chapter because it’s really fascinating. You talked about how on a Sunday morning you attended a church.

    The church was known for being biblical. And as we waited for our friends to arrive—
    you’re waiting for some friends—we noticed something odd at one end of the lobby—a huge model of an ancient ziggurat. A ziggurat was a pyramid shaped building that increased in height with steps. Importantly, this is what the Tower of Babel probably was. “Why in the world did they have a huge Tower of Babel in the lobby?” I muttered to Kelly. Of all the images in scripture to portray, especially in a church not often in the business of making images, the Tower of Babel seemed a strange choice. Why portray a story about human arrogance in your church lobby? The only thing I could imagine was that the children’s ministry had created a huge model for their Sunday school classes. So, we decided to check it out. I was wrong. It was a massive Fountain. And what was most shocking was not the exorbitant cost of erecting such a tower in their lobby, although that was certainly troubling. What was more disconcerting was its purpose. At the foundation of this edifice were huge boulders and on each boulder was a plaque that name something the church had achieved. Let that sink in. Without realizing the implications, someone built the Tower of Babel in the lobby of a church with the foundation stones representing their own achievements. Someone built a model of the biblical portrayal of human arrogance as a physical representation of their own success. The church no doubt believed God had been a part of these achievements as we are all prone to do. They undoubtedly assumed whatever they did was for God. But the hubris undergirding these achievements was unveiled with the presence of this statue. If God really was the focus, why not include other churches or ministries? Presumably God is at work elsewhere, right? What could possibly be the goal of spending a fortune to erect such a monstrosity other than proving that they had something to be proud of? This is a perfect example of the idolatry of specialness –that you talk about earlier in the book—that J. I. Packer had talked about. “No matter how genuine the desire, the quest to win and feel powerful had seeped into the veins of this church.”

    Wow. I mean, to read this—was this the Rolling Meadows campus of Harvest?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  That you saw this, and you recognize this and yet, so many didn’t notice, didn’t recognize it. This is I mean, it’s stunning to me, that this was going on, people weren’t recognizing it. But how it’s an idol. It’s idolatry. Right?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And you know, when churches—and I think it gets so difficult when the second we tie our activity to God, it is amazing how easy it can be to justify things that are unquestionably evil. Things that are unquestionably toxic. And yet people not say anything, because if they look around, there’s big things going on. And they say, “Well, God’s at work, right? And so what are we to do?” I mean, I’m amazed, you know, I’m sure this happens to you as well, you know, the second people find out we’ve written a book on power, you can imagine the stories that we hear. And one of the most shocking things to us was how many people we heard say something like, “Oh, you know, I know so and so is so arrogant. But man, they can preach.”

    JULIE ROYS:  Right. It’s the great justification or rationalization of all of it. 

    KYLE STROBEL:  That’s right.

    JULIE ROYS:  And when I talked to even early elders that were part of that church, they said, “Well yeah, the pastor twisted, James MacDonald twisted the truth. He was doing things that were wrong. He was belittling people, but so many people were coming to the Lord.” And yeah, we do justify it. And you know, let’s turn to say the flip side. That’s obviously the way of the dragon that you talk about. You got to spend time with J. I. Packer. Tell me a little bit about that and what you learn from J. I. Packer that’s the antithesis of what was represented by say that ziggurat in the church.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, well Packer, like all the sages, I mean, meeting with the people we met with, I mean, here are folks who they just had taken a different way. They, you know, at the time when we met with Packer, he was writing a book which would eventually come out and called, The Weakness is the Way. And it’s him just not only reflecting on scripture, which is what the main purpose of the book was, but just even his own life and recognizing, “Jesus is right about this.” And you know, one of the things that for us, the sages did, you know, because it’s easy when we read Scripture, it’s easy to read Jesus and kind of, we assume it’s true because it’s the Bible. But deep down, we don’t buy it. Like how many Christians believe the first are last and the last are first? How many actually believe that our power is only found in our weakness? And so, what these sages were, were models of, “Look, these guys have done this.” These men and these women like they’ve lived this way. And they’re powerful human beings now. And that’s what we had never really had all that often found in the church. And you know, Packer is a great example of it. And when Packer says—I think you mentioned it earlier—that the kind of critique of specialness and how he sees a church, that is longing for an experience and is longing for specialness. That’s a church now set up to be used by a toxic leader. And each of the people we met with in a different way highlighted these things. Some just—J.I. Packer obviously—but Eugene Peterson. You know the fact that he went to his Presbyterian and said, “I can no longer Shepherd the people you’ve given me because I know all their names I’ve been in all their homes and all the kids names and there’s another couple hundred people in the town that don’t come to church that think I’m their pastor anyways. And so they have problems, they come to me and I can’t do it anymore. We’re gonna have to church plant. We’re going to have to split the church because I’m at my breaking point.” And they said, “No.” And so he said, “Well, I can no longer pastor.” And he walked away. I mean, that is an entirely different kind of thing where he’s looking at the call and recognizing, “If I continue to do this, I will abandon the pastorate to keep pastoring.” Whereas so many see not abandoning the pastorate, but they kind of see the pastorate as a way into something that is really, if we’re honest, not pastoral. It’s a kind of Guru. And the call to kind of embrace this way that is against scripture’s call to be a shepherd of people. And instead to be their Guru is really one of the great temptations–I think—in ministry today that so many have embraced. And the sad reality is I don’t think any of these guys got into it because of that. You know what, at some point, they just love Jesus. And they wanted to be faithful. And yet they didn’t anticipate the temptations that were coming. And they weren’t prepared for them.

    JULIE ROYS:  I think what you touched on is really interesting. There’s two things. There’s one: the pastor wanting to be special, the Christian leader wanting to be special. And many of us who have been in ministry, I know I felt that totally, totally felt that. And wanting to be respected and people to listen to you. That temptation is there. But then there’s this other side of the people in the church wanting to be special. Of us wanting to be part of this big thing God’s doing and we’re going to hitch ourselves somehow to this train of specialness. So, I want to talk about that when we come back. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. With me today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It.  We’ll be right back.

    Segment 3:

    ANNOUNCER: Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  Why are prominent pastors and ministries imploding around us? Could it be they’ve succumbed to the seduction of worldly power and they’ve forgotten the way of Christ that to gain something, you must lose it? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about how pastors and Christian leaders should relate to power. Sadly, we often see pastors and churches incorporating the values, principles and methods of the world. But what is the right way to handle power? And how is kingdom power different from worldly power? Joining me today is Kyle Strobel author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And I want to remind you that today I’m giving away two copies of Kyle’s book. So, if you want to enter to win The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, just go to Also, if you’re just joining us and want to listen to the first part of our discussion today, I’ll be posting the complete audio of today’s program to my website about an hour after the podcast. Just go to, and then click on the podcast tab. So, Kyle, you know, we’ve talked about the leader and the ways that they often embody power and these temptations of power. But it’s also the congregation sometimes. In fact, you write in many places, churches openly affirm the way of below. You talk about the way of below is the way of the dragon so to speak. “Instead of being told how desperately I am in need of God, I’m reportedly told how much God needs me.” And we like to hear that don’t we?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, you know, one of the ways that I think churches have kind of subconsciously or maybe consciously, I don’t know—subconscious is a more generous assumption—is that maybe they’ve kind of assumed that if we give them a kind of Guru that they can look up to and they can follow—because we like to kind of hitch ourselves to someone that we think is great—and if we’re told that we need to give ourselves to be a part of something that needs us, and that we have this very clear cut mission, because we’re this special place, that suddenly we get this—notice how so many of these things, it’s not that they’re totally wrong. They’re just wrong enough, where they can be painted with the gospel brush that makes it sound like, “No, we’re doing this for God and His glory.” And yet, right behind that, you can kind of start to peel back something that reveals, “Well, actually, we’re trying to do it for us and for our glory, and maybe for this person’s glory.” So in many ways one of the things that has come out of the studies on toxic power is not only that there’s people looking for it to become toxic leaders and narcissists who are embracing these things, but actually congregations want a toxic leader. They want someone to kind of gaze upon and think, “Wow, I’m going to ride his coattails.” 

    JULIE ROYS:  It’s almost like codependency isn’t it?

    KYLE STROBEL: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, you talk about somebody who’s very, very different. You refer to her as a powerfully weak woman. I love the oxymoron. Someone named Marva Don. Someone I had never heard of. Talk about her and how maybe she’s an example for us.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. Marva. Marva is an incredible woman. I mean, here’s a person who, you know, she did her PhD. She’s kind of done some really serious work in biblical studies—theology—an actually is probably the only person we interviewed that had done even academic work on that very topic we were asking about. Most of the people were talking about their lives. And for her it was interesting, because she had done academic work in the area but she also just embodied it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met a person with more physical maladies than Marva Don. She had just had a foot amputated before we met her. This woman was, I mean laundry list of suffering. And, you know, as long as the Lord gave her a mouth to speak, she would say, she’s out there proclaiming His word. She’s co-written things Eugene Peterson before. So that’s usually where people kind of run into her. But Marva you know, for us, she became a real turning point. You know, one of the things that happened with Jamie and I as we write this book, and the reason we took so long is we wanted to allow the book to be what it was supposed to be. A problem with a lot of Christian books is—and this is true about any book I suppose—is oftentimes you get a contract and you’re told to write a book in six months.

    JULIE ROYS:  Oh, my goodness, yes. I’ve been through it once. And it’s—wow—brutal.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And so it’s like, and it’s not a great space for wisdom, right? That’s not a great space to kind of do something with depth. And so we thought, you know, let’s just give us the space to allow this project to be what we think the Lord wants it to be. And we had an idea, but we wanted to be open to be surprised. And she surprised us. We did an interview with her, and neither of us wanted to go the direction she pushed. We kind of weren’t prepared. But Marva made it clear that if you’re biblically in a talk about power and weakness, which is the main theme that we were wrestling with, that you also have to talk about the powers and the principalities. And for us what became a really important image from James 3, the image you mentioned earlier, the way from above versus the way from below. And James calls the way from below the way of, “the world the flesh and the devil.” And that changed things for us. Because when we looked at the James MacDonald’s of the world, those situations, like everyone that could see these things clearly, we kind of thought, “Wow, it shouldn’t be this way. This is worldly.” But suddenly scripture was pushing us to say something that was harder to say, which is, “This is demonic.” And then we started seeing Jesus do this when he calls Peter, “Satan,” to his face. And tells him he’s setting his mind on the ways—not of God, but of man. Where He links, the way of the flesh with the demonic. And so, what became clear for us is that, you know, there’s a power system that is shared by the world, the flesh and the devil. And we might think of it as power and strength for the sake of control and often domination. Whereas the way of Jesus—the way from above—is power in weakness for the sake of love. And that early temptation we had—and actually it was Martin Luther King and our study of him that helped us see that this was a temptation—was to think that, “power as such is bad.” And we then realized “No, that’s not the case. Actually all of this is for power. Christians should be powerful. But power in weakness for the sake of love means love is power.” And true love is actually the kingdom functions. To put it in economic terms, which is where a lot of our power themes come from, the economy of the kingdom is love. And that changes everything. And that’s what Marva really pushed us to consider that actually the great tragedy is not simply toxic leadership. The great tragedy is that demonic power is being wielded to try to further the kingdom. And it is warping the soul of the church from within. And we began to see this. And I think, you know, and in many ways much of your work has actually done a great job of exposing very clearly that that this has seeped into the very heart of evangelicalism under the guise of a church that should have been seeing this. Of a church that that knows scripture and therefore should be recognizing this and yet didn’t—just missed it entirely.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and it’s not one church. It’s the entire evangelical industrial complex—which you referenced in your book—it has seeped into an awful lot of ministries. Man, this is a great discussion. I’m looking forward to continuing it. We have to go to break. But when I come back, I’ll be speaking more with Kyle Strobel author of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb. We’ll be right back.

    Segment 4:

    ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  Rather than following the way of Jesus, too many Christians chase relevance and influence. They’re seduced by worldly power instead of the path to kingdom power. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And that’s the opinion of my guest today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And I’d love to hear what you think. To comment, just go on Facebook, Or on Twitter, my handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Kyle, right before break some powerful stuff you were talking about in the last segment, that we’re not talking just about, “Oh, this is a good way or a bad way or a better way.” We’re talking about the ways that the church is operating is actually in some cases outright demonic. In fact, Marva Don, you were talking about, she writes, “I was at a pastoral conference once and the pastors were trying to outdo each other as to who had the most important congregation. That was demonic.” We need to start naming it, don’t we?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. No, I think that’s important. And that became an important moment for us. That the temptation we had, you know, I think we talked particularly in evangelicalism for us the problem is the flesh. That we’re bad we’re fleshly were fallen. And therefore, we do fleshly things. And so that could kind of become a bit sterile actually. Like we don’t feel the weight of that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and then you hear “Everybody’s human.” 

    Whenever you bring up any fault. When someone’s taking a half a million-dollar salary or a million dollar salary. “Well, everybody’s human. So, they’re a little greedy. Look at the good they’re doing.” Right?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Totally. And that’s where we have to see that the actual system of power is different. You know, I think one of the, if not the, and in my mind, greatest temptation in the church today is to use a worldly and fleshly and demonic power grid to kind of weigh the church. And you see this. I remember one of the things Dallas Willard said to us is he said, “Couple hundred years ago, and for all of church history, you could have been seen as a faithful pastor and not been a good preacher.” And he’s like, “I don’t think that could happen today.” And even the focus on good preaching there, what he means is kind of rhetoric, right? Like how the average person judges what powerful preaching is. And quite honestly the grid we’re using to weigh what a successful church is, what a meaningful church is, these are worldly fleshly, demonic systems. Jesus didn’t judge things this way. You get that famous image about David being made king as a child where it looks at the heart. Well, the similar thing happened in the church, God kind of looks to see the heart of a church. Does that mean it’s going to be the most influential? Does it mean it’s going to look powerful? Not necessarily on worldly terms. And I think the assumption has been, if a church appears powerful in worldly terms, God’s the one doing that. And I think the entirety of Scripture pushes the other direction and unveils there’s something vastly different going on. And so I think one of the things that has happened is that we’ve—the word that I don’t know if you heard this word a lot, but one of the words that has been ruined for me by people is the word anointed. Because it just covers sins for people. It’s like, “Well, you know, sure that person is a narcissist, but they’re anointed.” And what they mean is that they’re savvy in certain ways that get things done. And that’s again, worldly. That’s just not what the kingdom is. When you talk about discerning the way of Jesus, it is the way of kind of a weightiness of soul. And you just don’t find that in these places. And so, I think we have to adopt an entirely different method of thinking about the notion of success, of thinking about what does it mean to judge something kingdomly, rather than worldly? But we haven’t.

    JULIE ROYS:  You know, it’s interesting when you talk about anointing. It reminds me a little bit of the scandal with Todd Bentley. I don’t know if you followed that at all. It’s somewhat outside of the evangelical tradition that I’m sort of planted in because it’s more of a charismatic. But here’s a guy who had multiple affairs and sexting issues and every. And finally, there was several charismatic leaders who came together—and some of them you know; Dr. Michael Brown, somebody I respect a lot. I love Michael. And then they finally together, issued a finding and a judgment after researching everything, and saying, “This man should not be in public ministry.” There was one part in there though where they talked about anointing. And it is possible. I mean, I look at Old Testament kings who were anointed to be kings, and they were as evil as all get out. And the anointing might have been there to be king. I mean, we see with Saul, it’s taken from him and given to David because of his evil. But it’s very confusing. And I know I talked to a pastor who had known James MacDonald very well. And he said, “What just messes with me is he seemed like God’s anointed. He seemed to have all that, he was Saul and I was his David.” And he said, and you could tell this was, you know, 15 years post leaving, and he’s still confused by it, still wracked by it. Like, “How do I put that together that this man who seemed to be such a man of God—had such impact—was so corrupt?” I mean, how do we put that together? It’s very difficult.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And what I worry about is when you know, anointing, that term is loose in a dangerous way. Because I’ve seen the same thing. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of churches where someone has an affair. Of course, the woman, they get rid of her. She’s kind of not allowed anymore, but he’s anointed. So, we’re going to rush him through some sort of process. We’re going to get him back in ministry. And oh, shocker, two years later, has another affair. And it’s this crazy notion that somehow—because it almost inevitably, because this person can stand up in front of people and wow them—they’re anointed. And there’s plenty of people that can do that in this world. Most of Hollywood is filled with people who can stand up in front and wow people. It’s the assumption that somehow the church, you know, I think there’s an assumption that God will so protect the church that he won’t allow these kinds of people to come to power. But again, scripture’s full of stories where God for whatever reason, allows his people to walk down folly, foolish roads. And I think one of the things that has happened with, particularly in America where I think because for so long, evangelicalism has had a kind of cultural power, we’ve been able to tie these things. I mean, I think, you know, 20 years from now, this might not be a non-issue. Yeah. You know, that we’re going to hit a point where there’s going to be a certain amount of sacrifice and suffering to embrace a public ministry. That will maybe just undermine all of this. But for the time being, the church is still very much a place where this kind of power can be had. And again, when you think about pastoring, like do we judge our pastors by the grid of love? And how do we know that? Because I’ve met many pastors who are total narcissists, who you put them on a stage, they can appear like they really cared about love. But it was rhetoric. They know what needs to be said. And that’s such a great danger if that’s how we’re judging people. And you know, if you’re at a church, if you’re listening to this and you’re at a church—do you want to know what one of the best ways to think about how a church thinks about power is if either imagine or look at the last time you hired someone. What were you doing when you hired someone? I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve met that have never bothered asking a future hire if they pray and what their prayer life is like. It just never came up. And so yeah, you know, I think hiring someone’s an interesting model to look at because every kind of temptation you have kind of comes out when you hire someone. Particularly with the head pastor. Are you looking for someone who’s going to wow you? Or are you looking for someone following Jesus? Those two things will require two totally different ways of going about interviewing, of the kind of questions you ask them, of what you. Almost every church wants a video of someone preaching.

    JULIE ROYS:  Well, and if you look at the job descriptions too, they’re very telling.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Totally.

    JULIE ROYS:  Very telling. In fact, Scot McKnight wrote a very good blog post couple months ago just even analyzing Okay, Willow Creek’s looking for a pastor. Let’s look at this job description. What does the job description say that we’re looking for? And I think that’s important for us to soul search about. What does that say? That’s a great point.

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, yeah, those statements, you know, when churches write out those job descriptions, those are a kind of a mirror back to the church of who we are. And it reveals the soul of the place. And it’s scary because quite a lot of them are not looking for a pastor even though they’re calling it a pastoral hire. They’re looking for a guru.

    JULIE ROYS:  Tell me this, because we don’t have a lot of time left. But how do we change that culture? Because we’re talking about a culture, so often. It can be a person, right? It’s planted by a person. But they create this culture, and it becomes systemic. And I’ve seen this with churches where they can get rid of the problem person, supposedly or ministry, the problem person, but that culture is entrenched, that way of thinking is entrenched. How do you change that at a church or at a ministry?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, that’s a great question, but a hard one. You know, I think in many ways, you have to have two things go on there. There’s has to be a change in elder boards. And the leadership can be whatever your church structure is, whatever the kind of leadership.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, let me ask you that, though. Because often what happens, there’s a change, but all the people that assume leadership are from within. So, they’re within the culture. Does it have to be from without?

    KYLE STROBEL:  Well, not necessarily. I mean, I think that you have to start on both ends, like you have start at leadership and there also has to be a kind of grassroots movement in a church where a church just kind of in studying scripture, I think very clearly says now like, “No, this is not what it means to be the church.” And then hold their leadership accountable. And this is what the way unfortunately, particularly in evangelicalism where you have a lot of churches that have no—I mean, Willow’s a great example, right? After Bill [Hybels] they’re like, “Who do we turn to for help?” There’s no denomination. And so, when you have a lot of these independent churches, the danger is there’s nowhere to go. And the person probably has so much power they’ll just force you out. And you know, that James MacDonald is famous for this, right where there’s kind of these scare tactics and these like, you know, heavy handed like, “I’m going to force you into submission or scare you enough that you just shut up.” And unfortunately, often those moves are done behind closed doors. And so you might get an Elder board that learns about them. But, you know, one of the things that I think is important is when you think—let’s use elder board as an example, just because I think most churches have something like that, we have this group of elders—I think there that we all we need to ask some serious questions about why the group is the size that it is. Like James MacDonald, so how many were there? Like 30, 35 or some crazy number?

    JULIE ROYS: It was over 30.  

    KYLE STROBEL: Yeah, well that’s a power move right there. Like if you have 30 people in a room, there’s too many people to know what the other person’s thinking. That is what a toxic leader wants to do, because now you control the room because you can manipulate different sides of the room at different times. And behind closed doors, you can approach one person and tell them to step in line because all the other people will go against them. And all the stuff that happens there. The fact that there’s any more than 10 probably is a bit suspicious in my mind.

    JULIE ROYS:  I hate to do this, but we’re running out of time. We could continue this a long time. But I think what I’m hearing you say is we need to get back to basics.

    KYLE STROBEL:  And we need to reevaluate every level of what we do around a biblical notion of power.

    JULIE ROYS:  Absolutely. And it just reminds me of Mark 10:42-45, where Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Kyle, I thank you so much for reminding us of that today. So appreciate your book and your input today. And just a reminder, if you missed any part of this show or want to listen again, just go to Thanks again for listening. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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    clean no 44:11 Julie Roys
    How Should Christians Minister To People With Same Sex Attraction? Sat, 18 Jan 2020 22:02:09 +0000 Julie Roys

  • Guest Bios

  • Show Transcript

  • Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or are such efforts counterproductive? And should Christians simply aim to support people with same-sex attraction, and even accept gay identity? This week on The Roys Report, Julie explores this issue with two Christian leaders with two different perspectives. Anne Paulk of the Restored Hope Network encourages Christians to offer hope of change and healing to those with same-sex attraction.


    Willow Creek Community Church

    Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or are such efforts counterproductive? And should Christians simply aim to support people with same-sex attraction, and even accept gay identity? This week on The Roys Report, Julie explores this issue with two Christian leaders with two different perspectives. Anne Paulk of the Restored Hope Network encourages Christians to offer hope of change and healing to those with same-sex attraction. But Ty Wyss of Walls Down ministry says Christians should simply accept LGBT persons without any pressure or expectation of change.

    This Weeks Guests

    Anne Paulk

    Anne brings more than two decades as an author, speaker, spokesperson and advocate for men and women struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions to her role as executive director of Restored Hope Network. Her mission in leading the organization is to, quite literally, restore hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin, especially those impacted by homosexuality. She has appeared on Focus on the Family Radio, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalkIn the Market with Janet ParshallEquipped with Chris Brooks (Moody Radio), among others. She is the author of Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Harvest House Publishers), and she also has written for Spirit Led WomanCharisma and The Gospel Coalition. Anne lives in Colorado and her greatest joy is being mom to her three sons.     

    Ty Wyss

    Ty Wyss is the founder and president of Walls Down Ministry in Indianapolis where he helps the theologically conservative church to love LGBTQ people generously through seminars, support groups, & soul care. He also has his masters in counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University and specializes in helping people of faith find congruence in their faith and sexuality. He lives in Indy with Rachel, his wife of 11 years and 2 young boys, Beckett and Asa. 

    Show Transcript

    Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

    Segment 1: 

    ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or are such efforts counterproductive and shouldn’t Christians simply aim to support people with same sex-attraction and even accept gay identity? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be discussing how to minister to people with same-sex attraction with two Christians who have two very different approaches. One of my guests, Anne Paulk, says God can heal people from same-sex attraction. In fact, it’s something she says she’s experienced herself and has helped many others experience as well. And as the Executive Director of Restored Hope Network, an organization devoted to helping people with same-sex attraction find hope and healing in Christ. My other guest, Ty Wyss, says he doesn’t encourage people to pursue trying to change their sexual orientation. He says he believes that God can change people’s sexuality. But as someone with same-sex attraction, healing or change is not something he’s personally experienced, nor is it something he’s interested in pursuing or encouraging others to pursue. Ty is the founder of Walls Down, a ministry that equips the church to reach out to LGBT people, not by offering hope of change necessarily, but by simply inviting LGBT people to experience an abundant life in Christ. So I’m really looking forward to today’s program. I think it’s going to be extremely informative. And in a way, it’s a follow up to a show that I aired a few weeks ago with two survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon. Both Luis and Angel told me that God had delivered them from same-sex attraction. And then that claim sparked quite the debate on social media. People challenged whether the deliverance that Luis and Angel had experienced was it normative or was that just an anomaly? Someone encouraged me, actually, to reach out to Nate Collins who’s the founder of a controversial conference called Revoice. Revoice is controversial because it affirms gay identity and holds that same-sex attraction is normally immutable or an unchangeable condition. At the same time, Revoice is not gay affirming. The conference organizers are clear that they believe God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. So we did actually reach out to Nate Collins and invited him to join us. He didn’t respond but I’m really glad that Ty Wyss has agreed to be with us. Ty supports the Revoice Conference and has actually led a workshop there. So perhaps we’ll have time today to talk about Revoice as well. But first, let me just welcome our guests. Ty, thank you so much for joining me today.

    TY WYSS: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Appreciate that.

    JULIE ROYS:  Sure. And Anne you’ve been on this program before, but I appreciate you being willing to come on and talk about this topic with someone who may have a very different perspective than you. So thank you.

    ANNE PAULK:  You bet. It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much, Julie. And thank you, Ty.

    TY WYSS:  Yeah. Thank you.

    JULIE ROYS:  And I always do appreciate it when Christians can come together and we can reason together in an agreeable manner about something that we may feel passionately about that at the same time, have different perspectives. Let me start with you, Ty. Before I ask you, I do want to know, just the topic of this whole program and how to minister to people with same-sex attraction. But I’d like to just sort of establish your position on homosexuality. You’re not gay affirming, correct?

    TY WYSS:  Right. That’s correct. Yeah. I believe that God created one man and one woman to be together in marriage.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And you are married with children, but same-sex attraction is something that you personally struggle with.

    TY WYSS:  Yeah, that’s right. It’s kind of in that in between space. Sometimes it feels like so.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, you’ve obviously walked through this yourself. You’ve had churches respond to you, I’m guessing, in different ways when you admit that.

    TY WYSS:  Sure.

    JULIE ROYS:  From your experience, and also, I’m guessing, your study of the Scriptures, what do you believe is the best way to minister to a person who has same-sex attraction?

    TY WYSS:  Yeah, well, you know, the place that I start and the place that I enjoy when people start with, where people start with me, is hearing my story first, and seeing how that experience has, my experience with both faith and sexuality, has impacted my life both really positively and negatively. I feel most honored by that. Because I feel like somebody’s not trying to sort of have an agenda. They really just want to hear something. So I feel like that, for me, that’s the best place to start. Because I think it treats people as individuals and kind of forces you to lay down whatever agenda you might, consciously or unconsciously, have.

    JULIE ROYS:  So tell us a little bit about your story.

    TY WYSS:  Yes. So I would say, I kind of realized I had the same- sex attraction when I was, I would say 12, was probably when I realized, oh, gosh, I think I might be gay. And kind of started to accept that and started to wrestle with that quite a bit. And then at 17, that’s when I came out to friends and family. And kind of came out to everyone at that point. So it was just kind of and I wasn’t raised in faith. I wasn’t really thinking about what God thought necessarily. I really more thinking about what my community would think—what my family would think.  Would I still be accepted and loved? And so that was really kind of more of where my thought process was. And then so I was out into the gay community in Columbus, Ohio. And really felt like I found a really good community. Really found great friends—dated men, marched in pride parades, went to gay rallies. And really felt like the gay community was the family that I really probably belonged with. Because it felt like these people were like me more than anybody else that I had really met up to that point. So that was kind of my experience coming out. So I don’t know that I had a bad experience with LGBT people or the LGBT community. But then, Jesus started to meddle in my life as He typically does with people. So meddled in a good way. And I thought He was drawing my heart. And I was interested in Christianity and I was a freshman in college when I felt like He barged into my life in a very beautiful way and just revealed to me His kindness and His goodness. And I really felt like that started the seeds of wanting to know what God was like and what He really thought of me. So.

    JULIE ROYS:  So take us from that point to the point right now where you’re married and have children yet are still pretty openly struggling with your same-sex attraction.

    TY WYSS:  Yeah. So gosh I was 19. And there to, I had been attending a Bible study on campus. And then there to attend a Sunday morning service where my parents had started to go to church, even though they didn’t go to church. Growing up, they had started going to church since I’d come out of the closet. And so, I went to their church on a Sunday morning, when I was in college and walked away with just an unquestionable feeling that God likes me. And which was much more powerful than God loving me for some reason. To say that God liked me, felt like He wanted proximity, wanted to be close, enjoyed and delighted in my heart. Didn’t need for anything I need to change for that to happen. Which, you know, usually people are wanting you to change. Now since I’ve come out, people are wanting, or everybody has an opinion about my life and my sexuality. And I felt like God proves that He enjoyed and delighted in me first and so that really caused me to be comfortable to at least ask the question. God, what do you think of my sexuality and is what I’m doing okay? Because I believe His heart, from that point on, I mean, I’m simplifying of course. But for Him to, for me to actually care what God thought now was a pretty profound shift. And I felt like He was speaking to my heart just really saying, this isn’t what I have for you. Will you trust me that I know what’s better for your life? And I was kind of caught with like, I think I do. I think I do trust You to do that. I don’t know why I trust You to do that, but I think I do. And so I kind of surrendered my sexuality the best way that I knew how. Not with trying to be straight. I didn’t really know if God could do that or wanted to do that. But it felt more congruent for me to just say, you know what, I’m just not going to date anyone and just see what how this Jesus thing goes. And so, the long story short is I started to follow Christ. Surrender my sexuality. Stop dating men. Not as simple as it sounds, of course. But eventually did, you know, a couple years later did. Felt like I was introduced to the woman that is now my wife. And that’s a whole journey in and of itself. But really felt like God spoke to me, before there was any feelings of attraction or desire for her, that this would be my wife and that I would need to trust Him. And so that was and again, I mean, it was just kind of like, again, I don’t know why I really trusted Him to do that. That seems very, that seemed impossible. This part of me seemed completely fixed in every way possible. And to even want to be, to desire a woman seemed really not that. I didn’t know if I wanted it.

    JULIE ROYS:  Hold that thought, Ty. We need to go to a break. But when we come back, I want to hear the rest of that story and then now, how that’s informed the way that you explain to the church how to minister to others who are in the position you were. I want to hear from Anne Paulk as well. What’s your story? How does it relate? Also, how it may be different and how do you approach ministering to people with same-sex attraction a little bit differently. We’ll be right back after a short break.

    Segment 2:

    ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  What’s the best way for Christians to minister to those with same-sex attraction? Welcome to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m exploring this issue with two Christian leaders with two very different approaches. One, Anne Paulk of The Restored Hope Network, encourages people with same-sex attraction to pursue personal healing and even hold out the hope that God might change their orientation. The other, Ty Wyss of Walls Down, says he doesn’t encourage Christians with same-sex attraction to pursue change. Instead, the focus of his ministry is simply equipping churches to love LGBT people and invite them to experience the abundant life in Christ. And by the way, if you’d like to comment on today’s discussion, I encourage you to go to or you can join the discussion on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @ReachJulieRoys. So Ty, before the break, you were telling about your story and how you struggled with same-sex attraction. Well you didn’t struggle at first, you weren’t a believer. So you just gave in to it. And then God began to work in your heart. You came to Christ and you began to trust Him with your sexuality. Then how did that lead to you getting married? And today having kids and how does that work out in your life?

    TY WYSS:  Yeah, sure. So, you know, as I was saying before, God had brought this woman into my life and then said this is who I have for you, will you trust Me? And I really just said, for whatever reason, said yeah, I do trust You. And I was honest with her about that. Which I think is super important that I said, you know, this is something that I don’t know that I can ever—I  certainly can’t make myself attracted to women, even though you’re very beautiful. And I’m very much still attracted to men. Like that has not changed. And so if you want to find help for that, then if you feel like this is God as well, then I’m willing to, I’m open to pursuing this and seeing what this might look like. And the long story short is, even though God did not change my attraction to men, I do feel like He opened up my heart to love Rachel, my wife. Which I think is really interesting. And I use that verbiage on purpose because He did not make me attracted to women in general. There was something about Rachel that, as I got to know her, that there was a genuine appreciation for her. That really kind of blossomed into, what I would say is, I wanted to extend intimacy into the bedroom—intimacy that we were already experiencing heart-to-heart, face-to-face. I felt like was being like I was being pulled, or invited really, to experience the sexual relationship and that was just more, maybe more of an outgrowth of that. And so I don’t know that I experienced it as an intense desire as more of it was like a longing and an openness. So we ended up getting married. We didn’t have sex until we married. And then several years later, we decided to start a family. And we have two beautiful boys, five and one. And I’m attracted to men. And she knows that and we have navigated that, I feel like pretty well, but it has definitely brought challenges without question so.

    JULIE ROYS:  This is a really interesting—your story is really interesting because most of the people that I’ve heard talk about this—Christians who identify as gay or say they have same-sex attraction and haven’t experienced any deliverance from that— usually say, well, we have to stay celibate for life. Which sounds, you know, pretty lonely and just not that appealing to, I think, an awful lot of people. Your story is very unique in that you went down that road despite the same-sex attraction. I want to invite Anne into this discussion now because Anne, I’m guessing there’s a lot of things that Ty just expressed that are very similar to your story. Yes?

    ANNE PAULK:  Yeah, actually there are. For one, I wasn’t given a command to leave homosexuality. As I embraced homosexuality, when I was a freshman in college, is when I began to embrace that I’d had the feelings for a long time. And I believe they originated out of sexual abuse and my response to it when I was younger. I was four years old when that began, and it, thankfully, didn’t continue for a long time but really created some misconceptions and judgments upon men that they didn’t deserve as a block. Anyhow, there are lots of underlying things that were going on that, praise God, He helped me walk through later on. But when I was dealing with same-sex attraction, not as a believer, believing I was a Christian, but I really didn’t have any relationship with God. So I was very much like Ty. I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations on me at that time. What was intriguing to me was I was struggling with who am I? And what’s the purpose of life and then began to have dreams about Jesus kind of like what’s happening in Iran right now. There it was. UC Santa Barbara and my first year in college and I began to have dreams about Jesus. It was not—He was not welcome. Because I was, I was pursuing other things that I had, kind of had an inkling that He didn’t support. And then I just simply said, okay, well, who does He say He is anyway? And none of my friends could answer those questions. So I ended up at an on-campus group—a  Christian group, called Campus Ambassadors, that had a class called evangelism training. There I was as a non-believer in this thing trying to get my questions answered. At the end of that time, I had an encounter with the Person of God. So God was actually present the whole time. But He opened my understanding to recognize that He was actually present in the room, weaving in and out amongst the prayers of the saints. And I was pretending with my head bowed and hands together, doing what I thought you were supposed to do. And He, this remarkable Person, this Person of great authority, and yet kindness, this tender hearted one, but full of power at the same time—within the room, caring what we had to say. He was engaging with us. And there was a cut-out around me and I recognized that I had to have this Person in my life. So it was the love and kindness of God that actually drew me to Him. It wasn’t, hey, surrender your homosexuality now or feeling like that was a bad thing. I actually, you know, wasn’t sure what to do about it. I told the pastor afterwards hey, I am a lesbian and I experience this. And now what do I do about all this? How do I get this Person in my life? I was just so thankful that he told me the truth that homosexuality is sin, but that God is willing to come into my life. In that great exchange, the gospel is, you give your life to Jesus, He gives His to you. And that’s an amazing gift. Amazing. That changed everything overnight, not my sexual feelings. It changed my allegiance. It changed my affection to Him–my openness to want to please this One who’s now part of my life has filled me with joy. And so part of that was, no, I’m not bringing sin into the relationship. I’m surrendering that but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t change my feelings. I can’t do A, B or C. And, Lord, I’m yours. Do with me what you will. And so friends began to walk alongside of me who were Christians that I hadn’t really paid any attention to it prior. And a dear friend, Kirsten, taught me how to pray. We’d meet outside the food stand on campus, and we’d sit on a hill and just lift up our hearts to God out loud. And that was terrifying because I thought everybody was staring at me—this strange person sitting on a hill praying. You know, it just was interesting.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, you ended up getting married as well. Though I’m wondering from that point of becoming a believer to the point you got married. You know, Ty saying those same-sex attractions, that’s still there. Those feelings are still there but I’m pursuing this. Did you find, and we just have a little bit of time. We’ll probably have to continue a lot of this on the other side of the break. But did you find that the feelings went away at any point?

    ANNE PAULK:  Well, the first few years, no, in fact intensified. I was looking for a best friend sort of deal and with somebody who has same-sex attraction. That became more intense and caused my struggles to grow for that time. When I fell into sin, then I really, like okay God, here I am. You got to do something because I like the sin. But I’m Yours. So how are you gonna? I can’t do anything about it. I need help. And so He moved in my life to have me confide in some Christian leaders, who then walked me through a process of restoration. And connected me with a local ministry, Exodus Ministry, in the San Francisco area, which is where I was living at the time.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, I want to hear about that experience with Exodus or an Exodus related ministry because a lot of people know who are listening. Exodus folded and the leader, Allen Chambers, said that basically change is impossible. He doesn’t know anybody that’s done it. And that has changed a lot of the evangelical opinions about same-sex attraction. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report—here today with Anne Paulk and Ty Wyss. We’ll be right back after a short break.

    Segment 3:

    ANNOUNCER:  Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or is same-sex attraction something that’s generally unchangeable and our efforts, counterproductive or even damaging to try and change sexual orientation. Welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, I’m exploring how to minister to people with same-sex attraction with two Christian leaders with two different perspectives. Anne Paulk, of The Restored Hope Network, believes sexual redemption and healing is available to the person with same-sex attraction and encourages them to seek it. Ty Wyss of Walls Down doesn’t encourage Christians with same-sex attraction to necessarily seek change in their orientation. In fact, he’s okay with them embracing gay identity so long as they don’t act on that identity. And he trains churches on how to reach out to the LGBT community without pressure and without a lot of conditions. And, by the way, if you’re just joining us and would like to listen to the first part of today’s program, I’ll be posting the entire audio to my website soon after the end of today’s broadcast. Just go to and click on the podcast tab. Also, if you’d like to learn more about the different views on homosexuality within the church, there’s a blog post I’ve written that I think you’d find really helpful. You just go to my website and search for an article entitled Revoice Conference Reveals Churches Failure to Address LGBT Issues. And in that article, there’s a graphic with the four views on homosexuality within the church. And I think you’ll find it just really informative. Again, just go to and then search for Revoice Conference Reveals Churches Failure to Address LGBT Issues. And I think both my guests today, Anne and Ty, might agree with that topic. That in the past, the church hasn’t done a real stellar job of dealing with people who have same-sex attraction. Anne, I’m going to give you a chance to pick up where you left off with your story. Which, to me, brings up—you said at a certain point after you became a believer, and you began to deal with your same-sex feelings, you were referred to an Exodus related ministry. Describe what happened in that ministry.

    ANNE PAULK:  So it was the most helpful thing in my life as far as dealing with homosexuality. It was a tremendous time, a gift to me. I had been seeing a counselor because feelings and thoughts of the early molestation had been coming up to mind. And I wanted to begin to grapple with what was keeping me stuck in homosexuality. I knew God forbid acting upon it. So I knew the basis for it had to be—there had to be a way to surrender more and more of myself so that He could move in my life. And so I was pursuing counseling. It was very helpful. But there was a time when I was really grappling with pain and in that 50-minute segment really wasn’t all that helpful. So I got connected with a local Exodus Ministry or affiliated ministry that was run by Frank and Anita Worthen. And drove an hour each way to get to this meeting and it was so valuable. I saw men and women around me, who weren’t perfect in any way, shape or form, still struggling with homosexuality, but God was on the move in their life. I could see them changing in front of my eyes. One of the gals had been wearing—my friend dawn, she’s still a dear friend of mine—she had been wearing a tool belt around her waist coming into one of the meetings because she was a cubicle office furniture builder. So there she was, she was tough as nails I’ll tell you. But over the years’ time, I saw her soften and become more the woman of God that He intended. I could see her just beginning to lean in and trust God’s leadership in her life. And it was due to being part of this group. There was no dishonesty that we brought into the group. It was simply here I am; this is what I’m going through. And, you know, let’s pray for one another. And that was—I so appreciate that about Ty’s testimony, too. His focus is on leaning in with being honest. And that’s so primary. It’s so significant. My ex-husband was not able to be honest, and that’s what propelled his fall back into homosexuality, in my opinion. So honesty with God—honesty with one another is so profound. So I was struggling with various things. And I remember one of the leaders said hey, you need to forgive your mom. And I thought what do I need to forgive my mom for? That was just kind of lame I thought. But I just went along. And so okay, look, I’ll pray. You need to thank God for your hips. I’m like, I will not thank God for these big hips. (Laughter) And so anyway, it was just funny. There were a couple of funny little things. The weird thing about it is when I followed through and said, alright, You’re leading, I will follow. I’m just going to go for this. Actually, significant things changed in my heart. Like, the next day, I remember thinking, Mom, let’s go clothes shopping. That’s antithetical to everything I’d felt before. It was the oddest thing. And I wanted to buy very feminine clothing. It was just really a weird thing. And all I did was trust the leadership to take me down this road towards healing. And the trust resulted in this heart change that began. Over time when I dealt with the molestation when I was young, and forgave the individual from my heart. Which was impossible to do. God had to do it. And I told him so. Look, you know, this is it. To forgive legally is one matter, to forgive from the heart is a whole different thing. So You’re going to have to do this in my soul. And He indeed did it. And I remember having joy at the mention of the person—the name the next time. And I thought, whoa, okay, that’s like never happened. So I knew He was at work in these critical things. As a result of being at work in those things, I began to enjoy being a woman. I began to enjoy bonding with other women as a woman, like a sister. Like one beautiful gal, she was an airline attendant, she threw her arm around me and said, “Anne, people say we look like sisters.” And I thought, oh, yeah, sure. (Laughter) You’ve got to be joking. And I think I said that out loud. She said, ‘No, I feel so privileged that they think we look alike.” And every little bit was like putting love and affection and kindness into my cup. And over time, I remember one time I was at, it was a Vineyard Church, and I was admiring this female worship leader. And I thought, you know, normally I would have had feelings towards her—same sex attraction. And, in my mind, something weird happened. It was, I don’t want her. I want to be like her. Huge difference. Huge. And these things began to set the stage for noticing how different men and women were. And that I felt I began to feel like just another woman. And that set the stage for potential of getting married. 

    JULIE ROYS:  So you found over time, and we have to go to break. I hate to do this. But over time, your feelings did change as God began to work on some of those broken areas of your heart.

    ANNE PAULK:  Right. That’s right. And so my goal is, of course, in giving care, is to provide people opportunity to allow God to work in those pretty intimate areas of their lives and heart.

    JULIE ROYS:  Okay, we need to go to break but when we come back, I want to hear more about that. I also want to hear from Ty as well. What he thinks of that. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And we will be right back after a short break.

    Segment 4:

    ANNOUNCER:  This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

    JULIE ROYS:  How should Christians and churches minister to people with same-sex attraction? Should they simply accept and affirm gay identity while encouraging them to remain celibate? Or should they hold out hope of change and sexual redemption and encourage people with same-sex attraction to seek healing? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m discussing this controversial issue with two Christian leaders with different perspectives. Anne Paulk, of The Restored Hope Network, has experienced change in her orientation and says churches need to offer hope of healing and equip leaders to help people find that healing. Ty Wyss of Walls Down says focusing on healing and change can be, especially when it’s the focus on change, can be counterproductive and can push people, LGBT people, away from the church. And he says the church needs to be more welcoming and avoid pressuring LGBT people to change. And by the way, if you are just joining the program and want to hear anything that you’ve missed, I’ll be posting the complete audio to my website about an hour after the end of this program. Just go to and then click on the podcast tab. So Anne, before the break, you were telling your story. I thought it was fascinating how you said you got in this ministry. And as you began to deal with your abuse that you had from childhood, as you began to deal with feelings of unforgiveness towards your mother, you just began to change. And you began to accept your feminine identity. You began to embrace that.

    ANNE PAULK:  And actually, enjoy it. Not just accept. It was amazing. Yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  And through that process, your same-sex feelings went away? Or were they still there and do you still struggle? I mean, what’s the degree?

    ANNE PAULK:  Good question. They primarily went away. A huge change had happened in them. That was probably when, gosh, 25 years ago. So that created the opportunity for me to notice that men were really different and then to be kind of intrigued by that. Whereas I had been around them for so long, but didn’t feel complete as a woman. So, my same-sex attraction remained but it was very minimal at that point. It dominated most of my days, even before Christ and for the first few years afterwards, till I got some help. And then it became lessened. It became kind of muted to some degree. And then as I grew as a woman and felt more secure as a woman, my struggles diminished. But if any insecurity popped up, that would be the go-to comfort zone. All of a sudden, I’d find myself—it didn’t matter what area of insecurity I was dealing with, I would probably struggle with some degree of same-sex attraction with who knows who or nobody. It just popped up. But over time, amazingly, the more I exercised the good things in my life, the less the old dominated. And it took a backseat and then basically got out of the car. Now that’s not really—there can be times of struggle when I went through the divorce with my husband. And realized he was, you know, not being faithful, over a long period of time, and really fighting for our marriage. It created an environment of great vulnerability, and I struggled with same-sex feelings, but not actions at all. So, yeah.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, I find this fascinating, but it’s also—I worked in a ministry, I volunteered in a ministry, where we had a number of people who dealt with same-sex attraction. And I’ve seen people walk through that similar process. So, I do believe in healing. I am curious, though, Anne. Would you call what you experienced reparative therapy or conversion therapy?

    ANNE PAULK:  No, actually, I wouldn’t call it either. I would call it transformation. Because God’s in the business of transforming lives. He really—He’s not in any business, per se. He is in—He is just actively involved in bringing sons and daughters more into the likeness of Christ. That is exactly what He does. And leaving behind sin is part of that equation.

    JULIE ROYS:  So, Ty, I’m curious as you’re hearing this story. I know you said specifically, in some of the pre-correspondence that we had to the show, that you don’t believe in conversion therapy or reparative therapy. And I think that any—I know Restored Hope Network gets sort of labeled as, you know, conversion therapy, or reparative therapy. Anytime you say that there’s hope of change, that seems to be the pejorative term that’s used for a ministry. But how do you respond to her story and this idea that, you know, as she worked on these issues, they began to change? I know that you haven’t experienced that. So it might be like, well, it’s great for you. But, you know, stinks to be me, you know, kind of thing. So, tell me how you respond.

    TY WYSS:  Yeah, well, I think as a counselor, I have learned to respond to people’s stories in reserving judgment. And saying, you know what, I’m going to take the things that you’re saying, and I’m going to at least consider them. Even if part of that makes me want to respond with rejection or things like that. So I certainly don’t doubt Anne’s story by any stretch. I would say that there are similar things that I’ve experienced in the way that really God has encountered me, or that I’ve encountered Him rather—in that the vows that I made against masculinity because of abuse that I experienced as a young boy, or just my own hatred of masculinity, I think plays a part in how I experienced men. And I think that God has, certainly, in my walk with Him, has certainly come to me and asked me to forgive men, masculine men. And to surrender the vow that I made against masculinity. And not in a way that says, and if you do this, then you won’t experience as much or any attraction to men. But really just as a way of relating better to my brothers. And I have followed Him, not somewhat reluctantly. Sometimes angrily and sometimes in surrender. Eventually in surrender in that. And I have a much better relationship with straight men and allow them into my life in ways that has been very, very healing for me. To her and again, I think it’s similar to Anne, where I actually enjoying my gender and enjoy my gender representation in ways that I didn’t really think was possible. But that has not changed my attraction towards men. I think it has made me a more whole person. And I enjoy my life more. I enjoy relationships and friendships more. But as far as attraction to men, I just don’t think that that has really, it just hasn&#