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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Affair or Abuse? The Church’s Hurtful Response

The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Affair or Abuse? The Church's Hurtful Response

Victims of adult clergy sexual abuse often report that their first wound—the abuse itself—was awful. But it wasn’t as bad as the second wound: the response by the church to their abuse. 

This is precisely what Moriah Smothers and her husband, Jack, describe in a follow-up conversation to our initial podcast interview about the alleged abuse Moriah received at the hands of her former pastor, Patrick Garcia.

In this podcast, Moriah tells of the shame and rejection she experienced from other church members when her abuse was mislabeled an “affair.” Some called her “Judas.” Others told her the devil had got the upper hand. The backlash left both Moriah and Jack devastated and confused. 

Yet after a year of extreme pain and brokenness, Moriah heard an earlier edition of The Roys Report podcast with another victim of adult clergy sexual abuse. She said it led her to an epiphany and significant healing. 

It also prompted Jack and Moriah to confront leaders at their former church—The Hills Church in Evansville, Ind.—for how they handled Moriah’s abuse. The couple also reached out to Bob Russell, pastor emeritus of one of the largest churches in America, who is currently re-platforming Patrick Garcia.  

You’ll hear how Russell and the Hills Church responded. And you’ll hear Moriah and Jack’s impassioned plea for the church and other Christian institutions to start dealing with clergy sexual abuse in an appropriate way.


Dr. Moriah Smothers

Dr. Moriah Smothers is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and a former elementary special education teacher. She is also a survivor of adult clergy sexual abuse (ACSA). Dr. Jack Smothers is a Professor of Management and a secondary survivor. Their heart is to help other ACSA survivors find healing and community. They are passionate about educating church leaders to identify, prevent and respond to ACSA. They have two children and have been married for 15 years. You can connect with them at [email protected].

Moriah has also been affiliated with Restored Voices Collective, a nonprofit group that seeks to break the silence around ACSA.
Show Transcript


In 2020, Moriah Smothers says her spiritual and sexual abuse by her pastor was suddenly exposed. Only no one recognized it as abuse. Instead, it was labeled an affair, and Moriah was ostracized by her church. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and this is part two of a two part podcast with Moriah Smothers and her husband Jack Smothers. In part one, Moriah told of what she believes was grooming and abused by her former pastor Patrick Garcia. And if you haven’t heard part one, I encourage you to go back and listen to that now. It’s a harrowing and cautionary tale about how adult clergy sexual abuse happens. And I wish more Christians understood this phenomenon because it’s a widespread problem wreaking havoc in the church. But so often it goes undetected, and the victims instead of receiving help receive condemnation, and the predators often get re platformed only to continue their predatory ways. So again, if you haven’t heard part one, I encourage you to do that now.

 But in this podcast, Moriah and Jack describe what is often called the second wound. This was the response of their church to Moriah’s adult clergy sexual abuse, and the shame and the rejection that Moriah experienced was absolutely devastating. But you’ll also hear how after a year of extreme pain and brokenness, Moriah heard an earlier podcast that we did on The Roys Report with another victim of adult clergy sexual abuse and hearing that podcast and recognizing that it wasn’t an affair, but abuse led to a ton of healing. But it also prompted Jack and Moriah to confront the leaders at their former church, Hills church in Evansville, Indiana, for how they handled Maria’s abuse. The couple also reached out to Bob Russell, Pastor Emeritus of one of the largest churches in America, who is currently re-platforming Patrick Garcia. You’ll hear Bob Russell and the Hills church responded, and you’ll hear Moriah and Jack’s impassioned plea that the church and other Christian institutions start dealing with adult clergy sexual abuse in an appropriate way. So, I’m very excited to share this podcast with you.

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We now pick up my conversation with Moriah and Jack Smothers. They previously described how their pastor Patrick Garcia groomed Moriah and then abused his power by luring her into an emotional and sexual relationship. This was eventually discovered by Patrick’s wife, who then told the church leadership. And this is where we join our discussion. So how did you feel the church responded to you, Moriah?

I don’t want to over exaggerate this and I can share details. The abuse from my pastor was horrible. The way the church responded was 10 times more traumatizing than the abuse. I could have recovered from the abuse in a reasonable amount of time, I feel but the literature when you read about this, it calls it the second wound. And the first is that having just that abuse experience, but then the church response was really painful. I don’t think the church had any knowledge of adult clergy sexual abuse. And so we were basically told again, through zoom, I think Dave was designated to be the person that communicates with us, nobody else really did, that they were going to release a statement. This is what the statement was. We were not involved in any of the processes the information. I did again, we thought we only had a fair narrative. We had no information about ACSA. And so I did send a text message. Jack and I thought it was a good idea at the time to some of the women I was really close to and I disclosed that this situation had to do with me. In hindsight that was not a good choice because of the way I worded it but oddly, one of the things I’ve struggled to recover the most from, were some of the communications from my very best friends from the church. And most of them were very involved in the church as well. And so one of the ones that has just stuck with me is when your identity is eviscerated, things just have the ability to sink really deep. One of them was calling me Judas and Patrick’s wife at the time was like Jesus. A lot of them wrote, you need to get help, you really let the devil win was a common one I got. I’ll never trust you again was often. And I will say those that were ugly, hurt, they hit really deep. I did get a few women to respond or just like I don’t understand but I’m praying for you. And very little support from within the church. I do want to say that God was really I wouldn’t have been able to make this big faith statement a year ago, but I realized now God was so good. He sent I didn’t know this woman, but she was local. When she heard what was happening at the Hills. She is also a survivor. And she asked for my contact information from a mutual acquaintance. And she immediately got in contact with me and has mentored me, she didn’t know about abuse either. But she and her husband made it and were thriving. But it was another abuse situation locally and just was such a good mentor to me. So, inside the church, the response was not supportive. It was not understanding. We were ostracized, basically. Even people we love dearly the extent of support was basically like, go get marriage counseling, and so not supportive. Outside the church, nobody we met understood ACSA. So I’m not saying that we still never got the language. But there were some people that were able to love on us. Our next-door neighbors, were just Jesus to us. This fellow survivor, my parents came around us very quickly. And so we did have some support that we you know, a lot of people don’t have, so I want to acknowledge that.

Wow. Jack during this time, you and Moriah’s parents met with Dave Bowersox and Daryl Maron. As I’m understanding that was a pretty tough meeting. Would you describe what happened in that meeting?

It was intense. But so Moriah’s parents are wonderful, amazing Christians, they have invested a lot into Moriah and I, and we trust them, we love them. And so we felt that it would be good to take them along. And I’m glad that they went. They’ve done a lot of counseling in their life. And so they took resources, books, a variety of different resources to help Dave and Daryl in the Hills guard against situations like this occurring again. So they gave them those resources. And we talked through the situation, they shared some of the information that they had, such as you know, I was not aware at that point in time, of the May encounter that had happened at the zoo and police report. And since I was not allowed to come to that meeting with Moriah, I didn’t have that information.

There’s was an investigation.

There was an investigation. They hired an investigator to look into Patrick’s devices to see if they could uncover anything. And I guess that went on throughout the summer. And when that didn’t come up with anything that he was re platformed later on in that fall.

Help me understand this. And maybe I misheard you, you’re saying there was an investigation, they looked at all the devices, and then they re platformed Patrick?

Yeah, The investigation came up with nothing, they did not find any communication. Their suspicion of communication. But they didn’t find anything between Patrick and so this was after just to clarify, this was after the May event.

Got you. So in between the two?

There was that investigation that didn’t come up with anything. When everything finally did come out, and what was that? September? October? That’s when the meeting happened with Moriah’s parents and myself and the pastors.

And is it true that Dave Bowersox confessed during that meeting that he was aware that Patrick had an attraction to Moriah?

That is true. So Dave’s advice to Patrick was just get a handle on it, get it under control and resolve your old feelings, essentially. They felt like Patrick may have targeted Moriah, but they said that they felt like Moriah was complicit in that situation. Of course, they didn’t understand at the time the ACSA framework and that complicity would not be possible in that situation. So it was high drama.

Stunning to me that seminaries don’t teach this. It’s against the law. I wish it was in more states, but in certain states, it is against the law for a pastor to have a relationship like this with a congregant. It seems like we’re, maybe we’re just on the cusp of becoming awake to this. But even as I have interviewed pastors, and say, hypothetically, do you think it would necessarily be abuse if a pastor has a relationship with a married congregant? And there’ll be like, we don’t know what the role of the woman was. Like, I don’t even understand the basics of exactly what you said, Jack, that when there’s a power differential, someone cannot give consent, when there’s that kind of power. But it’s just stunning to me complete and utter ignorance. And it’s inexcusable. Every pastor should be aware of this. The same way that you have to go through training with Title XI, if you work for a university, pastors need to go through this kind of training, if they’re going to serve in the pastorate and so do all the elders and the people who are holding them accountable. But it is just not happening. And it’s really unbelievably frustrating.

Yeah. And really, that’s the heart of why we’re talking to you, is that you’re right. It’s illegal in 14 states right now. Understanding adult clergy sexual abuse is a job requisite skill at this point. 20 years ago, maybe not knowing maybe I can get it. There’s so much literature now and fantastic researchers that this has been discussed too widely to claim ignorance at this point. And so I completely agree with you. There should be no ignorance of this issue.

In the wake of what happened is my understanding that Hills church actually paid for counseling for Patrick, is that right?

That’s what they told us.

Okay, did they pay for counseling for you?

They did not.

Help me understand that? Did they give any kind of explanation for that?

No, we didn’t ask them to pay for anything.

I chose a counselor because my survivor friend had also seen this woman. And again, she didn’t know she was actually a survivor at the time. And so she was affiliated with a church that the Hills did not want us to receive counseling from. And so they actually discouraged me from seeing a counselor. They wanted us to see a counselor that was also I believe, seeing Patrick and his wife at the time. And so I was uncomfortable seeing a counselor that they recommended, which they didn’t offer to pay for anything either way. But again, Julie, our supportive statement was go get marriage counseling. As if our marriage was broken, not that I was targeted and groomed and abused, confusing.

And the statement that was given at the time called it an inappropriate relationship, correct? Patrick did say that it was his fault, and no one but him. His fault, yet seems like some mixed messages in what was being said.

And there was no disclosure, I was a congregant. And I think that while there was no overtly blaming me in this situation there, I felt like the context of the sermon was, frankly tacky. It was preaching from the woman caught in adultery. And it was from the lens of a let’s not throw the first stone but as a broken woman, I listened to it. That was all I heard is the adultery piece. They had all the advisory boards stand up front, and you could just see their disgust on their face. It was a group I should have been part of. Because if anybody had known I was missing, that would have been very a clear signal if they had known. It really has always bothered me, they never disclosed I was a congregant. I think that was very intentional. Actually, Dave Bowersox had apologized. He said, I’m so sorry you all are having to go through with this. And Jack, I think he said something like, I’m sure there’s not a script for it. And they’ve said, Oh, no, there actually is. So they received counsel from somewhere about how to handle these situations.

They didn’t make you were a big Scarlet A, at least. I guess we’ve progressed a little bit. But unbelievable. Yeah, what you went through and I’m so sorry. That just sounds absolutely traumatizing. For a year while you’re in biblical counseling, you’re believing the narrative. How did you internalize what you had done and the consequence?

Yeah. Oh, man, that’s complicated. Julie, honestly, a lot of pieces did not make sense. But I was so desperate to keep my family together. I was willing to take responsibility for anything and everything. And so that’s what I did for a season is I did a lot of work with my biblical counselor to figure out what was wrong with me. Like how had I sinned, how had I fallen, I will own it, I will repent for everything under the sun. Because I wanted to be well and whole. I didn’t understand how this happened because I didn’t want to have an affair. To be honest, I’m not even attracted to Patrick. I had no clue how this happened. But all we had was a fair framework. My mom tried to be really sweet and helpful gave me like a fair recovery books and things. And I started to read them. And I was like, this isn’t me, this isn’t I’m not represented in this. And so I will say the counselor I saw, knew nothing about abuse and trauma for this situation. She did some good soul care kind of things with me. But yeah, we were just trying to keep it together with the fair.

Wow. That’s a very humble response, and so often we don’t see those. You can only do what you know. But when you know, then you’re responsible. And that’s super, super important. It seems like you did have an epiphany. And it was on a podcast that we published, which, when I hear things like that it’s so heartening. We work in the trenches a lot from day to day. And it’s not the easiest work. But things like that, to hear stories of how it has impact is, it can give you some fuel for a decent amount of time. So I’ll just say that it just is really encouraging.

He won’t say this, but my biggest source of healing was Jack. That sweet man, we walked together a lot. That’s where we bond as we walk. And so like we were walking every day for miles and miles. And he was my counselor at that time. And how deeply unfair for him to have been traumatized the way he was, and yet he was supporting me. I wanted basically nothing to do with faith at that point. And I’ve loved Jesus my whole life basically, that I thought, How can God cannot be good if my pastor treated me this way. Which I could have gotten over that, but I thought, There’s no way the church is good or right, if it’s been covered up by other pastors. So I was relying on Jack’s faith. And Jack never asked me to leave. And again, we thought affair, never asked me to leave. He never yelled at me. There was a moment that it’s still it’s really hard to talk about. It was very soon after all of this had come out. And again, I was following him around the house because I was dazed and confused what had happened. He stopped in the doorway, and our kids were sitting there watching. And he said, I just feel so much compassion for you. And that was the first time he hugged me since it all came out. And I don’t usually cry. I’m not a crier. I sobbed and sobbed in the hallway. And it was like, from that moment, I knew we were going to be okay. But it was hard. It was a hard road. And I did get some bad advice spiritually. The counselor told me that God had probably planned this for me, maybe for Patrick Garcia to get out of ministry. And I thought, man, if that’s what God plans for the children he loves, I don’t want to follow that God anymore. So that was a rough road. I will say for that counselor, Jack and I once we did realize what had happened, that it was abuse, we went back to her, presnted that. She graciously received that she apologized to us for not knowing. And so I have a lot of respect for her for that reason. And I’m excited for the work she’s going to do in the future with this new knowledge.

But you heard a podcast, I guess it was November 2021, that I recorded with Katie Roberts, a beautiful, wonderful person that has become a friend, because I’ve been able to share her story with a lot of you. And so courageously she walked through what was incredibly difficult, and she took incredible hits from people criticizing her. It is just so indicative of the misogyny in our culture, that we just have such a difficult time wrapping our heads around the fact that women are not the temptress or that we cannot acknowledge that this is abuse. But Katie, beautifully did, and you heard that podcast when she talked about her own grooming, and abuse. Talk about what that was like to hear that and for the light bulb to go on.

That was an epiphany and that’s exactly what it was. I’d been listening to your podcast for a while because I didn’t have the words but I felt like something was mishandled here. It just, what happened in the church, it didn’t sit right. Like I knew it didn’t feel like justice somehow but I didn’t know why. And I’ve been listening to you for a while Katie came on. And I remember almost feeling a little shaky and scared because I felt like she’s telling my story. Like how could she possibly know what happened to me? And how has it happened to her? And this was way before I knew that there’s so many similarities between these grooming and abuse stories with clergy. And I listened to the whole thing, I sent it to everybody in our support network, which let’s be honest, that actually wasn’t very many people at the time. But anybody that knew our story and would listen, I sent them the podcast. And I was like, how can this be? The language she used to explain like the grooming and the trauma bonding, the love bombing. She used the language that I had been describing, but didn’t have the right word for it. And so it was such a weird thing. But I remember feeling I have to know more about this. And so I looked up Katie’s email, and I emailed her and I said, I don’t know if this makes any sense or not. But this is my story. And I shared it all. And she responded, and we ended up hopping on a phone call or zoom, I don’t remember. But her first words to me, I actually wrote them down to share at the end of this podcast, because there was so much compassion when she heard my story. And she said, I’m so sorry how you’ve been mistreated. And from someone outside of my circle, but didn’t have to love me and hear my story, that was such a powerful moment, because she got it. And while we were talking, she kept saying I understand, and that makes sense. And I thought, I didn’t even understand all of this, and she did. And that’s another part of the reason we’re talking to you is that we found truth and understanding and freedom through Katie’s story, which I know was a grueling experience for her. And I thought if the Lord is going to bring this opportunity full circle, where I learned through Katie, if someone can hear our story, and hear the tragedy, but also the hope, then we can’t pass that up.

I love that. And I have found that nobody can minister to a survivor like another survivor.

I’ve learned the most through that community, there’s a support group community that Katie and a few others founded. It’s called Restored Voices Collective, and the learning, the growth, the empathy that happens in there, it could not be replicated, and it’s only other survivors. So we’re just supporting each other, we’re not trying to overly educate or correct, it’s just living life together in the aftermath of deep brokenness.

And I think that’s what I’ve heard and what I’ve experienced, what I’ve seen. The Restore Conference that we’ve done, you know, a couple of those. And I remember the first one, I thought, oh, we should have prayer ministers, you know, to make sure because really, I mean, the whole vision was just to gather people that were literally strewn along the highway. I mean, that’s just how it seems when you report these stories, and the church isn’t caring for them, the church harmed them. And so they have nowhere to go and to see them come together. And I realize the prayer ministers are here, they’re each other, right? It’s the person who’s sitting down right beside you, who you don’t have to explain hardly anything because they get it. And it really is. And I know the survivor community is not perfect. And sometimes there can be some really painful things that happen within it. But I would say 90-95% of the people in there are just some of the most compassionate, good people because their character has been refined by fire.

And I attended your last Restore conference, and I got to meet a lot of the women I’d only known online up until that point, through zoom meetings, and one of the things that struck me is that personally, they’re very normal, seeming. It’s like when you feel so broken and devastated. Which is strange to me, like these very regular moms and women, but what I also know about them is they are warriors, they are so strong and so capable and intelligent. And that was an amazing experience just to see like my supporters in person. And that was amazing. Thank you for putting on those conferences, because I got to meet my people in person because of that.

It’s a pleasure to do it really is and it’s an honor. And we have another one coming up. So October 13 and 14th. If you’re interested in that, I hope if you’re listening you can because honestly, being with those people and experiencing what God does there, is probably one of the favorite things that I’ve ever done in my life. I absolutely love it. So it’s RESTORE2023.COM if you want more information on that.

So talk about the difference and you’ve already touched on it but the healing journey for you and Jack having this new perspective that this was not an affair that this was abuse, that you are a victim, that you’re a survivor walking through this, what difference did that make emotionally and relationally, but also spiritually?

Oh, that’s a big question. So I will say, for me the language made all the difference. Because earlier in the podcast you mentioned, I wrote that I felt like an addict. Now, knowing that description while being true is describing trauma bonding, that was really powerful. And I think because I’m a teacher person, like, language has been so healing for me. And it’s given me search terms, basically, to read about what does this mean. So that’s been a huge part of my healing. And then also being able to teach other people in my life about this is what this means this is how this happens. And just having the right words to study has been very healing. Also, I would say, understanding ACSA was healing in and of itself, because there’s so many pieces of who I am, who Jack was, our life didn’t just didn’t fit affair. And so it felt very insufficient. And we did not have answers. Once we had this framework and understood how this happens, I started talking to other survivors, hearing similarities and stories. It’s a really sad club to be part of. But then you have your other people to compare notes with. And so you have options and choices again, that I never had before. And so again, we were happy healing in private with that, but that made a big difference. My faith was a battle though. I think, intellectually, and emotionally, Jack was so stable for me and such a good listener, he helped me heal up in that way. My faith was a big, I still struggle with that, if I’m being completely honest. I was really ready to walk away for a while thinking that there’s no goodness in church, I don’t see how God can be good if these are the people that are leading a church. And so I got to a place in my faith that I realized that, so our kids committed their life to Jesus as well before, while I was really still struggling, which was such a beautiful thing. So I really felt like to be a good wife and mom, I’ve got to figure out this faith thing. Because I was willing at that point, I’ll follow Jack wherever he goes. So if I have to attend church and just be mentally elsewhere, I will. But I knew I’ve got to figure out what this is. So I mentally went through like the major religions. And I was like, I don’t see myself becoming a Buddhist and like really going through, like, where am I going to land because I’m a faithful person, I always have been, I knew I needed a religion, or faith. And so I thought, gosh, well probably like my best option is just really going with some kind of new age thing. But I would be a horrible God to myself. And so I felt like that’s not on the table. And so I thought, Okay, I’ve got to figure out what do I really believe about Jesus? Because Jack has been being Jesus to me. And I don’t mean that in a weird way, just like modeling the goodness of God, like I was holding on to his faith. And for the first year, again, only affair framework, I was able to read the Psalms, which was fine, like that was good, it was a start. But then when I realized I’ve got to make my mind up about what I think about Jesus, I started reading the gospels again. And that was a moment for me that I realized, I absolutely love the person of Jesus Christ, and that our hearts were so much in alignment about, he rarely called out anyone in sin or the vulnerable. He called out religious leaders for the way they were hurting vulnerable populations. And so that was a turning point for me is that, first of all, Jack modeled faith to me. He modeled the love of Jesus, which kept me hanging on by a thread. And then once I could finally reengage with the Word of God, I just focused on the person of Jesus. And I was able to fall back in love with him and really have some deeper roots again. I say now, and I completely mean this. The only people in my life I really trust are Jack and Jesus.

Wow. I love the honesty and the vulnerability. And I don’t know anyone who has walked through church hurt, or certainly adult clergy sexual abuse- that’s just brutal – who hasn’t struggled in their faith in their walk with the Lord. I just spent the weekend with a survivor and, boy, they were raw, and they were honest, and I’ve been through it too. So.

And we’re really healed up in a lot of ways. But I mean, we’re almost three years out, but church is hard still. We’ve just moved. We’re looking for a new church home. It’s hard. And there’s a lot of triggers and red flags and it’s just even when you’re in a good place and you really love the people. It’s just hard.

It is, but I will say one thing, my teachers, Katie has been a teacher. Lori Anne Thompson has been a teacher. And they’ve been gracious with me like when I’ve written something and I used a wrong word or a wrong term, and they won’t mince words. They’ll reach out to me, but they’re gracious when I’m like, Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not. Yep. Okay. Help me understand.

That’s survivor community, they are loving but they are fierce and I love that about them.

Yes, they are. But I think it’s so important to process what’s happened. And I know just my own church hurt, experience, being able to process with people that you’re not going to rack them, if you just say exactly how you’re feeling in the moment. And that’s just super, super important.

Let’s turn to holding the church accountable, because after this happened after you became enlightened about what had actually happened to you, you reached out to the Hills leadership, and you wrote them a letter, you’ve given me a copy of that letter. I think it’s so good. I would love for you to just read it because my understanding is you sent this letter, so far, you haven’t gotten a response.

No, I think it was confirmed it was received. Actually, the first letter I sent Jack was really kind. Again, I know we’ve been harsh about the church we came from, the Hills. We love a lot of the people there. I think there’s some good things happening there. Out of respect, Jack met with Dave Bowersox to let them know this letter is coming. But besides that, you did get a response after this letter, though. Didn’t he call you?

He did respond. I don’t know if it was a call or an email. But he did respond.

And I think it was basically like we mishandled the situation was the response. I wrote this letter in fall 2021. So that was right after learning about adult clergy sexual abuse. So I will say I’ve learned a lot more since then. There are a few pieces of it that knowing what I know now, I would reword differently. But this is right where I was at having learned it, so I’ll read it for what it is.

My Hills church leadership. For most of the past year, Jack and I have been trying to navigate our way through this situation, with the framework and language that surrounds an affair or inappropriate relationship, which implies there was full consent from both people. While many of my choices were sinful and I egregiously sinned against God and Jack, it did not account for many of the experiences represented within the reading and counseling in which we engaged. I voraciously sought material to gain an understanding of what happened with the hopes that knowledge would alleviate my confusion and brokenness. In doing so I recently discovered the concept of adult clergy sexual abuse, ACSA, and for the first time I understood what had occurred. With this new knowledge, I felt compelled that we as the church need to grow in this area. Upon reflection, Jack, and I believe there are two logical explanations for the way that Hills leadership handled the situation, which include either ignorance or intentional misrepresentation.

From an assumption of ignorance, if you had been aware of power dynamics requirements for consent, the cycle of ACSA abuse, how targets are chosen by predators and the grooming process, then this situation would have been conveyed to the congregation differently. The alternate explanation is that you received legal/peer counsel to minimize the liability of the church by intentionally misrepresenting clergy abuse as an inappropriate relationship. Regardless of the explanation of what happened in the past, there is much work to be done going forward to minister to those who have been hurt within the church. Therefore, I am writing to you with the hope that you as an institution will be able to grow and change as I have been growing and changing in my understanding and the implications of this critical issue. I hope you have read and shared my side of the story with the church leadership, elders, pastors and advisory council, which was given to you in fall 2020.

However, if you have not, I suggest you review it so you have an anecdotal understanding of ACSA in this specific situation. Given my new understanding of power differentials and how they apply to pastors and congregants, I fully believe I was exploited by Patrick Garcia, and it was erroneous and misleading for the church leadership to convey it as an inappropriate relationship, which conveys consent. The predatory nature of the lead pastor was not communicated to the congregation, which is of great concern to me because it minimizes the impact of abuse within the church. I’ve included several resources on ACSA and I pray that you will educate yourselves and your leadership teams on the nuances of this type of abuse, how to effectively prevent it and how to handle it with integrity and transparency if it does occur. The reason that I am writing to you is threefold. One, I ask that you reach out to other potential victims and provide them with the support and resources to understand misconduct, grooming and abuse by spiritual/pastoral leader. As you are likely not aware of all the victims who have been adversely impacted by pastoral misconduct in the church you lead, an open invitation to all congregants is likely needed. Please connect them with a female counselor that is well versed in adult clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. The wounds from this are complex and deep. So I implore you to seek out your hurting sheep and care for them. Two, I ask that you share my story and ACSA resources with anyone in the church that you consider a leader. In my opinion, this means the elder board, pastoral staff and advisory board at a minimum. It is the church leadership’s responsibility to shepherd their flock with care and dignity. Choosing to not educate yourselves when a wolf has wreaked havoc on your congregation is not living up to the call our Lord has placed on your role. Number three, I ask that you inform the perpetrator and people from whom you received counsel, that this was not simply an inappropriate relationship, that it falls under the criteria of adult clergy sexual abuse. By doing this, I hope you will clearly communicate that God’s church is a place that abuse in any forum is not tolerated, because your primary goal is to protect the people under your care. I then provide some working definitions of clergy sexual misconduct, clergy sexual abuse and abuse of power. And then there were hyperlinked resources at the bottom.

So you asked for three things. Of those three things that you asked for, have you gotten any of them?

If any of those things have been done, they have not been communicated to us.

Okay. And, Jack, you had a conversation with Dave Bowersox after he received this letter? What did he say?

They were still processing what their response was going to be. And so he did thank me for meeting with him before we sent the letter to give him a heads up about what our intention was in sending the letter. But that was the extent of the response that we received.

And then you send a follow up letter to a couple months later, still nothing.

No. I reminded them of the request, and I sent the follow up, not to just be hounding them, but it was when everything had come out in a bigger way with the SBC. And so I thought surely this will get their attention that they’ll realize how serious this is because the SBC even came out and said that if a pastor is in a relationship with a congregant, it’s abuse, and that’s a disqualifying sin. And so I thought having this outside entity that is that powerful, repent, hopefully, that should speak volumes to them. I received confirmation it was received, but I have not heard word if anything was actually done.

Right. And when this is called an affair and not abuse, it does open the door for the person to reoffend, and to continue doing this. And there may be others who have similarly been groomed by Patrick.

I’ve been told very specific information about those situations, which makes me think it’s credible, but I have not had interaction or communication with any women that would say that. But again, they probably wouldn’t even know it was grooming.

So now, almost three years have passed since Patrick resigned from the Hills. When he did so he said he was going to undergo a quote, season of restoration so that the root of my brokenness and dysfunction can be addressed. Christian Post just published this article in June in which Patrick says he’s repented. He said, he’s gotten to the root of his pride. He’s preaching again. Do you believe Patrick Garcia is repentant? And why or why not?

I’ll give my thoughts on that. Not to dodge the question, but I don’t believe it matters whether or not he is repentant. I believe that an abuser is disqualified from ministry regardless of whether or not they repent. I hope that he has restored his relationship with God. I hope that all abusers come to an understanding of the pain that they have inflicted and are genuinely sorry and repent from that sin. But that does not mean they are then qualified to stay in that profession. They can go get any other job anywhere in the world, but not that one.

Actually, one of the things I feel strongly about is that I hope he’s repentant. I hope everyone repents, but that does not mean there’s leadership roles out there for them. I think actually, repentance means not seeking out leadership, because that’s where this pain occurred. Like clearly that’s a temptation that’s a difficult area. Restore your relationship with God and be involved in a healthy body, church body. But I don’t think that means leadership. And that’s where I’m seeing my biggest concerns are about the church right now is that repentance equates to re-platforming. And I don’t think that’s what that means.

And when trust is betrayed, trust has to be earned back. And honestly, I said this not too long ago, but some of these guys don’t have enough time in their life to earn back the trust that they’ve squandered and that they betrayed. But I agree with you. And I know there’s going to be people who disagree. And what about David? We’ve talked about this so many times on podcasts, or listen to other podcasts, we’ve addressed this ad nauseam, but I’m just so tired of it. Above reproach is the qualification in Scripture for an elder. Are you above reproach? I have a tough time thinking that someone who has preyed on a congregant. Think about that; you’re supposed to be a shepherd, and you became the wolf. How we could ever put that person back in the sheep pen again. And the amount of concern and compassion and let’s pray for the predator that you hear. And the little that you hear about praying and concern and care for the victim is appalling. And I think it’s very indicative of the kind of culture that we live in, which puts celebrities up on the platform. And man, if you are an order, and you you have the right stuff, boy, people just love you. But man, if you’re not, and you happen to be in the way of someone getting back on that platform, it’s very difficult.

So I asked Jim Bergen, he’s the lead pastor of Flat Irons Community Church in Colorado, and Paul Linge, who currently oversees the counseling ministry there at Crossroads, whether or not they thought that Patrick was ready to return to ministry, whether he should be replatformed. I got two very different responses. So I’d like to play both of them. First, here’s how Jim Bergen responded.

Patrick absolutely messed up in a simple way with this woman. Her degree of willingness or participation. I don’t know anything about she didn’t call me. Patrick confessed to me, and I okay about disclose everything you know, and get on it. And even as he’s starting to move back into ministry, I have a lot of texts going hey, do you think I can preach again? Do you think I can preach again? And I’m like, slow down. Because it’s been, I don’t think, we lose most of the New Testament and all of the Old Testament, if sexual sin disqualifies you from ministry forever. I mean, David, we lose Abraham, okay. But I don’t think that when a pastor makes a mistake like this, it’s a death sentence forever. But it definitely is a slow, long healing process. And that’s what I cautioned him with, over and over again.

Okay, clearly, Jim Bergen doesn’t share our view on this.

Really, Jim Burgen understand or know any survivors of ACSA. Just sexual sin and not the spiritual or emotional or psychological. He needs some education on that.

He does. And actually, in our conversation, I pushed back on that and asked him about spiritual abuse, about adult clergy sexual abuse, as well, and what qualifies. And it was clear to me that a lot of this was new to him.

Yeah, we’ve met some really, truly good men, good shepherds, pastors that we have a lot of respect for. They don’t know. And I’m just floored by that.

But the good ones respond with a desire to learn. Yes, and that’s really encouraging. Moriah has done a wonderful job of putting together training on ACSA. We’ve been able to deliver that to two different churches, and it’s just fantastic and encouraging and edifying to see the godly people who get it and they want to improve they want to protect their congregation and guard against wolf-like behavior.

As I said, I also asked Paul Linge about this question, and I’d like to play his response.

Christian Post article stated that he did meet with Crossroads elders as part of what I think was I don’t remember if it was Southeast or Bob Russell in particular but basically trying to put him on a restoration pathway which to me was grossly inefficient. General sense was it was a box to check rather than any kind of your display of repentance. Because for him to really go on a restoration journey with the people at Crossroads and Evansville. That’s not a one-time meeting. There’s probably months of meeting, based on the damage that was created in our community. So that’s why it feels very superficial. I personally, and just through my own contacts have not seen the necessary repentance, or else he would be spending a lot more time in Evansville, the community that he helped blow up if that were true. And so I don’t, I think the article comes across as in not just to me, but to others in our communities who read it, as though he was somehow the victim, whether that was the victim of Crossroads, the victim of the Hills leadership, the victims of Savannah, and it’s just not true. At some point, a person has to take ownership and responsibility that for their own choices and behavior. I think he keeps getting prodded along by some key figures, who, for whatever reason, are reticent to just tell him the truth. Maybe they are, and I just don’t know it. But it just seems like he’s been continued to be propped up. I don’t know if it’s so much of a timeline, Julie, as it is looking for mile markers along the way. Right. So looking for signs of humility, looking for signs of teachability, looking for signs of repentance, looking for signs of restitution. I wronged you, you know, I dented your car, I’m going to pay for it to make sure it gets fixed. When you see that, you know, kind of the key is anybody I have wronged, then I’ll make it right. That’s the type of response I think you’re looking for when you’re talking about character change, or even your personality change. Once you start to see that and you’re like, okay, something’s happening. What we’re looking for is their demonstration is there not feigned or fake remorse, but genuine repentance. And that’s what I would say, at least from my experience from my seat. I have not seen that in Patrick Garcia in the last five years.

I’m guessing you resonate with a lot of what Paul said. I think he’s absolutely right for looking for the markers of repentance, whether or not that means you can re-platform that’s another question. And there’s really need to be two different questions that people need to understand; you can be restored to Christ, you can be restored to the body restored to a position, that’s a totally different thing. And I think people need to just start saying you’re permanently disqualified. I don’t know why we just can’t seem to say that in the church. And yet I think it needs to be said for abusers. Absolutely.

And, Julie, I just want to again, echo what Paul said in his clip. It’s what Jack and I were saying, Actually, Jack wrote this to Leonardo Blair, who wrote the article that the level of pain and trauma that article caused from Patrick, Blair made himself as the victim clearly demonstrates no understanding of spiritual authority, power dynamics, abuse. Anyone that was mentioned in that article, he re traumatized, and Leonardo did too. So I’m going to be very blunt, I hold the Christian Post responsible for publishing that as well as Patrick Garcia. Because I think, yeah, I think I hold them all responsible. We have too much information to just publish whatever might get a few clicks at this point without considering all of the victims, not just Jack and I, but the churches, the families.

And I think reporters need to be educated, absolutely need to be educated and trauma informed and all of these things and if you’re not fine, but it’s no excuse at this point. Get it.

Yeah, we get it. If you’re not and don’t want to be, go report on the weather, don’t report when they’re in a space where there are victims.

Yeah, absolutely. And there is clearly, I would agree, complete dearth of understanding of what ACSA, adult clergy sexual abuse is, and it needs to be remedied. I agree. Again, Patrick has been re platformed by Adventure church. He’s preached there several times. That’s a church in Louisville, Kentucky. I reached out to Adventure for comment. The church did not respond. Bob Russell has also replatformed Patrick. Bob had Patrick share about his fall and restoration at Bob’s mentoring retreat for pastors. This, that Patrick is up there now instructing pastors about his fall and restoration and they’re learning from him how to be a pastor. How does that make you feel?

That is absolutely ridiculous. You can’t have someone who is an abuser trying to instruct people on how not to abuse. I don’t understand really the line of thought and why you would want to put him into that scenario given his background. I think honestly I would just say my concern is, why is there so much focus on helping these pastors who have abused other people, instead of focus on how do we help the abused? How do we help the victims of the people who we have, are partially responsible for their victimization? That’s really where the focus should be is how do we care for the vulnerable? because that’s exactly what Jesus did. That’s who he ministered to. And that’s who he loves. So that’s, we just have a mis alignment, a missed focus on on what we really talk about in churches.

And I’m guessing Bob Russell has met with Patrick, and continues to mentor him and yet, you guys reached out through Dave Road up, who I understand is someone who has relationship, he’s in Christian leadership has a relationship with Bob Russell. He wouldn’t meet with you. He would not meet with you.

Yeah. Paul Linge was the connection. We met with him and several other Crossroads leaders and shared our story shared educational material. They held space for us and held our story with so much goodness. That was very restorative. I struggle with pastors in general, getting to meet with Paul Linge helped restore some of that faith in that role. So the connection between us and Bob Russell is very removed, we don’t know him. But we told Paul, if Bob Russell’s willing to hear our story, we’re willing to share it. And so there was also David Roadcup was involved there. David Roadcup knows our story as well. He shared it with Bob Russell what he could and said, Are you willing to meet with this couple, because they have concerns that Patrick Garcia is preaching again. And his comment was that if there was not sexual intercourse, I will not meet with them. That was what we were told. And so I guess anything, pastors are allowed to do anything, and be preaching and be re-platformed, besides have sexual intercourse with someone who’s not their wife, is the message there.

Well, and again, we didn’t hear that directly from Bob’s mouth. But I have reached out to Bob, to try to get comment to try to clarify to give him opportunity. And he has not responded. If he’d like to, I’m still here, and he can do it. And I’ll report what he says. Or if he’d like to apologize, he can do that, too. But just would like to hear from him, it would be really nice.

Last question. And thank you so much. I know this is so hard, and can be re traumatizing. And it’s difficult. And I know that you only do this because you care about other victims, you care about the church, and its ability to care for others and so this doesn’t happen and keep happening to people. And so that Patrick doesn’t get platformed and is able to prey on vulnerable people again. But I know it comes at a cost. And so I’m extraordinarily grateful to both of you. I know, just knowing the audience that we have for this podcast, that there are people listening, who have been through what you’ve been through, they may be in totally different levels of healing right now of understanding. But I think it’s amazing how well both of you are doing three years, that may seem like a long time, it also seems a really short time, and you’re doing remarkably well. Not just as human beings individually, but together in your marriage. And that’s, I think, a testament to who you are as human beings and to the godliness. As you know, when you were talking about Jack and the way he’s carried you through this, great husbands are a gift. And that’s really beautiful to hear that. But I’m just wondering what you might say to other survivors who are listening, some of whom may just be right now white knuckling it just to hold on?

Yeah, yeah, and the survivor community is really, that’s my heart. Like you said, that’s why we’re here. There’s a line in Wade Mullins book that I’ve tried to anchor myself to, and I’m not going to quote it perfectly. Something’s Not Right is the book that says, as part of your healing journey, you need to think about what your abuser or his supporters would want you to do and do the opposite. And so this is me reclaiming using my voice for that. And so I really thought about what would I say to other survivors, because I know where they’ve been at. And so I would repeat what sweet Katie Roberts said to me the first time I spoke to her in person, and is that I’m so sorry for how you’ve been treated. You aren’t alone. There’s others of us that have been where you’re at. It’s an absolute nightmare. But there are other people out there that get it. We’re here for you. There’s a group of women that would love to hear your story, and we’re going to understand it because we’ve lived it as well. We’re here to support you in that and that’s Restored Voices Collective. Julie, if you can put that little link in your bio that would be great. I would encourage other survivors work really hard to find a counselor that understands trauma. Don’t settle for a counselor that just loves Jesus. With what you’ve been through, it’s not enough. They need to know trauma and abuse. If they love Jesus, that’s great too Take the time to learn and study the language of what happened to you. Some of the researchers and writers that have been instrumental for me are David Pooler has been one of them. Dr. Heather Evans is another one, Mary DeMuth’s book, We Too, is a really wonderful book. And I would say, take care of yourself. I know, this healing process is long and hard. You need people that can cheer you on and just sit with you in the pain. And the last thing I would say is, my faith is intact. And I hope that people that have really had a close relationship with Jesus, that have been abused, I hope you’re able to find your way back to Him. But take your time; he’s patient, he’s willing to sit with you through all of the pain. And so when you’re ready to explore faith again, or figure out what that looks like, just look to Jesus, don’t look to your church leaders don’t look to a denomination. Just look to Jesus for that.

That is so good. Moriah thank you. And thank you for just sharing so openly, Jack, thank you the same, again, difficult topic, but appreciate the way that you guys have walked through this with integrity. And the way that you’re really reaching out to others and taking courageous stands to speak out, which is never easy. So thank you, it’s just really been a blessing to get to know you.

Thank you.

Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity.

And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting the work that we do here at The Roys Report. As I’ve said before, we don’t have any big donors or advertising we simply have you, the people who care about telling other survivors stories, exposing wrongdoing, bringing healing and restoring the church. Also this month when you give a gift of $30 or more, we’ll send you a copy of Christy Boulware’s book, Nervous Breakthrough. It’s such a great resource and I’m so excited to make it available to you to donate and get a copy of Nervous Breakthrough, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged.


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12 Responses

  1. To Moriah and Jack: I am appalled at how you both were treated by those within my profession as a pastor in the Restoration movement, a profession I have been in for nearly 40 years. I must apologize as to how some in my profession surrounded the predator pastor to lift him up yet all but ignored and dismissed you. Their behavior, the predator and his supporters, discredit the calling of a spiritual shepherd. I am so sorry for you, yet I was so instructed, humbled, and helped by the both of you. You guys are the ones who have the hearts of a true shepherd. Such irony! I know Idelman, Stone, Roadcup and Russell. I am familiar with Russell’s minister’s retreat—I know a number of my pastor friends who have been through it, and I even applied years ago ( I am so thankful now I never attended). You need to know it is an enormous stamp of approval to be chosen by Russell who carries a great influence in the movement. So to have the clergy predator stand before these pastors to “instruct” them is letting the wolf— in shepherd’s clothing—deceive the other shepherds. I truly doubt that any significant number of Christian church pastors and elders will hear or have the ears to hear your story. You both, however, keep speaking loudly and exposing the deeds of darkness (Eph. 5). God bless you both.

  2. After listening to both podcasts, I read the Christian Post article. I felt the article was full of deflecting and blaming. In the podcast King David was mentioned as an example of a leader who committed sexual sin. I would guess that King David had one of the most stressful jobs of his time and his life before he was King was very stressful. The psalms he wrote show he experienced depression. Yet, he didn’t blame his past, his mental health, his stressful job, his difficult personal relationships. He took responsibility and accepted the consequences.
    Thank you for speaking out and helping educate others. Change needs to happen. The church is being deceived.

    1. Church culture is complicit in the “blame the woman” reaction. Since I was a child, its been the same story. The real disgust was always directed at the woman. Men were largely excused or easily forgiven because it was expected. Showed they were virile. (Eyeroll) How gross.

      And, Moriah, it was more than tackiness on the church’s part.
      Using the Scripture reference of the woman caught in adultery as they released their narrative was cunning and clear. Just wow. Could the damning be any stronger? Even if you removed the power dynamics, this is grossly shaming. They wanted to embarrass while leaving no doubt who was really at fault. No wonder the larger culture looks at Christianity as self-righteous and often hateful. And, no wonder the younger generations sitting in our pews are increasingly saying no thanks, I want no part of this.

  3. I listened to both podcasts and then found and read the CP article. If the podcast didn’t specifically reference the CP article, I wouldn’t have known that the two were referring to the same situation. CP really has a lot of spin. Two statements in the CP article really stood out:

    1. “‘The options in the corporate world for fallen pastors aren’t many. I vastly underestimated the challenge of this,” Garcia revealed…” This statements seem to offer a clue as to why there appears to be a high percentage of pastors who seem to have these significant “repentance” moments after engaging in destructive behavior. Apparently it’s easier to feign repentance than to find a real job.

    2. “When pastors abuse their power and have affairs with church members, Koster said, ‘That’s a red-hot red flag to me.'” Koster first name is Steven and the article says he leads marriage retreats and family seminars. This statement outs him as someone who knows nothing about power dynamics and how someone in a position of power cannot have an affair with someone they have power over. So, that’s a “red-hot flag” to me that Mr. Koster is not a safe counselor. Since CP published that quote, it also outs this writer (Leonardo Blair) and their editors/content managers as not understanding power dynamics and abuse. Duly noted.

  4. That was a really interesting discussion. One thing that really stood out was that Mr. Garcia was a “made man,” to use a Mafia term. He had the right relationships, he was Our Guy.

  5. Thank you so much for the work that you’re doing in exposing the dark side of the present situation going on in the church. I am thankful for Dr. Moriah Smothers and Dr. Brian Smothers who voluntarily came forward to share their very private experience. This is more than a story or podcast. It is reality for so many abuse victims and serves to broadcast what is going on in the church today. Thank you, Moriah and Jack, you are courageous. Your love of God permeates these two your podcast. We will only know the outcome and the extent of Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse (ACSA) through survivors such as you who are willing to share their experiences. Presently the “church” and especially clergy have a long way to go in even the acknowledgement of this sin and responding accordingly, . . . scripturally. It is not “sexual sin!” It is abuse at the most heinous level! Julie, I totally agree with you about pastors and clergy “being above reproach,” and how easily they are restored, and re-platformed, at the expense of the survivors of this sin. Shame on us! When will the church at large respond accordingly? This podcast reflects the present spiritual condition of North American Christianity at large. Blessings, and peace and your avid supporter Chris Andre.

  6. It both abuse and an affair. Both sinned and will give an account. Both made choices. Victims or victimhood is antithetical to the gospel. I do not believe calling Moriah “Judas” is a biblical reflection of the gospel. The called out ones have been shown mercy and grace from the wrath of God. They see their works as used menstrual rags. That’s an apropos description of “filthy rags.” Point is the narrative of this article and podcast point out important things. However at the expense of other equally important aspects. Victims have no place in the kingdom of Christ. Only victorious, blood-bought, rescued and those who are in Christ.

  7. Having worked with inmates in a detention center, I am very familiar with deception. The abuser is a masterful deceiver, often believing many of his own lies. In this case, he continues to deceive and gullible dupes continue to believe him after he’s proven himself untrustworthy. I agree that abusers should never hold any position of authority in a church, not even to lead a Bible study. Are churches so desperate for rock star pastors that they quickly overlook their fatal flaws? Abusers will re-offend when given the opportunity. In the criminal justice system, it’s called recidivism.

  8. Kudos to The Roys Report and survivors like Moriah and Jack Smothers for alerting listeners to the dynamics of Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse in an effort to PROTECT believers.

    The sad fact is that evangelical leaders, including para-church ministries such as Focus on the Family, have known about this problem for decades. Yet, on air, they insist on using language that confuses the church and blames victims.

    I’ve heard Dr. James Dobson, the late Rev. H.B. London and Jim Daly repeatedly broadcast programs about pastors who have “affairs,” “dalliances,” “slips,” “inappropriate intimacy,” and numerous other euphemisms that minimize the egregious nature of pastoral sexual abuse.

    Over 20 years ago, WORLD Magazine’s cover story on clergy sexual abuse of women described how words like “affair” are used to cover up abuse. In the story, FOTF’s then-director of counseling, Willy Wooten, warned that previously abused women are even more vulnerable to abuse from male authority figures.

    Yet, to this day, FOTF has never done a program educating listeners about the dynamics of clergy sexual abuse of women. What if Moriah had known this could happen? What if she had been educated about red flags? What if her church had completed a training program that enabled it to recognize grooming behaviors?

    Thank you, Julie Roys, for trying to hold our evangelical churches and leaders accountable. And thank you to the Smothers family for speaking out as survivors in an attempt to warn others.

  9. Moriah mentioned that the abuse from her pastor was traumatic, the response from the church body was exponentially more traumatizing.

    As someone who has been emotionally and spiritually abused by a pastor, I can not stress her point enough. The church’s poor response (and willing complicity) to pastoral abuse is frightfully disorienting and damaging to the soul. It is a very isolating place to be that re-victimizes and strips a victim of all their dignity. In the name of God.

  10. Is victimhood in this context biblical? I can not stand the rejection and the treatment Moriah received. That is sin. However, there are 3 sinning parties:
    1. The pastor
    2. Moriah
    3. The congregation/elders.
    She was not a victim! Period. She ultimately made a choice. One that the church emphasizes too often. Which is partiality. My fear is victimhood has eclipsed Victorious ones. This worldly idea has permeated the church. Some view it as an antithesis to judging. That is a false dichotomy. The real antithesis to victimization is in Christ. Those who see themselves in the mirror. Paul was a wretched man. Yet he learned to accept Christ’s victory over sin and death as his identity. Therefore he is a new creation. Time will show that victimhood is a roadblock from the gospel. This will not restore the church because it is not reporting the biblical truth. Some may disagree, but look at it biblically.

  11. The modern day version of the parable of the lost sheep. The sheep gets lost. The shepherd makes a couple of phone calls, gives up, goes back to his can’t miss whiz bang plan for church growth.

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