Sunday, December 16, 2018

Open Letter: Public Response to Public Statement of GBC

The following is an open letter that Elizabeth Osborne-Leech wrote in response to the official public statement released by Grace Baptist Church on December 12, 2018. Elizabeth was a member of Grace Baptist Church, and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School from 2001 - 2009. The statement is included full at the bottom of this letter.

I’m disappointed, and yet also impressed with this public statement. Whether purposeful or on accident, you manage to use the right buzzwords (rape, restraining order, authorities, conviction, etc.), give just enough detail to appease (1.) the people who came here to get the juicy details, and (2.) the people who don’t have first-hand knowledge or memory of these situations, and let’s not ignore the uplifting and comforting message at the end, of how much love and support Pastor Jenkins and the church have to offer victims of past and potential abuse and assault. Well crafted; Bravo. Honestly, I’m surprised you even put out a statement at all.

The problem, first and foremost is of course the sexual crimes committed against members of this church, and students of this school.  However, under the surface, there is an equally, if not more alarming issue, and that is the conditioning of the members of this church to not recognize crime and cover-up of crime happening right in front of them.  My own mother asked me today if anything ever happened to me there, and was in total shock to hear of all this. How does this happen? How does a flock of believers believe their pastor right off a cliff? A skilled method of manipulation, in short. More on that some other time.

Let’s go back to the public statement.

Two-thirds of the information provided is a defense: “your side” of what happened. One-third is related to your policy and your support of victims. The unequal distribution here seems to be a clear representation of the true attitude in the church. Surely, the church’s reputation and testimony is worth more of my time and energy than the church’s viewpoint on sexual assault and victimizing. Take note of how many times Pastor Jenkins is name-dropped vs “the pastor” or Grace Baptist Church and/or Christian School as a whole. At first it might seem like Pastor Jenkins is just taking it personal (as he should), but this is a classic conditioning tool used in IFB churches. Pastor Jenkins is the end-all, be-all. His word goes. This idolization of IFB pastors is what allows rapists and pedophiles to continue to get shuffled from church to church, under the radar. Because a letter of recommendation or “gods will” is all it takes from good ol’ PJ to move a criminal out of his church, and into another, to protect the image of the great GBC.

Notice how many times “former employee” is mentioned. This is the church’s way of absolving itself from crime. These were CURRENT EMPLOYEES when the abuse occurred, and you waited to bring it up until their status turned into previously employed and local news started dragging GBCs name through the mud.  Don’t try to diminish the allegations and PROOF of crime by saying they were FORMERLY employed here. In doing that, you are shirking responsibility for your lack of oversight, safety measures, and you fail to admit that the crimes did in fact occur under your administration, by your staff, to your students/members, sometimes even on the grounds of the church itself. How incredibly disrespectful to the victims you so fondly speak of in your statement. Your statement basically says: “Ruthy was assaulted in Washington state, and we helped catch the bad guy.” You conveniently left out that in his trial, it was clearly discussed that the assault and abuse began in Michigan, however, Michigan allowed Washington state to be the prosecuting state. Or maybe you didn’t bother to ever read the court documents because one of your teenage members getting raped didn’t make the to-do list, what with all the camp meetings and mission conferences or an 8-week alliterated sermon..or maybe a Hawaiian vacation going on. Unfortunately, Beckner hasn’t been charged or convicted, so at this point it’s your word against everyone else’s who say you knew at the time.

What now? Nothing GBC does now can change what happened in the far and even recent past, but GBC CAN DO SOMETHING to change what will inevitably happen again in the future.  What we’d like to see is transparency, safety and accountability, as was so well put in your statement. What a joke. If you were transparent, you would make public knowledge the convicted and alleged crimes related to staff at this church WHEN THEY HAPPEN, so that parents can better protect their children. Because safety is more important than your reputation. If you cared about safety, you would institute changes (and be transparent about them) in your day to day school and church operations to better protect your population. Maybe you have made some changes based on the MULTIPLE sexual abuse scenarios that have occurred over the years..

this public statement would have been a really great place to include that information, rather than just a bunch of CYA.

Accountability?? How about a public apology to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred under the administration of GBC by any employee whether former or current. How about IMMEDIATE action when allegations occur, so that both the church and the victims have better outcomes altogether, and so that you can better protect your members and students.

Do better GBC. You have failed and you don’t even recognize it yet. God help your congregation, your leadership certainly won’t.



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