Well, the phones started ringing across the nation! The fox was not only in the chicken house, he was being paid to be there!
It seems that wolves in sheep’s garb have frequently stalked Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and few seem to be outraged by their attacks upon the innocent ones.
After a music and youth director left a NC church staff in 1985 to pastor his own church in another NC city, it was revealed that he had abused a 12-year-old girl, two 14-year-old girls, two 15-year-old girls, and an 18-year-old. In addition, two adult women. He was very busy, what with running the youth department, his musical tasks, and his “extracurricular activities.”
None of the victims knew others were being abused and all were lifetime friends except the two married women. All the abuse took place simultaneously during a nine-year period. When two girls finally reported to their pastor what happened, that pastor confronted the abuser and he resigned his church and fled to Jacksonville. Can you guess where he landed? Right, Trinity Baptist. About this time, another girl come forward and revealed her abuse.
The NC pastor (for whom the abuser had worked as music man and youth director) told Dr. Bob Gray, then pastor of Trinity Baptist in Jacksonville, about the predator’s sexual abuse of the many girls and Gray said that he had repented of his sins. About this time, the abuser sent a letter (copies are in the possession of victim’s parents) to the parents of three of his young victims and apologized for hurting them and their families and for his sinful activities. At this time, another victim called Bob Gray and told him about this predator abusing her. She was then sent the same letter that had been sent to the other three victims. If he had truly repented, he would have contacted all his victims at the same time. (Maybe he has a form letter that he sends to his victims after they confront him.)
Later, this abuser was hired by Trinity Christian Academy but the NC pastor’s wife wrote him and demanded that he resign which he did.
After Gray resigned Trinity and fled to Germany, one of the victims told me she contacted the new pastor Dr. Messer and warned him of the abuser’s several sexual crimes. According to her, he replied, “You need some therapy.” Blame the victim! Does that surprise anyone?
On separate occasions two of the victims, as part of their counseling, met with their abuser (each with a witness) and accosted him about their years of abuse by him. He reportedly admitted his sin and confessed to being a “master manipulator.”
In late December of 2005, some of the victims discovered that the abuser was listed as “Assistant Pastor” on Trinity’s website under “Counseling” along with his phone number and e-mail address. His name and photo were there and the designation, “Assistant Pastor, Counseling Ministry.” He was listed also as heading up “Divorce Care,” another ministry of Trinity Baptist.
Well, the phones started ringing across the nation! The fox was not only in the chicken house, he was being paid to be there! What in the world was Tom Messer thinking? What were the deacons thinking? Was anyone, at anytime, under any circumstances doing any thinking? Forget the praying; that wasn’t necessary in a situation like that. Everyone knows that most sexual problems with preachers and counselors start in the counseling office. The counselees are young, emotional, hurting, confused, and often feel guilty and unloved. And they are going to be helped by a serial sexual predator! Someone at Trinity is dumb as a box of rocks. Don’t they know they are supposed to be protecting and feeding sheep instead of training and grooming wolves? Or is this a case of one not knowing what the other is doing!
When Pastor Messer was confronted with this information by the husband of one of the victims, he declared that the abuser was not on the pastoral staff and that he (Tom) did not know what was on the obviously expensive church website! Does anyone believe that a Baptist pastor will permit anything on a church website that he has not approved? First of all, it would be financially irresponsible to pay so much money and not know what you were getting. Anyway, Tom told the irate husband he would get back with him to let him know what his stand would be on this problem. No call was ever received.
In January of 2006, the church website was changed to eliminate “assistant pastor” and a few days later the reference was removed. On Feb. 27, 2006, Attorney David Gibbs III wrote one of the victims stating, “[The abuser] is on leave and not working at Trinity at this time.” If anyone at Trinity has any brains or a scintilla of spiritual discernment, the “leave” will be permanent. While writing this I received a copy of an e-mail written by a pastor on May 17, 2006 to one of the victims confirming that he had just called Trinity and talked to someone (name was provided) in Human Resources about the sexual predator’s employment status. He was told, much to his surprise, that the abuser was still employed there and when he asked for how long, she replied “since August 20, 2001 with no break in employment.”
Wait a minute! The abuser’s name was removed from Trinity’s website in January of 2006; Gibbs reveals that abuser is “on leave and not working” at Trinity as of Feb. 27, 2006 and a Trinity Human Resource person said that he was still employed as of May 17, 2006! Is this double-speak or is there another cover-up going on within the cover-up?
The writer of the above e-mail made a reference to David Gibbs’ III “small fib” regarding the abuser’s employment. I can’t believe Gibbs would be dishonest but as a lawyer he might be disingenuous.
In addition to the abuser’s church duties, he also worked part time at Trinity Baptist College. I have a copy of the College’s catalog for 2006-2007 and he is listed as a part time faculty member! I also have copies of other Trinity web pages dated August 7, 2006, which still listed him as Assistant Pastor under Counseling Ministry and as a contact for “Divorce Care.” That was more than two months after Gray had been arrested as he was trying to flee the country. Evidently, the abuser is no longer actively involved with any Trinity ministry at this time; however, according to my informants he is still around the church and school. Who knows what will happen after the storm passes?
I have observed a “cover-up” mentality in many large Baptist churches that seems to be systemic. They emphasize the inerrancy of the Bible but are very weak on implementing Biblical procedures of church discipline. Why boast about preaching the very Word of God if it is not practiced in personal lives and in church procedures? It is past time to practice what we preach. Dante thought it was a despicable sin for one to betray those he is entrusted to care for. I agree. It is time to stop coddling sexual abusers, adulterers, and sodomites whether they are in the pew or pulpit. They need to be in prison.