My Response to CREC Internal Inquiry Questions





On October 3rd, 2015, the following announcement was released on the CREC website:

Inquiry into the Pastoral Ministry of Christ Church (Moscow, Idaho)

The CREC began a process a couple of weeks ago aimed at addressing the legitimate questions and concerns regarding some of the past actions and practices of two cases of sexual abuse. We take these matters seriously and seek to address them fully. In keeping with the CREC Constitution and our regular church order, the session of Christ Church, Moscow, ID, has invited the presiding ministers of each presbytery to inquire into the pastoral care and counseling ministry of Christ Church, with particular regard to their handling of sexual abuse cases, not excluding the two cases that have been the subject of some recent controversy. In short, are their practices in this area operating within a biblical framework and consistent with the law? Are they operating competently and in good faith?

This invitation means that under the direction of their chair, the committee is invited to ask any 
questions of members of the Christ Church session and pastoral staff, and they can have complete access to their minutes, records, files, etc. Christ Church is asking this committee to issue a public report in the next few months. Moreover, they have requested that the presiding ministers satisfy themselves as to the health and soundness of their pastoral care in such circumstances, and to provide them with their counsel and advice where they see any deficiencies.

Pastor Douglas Wilson is the current Presiding Minister of the CREC Council, and he has recused himself in this matter. As the current Presiding Minister pro tempore of the CREC Council, I will assume the role of Presiding Minister of Council in these matters and will chair 
the committee of the seven presiding ministers of our presbyteries, which I have appointed to this review committee.

Randy Booth
Acting Presiding Minister, CREC Council


I was emailed by two of the pastors involved in the internal inquiry, Randy Booth and Rich Lusk, and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed and answer some questions about the abuse and the church's handling of it. While I felt uncomfortable meeting with them in person or dialoguing privately over email, I agreed to address their questions via my blog. They asked me several questions and because I wear many hats and have little time I'll be answering 1-2 questions at a time, every several days. 

I will post the questions in the order in which they were asked:


What could Christ Church do to make restitution to you as a victim for the ways they have wronged you and failed you?


There is not an easy answer to this question. My goal in speaking openly about the sexual abuse I suffered and the way my former church handled it has never been to gain restitution. There are some things that can never been undone or made up for. When a child is sexually abused for years, hides it for years, then finally finds the bravery to tell the people they trust and they are then shamed and left feeling unloved and without safety, the damage is extensive. Forgiveness is possible, by all means, but that rests on my own shoulders and does not depend on the church 'doing' anything. Direct restitution for my personal situation is not possible, but I believe that indirect restitution is possible and far more important than my own singular experience, and that is why I write. 

Christ Church can make restitution for the ways they wronged and failed me by learning from the mistakes they made and properly caring for future victims, by educating themselves on the nature of abusive relationships, by offering professional resources and support for future victims and their families, by offering the victim, whether a child or an adult, trust and support and by prioritizing that trust over and above the words of the abuser, by learning about the highly persuasive and believable ways that abusers tell their stories in order to minimize their consequences, and by informing the congregation, honestly and fully while still protecting the victim's privacy, of the crimes committed in their midst so that the congregants may take measures to protect their own families.

(Edit: I would also like to add that I believe Doug Wilson should admit in public that he has wronged me and he must stop abusing me and my truth in public.)

In order to accomplish any of the above, Christ Church must first acknowledge that devastating mistakes were made. Up to this point they have been unwilling to do so and continue to insist on placing blame on me and my family for the abuse I suffered. This has caused my family further harm and suffering. 


Is there anything that would bring closure/healing to the situation, as far as your relationship with Christ Church is concerned?

This question assumes I am seeking closure and healing through a specific response from Christ Church. I am seeking neither. On the contrary, I know that speaking publicly will not offer me closure but rather will keep these issues alive and in conversation, which is exactly where they should be if we hope to see changes in the ways churches and communities at large handle sexual abuse in their midst.

As far as healing goes, my relationship with Christ Church is complex. I have many friends that still attend Christ Church and some of them are very dear to my heart, many of those relationships are healthy and require no healing. But the leaders of Christ Church refuse to accept responsibility for the ways in which they mishandled my situation, and in their vehement defense of themselves continue to publicly shame me and my family for the abuse I suffered. While closure and healing are challenging to discuss as I am actively being harmed by the church, a full and sincere apology from the church leaders for their mishandling of the abuse would surely be a source of healing and comfort for my family. Many current and former members of the church have written notes of apology and support and it has been a truly meaningful step toward healing. 



I will answer more of the questions in the next several days.


I would like to note that part of my reason for not being more directly involved with the inquiry is that I believe the process is fundamentally flawed. An external investigation would be fitting. That said, I am willing to answer their questions in a public manner because I believe every member of the CREC deserves to hear these answers, and because my answers are an important part of my story and may lend themselves to healing and support for other victims. 



Comments

  1. Thank you for standing up for transparency! Also, for declaring that healing depends on the church(es) getting this right in the future and not simply creating closure on the past!

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  2. Natalie, thank you for posting this publicly. I know for me your willingness to speak has been a huge aid in helping me understand abuse dynamics and tactics, and you have done and continue to do a great job pointing out the problems with the response you received and encouraging change. Your boldness and clarity do you credit. May you walk in grace and peace.

    Rachel

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  3. Natalie, you are awesome. You're such an amazing person, you're a hero to me. Hang tough and fight on, rock star. You're helping to change the world.

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  4. As someone who hide the abuse for fifty years, and had their first appointment with a therapist next week, I'm not sure that any action Christ Church could take would provide restitution or closure/healing. Christ Church, plus the other adults involved did nothing at the time, because your abuser hid his acts, just as my abuser hid his acts. That those acts were not noticed will be a big part of the damage done to you, and me.

    The later actions when the abuse was noticed in your case, is another matter. Since none of the adults who were involved ever noticed anything, and I was unable to tell anyone, I'll never know what sort of response I would have gotten. All of the adults involved are dead now, so I can't even ask them.

    I suspect in your case, knowing that the Church does take what happened seriously, and are guarding against the same thing happening in future would help. But are they willing to take action? You may have to wait ten-fifteen years to be certain that they have.

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  5. It would demonstrate tremendous integrity if the CREC leadership would hire an outside source to help determine what might have gone wrong, and how to keep this from happening again. There is naturally a tapestry of interwoven relationships in the CREC leadership, that is just naturally what happens after decades of being in the same denomination.

    I think the leadership would want even demand that an outside expert (like Boz Tchividjian) be called in to erase any appearance of nepotism.

    Had Douglas Wilson sought outside professional help in all these cases, perhaps things might have been handled far better.

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    Replies
    1. Doug Wilson never sought outside professional help because he didn't want it. Doug's sole agenda is to silence dissent as brutally as possible in order to protect his financial empire, and that includes coddling and defending NSA students no matter what crimes they might commit.

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  6. I agree that outside intervention should have been sought. Most people in the church have no idea how to deal with this kind of abuse. Also, Doug Wilson definitely needs to make a public apology to you and your family. But that would require humbleness which I think he is incapable of.

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  8. It seems odd to me that the first two questions are about restitution and closure. These steps would be more appropriate at the END of whatever discovery and adjudication process rather than the start. Why is there a need for restitution if no wrong has been admitted and owned? It may be that you chose questions randomly and there is a genuine concern for bringing all of the failings to light. I wouldn't set your hopes too high on the internal CREC investigation being ruthlessly committed to bringing all the problems to light and then dealing with them appropriately. I am a former leader from the CREC and have first hand experienced their tendency to interpret painful reality in terms most favorable to their own objectives. Personally I believe it is helpful for people to bring the failures to light with the hope that God will bring legitimate justice in the circumstances. I won't even attempt to try to understand what that "justice" would look like. Don't feel you are required to meet the CREC's standards for participation in this ordeal. The CREC is a society that turns on nuance and technicalities (not really what normal people experience in regular life). You probably DO need to recover and get clear of the damage as much as that could be possible. The CREC group members are really "big boys" and whatever they decide to do will most likely be tailored to save face (but I predict it will appear to be morally correct and certainly defensible). In light of this reality - be careful what you choose to answer and above all - get strong for yourself. You can't change the CREC but you can focus on getting spiritually healthy, recovering what can be salvaged from this "9 miles of bad road". I've personally been down this road with the CREC, and Douglas. There IS health and strength - even if it doesn't feel that way at the moment.

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  9. With respect to all concerned, I believe Doug Wilson owes your dad a full, direct, and public apology for his accusations that compare him with a convicted criminal abuser.

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    Replies
    1. I agree Doug does owe her and her dad a sincere apology.

      I find it odd that Doug Wilson is blaming her father for being foolish to board that young man in their home. Lots of members of that church board students. If Doug thought Natalie was attractive and that having this young man stay in their home was unwise why didn't he engage her father early on to suggest an alternative living arrangement for the young man? Doug needs to take responsibility for not overseeing the boarding situations properly too. He doesn't seem to feel any regret to neglecting his duty to protect Natalie too. He took a vow as did the rest of this particular congregation to help her parents raise her in the Lord- it was Doug's responsibility as well as the other Elder's to not have male students board in homes where there are young girls. Plain and simple. They need to make guidelines for their "boarder" system for NSA and for the seminary.

      Also, Doug there is no "species" of statutory rape and shame on you for saying there is. You need to apologize and repent for that thinking. Sin is sin, there is not "species" of sin! Come on Doug.

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  10. You are a brave woman, Natalie, and savvy and smart to boot. It was the right thing for you to keep the questions of the CREC pastors out in the open in plain sight here on your blog. I can fully understand your reluctance in meeting with them privately. And you are wise in not placing confidence in the CREC's internal inquiry since the very nature of such an inquiry belies full disclosure. It is baffling to me that they don't see this obvious truth. Willful blindness comes to mind.

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  11. You were completely right not to trust these so-called "men of god." This internal inquiry is a joke! There can be no independent review when DW covered for Randy Booth's son back in the 1999. Booth owes DW. Please read the latest post at http://moscowid.net/2015/11/18/on-randy-booth/

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  12. You are a very brave woman. I have followed your story for awhile. Much of it mirrors my own experience in a different church many years ago. I've recently begun my own journey for truth and healing. Thank you for your courage. You are an inspiration.

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