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Letter from First Baptist Church of
Farmers Branch

 

The church responded to my abuse report with hostility and intimidation. I've seen more Christian compassion from orangutans.

The attorney who wrote this awful letter has long represented the Baptist General Convention of Texas. After all I've seen, I conclude his hardball handling of clergy abuse victims is exactly what the Baptist General Convention of Texas wants.

Here is the gist of the church's letter with my comments:

1.  "...your own letter acknowledges that Tommy Gilmore left the church shortly after the events that she purports to have occurred."

The church seems to assume that it did all it should have by virtue of the fact that Gilmore left the church. But what about the people in all his subsequent churches? Is there no concern for the kids in those churches?

2.   "...Ms. Brown suffered from abuse at home. It would seem to even the most casual of observers that this could and would contribute to a measure of her alleged distress."

My report did NOT say anything about "abuse" at home. It mentioned an incident of family violence when the minister was called to our home, and Gilmore's abuse of me began shortly after that. My father had chronic post-traumatic stress symptoms related to his service in World War II. He was wounded in the liberation of Luzon and survived by playing dead while they bayonetted bodies around him. As a child, I didn't understand, but as an adult, I know that we were probably like a great many families of those stoic men who never spoke of their ordeals. Families simply coped as best they could with the psychological wounds so many of those men had.

When Gilmore began abusing me, it was an especially difficult time in my family because my father had unsuccessful back surgery and was struggling to come to terms with the reality of constant pain. (In fact, my sisters and I spent the night at Gilmore's house when my mother was at the hospital with my father, which shows how much my family trusted him.) My father did work that involved physical labor, and his entire self-identity was tied to being a hard worker. My abuse report mentioned the difficulties in my family to show how exploitive Gilmore was in targeting a kid when he knew the family was having problems. Yet, all these years later, the church once again tried to use my family's difficulties against me to, in effect, say that I was emotionally damaged anyway, as though no greater harm was done by the sexual abuse of its minister. This attitude offended me beyond all words. There is nothing about my imperfect family that could possibly minimize or excuse the harm done to me by the minister's sexual abuse. If kids in troubled families are somehow fair game for a minister's sexual abuse, then a whole lot of church kids are at risk.

And for the record, even with all his problems, my father was honest, hard-working, courageous, decent, and 100 percent truthful -- always. In speaking truth, I honor the memory of my father.

3.   "...it would not seem fruitful to pursue this matter further."

How could the church think it would not be "fruitful" to try to locate this minister and make known what he did so that others could be warned and protected?

4.   "If the matter is pursued, I'm sure you are aware that your client is not the only party with recourse."

This is a threat. The church is suggesting it may seek "recourse" against me if I pursue the matter. For a church to threaten "recourse" against a victim who was sexually abused as a kid by a minister is unconscionable. To do so when the abuse report is readily substantiated by another minister in the same church is not only unconscionable, but shockingly oblivious to the need to protect other kids.

To this day, this is something I cannot comprehend. I never, ever imagined that the church I grew up in would threaten to sue me. And for what? I still don't know. I think this was nothing more than pure, raw bullying and intimidation.

And don't forget. The lawyer who did this is the lawyer who, for over a decade, has represented the largest state-wide Baptist organization in the country, the Baptist General Convention of Texas. How many others have been sent right back to their quiet corners of shame by this man's hardball bullying tactics?

5.   "We do not feel that the extensive relief you have called for is...justified [or] practical."

The relief I requested was exactly what the Baptist General Convention of Texas says is appropriate in its published booklet, "Broken Trust." I asked for an apology, counseling costs, the entry of Gilmore's name into the BGCT's list of clergy offenders, notification of other churches, and "crisis guidance" from the state convention to help the church in dealing with the matter. The only additional thing I requested was some sort of symbolic gesture of support, such as a small sculpture or meditation garden, to show the denomination's concern for clergy abusive victims and to raise awareness of the problem.

As it turns out, the "crisis guidance" the BGCT provided to the church appears to have been nothing more than a referral to their own lawyer who then worked to make the problem go away by threatening to sue me.

Any wonder I now consider the BGCT's booklet "Broken Trust" to be a tool for deception? The victim who sees that booklet is lured into thinking the BGCT will provide some help  --  only to then be sucker-punched by a hard left hook from the BGCT's own lawyer.