A former youth pastor wrote an anonymous op-ed for Leadership Journal in which he details his “easy trip from youth minister to felon” without apologizing for his crime.
The man describes an extramarital affair he carried on with a minor in his program. He later pleaded guilty to two felony charges and is serving time in prison, but he never explains the specifics of his conviction charges.
“The realities of parenthood and marriage were sinking in, and I felt unappreciated at home. From my perspective, I was excelling at work and at home — and this perceived lack of appreciation led me to believe I deserved more,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, there was someone else in my life that appreciated me very much.
“But I knew what appeared innocent was, in reality, wrong and very dangerous,” he continued. “Red flags kept popping up. Why was I not talking about this "friendship" with my wife? Why was I being secretive and sneaky about it? Why didn't I, in the earliest stages, when I knew the "friendship" was rapidly escalating beyond what it should be, slam on the brakes?”
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He never uses the words “rape,” “crime,” “statutory” or “illegal” in the piece.
“Talking and texting turned flirtatious," he wrote. "Flirting led to a physical relationship. It was all very slow and gradual, but it was constantly escalating. We were both riddled with guilt and tried to end things, but the allure of sin was strong.”
A postscript to the essay says:
Author's Note: In response to readers' concerns, the author of this piece has offered the following clarification: "I recognize that what I initially considered a consensual relationship was actually preying on a minor. Youth pastors who do the same are not "in relationship" but are indeed sexual predators. I take 100 percent of the responsibility for what happened."
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“I'm shocked and horrified to read this author's assertion that he had an "extramarital affair" with a teen. It is not an "affair" when he is in a position of power and authority over her - it is abuse,” wrote Rev. Elizabeth Dilley. “It is sexual abuse, and it is abuse of power and authority. I see nothing in this that is brave or courageous - he hides behind the shield of anonymity and avoids direct responsibility for taking advantage of a young woman.”
Twitter users have asked Leadership Journal, published by Christianity Today, to remove the essay using #TakeDownThisPost. The post remains.
“Leadership Journal allows a convicted child abuser a platform to manipulatively frame this as a story of personal selfishness and infidelity without one word about molestation, statutory rape, sexual grooming, or the abuse of power and children entrusted to the care of adults at a church,” blogger Susannah Paul wrote at The Smitten Word.
The ex-pastor warns others not to go down the same path and complains about his plight.
“When my wife discovered incriminating text messages on my phone, I knew instantly that everything was about to come crashing down," he wrote. "After hours of screaming and crying, she packed some bags, loaded our 2 kids into the minivan and left the house at 3 AM. I have not seen my kids since. It has been over a year.
“I lost my job, and was required to drop out of seminary,” he added. “I pleaded guilty to 2 felonies, am serving time in prison and will be a registered sex offender for the rest of my life.”
“Not once did he mention what he did to the girl, the church, or her family,” wrote an anonymous guest blogger at Redemption Pictures, who was also a victim of her youth pastor. “Not once did he mention the detrimental impact this will inevitably have on her for likely her entire life.
“Not once did he mention that what he called a friendship was really just a classic period of predatory grooming,” she added.
“I'm also curious why this story is told,” Dilley wrote. “To help shield others from a similar temptation? I would think that hearing the impact this sort of abuse has on a young person, written from their perspective, would convict any souls who could find themselves slipping into this sort of sin. When will the church stop spilling ink on the abusers and give time and energy to hearing the stories of those they abused? We don't need to forgive this man - but the church needs to apologize to its victims for creating systems where this abuse happens and repent of these sins.”