Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Sign of Hope Among the Mayhem in Church Abuse

Why do bloggers expose church leaders who abuse?  Because there is a PROBLEM.  The problem leaves lasting effects - sometimes eternally.  We will never know the full outcome of destruction caused by pastors who abuse - whether they abuse spiritually, sexually, emotionally, etc.  And church leaders will not be motivated to fix anything until they first see the problem.  This is why many of us blog - this problem needs to be addressed head on.

It is emotionally draining to read and sift through so many stories of abuse,  but the bloggers and readers that I am personally connected with are driven by either something they have seen or have personally experienced and know that these stories must be told.  

A friend/reader sent me an article this morning and wow - the emotions -   I got teary-eyed and a little excited reading it.  This pastor GETS IT!!    Lord, please let his voice speak LOUDLY about this issue.   This is definitely an article to share.  I encourage you to Tweet it, share it on Facebook, send it to your pastors and church leaders.  I am highlighting a few paragraphs, but please read the whole article which is posted at the Gospel Coalition website.  

Does Your Church Have Policies and Practices to Protect Against Pastoral Failures?  by Thabiti Anyabwile

Remember the names Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, and Jack Schaap?  Scandal among evangelical pastors has been so steady that wikipedia has a list of evangelical scandals.
While working on a chapter for an upcoming book, I had the blessing of researching the moral failures of several prominent church pastors.  I say “blessing” because it was enlightening to observe some common dynamics and failures in the scandals.  In most cases, men who should have been disqualified were back in their pulpits or establishing new ministries within months.  In most cases, churches were seriously injured by the transgressions and hurt further by the inadequate efforts at redress.  In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit.  It was a sobering exercise.

DING, DING, DING:  Did you read that sentence, " In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit. "  BINGO!!!!    We see this alarming pattern time and again.  It is spiritual abandonment.  The victim is hurt TWICE:  once with the initial abuse and then by not being properly cared for or abandoned.  

In the article, Anyabwile quotes a paragraph from researchers Diana R. Garland and Christen Argueta about grooming.  It is excellent.  Unfortunately, people who need help and are emotionally distraught are the ones most vulnerable for grooming.  They are in a very weak place and of course, abusers can sense that weakness and in their sin, hone in on it:

Grooming includes expressions of admiration and concern, affectionate gestures and touching, talking about a shared project, and sharing of personal information (Carnes, 1997; see also Garland, 2006).  Grooming may be gradual and subtle, desensitizing the congregant to increasingly inappropriate behavior while rewarding her for tolerance of that behavior.  Offenders may use religious language to frame the relationship, such as “You are an answer to my prayer; I asked God for someone who can share my deepest thoughts, prayers, and needs and he sent me you” (Liberty, 2001, p. 85). Grooming is essentially seduction in a relationship in which a religious leader holds spiritual power over the congregant. 

The final paragraph rightly concludes with a call to action.  The author first acknowledges he has his own work to do at his church.  

Does your staff, leadership team, elders and congregation have a set of practices and policies that help guard against the moral failure of leaders and to address it when it happened?  After reading sifted through a fair number of recent articles and scandals, I’m freshly convinced I need to lead First Baptist’s leaders through discussions and proposals on this issue.  The costs are too high to neglect with inattention.
Let us pray for the protection, wisdom, and sanctification of both church leaders and church members.  Let us intercede against the schemes of the evil one.  And let us be prepared to respond in cases of scandal with love and justice as defined by the scripture.  Again, so much is at stake. 

I love this.  Let's hope Anyabwile's motivation to work on a plan for protection is contagious among church leaders and members.

photo credit: Joshua Daniel O. via photopin cc

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Judge Decides in Defamatory Case: Dentist Saleh Mo against Former Patient

This is off topic, but I had to share a follow-up to the story a few weeks ago Dentist Mo Saleh Sues Former Patient for Defamation Because of Negative Review.   It amazed me that with the recent publicity in Portland about my defamatory case, an area dentist decided to sue a patient who left him a negative review at and other review sites.  My case was covered on all Portland major news stations and beyond and one might think my case would serve as an example to deter foolish lawsuits.  I guess not for Dr. Saleh.   In this case, Dr. Saleh sought $300,000 in damages.  

Earlier today a couple comments come through on that particular blog post.  They were from the defendant in the case, Spencer Bailey:

WOOHOOOOOOO!!!    A big congratulations to YOU, Spencer.  I'm cheering in Eastern Washington for you!!!  What a sweet victory!  Go celebrate!

Here's the new article:

Dentist loses suit after fmr. patient criticizes him online
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – A dentist, who sued a former patient for defamation, had his lawsuit thrown out Thursday.
A judge decided the critical comments made on review site and other sites were free speech.
"I'm disgusted. I'm actually really disgusted," said dentist Mo Saleh, who tried to sue his former client, Spencer Bailey, for defamation after finding negative reviews on the Internet. "The reason I'm risking opportunity and risking this negative exposure is because I feel that this is wrong."

The Anti-SLAPP law was used in this case as was mine.  Spencer Bailey's was represented by attorneys Jeremiah Ross and Linda Williams (my attorney).   Here's a little more about the Anti-SLAPP law and how beneficial it is to those post publicly:

Businesses can sometimes file those suits to quiet criticism. But the Anti-SLAPP law can be a friend to those who are taken to court, giving them free speech protection when they make comments in a public forum and concern a public interest, which a site like YELP seeks to serve. 

"It's not easy to be sued and dragged into court," said Jeremiah Ross, the attorney who represented Bailey. "Just as we anticipated, they couldn't prove their case because it wasn't a defamatory statement." 

Yea, for FREE SPEECH!!! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Calvary Chapel Pastor Pastor Bob Grenier: Stories of Abuse As Told by His Children

'What brings a person to ruin?  It’s simple.  It’s a one-word concept given to us in the Bible.  It’s called “sin.”  You see, one thing that people have in common is the problem of sin.' . . . Pastor Bob Grenier, A Common Miracle

After reading story after story of misconduct, abuse, cover-ups, it makes me wonder - - - - did Pastor Bob Grenier actually read the quote he wrote above?  It's mind-boggling when one can clearly see sin in the lives of others, call it out, yet completely miss it in their own life.  

Last week, I published an article about the impending defamation lawsuit between Calvary Chapel Visalia/Pastor Bob and Gayle Grenier and Alex Grenier and 4 others listed.  Today I am spotlighting the Bob Grenier family and the abuse that Alex and others have alleged on the Calvary Abuse blog.  

I thought I was getting emotionally tugged into the Calvary Chapel Visalia story because of the potential lawsuit, but as I've been digging deeper, I've discovered that our stories have quite a few similarities.  In fact, I was so shocked that we had so many strange coincidences, I sent Alex an e-mail listing some of them - also advising him to play creepy music in the background while reading (being a musician, all emotional events require background music, you see).  Here, I'll give you something to play while reading.  It's only 29 seconds long:

Things Julie Anne has in common with Alex: 
parents divorced 
raised by step-dads who abused us our entire childhood 
step-dads played drums
lived in Oregon and California
have suffered spiritual abuse
maintain blogs dealing with abuse in the church 
have been sued (or about to be sued)
family connections in Visalia

Isn't that crazy?  I'm still shaking my head.

Going back to Alex's blog, it seemed pretty evident in reading the countless stories that there was a clear pattern of abuse, denial, illegal activities, cover-ups, with accounts from many people, not just Alex and his family members.  

Alex shared with me a bit of the family background:

My mom was 'saved' in the Church Tent Jesus Movement days of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (Lonnie Frisbee, Chuck Smith, etc). My real dad was a hippy drummer and he was 'saved' in the Tent as well. Both were druggie hippies saved in the very early days of the Calvary Chapel Movement.

Alex's parents were married.  Alex was born first and one year later, his brother, Geoff.  His parents had marital difficulties and ended up divorcing when Alex was around 3 or 4 years of age.  After the divorce, Alex's mom, Gayle, moved and eventually ended up at the Shiloh Commune in Dexter, Oregon.  Shiloh was called a "hippy commune".

Wikipedia describes Shiloh Commune:

The Shiloh Youth Revival Centers movement was the largest Jesus People communal movement in the United States in the 1970s. Founded by John Higgins in 1968 as a small communal house – House of Miracles – in Costa Mesa, CA, the movement quickly grew to a very large movement catering mostly to disaffected college-age youth. There were over 100,000 people involved and 175 communal houses established during its lifespan.
Two years after the movement's founding, Higgins and some of the core members of the movement bought 90 acres (360,000 m2) of land near Dexter, Oregon and built a new headquarters which they called "The Land". The movement grew quickly until the mid-1970s when increasing competition and high turn-over rates likely slowed its growth.  

It was at the Shiloh Commune where Gayle met Bob Grenier.  Bob had recently been "saved" after being a drug dealer and drug smuggler.  This is detailed in his book, A Common Miracle.

Bob and Gayle married when Alex was 5 years old.  They left Shiloh Commune and moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Bob pastored Calvary Chapel Eugene for a brief period of time.  Alex remembers his first instance of child abuse not long after they were married and recounts the story here:  Jar of Change.

Bob eventually met Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel, and accepted the pastorate at Visalia, CA.    This was around 1977.  

When Alex was 10 years old, Paul was born (parents Bob and Gayle)  One year later, Robert/Bobby Jr. was born.  So, the Grenier children include:  Alex and Geoff (from Gayle's prior marriage), then ten years later, Paul and then Robert, Jr., (Bobby)  from the marriage of Bob and Gayle.

The abuse continued for Alex - the worst period was from ages 10 yrs through high school.   According to Alex, Bob would lose his temper and physically abuse.

WARNING:  Beyond this point, I will sharing personal accounts of physical abuse and it is quite disturbing.   If this is a trigger for you, please do not read further.   ~ja

Alex describes the abuse he incurred here:

I have personally witnessed and been the victim of the physical child abuse.    We aren’t talking gray area here…clear cut State-defined abuse including, but not limited to:   hitting with objects causing deep purple bruises on the lower back, backs of legs and buttocks.    Drawing blood.     Hitting in the face full force with the palm of the hand.      Hitting in the face with a closed fist.      Locking in a small closet.      Kicking.      Pushing into walls.      Grabbing violently.      Yelling and threatening and cursing.      Beating over the entire body…head to toe…with the branch of a mulberry tree leaving cuts and bruises.      The number of abusive acts are too numerous to count.      The memories are quite painful.      It was, literally, a living hell.

On the Calvary Abuse website, Alex mentioned being very uncomfortable around his step-dad:

Bob’s a creepy dude. I am 10 years older than Paul and while I wasn’t molested, Bob did make me shower naked with (him) [sic] many times which gives me the creeps and he also made it a regular habit of walking around the house naked with his genitals exposed to us throughout our childhood and teen years. Again, creepy and now knowing what I know it makes me sick. 

And as every victim of child abuse knows, there is the perpetrator and usually an enabler who knows what is going on, but does not get involved and allows the abuse to continue, in this case, Alex's mom, Gayle Grenier.  Alex shares an incident he had with his mother here:

I confronted my mom around 7 years ago in my kitchen at our old home in Visalia about the abuse.  I told her she shared in the responsibility for all the abuse that happened to us and I told her I blamed her for not protecting us.  I told her she was an adult and should have put a stop to it.  She broke down in tears and softened tremendously.
I didn’t see her again for around a couple of weeks.  When she resurfaced she was in cold robot mode and soon after we never saw her again.  She stopped seeing our daughter, her granddaughter and it was over.  Bob took her away.

Folks, the residual effects of abuse continues to this day - it can last more than a childhood - and sometimes goes into adulthood and even through generations.  In this case, a grand-daughter has lost her opportunity to have normal relationship with her grandma.   Healthy grandparents usually play such an important role in the lives of their grandchildren - sharing wonderful times together, building their relationship, etc.   Alex's daughter apparently has none of this.  In an abusive family system, the abuse takes center attention over relationships.  Time is spent in denial, covering up, hiding, doing anything, but looking at the reality of abuse which is sitting right smack in front of them.  What a waste and a tragedy.  My heart breaks for the very innocent victims, not only Alex and his brothers, but for the grandchildren.

Here, Geoff (brother #2) describes in a letter to his mother, Gayle, about his experiences:

> Bob has made his peace with me and I still forgive him. It’s a dead issue between us. Bob needs to address it and reconcile with Alex and Paul. EVERYTHING ALEX DESCRIBED IN HIS LETTER TO BOB HAPPENED!!!!!!! PERIOD.>> If you choose to lie and say it never happened and that Alex and Paul are lying I am prepared to produce a laundry list of people including neighbors, coaches, ex classmates (who used to make fun of the welts on my butt, back and legs, in the showers) and friends that I confided in real time while it was going on. There are also two people that witnessed first hand me being screamed at and smacked in the face repeatedly while I was forced to hold my hands to my side.>

And now we'll read from Alex's younger brother, Paul's account (full story here).  Paul is the 3rd son in the family, Bob Grenier's biological son.  I have copied a portion here and added paragraphs to make it easier to read.   Keep in mind, this is only a portion of the full text.

“I wanted to expound on what my brother wrote in regards to brutality. I haven’t commented publicly on this issue, but reading through these posts has brought up memories and feelings that I have tried to numb and forget.

I want to talk a bit about what it is to be brutal. Brutal is making your children watch while one of your brothers is beaten, punched and kicked. Brutal is laughing at your child after you have beaten and humiliated him in front of his family. Brutal is hitting your child with a wooden log all over his body. Brutal is making your children go in the backyard and “pick the switch” that they will be whipped with all over their backs and buttocks. Brutal is making your child count out loud the number of times they will be hit. Brutal is making your child thank you and tell them how wonderful and responsible it is that you just beat them.

Brutal is locking your child in a small, dark closet. Brutal is punching your child in the face and then kicking him out his home because you are so afraid that it is going to be front page news that you are a child abuser disguised as a Pastor. Brutal is then kicking that child out and laughing at him because you have cut him off from his mothers and brothers. Brutal is not letting your wife talk to her son for 10 years. Brutal is threatening the rest of your children that they will be cut off if they talk to their estranged brother.

Brutal is telling your child to put their hands behind their backs and that it is ok because you aren’t going to hit them. Brutal is then hitting that child in the face so hard that they fall to the ground. Brutal is humiliating, degrading, and psychologically torturing your children for hours on end and then calling it a day and expecting everything to go back to “normal”. Brutal is ruining your son and soon to be daughter-in-law’s wedding day because you refuse to take family pictures with your estranged son and behave like a grown, civilized adult.

Brutal is making your child eat an entire pack of cigarettes and swallow them and laugh at them as they vomit and cry because they tried smoking in high school. Brutal is telling your children you don’t love them. Brutal is telling your children you wished they were never born and you never planned on having them. Brutal is beating one child so badly that they are scared and whimpering like a small animal, and then having another one of your children sit on your lap and profess how they are your favorite and how much you love them. Brutal is watching your older brother and sister-in-law in agony over the fact that they might lose their newborn baby boy.

Brutal is watching your brother call your Mom to come down and your Mom not responding. Brutal is hearing from others how sad your Mom is that she doesn’t have a relationship with her children and grandchildren. Brutal is then seeing your Mom in public and having her walk right by you like she didn’t know you from Adam. Brutal is hearing that your youngest brother called one of his older brothers on Mother’s Day (not a great day for us) and having him glibly ask how his Mother’s Day is going.

Sadly, in this account,  the story gets more complicated and very messy.   Paul shares the extremely personal and painful experience of being sexually abused by his father  in this article:

I have agonized over what I am about to share.  I was the victim of sexual abuse in our home at the hands of my father. That is all the detail I will give publicly.

And then Paul describes his relationship with his younger brother, Bobby/Robert Jr.  Robert is the youngest of the four boys in the family. The following paragraphs summarize the family dysfunction well:

I have spoken privately to some about it.  I most recently spoke to a class action child abuse attorney along with my brother, Alex, and sister-in-law, Amy, about what was done to me.  I would prefer not to share such a horrific thing I lived through but I continue to be attacked and maligned by Bob, Gayle, and Robert.  I feel that at every turn I have tried to take the high road and be as gracious as possible.  I have been backed in a corner and have no choice but to make a public statement. 

If you attend Calvary Chapel Visalia I would keep your children as far away from Bob and Robert as possible.  They are both evil people who will not give a second thought to hurting you and will actively try to destroy your life.  Bob has ruined multiple family relationships and marriages in his tenure at Calvary.

I will say this and say it once.  I was raised by the Bob the monster.  I survived it.  I was raised by a drug addicted, abuse condoning, abhorrent mother.  I survived it.  I grew up with a mentally disturbed younger brother.  I survived it.  I have been slandered and maligned by Bob’s inner circle. I survived it.  I can promise you this: anything Bob, Gayle, and Robert throw my way. I will survive it and be stronger because of it.  Bob could not break my will and spirit when I was a child and he nor anyone else associated with him will be able to do so today.

Bob, Gayle, and Robert want a fight. They’ve got one and a worthy opponent in me.  Dysfunction breeds dysfunction.  If I have to spend the rest of my life defending myself against them and keeping them out of my life I will do it.  And I will survive that too.

In addition to losing his temper and abusing the children, Alex recounts the abuse of his mother by his step-dad and pastor, Bob Grenier:

Yes, Bob was very abusive to my mom, screamed and yelled, broke stuff in front of her in rages (there’s a specific instance he actually shared from the pulpit joking about it. He picked a wooden chair up over his head in a rage and put a gash in the popcorn ceiling and then smashed it into pieces on the floor in front of all of us. He laughed as if it was no big deal when recounting the ordeal, we were all scared to death that he was going to kill us). 
I remember Bob dragging my mom to the back bedroom often and then locking the door and then the screams, yelling, crying that ensued. 
Geoff says he saw Bob smack her around, Paul says he saw Bob on top of her choking her.

Ok, I have gotten over the abuse I incurred as a child, but even so, this stuff is very difficult to read.  But I have a hunch some might say - - - this is Alex's blog - - - he can say what he wants publicly and he expects us to believe it?  He may just have a personal vendetta against his father.  Yea, I get the naysayers.   How can we know for certain this is true?    I'll save you the trouble from looking.   I  found more accounts from others outside the family who make their observations known.  This first comes from a former board member of Calvary Chapel Visalia:

Regarding the allegations of abuse from his sons, I distinctly remember that Bob told the Board that he had gotten very angry at Geoff, and had hit him in the face.   Bob seemed very repentant, and even asked us if we thought he should step down from the ministry.  In questioning him, he said that it had only happened once, that Geoff deserved discipline, but that he had lost his temper and unfortunately struck Geoff.  Knowing what the boys are now alleging, I shudder to think that Bob was only using his sorrow as a way to say he had told his Board, and that he was told not to step down.  Bob also told me many horrible things about Geoff, Alex and Paul, to justify their estrangement – my response was to advise him to not be vindictive, to forgive, to ask for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation.  I believe Bob’s hard heart toward his sons, has led to great harm to the Church, the name of our Lord and to his personal ministry.

Alex reports:

"This CCV board member gave testimony that was presented to Chuck Smith that reports that Bob made a confession of punching Geoff to the Calvary Chapel Visalia Board in 1988.  The Board didn't report the abuse and covered it up.  Much more abuse happened after that, including Paul's molestation allegations."

And then more outside reports here from Alex:

My aunt Kathy Martin testified on a police report that she witnessed Bob striking Geoff in the head/face in a rage. There's personal first-hand testimony of me, Geoff and Paul to the physical abuse. And even Robert/Bobby Jr. let it slip to a mutual friend Shaun Bagley (a 41 year old male nurse in Visalia) bragging that Bob used to beat us up. I have Aunt Kathy's testimony and Shaun's.

To summarize:  

Bob and Gayle Grenier - were shown in the above accounts as abuser and enabler, leaving a path of destruction and abuse in the lives of their sons, Alex, Geoff, and Paul.  Bobby/Robert Jr., however, seems to have followed in the footsteps of his father, exhibiting troubling signs of abuse and discounts the testimonies of his brothers, siding with his father and mother.  This is indeed a very complicated internal family mess.  It is important to note, however, that countless outsiders, including a long-time church board member vouched for the abuse, others filed police testimonies or accounts, and at Alex's blog, there are quite a few comments from outside witnesses who validate the complaints of Alex, Geoff, and Paul.   The stories I have highlighted only involve abuse within the family.  

I have just scratched the surface of this story, sadly.  Sometimes abusers keep abuse solely within the family.  In this case, we find accounts of abuse extending outside the family into Bob Grenier's "work" environment as Pastor of Calvary Chapel Visalia.  The next post in this series will detail personal accounts of the abuse which extended outside the family and into the church and work environment.

photo credit: Waleed Alzuhair via photopin cc

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blogger Faces Possible Excommunication

There appears to be an ongoing problem with churches and spiritual abuse bloggers.  I've been sued for blogging about my former church, attorneys for Calvary Chapel Visalia are apparently working on a defamation lawsuit against blogger Alex Grenier, YouTube blogger, Kevin Oliver had his YouTube account deactivated after posting this video:


Kevin sued YouTube and later had his account reinstated.  I'm anticipating the day when there will be conferences around the country presenting workshops on how to deal with contentious spiritual abuse bloggers.  Panels of experts will be flown in to discuss legal measures to take against bloggers.  Those who have successfully shut down blogs or won lawsuits will be given a platform.   Support groups to connect with others who are suffering emotionally from being exposed relentlessly on the world wide web will be offered, books will be sold, etc.

I imagine there will soon be a whole new crop of blogs against spiritual abuse bloggers.  We've already seen blogger, Fred Butler, who has featured a handful of posts on "survivor bloggers".  I smell it in the air.  Meanwhile, here's another story in the news about a blogger and his church.

Mormon blogger says he faces church slap-down, possible excommunication

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – A Mormon blogger in Florida typed his way into national headlines when he recently went public about facing possible disciplinary action from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
David Twede, who says he’s a fifth-generation Mormon, is the managing editor, an online publication that invites debate and open discussion about the LDS Church.
Late last week, The Daily Beast reported that after writing articles critical of GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Twede, 47, said he was called into church offices in Orlando, Florida, where he was “interrogated” and given “cease and desist” orders.
At the end of this meeting, Twede says on his personal blog that he was handed a letter, which he has posted online. The letter, which spells his name incorrectly, requests that he appear before a disciplinary council on September 30. It states that he is being considered for disciplinary action “including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have been in apostasy.”