Calvary Gospel Church, Compassion, Crime, Forgiveness, Holiness Standards, Justice, Leadership, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

Following The Leader

Over the last year, I have written about how much it saddens me that the congregation within Calvary Gospel Church seems to have completely lost their hearts and capacity for compassion. I have turned this over in my head repeatedly and this post comes from the conclusions I have reached.

I believe that CGC is a cult of personality. In the beginning, it was focused on John Grant and now by extension his family. The congregation was mean spirited when I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s and it seems that it has only gotten worse over time. I do not see any evidence that CGC is all that interested in following what most folks would consider to be Christian principles. Instead they follow what the Grant family says and in some ways John Grant has replaced God in their hearts and beliefs. At the very least their version of Christianity is harsh and devoid of lovingkindness. There is a coldness present that leaves no room for understanding. It seems like a perversion of the gospel to blame victims and hide criminals.

When churches are run with such a strong leader in control of almost everything they run the risk of becoming cults and that is how I feel about both CGC and the UPC as a whole. When those in the pews hang on the words of the pastor or organization leadership and can no longer see the words within the Bible or hear the voice of God then haven’t they shifted into cult territory? There is such a strong focus on tongues but not on love. There is a legalistic focus on standards but very little is ever said about grace and grace is rarely shown, unless you are a man who has committed sexual sin against a child. Has the church board ever said no to John or Roy Grant? Have the elders ever called them into question? My guess is no because the church is set up to “question not God’s anointed.” Once in that territory, I would argue that the pastor can do almost anything and use hearing the voice of God to justify it. This doesn’t seem like a safe or sane situation to me. Because of this I firmly believe that the Grants have surpassed God in the hearts and minds of the rank and file within CGC. When I was a child they taught me that something becomes a cult when it is no longer Christ-centered. It seems to me that they have more than strayed into this area. Many people talk around the word cult and seem scared to apply it to the UPC but I am not one of those people.

It is shocking how they as a congregation can shut their eyes and ears to the stories coming from those who have walked away. Many of us were children when we attended and we grew up under the influence of the church, and many of us have had very similar outcomes. Pretty much everyone who has read my story and commented to me has said they are so sorry and sad about what I suffered as a child. The exception to this has been CGC and their leadership. They have referred to us as bringing damnation down on our heads, as bitter women, and as demon influenced, but have they spoken to any of us? Have they weighed our experiences against the Bible? What does the Bible say regarding people who harm children? No, they shut their eyes and ears and applaud the man who covered it all up. They believe it is them against all of the survivors never once considering the body of Christ might be more than just them. They seem to agree that protecting the church from scrutiny and Grant’s leadership from being called into question is more important than the lives of so many people.

Judgment features heavily within this congregation. Are you sick? Hmm better get your heart right so you can be healed. You must not have enough faith, better work on that. Are you poor? It’s probably because you are not tithing enough. God would bless you if you would be more perfectly in line with what the church teaches. Were you preyed upon by a pedophile, well you must have lead him on in some way. Anything that is wrong in your life or a hardship can be tied to some sin you must be guilty of. This puts the congregation in the role of guessing what your sin might be or standing in judgment instead of offering aid. I think all of this comes from John Grant and not the Bible. As a pastor and now bishop he has shaped the congregation into his own image. He has shown no compassion for the children driven from his congregation and seems more worried about his legacy and reputation. So why would we expect anything different from the congregation? If he or Roy were teaching the folks in the pews to love us and show compassion and mercy my guess is things might be different. If they were saying that older men with young underage women will no longer be tolerated then that would reflect in the congregation as well.

I’m not writing this as a takedown piece on John Grant or his family. I’m writing it to illuminate how far CGC has strayed from “normal” Christianity. I’m writing it in hopes that it wakes up even one person, saves one child from the fate I suffered, or even just causes someone to examine things a little closer.

Deb

Childhood, Compassion, Family, Forgiveness, Holiness Standards, Leadership, Parents, Poverty, Self Esteem, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

You Are Worthy

Today I want to tell you that you are worthy. If you were sexually abused as a child you are worthy. You did not draw that older man into sin. He made his choices and he was an adult. You were a child and children cannot consent. I am so sorry if the church did not protect you, love you, and help you to heal. You deserve love, support, and an apology. I am still stunned at Calvary Gospel’s silence. I am experiencing them as no more loving now than they were when I was a child.

You are worthy even if your family did not dress right, or if you are brown or black, and even if your family did not tithe enough. A child shouldn’t have to pay for their parent’s choices. None of us can control the color of our skin or the family we are born into. We certainly could not have controlled our parent’s actions.

You are worthy even if you made mistakes, snuck into the movies, or listened to top 40 radio when your parents were out. These things are not sins, they are a normal part of growing up. No one perfectly listens to the adults in their life. Normal human development dictates that teens challenge adults, it is how we grow and become independent.

You are worthy if you wore a slit in your skirt, asked too many questions, or got bored in church. If you kissed a boy behind the church camp auditorium when you were supposed to be inside, if you faked being sick to stay home from church, and even if you faked speaking in tongues because you were afraid to disappoint your parents.

I see you trying to pretend that you are ok, trying to heal, trying to deal with the coldness coming from the people who raised us. I see you dealing with trauma, being the family outcast, never being 100% sure if you made the right decision when you left the church. I see you wondering if you should have kept your mouth shut about it all.

I understand not being educated properly and how that stays with you all your life. I understand playing small, staying invisible, always waiting for something bad to happen. I understand feeling weird in the world like you can never quite fit in. I understand the world not understanding where we come from and how exhausting it can be to try to explain.

For the men out there I see you too. Struggling to come to terms with what has happened to the women you grew up with, ministered to, your sisters and friends. I see you having many of the same struggles as I have only different at the same time. I know that there are survivors among you and when you are ready to tell your story we will be there for you as you have been there for us.

Consider this my love letter to all the survivors out there no matter what your damage is. You are worthy. Please don’t let those who refuse to ask for forgiveness, who refuse to take responsibility, and who choose to stand in judgment rather than lend aid define you. I see you as strong, brave, and overcomers. We have overcome the lack of love, support, grace, and normal human kindness we should have received as kids. We have found each other and created a life raft for one another and any new survivors who choose to join us. You are good even if you are not perfect. You are worthy.

 

Childhood, Crime, Forgiveness, Leadership, Parents, Pastor John Grant, United Pentecostal Church

What About The Parents

Mom and I

As things have unfolded many people have asked me about my parents and their role in all of this. I have covered this at length here in my blog. Feel free to go back through the archives and you will see I do not let my parents off the hook. Some have said that the parents should be prosecuted for not reporting. My parents are no longer with us. I feel one thing that is missing in the discussion about parents is an understanding of how Calvary Gospel works.

I tell my truth here in MY blog. I believe that the UPC and Calvary Gospel are a cult. In Madison, the church revolves around John Grant and a cult of personality. He may be a bishop now and not the senior pastor but that doesn’t mean that his shadow doesn’t loom large. Everyone within the church is expected to follow him and “question not God’s anointed.” Parents often let the pastor make decisions that really should be made by parents. If the pastor says do not report to the police they will most likely do what he says. I’m not saying they are off the hook, but I am saying many of them are brainwashed. I would ask for the same understanding of these people as you would extend to any cult victim. I know that pastor Grant told one set of parents to let him worry about reporting and the perpetrator. He instructed them to go home and take care of their daughter. They took this to mean things were being taken care of.

There is a strong message of not bringing the police into the church. This is for many reasons, one is because it could bring scandal and shame onto the church. It might keep new folks from coming in and getting saved. This message is sent to both victims and their parents. You also have to understand that these people believe God will handle it all. God will forgive, the victim will forgive, her parents will forgive, and then it will all go away. Meanwhile, the young person who has been victimized is left to twist in the wind. Their feet having been set on a path of trauma and burden. They suffer the trauma of what has happened to them for the rest of their life and along with that so much more. The burden of not talking about things is big, move on and forgive no matter the cost. If you can’t do that (guess what most can’t) then the problem is with you. You haven’t truly forgiven, you’re not trusting God enough, God would heal you if you’d just figure out the formula and get over it.

Parents have often gone to the pastor for help. “Please keep this creep away from my daughter” they cry! They might inquire as to why 30+-year-old men hang out with the youth group. Often they are labeled trouble makers and dismissed and ignored. Here is where the real struggle is…they are taught that the UPC is the only place you can go to be saved. Calvary Gospel is the place or another oneness church. No one else has the truth. So they feel they must keep attending and bringing their babies to the church. So what do you do? If we don’t go to church there our babies won’t be saved, if we do go to church there the creepy guy is going to keep trying to groom our daughter. Plus the pastor seems to think we are nuts or overreacting. They are taught that the church is a godly place, a safe place and that the pastor is head over it all. This is why he is responsible. You can’t say “question not God’s anointed” and expect people to trust and obey their pastor when he makes good choices and then not also apply this when he makes wrong decisions.

In the end, the whole thing is about control and image. Children are sacrificed so that the church can continue to look superior. John Grant is crying about his reputation. His reputation is more important to him than the lives of so many who have been hurt by his decisions and leadership. Hell and damnation hang in the balance for these parents. They have been taught that if you go against your pastor or take your family out of the church you will go to hell. A literal hell burning you forever and ever hell. You might miss the rapture and your children might have to be beheaded to gain entrance into heaven. Many of these parents make the best choices they can and they now fully admit the choices were wrong and they were misled. Other parents see what is happening and allow it to happen because honestly, that is the church culture. You see it everywhere! Older guys and younger women. Because you cannot date outside the church some parents are just glad their daughter is being pursued by a “godly man.” Many parents would never expect that these men are trying to have sex with their daughters. Sex outside of marriage is forbidden. Plus the pastor sees all of this and says nothing. No one ever tells the men to stop, so it seems as if he condones the behavior and since he is like a god it leaves people confused.

Some of the men prey on kids like me who had sick parents. My mom sent me to church believing I would be safe and that anyone who attended could be trusted because they were God’s people. She trusted pastor Grant. I went to my pastor and not my mother because he was the highest authority I could go to. My mother had no control over Steve but pastor Grant did. Pastor Grant was the biggest man I knew, the highest figure in my life besides God. As a little girl I went to the man I thought had God’s ear and I told him my troubles. Sure my mother should have done more, but this doesn’t mean that pastor Grant has no responsibility. I spent more time at church than I did at home. Not a single person, pastor Grant or church member ever checked in on me. No one prayed with me or asked me if I needed a friend or support. Wouldn’t you think he would have directed people to take care of me knowing what he knew? Instead, I held all my truth inside and it crippled me.

I hope this helps folks to understand. As I stated previously please go back and read some of my other posts.

D

 

 

Justice, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Letting The Sunshine In

Yesterday was a big day for the survivors of Calvary Gospel Church. Rebecca Martin Byrd and I spoke at a press conference regarding two bills. One would end the statue of limitations for sexual assault survivors and one would deal with the clergy loophole regarding mandatory reporting. You can watch here…

https://www.facebook.com/representative.taylor/videos/506129963263512/

We were also featured in an article in our local paper.

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/stolen-childhoods-women-allege-they-were-sexually-abused-as-kids/article_22c01351-890d-5bac-8790-d701b1f31c3a.html

I cannot begin to explain how good it felt to be heard and to receive the support of so many people. This morning I woke up to more survivors coming forward to tell me their stories. It saddens me to know there are more survivors but I’m so happy they have found their way to us. It is my intent to continue to drag these stories out into the light.

I feel that we’re all lighthouses, and my job is to shine my light as brightly as I can to the darkness.”  Jim Carrey

I will not stop not matter how tired I am and right now I’m pretty tired. I have been fighting off tears all morning as I go about my work. Nothing about this is easy and for those who think we are doing this for fame or revenge I cannot begin to tell you how wrong you are. No one seeks out this burden. Putting your darkest wounds out for the public to see is not easy or something most people desire. Nevertheless I will continue to tell my story and the stories of others until we see justice. We have been called devils and and it has been said that we are bringing damnation down on our heads. No one from Calvary Gospel has reached out to speak with us to either apologize or to ask for more information about what happened to us.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown

Although many of us have suffered sexual assault that is not the only way Calvary Gospel has wounded people. As much as I want the stories of sexual assault to be revealed I want all of the other stories to be brought into the light. So many people have been impacted by a constant fear of hell and the rapture. Some folks have been severely financially affected, and some have had their self-worth destroyed. Many survivors have struggles with making up for a subpar education and always feeling like they don’t fit in. Social awkwardness is not uncommon. Many of us never recieved any comfort or love following our abuse. We were forced to suffer alone and in silence during our childhood. All this makes just living your life so much harder.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” Brené Brown

People have asked me how they can help. If you are in Wisconsin you can call your representatives and ask them to support the bills that were introduced yesterday. You can also help by sharing our story in as many places as possible. Change is hard and it requires all of us to do our part. If you are a survivor you can help by coming forward and telling your story. We will be here waiting for you and ready to stand beside you.

An extra thanks goes out to Representative Chris Taylor for being our champion. Her willingness to listen to our stories has meant so much. Katelyn Ferral who wrote about us for the Cap Times did an amazing job throwing open the windows and letting the light in!

Warrior Women
Working together for justice!