Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Pastor John Grant, racism, Shame, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

More On Racism and Calvary Gospel Church

Growing up half Mexican and attending Calvary Gospel was an odd experience at times. There were people who seemed to view me as white and then there were others who made it clear that they saw me as a person of color. The Grant’s real feelings about things were never spoken of over the pulpit and so when I was confronted with them it always surprised me. An adult once told me that the church did not believe in interracial marriage. When I asked about the people who I knew had interracial children I was told that if you were in an interracial marriage before you were saved it was ok. Hmmm ok, even as a kid that seemed off to me. As a person not seen as white or black I lived in this weird out of place world where I felt I did not fit in anywhere. Plus no one would give me straight answers about where I fit in, everything was communicated in looks and second-hand information.

Darlene Grant pastor Grant’s wife never spoke to me, I mean never, unless she was delivering criticism. If she said something to me regarding the school or the youth choir there was always a sharp edge to it even when there was no need for it. She communicated her dislike with every glance and I was left to wonder what I could have done to deserve her attitude. I suspect it had to do with Steve Dahl but who knows it could have been for a multitude of reasons.

Once or twice a year our church would be visited by a very popular evangelist. His name was Brother Hightower. He was very animated and funny and everyone loved it when he would pass through town with his family. He would pack the house and the altar would be filled with people. These revivals would last for up to two weeks and they had the feel of a festival. Less boring than a normal church service because they were more fun and more high energy. This particular event happened when I was about 13 years old. The Hightowers were in town and they brought their son who was the same age as me. The whole family was very sweet to me. It was clear that they did not view me the same way the Grants seemed to. Their son was kind of sweet on me and he would ask to sit by me and my friends during church. His mother was very strict about behavior during church but she didn’t seem to mind him sitting with us. One day he asked me if he could have my phone number and I said sure. We liked each other but it was strictly a very puppy love situation. He was only in town for a couple of weeks and I imagine it was hard to travel with your parents and not have any friends your age around. Somehow the Grants got wind of him asking for my phone number and I bet you can imagine how that went over.

One night after church Sister Grant sat down next to me. She asked if she could speak to me for a moment. This sent my heart up into my chest because she never came bearing good news. She informed me that I was not to sit next to my new friend anymore and if he called me I shouldn’t talk to him. She also forbid me to explain to him why I was no longer speaking to or sitting with him. Better to just cut it all off, because in her words, “We do not believe the way they do.” I couldn’t tell him why because it might offend them and pastor Grant did not want that to happen. So she laid in my lap rejecting the friendship of this sweet boy and forbid me to explain thus making me feel like a monster. She did not care how this action would make me look to him or his family. She was expecting me to be a mean girl in order to save her and pastor Grant from having the adult conversation they should have had with the Hightowers if that was so important to them. I will take this time to remind you that I was 13.

It felt like what they were saying is, you are too brown to be white, but too light to be black. They would not have wanted me to marry their son, but they also did not want me to be friends with this black boy who was infatuated with me. Can you see how this was all so confusing to me? I also feel that they thought this black family was good enough to come and minister/entertain them and their congregation but they were not good enough to have an honest conversation with or to “mix” with too much. They did not bring this situation to my parents they plopped it into my lap and left me feeling like I had once again done something really wrong. Over time I would see this kind of attitude play out over and over. Church kids (mostly white) don’t really mix with Sunday school bus kids even if those kids had been attending for years. I would befriend these mostly black kids because I worked the bus route and they were my age. By choosing this action I was ensuring even more side-eyes from the adults around me. Eventually, you get to the point where you recognize that no matter what you do they will look at you that way so you just give up.

I know that the church has changed some over the years. I am only speaking regarding my experience. As a side note, before the Hightowers left Sister Hightower pulled aside and told me that if I was ever in their hometown I was welcome in their home anytime. She smiled sweetly to me and I had the feeling she could see what was really going on. That gave me some relief from the shame I was feeling, shame that did not belong to me but to the adults in this twisted situation.

 

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, 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┬átruth 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