May 24, 2023
Dear Wisconsin Friends,
It was encouraging to be with the other Wisconsin workers & our host family today. Nice to see each continuing in their calling with a deep care for the needs of each in this unsettled time.
It seems necessary to clarify the situation regarding former prisoners here in Wisconsin. To our knowledge the following men in the state have spent time in prison for sex crimes (some underage): Randy Schill, Howard Ferguson, & Price Turner III (all of Appleton) received the gospel while they were in prison. Troy Thompson (Oshkosh) & Enos Bontrager (Fond du Lac) were attending mtgs before their incarceration. Sometime after their release little Sun am & Wed eve groups were formed where there were no children (one mtg now has a family w/a 17 y.o. son). All in those mtgs know their past, have learned about & despise sexual abuse, but care for souls & willingly chose to meet with them. Professionals have advised that those who have a spiritual support group have a much higher success not repeating offence than those completely ostracized from society. If any effort could save one more child from tragedy (whether in our fellowship or not) it seems worth it. The past couple years the former prisoners Price & Howard have attended some of the gospel mtgs in Appleton, each with an individual professing man as a monitor (trained regarding CSA); they sat with them & were to stay with them until leaving the premises. This all was done with full knowledge of, approval of & under the guidance of their parole officer. Though we felt it was being done safely & legally, we have discontinued that & asked that they NOT attend gospel meeting, special mtg or convention (to our knowledge none of these 5 men have been at any special mtg or convention in Wisconsin since their release from prison). John Hahn (Crivitz) also received the gospel in prison (for an adult crime). He works a lot, but occasionally meets with a small group who all know his past. He has agreed not to attend Special Mtgs or Convention. They weren’t to attend mtgs out of the area & the local friends knew, but I’m very sorry for any misunderstandings that have been caused by a lack of communication or consideration! If any Wisconsin friends have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact any of the workers here or myself.
We are continuing to pursue further education regarding CSA & a better understanding how to be a support for survivors of it. We realize we aren’t trained counselors though and encourage people to reach out for professional help. We are working on more information to share, as education seems to be one of our best defenses.
Please pray for us as we certainly want to do what is right in God’s sight. We haven’t always made all the right decisions but have desperately wanted to and tried to in the fear of God. Please Take Care!!
Your brothers, Eric & Glenn
It has become clear to me that It would be impossible to be an overseer without knowing and having some part in this cover up and moving around of preditors.
My family has made the choice to leave this fellowship, we simply cannot be a part of or support this any longer. We are hopefull that we will meet again but not under these men.
We have never had a voice in this fellowship so we feel our only option to help the victims is to send alarm bells by leaving. Others in our area have made the same choice and we will be meeting with them in a meeting that Jesus will sanction with His presence.
Hi Protective Dad, what area are you? What changes would you make?
Changes, thanks for asking. First of all we’re all a little shell shocked but we do feel peace with our decision. We feel the #1 thing is the Spirit has to be free to lead and guide. When we made our declaration of separation we knew the test would be if we still felt the Holy Spirit. We do still feel the Spirit and maybe even more than before. We can no longer feel comfortable because we’re in the “only right way” we have to lean on Jesus 100% now and we feel that’s a safe place to be.
For now the only change is to separate from the organization, continue meeting in Jesus name, and seek out direction from the Holy Spirit.
We are in Wisconsin.
Please help this make sense to me. You cannot “support this any longer” and your “only option to help the victims is to send alarm bells by leaving”. Alarm bells ARE ringing and loudly. Positive change is happening. Victims ARE being helped. Future victims ARE being prevented. Your voice HAS been heard and oversight is responding by making BIG changes in current leadership practice and setting future leadership precedent. This and recent letters are evidence of that. All this recent transparency and dialogue and positive change seems like it should be earning your support, not the opposite.
Mferguson, thank you for your love and concern. You make some really good points however this is my perspective.
This is not the first time these issues have surfaced, far from it. In every case over the years this has been handled similar to how it’s being handled now, yes this is getting more traction than normal but only because it’s being forced. Man created this problem, it won’t be fixed by men and certainly not the same men that created the mess. Please settle your thoughts and consider the seriousness of what has transpired. Innocent children, women, and men have been abused and when it was discovered the abusers were sent to mix with families who were not warned which furthered the abuse! As time has gone on it becomes clear that the problem is not isolated but is systemic. It breaks my heart to have to take this step, it’s a beautiful thing when a life is given for the ministry.
This is much deeper than training or bullet points can fix. The step we have taken is also for the sake of those who have given their lives to the ministry and are being ruled by these same cruel men.
And it is cruel to know of abusers and not warn the sheep. Many wonderfull workers have been demoted and pushed out when they took a stand against csa/sa.
The steps being taken are making people feel better but they won’t ultimately change the deep rooted issues. I know where your at, I chose to stand and fight for years. If the Holy Spirit moves you to stand and fight then stand and fight you must. I’m following what the Spirit has led me to do.
Protective Dad: Thanks for the response. What you say makes sense.
I think (& pray) that the steps being taken WILL change the deep rooted issues, but only time will tell. I know the change feels disingenuous since it’s “forced”,
but I’m happy with the change regardless of motivation. I feel it’s a smallish fraction of workers tainting the whole. I also feel there are many, many workers who haven’t agreed with how things have been handled in the past and are beyond relieved at the change happening now. I hope that if this change does happen, that the leadership can again earn your respect. All the best to you in your new path. Such deep prayer and searching that your decision has undoubtedly inspired is bound to bring you closer to Jesus. I’m sure you will be missed by many.
Hi Protective Dad,
Sorry to hear that. Wishing you the very best. I understand the reasons when we look back at letters for 25 years. That’s a long time of victims crying out to deaf ears.
We all want a honest transparent ministry. I pray a cleansing takes place. Otherwise there will be a big split and those Overseers and supporters will be left and Good Honest Workers and friends will start afresh.
Sadfriend, thank you for the kind words, it’s plain to see God has given you wisdom.
Starting afresh resonates with me.
Many are desperate for it, I guess this is my fresh start.
Protective dad, your choice of pseudonym resonates with me. I have 5 children that I would kill or die for and have lived for since the moment I became a father. I totally understand your decision and I hope you are blessed in it, I think you will be. I have considered the same thing, but I am a stubborn man. I have been in meetings my whole life and have been lucky enough to escape molesters victimizing my family. There is so much that I love about our fellowship that I’m just not going to walk away and let the evil men have it. I too have never had much of a voice and I didn’t mind that, but I am speaking out now. I already feel bad that I have been in my own little world and didn’t know about all of the horrors we’re seeing exposed here, but I won’t look away. And I sure as hell won’t walk away. I’m going to war because I can’t live with myself if I don’t try to stop this evil.
Gasser states above that “those (i.e. CSA offenders) who have a spiritual support group have a much higher success not repeating offence (i.e. CSA)”. If this is true, there should be ZERO CSA offenders in the 2×2’s. Who attends more meetings that those in the Cult, especially the “workers”?
Spot on. One has to wonder why the workers are preaching to these men in prison or elsewhere in the first place, common ground perhaps? I don’t think us or society as a whole has any business attempting to redeem them. Most if not all of them are just manipulating others and waiting for the next opportunity.
This study disagrees with Glen’s assertion.
“Contrary to findings of previous research regarding the influence of religion on nonsexual criminality, for this sample of sex offenders, religiosity was linked to a higher number of sex offense victims and more convictions for sex offenses. Those sex offenders who reported regular church attendance, a belief in supernatural punishment, and religion as important in their daily lives had more known victims, younger victims, and more convictions for sex offenses than the sex offenders who reported irregular or no church attendance and no or less intense allegiance to religious beliefs and practices.”
Good find, thanks. Sexual vs. nonsexual criminality: the distinction matters.
There are some good steps here. That the letter was sent, acknowledging the child sex offenders present, and to the whole field. Removal of the offenders from gospel meetings where there were children present is also a positive step.
Now for the things that still need work, and a bit of my story.
This letter would lead you to believe they were always going to have Sun/Wed meetings with only adults. The initial intention was that at least one of the offenders (Price) would be placed in a Sunday morning meeting that had multiple families with young children, we were one of those families.
In 2019, my elder approached me after a gospel meeting, mentioned that this man who had been in prison would be coming to our meeting, and that he had some crimes against his daughter, it was implied he was a good man, and had family that professed. He didn’t ask for a decision then, but wanted me to tell him if we weren’t ok with it. After what had seemed like a fairly casual conversation — I looked up Price’s record. These were shocking crimes. We were confused why this was even being asked of us. We felt trapped and isolated.
We wrote to our worker at the time Bruce Shaw (who was the original contact for these men in prison I believe). We asked him to clearly communicate with the field these mens crimes, their involvement in the church, and when status changes. We did not see any change.
My family and others continued pushing back, and brought Rob Eberhardt (the overseer at the time) into the conversations. After a few emails he agreed to make a separate Sunday morning meeting for them, as well as a separate gospel meeting, and prevent them from coming to special meetings, conventions, etc. This is an excerpt from 7/24/2019 from Rob Eberhardt: “Yes, the concern you would have for your children is taken seriously. I have spoken with Bruce this morning and have advised him to restrict Price to an as yet to be formed Sunday morning meeting that would be absent of children. The generally attended gospel meetings will now be off limits to Price, but some restricted gospel meetings where no children are present he will be permitted to attend. The Special meetings, union meetings, Wednesday meetings, and conventions will also be restricted from him and anyone else is the same situation.”
On 8/24/2019 we then received this email (in partial here) from Rob Eberhardt — after people were being asked again by Bruce if they were ok with being in a meeting with a sex offender:
“In all of my years in this ministry I have been reminded from time to time of what our old brother, George Walker, advised; In judgment it is better to err on the side of mercy.
I know that you and some others are not willing to meet with sexual offenders. Because of this, I have written the few sentences above with the hope of alleviating your concern for the safety of your children.
In this attempt, I have been self-condemned as a hypocrite. You see in the past, I was a sexual offender. The only reason for my being here today is because of the mercy and grace of God. He included me into His family and fellowship. How can I exclude others from fellowship, when I wasn’t?”
And then on 8/24/2019 more updates from Rob Eberhardt:
“I have already expressed the misgivings that have arisen in my soul since putting in writing the few policy statements that were made to my staff of workers in an attempt to relieve your concern for your children’s safety. There is no single policy that fits each and every situation. To make a written decree, I would be in a similar situation as Darius in Daniel 6:8, 9. I will not publish a policy statement. Neither is the safety of your children compromised.”
Nearly 4 years later we finally have a policy — and it’s communicated.
For me and my family — we left in 2019, feeling voiceless and exhausted.
Now on to other parts of the letter — it feels the same downplaying of the crimes, and leaves it as an exercise to the reader to go look up what these men did, but I think the most troubling part is this quote. “If any effort could save one more child from tragedy (whether in our fellowship or not) it seems worth it.”
This is the implication that by having these men in meetings, they are actually helping the CSA problem. I’m not sure if they believe this or it is a defensive statement, but in their own letter, two men were part of the church, one who offended against another member of the church. It’s also always been possible to include these offenders and yet keep them separated from children.
Some questions I would like to see answered:
Is this a policy just for these existing Sex Offenders, or all Sex Offenders?
Is there a time limit, or is this an indefinite policy?
Will the state be notified when new (or newly discovered allegations) and the decision for the offenders?
Wait a moment… did I read that right that Rob E. actually said he was a sexual offender in the past? Is he out of the work now?
Rob Eberhardt is the current overseer of LA/MS/AL according to the letter that is posted on Wings regarding Dean Bruer.
I’m absolutely appalled by this. He sat in our homes, at our tables, spoke to us in meetings….I want to be sick. This is absolutely NOT ok.
Rob didn’t say he was a CSA offender. He was in my field when I was a young adult. I learned he hadn’t professed until later in life, maybe later 20s. We don’t know exactly what he is referring to when he states that he was a sexual offender. Maybe he had affairs with married women? Maybe before he was professing? But it wouldn’t be fair to assume that he’s a CSA/SA offender. I think that it’s unwise to jump to hurtful conclusions.
However, I will say that I think that this is a VERY important point – that I think can skew the decisions of many in responsibility when they are honest about themselves. I even know for myself, often I remind myself, who am I to judge another if I’m being honest about my own past faults and failures? I’m truly thankful for the mercy and forgiveness of God.
I do think one important difference is that while mercy and forgiveness are important and available for all, positions of responsibility, all positions, really, require a good reputation for other people to be able to trust them. A damaged reputation is caused by different things in different times and eras, but God never changes, and that’s why he could call out David for what he did regarding Uriah and Bathsheba. David didn’t have to bear the appropriate natural punishment for the sins he committed simply because there weren’t enough witnesses, but he did lose his credibility with many including his sons. He did receive the complete mercy of God so that he could receive a full and complete salvation, but that story has marred his testimony from that day until now. It was never meant to be used as an excuse for others to do likewise. This is why it’s so important that those who are in positions of responsibility have a good testimony regarding these important issues, because it can affect their ability to make sound judgment when they are honest about their own past violations. Nobody expects perfection. And acknowledgement of sin that leads to repentance is a big driver for being merciful. But from what I can read in the Bible, God had a lot of tolerance to people forsaking him, but none regarding those who abused his people, and we also cannot have those in responsibility who cannot have the same clear mindset.
CSA is a very real, present and systemic problem within our fellowship.
With that said, I appreciate those who are trying to add some clarity to the situation.
Workers care about souls. Jesus specifically mentioned visiting “the least” in prison, and doing it as unto Him. The gospel was meant to go to everyone. It sounds like there was legal compliance (with probation officers) and the friends were given a choice whether to attend the gospel meetings.
All of this is sad, uncomfortable and discouraging. I’ve tried to picture Jesus and God watching everything unfold. We heard recently that God has felt this pain for a long time, and now we are too. (Now that we’re becoming aware of what has happened in the past.)
Praying that there will be healing for those who’ve been deeply hurt by friends and workers. Thankful Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and still is able…
Rose, I really appreciate how you shared your feelings, and I am feeling much the same. It seems our fellowship is such a magnet due to the kindness and longsuffering of many. CSA and SA is such a vicious cycle, usually the offenders have been victims themselves in one form or another. Victims need help to be set free so that they can at least in a measure love life again and avoid taking on negative behaviors that ultimately finds them in the place of hurting others in the same manner and consequently receiving the wrath and condemnation and shame of many. And I don’t think that victim care has to mean a lack of care for the offender – but maybe it can’t be the same people who care for both. Certainly professionals have to stay involved.
Educate and Empower, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve noticed your comments on other posts too. I appreciate that you’re raising awareness that many sexual offenders were victims of sexual abuse. It’s a horrible cycle. I feel like there are a lot of us who care deeply for both victims and offenders. I personally have friends in both groups…That’s what makes this all heartbreaking.
I’m with you there, Rose. It’s easy to throw stones, until it hits close to the heart. It’s a super pivotal moment and we want it to be a positive one. While I would never justify CSA/SA, I know many people have been broken by their past experiences. We can create safer environments so that those who would be tempted to give in to dark demons know that they would be supported when they reach out for help beforehand, and that they can clearly see that there will be consequences if they do give in. Also, that we are each doing our own part to create safe interactions and teaching our children likewise. I’ve always been a hugger, but in the last 10 years began to feel that maybe it wasn’t a good example for children who might be vulnerable. Now that is more than a feeling, I know it’s right. I’ve learned to make it fun for the children to high five and side hug.
This comment is in relation to your post regarding Rob E. stating he was a sex offender. You said is does not necessarily mean he has a background in CSA. While that could be true, your example of possibly having an affair with a married person does not constitute a sex offense. The definition of Sex Offense is: “a person who commits a crime involving a sexual act.” Clearly, since he alledgedly applied that term to himself, something of an illegal context must have occurred… Examples are: Sexual Assault of Animals, Rape, Sodomy, utilizing a Prostitute, Indecent Exposure, Penetration with a Foreign Object, Sex Trafficking, Stalking, etc… In order clean up any uncertainty, he needs to clarify what his statement entails.
I have professionally provided therapeutic treatment to the sex offending population for several years and know how ambiguous their statements can be.
Offend Not, Thank you for your clarification. My intent was never to try to defend Rob, but to rather avoid jumping to conclusions that are hurtful and not helpful. He’s not a professional therapist and so we don’t know what he actually was meaning by applying those words of “sex offender” to his past, if he meant under the law or before God. To me, the issue here, is that he used his own experience to color his decision regarding a serious offender. It seems that Rob was seeking to do what was right and according to the law regarding this offender while also erring on the side of mercy based on his own situation. But due to the seriousness of the offense and that we are talking about a fellowship where children are very much included, it’s very understandable why families with children would be upset. I think that the current climate has helped empower the overseers to make better decisions regarding CSA/SA offenses. Ironically, it seems to me (I’m not running any statistics here) is that those areas where overseers are making some clear decisions, there seems to be some outrage, and for those large amounts of states that we don’t hear from, there is less outrage. It’s too bad that the proactive overseers are getting pushback. I’m floored at how Glenn has sought to make some clear decisions and has taken the opportunity and gone forward. Glenn seems to be a very kind man, but I can see now that he is not only kind but also wise. But maybe it’s part of the healing process to express outrage even though it’s directed towards those who are actually doing something.
First thought. There is a limit to Gods mercy. There is a limit to His forgiveness.
The sad horrible truth is that no matter what you say, no matter what you think – there will always be those who aren’t convicted, those that will never be known. If any parent thinks that having the convicted marched around with a label of their crimes means their children are safe… you are very badly misguided. 20% of girls are abused. That would mean there are more than 6 men in one state responsible and today 66% of reported child abuse by children or young people is by other children or young people.
More than likely the problem won’t be with these men with restrictions. The perpetrators are likely your friends, your husbands, your brothers, your children or your workers.
The solution isn’t isolating, that is simply saying “not our problem”, go and abuse someone else. Actually I am not sure if anyone is interested in a solution. Out of sight out of mind. The cycle will continue.
And if you say anything about a solution you are deemed as siding with child abuse or whatever other accusation.
There are solutions. First off there needs to be consent. If everyone (adults) consents to having a CSA in meeting, ok, but if a child is in the meeting (given that usually a child is not involved in this process and so has not consented) and/or if an adult doesn’t consent or was not informed then that person who previously committed CSA should NOT be allowed to attend that mtg. Maybe an adult only mtg, or mtg with the workers intermittently could be arranged.
I don’t agree about not worrying so much about those with restrictions. Any known pedophile should be held accountable else they will likely repeat this behavior. Don’t take my word for it go check the stats yourself.
With regards to those we are not aware of, they will be revealed in due time (most likely when they attempt to act on their depravity) and turned over to the authorities. In the meantime we have to be vigilant and educate our young to spot these acts in the early stages before any damage is done.
Does anyone notice how much care and concern, time and effort is given to getting sex offenders (child or otherwise) back into the meetings. Nobody has ever shown that much concern for women who don’t comply with the dress or hair rules, people who marry outsiders but still want to go to meetings etc etc. In other words all the LESSER sins.
I know a couple who’s partners left them and are no longer professing. They are not allowed to participate in the Sunday Morning fellowship or partake of the bread and wine for the rest of their lives. They continue to attend all gatherings and are silent and helpful in all other ways. Very much appreciated in their area of residence.
Yet a child abuser who commits the most heinous of crimes – no problem – tell us you’ve repented – all is good.
I do think having a lot of rules has had some contribution to the problems we have now. Those in authority give out all of the rules and as such they seem pious. Unfortunately, rebels never get heard or any respect. Change seems to only come through those who are blameless and highly respected and yet have the courage to point out inconsistencies. A lot of our strict rules came straight out of so-called false churches who have long ago moved on.
I do hope that through this that everyone is willing and ready for the change regarding remarriage. We punish those who enter into a vow of commitment and remain faithful even though for whatever unfortunate reason their first marriage dissolved. The innocent children bear the shame of their families. One older brother worker was casually talking about it – he’s not from the usa but was here for conventions. I sarcastically added, it sounds like it would be better if they just remarried without getting divorced and we go back to multiple spouses. And he agreed with me!!! He said that would indeed be more biblical. I was so shocked that I couldn’t respond with all the things running through my head. But I don’t know, having multiple husbands does sound like a benefit on some levels. Not sure he would have agreed? LoL
I wish the workers – and friends – would get away from guilt and “trying to do better”. Jesus released us from the guilt of our sin so that we could be free to serve him with love. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to face the consequences of bad choices. But I think that shame and guilt and feelings of hopelessness can drive people to depravity faster than anything. This is the ministry of condemnation of the Old Testament. Not the ministry of life of the New Testament.
I think that things are a lot freer than they used to be, and I think that’s why a lot of the CSA/SA issues coming to the surface are from about 20+ years ago when things were crazy strict for no biblical reason. And now the last few months, the overseers are bending over backwards to be transparent etc. God can turn things upside down when He’s had enough and I pray that we continue to demand purity in our ministry. They have the devil against them, but they have God for them. Ministry Safe will only work if the information is propagated. Educate the children to recognize red flags. My mom had warned me about my cousin, so when he tried to groom me, I didn’t fall for it. Unfortunately that didn’t stop another situation, largely because I didn’t know that I could say anything. But that’s another story. Empower our children to be respectful and yet to have their eyes open for their own safety. Tell them that we will believe them when they talk to us. Empower our young workers to be respectful and yet have their eyes open for their own safety. Rebels don’t get taken seriously, that’s just a sad truth of life, since they are often the only ones with courage to go against what most people already know is not right.
That’s because of the false doctrine workers, especially overseers, hold: that anyone can accidentally fall into sexual sin due to momentary temptation. That is why they believe that sexual sin is easily forgivable. They don’t see it as a symptom of spiritual or moral defect, but as a momentary slip. That’s how they justify keeping immoral and abusers in the work and meetings.
First of all taking away someone’s part or of partaking of emblems is not biblical AT ALL! My personal belief is the workers chose to punish divorce/remarriage etc is because it is the ONE sin they can’t be accused of because they don’t marry. They don’t punish sex offenders because a astronomical amount of workers have either committed those acts themselves or been complicit or actively covered up for sex offenders. So why would you seek to punish a crime you and your own group are outright guilty of.
The divorce /remarriage debacle is deflection…. Look at all these bad kids… Don’t look at us who are ACTUALLY COMMITTING CRIMES
Protective Dad & Calvin Mead, I so empathize with both of you. I was raised in the JW religion and experienced CSA as a child by my father. It was the same method of covering for the offender while excommunicating a wife that divorced the child molester. Not “allowing” the wives of these deviant men to remarry and be fully welcome in the church is a crying shame. If they truly supported victims, they would help the wives heal by helping them find a loving, kind husband instead of spending so much time trying to get the molester back into meeting. (Agreeing with Nadine Mead as well!)
We spent years looking for a church that adhered to the bible and I was so happy when we found this way. I too am questioning what I am willingly subjecting myself to. I love my Sunday morning meeting and have a handful of dear workers that have shown me a love for my soul that I had never seen in the other churches I attended. But, exposing my children to know CSA and a ministry that covers it up instead of taking it to the police is beyond my tolerance level. I am not sure what to do either, do I just keep going on Sunday and not gospel meeting or convention? Do I leave all of it? I can’t take my children to listen to a minister that preaches one thing and does another behind closed doors. I don’t want to lose what I found and the wonderful parts of our fellowship, but I don’t know how to tell which workers and elders I can trust. If it was as easy as “knowing the spirit” we would have all known that these workers were child molesters. But, the manipulation and deceit are so subtle that most of us were deceived, except the ones that have been covering this up. I am so thankful to these three ladies that are giving us a place to expose and become informed. Will it be enough??
Jennifer, We met with professing families in our area that are aware and concerned about these things. There were 4 families there. We prayed for wisdom together, we shared our hurts with each other, we cried together, and we prayed for healing for each other. It wasn’t a sanctioned meeting but it was the most Spirit filled meeting we have ever been in. God was with us.
If we truly love each other and care for each other we should be able to meet together to share these hurtful things. Many many are hurting and not sure what to do. Meet with whoever will meet in Jesus name and talk and cry and pray together. It’s beautiful and healing.
Jennifer Ford we completely understand your feelings of being torn! Our fellowship has so many good & beautiful positives & it has been something that offered stability to our family in a world of turmoil. We feel we need to stay & try to help root out the rot & we love our little mtg and feel it would be further injury to them (who are not responsible for any of this) if we chose to leave. I know we all will struggle to listen to many of the workers that we know have been complicit or a part of this debacle. Sending you much love and know God will give you the best guidance on what is best for you and your precious family.