Lukis Nighswonger sentenced

Lukis Nighswonger was sentenced to a 46-year prison sentence, with an additional 40 years suspended. Nighswonger has also been assigned 15 years of probation and will need to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. This was based on a plea agreement between state prosecutors and Nighswonger on 24 separate charges ranging from sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, and harassment.


WINGS pre-sentence report:

Robert Corfield circumstances

WINGS Note: This letter was written by a professing man and sent to all workers in leadership in western US. WINGS is publishing this letter because it is a good example of professing men standing up and giving the workers guidence based on their professional positions and experience. It is also a reminder of how important it is to let professionals and law enforcement deal with victim statements and perpetrator contact.

It is also a reminder that further action is likely in some cases.

From (name redacted): 

Many situations of late have landed in my care, simply because I’ve been in the right place at the right time on more than one occasion and was able and willing to help. I’m not passive when it comes to children’s welfare and also vulnerable adults. My background also lends itself to understanding how to handle these situations maybe better than most. I spent 8 years with Spokane County working oftentimes side by side with the Sheriff’s Department personnel on many issues. I was formally trained on investigations, interrogations, and body language and used this training extensively while doing investigations from a Risk Management perspective.

Matt Smith has also been a big help. He is retired military and now works in Law Enforcement as a training officer at the police academy here in Helena, MT. He has penned a few letters describing how CSA/SA situations within the church MUST be handled from a legal standpoint as well as a moral standpoint. The workers have also appreciated his input and help.

Information was shared with me with details from Robert Corfield’s primary victim in Saskatchewan. I waited for as much detail as possible and vetted the information.

Since the information gathered was horrible, with lots of detail, I decided it was best that Matt Smith and I drive directly to the Manhattan grounds and meet face to face with Robert. We were hoping Scott Rauscher was also present when we got there, but felt it was best to not give anyone forewarning that we were coming. Unfortunately, I’ve also been involved in a couple of visits where the individual was given forewarning and thus, was able to make up a story to deny things and plan ahead on how they would respond. This is precisely why it was necessary to drop in on Robert without notice.

Robert was in charge of the preps at Manhattan and was leaving soon to join the crew at Ronan convention before returning for Manhattan preps. It was imperative with the information I had, that he did not have any more opportunity to be in close contact with minors and that quick handling of the situation was critical.

We found Robert in the brother worker quarters at Manhattan and he was alone. We told him we needed to visit with him and he agreed. Robert knows us, and mentioned that he was grateful for all the help we had been giving the workers and friends with the current issues. 

I explained to him that we were there to address an issue that involved himself. He was surprised. I told him that I would read to him all the facts and details we had and once I was finished, we could discuss it.

When I finished reading, Robert hung his head and said, “it’s all true”. 

Without going into much of the details of that conversation, I will say that Robert’s response was very humble and honest. He acknowledged that he still struggles with the desire for pedophilia and understood that he could no longer be allowed access to children. He mentioned multiple times that what Matt and myself were doing, and how we had come directly to him was “the right thing to do”. He thanked us. As hard as the discussion was for him, he seemed quite relieved that he would no longer have to face his temptation on a daily basis. 

We called Scott immediately after our visit and informed him of what had taken place and that Robert could no longer fill a role in the ministry. We also informed him that Robert could no longer attend any meetings where children would or could be present. Scott said he understood and asked us for permission to have Robert drive to Ronan where he was and they could work on a plan for him. I told him as long as there were no children present that would be fine, but he would need to leave before family’s arrived for preps later in the week.

Matt and I helped Scott write the notification letter to be sent out to the MT/WY friends.

We did this so that he would not use any ‘triggering’ comments for former victims or for victims we did not know about yet. 

Incidentally, there have been two more victims speak out since the news on Robert was sent out. This is also why workers should never pen these types of letters without help on how they need to be worded.

We know when these things arise, that the workers and overseers have virtually zero experience or, quite frankly, the credibility currently to handle the situation correctly. This is why this situation was handled in the manner it was, without involving other workers first.

It worked perfectly and this is how these situations should be handled. The result has been best for all involved.

Another side note. Robert will likely be facing criminal charges since there is no statute of limitations in Canada or MT. He committed crimes in both locations. Those who also knew of Robert’s crimes and failed to report (Dale Schultz, primarily) will also likely face criminal charges. Dale was horrible to Robert’s primary victim and needs to be held accountable for that situation and many, many others he has handled horribly and with utter disdain for victims.

As we have been asked to, and moved to help, we are keenly aware of the need to address these situations with God’s help and Spirit leading. God does expect action, but it must be according to his Will and in His timing. Without God’s leading we would be no better than those who have committed these horrific acts.

Hopefully this is helpful to you and others.


(Name redacted)

A letter from Matt Smith has been published by WINGS. See

Thoughts from a Candian elder in the church

I was encouraged to read the letter by Jonathan Olson with the central point on the folly of the “one true way” doctrine and I applaud Jon’s courage in taking the conversation there. Some may question how we get from CSA to the “one true way” issue but it’s vital to understand that CSA exists anywhere a skewed hierarchical organizational structure exists. Large corporations. Professional sports. Religion. The military. Extended families. These are all systems that have a specific hierarchical organization that is intensely revered from within them. And these are all systems where sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse flourish. As serious as the CSA issue is – and is rightly being addressed more aggressively than it has ever been in the past – it remains a symptom of a far deeper issue of self-righteousness in the church, as Jonathan has correctly pointed out. 

There’s a common thread amongst us all and shown on this site and in the comments; that we’re fighting to preserve the church. We don’t actually want to burn the church down. NOT because it’s the one true way, but because it’s good. It’s not perfect, it’s good. And that’s good enough. And maybe more importantly because it’s OURS. It’s what we’ve grown up with, or it’s what we’ve come to love through a friend at school or a workmate or a random invitation on a community centre bulletin board.  And we’d all be lying if we didn’t admit to having enjoyed many days of encouragement and hope while going to meetings and conventions and that many of our closest friends are also professing. And we’d all also probably be lying if we didn’t admit to being uncomfortable with the unwritten rules and regulations that have no scriptural merit. It’s one thing to abide by a rule that is simply a tradition, Jesus warned specifically against that in Mark 7 and in John 15. It’s another thing altogether – and not in a good way – to abide by a rule under the pretext that it achieves righteousness when in fact it’s an empty tradition. Tradition in and of itself is not evil. We love our hymns. They’re familiar to us and that’s okay. God created us, God created music, God created our brains that migrate to a certain amount of traditional “comfort”. God doesn’t despise that in us. And although this may be open to other interpretations, in Matt 6:23 when Jesus said “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” it could mean that if the things that we think are Light and righteous are actually things that are meaningless (darkness), how much greater is THAT darkness. Because now we’re distracted from the true light . . .JESUS. If we can get a false sense of security by what we wear or because we don’t have a TV or a bottle of wine in our home, or because we think we have a membership card in the “one true way”, then the enemy has us right where he wants us. He has us completely distracted from Jesus as the real way and the truth and the life. 

I suggest that many of us would agree there is much about our church that is right and good. Clearly there’s a growing mistrust in the leadership of the ministry (understatement), but I’ve no doubt every single one of us knows some workers that we love and respect deeply and that point us to Jesus, instead of just pointing us to a religion. And the reality is that our church HAS helped direct us to Jesus, which is exactly what it’s supposed to do. Sometimes it’s been done in spite of itself, but it’s been done, and here we are. And many of us want to keep going to meetings in some way shape or form. But the minute we start worshipping the church, instead of where it should be pointing us (Jesus), that’s when we’ve gone adrift. The minute we revere the vessel that holds the water more than the water that quenches our heart and soul, that’s when the water spills and we wake up to the harsh reality that licking the cup doesn’t quench our thirst. 

Jesus didn’t pull any punches in declaring that religion was over, and the veil would be rent. He was now THE way. The law pointed us to Him, but now that He’d arrived, the law could be put away, made obsolete (Heb 8:13). And this is not to suggest that anyone is esteeming the old law, but the point is that Jesus was trying to show us that the old law, and all religious law in general, was no longer needed now that we could have a relationship directly with God. At that wedding in the 2nd chapter of John, Jesus could have turned the water into wine in any vessel. Surely there were empty bottles or skins laying around everywhere. But he chose to use the pots full of water specifically meant to be used for ceremonial hand washing (same ceremonial handwashing he mocked in Mark 7). He wasn’t just performing a miracle, he was making a mockery of the tradition of ceremonial handwashing, a mockery of trusting in religion. And yet here we are, some 2000 years later, with new versions of ceremonial handwashing, new laws, albeit “softer laws”, but laws nonetheless, that are just a distraction from Jesus as the way and the truth. 

Doing certain things because we believe that’s how they were done in the first century church is a noble, and possibly even worthy cause. But trying to prove that our church is the continuation of the first church is flawed at its core when Jesus himself promised that He would be with us. Jesus was unimpressed in Matthew 3:9 with with their lineage connecting back to Abraham. And Jesus would be unimpressed today with the claim to be a religious continuation of the first century church. If we focus on Jesus, then THAT’s the connection. Not lineage. Not provenance. The historical reality is that our church comes out of the radical reformation that followed the primary 16th century reformation, out of which came the anabaptist movement, of which we maintain many of the hallmarks of, for what remain as many good reasons. And all that is OKAY. It matters not where we’ve come from, it matters where we’re going and what we believe in. And if we believe we’re spirit led – as I’ve heard said often recently – then it’s time to put our faith where our mouth is and cease with this borderline blasphemy of thinking we’re saved because we belong to the correct religion.  There’s a big part of me that wants to post my name to this. But I’m committed to “staying with the ship” so to speak; to fight to make it right from within instead of fleeing into the night. And to be clear, I applaud the ones that have left the church but continue to meet and enjoy fellowship. I’m not quite there yet and I fear that we still have a long way to go before comments like mine will be well received by certain workers with influence. I am the elder of a precious little Sunday morning meeting in our home and as long as we’re not ostracized like some have been, we can slowly but surely be part of a rising crescendo of voices from within the church. So, I won’t post my name, in an attempt to try to keep my place so that our family can try to uphold a standard of truth from the inside, and to slowly effect change. I know many are doing the same, some quietly, some loudly, but God sees and hears all. 
A brother and friend from Canada. 

Overseer abuse of power

WINGS note: This letter was written by a very concerned friend.

After reading the most recent letter that captured so well the problem enshrined in exclusivity, I feel compelled to write. Silence at this point is complicity.

I applaud all those who have courageously shared their experiences as victims of abuse; sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual. We have heard from current and former workers, and current and former members of our fellowship. I say “our” as one who was raised going to meetings and has spent the last 30 years as an active participant.

How much longer is an open question. It is fully understandable that most, if not all who have shared their pain and their experiences choose to remain anonymous. I choose to sign my name to this letter. These are my thoughts and convictions, and mine alone.

To be clear, I am not a victim of abuse, at least not the most direct kind. But unlike many previous authors, I am angry.

I have brushed against abuse and abusers for my entire life, under the auspices of those entrusted with spreading the gospel, but did not know it. At least three known pedophiles spent significant time in my home as a child, teenager, young adult, and now as a father with my own children. None were known to me or my family, but all were known to the overseers at the time.

This only counts those that admitted their proclivities and crimes, not the generational monster that was Dean Bruer, who also spent a significant amount of time in our home, or any who have not yet been named and brought into the open. For a “never” event, that is far too frequent. It must also be acknowledged that what has been revealed in the past two months has been grudging at best, and had Dean not died, would not be known. That is inexcusable.

We keep hearing about the example of King David and giving grace to sinners as a way to pardon the repeated missteps in past and prior handling of abuse. Annaias and Saphira (Acts 5:1) are the examples we should be discussing. They intended good for the nascent Christian community by selling their property and donating the proceeds, but withheld money and lied, first by omission, then by commission when confronted. Both were struck down in that moment.

There are consequences for actions. I don’t pretend to know any person’s status with God, and believe that anyone can find and follow their own revelation and conviction. God is the final arbiter for all, but from a human perspective, nearly the entire current leadership has lost my respect and confidence.

As horrifying as the crimes of pedophilia and sexual abuse are, as tragic as it is that multiple workers and friends have endured their own emotional and spiritual abuse, as egregious as it is that endemic denial and deflection have pushed a Christian ideal into the realm of abuse, we are still discussing symptoms, not the root of the problem.

The foundational problem in our fellowship remains the insistence that we are the one true way, the only Christians doing it right. The most common term used to self-identify is “the Truth”, which says it all. This reeks of pride and self-righteousness. It also creates a clear and immediate in-group and out-group (with approximately 8 billion people in the out-group) and a moral and spiritual imperative.

I will go further than prior posters and say that as long as this pervasive and damaging doctrine exists, no substantive change is possible. It is not enough to say that it is spoken less frequently or directly, or hear it preached less forcefully from the platform at convention. It has clearly and cogently been spoken for generations, with concomitant and lasting damage. Redaction needs to be equally clear and forceful.

There is a legacy of sanctimony, hypocrisy, and refusal to allow change directly tied to this dogma, and a level of spiritual coercion that cannot be overstated. If salvation hangs in the balance, there is simply no choice–one belongs to this fellowship and toes the line, or one winds up in hell. The current crisis, the slowly unfolding nuclear implosion enveloping the church, is the fruit. Matthew 7 lays bare the truth–false teachings lead to bad fruit. As Matthew suggests, those trees need to be cut down and burned.

However, it is impossible to be an agent for change when no alternative exists. The level of change needed is more than structural, it is seismic. The ecumenical church that many of us wish for is so far from the current structure that it might as well be a fantasy. We need our own Martin Luther to nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of a church. But we don’t have a church building of course, another facet of which we are inordinately proud.

Second, as so many have pointed out, the pervasive denial of a power structure or hierarchy is almost as damaging, and a simple way to avoid responsibility. We are apparently not one body in Christ, but 18 geographic bodies (in the U.S. at least) with their own Ordnung, following a roughly similar tangent as Christians. Very simple way to pass the buck, and hyper-convenient way to pass abusers on without dealing with their actions.

 Our workers have the authority to assign location of fellowship, elders in those meetings, and who can or cannot take part. They have the authority to say who can and cannot take the emblems, the most direct and physical connection to Christ. They are the gateway to baptism, the closest thing we have to admission into the legacy of Jesus’ life. That is power, and when combined with a dogma that states we are God’s chosen people, it is a truly singular form of power. The overseers control every facet of the lives of those workers in their sphere of influence. They decide whom to allow to enter the ministry, where they labor, who their co-workers will be, and when/if they are dismissed from the ministry. That is clearly power.

In the meetings, the hierarchy is clear, with women at the bottom and men/elders on the next rung. Within the ministry, the hierarchy is also quite clear, with all women at the bottom, younger men on the next step up, and exclusively older/experienced men at the top. To deny this structure exists is disingenuous at best, outright malfeasance at worst. There is no system of feedback or accountability, so combined with a dash of narcissism, the result is a recipe for abuse of all flavors with no recourse.

I believe that the majority of those attending meetings are good and loving people with well-intentioned ideals. I believe the same can be said of the majority of workers, who are willing to give their lives in service to this ideal. I believe the current church structure has strayed so far from the stated ideal that it is untenable. I am angry and believe there is a silent majority in the church who are in accord but has no voice. Until the problem is named, change is not possible. Once named, change remains a far-off and potentially unreachable goal, but honesty is a start.

Jonathan Olson

May 28, 2023

Notification that Jeff Thayer not returning to the MN/IA staff

Dear Elders in the EB/Alex field,

We are wanting to let you and your meetings know more about Jeff’s situation, although a lot of it is still unknown. Some have expressed not wanting any more emails with this kind of news, so we are asking you to share it with your meetings as you see fit. We hope this will be a gentler, more sensitive approach to sharing news.

The MN/IA staff will be together in Rochester on 5/26 for a staff meeting. Lyle Schober will be with us as well We are all looking forward to it I got back to the field on Friday and yesterday Kara returned from IA. We are glad to be back together and in the field. We are needing to regroup a bit and will be in touch when we have some meetings scheduled.

Your prayers and care are appreciated,

Kara & Marla

Here is the letter to share:

Dear Friends,

We want to send a short note to give some clarity about the thoughts about Jeff Thayer. It seems rather clear that it would be best to not have Jeff return to the MN/IA staff regardless of the outcome of any investigation. We hope this will be enough to answer questions that have circulated about his future here in these states.

There will be help sent to fill the needs but at this time it is not clear who it would be and when that may occur. In the meanwhile we encourage everyone to have patience and continue to seek the Lord for your assurance and bread.

Your servants for Christ’s sake,

Dean Dykstra
Marla Freesemann
Lyle Schober
John Simons
Shari Stamps

Open letter from a group of professing mental health professionals

Our purpose is to help our fellowship move forward in the spirit of healing.

Who we are:

We are experienced professionals living throughout the States and Provinces of North America.  We are psychologists, clinical social workers and professional counsellors who specialize in child and adolescent counselling, marriage and family counselling, trauma counselling, sex therapy, school psychology and generalists in mental health and addiction therapy.  Some of us are in private practice, some work for school systems, some are in public health, some specialize in the foster care and adoption process, some work in inpatient psychiatric settings, and some have worked in forensics and the criminal justice system.

How we can help:

We can help with mental health referrals and provide resources specific to our areas of expertise. We are not law enforcement or investigators, and we cannot engage in those processes. 

We have/can:

  • Answer mental health questions.
  • Advise on Child Sexual Abuse laws.
  • Advise on duty to report and reporting procedures.
  • Provide Child Sexual Abuse/Sexual Assault information and resources for these requests.
  • Consult with workers on disclosure protocols.
  • Assist in making referrals to mental health professionals.

Resource website currently being built.

Contact us:

Comprehensive letter from Perry Pearson to Dakota friends

From: Perry Pearson [email address redacted]
Date: Wed, May 24, 2023  
Subject: Letter to Dakota friends
To: Perry Pearson [email address redacted]
Cc: Paul Haakenson [email address redacted]

Dear North & South Dakota Friends,

We would like to share with you what we discussed at our staff meeting on May 19th. The information below has been reviewed and accepted by all workers on our staff.

Several topics we covered and will discuss here are as follows:

  • Reporting concerns of child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • Guidelines regarding sex offenders’ attendance in meetings
  • Current and additional child safety training for the Dakota staff
  • Accountability for workers’ behavior in the home

Since being notified in March of Dean Bruer’s crimes, the Dakota workers have received no allegations of child sexual abuse/sexual abuse (CSA/SA) against anyone in the ministry in the Dakotas. We are aware this is a widespread issue with allegations presented in other states. We encourage any victims to reach out to available resources to begin your journey toward healing. The Dakota workers support you and will respect your confidentiality in this process.

A few available resources:

National Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 988 (Call or Text)

RAINN (National Anti-Sexual Violence Organization): 800-656-HOPE (4673) or (Live Chat)

These hotlines can assist you in connecting with appropriate resources in your area.

Reporting Concerns of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA):

The safety of children is everyone’s business. Mandated reporters are required by law to report any reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Anyone can and should report reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect. According to the laws in North and South Dakota, workers are not considered mandated reporters. However, we intend to respond as mandated reporters and report all suspicions and concerns of CSA. We were advised to report suspicions and concerns to Child Protective Services so that the report is brought to the correct people and the appropriate action can be taken immediately.

RAINN Hotline (They will direct you to the appropriate reporting jurisdiction):800-656-HOPE (4673)
North Dakota Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting (M-F 8am-5pm): 833-958-3500
South Dakota Child Protective Services (M-F 8am-5pm):877-244-0864

If you believe a child is in IMMEDIATE danger, call 911

Guidelines Regarding Sex Offenders’ Attendance in Meetings:  

We will continue to work within full compliance of each offender’s parole restrictions within North and South Dakota. Each situation varies and has its own concerns; however, there are a few general guidelines we will be putting in place, in addition to any legal restrictions that may be associated with their case:

  • There will be NO registered sex offenders at any ND/SD convention.
  • The people in the meeting will be consulted before an offender attends. No one will be in meeting with an offender against their wishes.

Current and Additional Child Safety Training for the Dakota Staff:

We are all helping each other be accountable. We do not need to live in fear, but we do need to be aware. We discussed several different child safety programs that would be a benefit for us to take.

  • All of the ND/SD workers are certified in the Ministry Safe program. This has been ongoing since 2010. It is renewed every 2-3 years.
  • All of the ND/SD workers will take the ND mandated reporter training by May 31, 2023 and retake it every 2-3 years.
  • All of the ND/SD workers will take the Youth Protection Training offered by Boy Scouts of America before June 8, 2023 and retake it every 2-3 years.
  • All workers transferring to our staff from other areas or starting in the work will take the above training also.

We are also asking all of our elders and wives to take the Ministry Safe course. [names redacted] in Sioux Falls will be managing the course for the elders and any of the friends that wish to take it. If you are interested in taking the course, please contact them at [email address redacted].

We invite anyone who would like to educate themselves to also take advantage of these resources.

Ministry Safe:
North Dakota Mandated Reporter Training:
Youth Protection Training:

Accountability for Workers’ Behavior in the Home:

We want to do all we can to be a safe ministry.

  • We recognize that it is safest when two (or three) workers work together in a field.  We commit to doing this in our work except in rare, unavoidable circumstances.
  • Workers will not purposefully seek to be alone with children in secluded areas.
  • Workers’ activities with minors will be with parental consent or involvement.
  • Workers will be respectful of personal property.
  • If you, for any reason, are uncomfortable with a worker in your home, please communicate with us and alternative arrangements will be made.

We cannot change what has been done in the past, but we can do our very best to improve the future. It is important to us that you are comfortable with us in your homes and with your families. Please communicate with us regarding your comfort level and concerns, and know we will listen and respect your boundaries.

Things we would like to encourage you:

  • If you observe a worker alone too much, please approach them and/or alert other workers.
  • If you see inappropriate behavior in a worker, please tell someone you trust.
  • If you are not comfortable with what has been asked of you, say NO.
  • If you see that any of the items outlined above are not being adhered to, please tell someone you trust.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us so that actions can be taken to alleviate them. We have outlined initial steps to address the CSA/SA issues. We realize it is just a start. We are committed to follow through and know there are more conversations to have and actions to take. Please continue sharing with us and making suggestions so that the ministry and the meetings can be a safe place for all.


Your staff of workers in the Dakotas

Emails to/from Merlin Affleck and Michael Hassett re Burkinshaw and McChesney allegations

WINGS Note: This is a series of emails between Cynthia Liles, Merlin Affleck and Michael Hassett, with an introduction by Cynthia.

Hello everyone,

As you may know, we’ve been working diligently behind the scenes to protect the community and expose wrong doings. Sadly, in many instances when we are advocating on behalf of survivors, our voices are not being heard by those currently in authority. We feel the pattern of stonewalling by leadership continues even today, as evidenced by the following email exchange. After two months of working on this crisis, it is evident that new leaders who are willing to be ethical, transparent, caring, and operate with integrity are necessary.

We need your help!

Please use your voices to demand accountability and change from leadership.

Please note that as of 5/28/23 there has been no response from either Merlin or Michael.

Forwarded Conversation

Subject: Walter Burkinshaw/Leanne McChesney


From: Cynthia Liles <email redacted>
Date: Sat, May 20, 2023 at 10:14 AM
To: Merlin Affleck < email redacted >, Michael Hassett < email redacted >
Cc: Lauren Rohs < email redacted >, Sheri Autrey < email redacted >

Dear Merlin and Michael,

Merlin, as you know, the Walter Burkinshaw victims have been very distressed to learn that Walter is still allowed in meetings. There are criminal cases pending against him for pedophila, which you are aware of. Last week I left a detailed message for Ben Collyer, who I understand is one of the workers in Walter’s field, explaining how distressing it is to the victims to know Walter is in meetings. I have not heard back.

Society expects institutions to keep their communities safe — especially the children. You may say, “Oh, he’s an old man and he’s in a wheelchair,” or “he’s not in meetings with children.” To the victims, that shows you are standing with the perpetrator and not with them. In addition, I have worked on cases where perpetrators were still abusing children well into their 80’s. Pedophilia is not something that goes away with old age.

Merlin, I also understand that you may have a written confession from Walter. Any and all written documentation from Walter admitting his crimes is key evidence and should be turned over to law enforcement as soon as possible. If it is true that you have such a statement from Walter and you haven’t turned it over to law enforcement, it begs the question: Why are you protecting a pedophile?

I also understand Leanne McChesney is attending meetings. She also has criminal charges pending for sex crimes against children.

It is highly probable that Walter and Leanne have sexually abused other children that have not yet come forward. The friends have a right to know about the charges against alter and Leanne. Please do the right thing and notify the friends in Canada and anywhere else Walter and Leanne have been.



Cynthia L. Liles
Private Investigator


From: Merlin Affleck < email redacted >
Date: Sat, May 20, 2023 at 6:23 PM
To: Cynthia Liles < email redacted >

Hello Cynthia,

I do not have any written confession from Walter. It was at my encouragement that he willingly went to the RCMP himself 2 or 3 years ago and spoke to them directly. Be assured that his case has been in professional hands for a long time already.

Yours truly, Merlin


From: Cynthia Liles [email redacted]
Date: Sat, May 20, 2023 at 7:23 PM
To: Merlin Affleck < email redacted >, < email redacted >
Cc: Sheri Autrey < email redacted >, Lauren Rohs < email redacted >

Hello Merlin,

You state you encouraged Walter to turn himself in to the RCMP two or three years ago. He must have confessed to you? There are two NEW cases filed against Walter. Your account of his verbal confession would be key evidence. Will you agree to contact the RCMP in Vernon and Wainwright to give a statement?

You did not address the other subject of my email. Will you agree to notify the friends that Walter and Leanne have charges against them for pedophilia and remove them from meetings?

Thank you,



From: michael hassett < email redacted >

Date: Mon, May 22, 2023 at 3:29 PM

To: Cynthia Liles < email redacted >

Hello Cynthia,

Our friends in the area where Walter lives are all aware of the accusations against him. They were informed when he first moved to the town.



From: Cynthia Liles < email redacted >

Date: Mon, May 22, 2023 at 9:19 PM

To: michael hassett < email redacted >, Merlin Affleck < email redacted >
Cc: Lauren Rohs < email redacted >, Sheri Autrey < email redacted >,
Darryl Doland < email redacted >

Hello Michael and Merlin,

I’m sorry — there must be some confusion. I didn’t ask if the friends in Walter’s area were aware of the accusations against Walter. I was letting you know that it is very distressing to his victims to know that he is still attending meetings. Neither one of you have acknowledged in your replies that this news may be upsetting to the victims and neither one of you have asked what you can do for the victims. That tells me your focus is not on the victims. In fact, it tells me you could care less about the victims. If you cared about victims, you would notify the friends in Canada of the pending charges against Walter and Leanne and ask victims to come forward

Merlin, you say you had Walter turn himself into law enforcement a few years ago. I’ve read the minutes of your April 6, 2023 meeting in Kelowna, B.C. You acknowledge Walter committed crimes. I understand he confessed to you. Do you realize Walter denied everything to law enforcement? It dawned on me after our last email exchange that if he had truly confessed when you sent him to law enforcement, he would have already been charged and most likely entered into a plea deal. I’ve confirmed that did not happen because he denied everything.

So, again, are you willing to give a statement to law enforcement in the new cases that have been filed? If not, why not? Your actions are very confusing to me. I do not understand why you would choose to stand by a pedophile instead of the victims who were innocent young children when they were sexually abused by their overseer — the most trusted position in the hierarchy of the Truth. I also noticed in your minutes that you felt Walter’s crimes were on the “low end” of the crime scale on a scale of 1-10. The actual act of sex abuse against a child has absolutely nothing to do with the trauma response. I have worked on hundreds of these cases and have witnessed this phenomenon many, many times. One child who is anally raped can have less of a trauma response than that of a child fondled by the same perpetrator. Again, the actual act has no correlation to the trauma response. It is not up to us to determine the severity of trauma inflicted on victims.

Cynthia —

Cynthia L. Liles
Private Investigator

Resources issued by Rob Newman to CA/AZ/HI/NV workers and friends

Dear Workers, Elders and Friends,

Good evening.  The attachments are the CSA Information, Child Safe Policy, and Workers’ Code of Conduct documents (The CSA Information document was first sent out almost a month ago).

These three documents are the three that we have been developing with the help of professionals, friends and workers over the last seven weeks.  As the names indicate, these three documents are dependent upon each other, with the first being educational, the second outlining policies for CSA matters, and the third presenting outlines for proper conduct (actually for both workers and friends).  Please encourage everyone to make time to understand each document– there is a lot of material presented, and it is important for the safety of our children.  We appreciate everyone’s effort and time to be advised and aware, to do your part in protecting the children and vulnerable among us.

Elders, please forward this email with attached documents to all responsible people in your meeting.  Also, anyone may feel free to forward this email with attachments to any other responsible person that would like to have it.

For any that would like them, here are three links to these documents online, with the latest versions if/when there are updates:

CSA Information:                               

Child Safe Policy:                                

Workers Code of Conduct:              

Thank you to the many that have helped with this process.  And thanks for all your prayers.

With gratitude and care,  Rob

Ex-worker shares: Resources for understanding abuse in church and institutional responses to abuse

I am extremely weary of church leadership’s hodgepodge response to the multi-generational patterns of abuse, denial of abuse, vague apologies when abuse is glaringly obvious, suppression of witnesses, and victim shaming.  

I am sick of communications that offer a sentence or two about the victim(s), if any, while providing paragraph(s) about the goodness of perpetrators or the need to accommodate and/or not judge them.  

And while I initially appreciated that some in the ministry had been taking training about CSA, I am tired of that being used as cover. Many recent communications clearly demonstrate that leaders do not understand or believe the training they have supposedly kept current. Ten to fifteen years of 1-hr training, taken every other year, equals 5 to 7.5 hours of training, on average. That, plus any other training taken, is clearly NOT enough for some. “Policies are what you DO, not what you SAY you do” and some leaders can’t even get to the SAY part.  ( ).  

Training should be one part of a comprehensive, nationwide plan. There are resources for getting this together, such as the proactive 5 Part Safety System that can be developed with and reviewed by MinistrySafe Institute. I’m very grateful for those who are DOing and have taken this training seriously in their day-to-day lives, but leadership needs to drop the “we’re not an organization” act and get organized on this issue. Not every expert we consult has to be in the fellowship, and there’s plenty of money out there to pay for services.  

For those like me who are struggling with these frustrations, there are resources that help to make sense of some of the deeply human (i.e., not very spirit-led) responses to abuse that we have been subject to. Spoiler alert: we’re just like all the other churches, or worse.

For those overseers and ministers asking for prayers and direction and feedback because you “want to get this right,” I pray that you have enough humility and honesty to learn from a Christian woman with short hair and jewellery. Her name is Diane Langberg. She has studied abuse in churches across the world. From her work you will see that the patterns of abuse, cover-ups and neglect of victims that have been laid bare in our fellowship are the same patterns revealed in other institutions that most of you would call “false churches.” Diane is a psychologist and was studying PTSD before it had a name.  

Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church

This video is another option that covers some of the book topics. I implore you to watch it and take it seriously:

A second book by Wade Mullen is also useful. Wade’s PhD was focused on institutional response to abuse, with a focus on churches. The desire to protect the image of an institution or a powerful person at the cost of victims is a straight-up human response. It is not a spirit-led response. Especially important, this book describes what an effective apology looks like. Overseer letters I’ve seen, if they offer an apology, mostly look like apoloscuses rather than the type of apology that leads to healing.

Something’s Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse–and Freeing Yourself from Its Power

A third book, “When Narcissism Comes to Church,” gets personal. First, it challenges us to look inside for the elements of narcissism that each of us carry. It asks us to see the narcissist as a wounded person. But it also calls out the real damage done by individuals in our midst who carry and act on their narcissistic traits. We must not ignore that damage.  

Further, the chapters on narcissistic SYSTEMS clearly describe the dangers of swimming in the waters of “we are the only true Christians.” First, this message is very attractive to narcissistic personalities. Second, a power structure that has no accountability (especially when leadership pretends that hierarchy doesn’t exist, even, allegedly, when under oath) is an absolute dream scenario for a narcissistic person. All of the above puts the narcissistic preacher in the role of feeding ON the sheep, not feeding the sheep. I personally witnessed this type of behavior while in the ministry. I believe the whole staff knew about the damaging behavior of our overseer, but no one could really challenge this “anointed one.” I realize now that I experienced trauma under this leadership, as did others. I am still recovering. Some mainstream churches now actively screen for narcisstic personality traits in pastors. Perhaps we could learn from their wisdom.  

When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse

In conclusion, there are many good people and ministers in the fellowship. There are ministers who truly love, serve, and crave positive change. I believe many sincere prayers have been made for guidance in the past and are still being made to find a better path forward. But I DO NOT believe many of us are even at a point of being completely honest about the crisis of abuse (of all kinds) in our group.

The ministry, despite being freed from day-to-day jobs to focus wholly on spirituality, completely whiffed on interpretation of certain scriptures about dealing with problems within the fellowship. For generations, people have been discouraged, and in some cases outright forbidden, from seeking legal and/or professional intervention. We are now told “go to the authorities” and “seek professional help” as if those instructions have always been church policy. Let us be honest – giving that advice without an apology and/or context is gaslighting. That change in stance is a reinterpretation of scripture after GENERATIONS of getting it wrong. And only STARTING to get it right 10-15 years ago because of the threat of law enforcement and, most likely, pressure from the friends.

It is time for the ministry to demonstrate love by LEARNING AND LEADING rather than being forced to do the bare minimum for victims of all kinds of abuse. It is time for the quiet bystanders, including some of my respected former co-workers, to speak up to the powerful. There are many of us out here that have your backs. It is time to stop pretending we don’t know about bad actors. It is time to stop the revisionist history. It is time to stop the self-deception and willful ignorance. It is time to apologize specifically and meaningfully to current and past victims. It is time to recognize that it is not love or mercy to put an abuser in a position where they can easily abuse again. It is time to recognize that it is evil to merely note the wounds of victims without working to provide healing. It is time to see ourselves in the priest and the Levite, when we should be doing the work of the Samaritan. It is time to stop using David’s murderous and adulterous failings as an excuse for perpetrators while simultaneously holding victims to the standard of a younger David who wouldn’t act against an anointed one. It is time to accept that, through abuse, denial of justice, and misuse of certain scriptures, we have driven many people out of the fellowship. It is time to stop judging victims and start holding ourselves, including the most powerful among us, accountable. It is time for serious, structural change.


About the author:

I spent several years in the work and I am now a parent. I’m sad that this letter must be shared anonymously, but it is a necessary precaution for my family at this time. I greatly respect the bravery of others who share their names. I pray for the day when open conversation around difficult issues is the norm.

Offense – Mercy – Saving sinners

WINGS Note: In the 2019 letter pasted below, Robert Eberhardt states “I was a sexual offender”. He has recently advised that he was referring to “consensual relationships” in this letter. Adult consensual relationships are entirely different to child sexual abuse or adult abuse/assault.

His letter was written to explain why special arrangements were being made for convicted CSA offender Price Turner to attend meetings in Wisconsin.

His call for mercy does not necessitate attendance at meetings, nor should it form an obligation on victims. This letter, and the various circumstances that have been exposed recently, raises issues that need to be considered deeply.

Robert Eberhardt is the current overseer of AL/MS/LA. He has labored in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. He has been the overseer of MO/AR, WI, and AL/MS/LA.

For more information about the specific case of Price Turner see


Dear <redacted>,

<redacted paragraph – news of recent visits>

You have asked me to explain Bruce Shaw’s question regarding gospel meetings where a registered sexual offender would be present. If you are looking for someone to assign blame to for this you may put it all on me. What may appear to you as a single worker’s obsession with helping sexual offenders and rapists, is in fact the whole purpose of God in establishing this ministry and our being His servants in it. Paul in his first epistle to Timothy chapter 1, verse 15: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

I previously wrote to you the following: 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.

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?

There is a way for the sinner to be accepted, for righteousness to prevail and God to be glorified.

I hope that you will understand that the safety of your children is no less important to me than the salvation of some poor sinner’s soul.

May God, the Father of us all, keep us united and safe from every evil thing.

You may share this with anyone you wish.

With love in Christ,

Robert Eberhardt

Perry Pearson clarification re Eric Nelson

Dear friends,

This letter is to provide clarification and an apology for any misunderstanding I created in my prior letter. We are prepared to take a firm stand against CSA. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact any of the Dakota workers. As workers, we are seeking to be available, compassionate and attentive to your needs and concerns.

On Monday May 22, 2023, I shared a letter with the SD friends stating that I was aware of allegations being made against Eric Nelson and the plan moving forward. Questions have arisen regarding the statement that Mr. Nelson not attend any meetings for the remainder of 2023.

In trying to establish a standard practice for CSA, I sought legal counsel. It was legally advised that we restrict alleged perpetrators from ALL fellowship for a “specified length of time”. It was suggested that 6 months to a year would be appropriate to see what information is gathered. If there is a court case, there will be clear legal guidelines and restrictions for fellowship. If there isn’t a court case, then we will have to decide what is appropriate moving forward. What will be appropriate is what is the safest for all in attendance. I did not state that Mr. Nelson will be freed from all restrictions and able to attend meetings in 2024.

All of the friends in SD, particularly those presented with this situation, have been notified regarding allegations against Mr. Nelson. This was with the purpose that potential victims would be notified of the allegations to prevent future harm and any additional victims would be encouraged to come forward.

We workers deeply care about these issues, and we make a passionate plea for all victims of CSA/SA to seek resources to begin a healthy journey toward recovery. The Dakota workers support you and will respect your confidentiality in this process. The following resources have been recommended by a professional in the field,


Perry Pearson

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an anti-sexual violence organization. They can be visited at RAINN also operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE for adult victims of sexual abuse. The number to……

Ken Pinney removed from the work in NC/VA/MD/D

We are sorry to say that Ken Pinney has some accusations against him from about 20 years ago of CSA (child sexual abuse). 

As a result of that he was asked to not continue in the work. 

It involved grooming activities, and it led to kissing a girl that was 14.

He said that experience scared him, and changed him, and since then he has sought to avoid anything that would lead in that direction.

The NC/VA/MD/DE staff

Friends and workers meeting in Georgia re CSA and SA

CSA AND SA meeting Tuesday May 23rd 7pm – Held in Georgia

Workers Present: Kelvin Naef (Overseer), Audrey Fuller, Carl Nelson, Sharon Wahlin

[WINGS Note: 16 friends were present; 4 of the couples were elders]

Meeting was opened with prayer and then the first question was asked: Are there currently any friends or workers in GA that have allegations of CSA or SA against them, past or present? 4 GA workers present said they aren’t aware of any current allegations.

A friend asked what the process is for ensuring that workers who come to Georgia don’t have a history of CSA/SA because it’s been the process in the past to move accused workers on to other states. Carl Nelson stated that he’s not aware of any current policy in the US or Canada and that things haven’t always been handled the right thing in the past. Ministry Safe is being implemented nation-wide.

A friend asked for the procedure on how something reported is handled. Carl said that the workers are mandatory reporters, that most workers did not know this because they don’t have professional training, but 15 years ago a worker found out the hard way that the workers are all mandatory reporters. That is now their policy, to report to the authorities when there’s an allegation. Kelvin Naef said that when it involves children, it’s really out of the workers’ hands.

A friend clarified that 20+ years ago, friends took allegations to the workers according to scripture, but laws have changed and what he’s now hearing is that friends need to take allegations directly to the law, not elders or senior workers. A friend knowledgeable in the laws of this told everyone that Child Protective Services is who should be notified when the allegations involve a child. Carl said that the GA workers have information they’re going to send to all of the friends giving information about legal steps to take regarding CSA and SA. The forms they have are from the recent Texas seminar but they’ve modified it for the laws of GA/SC/FL.

A friend encouraged all friends who haven’t already to take the Ministry Safe course. It’s open to everyone, costs $10 and takes about an hour to complete. Another friend said that there’s information on the course for parents.

Kelvin let everyone know that about 15 years ago some of these issues arose in other states and at that time several brothers met with professionals to get advice on how to handle them. After that the brothers had sessions with every staff in the midwest and eastern states. That was when they were all asked to take the Ministry Safe course and most have taken it multiple times. These are things that they have been educated about for 15 years now and many friends are not aware of that.

A friend asked if all workers nationwide have taken the course. Kelvin said that he believes now that all have taken it. Unfortunately it wasn’t done everywhere prior to recent events, but it was done in all eastern and midwestern states.

A friend asked if the workers notify the friends when there’s an allegation or a conviction. Carl said that there’s a risk in an innocent person’s life being destroyed, but that there has to be some transparency too, so the practice is to notify when there’s an allegation. Audrey Fuller agreed, stating that many times perpetrators are never convicted. A friend asked what a “credible allegation” meant. Carl asked “Where do you draw the line?” Another friend stated that “You don’t draw the line. If a child has the courage to come forward and say anything, you give them the benefit of the doubt and you report. There is no gray area here.”

Another friend asked how situations that aren’t criminal but just inappropriate for those in the work are handled, including those involving two consensual individuals in the work. Stated thankfulness for workers willing to give up marriage and families, but asked if workers who have allowed themselves into temptation are asked to step down if they don’t decide to do that themselves. It shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing for a worker to make the decision that they want to leave the work for love, but also not a good thing for the ministry for them to stay in the work.

Another friend brought up the business setting: In a business setting, if a leader has allegations of even a consensual relationship with an employee, the board of directors would immediately call an investigation and if found to be true, he/she would be immediately terminated. Rumors of Robert Flippo’s relationships circulated a long time ago. There is zero possibility that no workers knew about this then if multiple friends knew. In regular life, there are certain standards that leaders are held to. Those leaders don’t go into people’s houses. The workers go into people’s houses so there should be standards and processes.

Audrey Fuller said that she thinks a pattern of behavior is really important. David made a bad mistake with Bathsheba and there were consequences but it was once. It was not five or six times. When there’s a pattern of behavior, obviously it’s something we have to address.

A friend said that we need to know about things that happen in the entire country or world, not just in our state. This is a global family. We don’t expect perfection, we just need information.

Another friend said that overseers asking not to share information with others or not addressing things because they happened in other states is unrealistic. People are sharing on social media but we shouldn’t hear about these things there, we should hear them from the workers.

Audrey also stated that the power difference in a relationship involving at least one worker is a huge consideration.

A friend said that in Iowa, it is criminal for clergy to have a physical relationship with a member of their congregation. But there’s also a moral side, not just legal.

Another friend said there’s common sense about what’s right and wrong and reiterated that transparency is important. The doubt needs to be dispelled, otherwise people are being left to interpret the information.

Another friend said that we don’t want to lose friends over a lack of information. The workers work so hard at bringing people into the fold, but what about the ones who are here?

Audrey said that one of the moderators of Wings told her 7 years ago that over 200 people had left the fellowship over Ira Hobbs and that broke her heart. The workers knew about all of the allegations. A friend said that as a child she heard the allegations, and her parents dismissed it. Carl said that when that came out, a letter was sent to Texas friends and there was nothing swept under the rug. He said that they try to handle things on a case by case basis and try to be led by the spirit about when and how to release information, aside from the legal side of things. He said they love and live among the friends and become aware of things throughout the kingdom but it’s not in their nature to expose failings.

A friend asked if other states were notified about Ira Hobbs, but Carl said he wasn’t here at the time. Another friend said that there are many friends concerned about these things and that it would give us all a lot more peace to know these things. Maybe the workers feel that sharing these things would cause issues, but not saying things creates bigger problems. There are a lot of the friends talking to each other about these things, and if the workers are trying to keep things silent, that’s not happening.

Kelvin replied that they haven’t been silencing people, but have been going on special meetings visits the last few weeks and talking about these things daily.

A friend said that one of the issues is that there isn’t unity among the overseers; things are done by borders or states and not across the fellowship. Those borders need to be wiped out as information travels so fast. These are one kingdom issues. Covid was a perfect example, in that there wasn’t unity in how things were handled. All of us here want to see change. Will the status quo just continue because the status quo is not safe. Asked again for a process for dealing with these things to be created.

Carl said they like to respond to the flock as the need appears, and to not write policies for the kingdom but to have a spirit-led ministry. Said there won’t be one policy that works for the whole ministry. A friend asked what we do if someone like Dean Bruer is the one deciding these things, obviously not spirit-led. Carl said that in Bible days there were people in authority making bad decisions and the Lord removed them. A friend said that we hear that, but it is time for the senior workers to get together and have these discussions. Individuals making these decisions is not healthy as there are often senior workers not making spirit-led decisions. The friends often treat the workers as if they’re mini-Gods and that is wrong.

Another friend spoke that there has been some minimizing of sexual assault, not involving children. There is a question of consent, and when there is a difference of any kind of power, there is no consent. There needs to be a standard, just because of the nature of abuse. It is so different from the perspective of a woman-what men may think is consensual is often not. Kelvin asked all to think about King David, who was in a position of high power and committed adultery and murder but the Lord did not remove him from being king. Audrey said that the Lord didn’t remove him from being king, but he was not going into people’s homes.

A friend said he’s recently worked with a neuroethicist to determine in the workplace how to maintain ethics in the conversations between caregivers and patients. She said that there’s a standard of law that’s above the written law. Those things will usually eventually become written law, but they usually exist because there’s an imbalance of power. Friend said he thinks the ministry would have a standard above the universal laws of the workplace.

Ministry Safe was implemented in the midwest and the east. Current events that started these conversations happened in the west. This put the workers in the east in an awkward place. There has been a lack of harmony between the east and west coasts for at least 75 years or more. We need to pray for our leaders. This problem is at the top. Said he thinks the Lord is cleaning up some things before he brings the two coasts together. We need to be patient with the Lord but pray really hard that those leaders are childlike and praying and not considering themselves in the situation. This division in not just in the United States but around the world. We love that we’re not an institution, but it’s difficult to create uniformity without becoming an institution.

Another friend said that outside pressure might lead to us needing to become an institution, paying taxes etc. This change is good. Previous generations would never have asked for a meeting like this. Another friend said she’s encouraged that everyone at this meeting cared enough about the family of God to want to make it safe and to have unity.

A friend asked a question that’s been on his heart for a while: “For over 120 years now, we have been indoctrinated to accept that our fellowship is the only right way, the perfect way, so now it has become clear that in order to preserve that doctrine, secrecy and coverups have been the standard mode of operation at every level. Do the workers plan to continue teaching that doctrine?’ Said when his son was 7 years old, on the way home from convention, he asked his dad “Do all of the other preachers in the world know that they’re going to hell? Said this is so unfair to our children, mental abuse even. This seems to be the spirit of our group, and in order to preserve the doctrine of the “perfect way,” we have to have secrecy and coverups.

Carl said he speaks in gospel meetings that Christ is the only way, not we are the only way. But there will be unity among the brethren. The spirit separates the Lord’s people. In Acts 15, there was disunity but it took time to work those things out. The spirit was leading in those matters even though there were some different opinions about the right forward. Kelvin said he’s been in all of the western states, where he found good fellowship and his own personal experience tells him that we have a lot more in common than we have differences.

A friend said he’s also experienced unity, but there are also things that need to be addressed collectively (divorce and remarriage, etc). This will bring people together. Salvation belongs to God, and the scripture says that God’s desire is that all should be saved. Thankfully it is God, because if some human was making that decision, we would have a massive mess on our hands. Several offered their own experiences on this topic.

Rob, A worker who flew in from Italy this same day, gave an outside perspective about grapes vines in Italy. If the branches abide in the vine in every part of that country, there is fruit. Our responsibility is to God, and that is what keeps us together. Original questioner of the “one way doctrine” gave the opinion that William Irvine and George Walker established a system of fellowship. Several workers gave Biblical references that backed up the meeting in the home as how God wants us to serve. Different opinions expressed but several in the room.

A friend moved the conversation back to CSA/SA and brought up liability of workers and convention ground owners of not handling matters appropriately. A council needs to be created to come to standard about these matters: including sister workers and elders.

Another friend asked why if God is in control, has this all been allowed to happen to victims, especially little children. Said he grew up in a country where he was mentally and emotionally abused by the workers so he feels very strongly about this. More discussion about the way being Jesus, not a manner of worship. Agreement to be careful to not follow humans, but Jesus. A friend said we’re the ones who have to make the change, that moving forward we can focus on whom we believe in, not what we believe in.

Another friend talked about the language we use being important, especially with our children, so that moving forward we’re more focused on Jesus and less than on the people. Another friend asked that workers touch on being compassionate and listening to and validating people (women) who come forward with allegations of abuse. The victims have suffered double than what they should have. Love is our banner, but we haven’t shown that love towards victims in the past.

Another friend said that Paul made it clear that man wasn’t above woman or vice versa. A topic for another day on the balance of power among men and women in the work. A friend got emotional asking for concern for safety for women and children in the fellowship moving forward. Asked for open dialogue moving forward.

Another friend said it’s not enough to tell people to be patient. There have to be steps forward to make people feel comfortable. We need to continue to have these types of discussions. People are desperate to talk about things. Kelvin said they’ve been visiting individually with friends for weeks over the special meeting rounds and are very happy to discuss these things within homes. A friend said that in Ezekiel 34, God instructs shepherds on how to care for the sheep. Kelvin said they do have a feeling of love and care for the friends. Said they’re not perfect, but want to do the best they can. He wanted to let the friends know that the staff did have a recent informal session together, reviewing what is appropriate and inappropriate in the work. Said they’re trying to educate the staff but can’t force or control people.

Carl said this education information will be going out to all homes in the three states. They will also strongly suggest that elders take the ministry safe course. A friend said that even sharing that the workers have been discussing these things with the entire congregation would really help people to feel peace. Sending letters out on a periodic basis would quell a lot of concerns.

Kelvin said he can only think of four meetings in 48 years in the work where a staff has discussed organizational matters. A friend suggested that they have far more to make decisions as a staff.

Another friend said we’re all here because we care. It’s all about having more transparency and more communication on the evidence of change. Another said not to fear to communicate. Children can handle anything except being lied to, even a lie of omission, even if honorable. Same with us. We can handle things and we’ll have more peace knowing them, especially about CSA or SA.

Meeting wrapped up.

Glenn Gasser letter to Wisconsin friends re former prisoners

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

Open letter from an ex-worker

There is a time to speak, after others have spoken. For me, this time is now. I am writing this tonight in response to each new person who has had great courage in sharing the worst of the worst of the human experience that they have been forced to endure.

But…I say this to you…You should NOT have had to have this courage.

That you have spoken and shared and screamed your pain is nothing except honorable, and beautiful, and dignified…


It is us who has failed YOU, as you have told us. Over and over and over and over. If we fail you again, because we willfully do not listen, and then willfully do not speak, and then willfully do not act, you STILL will be only beautiful and whole. It is us only who will be contemptible and worth nothing but to be trampled under the feet of passersby. Not you.

Before I shift to talking to those I feel impelled to address, I want to tell you who I am. I am a person who has been a worker. I am not now a worker. I have chosen not to tell my name. I do this in part because I am your neighbor, your friend, your relative. I am in your meeting. I am in your field. You know me. And when you read my words to you, I do not want you to hear ME or picture ME. I want you to see YOU. I want you to not be distracted by any other thing. But to really hear and begin to understand where we are today.

I am deeply ashamed. With every new letter from every additional overseer I am more and more ashamed. I am not ashamed that I have been a worker. I am not ashamed of my calling. I am not ashamed of Jesus. But I am deeply ashamed of you…men I have trusted.

At first, after this cascade began to unfold, I took hope because there was at least acknowledgment that something was horribly wrong. I thought I could see a hint in the first letters that there might be an earnest and forthright examining. But then, letters continued to come.

Some said only to share locally. Some said to feel free to distribute. But most were not close to the anguished crying out of the heart I was hearing on every side. Words like “double life,” “sexually immoral,” “sorry to have to tell you this,” “it has come to our attention,” began to be seen in letter after letter. And my hopes became disappointments, and then my heart began to hurt. More and more. With each new day.

We began to see news of others. People who had purposefully and intently and with foresight and great planning inflicted wounds. Wounds to the hearts and minds and bodies of children and of women and of men. Grievous wounds. Not once or twice. But repeatedly. Again and again against the same person. Then moved on to inflict horrible wounds again and again against another person. And then moved on to inflict more wounds…wounds reaching back decades and decades, but that fester and weep because cries and pleadings of the wounded were violently and fiercely silenced.

And we learned these were things that were news. But they also were NOT news. We knew of ourselves and the wounds WE had borne, but thought we were the only ones bearing these wounds. We had had ANOTHER tell us in the dark of night, as they wept bitterly, of wounds THEY bore, but we and they thought we had all borne these wounds alone, isolated…”unusual”…”unfortunate”…and even “guilty” of the wounds inflicted ON us.

But they were not alone and we were not alone. Little by little we began to understand…that these events, these stories, these secrets…they were news to many. But to those who have been given great responsibility…of love, and kindness, and gentleness, and protection…to those men? This was not news. These stories were not new to them. They had known. And they had known for months and years. In situation after situation, they had known. And they chose a course, knowing.

To those men, I speak to you now directly. Every single one of you who have been known to be overseers among us. Or who have been at the right and left hand of those we have called overseers. We have loved you. We have borne your foibles and eccentricities and uniquenesses, as you have ours. But today. Even as our hearts find hope in our Shepherd, we weep in anger and fear and the bitter taste of the cries of those you have grievously wounded.

When the children wept to you and told you the wolves were chewing them to pieces, you turned to the wolves with gentleness and intreated them to loosen their jaws and be kinder. As the wolves turned to you with blood on their teeth, you said to the children, “see? They have repented. What they have done to you is regrettable. But we need them and we believe they will be kind and gentle, because they have told us they will.”

When the wolves rent the sheep, and the sheep fled, crying back over their shoulder, “If we stay we will be consumed,” you called after them, “come back, come back, we have moved the wolf and the wolf has told us they are now a sheep.” But as they came back, afraid to trust, but with great trembling, wanting to trust just once more, they heard from the neighboring pasture the screaming bleats of the sheep and the growling glee of the wolf as they set to their life’s purpose all over again.

I say this to you. If you are reading this and you say, “this is not to me. I am not that overseer.” Then please be assured. I am speaking to you most of all.

You have believed the wolf. You have eaten with the wolf. You have laughed with the wolf. You have encouraged the wolf. You have said to the wolf, “I believe you are a good sheep. You have been a good sheep to me. I do not believe you have done many of the things the little children, and the lambs, and the sheep have told me you did to them. Because you have told me you did not do those things. And I trust you, my brother. When the little children, and the lambs, and the sheep told me about you, they told me screaming, and weeping, and they were unkind about you. They did not have a merciful spirit toward you. But as for me, I see the blood on your jaws. I see the ear hanging from your teeth. But I forgive you. Do you promise you will not act as a wolf, but will now act as a sheep?” And when the wolf told you, “Yes. With all of my heart, yes. I have always been a sheep, but I slipped and have had a momentary lapse into the heart of a wolf. But no more. I am a sheep,” you believed the wolf. Though the wolf told you differently with every new act, with every new scream from a freshly wounded lamb, you still believed the wolf.

Can we take comfort when you share letter after letter with us and tell us that no wolf has access to the little children, and to the lambs, and to the sheep? When we hear the growling of the wolf in the neighboring field? When you just moved the wolf? And we hear them with our own ears? When a freshly wounded child is crying bitterly in our ear, “where were you and why did you not help me when the wolf attacked me yesterday?”

Do not any longer tell us about what you will do. Do not tell us, “we are starting fresh from here…all the past is the past and we can’t deal with all of that…let’s go onward and do better!” Do not tell us these things. It is an abomination. You have not believed the cries of the children. We do not yet believe your entreaties.

You see? You entreat the wolves on the one hand. And you spend much of each of these letters encouraging us to do the same. But all the screams, and cries, and whimpers, and wordless groans you have not just ignored, but gone about silencing by any means you could…we hear them. And we are not alone in hearing them. We have a Father who hears them. And we hear our Father. And our Father is saying to us in our hearts, “Do not believe the wolf. Believe me. Do not pass by on the other side. Stop and hear the cries of the wounded. Let the Pharisees and the Priests pass by, but you must not. You must stop. And you must hear. And you must do what I tell you to do so there are no more screams in the night.”

So to those of you who carry or have carried the title of “those who watch over”, please do not say to us, “but what about the wolf? If we are all sheep who slip, could that make us all wolves too?! Would we not need mercy if we were a wolf?” You have joined with the wolf in not having mercy on the lambs. You have partnered with the wolf and you have not had mercy on the sheep. And to the little children, you have sung a chorus with the wolves, with the refrain, “we have not believed you, because we have believed and loved the wolf.”

Love the lambs. Hear the cries of the sheep. Be tender to the little children. And turn away from the voice of the wolf. The wolf does not care for you…the wolf cares only for access to the ones who cry and are not heard. Do not any longer entreat us to believe the wolf…to trust the wolf…to embrace the wolf.

I do not want to end without also speaking to the wolves. If you do not want the heart and nature of the wolf, tell God alone. If there ever is a time, because of what he alone does in you, that you no longer have the heart of a wolf, do not tell us. Do not ask us to trust you. God himself will know and his work is not hidden. This is between you and God. But we have among us the little lambs who quake when they see you. And when they hear your voice, they shudder. So be content to leave the lambs and let us surround them. Let us hear them. We have heard you for a long, long time. THEY need to hear no more from the wolf. WE need to hear no more from the wolf. There is one, only one, who can hear you when you cry. And he will. But not before he hears his little ones and tends to the soul-rending wounds you have purposely and deliberately inflicted.

Finally, again, as I started, it must also be that I end. Children, women, and men…your anguish is on every side of us. We hear you when we sleep. We see you when we awake. We are not closing our eyes and we are not plugging our ears. And more than that, we are going to do what you need us to do. Please tell us. Please tell us what you find healing…tell of your story, or don’t…but please, keep telling us in some way if we aren’t doing what you need from us. We will listen. I don’t expect you to trust we are listening to YOU now, instead of the wolves who hurt you. But I do expect us to SHOW you we are listening to you and we are listening no longer to the wolf.

Not one more child. Not one more woman. Not one more man. Not one more person harmed.

Jackie Shinogle – CSA offender – attends meetings in Colorado

In 2003, Jackie Shinogle pleaded guilty to a felony charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a misdemeanor charge of sexual assault. Charges of tampering with a victim and tampering with physical evidence were dropped as part of a plea agreement. These charges stemmed from a “relationship” he had maintained over the course of several months with a 15 year old girl, who he coached in softball. He was a Fort Collins softball coach and school teacher.

He was sentenced to 45 days jail, four years probation, a program of intensive supervised treatment for sexual offenders and to register as a sex offender.

In 1993 Shinogle was charged with sexual assault on a 12 year old child, relating to actions in 1985 when Shinogle was the victim’s gym teacher. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment.

Jackie Shinogle has been attending meetings for many years without restrictions in the North Central field in Colorado. Families who met with him were not notified of his crimes. He is believed to be currently attending. His overseer is Titus Lehman.

Update May 24, 2023 re abuse in Atlantic Canada

UPDATE: May 24, 2023

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all that have been willing to speak up in support of Morgan and others who are unable to speak up because of their own personal trauma.

The men (overseers) that covered up and allowed these abhorrent abuses to continue, instead of stopping the perpetrators…have kept themselves in the place of authority. If these men had any conscience or feelings for these victims these ministers would have humbly stepped aside or left the ministry all together. The thought of these men working amongst our true workers and having authority over them makes me question their motivation. It makes me ill. That they can even show their faces and make decisions and claim they are taking appropriate action is scary and disturbing, They have fought against us for 3 years and refused to do anything appropriate concerning the mess here in Atlantic Canada; we have documented proof. The victims have been told multiple times to remain silent to not tell anyone. These are scary men with a lot of power among the friends who will absolutely listen to and believe whatever they say. If it had not been for the loud consistent cry of all of you that have been willing to stand up and have a voice there is no doubt in my mind that just moving the workers to a different province would have been the only action taken. Still, they refuse to send a letter clarifying the nature of the abuse, harassment and assault and apologize for mishandling it which further traumatized the victims. What we received was not a letter to unite people by acknowledging the truth, but to pacify ignorance.

  • Bob and Stacy Bainbridge

Scott Hamilton leaves the work

Scott Hamilton has left the work, after previously being in Maine and then returning to Wisconsin.

Glenn Gasser said it was not for immoral reasons in the email he sent to the Appleton field:

“Scott Hamilton returned to Appleton today. He will be helping at home and seeking employment in the area. This is not for any immoral reason. He valued his time in the work & we will try to stand by him in this transition.”

Troy A. Thompson attends meetings in WI after CSA convictions

In 2016 Troy A. Thompson was sentenced to three years in prison and 10 years extended supervision on five counts of child pornography possession after authorities found thousands of images on computers they seized from his home. The content featured men engaged in various types of sexual intercourse with boys and girls ranging from infant to 8 years old, according to court records. Investigators also found evidence of Internet chats with another individual about possibly making plans to meet with a child, Assistant District Attorney Scott Ceman said during a June 22 court hearing.

Investigators found 55,000 images on the five computers they seized from Thompson’s residence. Of those images, about 90 percent constituted child pornography.

Troy Thompson was an elder. WINGS understands that he has been attending meetings in Wisconsin since his release. There never was a chaperone program for Thompson. There never was an email explaining his conviction, nor what was to happen when he was released from prison. The meeting was removed from Troy’s house and the people were sent to other meetings. There has been zero communication in the field or to the state of Wisconsin regarding Troy Thompson.

Howard E. Ferguson attends meetings in WI after CSA convictions

In 2004 Howard Ferguson was convicted of First-degree Sexual Assault of a Child; Child Enticement; and First-degree Sexual Assault of a Child. He was sentenced to a 15 year jail term for assault of a boy. Some action occurred on a church outing.

WINGS understands that Ferguson has been attending meetings in Wisconsin since his release. The workers started a chaperones program for Ferguson. Chaperones are supposed to take convicted CSA offenders to gospel meetings and sit by them. Numerous friends volunteered to be chaperones but they haven’t always followed the chaperone rules. A number of families with children were not comfortable meeting with the offenders and simply stopped coming to meetings.

Price G. Turner III attends meetings in WI after CSA convictions

Price Turner molested and raped his daughter over many years. He was convicted 10 October 2012 of the offence ‘Repeated Acts Of Sexual Assault Against Same Child’.

In 2014 he appealed his conviction for repeated assault of his daughter, claiming that incriminating statements he made to her, that were recorded on a wireless device, should not have been admitted as evidence. The appeal was dismissed. See Appeal No. 2013AP2101-CR Cir. Ct. No. 2011CF373 STATE OF WISCONSIN.

Turner was preached to in prison and accepted into gospel meetings once released. The workers started a chaperones program for Turner. Chaperones are supposed to take convicted CSA offenders to gospel meetings and sit by them. Numerous friends volunteered to be chaperones but they haven’t always followed the chaperone rules. A number of families with children were not comfortable meeting with the offenders and simply stopped coming to meetings.

Enos Bontrager attends meetings in WI after CSA convictions

In 2016 Bontrager faced trial charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 years old, two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, and one count of sexual assault of a child under 16.

Other allegations of repeated rape of a child, more than 20 years prior, were not pursued because of the statute of limitations.

Hours before his trial was due to start, Bontrager entered into a plea agreement through which he pleaded no contest to reduced charges and was found guilty by the court, of1) Repeated sexual assault of a child, which is a felony and carries a 40-year prison sentence, 2) Exposing his genitals to a child, and 3) Sexual assault.

The judge initially expressed that the plea deal (deferred prosecution agreement) that was proposed for the felony charges of repeated sexual assault of a child was outrageous and that he couldn’t agree to let Enos get away with only probation and no jail time for a charge that carries a 40-year prison sentence.

Bontrager was sentenced to nine months jail, fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $6,800 restitution. He was released after seven months.

There never was a chaperone program for Bontrager. There never was an email explaining his conviction, nor what was to happen when he was released from prison. There has been zero communication in the field or to the state of Wisconsin regarding Enos Bontrager.

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In April of 2023, a victim sent a message to her overseer, Jeff Thayer (of MN and IA), saying “I deserve to feel safe and if there are policies being put into place regarding sexual predators I would appreciate knowing”.

The victim notes:

Two days later Ray Hoffman sent me an e-mail asking me to call him.

Ray Hoffman asked that she not share my experiences with sexual assault given the recent events surrounding Dean Bruer.

When I asked Ray what the policy will be when someone comes forward about abuse, he said: “Well, it’s tricky because a lot of times victims who come forward are mentally unstable and while we feel for them, it’s hard to know what to do.” 

Ray talked about mercy to perpetrators because we want them to go to heaven. He asked me if I wanted the perpetrators to go to heaven.

When I asked Ray why Leslie White (an abuser) was allowed to participate in gospel meetings a couple of years ago, the answer was, “Well, he’s losing his mind now, so I doubt we really have to worry about him at this point.” I asked Ray if an abuser is old and losing their mind, is there no restriction or consequence in our “church group”? Ray stammered with no answer. What I heard during the conversation was that I was wrong, that I had a victim mindset, and that I was living in a victim world and therefore, he couldn’t reasonably talk to me. I could no longer take Ray’s victim shaming, so I hung up on him.

I wish I had known before calling that Ray isn’t a “safe” person. I feel it would be unfair to others if I didn’t share my experience. Please still call them, document the call and PLEASE have a witness for support. Every victim deserves support.

3 years ago when many were gathered (workers and friends) at the courthouse to hear me talk about the years long sexual abuse that Enos Bontrager committed on me no one set up a policy then or warned the state of how dangerous he was/is. Now that his stupid minimal sentence is served he’s allowed in meeting free to continue to destroy lives.

A parent’s perspective on CSA issues and contact with perpetrators

I have been professing since 1999, but I was raised in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. 

I was molested by my father for as far back in my childhood as I can remember.  My father used obscure verses from the books of the prophets to justify the father’s right to “know” his children and the right of a Father to “humble” his children to teach them submission. When I was 16, I revealed my abuse to a friend.  She told her mom who then told my mom. My mom immediately went to the police and my dad was removed from the house within 24 hours.  The police were quick to respond, but the continuing emotional abuse was from the response of church and family. My dad was sentenced to 5 years in jail, but served only 6 months, getting out early due to his “good behavior” while he was in jail. 

My grandmother, his mother, was angry at my mother stating that “those are family secrets that are not to be talked about.” I found out then that my family has 4 known generations of CSA. My extended family was not willing to be in contact with me for many years and was not supportive of me in my healing from the abuse.  My dad remarried, a woman with three daughters, 2 of whom my dad ended up molesting as well.  

My mom was excommunicated from the JW church for divorcing my dad, apparently CSA is not considered adultery or fornication.  My dad has remained in good standing in the church the whole time.  He was never excommunicated and is still to this day a member in good standing.  He knocks on doors seeking converts, goes to meetings (The JW’s call their gatherings meetings as well) and circuit assemblies, and visits the widows. 

My experience with the church, from the perspective of a young girl was very damaging emotionally.  The acceptance of my dad’s behavior and the punishment that my mom received for leaving a man like him was very confusing. I ended up going back to the JW church only a year after my dad’s arrrest, feeling a tremendous amount of guilt that I wasn’t right with God if I didn’t go to meetings.  I sincerely wanted to be right with God, believed firmly that there was a God and believed that somewhere there was an absolute “truth” about how the world was made, and that God had a plan for His people. 

The church told me that if I wanted to “be right” with God then I would need to move out of my mother’s home as she was excommunicated. This alienated me from my only remaining source of support and unconditional love.  Fortunately for me, I left the JW church and began desperately seeking God in prayer.  I hadn’t read the verse about praying in the closet, but this was my safe place, and I went in the closet, hidden behind the hanging clothes and begged the God of heaven to hear my cry.

I battle with depression and anxiety, I have twice attempted to commit suicide, and easily feel guilty and ashamed for sins that I didn’t commit.  I am not proud of these things that I struggle with, but it is somehow comforting to me to realize that many CSA victims struggle with the same things.  I have come to see suicide as the devil offering me an easy way out and I have decided that I chose life regardless of how difficult it is at times.

My plea right now is that we can have mercy and compassion on those that have endured the same treatment from a “faith” that is doing ungodly acts and claiming to be godly. Even having compassion on those that chose to leave after enduring this kind of treatment. 

I spent 7 years looking for the “church that only taught the bible” I had given up by the time we met a dear older brother in Kake, Alaska.  I thought God didn’t have a church anymore and I wasn’t sure how to obey the scripture about not forsaking fellowship.  My husband and I had tried most of the denominations and come up empty in our souls. 

When we first met the sister workers, I remember thinking that it was like they actually knew Jesus, like he was their brother.  A different spirit is what I saw and experienced even though I did not have the words to express it.  I know for a certainty that what I found and what I experienced caused me to feel like God was near to me instead of far away.  I saw something different in the people and the desire to follow the bible in a very literal sense. 

I personally found life for my soul, not an easy way, but a way of life and hope and vision that I hadn’t seen before.  I personally believe that God can work in other ways, we hear stories of people like the apostle Paul that had amazing conversion experiences, but most often the work of God begins with a quiet simple message that reveals Jesus to a human heart.

Just because God opened up a way in sending Jesus to the earth, doesn’t mean everything in God’s way is of God.  The devil has always been messing with God’s goodness. Jesus said to beware of false prophets and to watch for those coming claiming to be Christ.  If someone claims to be a prophet of God, a worker, and they are abusing children then they are not of God.  The Spirit of God does not hurt children.  Those that do such things are not of the Spirit of God. 

You don’t have the nature of a predator one day and the next day you don’t. Child abuse is a pattern of sin where your conscience is so seared that you are not able or willing to stop yourself from victimizing the dearest of Gods people, the ones we were told to be like.  The root of most abuse against others is a desire to control and dominant. 

A narcissistic personality is often the root cause of abusive behavior.  The thinking that one is above the rules of society and can somehow justify abusing another to satisfy their own need for power and control, is often the mentality that drives abusers.  The predator mentality seeks to satisfy itself at the expense of another, feeding on the pain and suffering of others. It is sick and there is no “cure” for pedophiles, it is the evidence of a seared conscience. 

The approach of encouraging the victim to go to the “brother” in the spirit of Matthew 18 is damaging and results in further abuse.  An abuser will have the upper hand in a conversation with the victim and the result is often that the abuser becomes even more manipulative in order to establish control over the victim.  When the abuser becomes angry, defensive, blames the victim or goes into denial these are red flags that the abuser knows what they are doing and is seeking to reestablish control. 

I was 45 years old when I finally was able to stand up to my father and not feel fear.  He tried to tell me that he wasn’t a pedophile, 30 years after he plead guilty, he was still trying to manipulate me.  I told him that he could tell anyone else those lies, but I was there, and he wasn’t going to change what I know to be true. 

After that conversation with my father, for the first time in my life, I left without feeling fear. Those of you that never knew paralyzing fear as a small child, I longed for your life. Those of you that have loving, kind fathers who know what appropriate touch is, I longed for that in my life.  Those of you that have fathers that know what healthy boundaries look like, be thankful.  These are not things that I was given from my childhood.  I had to learn them as an adult and experience the triggers and anxiety from not being given healthy foundations. I experienced anxiety and fear in having a relationship with God because of the association with him being a Father.  A hope of mine is that, with all that is being revealed regarding the abuse that has been so prevalent, there will be an increase in compassion, an increase in understanding and an increase in awareness of what the cries for help look like.

My biggest concern with what I am seeing right now is a lack of sensitivity to parents concerns when they notice warning signs before actual abuse has happened. I have a situation where a known pedophile has been following my children and I am in the middle of a legal battle to try to get a protective order against him.  Because the workers allowed him to be in the meeting, the court is using that as my giving consent to have him there, even though I did not give consent to him contacting my children. 

Because of how we meet together in different homes and a privately owned convention ground and public gospel meetings, it limits the legal action we can take to enforce the decision to not “allow convicted child molesters” into the meetings.  Each individual elder would have to be willing to refuse to let him in their home, each homeowner on convention grounds would need to be willing to trespass the convicted child molester and we really don’t have much legal grounds to force someone to leave when we are having gospel meetings in a public facility. 

It seems like many of the workers feel that the abuser will abide by the decision and not come to meeting. That has not proved true in our situation.  The abuser showed up only a week after being told to not come to meeting any more. The pattern of child molesters showing up at convention uninvited and unwelcome is not a new pattern. 

What legal recourse are workers / elders / parents willing and able to take to prevent someone from contacting our children.  How can we communicate with the workers, elders, and homeowners when we don’t want someone (for any reason) to not touch or communicate with our children?  How can we know that we will be supported when we try to set boundaries for our children and encourage them to set boundaries?  What ways is the ministry prepared to encourage and enforce individual boundaries?

I hear lots of information about how to report CSA & how to support victims, but I would like to see more interaction with parents and workers as far as how to work together to prevent encounters from even happening.  I have multiple times brought concerns to the workers about inappropriate sexual behavior only to have them minimized and my concern brushed off.  I was told that the behavior was “normal”, if I am uncomfortable with someone else’s sexual behavior, it doesn’t matter if it is “normal”, I have a right to not be exposed to it.

A safe fellowship would openly and honestly address all concerns about inappropriate behavior and would give parents freedom to decide what they are comfortable with knowing that they will not be pressured or shamed or accused of not forgiving. Forgiveness is not the same as trust, we should not be expected to trust anyone with our children. Trust is earned by a period of consistent safe behavior and the parents have the right to decide who to trust and what constitutes safe behavior.

The current advice for parents to go to authorities if there are CSA incidents still leaves a breach in the relationship with the parent and the supporting role of the ministry.  We as part of the fellowship are invited to gospel meetings, invited to convention, and invited into the homes of the elders to partake in these meetings.  We are not facilitating meetings on our own or organizing our own “church” functions, those are largely planned by the workers with the saints assisting.  The parents are being encouraged to go to the authorities if an incident occurs, but the blame and responsibility is still being put on the parent. The current status in our state is that the parents are still being held responsible for “keeping the children safe”.  The ones facilitating the gatherings have the responsibility and burden of making family events safe for children.

Our state organizes a state fair and at events where alcohol is present, the fair has the responsibility of making sure the alcohol is kept where the children are not present.  The fair is held accountable if they do not make these events safe and do not follow the guidelines for keeping the kids safe. This is so much more important when it comes to keeping our children safe from pedophiles. The workers, the ones organizing church functions, are the one who should be bearing the primary responsibility for making all church functions safe for children. 

I love my God, I love His Son, I love my children, I love my family and I love souls.  I have not learned to hate as a result of my experiences, I have learned that love is something worth fighting for, something worth defending and something worth dying for.  I love all the dear souls that are hurting right now, inside the fellowship or outside.  I pray often that God will draw very near whether you are in meetings or have left meetings. God sees every cry and sees the hurting, broken hearts. May we all choose to keep loving and not give in to the power of hate.

In love,

Jennifer F.

Eric Nelson – South Dakota, removed from meetings

WINGS Note: Eric Nelson is an elder in South Dakota who was recently removed from meetings due to allegations.

The notification from workers is posted below, followed by a letter from one of the victims.

Dear friends in SD,

It is our understanding Eric Nelson of Edgemont, SD has allegations of CSA (child sexual abuse) against him. We are also aware of an allegation of texting and requesting lewd material with an adult female.

We have asked Eric to not attend any meetings through the remainder of 2023. We will revisit the situation then.

We encourage any victims to reach out to the following resources or to speak to someone you can trust. RAiNN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an anti-sexual violence organization.

They can be visited at . RAINN also operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE for adult victims of sexual abuse.

The number to report CSA in SD is 1-877-244-0064.

We are sorry to share this sad news. This is a public matter.

Perry Pearson
Paul Haakenson

Victim’s story

I am a victim. Not just a victim of sexual abuse, but a victim of a system that protects, defends, and provides the perfect breeding ground for CSA. This system repeatedly failed me as a preteen and caused lasting damage. I wanted to share my story.

When l was 12 years old a young couple moved to my hometown and started going to meeting with my family. The man was charming, funny and endearing. Little did I know that he was purposefully and methodically laying the groundwork to abuse and beginning the grooming process. He quickly became good friends with my dad and brothers. Joining them on hunting, fishing trips etc. Him and his wife also would have us over often for “young kids get together” and even staying overnight with us kids so my parents could have a night out. Which is when the abuse began.

A few years went by, and during that time they continued to be close with my family as well as other young families and couples in the area. They also took the steps to become foster parents, and eventually he became the president of the Foster Parent Association in our town. He was well liked and respected.

All the while he had me in his sights, he had gained the trust of church members, my family and friends, and now he had access to me whenever and however he wanted. He got to be so brazen in what he was doing that eventually everyone knew what was going on. At one get together someone was wondering where he was and his own wife told them to go find me and that’s where he would be as well. He also admitted his crimes to another adult professing man, who in turn treated it like a fun piece of gossip and not the gross sexual abuse it was. Every single adult turned a blind eye and refused to protect me.

One of the hardest things for sexually abuse survivors to grapple with is blaming themselves. I was an insecure preteen and what I can clearly see now was abuse, at the time felt like love and attention. One of the greatest weapons abusers use is the ability to make it feel like it is your fault and therefore you keep silent.

It was a couple years of this abuse, when finally his wife eventually discovered evidence on his computer of his abuse towards me and as well as other girls. I called her up and tearfully apologized. All she said was he was an adult and should’ve known better and it was never spoken about again.

I was forever changed. It affected every aspect of my life. I lived with constant guilt that I was a homewrecker. I was 14 when it ended. 14 years old with the entire blame on my shoulders. And I carried that burden with me for years.

But that’s only half of the story. The second half begins when in adulthood I began to heal, I went to therapy where I finally grasped the gravity of the situation. The heaviness. How absolutely not ok it was. How it was NOT my fault. How not a single adult at the time who knew with the utmost certainty that this was happening was not willing to protect a child. How the church had created a culture where you turned the other way and “let God deal with it”. I learned of more friends and workers who knew what was happening but chose not to believe it. My therapist was required by law to report the abuse to the authorities but of course the statutes of limitations had run out and there was nothing that could be done legally. That lit a fire under me to not ever let this man hurt another girl. But I had an uphill battle.

In the town where this man and his family now lived there were lots of young girls. He had also been made the elder of a Sunday morning meeting. I made it my mission to make sure they were aware of what this man was capable of. But it was met with lots of backlash and no one wanting to be the one to rock the boat. I eventually met with the overseer of my state and told him and another brother worker my story. The overseer then consulted with the overseer in my home state and together they decided because he was a foster parent he would’ve taken classes on Child Sexual Abuse and surely learned from that. I was absolutely flabbergasted. He had abused me AFTER he had taken these classes and If you need a class to teach you sexually abusing children Is wrong you are a danger and every parent in the church deserved to know what he was capable of. But there was still great hesitation, I was even told that the girls living in the area were “good girls” and they wouldn’t “let” him do anything to them. Finally they agreed to talk to him and take the meeting out of his home, as well as make other families in the area aware.

Two brother workers went to meet with him and his wife There were sister workers in the field at the time, they did not tell the sisters why they were meeting with him. Apparently that wasn’t important information for two women who were going to be staying in this man’s home to know. Not to mention, this piece of information was never passed on to incoming workers to the field and a meeting was eventually placed in his home again, as the new workers had no knowledge of these events.

One of the brothers met with me after their visit and spoke so highly of this man. He had admitted to all the allegations and admitted to having a problem with young girls. These brothers then spent a wonderful weekend in his home and were so encouraged by his progress. I felt their feedback spoke volumes to the level of deceit and manipulation predators are capable of, which is what makes them so dangerous. He knew exactly what these brothers wanted to hear.

These days this pedophile has children that are teenagers. I know of parents of teenage girls who are unknowingly sending their daughters on road trips to this mans home for “young kid get togethers” with his kids and my heart just sinks. I don’t want ANYONE to go through what I went through and I feel like it is impossible to protect children in the current church climate. I wanted to add my story to the chorus of many others. Unfortunately, my story is not unique and my heart breaks for every single person who has been violated at hands of someone who portrayed themselves as a Godly professing person and then felt hopeless, helpless and defeated by everyone who stood by and did nothing. You are believed and you deserved better.

Jim Atcheson letter to workers and friends – April 2023

April 29, 2023

Dear fellow workers and friends……

We’ve felt the need to write you, but haven’t known what to write.

It is a few weeks since we delivered to the workers, the very painful message that there had been another side to the life of Dean Bruer that none of us knew anything about. It wasn’t until some time after his passing that anything concerning his moral life was brought to light.

We’ve had to bring you yet another grievous message, this one concerning Mark Huddle and his inappropriate behaviour with children on a number of occasions. As soon as Mark was approached with the allegations he stepped down from looking after the oversight in Washington. When more details became evident, he stepped down from his place in the work, which of course was the appropriate thing to do.

Now, two more situations burden us deeply. John VanDenBerg from the California staff and John Mastin from Washington have been asked to step down from the work because of crimes against children.

I would say there was no connection between these situations, apart from the fact that these men, by times let their human nature rule, rather than the Spirit of God.

Our great concern is for the victims in each case and we want to offer them understanding, support and care. Of course we have great pain in our own hearts when we consider these situations and we beg that each of you would let these horrible experiences draw you nearer to God. May our own desperation make each of us diligent in seeking God’s help and comfort for our own needs & the needs of all in this situation. An experience such as this can urge us to pray for more Godly love and a growing faith.

We recognize the necessity of being transparent in such matters and so we feel the need of sharing these details with you. Our own staff of workers have all taken the Ministry Safe course and this gives us a little awareness of what might be warning signs. It makes us acquainted with our responsibilities if we become aware of such a situation and it also teaches us what to do, to live safely.

We are asking our Sunday morning meeting elders to relay this letter to you and we want you to feel comfortable in approaching them & their wives or approaching the workers you know best, if you have concerns. Please let us know if you’d like to take the Ministry Safe course, as it is available to all.

Your brother in Him,      Jim Atcheson

Dakota workers meeting May 2023

WINGS Note: This note was issued after a workers meeting was held at Hunter ND on Friday May 19th with visiting Lyle Schober. No saints were involved and that appears to be specifically justified by the quoted scripture instead of choosing transparency.  The attachments mentioned below were not provided.

From: Perry Pearson [email redacted]
Date: Sat, May 20, 2023 at 8:36 PM
Subject: Yesterday’s gathering, Hermosa preps, summer privileges
To: Perry Pearson [email redacted]
Cc: Paul Haakenson [email redacted]

Our dear friends in the Dakotas,

The Dakota workers gathered yesterday for an encouraging workers meeting in the morning.  An informal meeting followed with open discussion relating to present topics of CSA/SA, reporting these crimes, further education, and guidelines for convicted offenders were addressed.  A letter regarding these matters is forthcoming that the sisters & brothers on our staff are composing.  We recognize they have travel today and have meeting responsibilities tomorrow.

We are attaching the Hermosa prep dates with the convention helpers we are expecting.  Teenagers have spent time at Hermosa preps in years past.  This year, we ask that parents/guardians accompany their minor children coming for work days or a day during the week.   If they spend the night on the grounds during preps, please notify the prep crew & plan to remain with them.

We have also attached the upcoming summer privileges for the Dakota staff.

Some in recent times have asked what workers meetings are.  Workers’ meetings are very much like a Sunday morning fellowship meeting, where we seek to edify, exhort, and comfort one another.  John 13-16 seems a fitting passage as Jesus spent the last night of His young life with His apostles pouring out to them.  Later the apostles wrote of this meeting.  A workers meeting of Paul, Peter & James happened in Jerusalem – later Paul wrote of that in Galatians 1.  Later we read of the apostles assembling in Jerusalem to understand the matter of the Jewish law being imposed upon the Gentiles – this one was about doctrine.  They evidently spoke one by one.  Those that it would have affected the most – the Gentile saints, amazingly, were not invited. This was detailed and the letter was delivered to the Gentiles, causing one of the instances in the New Testament of great joy.

In reflecting on things we heard yesterday morning, the word purity stands out.  The church is worthy of a pure ministry, and is crying out for it.  Words that stand out from yesterday: consolation, comfort, bowels & mercies, reconciled, commitment, take heed, be still, peace, a sweet smelling savor, walk in love, Eph 5:9 is the light we’ve been called into, gold, white raiment, and eye salve.  These are all so pure.  The church is worthy of these virtues.  We heard of Ps 46 twice, though not this verse: There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God – obviously flowing contrary to nature, as the river that proceeded from the Throne of God, and flowed, dividing into little streams to each believer – and above all, it was pure water that gave eternal life.  The church is worthy of this.

With appreciation for each, 
Your brothers, Paul & Perry