About a week ago, a former pastor named Jeff Berry was arrested for allegedly touching the genitals of a child nearly two decades ago, in 1996, when he worked at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.
Current pastor Stan Allcorn (below) released a statement, only to church members, when that news went public.
It included this passage:
Jeff Berry is my friend. I love him as a Christian brother. We have served in revivals together on two occasions. I am praying earnestly for Jeff today and will continue to do so.
We do not have all the facts surrounding this situation. We do not know the full story. I would urge against speculation and for compassion toward all involved…
Of all the things to say about an alleged child predator, he’s “my friend” and “I love him” aren’t exactly good ways to show you’re concerned about the victims. No wonder the online response was swift and critical.
Now Allcorn has issued a second statement to make up for the first one.
… I never intended to downplay the severity of the charges detailed in the arrest warrant or to diminish any victim of childhood sexual abuse or their families. I now realize that my words did both of those things. I also understand that my words caused many people both inside and outside of the Pioneer Drive family to be hurt and angry.
I am sorry.
I ask for your forgiveness.
My email has now been shared widely through social media by victims’ advocates and others. I understand my words were insensitive, and they did not convey what is truly in my heart.
Therefore, I want to be clear today when I tell you that Pioneer Drive will not protect those who harm children…
As is typical with these damage control apologies, they always leave so much more to be desired. While Allcorn may by sincere, he also didn’t take back what he said about his friendship and love. Whatever affection he still has for Berry, he’s trying to divert attention from it.
That alone tells abuse survivors exactly where his loyalties lie. Ultimately, what Allcorn failed to do was the one thing that the #MeToo (and, by extension, #ChurchToo) movement suggests: Listen to survivors. Take them seriously. And, whatever you do, don’t respond to their stories with all the sweet memories you have of their alleged assailant.
(via Baptist News Global)