As more facts come out about the ongoing campaign of coverup and intimidation, we have updated our letter which responds to the specific threats made against us and others.
May 15, 2013 (updated May 18, 2013)
Re: Frank Viola
Dear Mr. Zens:
I am providing this preliminary response, both personally and on behalf of our fellowships, to your letter of May 10th and to your many related statements on Facebook. I thus write for myself and as an elder within those fellowships.
Your letter was on behalf of Frank Viola and your fellow “itinerant worker” Milt Rodriquez, and was co-signed by Bart Breen.
The context of your letter, and this response, is our ongoing belief that the facts and public warnings asserted against Frank Viola for abuse and sexual exploitation by his former church were properly issued.
Furthermore, those warnings have not been factually refuted and thus warrant an open response by Mr. Viola. Any such response should be at least as public as his own public claims of being a leader in, and to, the Body of Christ.
Unrepentant evil will never fess up to its own culpability, and always play the victim.
Everybody’s all for “ekklesia” (the Greek word in the New Testament often translated to mean a local “church”).
Folks blog about it, post on Facebook about it, create online groups about it, and write books about it.
Yup. They all love “ekklesia”….
Except when a particular “ekklesia” follows Biblical procedure and issues a pubic warning under the mandate of 1 Tim. 5:19-21 against some leader the “ekklesia” boosters have placed on an untouchable pedestal – but who had been part of that church, only to then immediately leave and refuse to be accountable when it tried to address his issues of abuse and exploitation.
A good article that provides much needed perspective on sexually exploitive church leaders. In Marianne and my experience with Nathan’s Voice, a ministry of our fellowships which has helped literally hundreds of abuse survivors over the years, this is spot on. It describes the typical personality, motives and means of predation by those who use their emotional and spiritual position of trust to sexually exploit others.
Sexual Predation by Christian Author and “Apostle” Frank Viola, by Nathan’s Voice
After months of investigation, Nathan’s Voice has confirmed through multiple witnesses a history of abuse, sexual predation and cover up involving Christian author and self-proclaimed “apostolic worker” Frank Viola.
Nathan’s Voice is a ministry created two years ago by a network of fellowships in Virginia to help stop abuse by church leaders and to aid victims.
They have issued a public warning so other churches that might consider relating to Frank Viola – as they had been, thus prompting them to do some background checking – need to know about his history of leadership abuse, sexual predation, and misleading claims about his church involvement and church “planting” expertise.
Nathan’s Voice has worked with and helped hundreds of abuse victims over the years, and successfully taken on some high visibility church abuse cases. It has learned through experience that where a leader has violated his position of trust by willfully abusing those under his care, then absent open confession and repentance – which is at least as public as the influence and leadership he continues to seek – there is no assurance of adequate safeguards to protect against additional deception and victims.
- Leadership Abuses: Private and Public Sins (crossroadjunction.com)
As Nathan’s Voice states on its web site, it is a ministry run by a number of churches I am affiliated with here in Virginia and that I – along with others – helped found Nathan’s Voice on their behalf several years ago. Over the years as I’ve worked with Nathan’s Voice to help many victims, and to deal with abusive church leaders, in various roles – including as an attorney, a pastoral counselor and an elder in the Body of Christ. ~ Jim Wright
Create a fractured persona. Falsely project empathy, expertise and success as a trusted church leader – while covering up a pattern of infidelity, sexual predation and exploitation, persistent detachment from any accountable local fellowship, and failed churches. Appeal to unity and loyalty, personalize everything as hateful attacks against you by spiteful people, and turn on your well-rehearsed charm (and if that doesn’t work, fall back on lies, threats and intimidation) to silence those who dare ask troubling questions. Work behind the scenes and through others to purge all dissenting voices and any contrary information – both in your churches and on public forums like the Internet. As you then bamboozle folks with your enticing but fraudulent persona and fictitious history, they’ll became compliant pawns to your narcissistic deceptions.
- One Church’s Original Public Warnings and Multiple Witness Statements About Frank Viola (Internet Archive)
The pattern outlined above is something I have seen time and again with inflated church leaders who learn to manipulate people and then cross the line into sexual exploitation and predation with what eventually becomes a personality cult – which they sustain through outward charm and behind-the-scenes intimidation. The documents found at this site are yet another example, involving Frank Viola.
I often have people send me links to articles and blogs, and here are several that deal with different aspects of sexuality in the Church.
Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University, by Brandon Ambrosino
A very candid personal story of a man who struggled over his homosexuality, yet found friendship as the Christian community at a leading conservative university expressed love and grace while remaining faithful to their Biblical convictions.
You Cannot Heal What You Cannot Talk About, by Survivor Girl
Survivor Girl is a frequent commenter here, and this is her very personal story about sexual predation in the church. Please, read this. When a leader uses his position and spiritual gifts to prey on women in the church, it is not an affair, it is sexual abuse. This article will help you understand how sexual predators groom their victims, and also provides links to good resources for dealing with these issues.
Predators in the Pulpit, by Susan McKenzie
Another first person account of sexual predation and grooming in our churches. This too provides good background on how this happens, so we can be on guard and protect others.
Sexual Sin is a Corporate Affair, by Harry Schaumburg
“When we take the gospel seriously we not only correctly understand the nature of sexual immorality, we must become proactive in taking corporate responsibility for the sexual maturity and sexual problems within our local church.”
I have been involved in dealing with a number of cases involving sexual predation and exploitation by church leaders – in all kinds of churches (including “organic” or “simple” churches which naively think they are immune from this kind of abuse).
My wife and I have also done pastoral counseling, over the years, with literally hundreds of sex abuse survivors – as well as many abusers who seek help after truly confessing and openly repenting.
One thing I see over and over – especially by predatory church leaders – is the same kind of initial “grooming” behavior. It is amazing how sexually exploitive men in “ministry” all seem to use the same methods.
Steubenville and the Misplaced Sympathy for Jane Doe’s Rapists, by Megan Carpentier.
This article addresses a disturbing phenomenon: In America, we have a cultish worship of those who are charming, gifted and inspiring. They are given every benefit of the doubt, and then some.
So it always goes… sympathy and excuses by some for the gifted predator, shame for his “wayward” victim.
As an aside:
Thanks for bearing with us as we take a week or so to focus on these issues. In the Body of Christ, we should be better than this. Unfortunately, we often aren’t.
Leaders who stand conveniently silent – or willfully ignorant – regarding the abuse and exploitation of God’s people by another leader, are idolaters.
They sacrifice innocent men, women and children on the altar of their own ease and self interest, which they often justify by their own warped concept of unity and misguided sense of friendship.
Understand that eventually you will be forced to give an account of your silence – not only to God, but in the “here and now” to His people whom you profess to serve.
When that happens, don’t get mad at me for doing what you were unwilling – but obligated – to do as one entrusted to protect His people.
Into the Light: A Series on Abuse and the Church looks like it will be a good series by Rachel Evans on the need to expose abusive church leaders and those who hide the abuse. We need more such voices of courage and resolve.
The recent situation with Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) illustrates this need. Over the years, Marianne and I have seen lives destroyed by one of their churches near us. We tried to raise warnings locally, but they were lost among the outward images of “success” by that church and the charisma of its leading “apostle” and popular author and conference speaker.
Yet behind the scenes, the arrogance of leadership there, and their attitude of being untouchable, was astounding. Fortunately, however, God has a way of protecting His people by eventually exposing such sin, after all opportunities to first confess and repent have been ignored.
I’ve been involved in way too many of these kinds of cases – as a friend, a counselor, a church leader, and even as an attorney. Each one has deeply affected me as I had to come beside the victims and be strong for them, while also unflinchingly standing up to some narcissistic – but always charming yet manipulative – exploitive church leader.
Sorry, but when your “revelation” of Jesus looks a lot like you, I’m not impressed.
And when “deeper life” is merely reinforcing your own postmodern proclivities and sensibilities, I’m likewise not impressed.
Nor do I find a persistent inability to be part of a healthy, local fellowship to be a virtue.
Really, didn’t you get the memo? Postmodern angst just ain’t that compelling or counter-cultural anymore.
More than anyone else, a narcissist knows how to make you feel affirmed, needed and important.
It’s how they control and use you to feed their own need to feel affirmed, needed and important – at your own peril because ultimately they consume you to advance their own self-serving agenda.
Whether in your personal life, church, job or wherever …
Don’t be co-dependent. You deserve better.