If you’ve read Horror Show Sunday for long, you know that sex abuse for clergy is absurdly common. I mean, if the religious aren’t out murdering people, they’re out raping children. It’s kind of what the religious do. But has anyone stopped to think what happens to these churches rocked with all of the sex scandals? And what if two of these churches met each other in a dark alley? Well today’s the day.
In Tennessee, two churches, both of which had current or former leadership that were engaged in hanky panky with children, have decided to take a hard look at things before they merge.
The Church at Schilling Farms had a youth pastor who molested at least 3 children 18 years ago. Christopher Carwile was arrested and while Schilling Farms did terminate his employment, pastor Scott Payne refused to file any charges or cooperate with the police. SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) demanded that the church terminate Payne for his lack of action and issued a statement saying, “Rev. Payne should have no role or position in any church or religious body and should be drummed out of the ministry and never again given a position in which he might again ignore or hide child sexual abuse, either known or suspected.”
Meanwhile, Highpoint Church, which was considering merging with Schilling Farms, has paused when it became known that one of their pastors, Timothy Christian Heinz, is a convicted rapist on the Tennessee assault registry for “aggravated sexual assault rape”. This has been carefully hidden by the church and local news has been wondering, “It is beyond imagining why any church leader would attempt to keep the presence of a sex offender in church a secret. Why is the protection of a pedophile more important than protecting the children who are the potential victims?” Why indeed.
Social media has exploded at the allegations, with religious sexual abuse victim Michael Hansen strongly criticizing Highpoint for agreeing to the merger. “They had a chance to be on our side and to help us get the answers we needed in order to finally, at long last, receive justice. They’ve opted not to do that — instead engaging in protectionist behaviors and feigning interest in healing, something I’ve never asked for from them. You had a chance, Highpoint, to be our partner in tackling the epidemic of child sexual abuse that is happening to this day in the Christian Church. You had a chance to shine a spotlight on Chris Carwile’s abuse and the Church’s systemic failure. You had a chance to collaborate with us on reform, both internal and within the law, to ensure justice for victims.
I really wonder just how many churches out there are hiding these kinds of skeletons in their closets, keeping known sexual predators right under the noses of unsuspecting parishioners. It’s just more fodder for Horror Show Sunday down the road, I suppose. And nobody seems to care.