A Harsh Rebuke from Oakwood Baptist Church; an Even Harsher Counter-Rebuke

A rather momentous anniversary today. 😡🔥 One year ago I (Megan) made this super-controversial post in order to warn a local congregation that a convicted child molester was preaching at their church:

Within the day, Dom also sent a detailed email to the pastor there with all the pertinent documentation and provided contact info for the leadership at Oakwood Baptist in case he had further questions. Almost two weeks later we received the following “rebuke” from the board of our previous home church, Oakwood Baptist Church:

Dom,
We are not at all supportive of the way you have recently exposed Don
Foose.  Facebook is a public forum where it is totally inappropriate to
express the thoughts you posted.  Your concerns should have been addressed
to the pastor directly before any public warning was issued.  Had you done
so, you would have known that Don spoke to the pastor to inform him of his
past and the church had taken proper steps to minister to Don and Terry and
at the same protect their church and families.  In your email to the
pastor, you put the names of leaders from Oakwood as part of your
communication and so suggested we were supportive or part of that.  You
know we were never consulted, supportive, or informed of this; by including
that it could be understood that we were part of this process.  We resent
that and insist you cease from doing this in the future.

You also said in your post that, “The Southern Baptists Denomination
refuses to protect children, and so we must do it ourselves.”  That is
arrogant, uncharitable, and untrue.  Oakwood Baptist has done much to
address that in doing the Safe Church program for the school and the
church.  Carlisle Baptist Church has developed a similar approach that is
in place and adequately and directly addressed the situation of a sexual
offender attending their fellowship.  The SBC as a whole has taken real
steps to address this and equip churches to respond properly.  Since you
publicly made this charge you need to correct this publicly as well.

Dom, in the letter OBC sent you in February we set out the proper protocol
for handling these issues between churches.  Oakwood is committed to
respond to any request for information regarding former members from other
churches.  We will never publish public denunciations of anyone before
every other channel is exhausted.  Individuals do not have the same
responsibility or authority (Paul was an Apostle with authority to speak
and warn but that does not warrant each individual Christian to do the
same).

You are not serving the gospel or Christ by this approach.  You have
created unnecessary stress in the lives of many people because of this.
Has your present church and leadership endorsed or encouraged this?  We
appeal to you to reconsider the Biblical directives to love, speak truth,
not slander one another.

Thank you,

Naveen

OBC Board.

 

Following is my (Megan’s) response:

Naveen,

In response to your letter of rebuke, your original words are in bold, my responses are underneath.

“Dom,

We are not at all supportive of the way you have recently exposed Don Foose.  Facebook is a public forum where it is totally inappropriate to express the thoughts you posted.  Your concerns should have been addressed to the pastor directly before any public warning was issued.” 

In the future, I would appreciate if you would address complaints about my personal behavior to me, not my husband.  I am a human being created in the image of GOD that can speak for myself and defend my own actions.  I (not Dom) made the Facebook post and do not regret it in the least. I believe it is entirely appropriate to warn parents publicly of a present danger to their children. In fact, I had numerous texts, calls, and emails since then thanking me for my warning.

“Had you done so, you would have known that Don spoke to the pastor to inform him of his past and the church had taken proper steps to minister to Don and Terry and at the same protect their church and families.”

First, if he had taken proper steps, Don wouldn’t have preached there. Second, I do not believe it is protecting a church and their families to not inform them they have a convicted pedophile in the congregation. One thank-you I received after my post came from a mother of 3 at Carlisle Baptist who said none of the congregation had any knowledge about Don’s conviction. She was particularly upset because something very similar was covered up in her previous church (my extensive research has shown the cover-up of abuse is systemic in the Southern Baptist denomination—see this article for an overview: 

https://www.wbur.org/npr/693668194/southern-baptist-leaders-grapple-with-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-by-pastor?fbclid=IwAR3a-6GvaZHtQ5BMiLoNmlvQO8kCks-KI77dqmQ_2TsKKcyzE4F1cqrDfNw).

It is my understanding that the children’s director at Carlisle was not even informed about Don’s criminal history. How is it possible that the pastor took steps to protect the safety of children if not even the children’s director was informed?

I also heard directly from a mother who knew Don Foose from when he was a teacher and principal at a school.  She says he was inappropriate with her teenage daughter back in the 80s (“got behind her and pressed up against her as she sat in her chair”) and she caught him in an inappropriate situation with another teen girl at that time period (“There is another girl I caught him standing over in a dark room. She was sitting in a rocker.”). She regretted that she had never spoken up about it. You can consider this gossip if you want, but I am not lying about this interaction, and I am sharing it to help you understand that this has been a long-term pattern for Don—not a one-time thing 20 years ago.  That is just the only time he got caught and prosecuted. Are all of these testimonies (this woman’s, —–‘s, Bob’s, all the employees who saw inappropriate behavior) false accusations? Is everyone just conspiring against Don? Is it a normal occurrence for pastors to deal with numerous complaints about inappropriate behaviors? 

Please, educate yourself about child molesters.  They do not stop offending.  In the very rare event that they are truly repentant, they stop putting themselves in situations near children and come clean to people about their pasts, especially parents. Pastors cannot be the only ones that know a convicted child molester is in the church!!! Remember what just happened at Oakwood???

“You also said in your post that, “The Southern Baptists Denomination refuses to protect children, and so we must do it ourselves.”  That is arrogant, uncharitable, and untrue.”

I stand by my statement that you and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole refuse to protect children.  If you truly wanted to protect children, you would stop hiding the truth about Don.  You would be open with the parents at the dayschool whose children were exposed to him for 12 years. Regardless of the advice of your lawyer (who is paid to protect YOU), you would inform the parents of Don by name and his convictions of “indecent assault” and “corruption of minors” by name and admit that he had access to their children. The wording that you provided in your letter to the parents was completely inadequate, as we have heard ourselves from parents we spoke the whole truth to. If you truly wanted to protect children, you would not be consulting with lawyers to figure out the bare minimum truth you need to share to make sure you don’t get sued. You would be consulting parents whose children might have been abused.

Dom and I have recently spoken with 3 families from Oakwood, two of whom received the letter from Oakwood. They did not have a clue who that letter was talking about, and never thought it was referring to a convicted child sex offender being in the classroom with their kids.  All three families (including —– from the dayschool’s father) were very, very upset that they were not informed more specifically than that pathetic, vague letter.  Dom asked repeatedly over the past year that Oakwood reach out to —–’s family to make sure they understood that Don was a convicted child sex offender at the time of his offensive behavior toward —–, and that the leaders knew of his past and had not revealed it to them when they met.  Oakwood leadership chose not to act to Dom’s repeated request to communicate with ——‘s parents. So Dom took it on himself recently, for his own conscience, to contact her parents. We have only been thanked for our efforts in exposing Don’s past to these families who want to protect their children.  It seems as though you and the board at Oakwood have only sought to protect yourselves, your reputation, your legal interests, and the Foose’s reputation (who deceived the church for 12 years). 

Please reconsider the vagueness of the original letter sent to the dayschool and church parents and speak the whole truth to the parents who were deceived, regardless of the personal cost to yourselves and the institution of Oakwood Baptist Church and Dayschool!

“Since you publicly made this charge you need to correct this publicly as well.”

I refuse to correct what I believe is the truth! I will not be silent as long as Don Foose continues to seek the pulpit. The ONLY people who are upset with this public exposure are the people who prefer to hide truth and avoid accepting responsibility for their actions. 

“Has your present church and leadership endorsed or encouraged this?”

While we do not consult them about our every move—because that seems to be the cause of a lot of spiritual abuse in our past experience–we have discussed these issues at great length with 2 of our pastors on many occasions. They have encouraged us over and over that we have been correct in sharing and exposing the truth and that we are in no way gossips. The pastors at our church have supported us throughout this nightmare of abuse on your part and have offered over and over again to attend any meeting we might have with you (which for clarity, we do not intend to do).  We have yet to speak to an outside pastor (non-Baptist) who finds your handling of this situation acceptable—and we’ve talked to many at this point. Have you?

“You are not serving the gospel or Christ by this approach.”

I believe that you, Naveen, are the one that has not served the gospel by your approach.  You, along with the board at Oakwood, have sided with the offender/wolf in this case and have not chosen to protect innocent children in Oakwood and now in the wider circle of your brothers and sisters in your fellow churches.  Don is the epitome of what the Bible refers to as a wolf in the church, yet you prefer silence and comfort instead of protecting children.

If you truly wanted to do the right gospel-motivated things, you would also seek to give restitution to the 3 women (2 mentioned in Bob’s letter) who were fired for making complaints.  I have taken the time to talk to two of these women at great length personally, and I can assure you that you have not represented the gospel to them.  You have not apologized or offered any restitution of any kind.  —–, the cook from around —–, let me know that she was single mom of 3 children when she was fired by Don himself for complaining. It was a horrible financial burden for her to lose her job so suddenly. I have my texts from —– right after she was fired, grieving so much that she did not understand why she was being fired.  I talked to her more recently and heard how devastating that firing had been and that she always suspected it was because of the complaints she made about Don’s behavior around children. Talk to these women!!!! Hear their hearts!!! Hear how Oakwood devastated their lives!!!! You have to communicate with them in a non-confrontational way in order to find these things out though. 

I realize it is actually Don, Cliff, and Bob that made these horrible firings, but if you continue to align yourself with Oakwood Baptist, it only seems fitting that you make some sort of apology or restitution to these women for your ignorance in allowing it to happen. You can’t just keep up the mantra of “moving on.” You have left too many wounded in your path that need to be revisited and TRULY heard.

“You have created unnecessary stress in the lives of many people because of this.”

I refuse to accept blame for creating “unnecessary stress in the lives of many people because of this.” You continue to misplace blame here.  Don is the one who created unnecessary stress.  He knew very well that there was the possibility he would be discovered when he chose to attend and preach there with only the pastor knowing his background. Pastor Ed Roman created unnecessary stress by hiding Don’s background from the congregation while allowing him to attend and preach to a congregation that includes children. And you also play a part in the unnecessary stress because you did not warn your fellow churches of the wolf that just left your church. So, please feel free to project the guilt of all that deceitful, neglectful behavior to us, but we outright reject it. 

Don is a wolf known by his fruit.  He said to Dom and I in our private meeting that we had (with him, Dean, John Bollten, and the Saylors) right after we discovered his background, that he never should have been a pastor and that he should have been up front about his past from the beginning.  It is my understanding that he said similar things before the entire congregation.  Why then is he starting over at another church without being open and honest? If he were truly repentant, why would he not be willing to be completely open with the entire congregation, especially parents? Yes it’s humiliating, but that’s the price he has to pay for his past actions.  I do not believe he is repentant. No matter how many tears he cries, or apologies he makes, he is not repentant until his fruit shows it– he stops trying to get in the pulpit and is completely honest with all his congregation about his past, and he stops putting himself in positions of leadership and proximity to children. If he were truly repentant, he would also seek to make restitution with the MANY people he has hurt over the years—including —— and the women he fired.  He has chosen instead to make himself out as a victim (instead of offender) and leave without any responsibility. I do not understand how you see it otherwise. 

 “We appeal to you to reconsider the Biblical directives to love, speak truth, not slander one another.”

I believe I have done just that. I have loved the church at great cost by protecting children and speaking the truth that is being hidden. Sometimes I wonder what you think my motives in this are. What am I gaining from being outspoken? The wrath of people I love? Over a year of sleepless nights and emotional agony and thousands of dollars of professional therapy? Do you think I’m doing this out of revenge to Don? Or you? Does that really make sense to you? Let me just state for the record, I am paying this horrible price for truth and love of the most defenseless “little ones” in the church. 

Please see the definition of the word slander below.

slan·der

/ˈslandər/

noun

LAW

1.   the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.

Not one word of anything I have said is false to the very best of my knowledge.  If your actions being spoken about publicly embarrasses you, then change your actions.  If you or Don’s reputation is damaged by the TRUTH, that is your fault, not mine. 

There is no need to respond to this email. I am no longer under your leadership, nor do you have any say in the truth I WILL continue to speak.  I pray and hope daily for your eyes to be opened.

Megan Benninger

 

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