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Abusive pastors that beat people with sticks

More troubles for Sovereign Grace ministries folk.  This hit the Washington Post today:

A pastor known for promoting corporal punishment has been accused of physically abusing a woman for 25 years, beginning during her childhood.

The Rev. Larry Tomczak, an associate pastor at Bethel World Outreach Church near Brentwood, Tenn., was named in a Maryland lawsuit that was filed against leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a denomination Tomczak helped found in the 1980s and later left.

The suit was originally filed in October by three alleged victims of abuse and was amended Friday (Jan. 11) to add five others. All eight were given pseudonyms.

It alleges that Tomczak, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., and other church leaders covered up sexual abuse in the denomination and at a Christian school in Gaithersburg, Md., in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tomczak also is accused of repeatedly assaulting a woman (who is given the pseudonym Carla Coe) with plastic and wooden sticks. The alleged abuse began when she was a child and lasted more than two decades. When the woman was an adult, the lawsuit claims, Tomczak beat her bare backside.

The suit doesn’t say where those incidents occurred or how he met the woman.

Tomczak denies all of the allegations of physical abuse. He also said that as a parent, he was saddened to hear of the allegations. But he said he knew nothing about sexual abuse in the denomination.

“I had no involvement in any of this,” he said.

OK… so far, so bad.  Maybe he didn’t have any involvement in any of this, as he said.

But then there’s this:

A book called “The Little Handbook on Loving Correction,” for sale on Tomczak’s website, advises parents to use a stick to spank their children. He stands by that advice today.

“That book has helped thousands of parents around the world,” he said.

Wait. What?

Most people who read this story in the Washington Post will not agree that spanking a child with a stick constitutes any type of loving correction.

I don’t even believe that. (And I’m trying to stick up for the guy). No pun intended.

If, for example, some kids were… oh… I don’t know… spanked with sticks in the Christian school that Tomczak was over, then I would think (in today’s culture and today’s laws, there would be at least some guilt of sexual abuse.

Am I the only one who sees mixed signals here.

Why do Christians and our Christian leaders get into these messes?  Don’t we see this stuff as troubling?

And how do we expect people to believe us when we’re not making any sense?

Please… let me know how wrong I am on this one.

Leave a comment…

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19 Responses to “ “Abusive pastors that beat people with sticks”

  1. Julie Anne says:

    You are not wrong. But the problem is not isolated to SGM, it is a systemic problem among those who adhere to patriarchal teachings where the father “owns” their adult children until marriage, etc. If we do not expose this, it will continue.

    I am committed to exposing this nonsense on my blog. It is absolutely destructive and leaves trail of destruction, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually.

  2. James says:

    Wow, Todd;
    Where do you come up with these? Man, this is amazing and sad. I guess the bigger picture is that this is what the world sees, hears and wants nothing to do with the church, God, Christianity etc.
    And frankly I don’t either. It’s more than mixed messages it’s down right confusion, twisting of what’s decent and moral. Forget any religious influence, just common decensey demands better behavior than that.
    Wow, Todd, where do you dig these up. I’m again amazed, challenged and better informed of what’s going on out there in the world of “Christianity”.
    Whew!!!
    Thanks for confrontation,
    James

    • David says:

      James, what this man is accused of has nothing to do with God, Christ, or Christianity. If and whenever it’s true, it is a matter of a sick & twisted individual(s), but definitely NOT of God.

  3. Todd Rhoades says:

    Glad to be of service, James. (I think.) :)

  4. Chris says:

    Todd, I just don’t understand how swatting or spanking with a stick or paddle turns into sexual abuse. While I agree that there are troubles with SGM; for the life of me when one makes the ontological jump stated above the flood gates will continue to the point of handing an employee or a student a pink/detention slip will become sexual assault. This is pitiful.

    I also understand western outrage at corporal punishment, yet the rudeness of our current culture is well documented. Sassy, sophisticated, prim and proper high-level, high paid bullies that a good does of Proverbial punishment years ago would had curbed the current condition.

    • Julie Anne says:

      Christ, Perhaps you have not read the amended lawsuit. The spanking went on until the young woman was 25 years old – - 25, not 6. TWENTY-FIVE. She was FORCED to strip her panties OFF when she was spanked. Can you not see how a grown woman, forced to strip butt-naked and bend over (exposing even more of herself) for a spanking to be sexual . . . . at all? And even if the dad did not get any sexual pleasure out of it, can you try to imagine what it would do to the psyche of the daughter, having to expose her intimate areas to her father in such a humiliating circumstance. That kind of thing messes with your head for years.

      • Julie Anne says:

        I did not mean to misspell your name. So sorry, Chris! Yikes, just saw that.

      • Chris says:

        Julie Anne,

        I type a longer response but crashed before I published. I am running short on time….so cleft notes will have so suffice. I did not read the lawsuit, only Todd’s article. I’m not a SGM follower, so really have no dog in the hunt.

        In the OT and NT there is a very careful system to ensure against spurious allegations at easy targets and leaving some judgements completely out of the hands of men and placing them straight in Gods hands. I have been a Pastor for 19 years. My younger brother is in the Corrections industry for almost as long. We have vivid conversations. There is in our culture a demonification of men who are accused of anything remotely sexual and a victimization of women. Just survey the sex scandals in schools Woman can admit to act and get lesser penalties. Men can be accused and vindicated, but are still vilified. There are many men damaged for life from a spurious allegation. As such, I would use great care in associating spanking and sexual items.

        If what you reported about the removal of undergarments by a 25 yr old is accurate. The problem is much deeper on both parts, hers and his.

      • David says:

        Julie-Anne, Todd’s article doesn’t say that the man accused of abusing the woman was her dad. It says it was Tomzack and the article says that the suit didn’t say how they met. It sounds like the suit has nothing to do with her dad. But she is accusing Tomzack who is not her dad.

        • Julie Anne says:

          Thank you for the correction, David. You are correct, the lawsuit doesn’t say specifically dad. In this church environment, fathers rule, male church leaders rule, male school leaders – this is a patriarchal environment (one in which I have been covering on my blog). I did a poor job of communicating that. The amended lawsuit does not say that Tomczak is her dad, nor does it say that he is not her dad.

          My complaint is the environment in which these abuses have occurred. There is a systemic problem in which fathers rule in this partriarchy movement. When you start reading the survivor stories, the story of spanking adult children is not rare. I was in this environment, too, but not at SGM.

          • David Sheffield says:

            Julie-Anne, I haven’t read any lawsuit, just Todd’s article. I just know that any adult being spanked is ridiculous. My wife and I use spanking as a form of punishment, but it’s rare and last resort. However, once our kids turn about 10 we no longer use it. After that age it is counter-productive. And the way it is described in the article is abusive no matter the age. It is sad when parents can’t trust their own parenting to let their kids grow-up and stop treating them like children, but is even more sad when that leads to abuse.
            I pray that God helps you to overcome any damage living in this environment might have caused you.

  5. Rick Williams says:

    With 8 accusers so far, some kind of abuse seems confirmed – if their testimony agrees. And if it is confirmed the law of the land pales in comparison to the promise of Jesus “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matt 18:6

  6. Jim says:

    I personally know Larry. I served on staff with him in Nashville last year, I was his supervisor. I found Larry to be warm, genuine and full of wisdom. I have spoken with him as this law suit was coming out. I personally would never condone spanking with a stick or rod and I would contend that his approach is over the line. However, to make the jump to sexual abuse with that term being such a ‘hot button’ in the media is a premature stretch. I would ask you to pray for Larry and his family as well as ask for God to bring clarity, accuracy and justice for all involved. I appreciate your work and website Todd.

  7. Ed Gillies says:

    Unless I’m mistaken, I believe Tomczak had to pay out a judgement of over a million dollars many years ago because of statements made before a large crowd about the suicide of a well-known atheist who was still very much alive.
    I believe at that time his ministry was based in Washington D.C. and the payout bankrupted the ministry.

  8. David says:

    I don’t see a connection between his views of acceptable punishment and the abuse he is accused of. There is a huge leap between advising parents to use sticks to punish and abusing children and women that are not yours. I believe you are wrong to make this leap. But that is not to say he is innocent, it just doesn’t prove he’s guilty. Two separate issues. But if he’s guilty he needs to face the consequences for what he’s done.

  9. I totally agree with Julie Anne.

    Anyone interested in my free ebook on this subject of corporal punishment in the Bible is welcomed to be in touch – http://www.samuelmartin.blogspot.com

    Prof. William Webb reviews my work here – http://redemptivechristianity.com/?p=214

  10. Robert says:

    If you are not following the various PR campaigns against SGM and completely agreeing with the Pro-CJ crowd or the Anti-CJ crowd, or some other faction, you’ll find a crown of thorns placed on your head by one group or the other. It’s very hard to discuss anything, anywhere, objectively. There’s vengeance, money, and hurt feelings everywhere. And it’s sad that this is what you think will help the victims. Because it’s not. The Bible gives help to those who experience the horrors of authority gone mad and it’s not at all what Western therapeutic psychology or the Internet Justice League advocate.

    Having said that, all the factions at once may begin their assault. I have called every one of you to read the Bible and think of what it actually says about what helps those who are harmed by those in authority.

    My next comments are on topic. I believe there is confusion about LT’s position on parental discipline via the rod (it’s in the Bible, folks, so if you are going to be angry, start with God and work your way down) and this abuse case (which is awful and terrible, but remember this is in civil litigation because the burden of proof is different, if there was clear proof, simply call 911).

    These two issues are not connected. Lot’s of folks have a spanking spoon or ruler or something for their kids and are not spanking adults in their panties. No. Connection.

    I hope the various factions who are using the Internet and the courts do attempt to do church discipline will read the Bible and get serious about what it says, and does not say, about how to deal with abuse (and other issues) in the local church.

    Let the flogging begin.

  11. angel says:

    why is it wrong that he spanked a 25 year old woman who at least could somehow hit back. But It is perfectly fine for children to be hit when they can’t defend themselves. Christians make me want to throw up. I no longer want anything to do with these idiots again. As I am sure neither does God. But I will let him decide on that. And I will decide who I want to have around me. Christians (majority at least) are a deadly virus. People who can, should definitely protect themselves. I Wish you learned something from your christ. He is so gentle and beautiful, and you so horrible and so ugly.

    • anonymous says:

      Have you never been bullied or intimidated? To say the woman could “fight back” somehow is to know something you could not possibly know.

      I am not willing to make public just how easy it is to force someone in to letting themselves be beaten, because those tactics were used on me as a child and I am not going to help anyone hurt children the way I was hurt. However take my word for it, it is depressingly easy, even on an adult. The most obvious is simply holding a gun or a knife to someone’s throat to coerce them. The things I will not say publically are VASTLY more sophisticated and refined, but even more effective. Please remember this poor woman had been apparently under their control since she was little, so her ability to fight back would be none existant.

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