Pastor Chuck Phelps is passionate and practical
jesurgislac | May 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Tags: Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Concord New Hampshire, Doctor Charles Phelps, Ernest Willis, felony rape, Pastor Chuck Phelps, rape, rapists, Trinity Baptist Church | Categories: Bad Stuff Happens, Feminism | URL: http://wp.me/p1OdT-ms
Colonial Hills Baptist Church has a biography of their senior pastor that is significant for what it omits:
Dr. Charles Phelps is our senior pastor. Prior to coming to Colonial, Dr. Phelps served as a youth pastor in Minnesota and Colorado, as a senior pastor in New Hampshire, and as a college president in Wisconsin. He has traveled to numerous mission fields, colleges, seminaries, and churches to teach and preach the Bible. Pastor Phelps is a passionate, practical Bible teacher and preacher. He ministers faithfully to our church family along with his wife, Linda. They have five children and one grandson.
In 1997 Pastor Phelps was the senior pastor at the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire, when he discovered that a church member, Ernest Willis, had raped (on at least two occasions) a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a church member, and the girl was pregnant. Under New Hampshire law, Willis had committed a felony - a Class B Felonious Sexual Assault - a crime for which he has since been found guilty (verdict Friday, he hasn't yet been sentenced but it could be up to 54 years). This was the case even if, as Willis persistently claimed, the girl had consented to sex: she was under 16. (Exceptions can be made for two kids more-or-less the same age fooling around with each other, but Willis was then in his late thirties and married: the girl was his kids' babysitter.)
Pastor Phelps's defense in court was that he did report this to the police, though he also says he told the police that the girl didn't want to come forward. The two phone calls, he claims, were made on Oct. 8, 1997 when he found out that the girl was raped and pregnant, and on Oct. 9, the following day, when he told the police the girl didn't want to come forward.
Pastor Phelps says he told the girl "I read to Tina from Deuteronomy 22. The passage is about a maiden in a field and she is accosted by a man, the maiden screamed and no one was there to help her. Then the passage refers to a maiden in a city who is accosted by a man, she didn’t scream. There is the appearance of complicity."
Chuck Phelps (his new Colonial Hills church says he "especially enjoys teaching pastoral ethics, church management, church growth, and discipleship") got the girl to read an apology for her misbehaviour to the congregation. Then he had her sent away to another state to have the baby, have the baby adopted, and then return to the New Hampshire Church, where she'd continue to worship alongside the man who'd raped her, Ernest Willis. This kind of abuse, revealed by one brave woman who opted to come forward, doesn't seem to concern Phelps' new church.
A lot of people responded to my previous post on this subject. I thank you all now for commenting: I'm sorry I didn't reply to your comments. Several spoke of how this matched their own experience of Christian charity - caring for rapists more than for their victims.
Chuck Phelps set up his own website to excuse his behaviour: www.drchuckphelps.com. He claims that neither he nor the girl's mother told her not to press charges. But clearly, even according to his own testimony, he made no effort whatsoever to support the girl against the rapist. Ernest Willis was also a member of Phelps' congregation. Phelps had a responsibility to him: a responsibility which Phelps seems to have thought he fulfilled by protecting the rapist from the legal consequences of committing a felony. It does not seem to have occurred to Phelps, ever, that he had a moral responsibility towards Willis or towards his other victims, to ensure that Willis was arrested by the police and charged with the crime Phelps knew he had committed: the burden of his defense is that the 15-year-old girl, whom he admits he'd told was "complicit" in her own rape, was solely responsible for ensuring that charges were brought against Ernest Willis, and it's entirely her fault, not his, that the rapist was left to go free for 14 years.
What's missing from the website now (I first looked at it a few months ago, soon after the 20/20 broadcast) is a defense by Chuck Phelps that the whole horrible situation was worthwhile because the girl had a baby and the baby was adopted: she didn't have an abortion, and the couple who got a baby were made happy by this. I don't know why Phelps took this down - perhaps because someone with more self-awareness realized that it made Doctor Phelps look very, very complicit in the sexual abuse of an underage girl. Perhaps Phelps was still hoping, at the time he first set up the site, that Willis would be found not guilty and he could dismiss the girl whose rape he'd condoned, all those years ago, as just another silly slut. (His website still cites a letter from the girl's mother which claims her daughter is only doing this for the money: I don't think he quite sees that abuse from an abusive parent is not exactly helping his case.) But it did strike me as a classic pro-life justification for rape and sexual abuse.
Colonial Hills Baptist Church says it is "a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ." They even have a Facebook page. But their senior pastor condoned the rape of a fifteen year old girl, and continues to excuse his behaviour then. His church appears to think the problem can be resolved by giving him a separate website, hoping perhaps that people won't keep associating their pastor with the rapist in New Hampshire.
Apparently their sermon for today, May 29, is "designed to strengthen saints and convict sinners. This morning’s message is entitled, 'God is Able to Keep You Eternally Secure.'"