Why does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director that is on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender registry? Is that wise? Why isn’t FCC being transparent about this issue? There are two issues here…one is the safety and wellbeing of families and children. The other concern is that FCC is just around the corner from Sovereign Grace Fairfax which has a long and disturbing history of problems with child sex abuse. There is evidence to suggest that people who leave SG Fairfax have ended up at FCC. In addition SG Fairfax was also part of the largest child sex abuse lawsuit in evangelical Christian history so for those who end up at FCC is having a sex offender on staff going to help re-build trust that is often shattered?
“I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.”
Bill Zeller’s Suicide Note
“I have only visited three times but it feels like home already. Hoping to leave my current dysfunctional church soon and come here. God bless these people, they bring healing to those injured by the cult around the corner.”
Google Review on Fairfax Community Church
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 NIV
***This post came about due to a discussion I had with Dee Parsons when she came to Baltimore in early June 2015. We sat in the lobby in the Inner Harbor Marriot and I discussed this issue with her and she strongly encouraged me to write this post. In writing this post I want to be clear that I firmly believe that a sex offender belongs in the church. So I am not writing this to say a sex offender does not belong in church, after all the Gospel applies to them as well. What this post is designed to do is question the wisdom and discernment of Senior Pastor Rod Stafford and those in the leadership of Fairfax Community Church and ask the question. Should a person on the sex offender registry for the Commonwealth of Virginia be in a key position at Fairfax Community Church?***
This is going to be a public service announcement to all families, parents, teenagers and children who attend Fairfax Community Church. This is going to be the hardest post I have written. This weighed on me during the time I attended Fairfax Community Church and it was a burden on my soul. I spent half of my thirties rejecting Christianity and calling it a cancer in the world. Eventually I got baptized at Fairfax Community Church and Dee Parsons drove up from Raleigh, North Carolina to witness it. But Fairfax Community Church has some deep problems. I wrote one post already on how Fairfax Community Church ignored and didn’t react to a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The evangelical circus must continue despite intense suffering in the church’s backyard. I posed the question if a church is not going to minister to pain in its midst then why does it even exist? That was followed by a critique and analysis of a growth campaign called “A Better $tory.” Why does FCC want to grow bigger when they can’t even manage what they have now? Why did Rod Stafford twist and distort the Book of Nehemiah to manipulate people to give? You can read that post in detail here. Then there is today’s post. One of the things I have learned is how much evangelical Christianity struggles with child sex abuse, or how to deal with sex offenders. My first experience with this subject was at Elmbrook Church in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. I arrived two years after the youth pastor, Daniel Vargas, sexually abused at least 10 boys. When the church went to the police he fled to West Baraboo, Wisconsin, barricaded himself in a motel room and committed suicide. I wrote about that here in this post. Next I had a Bible study leader in another church that will not be named which had a run in with the law due to sleeping with a teenager under age. I heard about that from the individual personally after the fact. Then I had my faith crisis and against this I was invited by an Air Force Captain to attend a Sovereign Grace Ministry church (at the time) called Redeemer Arlington. Then the SGM “Family of Churches” was dragged into the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history for allegedly covering up child sex abuse. This individual, Andrew White and I fought in ways like I never thought possible. I struggled to believe how a network of churches deeply involved in a lawsuit, and anchored in the shepherding movement were so healthy as he claimed. It was the most intense conflict I had experienced. That was followed up by some information I stumbled across by chance that weighed on my soul about Fairfax Community Church. And in today’s post I have a question to Rod Stafford and Andy Gingrich and the other leadership of Fairfax Community Church…why isn’t FCC transparent about how they deal with sex offenders? Especially a Care Director that is listed in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender registry as violent?
…the cult around the corner
In a Google review Fairfax Community Church is described as a place for healing for those injured by the cult around the corner. I have another question for Rod Stafford, Andy Gingrich and others in Fairfax Community Church leadership. What does this quote mean? What is the cult around the corner from Fairfax Community Church? If you live in the Washington, D.C. area let me spill the beans on a dirty little secret I first heard in 2006, 2007 when I attended McLean Bible Church. I was speaking with a guy I knew whose family is Baptist. He explained to me that he went to a Catholic school for education. I asked him why didn’t he attended an evangelical Christian school? He said the other alternative is Covenant Life School. I was puzzled…why did he go to a Catholic one instead? He said it was extremely fundementalist. Plus it was also referenced that Covenant Life Church was looked at as a cult by many Christians in the DC area as well as the affiliated churches in the same movement. I was puzzled to hear this as when I thought of a cult I reflected on my time exploring Mormonism. I began to hear that in the passing of time that the dirty little secret is that many Christians in the Washington, D.C. area view the Sovereign Grace movement as a cult. So on Google review a person leaves a comment talking about the cult around the corner, and my question to FCC is what is the cult around the corner? The cult around the corner is none other than Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Before I continue to discuss the situation since evidence suggests people from Sovereign Grace Fairfax migrate over to FCC I think we need to review the history of both Sovereign Grace Fairfax and its problems of child sex abuse. After all it was one of the churches involved in the largest lawsuit for allegedly covering up child sex abuse in United States history.
Sovereign Grace Fairfax and Happymom and Wallace, Noel and Grizzly
A new movement arose out of the Jesus movement that was to become People Of Destiny International. Led by CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak it started to plant churches in the DC area. The first PDI plant in Virginia was to become a church known as Fairfax Covenant Church (FCC). It was founded around 1980 and met in a local high school. The first pastor of Fairfax Covenant Church was Benny Philips. Benny Philips led Fairfax for 20 years. In the early 90’s it met in West Springfield High School. There was even a legal dispute that worked its way through the court system related to FCC. The church raised money and was built, Scott Long Construction I believe was involved in the building. In the course of time FCC changed its name to Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Today it is led by Mark Mullery. FCC was one of the first churches in Sovereign Grace Ministries and it firmly embraced the shepherding movement. If you want to know more about the shepherding movement you can read here, here and here. In about 2007 or 2008 a blog popped up that was a thorn in the side of Sovereign Grace Ministries called SGM Survivors. On SGM Survivors the stories of two families who dealt with child sex abuse indicated deep issues at Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Those two families are Happymom and Wallace, as well as Noel and Grizzly. Their stories are going to be told in a condensed form.
Happymom and Wallace
Happymom and Wallace were involved in SGM Fairfax for 12 years. They had two children who were sexually abused by two different individuals. The molestations did not occur on church property and Happymom and Wallace have forgiven the sexual abusers involved. In 1998 Happymom and Wallace learn child A had been molested by a young man and he was forgiven and had minor restrictions at SG Fairfax. In spite of that the abuser intimidated child A to where the child didn’t want to go to church. The SGM Pastors were indifferent to what was going on. In 2007 Happymom and Wallace learned that child B had been molested. The molestation happened in 2002. This came to light after child B was hospitalized for 7 days for cutting and suicidal thoughts. Cutting was how child B was dealing with the misguided guilt. The police were contacted and charges were pressed. The abuser of child B confessed to CJ Mahaney’s son-in-law. Despite requests for information SGM Fairfax didn’t cooperate. The detective who handled the investigation for Fairfax County Police stated that Fairfax had been “uncooperative.”
Happymom’s brother-in-law was pastor Lou Gallo at SG Fairfax. During this time SGM Fairfax was more concerned with the abuser than the family of the child who had been abused. In the course of time Lou Gallo stopped contact with Happymom and her family. And when there was a disagreement with leadership all ties were cut, and all relationships were severed. In interacting with her sister (wife of Lou Gallo) Happymom noticed that her sister changed the topic of child B’s legal case. In the course of time Lou Gallo told his wife not to discuss the case until the investigation was finished. When raised Lou Gallo lied to Happymom and Wallace’s family. In 2008 the trial happened and SG Fairfax leadership refused to attend or cooperate claiming “they had their church’s reputation to consider.” They were threatened with a subpoena. In the last minute the SG Fairfax pastors’ changed their mind and attended. The young man pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a child, a felony. Lou Gallo and his wife, which was Happymom’s sister had abandoned Happymom and her family in the process. Happymom tried to convey to her sister the hurt, pain and frustration and Lou Gallo and his wife put it back on Happymom. From 2008 to 2010 there was nothing but a series of meetings involving SG Fairfax and Covenant Life Church leadership. In December 2008 child A contacted CJ Mahaney and asked what SGM had to say about the child sex abuse situation at Fairfax. In February 2009 a meeting was set up at SG Fairfax between Happymom, Wallace, a mediator and CJ Mahaney who led Sovereign Grace Ministries. At the meeting the pastors apologized for failing to “care” for the family of Happymom and Wallace but avoided difficult questions. It was later learned that the mediator was given a check by CJ Mahaney for $5,000. Meetings took place over the next two years in trying to resolve the conflict between Lou Gallo, leadership of SG Fairfax and Happymom and Wallace. At the very end the conflict led to a split between Happymom and her sister and the family of Lou Gallo. SGM Fairfax sided with Lou Gallo always. In the end Happymom and Wallace were accused of “sinfully craving answers” in the questions they asked.
Noel and Grizzly
Noel was a reluctant care group leader with her husband at SG Fairfax and led care groups for 10 years. Noel was struggling with the legalism. One morning Noel was awakened by a phone call by her SG Fairfax pastor and there was going to be a meeting between her, her husband and pastor. Noel was 7 months pregnant and the meeting was moved to their home. The pastor started the “meeting” by saying, “You are going to have an opportunity to forgive today.” Then one of Noel’s closest friends who lived up the street looked nauseous and physically shaking. She told Noel and her husband that her oldest son, a 15 year old boy had been “inappropriate” with her 3 year old daughter. This happened during a Homegroup Leaders and Wives meeting. Noel’s child was having night terrors that we’re violent and resulted to even going to the emergency room. As Noel and her husband were initially dealing with the situation of the child sexual abuse her pastor’s wife said to Noel, “Suffering teaches us to shrink from sin – even from the remotest and most indirect connection with it.” This led Noel to think this happened because she was sinful? In the course of time the 15 year old boy confessed more of the molestation to Lou Gallo. Noel wanted to take her daughter to the doctor to be examined when the 15 year old’s mother showed up at Noel’s house asking her not to go to the doctor. By law her son would be reported by the doctor. The mother of the 15 year old asked why Noel wanted to punish him, and why were they being so mean? In the conversation the mother told Noel, “you know _____ would never hurt her!” Noel’s doctor encouraged it to be reported to social services. The Fairfax County Police investigated and it turned out the 15 year old boy sexually abused the child for 7 months. This couldn’t be talked about at SG Fairfax because it would be construed as “gossip.” Within 7 days of the 15 year old’s confession to child molestation the boy’s maternal uncle who was living in the boy’s home confessed to molesting his nieces, the 15 year old’s sisters. Noel’s child started counseling and there was concern because the counseling was not “Biblical.”
As the investigation continued the detective proceeded to keep Noel informed. Noel struggled with anger during this time and after her child was born the 15 year old had his first court date. Noel didn’t know what the court date was for as they were not pressing charges instead it was the county of Fairfax. Tensions grew between Noel and the 15 year old molester’s mother who made a series of highly offensive comments to Noel that led to SG Fairfax Pastors to have a meeting. The SG Pastor asked Noel, “why are you so interested in the court dates? Do you have a carnal rage to see ______ suffer?” Noel and Grizzly had an unsuccessful meeting with the 15 year old molester’s family. A final court date was coming up and SG Fairfax bullied, maligned and ordered Noel not to come to court. The detective called Noel and said that the 15 year old had his sentence assigned. He would be on the central registry for sex offenders and he would have probation. Noel on hearing the news was full of rage. Noel and her husband had to keep all this information to herself. To speak of it in home group would be to “gossip.” At the one year mark the 15 year old’s father committed suicide on the anniversary of the 15 year old’s confession of molestation. In the course of time the new SG Pastor met with Noel’s husband over lunch and in the conversation asked him to pray about supporting overturning the charges against the boy with a letter to the commonwealth attorney or a signature on a form. Grizzly told him on the spot, “No!” Two weeks later Grizzly told the SG pastor that he and his wife would not support any effort to overturn the charges and if they found out anyone had tried they would stop it immediately and hire an attorney. After more meetings in the course of time the 15 year old’s mother approached Noel and asked her to sign a paper overturning the charges. As Noel said, “No,” “No” and a thousand times “No!” The 15 year old wanted to serve in the military and with the charges he couldn’t serve or be a teacher either. When Noel and Grizzly heard about the final court date they spoke with the commonwealth attorney and scrambled to put together a 6 page document and read it to the commonwealth attorney and asked that the charges not be overturned. Due to how SG Fairfax handled the situation Noel felt like she was no longer part of a church.
On June 6 nearly two years after the incident the court date came around. Noel was pleased to see the commonwealth attorney hand her 6 page paper to the judge, offending family and read it word for word. Noel was pleased, the SG Fairfax pastors livid to the point that they couldn’t even look at Noel. In the 6 page paper Noel outlined 15 year old mom’s denial, boy’s comments, mom normalizing it. They outlined mom’s history, boy’s adoptive father’s history, the uncle molesting the children, boy molesting their child. They outlined how much people thought of boy, how he was honored as scout of the year, how he studied Sin and Temptation by John Own, how boy confronted others on their sexual sin and pornography while he was steeped in it. Finally they outlined his lack of total confession and truthfulness. The judge in the courtroom listened, the SG pastors looked like they were going to blow but someone had heard the story openly and the truth got out. After the court session the teenager who molested Noel’s daughter got in her face and stated, “How dare you upset my mother like that!” The SG Fairfax pastors agreed with the molester and Mark Mullery pulled Noel aside and said, “Now the bridges are burned we may not be able to reconcile now…” Further meetings were frustrating and when Noel wanted the abuse to be referred to as rape the SG pastor said “sin is sin.” Finally the boy confessed a very minimized version of things in the homegroup. While in the kitchen following homegroup not knowing Noel was nearby the boy boasted of his minimized confession “I guess that will shut them up for a while.” Noel decided that they needed to bring in apostolic oversight and Mark Mullery pleaded for Noel not to contact John Loftness. At the next meeting the SG Fairfax pastors had determined that Noel and Grizzly were the problem and now this is a discipline issue. What was the discipline over? The issue was “lying.” Noel lost it and pointed to each SG Fairfax pastor and said, “You are the problem!” When Noel got to the senior pastor Mark Mullery Mark told Grizzley “Get your wife under control” In the course of time Noel finally left SG Fairfax with the molester’s Mom still demanding a meeting wanting to confront her for the 6 page document that was read in court.
How I Stumbled Upon the Information Regarding Eric Nickle
One night I was reading and researching about FCC. I had been through so much spiritually that I wanted to research where I was attending, especially if I was going to call FCC home. I had endured a false accusation from a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington and I was also clinging and looking for a place to find support. It should also be noted that the false accusation was the darkest season in my life. As I researched FCC and looked at Google/Yelp reviews I noticed a comment made by a mother who pointed out that Eric Nickle was on the Virginia Sex Offender registry and walked around freely. She was concerned about the children and families that were in his presence, I saw that and I was deeply disturbed. I realized that Fairfax Community Church was going to be the third evangelical Christian church I was involved with which struggled with how to handle the issue of dealing with a sex offender. I raised it with Dee Parsons who checked it out Virginia Sex Offender registry and told me it was true. She was equally disturbed. A couple of days later I checked back at Google/Yelp reviews and I learned the comment was gone. Fairfax Community Church had erased the comment and I was puzzled and asked the question to myself…why isn’t Fairfax Community Church being transparent and open about this information? Why is Fairfax Community Church hiding it? It is because of this incident that when I wrote this post I describe how I run pastors and staff of churches I investigate through the local sex offender registry. Its a good way to check if the church is following the local laws and how transparent a church is.
This issue weighed on me deeply when I was at FCC. I watched Eric Nickles when I came and left and paid attention to whether or not there were children around. I was frightened because I was in a difficult situation myself as I was managing a false accusation from a member of a former Sovereign Grace church. In the course of time it felt like a burden to attend church, know this information and keep it to myself. In my FCC small group I made the comment as to how the Southern Baptist Convention struggles with child sex abuse and another person who once was in the SBC said it isn’t that much of a problem. I sat there thinking if she knew how her own church struggled with this issue of how to handle a sex offender could she admit it? Or would it be another example of cognitive dissonance? In the course of time I eventually parted ways with Fairfax Community Church. There were a number of issues that weighed on me but I felt committed to my small group and when that ended I decided to walk away. This issue however still weighed on my soul, and its with that knowledge that I want to write openly about this topic for all the members and attenders of Fairfax Community Church who call this place their home. I need to get this off my chest.
Eric Nickle is listed on the Virginia Sex Offender registry. He was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in custodial or supervisory relationship. Eric Nickle is also listed as violent. His date of conviction was October 13, 2000 and the case number is 97689.
Is this Wise? Especially for People who Migrate from Sovereign Grace Fairfax?
So now that you are aware of what happened at nearby Sovereign Grace Fairfax can you imagine being at FCC having formerly been at SG Fairfax and learning that the Care Director of FCC is on the Virginia Sex Offender registry? I mean can you imagine? You left Sovereign Grace Fairfax, you’ve been shunned and your entire community has cut you off and treats you as dead. You have left a church that was at the center of the largest lawsuit in evangelical history for covering up child sex abuse and was rocked to the core by child sex abuse problems. Your trust has been damaged by your church experience and you find yourself at Fairfax Community Church which is one of the places people from Sovereign Grace Fairfax end up at. After your history when you learn that the Care Director Eric Nickle is on the sex offender registry is that going to help build your trust? Trust can be destroyed in a minute and take years to rebuild if it can be rebuilt at all. Churches not being transparent about issues like this do not help. Then there is a second issue. What about the other families at Fairfax Community Church? Can you imagine being a parent and have children and learn this? Your children are incredibly precious. What is equally disturbing is the recidivation rates for sex offenders of children. They are high, while not as high as some believe; they can still be pretty high. What I also find disturbing about this is that Fairfax Community doesn’t seem to understand its place or role of what is happening in nearby churches. There almost seems to be this aloof nature of sticking your head in the sand of the Church of God in Anderson Indiana denomination. How can a church effectively help or assist a person if they are unaware of what is happening in a church around the corner or the local area? Its easy to deal with sex trafficking and abuse in Asia through International Justice Mission; but what about if there are internal concerns in your congregation or the church down the street from you? Honestly I know there are some evangelicals that deeply struggle with discernment and good judgment. So the question stands why does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director that is on the Virginia Sex Offender registry?
I would recommend that the leadership of FCC familiarize themselves with what Wade Burleson has been trying to do in the SBC. Wade has been trying to get a database of clergy sex abuse as a way to help manage the issue and make churches safer. You can read about it here, maybe the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana denomination needs to consider this act as well. Also can I recommend that the church leadership read this suicide note by Bill Zeller? Bill was molested and he believed his only way out from the darkness was suicide. Its a deeply disturbing and eye opening letter that reveals how sex abuse can traumatize someone for life. Oh and by the way Rod Stafford and Andy Gingrich is now a good time to invite you and the leadership of Fairfax Community Church to the SNAP conference which is being held in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area next week? You might learn a thing or two about child sex abuse, sex offenders, while making the church safer so that you might prevent further posts like this one.
My ultimate hope is that the family of Happymom and Wallace as well as Noel and Grizzly find healing and justice in the course of time. For those families and others hurt by the problem of child sex abuse and pain I dedicate this Third Day song to you.