Public Statement on Recent Goings-On

Jacob-Heiss-reliable-profileToday I learned through an article in the Chicago Tribune that the church where I grew up is being served with a lawsuit related to allegations of child sexual abuse. This coincides with the releasing of a documentary on the topic produced by a childhood friend of mine, featuring stories from a number of folks beside whom I was raised. I’m sensing that it would be appropriate to share a public statement on the matter; so, here it is.

I’ve remain in touch with people on all sides of this story: those who are still a part of my former home church and want to staunchly defend it, those who are sharply critical of my former home church and would love to see its doors close for good, and basically every nuance in between–including those with no strong opinion one way or the other. I’ve shared conversations over the phone, at my office, online, and over coffee with different people who probably could not handle more than a couple moments in each other’s presence. As a result of this, I’ve learned that some  have grown suspicious of my intentions and character, wishing I would “take a side” or “stand up for the truth.” I’m here for anybody who wants to talk; at the same time, I’m disinterested in demonizing or casting aspersions on whoever is perceived to be “the opposition.”

Peace doesn’t just happen; you have to make it. Life is complex, and life with others is messy. Stories like this push that inherent complexity to its limits such that a polarizing and reductively non-fact-based way of thinking is incredibly tempting. But the best of us have our demons, and the worst of us are not beyond redemption. My hope and prayer as this situation unfolds is that the facts are dealt with as squarely as they fall, and that everyone on all sides of the matter can move forward towards a better tomorrow, according one another the dignity to pursue that in ways that may diverge quite dramatically from the decisions we would personally make. Over the years, I’ve adopted an almost stereotypical, solutions-focused way of living a day at a time with instruction from the past and reference to the future. I hope I can be of service to those who are constructively and intentionally pursuing a tomorrow marked by peace, well being, and wholeness.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tambo ;)
    Feb 28, 2014 @ 16:41:40

    Love you Jacob," A friend loves at all times", Thats what i hear you saying here :)


  2. Debra Joy
    Feb 28, 2014 @ 18:36:16

    When a current pastor, one Who currently resides at Jesus People USA has groomed young girls and had long term sexual liaisons with THREE, between the ages of 12 and 15 ~ while living at the 4707 Malden house that we all shared
    ~ it does not get any more Black AND White. or fact-based.
    What THIS PASTOR did is Criminal.
    The FEAR he instilled in them to not tell while he continued exploiting them ~ despicable.
    A fear so deep, so powerful, SO life bending ~ that they only NOW reveal the depth of the common experience they shared ~ and how it affected their lives FOR DECADES!!

    The fact that he did it as a person, in a position of trust,
    A person who wears the mantle 'ordained minister' at JPUSA ~ tho the origins of that title questionable ….
    Over the course of time, he preyed on one of them for One AND a Half years, !!!
    he Groomed her, as well as the other young girls, one of which lived in his own little girls dormitory. …
    it does not get any more distinguishable than This.
    It does not get any more despicable than This.

    THEN. this girl and the others, were isolated from their peers. from any support system.
    They were TOLD that if they dared to tell, they would be called LIARS.
    What makes this story even worse ~ is the wife knows.
    She KNOWS. and so do others in leadership there ~ and THEY continue to collude together to sideline these girls ~ and allow this person in a place of Trust with a title 'pastor' ~ to skate. …..

    Watch the film Jacob. One of these girls cared for you as a young child.
    Maybe you should talk to her.
    You say, "Stories like this push that inherent complexity to its limits such that a polarizing and reductively non-fact-based way of thinking"…

    WHAT?! non-fact based….

    This is NOT about "demonizing or casting aspersions on whoever is perceived to be “the opposition.”"
    There IS a paper trail with the Chicago Police Dept. with one of the very young little girls. She was 5 years old when she was assaulted in her dorm, repeatedly and 'pastors' at JPUSA (two of them, I won't name here) firmly instructed the parents to not report to the police. They did anyway.
    There IS a paper trail.
    People who DON'T get Angry about This ~ ARE non-fact based.


  3. Monique
    Feb 28, 2014 @ 19:49:19

    As a former person who briefly lived at JPUSA and now an social worker in child welfare and someone who continues to visit the community. If what these people are saying is true. Justice must be cared out and people must answer for their crimes. Regardless of title or position. Relationships and people are complex but wrong is wrong every time and children should have been protected.


  4. brgulker
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 09:00:34

    I had no idea this hit you so close to home. I've actually heard about this documentary via other sources and had planned on watching it. I still will, but I'll be holding you and your friends in prayer as I do.


  5. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:36:43

    Dear Jacob, I've always respected your mind but I am disappointed in your very ambiguous stance while simultaneously stating your concern about the facts. If you plan on getting into politics I will let Rahm Emanuel know. (Note the below 5 comments of mine are from a previous discussion and in know way directed specifically to Jacob or any of the previous comments. The comments deal with the article though). I think everyones focus should be focusing on the facts, based on reason, evidence, and the law. Not on personal conclusions and then deciding on what happened. Then the people involved should hash out the consequences. He said she said is cute but I am more concerned with the truth.


  6. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:38:11

    As someone who was born and raised there I don't think this is stupid at all. I haven't seen the movie yet and we may or may not agree with the language used or what Jamie would want out of this documentary but the article names only one person suing. So to put everyone else out who tells their story as just money hungry is just stupid. It is clearly stated on the second paragraph that it is only one person and if you have a problem with the lawsuit then that person should be your focus. Also the political right in their Chicago district has a motive to say anything that would hurt JPUSA (Hence the vile comments).

    The trailers thesis is that the infrastructure at JPUSA puts un-vetted people to close to children, thus resulting in abuse. I know people younger than me and older than me who have claimed to be sexually assaulted. I haven’t looked at the numbers but it personally feels that assaults happen to JPUSA kid’s disproportionately to the national average. Again I haven’t looked at the numbers but it comes off that way to me. I know of X-prostitutes and hard core drug addicts that have lived there when I was growing up. I’ve never heard of background checks being done on new people and I know they don’t background check the seniors (at least as of last year). That said, it doesn't mean anyone living there now assaulted them. While growing up my brother and I had around four men living in our room (not at the same time obviously). My best time line is my little brother being a toddler to him being 5 or 6. That’s grown men from the ages of 20 to 30, living with a 5 and 1 year old, if you don’t see that as being a potential problem then there’s nothing more I could really say. The only vetting process that I know of was dependent on being a Christian. I would never vet people to sleep in the same room as my children based on their belief of a zombie Jew wanting my soul.

    Furthermore, the majority of you are sounding like Penn State supporters and Catholics during a priest sex scandal. Just because an organization does good doesn’t mean the truth shouldn’t be out there. Again I don’t know Jamie’s point in the film but a leadership letting someone go who may have sexually assaulted a minor to save face is just wrong, legally and morally. Letting someone go is not a punishment. Even if the majority of cases were wrong sweeping this issue under the rug isn’t right. I hate to break the bad news but JPUSA is under US laws and in Illinois, a clergy (Law states clergy as being a religious leader) to report any potential child abuse right away. “Any member of the clergy having reasonable cause to believe that a child known to that member of the clergy in his or her professional capacity may be an abused child as defined in item (c) of the definition of "abused child" in Section 3 of this Act shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department.” ((325 ILCS 5/) Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.). I don’t remember once when the law was involved in these cases. The vast number of them could be wrong but these were children and the law was not enforced.


  7. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:39:32

    Note: I don’t care if JPUSA survives this or disbands tomorrow. I don’t blame members who had no idea and who were not involved:

    I think the ambiguity of what happened is the core of the problem. If children are saying they are being sexually assaulted and a religious leader is breaking the law (as stated in my previous comment) by letting the suspect go then that’s a problem. Covering it up and not letting the proper authorities’ do a proper investigation is the major problem. Not having professionals do a proper investigation is the core crime here. No child should be blamed for making a case that was covered up and especially if they made a case out of it as a child and the suspected child predator was let go then they should have a field day in court.

    I won’t name drop but I know one of the pastors is a lawyer (I think he graduated from NorthWestern’s law school) and for him to not know a law I found in five minutes is extremely questionable. The not knowing what happened, happened because the religious leaders separated themselves from their clergy responsibilities to their political responsibilities. Their political duty of keeping their organizations image in good standing clouded doing what is right. There means of keeping the issue silent to save the organizations image is not justifiable due to these allegations may be faulty. These cases are only questionable because the suspected child predator was let go. And any leader who let a predator go has that next crime on their hands. You may not like the laws but they are there for a reason. For example, if a secular doctor was to hide the amount of potential child rape cases that JPUSA’s leadership has, he or she would have lost her licensee and suing him or her would be a cake walk. But if its JPUSA or the Catholic Church hides potential abuse there is just some third wall of undeserving special treatment they get just because people are brainwashed in this black/white faith based attitude. If either of these organizations were PETA, Doctors’ Without Borders, or any other secular organization the moment these scandals broke the shit would hit the fan and they would shut themselves down.

    Victims of sexual abuse have repeatedly been reported as having their sub conscious hiding the damage that was done to them during childhood as a mechanism for survival. Some have been reported as just remembering it as a bad dream or nightmare. Children do not know what is going on and religious parents are easily succumb to their religious leaders; especially in the case that the suspect of the assault is a Christian. The amount of times I hear Christians surprised reactions because they found out another Christian did something bad is enough to dent my head in to fucking China. Somehow the majority of Christians think that someone’s testimony of being a Christian is valid enough for not doing bad thing. A coordinator or a pastor does not have the educational background or experience to properly vet potential sex predators.

    As stated before this issue is not just the crazy old JPUSA. Where they spanked grown men and purposefully separated young children away from their parents. Although I won’t give the names I know several people younger than me who claimed to be sexually assaulted. If it helps your Christian mind I know one of them is still a Christian. Sadly that should be enough validation for you.

    The thing is they were hippies thinking a desert deity was on their side and somehow doing stupid things and doing good deeds gave them some imaginary protection from the reality of the world. The facts show that this delusion was real. The sheep like attitude of a Christian believing their leaders and fellow members as being in the right by faith is just disgusting. This issue is not black and white. You may not agree with the messenger, you may not agree with all their testimonies, you may feel some people should be blamed more then others but if you’re only excuse not to believe them is because you like JPUSA and you like what they do, than you are missing the point and your religion has blinded you.


  8. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:40:15

    I personally think this issue is much more black then white.

    "Any person who enters into employment on and after July 1, 1986 and is mandated by virtue of that employment to report under this Act, shall sign a statement on a form prescribed by the Department, to the effect that the employee has knowledge and understanding of the reporting requirements of this Act. The statement shall be signed prior to commencement of the employment. The signed statement shall be retained by the employer. The cost of printing, distribution, and filing of the statement shall be borne by the employer."


  9. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:40:41

    "Any person who knowingly and willfully violates any provision of this Section other than a second or subsequent violation of transmitting a false report as described in the preceding paragraph, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for a first violation and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent violation; except that if the person acted as part of a plan or scheme having as its object the prevention of discovery of an abused or neglected child by lawful authorities for the purpose of protecting or insulating any person or entity from arrest or prosecution, the person is guilty of a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 3 felony for a second or subsequent offense (regardless of whether the second or subsequent offense involves any of the same facts or persons as the first or other prior offense)."


  10. Micah Sturges
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:41:34

    Here is the law. You can add emotions and love all you want but I deal with facts and the real world.


  11. Debra Joy
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 18:31:25

    Following the Feb. 28 article at Christianity Today, a short introductory comment and the following web address was left by Christopher Smith. This person, according to his own perspective written here, was friends with many and visited Jesus People USA for twenty years.
    He wrote a very insightful, easy to read perspective here.
    I have not read a better one anywhere.

    I think he covered all the bases as one who loves many there and is very familiar with how we lived.
    He gives profound, introspective thoughts on how it is easy to see such a thing could happen in our communal living situation ~ along with his conclusions, that are clear and concise,

    "Some initial steps in this direction would be for the leadership at JPUSA to admit that their community has had tragic history of sexual abuse, and to repent of its longstanding lack of transparency and to cooperate with all pertinent church and government authorities in sorting out and addressing the allegations made in the film, and others that will undoubtedly arise as victims realize that the community’s leadership is willing to take their allegations seriously." …


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