Transcript of Elder’s Address to the FCCF congregation 6-21-15.
Analysis and video are here
Hi, I’m Bob Dees.
I’m one of the elders here at First Christian. We are blessed. First Christian Church is an amazing, multi-generational, multi-ethnic family. We joyfully celebrate a 57 year legacy of ministry built on honoring Jesus Christ who is passionately living in the world. We serve thousands of families and have been recognized nationally for the strength of our diversity.
Like every family, our church family has moments when our strength is tested. In January 2014, two former First Christian church families were told for the first time by their now grown sons that they had been sexually abused in 2007 by Brandon Milburn, at that time a full-time student at St. Louis Christian College and part-time church employee.
These families did the right thing, the difficult thing. They stood strong in their test, reported this horrible crime to authorities and sought counselling.
A year long open investigation invited any other victims to come forward, and let to a guilty plea and a sentence of 25 years in prison. While this abuse did not occur at church facilities or at our programs, we all hurt when the rest of our family hurts.
The actions of one have a ripple effect of hurt to many through this violation of trust. Because we are a place of healing, First Christian provides two professional counselling resources available to victims of Milburn’s abuse.
Since the February 2015 sentencing First Christian Church has been harrassed and slandered by false claims that church leaders knew of the sexual abuses and criminally failed to report it. This is simply not true.
These unsubstantiated claims were reportedly promoted in the unfiltered platform of social media on fake Facebook accounts and in phone calls and email sourced to the unauthorized use of church databases.
In issuing demands for the resignation of leaders and seeking supporters who might disrupt worship services. Critics do share a valueable roll suggesting the needs for improvements, however some opportunistically chose destructive methods, testing cities, testing law enforcement, testing best-of-class organizations, schools and even effective churches.
A line must be drawn. These methods do not belong in our church family.
As elders we have worked continually to protect and clear First Christian’s name legally and through law enforcement. Based on the clear evidence, we sought retractions, not financial penalties.
After pursuing options that enabled us to name accusers and present affidavits in evidence that could be substantiated in court, the eldership decided to drop civil actions and enlist the assistance of two respected mediators. Our intent was to give our critics yet additional opportunities to reconcile.
Regretfully, those seeking to blame us and incite outrage, prefer to continue spreading only false accusations.
Upon the counsel of our mediator we were persuaded that the best course of action for the First Christian family now is to re-focus our energies exclusively on moving forward with our ministry and mission.
With your support and encouragement, First Christian Church will fully intensify our commitment to stand strong, becoming even a more passionate community resource. We’re thankful that this amazing family continues to grow in faith, welcoming first-time guests, and each week celebrating new committed followers of Christ.
We began June with more than 500 kids and volunteers in vacation bible school. Our Celebrate Recovery is an ongoing ministry of support. We will always have love and compassion for those wronged by heinous actions, our focus will be resolutely on greater things that can bring us together; one faith in one Lord, one message of God’s love and grace that can bring healing into any life.
First Christian Church of Florissant is listening, learning and loving and determined to be better, and not bitter. Our core values have determined that we will go forward empowered by God’s grace to be a place where Christ comes first, where the lost are found, where the word is heard, where care is shared and where our world is changed. In this time of testing First Christian is standing strong, and we, as elders, invite you to stand with us.
See analysis here.