It’s often said we cannot be in right relationship without disclosure. Sometimes, it may take years for people to come forward, but coming forward remains important, for as Christians we are called to bring light into the darkness.
Recently, we had a conversation with Elizabeth (not her real name), the former wife of a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastor, about her former church’s appalling handling of child sexual abuse and related issues.
It’s important to understand the context of this story. At the time, clergy were not mandated reporters.
That said, the notion that there would be even a brief conversation before contacting law enforcement is shocking and appalling. Basic human decency would suggest you make a beeline to children’s protective services, the police, and anyone else in a position to protect the child.
Here, in her own words, is Elizabeth’s brave expose of child abuse in the PCA.
From August 2013-April of 2016
My ex-husband was the assistant pastor of student ministries of Grace Covenant PCA (GCPCA).
It was a church plant of Midway PCA in Powder Springs, GA. The senior pastor of GCPCA was Rev. Wilson Smith. He had been as pastor at MCPCA previously. MCPCA was where Rev. Gene Hunt (retired) and his wife Susan Hunt (former director of Women’s Ministries of the PCA pastored until his retirement. Their son, Richie Hunt was the previous student ministries director prior to my ex-husband. Grace PCA is located only about 15 miles from MPCA. MPCA has a school, Midway Covenant Christian Academy. In April 2013, the school’s PE teacher Robert Carlysle Cartwright Jr., 46, was arrested and charged with felony aggravated child molestation.
My ex-husband receives an email from a family in the church wishing to speak to him.
The next day he does. He meets with them at the church. He returns home and does not disclose what he was told. After calling two other PCA pastors and an elder from Grace PCA. It was determined not to call CPS, but instead that the session would meet the next day following the worship service. My ex-husband discloses to me at this point. what the conversation had been about.The family that had reached out to him…their daughter who was 7 at the time had been recently confided to her parents through happenstance) that the 16 year old son of her babysitter had been molesting her on and off for two years. My response was to call CPS NOW. I did not and still do not understand why a phone call was not made in urgency.
The session (elders and pastors) meet for nearly two hours. They bring in a law student (current police officer) to gain an idea of what kind of legal responsibility they have. It’s decided that my ex-husband will call CPS. That’s the extent of the involvement of the church legally. Another elder will call the family of the perpetrator to see if there is any truth to these allegations. The pastor (Rev. Wilson Smith) tells my ex-husband he should’ve come to him. He’s handled these situations before; he does not elaborate beyond this. My ex-husband makes the phone call to CPS. The other elder, Bill Fisher, calls the family of the perpetrator and the perp confesses, yet claims it was boys being boys and only happened once.
Summer of 2014–Fall of 2015
Everything is somewhat fuzzy since it has been nearly a decade.
Richie Hunt (child of retired PCA women’s director), former director of student ministries at GCPCA calls my ex-husband and tells him that the BEST way to handle these allegations (since that is what they are) is to go to the child, tell them to be quiet and eventually they will forget. This is how he and his parents have operated in the past and seems to be the best MO for these types of things.
The session meets and after my ex-husband and I do an enormous amount of research, the session votes and asks the family of the perpetrator to attend church somewhere else because the priority has to be placed on the victim during this time. The vote was NOT unanimous and it was only one vote that the session walked away doing the right thing.
The victim’s family files a report with crimes against children. The perp pleaded guilty (as he had confessed to the elder who agreed to call after the initial meeting of the church session . But, as he was only a minor, and according to the perp’s family it was a misunderstanding. It was boys being boys, being curious. The Hunts sat in the courtroom behind the perp giving him their full support. She actually emailed me the day before.
I’ve included those screenshots… not because they reveal things mainly because they don’t. Have you ever known anyone with a successful ministry who had their hands dirty? Me either. I think that’s the point. If you wash someone’s feet, your hands should be dirty. Like filthy dirty…
Once the session made the decision that the perp’s family needed to attend church somewhere else…boy, oh, boy did the mud start to sling. Susan Hunt and her entourage withdrew from the church. They started to attend a non-denominational church, Mars Hill. Susan retired from teaching bible study. The move to Mars Hill wasn’t a really big deal for other families. But, as an ordained PCA pastor (Gene) Susan was in a bit of a more difficult spot. His retirement was connected to his ordination in the PCA church. To maintain his ordination, he had to belong to a PCA church. As the former director of Women’s Ministries for the PCA most of her speaking engagements and book deals came on the credentials of her as the female voice in the PCA. I believe that she ushered her “followers’ because she knows how the church works. It is to the giving of the congregation. For a season, she held out with limited involvement with both churches (and not moving her membership), until she could run us off. The church membership and tithing dwindled. The senior pastor, Rev. Wilson Smith, at the time the abuse was discovered, retired. Yet, he didn’t stop attending church at GCPCA. After a lavish retirement celebration during the Sunday morning service, he shows back up for eventing vespers. His wife would follow me around the church and tell people who passed by, “she’s not speaking to me.”
Biblical womanhood BS
Eventually, the session refers my ex-husband to the shepherding committee for how he mishandled the situation. Those that left the church kept saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There has to be something going that’s not of the LORD.” The committee made recommendations, but nothing required. He was supposed to apologize to the victim’s family. But, the Hunts…well they were never asked. Yet, Susan continued to speak all over the world about biblical womanhood. About Complementarianism…this is from a book Susan wrote with Liogon Duncan. https://ligonduncan.com/about-ligon-duncan/This is the woven into the framework. Susan Hunt along with Rev. Duncan has literally written a book on how to be abused by the church. They call it biblical womanhood. I call it Christless Christianity…like how much can we actually add to the gospel? This book is a way that men abuse women without even needing to be present. Susan’s teachings have essentially equipped every single woman to be nice..or in my case…until it’s time to not be nice (Roadhouse reference).
Summer 2015-Fall 2015 — “She can help me get published”
The search committee calls Rev. Ben Duncan to be the next senior pastor of GCPCA. He’s no longer at the church. He now pastors Spring-Cypress PCA outside of Houston. As the assistant pastor’s family we had Ben and his family in our home when they came to interview (in view of a call). I told him everything about the Hunts. While sitting at my kitchen table, he looks me in the eyes and says, “I understand all that, but she can help me get published. That’s what’s important to me.” He was installed as the senior pastor in October of 2015. In December of 2015, my ex-husband’s position was eliminated. Susan Hunt returned to teaching bible study. I find it interesting that Rev. Duncan doesn’t state where specifically he pastored in GA. https://www.springcypresschurch.com/pastor-ben
Things that I cannot connect but expect to be true:
Midway Covenant Christian School: PE teacher (Robert Carlysle Cartwright Jr.) was arrested for child molestation, only one victim. As a teacher, I know there’s never just one. Yet, thank God, there was one who was brave enough to speak up…ESPECIALLY, when pastor Gene Hunt, his wife Susan, their son Richie, and senior pastor Wilson Smith have been families to be quiet, so they forget.
The perpetrator at GCPCA attended MCCS and was a student of the PE teacher. The abuse the 7 year old girl experienced was a learned behavior.
The biggest thing in all of this…
Is the church’s teaching and their response to abuse victims (thank you Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt).
PCA and Complementarianism
It is a denomination that attracts alpha males (some who fall somewhere on the narcissism spectrum). The nature of the church’s structure attracts men who like control. It also is a wealthier denomination. Also, it has also introduced me the REAL Jesus. The one who runs after the woman and the well and leaves the money changers for God. It has also taught me the power of the real gospel. These are EVIL people, but for some reason, unbeknownst to me on this side heaven, lives have been impacted for the kingdom through these pieces of trash. So I guess you have to believe in God after that.
Our view: We have profound issues with the PCA, including its bullying of whistleblowers, as in the case of Tenth Presbyterian’s perjury in the case of Phil Snyder. And Covenant Presbyterian in Nashville, scene of the horrific shootings, knew about John Perry’s sexual abuse of children for at least two years. Toss in the ties to Grace Christian Academy and Grace Chapel, and the blind eye both turned to the abuse facing Angie and Grant Solomon, and things get ugly quickly. Throw in the fact that Covenant still refuses to make peace with Austin Davis, and its efforts to keep information relating to the shootings secret, and we see an ugly church, profoundly un-Christian in many ways, often operating like the Catholic church—protect the organization first, and forget about the people.
The story above adds yet another layer to the toxic miasma the swirls around the PCA. And while these are all allegations, we find them to be credible.
Sources close to the matter also tell us neither Ben Duncan nor Richie Hunt ever did report the allegations of child sex abuse. For the record, this shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. There should have been a mad rush to get to CPS.
Nor does it cut it to say, “Well, someone else reported it.” What if the prior reporter forgot details? Or got something wrong? Amd what kind of father shrugs when confronted with these issues?
So, in case no one’s done it before, we’re going to do it now: We’re calling on the PCA to repent of its role in child abuse and its abuse of whistleblowers.
Let’s see if the PCA has the integrity to do it.