Saturday, November 09, 2013

Review: A Church Falsely Accused

I posted on Pastor Bill Wininger, who stands accused of molesting a child or perhaps several children, back in the 90s. He wrote a book back in 1995 called, A Church Falsely Accused, It is a first person account of how the author and his church survived allegations of child sexual abuse that took place in 1992. The allegations arose from the bus ministry, where a bus driver was alleged to have given a child a special hug. I read the book yesterday in an about an hour.

A Church Falsely Accused by Pastor Bill Wininger
Copyright 1995, Revival Fires Publishers
Hardback, 166pp. $11.99

The book is an easy read. I think in part because it is a full-sized hardback with reduced-sized pages. Instead of a standard margin, each page has doublewide margins. It could have been written in 80 pages. There are 14 chapters, each of which is similar to the other, except for the chapter titled, May I offers Some Suggestions, which goes into specific recommendations to help other churches protect against allegations of abuse.

The author describes, in very general terms, an allegation of abuse lodged against a bus driver and a deacon. There is very little information on the actual accusations besides trivializing the accusations as coming from a child who had been hugged by the bus driver and pointing out that the child lived in a trailer park and was young. Instead, the author goes into what it is like to lead a church when the press is reporting on the alleged crimes and the community hates you. I read the book as a list of grievances, punctuated with bible verses and short sermons. Pastor Wininger stood by the accused and believed their stories without reservation. There was no mention of the alleged victims.

This was a story of outsiders (kids in the bus ministry) versus an established church which circled its wagons to survived and support the accused. Those accused were eventually found not guilty or had the charges dropped, so all of the support the church offered reads as the correct and godly thing to do. Plus, Wininger makes the story personal and talks about what it is like to be a leader besieged by outsiders and how he cared for the accused. I would subtitle the book, a whiners tale.

The chapter that makes recommendations was interesting in that I disagreed with each recommendation.


1. Maintain a good records system: Since the church is focused on its bus ministry, it keeps detailed records for each child it picks up. The used a form in triplicate that captures data to show how many children are saved for Jesus. They used the data to disprove accusations by showing which dates children rode the bus and who was the bus driver. I understand why they do this. It a numbers game. They judge their success by the number of children that hear the word of god or are saved. Unfortunately, this protects the church from accusations, while it does nothing for the kids. The recommendation is worthless. If you must prey on poor children to boost your church numbers, then at least have a driver and a second adult. Use the two adult rule. No child should ever be left alone with an adult while at church or in route.

2. Educate your workers: The thinking here was that an overactive or disruptive child was the root of the problem. At least in this recommendation that actually state a worker should never be alone with a child, but as we know now, preventing child abuse actually relays upon supervision of adults and not unruly children.

3. Know What's Going On: This church actually has roaming bands of adults who make sure kids are in Sunday School classes and not paying in the yard. The message here is direct. Children need to learn about Christ. Instead of sweeping the grounds, these adults should be doing random audits of adults in the bible classes. The abuse happens when an adult is allowed to be alone with a child. Safeguards should be focused in this area and not in making sure kids are placed in risky classrooms.

4. Get Good Legal Counsel: Seriously? This protects kids how?

5. Deal Wisely with Authorities: The backstory here is the church feels it was abused by the police even though they did police appreciation events. Dealing wisely with authorities is an area I care about because it is the one that is abused the most. Christians use police inquiries to justify the "Christian under attack by Satan" justification for protecting accused pastors. I see it in store after story. Christians should cooperate fully with investigations into allegations of child abuse. There is no other story.

6. Have good insurance coverage: Really? This protects kids how?

The reader will notice that the church does not actually do anything to protect children from adults. Instead, the book is about protecting the church from accusations, which is wrongheaded. The book is also about a church and a pastor being victimized by accusations of abuse, and frankly, it is self-serving and used to justify a ministry process that preys on underprivileged children. I find the concept reprehensible and the book foolish.