An update on the previous post re: the former youth pastor, now to be referred to as RO.
I was up until 2 am reading posts on a blog about this issue and it just gets worse. I won’t ever devote that kind of time to it again for obvious reasons. The things I learned about this person were so upsetting, not because I ever saw him as some great spiritual giant, but because of the abuse of his considerable power. My very strong inner sense of justice is screaming.
RO’s party line on his first divorce was that she didn’t want to be the wife of a minister. Not true. You guessed it- he cheated. He married his current wife, JO, because it was too difficult for him to get speaking gigs as a single, divorced guy. He repeatedly told the women he was involved with (or trying to be involved with) that it was a marriage of convenience and that he didn’t love her. When couples came to RO for marriage counseling, he would split them up, counsel the woman on his own, encourage her to get a divorce, and then attempt to start a relationship with her, with mixed results. In addition to the many sexual dalliances, there are a lot of questions regarding fiduciary matters at both the church where I knew him and the BH church in B’ham. Apparently there was some embezzlement in both places, in the 5 figures, and both places agreed to cover it up to avoid publicity. His ministry never filed as a 501c(3) but took donations with no documentation. He was able to wrangle gifts, like golf clubs, vacations, cars and houses out of people by claiming financial hardships, despite the fact that he was making in the mid 6 figures at the church job, not counting all his speaking engagements. When then church took a love offering for him on his last day, it amounted to around 18k and he referred to it as a “slap in the face,” because it was barely over 1k for each of the 15 years he’d been there. Charming.
There are two specific examples of his behavior that are the most frightening to me. First, a young woman named KS, whom I know. (She has come forward publicly and shared her story and her real name, but I’m going to go ahead and let her be in charge of disseminating that information) She began a relationship with Rick at age 16 (a pattern – sometimes he waited until they were 18 to consummate the relationship, sometimes not). After the relationship had gone on for a while, she found herself to be pregnant. His words to her were, “If you have this baby, it will never know its father.” So, she was talked into terminating the pregnancy, which he did pay for. He also said he would be there with her, but – wouldn’t you know it – something came up at the last minute and she was alone.
The second one borders on frightening. This was posted anonymously. A couple who was having problems went to him for counseling. The man was referred to a counseling center, but RO continued meeting with the wife. RO recommended that the couple separate. He would show up at the woman’s house, and bring her flowers and wine. On one of those occasions, things got out of control and in the woman’s words, he raped her. She called her husband hysterically crying and he came to her aide, took her to the hospital and helped her file a police report. There was no doubt in the exam that she had been forced. When they went public with this, they were asked to leave the church and were threatened (I don’t know how specifically). In the month following the charges, they were pulled over by B’ham police 8 times, and harassed to the point of having to move. When they went to file the lawsuit, the evidence had disappeared from the police report. The couple reconciled and have a strong relationship. The husband wrote the story on the blog.
At present, RO is working three different stories of this situation, depending on who he’s talking to, he is strutting around town as if nothing happened, playing golf every day and working to line up preaching gigs. Here’s what kills me about that: Where has he turned to get these speaking gigs? The inner city churches. I can’t even begin to go into how racist that is, to assume that African-American churches will be (a) more accepting, or worse, (b) less informed.
There are people working diligently to take him down – not in a vindictive, “you must pay” way but in a “people are being hurt – you must stop” way. Some of the comments posted were by people saying that RO was being unnecessarily persecuted (whatever) and that the people working to dismantle his empire needed to “get a life.” I believe that God in in charge of vengeance but I also believe that God uses us to accomplish all of God’s purposes, including vengeance, and those who are on this job are on the right track.