Published On: 24 July, 2017|By |

Scott Wendal was interviewed for the 60 Minutes programme last night. He came out looking fairly good. Unfortunately, his behaviour behind the scenes has been a demonstration of the sort of behaviour that put him and the Independent Baptists in the spotlight in the first place.

He wrote an email before the programme aired which can only be described as disturbing. This was distributed to the Valley Forge Baptist Temple leadership (to be distributed throughout the church) You may read the email here: Scott Wendal to VFBT.

I wrote a response to him which he declined to pass along to the church [EDIT: I’m told he later read part of the email in a church meeting]. I attempted to limit the audience by emailing the same list he emailed, but unfortunately that list is protected so I am left with no choice but to speak up here. One thing is certain, I will not be silenced. Not today. Too many people have just been given a voice [EDIT: through my Mum’s story] and they deserve to be heard today. Not least of all, my Mum.

If you would like the facts of the case, visit www.thefiles.com.au.

Below is the email as I sent it to Scott Wendal last night.


Pastor Wendal,

I’m sorry to see it playing out like this. I’m asking that you send the below email (exactly as is) to the same people the previous email was sent to with a request to pass it to anyone the first email was passed to. Please also copy me in on this. I’d much prefer this much smaller circle of awareness rather than handling it more publicly. If I don’t hear back on this before your evening service begins, I’ll assume you’re declining to do so.

My love to you, the family, and the Majesty crew as well!

Jason
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To the VFBT church family,

A moment ago my Mum and I read the email which Scott Wendal recently sent out to you. We were shocked and saddened by what we read. But we completely understand the distress of seeing images of VFBT in the press in close proximity to the word cult. Let me be clear. Neither I nor my Mum have called VFBT (or Kevin’s church) a cult. Had we done so, it would have been aired. But it wasn’t. Because we didn’t.

Nor do we think VFBT is a cult. I have some concerns about the way VFBT handled our situation and I raised them with Pastor Wendal directly in February 2017. But I do not think VFBT is a cult. VFBT is a special place. You know that. I know that. I love you and have been shown incalculable love by you. The same goes for Mum.

That said, Scott Wendal acted out of character when he wrote an email to you based on second-hand information. He didn’t check with Mum or I. Had he watched the programme first; had he verified with Mum and I, I feel sure the email would never have been written. In fact, he would have realised that I never betrayed him. Nor did Mum. What I had to say, I said to his face (via email). We discussed it briefly in a gracious manner and then we parted as friends on good terms. He said to me “It is a joy to my heart that you have chosen the ‘better path’ and not the ‘bitter path.'”

But when Pastor Wendal was interviewed by 60 Minutes, it seems he assumed that what they told him I said, I had actually said, and had said in the way they said I had said it. But as Pastor Wendal has so carefully taught us for so many years, it is dangerous to base our judgements on second-hand information.

In fact, I never attacked Pastor Wendal to the 60 Minutes crew. I told Pastor Wendal in February that “Even though I have raised some fairly serious concerns in this email, I have defended you many times to the family and others… and I will continue to defend you wherever I justly can.” When the 60 Minutes crew heard our story, they immediately raised concerns about Pastor Wendal’s actions. I did exactly what I said I would do and defended Pastor Wendal wherever I justly could. As did Mum. It is not my fault that their concerns were not alleviated. And the truth is, it was their job to dig for the truth. That’s what good journalists do.

It seems to me that Pastor Wendal felt attacked by them and assumed the worst both about them (that they would misrepresent him) and about Mum and I (that we had tried to blame everything on him). In fact, neither turned out to be true.

For anyone who has watched the programme, Pastor Wendal was treated quite fairly and came out looking good. I literally cheered out loud when he said “If you break the law, you go to jail.” I was happy to see him come out with flying colours on that point! I recognise that it was a bit more dicey at the beginning and there were some tricky questions. But they are good questions. Questions I have. Questions I raised with Pastor Wendal myself. And questions you ought to raise with him. Because some day it might be your wife or daughter/son or mother coming to him for help.

Unfortunately, Pastor Wendal also made a number of unhelpful allegations about my Mum and I in his email to you. I’ll address a few briefly. Bitterness is of course a charge I can’t possibly defend. But I’ll point out that it is illegitimate to ignore truth because you feel the messenger is bitter. Lashing out? That’s one way to say it. Standing up and speaking out is how I would say it. I have had dozens… dozens of former/present Independent Baptists come to Mum and/or I about the abuse they experienced in the movement as a result of this story. In Australia, there is a problem. And I will not sit by when I have the opportunity to speak up for the oppressed and vulnerable.

If I’m angry at Dad, it’s not for “anger” at Mum. It’s for raping her. Hundreds of times. Again, I told Pastor Wendal in no uncertain terms that Dad’s problem was not an anger problem. He doesn’t believe me.

Yes, Kevin did discipline me out of his church. Several years after I left. But that’s not what this story was about, was it? Rather it was about a pastor, Kevin, who has become dangerous to his community. Kevin got a fair hearing and now Australia knows where he stands.

As far as Mum being bitter, any woman who can survive 39 years of what she lived with and still be the gentle, loving, warm-hearted person you know her to be deserves better than this.

Finally, I’ll clarify that Pastor Wendal never confronted me over bitterness against my father. Rather, he wrote me off summarily in an email to my Mum. We’ve since discussed that and reconciled. Pastor Wendal said to me in February “I would love to consider our hearts reconciled.”

Let me say one more thing. I love my brother Kevin. God is my witness. But these are Kevin’s words after my dad was convicted of rape: “marital rape… is foreign to Scripture.” He said to his Mum: “You are as guilty as Dad. … you were equally wrong in saying ‘no’ (an act of force) as he was in saying ‘yes’ and forcing it.” That is evil. Pastor Wendal believes it’s evil. I believe it’s evil. You believe it’s evil. I do not apologise for saying so. Loudly. What my Dad did to my Mum wasn’t “marital rape.” It was rape.

I love Scott Wendal. I deeply, genuinely love him and respect him. And I love you. I disagree with a lot of things. But I love you. And I pray that the outcome of this 60 Minutes report as well as this email will be safer, more godly churches. That God will be glorified as believers take a clear stand on some of the key moral issues of our day.

Grace to you.

Jason Harris

About the Author: Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.

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