Showing posts with label Phil Snyder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phil Snyder. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2019

Invitation to Victims at Tenth Presbyterian

As several who have been following this story know, I increasingly believe there is much more to the story of potential abuse at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. Indeed, I have had several recent conversations that suggest that issues may go back to Phil Ryken’s time as pastor, and several folks have shared anecdotes that are deeply concerning.

So, my offer is this: If you have been abused at Tenth Presbyterian, or by someone connected with the church, get in touch with me. Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch knows how to get in touch with me, and all conversations are confidential unless you specifically request otherwise. My promise to you is to listen respectfully, no matter what you tell me, and to be entirely supportive.

Or feel free to HMU on Twitter @gracealexwatch.

I welcome your comments.






Sunday, March 31, 2019

More Correspondence from Tenth Presbyterian

Today I received more correspondence between Tenth Presbyterian and Phil Snyder. None of it’s pretty, and it thoroughly underscores the lack of a genuine Christian ethos among leadership at the church. Further, I’ll add that Liam Goligher sounds disturbingly like Dysfunctional Bob Malm, including the allegations that Liam has committed perjury. Needless to say, I am dubious about the long-term prospects for any church where this sort of behavior is acceptable. I also question where the good Christians of Tenth Presbyterian acquired the notion that they are authorized to restrict First Amendment rights on public fora, like the sidewalk in front of the church. And, like Bob Malm, the seeming lies about threatening and harassing conduct reflect a thoroughly broken ethical reference point.

I’d also point out, as I have apropos Grace Episcopal, that friendly is not faithful. Bob Malm, and likely Liam Goligher, can be quite personable and engaging, But that doesn’t mean that he has any real faith, and it’s important to recognize the difference. If you support a clergyperson because you like him or her, without regard for their conduct, you are simply worshiping an idol. And turning a blind eye to perjury and other misconduct is to make oneself equally culpable.

Moreover, like Bob Malm and his perjury, the only thing that Tenth Presbyterian has accomplished is to increase awareness of its apparent propensity for bullying and its inept handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. Plus, the church all but guarantees that there will be additional protests and leafleting at the church.

Stupid.






























Thursday, March 28, 2019

Still More Disturbing Correspondence from Tenth Presbyterian

Recently I received additional emails and correspondence relating to the debacle at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. The debacle includes multiple allegations of sexual misconduct; a seeming lack of accountability by the pastor, Liam Goligher; and possible efforts by the church and its law firm to suppress criticism by former member Phil Snyder. Most importantly, I believe that the church evinces an appalling lack of concern for those hurt by these actions.

In the first email, posted below, Frank Pulcini, who appears to be a member of Tenth Presbytrerian, discusses the allegations of sexual misconduct in the church’s basement, which it refers to as “the catacombs.” To Frank’s credit, he urges a engaged approach to the issue, including stepping up security and notifying others about the issue, as well as providing care for the alleged victim and pulling in the police. I also am grateful that Frank contemplated the safety of children—an issue too often overlooked.

At the same time, there are some disconcerting aspects to Frank’s message. For example, he urges church leadership not “to keep this hushed,” further noting that no one called 911 at the time of the alleged incident. Moreover, it appears that no one had notified the police. The notion that the church can handle this incident — which sounds like a case of sexual assault — is shocking and appalling, and sounds very much like the Catholic Church and its efforts to handle its own sexual abuse issues internally. The results of the latter are well-known, and should have been enough to make any reasonable clergyperson think twice before trying to handle things personally.

Here is the content of Frank’s email:



The second email, while brief, is equally troubling. An exchange between Phil and Liam Goligher, it shows that Goligher was personally aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct. But what is truly telling is the suggestion that they catch up after Sunday services.

I don’t know about you, but the time after services at every church I’ve ever attended has been a whirlwind of little kids, coffee, small talk, and people coming and going. It’s a great place to find out how elderly friends are doing, or if those who are sick and shut in need anything. But as a place to address  allegations of sexual misconduct, it is about the worst possible place and time imaginable. Thus, unless I am mischaracterizing life at Tenth Presbyterian, Goligher’s follow-up suggests a shockingly cavalier approach to a potentially devastating issue, particularly for the woman who allegedly was assaulted. In other words, yikes. Just yikes.

Here’s the email:




The third email I’m posting today is an email sent to various people following Phil’s loss of his defamation case in the Philadelphia courts. When reading it, keep in mind that these are allegations, and to my knowledge, nothing has been proven in a court of law. 

That said, I believe Phil. Issues involving sexual misconduct and the safety of church members should have been handled with dispatch. There’s no reason this should have been acrimonious, difficult, or divisive. Yet even in these cursory emails, it looks very much like church officials are trying to sidestep and downplay the matter.

Of course, that raises the question why. Why would the church not want the police involved? Why would it not want transparency? I don’t know the answer, but my gut instinct is that it has something to hide, and that there’s more to this than meets the eye.

I’d also like to add that I admire Phil’s tenacity. In my dispute with Bob Malm, I know what he’s experiencing, and I am willing to bet he’s been called everything from insane to a stalker and more. Been there, done that. Churches know no bounds when it comes to ad hominem attacks on those who challenge the status quo, in my case even urging me to commit suicide. I hope that true Christians will offer support, encouragement and prayer on Phil’s behalf.

Apropos the issue of defamation, I no longer practice law, having happily retired, and no longer am licensed to practice law. That said, it’s a basic notion of defamation law that substantial truth is a defense. Thus, while Phil may have used inaccurate legal terminology, it appears that some sort of involuntary sexual misconduct did occur. I therefore believe Phil to be correct when he says that it is not slander, horrible or otherwise. I express no opinion as to whether Goligher indeed has engaged in criminal activity.

Of course, as a practical matter, if you are a church official, is it in your best interest to discourage reporting of misconduct? Of course not. If you do, you run the risk of potential personal and organizational liability, as well as devastating reputational damage. The fact that Tenth Presbyterian appears to be rabidly doing so again suggests to me that something is seriously wrong at the church. Moreover, if Phil’s conclusion that the church is blaming the victim is accurate, then things really are ugly at Tenth Presbyterian.

Lastly, we see the most recent correspondence from Gary Samms, the attorney for Tenth Presbyterian, in which he attempts to persuade Phil to quit communicating about this situation. While I appreciate its professional tone and demeanor (versus that of a certain government contracts attorney in Washington, DC), as a former attorney I find it noteworthy that it doesn’t claim that Phil is engaging in defamation. My guess is that Gary knows that Phil’s assertions are accurate, and far from defamatory. This, combined with the fact that an inflammatory letter would simply result in further criticism, suggests to me that the church knows that there’s not much it can do to shut down criticism.

Of course, that begs the issue: If people at Tenth Christian really are Christians, why did they try to get an injunction against Phil in the first place? It seems clear that he was neither violent, nor threatening. As such, the church appears to have borne false witness. The fact that the church pursued such a course of action yet again leads me to conclude that it is hiding something—possibly something quite serious. Otherwise, why would the church engage in what appears to be profoundly unethical behavior? And behavior that is so very damaging to its reputation? Moreover, its actions suggest this is not an emotionally or spiritually safe church, nor one that is safe against sexual abuse. If nothing else, it’s profoundly stupid for Liam to announce his decision that the incident at a pastor’s home was a “cultural misunderstanding.” The appropriate response was to notify the police immediately, and possibly to hire independent counsel to investigate the matter and notify the deacons, staff and congregation of its findings. Beyond that, a visit from a law enforcement crime prevention expert or a consultant in church security would have been a wise move. There is simply no reason for Liam Goligher to play junior police officer.

That said, Gary talks about facts not at Phil’s disposal. If the former can prove that the church handled allegations of sexual misconduct appropriately, I am, of course, more than happy to publish that information. Same goes for evidence that Phil indeed was violent and threatening. Or if Gary or the church wish to refute my belief that there’s more to this sordid tale than meets the eye, I am happy to hear them out. Somehow, I have the feeling the phone’s not going to be ringing off the hook any time soon.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to receiving more information on this case, and am committed to publishing this information as I receive it.

Until then, my advice to Tenth Presbyterian is this: Don’t pull a Bob Malm aka be stupid. Act like Christians and make things right. Just as Bob’s efforts have done nothing to shut down criticism of him (indeed, Bob’s conduct has exacerbated his reputational woes) so too will Tenth Presbyterian only compund its problems if it continues down its current path.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Disturbing Emails Raise Concerns About Possible Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse at Tenth Presbyterian

As wave after wave of scandals hit the Catholic and Southern Baptist churches over allegations of sexual abuse, pastor Liam Goligher and Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia appear determined to drag their church into the same quagmire. Indeed, recent emails that I have received suggest a profound lack of concern for victims of sexual abuse, as well as the possibility of a coverup by church officials.

Today, I’m publishing these emails. Having seen the same sort of passive-aggressive language in my own dealings with abusive clergy in The Episcopal Church, the response of church officials sounds all too familiar.

Of course, I’m not privy to all the details of this situation. But these three emails raise some powerful and disturbing questions:
  • If Liam Goligher and Tenth Presbyterian really care about victims of sexual and other forms of abuse, why wouldn’t they treat Phil Snyder’s efforts as a welcome opportunity to speak up on behalf of possible victims?
  • How could Session have already addressed the issue when the parties seemingly most effected/involved hadn’t been there during the discussions?
  • Why wouldn’t the church itself have called the police? Isn’t that the criticism of the Catholic church, that it tries to handle allegations of abuse internally?
  • Why would the church excommunicate Phil and apparently falsely claim he was being threatening if it didn’t have anything to hide?
  • Why would Dave Collins state in his email that Session now considers the matter to be “closed,” without stating an outcome? Moreover, the reference to matters “directly observed,” sounds very much like an effort to silence a whistleblower, especially when coupled with the shallow reference to “prayer and encouragement.”
  • Why would the alleged victim fear possible retaliation from church officials if Tenth Prsbyterian is a safe environment? My experience is that when people fear reprisals there’s a high likelihood that spiritual abuse is occurring right behind the scenes.
  • Why on this green earth would you ever bring legal action against former parishioner (as in filing for an injunction)? As in my case, when a church goes to court with a member it invariably reveals that, right behind the scenes, it’s a very troubled place.  And just like the Catholic church, the ends don’t justify the means.
My take: The church’s actions sound very much like there’s more—much more—to this story. If it has nothing to hide, why the bad behavior? Why go to court over something that it should welcome, which is people coming forward with concerns? In a day and age when it’s illegal for publicly traded companies to retaliate, why do churches think it’s okay for them to do so? Churches like Tenth Presbyterian simply illustrate that, rhetoric notwithstanding, they are no friend to the poor, the outcast, the oppressed — and that includes those who may have experienced sexual violence or abuse.

I suspect that, in the coming weeks, we’re going to find out that these issues are just the tip of the iceberg at Tenth Presbyterian. Yes, these are unproven allegations, but they have the ring of truth, and there are so many disturbing aspects to this situation that I can only conclude this is one highly toxic church.

Stay tuned.







Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Additional Details: Tenth Presbyterian Lawsuit

Here is the letter from the church’s attorney, as well as a photo that the attorney allegedly sent that purports to show Phil on the public sidewalk.

Do you see anyone running in terror? Me neither.









Breaking News: Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia Appears to Pull a Bob Malm and Attempt to Silence Criticism in Court

Following is a repost, used per standard reprint permissions from The Wartburg Watch, of a disturbing story in which Phil Snyder, a former deacon of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia PA, alleges that attorneys from the church have attempted to obtain a court order against him for protesting outside the church. 
Those of you familiar with the tactics of Dysfunctional Bob Malm and Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow have already guessed correctly that the church allegedly is claiming that Phil was “threatening” and “harassing” in the course of his protests. However, I have reviewed various information relating to the case, including Phil’s body cam footage, and am not convinced that Phil has, in fact, engaged in such conduct. Moreover, it appears that Phil did not enter church property during his protests.
The matter goes to trial in the next few weeks and I am tentatively planning to attend the hearing. In either case, I intend to give this matter extensive air cover. And, of course, if there is evidence that supports a different conclusion, I am happy to receive it.
In the meantime, shame on the good Christians at 10th Presbyterian for what appears to be an effort to shut down First Amendment-protected legitimate criticism.
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As we enter 2019, 10th Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit. A former deacon of the church, Phil Snyder, accused the church of covering up alleged cases of sexual molestation and/or physical abuse of students in the ministry.
Update 1/1/19   "The young men were students at Philadlephia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where the music minister was an instructor. "
The church's current senior pastor is Liam Goligher who was preceded by Wheaton College President Phil Ryken. Both feature prominently in this former deacon's story.
IMPORTANT: At the end of the post I've embedded Phil Snyder's body cam footage. Snyder returned to the public street outside of the church to hand out a flyer documenting his concerns. He claims that the church attempted to tell law enforcement that he was threatening and harassing people coming in and out of the church. If this footage is not doctored, then it appears that Snyder was respectful and quiet. Frankly, the body cam was a great idea. I think more church members should do the same when dealing with difficult churches!
After the video, I have some short comments about why I decided to write this story. As you read this, ask yourself the question "Why would Snyder lie about this?" It clarified a few things for me.
I have changed a few words in Snyder's account to keep it line with our editorial policy when it comes to legal stuff. For the lawyers-this entire post is alleged.

#tenthpresbyterianchurchtoo

In 2001, the music minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, was alleged to have engaged in naked spankings/beatings of students.  The senior minister, Phil Ryken, now the president of Wheaton College, failed to call the police and covered the incident up, allowing the music minister to be in a position of power and influence over young men for another thirteen years.
In 2014, the music minister was finally fired.  However, the new senior minister, Liam Goligher, did not inform the congregation of this.  Instead, the congregation was told that the music minister was leaving to pursue new opportunities.  In fact, on his last Sunday, on 02/02/14, there was exceptional music, including the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, David Kim.  The music minister received a standing ovation.  Also, there was a reception given in honor of the music minister.
On 03/16/14, deacon Phil Snyder (the author of this account) spoke out at a congregational meeting, which forced the elders to hold another congregational meeting on 03/30/14, where the congregation was finally told the real reason the music minister left.
In addition to the naked spanking incidents, there was an alleged rape/false imprisonment which occured at a pastor's house.  The police were not called.  Mr.  Snyder requested to meet with the elders with the victim, witnesses, and someone from the Special Victims Unit, but his request was denied.
On 01/13/13, a woman was allegedly sexually assualted in the catacombs (basement) of the church.  The police were not called and the congregation was not informed of the incident.  The senior minister, Liam Goligher, on 10/10/17, denied he had knowledge of the incident or when it occurred.
Beginning on 01/18/16, Mr. Snyder sent out letters to the congregation detailing these and other incidents.  The elders responded by saying the Mr. Snyder's letters were "horrible slander" and "utterly false".  The elders subsequently retracted these allegedly  false statements.
On 10/23/16, the elders excommunicated Mr. Snyder, filed a no trespassing order against him, and threatened to arrest him within 1,000 feet of the church.  Because of this unlawful, allegedly criminal threat (per 18 USC 241 and 242), to arrest him within 1,000 feet of the church, Mr. Snyder filed a lawsuit against the senior minister, Liam Goligher, and the Clerk of Session, George McFarland.  This lawsuit was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, case number 170102293.  The trial is scheduled for 02/19.
On 09/10/17, in response to the elders' threat to sue him for libel, and in defiance of their threat to arrest him within 1,000 feet of the church, a violation of his constitutional right to free speech, Mr. Snyder went to Tenth Presbyterian Church and handed out letters from a public sidewalk.  The elders responded by filing an injunction against him to stop him from coming within 1,000 feet of the church or communicating with the congregation.  Unfortunately for them, Mr. Snyder was wearing a body camera which proved that their assertions that he was "harassing, threatening, and disruptive" were slanderous and false, i.e. they committed perjury.
Mr. Snyder is requesting financial assistance to help him defend his right to free speech, in particular in regard to alleged crimes, and to enable him to pursue truth and justice in the face of lies and threats from powerful men who abuse their power in an attempt to intimidate him into not exposing their failure to report alleged crimes and their attempts to cover up alleged crimes, in order to protect their reputation and that of their institution, at the expense of victims.

Here is the body cam footage of his actions outside of 10th Presbyterian Church


So, why did I post this?

  • Having watched a church mishandled a sex abuse situation in a former church, I know how hard it is to do what Snyder is doing. The first thing many churches do, and that appears to be the case with 10th Presbyterian, is to start threatening libel and slander. Been there; been through that. Why would any sane person put themselves through something like this? Most times they do it because child sex abuse is a hill worth dying on.
  • But maybe he's insane? If so, why did such a careful, Biblical, strict Reformed church, presided over by the best the Reformed movement has to offer, allowed him to become a deacon?
  • Are we not to respect the thoughts of a man who was selected by the leaders to be a deacon? Isn't that what The Gospel Coalition keeps telling us? Or do we only respect those who do not ask honest questions?
  • At TWW we would never accuse anyone of slander or libel without proving our point. Why do some pastors and church leaders fling the  *slander* and *libel* word without specifically defining what they mean? Is that Biblical or Gospel or whatever the word they are using today? It makes curious person, such as myself, wonder what they are hiding.
  • Why doesn't the church go through each of Snyder's claims and refute them without emotionalism?  It would sure shut down things fast unless...unless they unable to do so?
  • Oh, you say 10th Presbyterian Church doesn't need to say anything? You mean, in this day and age that churches and child sex abuse have been linked by way too many people for very good reasons? Maybe its time that churches open up their windows and doors and let light their light shine?
In 2019, TWW will continue to ask questions of churches who claim they are against sex abuse but might appear to be acting in a contrary fashion...allegedly, that is.
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And here is a wonderful comment from The Wartburg Watch in which a poster comments about churches that seek 1,000-foot exclusion zones. Yes, that would implicate Grace Episcopal aka St. Dysfunction.