Wartburg Watch Article
Date: January 02, 2019 08:15PM
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.
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.