The Soncco Family

The Fallacy of Protecting the Church: Why Covering Up Abuse is Not a Biblical Mandate

One of the biggest criticisms faced by the Survivors of Austin Gardner is the claim that our efforts to expose abuse and toxic culture within Vision Baptist Church are “hurting the church.” This is a common defense used by many churches to deflect from the real issue: the abuse and harm caused to vulnerable individuals within their communities. Unfortunately, this claim is not only misguided, but it can also perpetuate a culture of abuse and harm.

Many church abuse victims stay silent because they fear speaking out will harm the church. Unfortunately, this silence only emboldens abusers and allows the cycle of abuse to continue. It’s important to remember that holding abusers accountable and seeking justice for victims is not an attack on the church. Instead, the church is responsible for creating a safe and healthy environment for all members.

In the case of Austin Gardner and his circle, victims were often made to feel like they were at fault; this even happened in one case of sexual assault outside the country. This pattern of victim blaming is not unique to Gardner’s circle, but it is a common tactic used by abusers to silence and discredit their victims.

When Gardner faced church discipline, he fled to his son’s church and started Alignment Ministries, which operates independently of any local church. This move does not align with biblical teachings, which state that the church is the only organization sanctioned by God. It is vital to hold church leaders accountable and to create a culture of transparency and honesty. The church is not exempt from scrutiny or criticism when addressing abuse.

It is also worth noting that in response to Gardner’s removal from Vision Baptist Church, several members of the church’s Spanish group split from the church. Unfortunately, instead of responding with understanding and empathy, Gardner’s circle members act as Pharisees, point their fingers at the victims, and claim they are bitter and not of God. 

a concerning and anonymous submission received by Survivors of Austin Gardner reads as follows: “After several members of Vision Baptist Church‘s Spanish group, while being led by Austin’s son-in-law Jimmy Soncco, split from the church after its refusal to reinstate Austin, we now have VBMS director of the OGTC and Students preaching at this ‘church plant.’ It’s very concerning and wrong.” another submission says, “This is not a church plant. It is a church split. Gardner, Soncco, Canfield took 50 Spanish members from their previous church. Shameful.” 

It takes a lot of nerve to split a church because Austin Gardner started facing some consequences for his reprehensible behavior and claiming to be guided by the holy spirit.

Addressing church abuse is not about attacking the church. It is about creating a safe and healthy environment for all members, including abuse victims. It is the church’s responsibility to hold leaders accountable and to take steps to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. We must be willing to have difficult conversations and make changes where necessary. We must also be willing to listen to victims and take their experiences seriously.

In conclusion, we cannot allow the fear of hurting the church to prevent us from addressing church abuse. Our church members are responsible for creating a safe and healthy environment for all. We must hold leaders accountable and seek justice for victims. We can only truly develop a culture of transparency, honesty, and love.

Comments 2

  1. Your email stuff is in my spam folder but i did read it. I see accusation after accusation and i understand what it is like to be done wrong. I think the bitterness is getting to you. This is a private not public message so i am not trying to make you look bad. Ask yourself and God is the bitterness taking me over? I have had to fight it and i am still fighting it in my own life because of things done to me. You have to start letting some things go or you wont have peace. Don’t take this as a slam or me trying to be mean. God has his way and his time to take vengeance. Exposing the sexual part i get it. Trying to find every fault ……… Awareness is the only thing that could have been done.

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