Courage begets courage in Memphis: another survivor of sex abuse at Immanuel Baptist Church tells her story

By Amy Smith
Watch Keep
November 30, 2016

Karen’s Story

I was manipulated and controlled by my abuser for nearly 2 years. I just recently realized that I've continued to allow him to manipulate me by keeping quiet since then. That's one reason I must get the truth out. He can control me no longer. Last week I filed an official police report, and now I tell my story. 

My family helped found Immanuel Baptist Church in Germantown when I was in 8th grade. Near the end of my freshman year, Jim, a volunteer youth worker who was married, began to endear himself to me as a friend/mentor/encourager/confidante. Over the following months, he fostered a sense that he was the only one I could really trust. It was during this time that he began to also turn the "friendship" into more of a "relationship." His physical/sexual pursuit followed quickly. This also continued to escalate, and Jim forcibly raped me. I was falsely burdened with guilt and shame but felt I had nowhere to turn. The "relationship" continued off and on for about another year and a half. He would say things to me like, "If you tell anyone, I'll deny it all." and, "No one will believe you, or they'll say you wanted it." Jim was super skilled at knowing how to keep me under his thumb. After many attempts of trying to escape and him reeling me back in, I finally was able to make a permanent break from him. I told no one during the entire 2 years. 

Fast forward about 3 years to my sophomore year of college when I began to make really bad relationship choices and got pregnant. {Let me pause right there. At this point, I seemed to choose guys I knew I couldn't trust, because I knew exactly what to expect from them.} When I told my parents that I was pregnant, the events from when I was 15 & 16 came out too. My dad spoke with police, and it was determined that the statute of limitations had passed on my case. He then spoke with Scott Payne, pastor of the church, and I met with him to give more details about what had happened. Payne set up a meeting with Jim and two men in leadership at the church to confront him. He denied it all. All 3 of those confronting Jim told my dad that they couldn't tell if Jim was telling the truth or not. He agreed to leave the church and nothing else was done. 

 Last year (2015), I was reconnected with a high school friend. She wanted to let me know that she was also sexually abused/raped by Jim. She was ashamed that she had not gone public with that information when my story was originally made known in 1996. She asked for my forgiveness for not backing me up and giving my story more credibility. Although this unearthed what I had tried to bury, I finally felt validated. I knew people didn’t believe me when I first told my story. But more importantly, her story confirmed my worst fears over all these years: that I was NOT the only victim. Chances are that Jim West has countless other victims out there suffering in silence. If you are one of his victims, please come forward. The long- term devastating effects of Jim’s abuse and molestation of me are indeterminable. Though I've had counseling and dealt with this for years, I still struggle emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, and sexually on a DAILY basis as a result of having my innocence stripped from me this way.

I've spent decades trying to convince myself that my forgiveness of these offenders meant not pursuing accountability for them. That was a lie. In Corinthians 13, Paul says that "Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth." I'm making the truth about my abuse public because God loves truth, not because I'm seeking harm or revenge toward either of these men. And to their families I say, “I’m sorry that you are also suffering as a result of your husband’s, father’s, etc. choices.” The TRUTH will win. Scripture says, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." 

My purpose and plea is four-fold. First, as I stated at the beginning of this, I refuse to be controlled by my abuser any more. The truth is finally out there! If you want more details, I'll share as much as you want to know within the limits of what I haven't suppressed or forgotten. Second, if you have experienced sexual abuse of ANY kind by ANY one, please come forward. You are NOT to blame, and there is healing to be found in Jesus. Tell someone who can help you get help. Do not carry that burden alone any more. And I encourage you to file a report with police. Third, I had to get the truth out there about this because Scott Payne, the pastor of the church, has apologized and publicly renounced his mishandling of another sex abuse situation (victims Stubblefield, Hansen, & Hansen) which he swept under the rug. But it seems to me that if he was truly sorry, he would be seeking to make amends with me and all the other abuse victims he knows of under his watch...and there ARE others. AND he would be exposing my abuser and all others he knows of. As the shepherd who was supposed to care for his flock, he failed miserably. And because of his neglect in reporting to police and subsequent churches, his guilt is multiplied. Fourth, I want to help bring about changes in the legal ramifications that churches and pastors face for not reporting crimes like that which was committed against me. This will in turn change the way churches handle situations like mine. If abusers know that pastors will expose them, they will feel less freedom to prey on and destroy the lives of our precious babies in our beloved churches. This is a fight worth fighting! Won't you join me?

 If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli 

Truth is harder than a lie 
The dark seems safer than the light 
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I'm a mess and so are you 
We've built walls nobody can get through 
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides 
And mercy's waiting on the other side
If we're honest
If we're honest 
Don't pretend to be something that you're not
Living life afraid of getting caught 
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine 
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides 
And mercy's waiting on the other side 
If we're honest 
If we're honest 
It would change our lives
It would set us free 
It's what we need to be 
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides 
And mercy's waiting on the other side
If we're honest 
If we're honest 


On November 25, 2015, Kenny Stubblefield, another survivor of sex abuse at Immanuel Baptist Church, recorded a call with Kyle Cockrum. Kyle is a former pastor who was previously on staff at Immanuel Baptist Church and Cherokee Baptist Church.

In the audio embedded below, Kenny Stubblefield discusses his and others' stories of child sex abuse with Cockrum. Kenny Stubblefield, Brooks Hansen and Michael Hansen came forward recently to share their stories of abuse by former Immanuel assistant youth pastor Chris Carwile, now employed with the City of Memphis. Carwile has been placed on leave pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. These victims told The Commercial Appeal that after their assaults, they told former lead pastor Scott Payne at Immanuel Baptist Church, but he did not report this information to police.

"The church's attitude was we fired him and that's good enough," Hansen said.
Kyle Cockrum and Kenny Stubblefield can be heard on the audio discussing Scott Payne's role in the alleged cover up of sex abuse at Immanuel Baptist Church.  This is a partial recording of the conversation. Kyle shares his thoughts on Scott "Captain Mediator" Payne:

I'm going to be honest. Scott was the king of brushing stuff under the damn rug. It was about perception over substance...He was able to talk the Moores [Karen's parents] down from going to the police.

Tennessee has a "one-party consent" law. Under a one-party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation.

Raw Story: Highpoint Church with convicted sex offender on worship team postpones merger with second church facing abuse claims

The Survivors Network of those Abused (SNAP) has called on the Church at Schilling Farms to fire Payne over the cover-up.
TN-- Victims want Mid-South preacher fired
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are urging Mid-South Baptist Association in Tennessee to “denounce, discipline and publicly remove Rev. Scott Payne” from any posts in their organization.
In media interviews, Payne admits that he did not call police when he was confronted in the 1990s with allegations that Immanuel Baptist Church assistant youth pastor Chris Carwile had abused kids.
In recent news reports, several victims have come forward to tell their abuse stories and file police reports against Carwile. He’s worked recently at the main branch of the Memphis Public Library until he was suspended days ago.
SNAP contends that Payne’s actions are “a violation of common sense, common decency, pastoral responsibility and state law.”
“Rev. Payne should have no role or position in any church or religious body and should be drummed out of the ministry and never again given a position in which he might again ignore or hide child sexual abuse, either known or suspected,” David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP. “We hope law enforcement will investigate his actions - and inaction – and consider prosecuting him.”
Payne is listed as a leader on the Team of Encouragers for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Tennessee. The association is directed by Dr. Mitch Martin. 
“We hope Mid-South Baptist Association will publicly denounce Rev. Payne, and send a clear signal to their employees and congregants that ignoring or hiding suspicions of child sex crimes is immoral and won’t be tolerated,” said Clohessy.
“We hope Mid-South Baptist Association will publicly chastise Rev. Payne and send a clear signal to their employees and congregants that ignoring or hiding suspicions of child sex crimes is immoral and won’t be tolerated,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s Outreach Director. “Whether this post is important or ceremonial, paid or unpaid, fulltime or part time – none of that matters. Giving any kind or role or honor or power to someone who admits hiding suspected child sex crimes is wrong and counter-productive.”
SNAP says that the law clearly says that everyone in Tennessee is a mandatory reporter of child abuse. 
“Rev. Payne admits he didn’t call police and now asks forgiveness. But forgiveness is premature and does nothing to protect kids,” said Clohessy. “First, Payne must help police, prosecutors and Carwile’s victims first, by doing everything he can to help ensure that Carwile is successfully prosecuted. The same is true of current and former supervisors and colleagues of Carwile’s at every church where he worked, even for a short time.
“Rev. Payne’s excuses for acting selfishly, recklessly and deceitfully ring hollow. And ignorance of the law is no excuse,” said Amy Smith, SNAP leader Dallas-Fort Worth. “We hope law enforcement will investigate Rev. Payne, see if he’s done this in other cases and prosecute him if possible.
"Some say that because Rev. Payne didn’t call police, he was not kept on staff when a merger of two churches was planned. SNAP says that’s “not enough.”
 “If church officials opted out of the merger and rejected Rev. Payne because he refused to call police about abuse, they need to disclose this publicly,” Clohessy said. “They owe it to police, prosecutors, parents and the public, not to mention their own flock.”
“Quiet consequences for serious wrongdoing achieves little, especially when there’s clear admission of guilt,” said Dorris. “Only by publicly demoting, disciplining and denouncing “enablers” will kids be protected, abuse be stopped and cover ups be deterred.”

We applaud Karen's courage, and we are thankful that she is telling her story. She was preyed upon by a trusted adult in her church. She is not to blame. Kids are not to blame. Adults that prey upon kids are to blame.

When offenders are elevated to positions of trust and leadership, victims may be intimidated and scared to come forward. This has a silencing effect upon kids who have been abused by a trusted adult in the community. Victims fear they will not be believed. 

We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered sexual abuse by Jim West, Chris Carwile, Timothy Heinz, or any other church leader will find the courage to come forward, report to police, help others and start healing. When victims come forward they give courage to others who have been suffering in silence and self-blame. Silence only helps predators. 

Jim West is reportedly a leader at Central Church in Collierville, Tennessee (Memphis area).

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter under state law. Any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, immediately report to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services or to local law enforcement. The reporter can remain anonymous.


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