Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Part 3. The Conclusion

... behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. -- Numbers 32:33 (KJV)
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. - Luke 12:13 (KJV)
Back in 1986, the Internet as we know it didn't exist, at least not outside of U.S. defense research labs and a handful of universities -- now, it's a pervasive global network with the effectiveness of disseminating information quickly. When it comes to sex offenders, states have fully searchable databases online, and there are laws on the books requiring mandatory registration of persons convicted of those types of offenses.

If Vickery's predation attempts had started and stopped with me, no one would have probably known aside from the people I told this story to over the years. But it didn't stop. In 2011, he violated statue 21.11 (A)(1) of the Texas penal code which states:
INDECENCY WITH A CHILD.  (a)  A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person: (1)  engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact;
The charge was adjudicated in Anderson County, Texas and the victim was a 16 year old male. The disposition date (the date on which the of the case against him was actually closed) is shown as August 25, 2014. He was sentenced to 10 years probation with community supervision with the requirement that he register as a sex offender. Read the details here.

Vickery was not a licensed minister in the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) in 2011 when this incident occurred. However, he was licensed when he came to preach the revival at our church in the spring of 1986. Moreover, he was an ordained minister.

There are three levels/tiers of licensing that UPC ministers can attain within the organization. The first is a local license. This is the entry level for the clergy. With time and a proven record sitting under an already licensed pastor, a minister can apply for his general license, or the second tier. The third and highest tier is ordained. Additional levels of vetting are applied at each level, culminating with an ordination ceremony that takes place at the district headquarters. Every licensed minister appears in alphabetical order in the UPCI Ministerial Directory, an annual publication that is distributed to their clergy.

The 1975 edition of that publication shows Vickery holding a local (L) license, the first tier of licensing (I obfuscated the names of the other clergy in the image intentionally).

Page 140 of the UPCI Ministerial Directory, 1975

The ministerial directory from 1986 has him as an ordained minister (O). It's not clear when he obtained his general license (which is a necessary step for ordination) or when he became ordained, but it happened on or before 1986. Through 1991, he is still shown as an ordained minister.

Page 181 of the UPCI Ministerial Directory, 1991

On or around 1981, then-superintendent of the Louisiana district of the United Pentecostal Church, Reverend T. F. Tenney received information indicating that Vickery was involved in a sexual relationship with another (male) pastor within the district. The allegations were substantial enough to warrant an investigation, with both men being called in to the district office to explain. They denied the allegations, claiming they were made-up stories.

The district leadership also made inquiries to one church about allegations of Vickery with young boys. It was around this time that Vickery's wife began working in April 1982 at the Louisiana district's office as an accountant. She also performed secretarial duties for Reverend Tenney until she vacated the position in October of 1996.

This raises considerable questions and an ominous conclusion: had punitive action been taken around the time of the aforementioned allegation, Vickery would have lost his license. Consequently, he would not have been acting as a licensed UPC minister at any church within the organization, let alone our church in the spring of 1986.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Part 2. The Dilemma

... Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. -- Psalm 105:15 (KJV)
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. -- Matthew 18:16 (KJV)
The response to my initial post about former United Pentecostal Church (UPC) minister and convicted child predator Stanley Glenn Vickery has been unanimously positive. Everyone who contacted me was shocked to learn that this happened, and many expressed how sorry they were to learn of it.

I do not consider myself a victim or a survivor. I carry no shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Even as a 15 year old, I knew that I was facing a wolf, and I successfully fought him off. Some who have contacted me were not so fortunate to escape the clutches of predation, however, and shared personal stories of assault and abuse that they endured from both clergy and church members inside the UPC.

It's an absolute shame and disgrace that this happens in any church; the good have to carry the burden for the bad. To this day I am friends with a number of ministers licensed in the UPC; they too have been appalled to learn of this story. And while the organization may not have a problem with pedophiles in their clergy to a greater extent than any other denomination or religion, they do have a problem.

Back in 1986, telling someone about what was going on was not as easy as it is today, especially given the circumstance that I was in. The most obvious person to report this to would have been my father... he was my parent and pastor. I could have approached and confided in other people in the church who I trusted, but ultimately it would have gotten back to him anyway.

My father was a very strict man with a constitution that was directly attributable to his rugged upbringing. He was not afraid to back down from anything or anyone. Prior to joining the church, "Pete" (as he was known) was a brawler, and he carried the residual scars to prove it -- tattoos on both forearms, nine toes, one eye, and healed-over broken ribs and knuckles from many a barroom fight. In his day he worked as a bouncer, a roughneck in the oil patch, piloted tug boats from Trinidad to Mexico, joined a motorcycle gang, kept a loaded .45 in his boot, raised and sold prized fighting roosters... and that's just what I know about.

Everybody in the local church circles who knew Dad was familiar with his reputation antequam christus. His conversion testimony was his opus magnus and represented an inflection point in his life. Vickery knew it too -- how could he, an ordained UPC ministereven think for one second about abusing the son of such a man? What kind of fool would take such a risk? It was unfathomable for me to comprehend, which made his appalling behavior even more perplexing.

Then there's something known as the discernment of spirits, a sort of sixth sense that evangelical organizations such as the UPC believe in. It's considered one of the "gifts of the spirit" that gives the possessor the innate ability to sense when something is wrong or out of place with a person or a situation. So where was it? Why wasn't it doing some major signaling here? When was somebody going to notice something? As far as I know, not a single person had a clue about what was going on -- not my father, nor any of the church members.

That's what makes these people so dangerous. They fly under the radar and hide under the guise of the religion and the sanctimony of their position of authority. No one would ever suspect them -- the very thought of the guest revival preacher doing something like this wouldn't even enter the mind of the people attending the services night after night.

What's more is that he actually believed that he could get away with this under everyone's noses. The ease in which he prowled without suspicion indicated to me that he wasn't a neophyte -- he either tried this before and got away with it, or explained it away when confronted. Years later I would learn that my intuition was on the mark (more on that in a future post).

As I weighed the risks of divulging the constant harassment and attempted abuse, I wondered if I would be believed. After all, it would be my word against the word of a preacher. But if I were believed, what would happen then? Would Dad go off and pray about it first, then confront him? If confronted, I suspected that Vickery would attempt to palliate the situation by accusing me of misunderstanding his intentions. The ultimate concern was that Dad would lose his temper and beat the living daylights out of the perp to within an inch of his life.

In my mind, every one of those scenarios was equally probable. I was facing a conundrum... a real dilemma.

After mulling all of it over, it became apparent to me that any outcome would have resulted in a scandal for the church. I concluded that even though Vickery incessantly stalked and badgered me with the intent to abuse, he failed. Because I was able to successfully evade him for the rest of his short time around, I decided to stay quiet and "take one for the team" so to speak.

There's more to come.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Part 1. The Wolf

One of the most egregious acts that one can do is to use a position of perceived power and authority to take advantage of a child. It is wholly devious not only because it abuses the trust of the victim in the worst possible way, but it almost always entails planning, premeditation, and forethought to execute. It’s a predator mentality, like a wolf stalking its prey.

What you are about to read is a true story of a wolf in sheep's clothing named Stanley Glenn Vickery, a convicted sex offender as of 2014.

I was 15 years old in the spring of 1986 when I had the displeasure of meeting this clown. At the time, Vickery was a 33 year old licensed and ordained evangelist in a fundamentalist Christian organization known as the United Pentecostal Church International (commonly known as the UPC) out of Hazelwood, Missouri. Based out of Tioga, Louisiana (incidentally, the same town that the state district headquarters of the UPC is located), Vickery had been invited by my father to preach a week-long revival at the Northside Pentecostal Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi. My father was also a UPC minister who moved his family from Louisiana to take over the pastorate of the church in 1985.

It wasn’t unusual to entertain visiting ministers from out of town, including foreign missionaries who traveled to exotic countries and places that I had never been to. These men were always married and had their wives in tow as well as their children.  We usually helped the visiting minister guide their RV into the yard by the parsonage, leveled it off, and blocked it. Dad would then invite the family into our home to visit while they were there for the duration. In the case of Vickery, he came alone without his wife.

I had known Vickery before by name only — he was actually the former pastor of a UPC church in Bunkie, Louisiana up until around 1980 or 1981 (more on that in a later post). The pastor who took over that church from him was a close friend of my father’s, and we actually attended that very same church in Bunkie between 1983 and 1984. Vickery was gone by then, but his name was certainly familiar to me.

Getting back to Brookhaven, Mississippi in the spring of 1986... I was attending a parochial school there which was located directly behind the church and only 50 or so feet from the parsonage; hence my activities for the entire day were spent within a fairly constrained area. Being the PK (preacher’s kid), I was expected to help my father with things around the church and parsonage, especially when we had a guest minister in for a revival.

Revivals are successive nightly church services that last for a week or more — it’s a way to rejuvenate and re-enthuse the laity of the church. The guest minister prepares and delivers a sermon each night, and the regular parishioners are expected to attend and bring visitors. For this particular revival, my daily routine during the week was pretty much the same… attend parochial school next door from 8am-3pm, then return to the parsonage to do homework, perform a list of chores, sneak in some recreational time in on my home computer, and finally prepare the church building and grounds for the upcoming service that night. 

The revival kicked off in typical Pentecostal fanfare. My old man was a pro at working up the crowd and getting everyone excited. Music added to the mood of the service, culminating to the evangelist Vickery stepping up to the pulpit and delivering the good word of the Lord. This went on night after night.

During the day, it was the same routine: school, chores, and doing things to help the visiting minister. Very shortly after he arrived, Vickery asked my dad if he could take me to town with him to run errands. I agreed since it got me out of the house. It was during that ride that I got the first hint that something was wrong with this dude.

While riding, the conversation quickly turned to my girlfriend (yes, I had one who attended the church). What was she like? Did I like her? Had I touched her? There were even more poignant questions, but I'll refrain... you can see where this is going. Yet as strange and drole as I thought the questions were, I didn’t think too much of the conversation. Being a 15 year old kid whose dad was a bit of a hard-ass, it wasn’t unusual for preacher friends of his to take me under their wing and give me some encouragement, though none had ever brought up sex as a topic.

Looking back on it, this was the beginning of Vickery’s grooming tactic. It’s brilliant: start off playing the “bro” card with the pastor’s kid, act like you’re his friend and talk to him about cool stuff — girls and sex. Yeah!

I really didn’t think much of the questions he asked, but over the ensuing days, things started to get weird. I would catch him looking at me and smiling at odd, out of place times. Then the physical horseplay started — he would come from behind and catch me in a bear hug, tickle me, or make a wrestling move in order to get his hands on me. He would do this multiple times in a day. Now, for a 15 year old boy, it was nothing to wrestle or horseplay at school with others my own age, but a grown man doing this? A preacher? It creeped me out. Still, I tried to rationalize this behavior as just quirky personality.

Nonetheless, I felt uncomfortable, so I consciously evaded him, making sure that he was not in the same room as me, especially without anyone else present. Since he was there for an entire week, this was a daily effort, and he kept it up day after day. He was relentless, and I was exhausted from his constant attention. I made every attempt to evade him, so much so that I was literally sick to my stomach — I lost my appetite and just stopped eating.

During this entire time, we were going to church every night listening to this man preach from behind a pulpit — this reinforced his status as “the man of God.” It was alien to me and totally incongruent that someone who was standing in a place of reverence on the rostrum and behind the pulpit would be acting like he was. I had a hard time reconciling this in my 15 year old mind. Still, I had enough sense to try to maintain distance from him.

It wasn’t over, however. His final move came one afternoon after school. I was sitting at my computer desk in my bedroom finishing up some homework when he walked in and sat beside me, acting as though he was interested in what I was doing. I made small talk with him just enough to cop an excuse to leave the room. As I rose from my chair, he reached behind me with his right arm, moved it between my legs, then placed his hand firmly and strongly on my crotch… and just left it there, while sporting a most lascivious grin on his face.

I was in complete shock. I wrestled my way out of his grasp and left the bedroom.

That was the last time I was in a room with him alone. From then on, I made every effort to ensure that he was as far away from me as possible. Shortly after that incident, the revival ended and he finally left. I was relieved… my appetite started to come back and I felt like I didn’t have to tip-toe around the house or church grounds to avoid this creep.

The obvious questions are: Why didn't I tell someone at the time? Why did I wait this long to talk about it?

The answers to these questions and more will be revealed in subsequent posts.

Part 3. The Conclusion

... behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.  -- Numbers 32:33 (KJV) Therefore whatsoever ye hav...