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Mike Bickle should be ‘restored’ even though he’s a sexual predator | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


Trigger warning: discussion of sexual abuse

When you watch the religious right, you have to have a really strong stomach. After all, you have to deal with men and women of the cloth saying and doing things that make you wonder if they’re missing their black turbans or black masks. In all the years I’ve watched the religious right, I’d only found myself wanting to vomit once. That was when John MacArthur got the bright idea to publicly shame and excommunicate a domestic violence survivor for not reconciling with her abusive jerk of a husband.

It would take a lot to top that. Well, as I recently noted at my Substack, one of the more odious characters in the religious right, Rick Joyner, managed to do just that earlier this month. Joyner had the audacity to call for one of his brothers in arms, Mike Bickle, the now-former leader of the International House of Prayer (IHOPKC) to be “restored” even though he has been exposed as a serial sexual predator and pedophile.

In case you missed it, Bickle was forced into sabbatical from all public ministry in late October amid an investigation into what three former IHOPKC leaders claimed were “credible and longstanding” accusations of sexual assault. As it turned out, Bickle never returned; he was pushed out of IHOPKC in disgrace on Dec. 23—two days before Christmas—after an internal investigation revealed that he had indeed engaged in “inappropriate behavior.” IHOPKC’s leadership has been mum on details, but concluded that it was enough to require it to “immediately, formally, and permanently” cut ties with him.

What little chance Bickle had of returning in the foreseeable future evaporated on Feb. 7, when The Kansas City Star published an interview with Tammy Woods, who claimed Bickle had groomed and abused her in the 1980s. At the time, Woods was a teenager and Bickle was on the ministry staff of a St. Louis area church. Woods had kept silent until it became apparent that she wasn’t Bickle’s only victim. This came on the heels of another accuser, “Jane Doe,” claiming that Bickle had used a bogus “prophecy” to manipulate and sexually assault her.

But none of that apparently mattered to Joyner when he was the guest speaker at The Gathering in Moravian Falls, North Carolina on March 3. He claimed—with a straight face—that Bickle should be restored. Watch for yourself here (sorry, it won’t embed). 

When I first saw this clip roll across my Twitter feed, I was at the hospital visiting my mom, who had taken a nasty fall. If possible, it was worse than I first thought when I watched it. Joyner recalled that Bickle had recently endured some “troubles,” with no mention whatsoever of the victims. Referring to Galatians 6:1, Joyner said that he believed in “restoring people.” For that reason, he believed we’d be “seeing and hearing” from Bickle again.

I already didn’t think too much of Joyner. In 2012, he found it acceptable to laugh—yes, LAUGH—about the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, he claimed that the only prospect of bringing the change this country needed was by way of a military coup. He warned his followers that the devil himself was behind the opposition to Trump, and explained that those who persisted in their opposition risk getting “smacked” by God himself. He openly called for martial law to derail any attempt to impeach Trump. And all of this after it had been amply demonstrated that Trump was a gangster and a depraved jerk.

But this is minor league compared to his ignorant—at best—defense of Bickle. Indeed, it’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever seen from a fundie pastor by a city mile. Joyner is defending a guy who engaged in depraved and outright criminal conduct. Forget restoring Bickle. He should be under criminal investigation—and if there isn’t one underway, there damn well better be. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why survivors of sexual assault frequently don’t come forward for years, if they do so at all. What really burned my bacon is the prospect that a survivor wanted to come forward, only to hear this bilge from Joyner either in person or online. That prospect became almost mathematical certainty when I realized that people from Joyner’s flagship church, MorningStar Fellowship Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina, were watching this. On top of that, one of the ministries in MorningStar’s umbrella is the Comenius School for Creative Leadership, a K-12 Christian school located at MorningStar’s headquarters in what was once Jim Bakker’s Heritage USA. I don’t think I need to tell you why anyone defending a sexual predator shouldn’t be within an area code of a Christian school.

Fortunately, Joyner seems to be an outlier—and a large one at that—even among his fellow Christianists. In late January, religious right “prophet” Johnny Enlow—whom you may know as the QAnon kook who called for a military coup to restore Trump—took to social media to condemn Bickle for “us(ing) his sacred and honored position…for his own purposes” and engaging in behavior that was “so very wrong on a scary level.” And soon after Woods came forward, one of Bickle’s longtime friends, Lou Engle of “Jesus Camp” fame, publicly echoed calls from IHOPKC survivors for an independent third-party investigation and called for Bickle to make “a full confession of all that is hidden.” In the weeks since the allegations came out, I’ve seen Bickle blasted up, down, and sideways on social media by some deeply conservative people. I wonder if this constituency learned its lesson after initially defending Josh Duggar when his history of molesting girls came out.

Joyner has largely flown under the radar here in the Charlotte area. But if he finds it acceptable to defend a serial sexual predator and pedophile, he’s long overdue for a heavy dose of sunshine. 

For further thoughts, head on over to my Substack, Loud, Liberal, Christian. A subscription would be much appreciated, especially a paid one; it helps support my work.



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