I cannot begin to tell you the grief and heartache I feel right
now. If I start at the beginning, I can tell you my husband and
I were staunch supporters of Tommy Shelton for all the years
he ministered at Ezra Church of God. My family attended there
when it was a small, one room building with an outhouse. Tommy
performed our wedding ceremony in that small church. We continued as part of
his following into the new building across the street. That building,
by the way, was built by his brothers (Shelton Construction)
and is one foot shorter on one side than the other. Danny, evidently,
had not found his true calling at that time.
I worked closely with Tommy for all those years, and each time
allegations would arise, he would call me into his office and recite
the cover-up story he had carefully planned. He personally told
me about Brad Dunning and the mistake he (Tommy) admitted making
by trying to meet with him alone to find out if he had indeed
made advances to the other boys in school. He again called me
into his office when he was caught with another student from school
in a bald-faced lie. He was very convincing to be sure. As I
said, I stood against his accusers because I thought there was
no way any of this could be true. The students had grudges against
him and other people misunderstood the situation, excuses he spoon-fed
his followers and we regurgitated at appropriate times.
As a mother, I will never forgive myself for my own absorption
and mindless following of Tommy's plight that I missed clues
within my own family. For that reason, it took 25 years for my
own son to admit that he, also, had been abused by Tommy. The scabs
that had covered his own pain for so many years were ripped away
this week when new allegations arose and more of his friends
broke their long, overdue silence. A dam broke when he was forced
to step back to that dark place he had sealed up so long ago.
His only excuse was that he knew I hadn't believed all the other
boys, and he didn't think I would believe him either. Because of
this simple statement, I will live with my own guilt and regret
for the rest of my life.
Also, in hindsight, I blame Carol as much as Tommy. How could
you, as a mother, turn a blind eye to what you knew he was doing?
You were condoning it by keeping your silence. How could you
rob us mothers of the opportunity to help our sons grieve and help
them begin their healing? You turned your cold heart to us and
allowed Tommy to continue with his sickness clear across the
United States. You did him no favors by "forgiving" him, when
what he needed was help to get well. Instead, he kept infecting
others and you stood at his side and helped him. As far as I
know, you stand there today with the same blood on your hands.
Professionally, I have a Master's degree in Social Work. When
I look back at the church in those years under Tommy's leadership,
I see that the black seed of his sin was at the very core. I
see the many families he split in two because of his lies and
cover-ups. Some of these never recovered. When I look at the
lives of the boys he abused and see where each of them is today,
I know that many have internalized the abuse and are still living
with the guilt he placed on their heads. The guilt that forced
them to face their feelings alone as they kept their silence
against the man placed before them in a position of power and
authority by their own parents. The boys who have never worked
through the process of grieving over what they lost. There should
be a special punishment for a person who abuses the trust of
children and shatters their dreams; a special punishment for
the man who ripped the joys and pleasures of childhood from young
boys and changed their self-perceptions forever.
Moreover, can anyone imagine the guilt and regret of the mothers
who failed to be there when their children needed them the most?
Mothers who will always feel they failed at the job God blessed
them with by not doing enough to protect their children against
Anyone still protecting him, Carol, Danny, 3ABN, or the attorney
who keeps spouting about statute of limitations, your hands will
also be held accountable for the evil you work to cover up. There
is no "statute of limitations" on the pain and suffering these
boys feel—it doesn't go away after a set number of years—it's
there for the rest of their lives. Come forward now and get him
the help he needs. He admits to having a "sickness" and you have
failed him as we have failed our children. Help the healing begin
for everyone involved before any more time goes by.
From a mother's heart.