On August 29, the Michigan Conference Executive Committee released a letter from President Jay Gallimore regarding the “moral fall” of former employee Dr. Samuel K. Pipim. The stated goal was to provide “a review of the details of our process” for the sake of “accurate information concerning the facts.” But questions have arisen about whether Michigan leaders have a purpose far more serious than merely reviewing details.
At first glance, the letter is a chronological review of how the Michigan Conference and the Ann Arbor pastor dealt with Pipim “according to policy” in regards to his removal from ministry and membership. But is there a deeper message—specifically that Pipim’s misbehavior has been more concerning and widespread than what Michigan leaders previously acknowledged? And is there evidence that they were aware of this but chose not to disclose it?
Elder Gallimore previously released three major statements regarding Pipim. The first (May 29, 2011) announces that Pipim had a moral fall and was resigning from his position as director of Public Campus Ministries for the Michigan Conference.
Another message on December 27, 2011 was to GYC attendees, co-authored with a GYC board member (Alan Parker of Southern Adventist University). Their joint message offers no hint of the predatory nature of Pipim’s behavior. Instead, it implies that Pipim had fallen prey to some sophisticated temptation—when in fact Pipim had preyed upon a young woman in Africa who had initially come to him as a pastor and counselor for spiritual guidance. The facts as we know them from this victim are that he forced himself sexually on her despite her repeated objections. Simply put, Pipim raped her.
While denouncing Dr. Pipim’s behavior, Elder Gallimore even now does not acknowledge that what Pipim did to that victim constitutes rape. He says (in the Michigan Conference statement of August 29): “There are some who felt strongly that his behavior overseas should be termed as rape. Yet the legal definitions are quite varied.”
In actuality, legal definitions of rape are quite consistent: sexual penetration of another person’s body without consent. There are circumstances that aggravate the crime of rape, such using one’s position or influence to gain access to or power over the victim.
Nevertheless, Gallimore concludes regarding Pipim’s behavior: “It seemed quite prudent to leave this definition [of rape] alone.” Perhaps “prudent” isn’t the word for inability to discern the crime inflicted upon a victim. A better word could be “embarrassment” when church leaders—in an official conference statement, no less—cannot decide what is legitimate rape. Such institutional ignorance disgraces the Adventist Church and offends thinking people within our ranks and in the community. For the victim, denying the truth that she was violated against her will is, in effect, an assault she must suffer after the original attack. This threatens her recovery and the quality of her fellowship within the faith community.
It should not be surprising that, given the lack of seriousness regarding Pipim’s crime, he was put on a fast track for rebaptism. Then came the disclosure of another victim. Elder Gallimore’s third letter (June 8, 2012) announced that Pipim’s rebaptism had been cancelled due to sudden knowledge of another moral situation. Gallimore’s letter was co-released with another one by Ann Arbor pastor Daniel Velez, which specifically and emphatically asserts that “neither he nor Michigan Conference leadership had any knowledge” that Pipim had violated another victim. The pastor’s letter was endorsed by Elder Gallimore.
In his latest letter last week (August 29), Gallimore initially repeats his June 8 assertion that he gained knowledge of another victim “on the evening of June 7, when I received a call from a member of the Ann Arbor Church.” Gallimore laments: “I expressed how I wished he had come to us two years ago and we would have dealt with it then.”
Accordingly, Dr. Pipim’s rebaptism was cancelled. Since then, three additional credible and compelling allegations of further victimization have surfaced, plus several other unverifiable reports. Increasing pressure is upon Michigan Conference leaders to disclose what they may really know. In this context, Gallimore’s August 29 “review” of “details” now acknowledges that Pipim “was not overcome by a moment’s temptation but his behavior was predatory in nature.”
This is a jolting admission!—that a man previously certified as ready for rebaptism after a supposedly intensive discipleship and accountability process is actually “predatory in nature.”
Additionally there appears to be an admission that was seemingly slipped into Elder Gallimore’s latest letter at the end the following sentence (which I’m highlighting for emphasis): “June 8, 2012 the pastor canceled the baptism based on the evidence of another situation and that Dr. Pipim had been dishonest with both the local church and conference officers about other involvements.”
What’s this? In addition to “another situation” (singular) we suddenly hear—for the first time from the Michigan Conference—about “other involvements” (plural). Two words, so casually added to that sentence, change the whole narrative that Michigan leaders have been promoting for the past 15 months. Which mandates the question: Was Pipim’s June 9 baptism indeed cancelled not only for what Gallimore learned during a phone call the evening of June 7, but also for “other involvements” as well?
A reality check is in order as to what is really being communicated. Further reading of the Michigan Conference letter brings another mention of “involvement with others.” Gallimore reports that on August 7, 2012 he visited with Pipim “concerning the additional evidence and his dishonesty with us. Dr. Pipim appeared to be very broken and deeply agonized for having lied to us about his involvement with others” (emphasis mine).
So again we hear about “involvement with others” (plural) and “additional evidence” that Pipim had lied about—and notice that Gallimore does not say that he did not already know about these situations. I believe this is significant.
Then in his next paragraph, Gallimore mentions Pipim’s “moral falls noted above and an expanding understanding of his deep spiritual/moral struggles.” Clever language here: “spiritual/moral struggles” may be euphemistic code for additional sexual violations now apparent through an “expanding understanding” of Pipim’s “involvements”—which allows for previous knowledge by Gallimore of an undisclosed number of offenses.
Elder Gallimore needs to clarify exactly what he is disclosing here. What did he know, and when did he know it?
At this point loyal enablers might rush in to shush all inquiry with pious talk about the victims’ right to privacy. But we are not asking for their names or for embarrassing details about the “involvements” that Pipim inflicted upon them. We just need to know whether Seventh-day Adventists have a Penn State-style cover-up on our hands.
Such disclosure is important for the sake of those who have been victims of those “other involvements” that we are only now being told about. It is a haunting realization that Pipim has had plenty of opportunities during the past dozen years to carnally violate young women.
For example, on June 1, 2011—immediately following his resignation and purported reclusion from ministry—Pipim embarked with a group of young adult leaders (but without his wife or children) on a Mediterranean retreat. Was this possible because of reckless endangerment by church leaders who failed to warn young women about the true nature of Pipim’s perversity? The predator preached to them on June 4 at church. What else may he have had opportunity to do during his week in Spain with them? Were there any “other involvements” or “spiritual/moral struggles”?
If contemplating that is not enough to concern you, consider this: During the subsequent summer and fall of 2011, carrying over into 2012, crowds of young adults continued to flock to Pipim’s home for Sabbath lunch and fellowship. Did their ever-genial host invite any of them to stay over for a sleepover? Yes, according to credible reports—and Elder Gallimore was reportedly told about one such instance. Yet even at this point, no warning went out from Gallimore or the Michigan Conference to these young adults that their dear leader is not a wounded eagle who had “one moment of weakness.” Instead, he is a serial sexual predator.
There are documented reports of Pipim’s predation going back as far as 12 years. How many victims of his sexual abuse are suffering in silence? Audio recordings and transcripts of Pipim’s post-rape conversations with the aforementioned African victim provide insight into his capacity for cunning manipulation when confronted. He profusely apologized and begged his young victim to find it in her heart to forgive him. We are all sinners, aren’t we? So we must forgive others even as we are forgiven by God.
Pipim knows how to induce a victim to surrender all her pain, confusion and resentment to God once and for all, in the precious name of Jesus. One prayer of forgiveness with a victim will supposedly bury forever the predator’s guilt—and the knowledge of it—in the depths of the sea. Really? Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that not will be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2, NIV).
Sexual abuse victims need to know that no oath of silence imposed by a spiritual predator is binding upon them. Promises mistakenly made need not be kept. (Consider Peter’s vow to Jesus, “Thou shalt never wash my feet!”) But when the African victim gained courage to report the sexual violence she suffered to local and regional church authorities, Pipim accused her of breaking their mutual promise (that he had manipulated her into making). This is spiritual abuse of the worst order.
Having ravaged his victim’s body, Pipim then tried to rob her soul of the privilege of gaining healing and empowerment through disclosing her suffering to whomever she felt could help her. Leveraging his vast spiritual influence within the global Adventist community of young adults, Pipim can consign his victims to a life of silent suffering—leaving him free to ruin the lives of other precious daughters of God and of the church.
How many victims of Dr. Samuel K. Pipim are intimidated into suffocated silence? Are they so numerous that not even the predator himself can recall them all? But God remembers and hears their cry—even when they are so angry with Him (as one victim reported) that they no longer want to call upon His name. Vengeance is God’s, and He will repay the perpetrator. And will anyone guilty of enabling a predator escape the same fate?
God alone can judge such things (and He will). Meanwhile, church officials can and must adjudicate appropriate discipline of members—particularly regarding leaders who have betrayed the influence entrusted to them. Elders in God’s flock deserve greater accountability, not immunity. High profile leaders who become wolves in shepherds’ clothing require a level of disclosure commensurate with the influence that they squandered—or God’s people will be endangered by their continued “ministry.”
Dr. Pipim is a case study in what happens when church officials “have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace’” (Jeremiah 6:14). Business as usual cannot continue when a global predator is deceiving God’s people.
For such a spiritual crisis, Ellen G. White offers cogent counsel:
“If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God” (Review and Herald,9/30/1873).
Strong words. Are they being heeded?
Michigan leaders claim that everything possible has been done to dismantle Dr. Pipim’s ministry. He is not a church employee, they remind us, and even his ordination has been annulled. But surely they are aware that Pipim, with the title “Dr.” doesn’t need to be called “Elder” in order to rebrand himself as a wounded eagle who is soaring again (giving all the glory to God!). All this year Pipim has been rebuilding his “ministry” with a robust international speaking schedule—featuring further interaction with young people. His Facebook pages and websites provide inspiration and digital fellowship for thousands of under-warned “eaglets”—Pipim’s pet term for his eager young disciples.
Elder Gallimore declares in his latest letter: “There are no other ecclesiastical sanctions left to take.” But in Matthew 18, Christ offers stark and solemn instruction regarding how to deal with anyone who persists in perfidy: “Tell it to the church” (verse 17). Has the Michigan Conference adequately warned the Adventist Church about the dangers of Dr. Pipim, according to Christ’s solemn commandment?
The answer is clearly No. Incredibly, Remnant Publications is still selling Pipim’s latest book, 6 More Chances.” As of this writing, its website displays the following promotion for it: “If, as King Solomon says, ‘a godly person rises again after falling seven times,’ then the mathematical implication is that after we first fall, we have ‘six more chances’ left!”
Six more chances? How long will God bear with such evil nonsense?
Pipim’s math is not only bad theology, it also amounts to a sad parody of his “one moment of weakness” myth that deceived Adventists everywhere, young and old. Finally last June came disclosure of another victimization, which stopped his rebaptism—but not his preaching and blogging. And now we are told of Pipim’s “other involvements” and further “struggles”—even as the predator’s book is still being sold around the world from Michigan. Remnant Publications is located in Elder Gallimore’s own territory; its employees belong to churches in his conference. Has he done anything to dissuade them from propagating Pipim’s lies?
Moreover, Gallimore continues his staunch support of (and unacknowledged influence over?) the pastor who would have rebaptized a predator. Michigan Conference leaders might rather devote their influence and energy to explaining why they supported Pipim’s premature rebaptism—which I fear sent a message to a victim of rape that what happened to her may not have been that terrible.
It is interesting (and sad) to note that some of Pipim’s victims—and others who know about victims—have not initially come forward to Michigan Conference leaders. Instead, some came forward to other people in the conference whom they believed would not “keep and sweep their information under the rug”—as one of them put it. So, how is the Michigan Conference going to create an environment where victims, and those who know of victims, feel safe in coming forward to their leaders?
We are our sisters’ keepers, and we ought to reach out to these dear daughters of God with compassion and humility. We cannot pretend to comprehend their suffering, but we can affirm and validate what they have experienced while offering hope for healing (which is my main motive in writing all this).
As church leaders cross land and sea to do all in their power to prevent women from being ordained, would that there were such devotion, concern and determination in preventing additional women from being abused by Dr. Pipim. This would reflect the heart of God in Jeremiah 8:21-22:
For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?
If Seventh-day Adventist leaders are serious about facilitating revival and reformation, cleansing the global church of Pipim’s great evil would be a good place to start.
—Martin Weber, D.Min., is volunteer board chairman for The Hope of Survivors (serving victims of clergy sexual abuse); he is also communication director for the Mid-America Union. However, he writes this on behalf of neither organization but rather for the sake of victims and their healing, and to foster genuine revival and reformation within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.