Public Statement from the Elders of Grace Brethren Church of Mabton
Regarding Former Pastor Paul Guay
April 29, 2022
Recently, family members of our former pastor, the late Paul Guay, have published their accounts of his sexual abuse when they were children in the 1970’s. This statement is a response to the details that we learned as a result of their accounts which were published on April 19, 2022.
At the time Guay committed this abuse, he was on staff at Grace Community Church in California (a church that has no affiliation with Grace Brethren Church of Mabton). In 1997, Guay became the pastor of Grace Brethren Church of Mabton and served until his retirement in 2012. We are deeply pained to read these stories of his past abuse and we grieve for his family members. We are also grateful to them for their courage in bringing their stories into the light where they belong.
Their published account also reveals how family members reported Guay’s past abuse to our elder board in 2003. Our board at that time decided to retain Paul as pastor despite these allegations. We recognize that this decision by the elder board was wrong, was a betrayal of our responsibility to shepherd and protect the Guay family and our church, and was deeply painful and retraumatizing to Guay’s family members. We make no excuse for that wrong decision. The elders should have immediately terminated Guay from his position as pastor and made the appropriate reports to the authorities. We apologize to his family members and others who were hurt by our board’s decision.
In the summer of 2012, Paul Guay retired from our church and died a few months later. Since that time, our church has had many changes in leadership. In 2013, we hired our current pastor, and in late 2013, he learned about some of these allegations of abuse that had been made against Guay and about the elder board’s decision to retain Guay in 2003. Our current pastor, with the support of the entire board of elders, immediately (on December 9, 2013) filed a police report with local law enforcement and invited them to investigate. He and the board realized at that time that the elder board’s decision in 2003 was wrong and they were grieved by that decision. Consequently, they sought legal counsel and began making significant changes to our leadership and our child protection policies and procedures.
Only one elder currently remains on our board who was also an elder while Guay was pastor. This elder realized in 2013 that the board’s 2003 decision to retain Guay was wrong, is deeply grieved by this decision, and the elders have accepted his offer to be placed on administrative leave as we process these stories and determine how best to move forward. Our current board and pastor read these detailed allegations and documents for the first time during the week of April 19, 2022, and our hearts are deeply broken for Guay’s family members.
We – our elders past and present – are deeply sorry. We are deeply sorry that, in 2003 when the allegations were made, the elders did not seek outside consultation with experts in abuse. We are deeply sorry that the elders chose to retain Guay after hearing the allegations. We are deeply sorry that the elders’ inaction retraumatized the survivors of Guay’s sexual abuse. We are deeply sorry for not shepherding and protecting Guay’s family members. We are deeply sorry that the Guay family members suffered further pain as a result of the elders’ decision.
Since 2013, we have taken steps to make sure our church is a safe space for children and survivors of abuse. We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct among staff and volunteers. We have enacted stringent child safety policies written with guidance from experts in the field, including an attorney who prosecutes cases of sexual abuse. We require child safety training for anyone who works with children in our church and we rigorously comply with our child safety policies.
Further, we report all allegations of abuse of any kind to local law enforcement and Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). We regularly work with victims of abuse, accompanying them as they file reports, assisting them in escaping abuse, helping them navigate the judicial system in their pursuit of justice, sponsoring their counseling, and walking with them toward healing. We encourage anyone who has experienced abuse to report it to local authorities.
As much as we wish we could, we know we cannot change the past. We grieve with those who carry pain and trauma, knowing that God is near the broken-hearted. At the same time, we strive to be as transparent as possible, to bring abuse into the light that it might be addressed, and to confess our own mistakes. In the end, our hope is in Christ, who will return and bring eternal restoration, healing, and life to all who trust in him.