Baptist Church Told Girl to Apologize for Being Raped

This is about as disgusting a church as you’ll find.

Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire tried to cover up their shady past. But that’s only the beginning.

In 1997, Ernest Willis, a man in his late thirties, raped and impregnated 15-year-old Tina Anderson.

Both belonged to the same church and pastor Chuck Phelps was informed of what had happened.

So what did he do?

He made her apologize.

The victim said Phelps told her she would be put up for “church discipline,” where parishioners go before the congregation to apologize for their sins.

She asked why. “Pastor Phelps then said that (Willis) may have been 99 percent responsible, but I needed to confess my 1 percent guilt in the situation,” the victim told the police.

“He told me that I should be happy that I didn’t live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.”

And then, with the church’s help, she was moved to Colorado, so that no charges could really be filed against the rapist.

Anderson is now 28 and she’s telling her story.

“They told me that to be a good Christian, I need to forgive, forget and move on in my life,” she said. “And they told me that a good Christian doesn’t press charges on another good Christian.”

[During a church service] Phelps read a single-page letter written for Anderson apologizing for allowing herself to get in a compromising situation and getting pregnant. Church members were then asked to come forward to offer their forgiveness, Anderson said. Willis also had to apologize for cheating on his wife. “They said, ‘We forgive you for getting pregnant,’ ” she said. “It felt stupid, it just felt wrong.”

Anderson said that after she moved to Colorado, a minister there asked her to write a letter to Willis’s wife, apologizing for abusing her trust by having sex with her husband. Church members there monitored her phone calls and didn’t allow her to be with people her own age, she said.

Charges are finally being filed against the rapist.

Obviously, I can’t think of any Christian (well, outside this church, anyway) who would condone these actions.

But don’t let Christians ever tell you that their faith makes them any more moral than you or me.

Instead of helping her and kicking the rapist out of the church, Pastor Phelps humiliated her and did nothing to truly rebuke Willis’ actions.

At Anderson’s time of need, Phelps made her suffer even more.

Anna North at Jezebel summarizes one takeaway message from all this:

The idea that rape victims bear some responsibility for their rapes — and that it’s important, in the aftermath of the crime, to publicly assign them blame — is a major factor keeping women like Anderson from coming forward, and keeping rapists safe from prosecution. While no woman should be forced to emulate her, Anderson’s decision to use her real name is powerful. She’s rejecting the “1% guilt” placed on her years ago, and standing before the whole country with the opposite message: her church owes her an apology.

Kudos to reporter Trent Spiner for bringing this story to light.

(Thanks to Greta Christina for the link)

  • Shelby

    :( That’s terrible that the Christian church made her apologize.

    When I read this it automatically made me think of Ayann Hirsi Ali’s story Infidel and how she describes the way people especially women are treated in Islamic society.

    I just can’t get over that. :(

  • Sandra

    Cheers for Patriarchy! (said with as much sarcasm as I can muster)

  • Veritas

    The only thing I would add is to Ms. North’s comments – the thought that the victim somehow is to blame or enjoys the act of being raped keeps all people from coming forward, regardless of gender.

  • http://www.myspace.com/youreundoingmybeltwronghun Tim D.

    That is so very fucked up.

    That’s about all I can even think of to say about that >:( Reading this sent me past the realm of “pissed off” and into the realm of “I cannot possibly comprehend the overwhelming stupidity and fuckwittitude of an individual or organization that would ever contemplate, for a fraction of a second, taking any action even distantly approaching the horrifying degree of stupidity exemplified by the actions of the members of this church community.”

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Are charges being filed against Chuck Phelps who is at least guilty of covering up a crime and should be prosecuted accordingly. I’d go so far as to insist that the entire church should be prosecuted as they all contributed to covering up the crime.

    What is it with churches thinking that they are somehow above the law? They aren’t and I think that there needs to be a very public prosecution in order to hammer that home to other churches.

  • JLS RN

    Hmmm, sounds rather like the Muslim countries we are fighting… the more we righteously oppose them, the more we become like them.

  • The Watcher

    So, was Willis forced to come forward and suffer 99 times Anderson’s punishment? No? Didn’t think so.

    As if the “1% responsible” wasn’t enough bullshit, they don’t even mean it. They mean she’s 100% responsible.

  • Fritz

    When you guys question how I went from “devout” Catholic to radical atheist over a brief period, know that stories like this disgust me all the more because I was once part of the machine that permitted and even enabled these sorts of crimes. I feel dirty. I won’t rest until “beliefs” that can be used to justify crimes against humanity are torn utterly asunder.

  • WishinItWas

    I am horrified,appalled, and ashamed of this as I grew up 20 minutes away from Concord, NH and used to be naive enough to think “those religious extremes don’t happen here”. This is completely unacceptable on all levels and a terrifying situation that needs to be spotlighted.

  • Judith Bandsma

    Harsh as this one is, it’s only one step away from the Baptist tradition of eliminating women from the congregation who are beaten by their husbands and dare to press charges. The man gets ‘help’, the woman gets pressured to either forgive and go back or to leave the church.

  • godshawk

    This is just a new glimpse of how low can a Baptist congregation go. Being a baptist myself, it is often a source of shame for me.
    How come we shifted the focus from loving each other to keeping a crooked status quo?
    Thanks for sharing this.

  • JD

    I don’t see how a rape victim can possibly at any level of fault at all, what is wrong with this congregation?

    They don’t even know the beliefs that they supposedly subscribe to either, non-loving, non-compassionate and they even seem to think they’re above the law. Roughly stated, Jesus said to follow the laws of man, and this was during the time of the oppressive Roman Empire too. If they think they’re following a guy that said men should be protected from the consequences of their misdeeds, then, frankly, they’re idiots.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    According to Christian logic,

    1. she is guilty of original sin and should apologize for that (even if she has lived her own life without sin).
    2. being a 15 year old girl, she has gone through puberty and is therefore physically a temptress and should apologize for that (even if she is a pillar of virtue).

    Yes, according to Christian logic, she has a lot to apologize for. /sarcasm.

  • Ben

    This is what happens when churches have power, even over their mini-theocracies called “congregations”. The fact is that Christianity and Islam are based on the same book (at least, the first ? of it) where this sort of thing is prescribed. Islamic countries still stone raped children to death, and it appears some Christians would like that too, if it wasn’t for all those pesky “secular” laws.

    Not to imply that all Christians are like that, certainly it’s only the vast minority, but since when do moderates get to run things? Just look at Texas.

  • AC

    This is my first comment ever, though I’m a long time reader. Just wanted to chime in to say that this is the church I grew up attending and frankly, I’m not surprised to read this. Pastor Phelps left the church a few years ago and became president of some obscure Christian College in the midwest. After just a year or two at the school, he mysteriously stepped down. Though I haven’t personally had any contact with the Phelps family for many years, I’ve always known them to be disingenuous people, always trying to fake the perfect Baptist family image. This church was always wrought with scandalous rumors… Thinking back on it, Trinity in the 1990s probably would have made a pretty juicy reality show. At age 14 or 15, I begged my parents incessantly until they let me go to “secular school.” I was treated like an outsider after switching schools. There were rumors that public school made me stupid and promiscuous. I stopped attending the church as soon as I was old enough to decide for myself and I KNOW that I’m better off now for having done so.

    Its hard for a lot of my friends to believe that such a place exists in New England, which isn’t a particularly religious area, but religious extremism is definitely not limited to the south!!

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    Despicable. Where were her parents when the pastor was tormenting her like this? His ass would have been grass if it was my daughter (and there would be no need to press charges against her rapist!).

    I wonder if this Phelps fellow is related to the WBC lot?

  • TheLoneIguana

    Another Baptist named Phelps that’s a deplorable excuse for a human being.

  • AC

    @Sarah and @TheLoneIguana

    Not that I am in any way defending Pastor Phelps actions, he and his family have never been affiliated in any way with the Westboro Phelps clan.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for quoting the paragraph from Jezebel and portraying this as not the perspective of the church, but American society at large. When I attended a summer program at a state college and was robbed at gunpoint in its parking garage, the police couldn’t have been more sympathetic and helpful. When I was raped by the boy in the dorm room next door three years later, they were cold, accusing, preoccupied, disinterested, and doing their best to find out what I did to warrant getting raped. When they decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, even though I’d gone immediately to the RA and then the hospital, I was told by other students to just let it go and move on lest I damage his reputation any further. Really? He’s a criminal without a conviction. Why should I feel bad for the act of violence he forced on me? Why do I owe him any protection or apology? Why was I made to feel like a criminal when statistics put sexual assault at 1 out of every 6 women and false allegations at a mere 2%?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    Horrible. That’s christian hatred of women, for you, coupled with a good dose of refusal to accept responsibility for one’s actions.

  • Dave Lambers

    @Beth:
    No, there’s nothing Christian about this story. Calling yourself one doesn’t make you holy or blameless. If Phelps did what is claimed, there is no excuse.

  • matt

    I’d like to see the word “allegedly” used a bit more in this story. Thus far it’s still a he said she said. Granted, if she is telling the truth this is a truly tragic story, but we don’t know yet that she is.

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  • Dan W

    Wow, what a horrible bunch of people. That church seems to be trying to put itself on par with the Vatican in their assholery. Is that Phelps in any way related to the WBC Phelpses?

  • sarah

    This reminds me of what happened in Brazil when a girl was raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather and she received an abortion. She was 9 years old. Her and her family were excommunicated by the church. I can’t find what happened with the step father, but I am guessing nothing much because, you know, those men must stick together.

    The catholic church puts so much blame on women while men just get a pass. Makes me sick.

  • sarah

    Found the bit about what they thought about the stepfather’s actions…

    “Archbishop Sobrinho defended his action. Asked why he did not excommunicate the 23-year-old stepfather, he said: “He committed an extremely serious crime. But that crime, according to canon law, is not punished with automatic excommunication.
    “Abortion is even more serious. The Church and the whole world condemn the Holocaust that killed six million Jews. What is happening [with abortion] is a silent Holocaust.””

    So the rape of a 9 year old girl is fine and dandy but her getting an abortion because she probably would have died as well as the babies… not ok. Also, comparing the holocaust with abortion is just wrong, especially in cases where the woman’s life is in serious danger.

  • Richard P.

    “Obviously, I can’t think of any Christian (well, outside this church, anyway) who would condone these actions.”

    Really??
    I can come up with a list as long as my arm, and I have long arms.
    This is the true face of christianity and religion at large.

    Burn’em, burn’em all,
    sorry, I was just having a moment..

  • Lauren

    Isn’t that such amusing hypocrisy, Sarah? Anti-choicers also frequently invoke the Nazi policy of compulsory sterilization. Nevermind that it removes choice by its very nature, but Germany also banned abortion and forced gestation among a group “desirables” that happened to fit their totalitarian agenda against medical privacy rights and bodily autonomy much better.

  • Valhar2000

    her church owes her an apology.

    Anderson may be satisfied with an apology; justice demands heads on pikes.

  • http://www.twitter.com/oniegirl Leonie

    Deplorable, but tragically unsurprising. I’m sure if you scratch the surface of many “congregations” you’ll find a story or two just as disturbing as this.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Where were the parents. For this to happen to a 15 year old, the parents must have been complicit in the churches actions. Anyone that sides with a wicked decision of a church over the well being of their own child doesn’t deserve to be a parent.

    Its clear what should happen here.
    Rapist goes to jail
    church supports family
    church asks rapist not to come back

    how they can turn this on its head is beyond reason.

  • DGKnipfer

    Got to agree with Hoverfrog. Phelps should be charged as an accessory after the fact.

  • Bill M.

    So if I rob a bank it’s the banks fault for having the money. Got it, where my mask.

  • RedSonja

    @ matt

    Well, since the rapist apologized to his wife for “having sex” with Ms. Anderson, and as any sexual contact by an adult with a fifteen year old is rape, I don’t see what’s “alleged” about it.

    Unless you’re suggesting that she fabricated the whole thing, including the pregnancy and the public apology to the church, in which case I suspect the facts are irrelevant to you.

    ETA: Also, the pastor reported the crime himself, though not until Ms. Anderson was unavailable to give her account. So it’s not just “he said, she said” but rather “he said, she and he and they said”.

  • http://www.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Christian Values in action.

  • CDM

    Here is some more information on this case. This is sick. just another example of religious based misogyny and sexual misconduct. A bunch of savages.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/alleged-rape-victim-accuses-trinity-baptist-church-deacon/story?id=10806348&page=3

  • Matt

    I can’t write anything without imagining the cruel things I’d do to the people involved. So let’s just say that I’m disgusted and leave it at that.

  • Hectorboyardee

    @Bill M.: Just make sure the bank is staffed by good Christians and you tell them that you are also a good Christian. That way, they will not press any charges against you. I’ll be waiting in the getaway car for my share!

  • Scootah

    I’m still struggling to reconcile the notion that two different baptist preachers named Phelps are completed unrelated, but both such horrible human beings.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    “Police have told the Associated Press that they are looking into obstruction of justice charges against the church for possibly sending the victim away so they could not prosecute.”

    Excellent.

  • Tim

    As a Baptist I am appalled by this. Not only “where were the parents”, but, “where was the church Eldership”. Individuals can, unfortunately, have these terrible mistaken ideas, and the power to enforce their wishes over other people. It is the responsibility of the Eldership to catch and stamp out this sort of behaviour.

    Anyone reading this who is being asked to stand in a diaconate or eldership role needs to look themselves in the mirror and ask if they have the inner strength to identify the abuse of power and speak up against it. I can’t believe that there wasn’t a single person on the eldership that felt that this was wrong, but you have to take a stand.

    Apologies for addressing a Baptist audience on this forum, but I am guessing that a lot of Christians like myself will be led to this link.

  • timber

    If she didn’t wear her burqa, it’s her own damn fault. After all, loose women cause earthquakes. The supposed “rapist” probably just fell with his penis into her vagina because of the tremors.

  • TruthSeeker

    Sounds to me like very one sided reporting and that you people shouldn’t believe it just ’cause someone wrote about it on the internet. I don’t like religion manipulating people any more than the rest of you but this story is incredibly biased.

  • RM

    This is deplorable, but as a Christian I must point out to the people making claims about Christian values. These are NOT in any way, shape, or form Christian values. People like this are NOT true Christians, but rather people who take a grain of something from the Bible and then twist it and add on to it to make it something they claim is Christian.

  • Mel

    Holy crap. The Southern Baptist church I knew growing up was pretty conservative (most of the women wore skirts at all times, but they didn’t have an issue with me not wearing skirts), but they’d be collecting testicles if a girl was raped. And then handing the guy to the cops. And there would certainly be no “1% responsible” or writing an apology to the rapist’s wife. That’s one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.

  • splint

    I just can’t understand how some people can get something so twisted.

  • Baconsbud

    ” People like this are NOT true Christians, but rather people who take a grain of something from the Bible and then twist it and add on to it to make it something they claim is Christian.” RM the problem with this line of thought is anyone can say this about most if not all christians. Do you pray in public so you can be seen by others?

  • J

    This is a horrible, horrible story. The church members involved, if the allegations are true, committed a crime and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But, it’s also a hasty generalization. There are thousands of examples of people who, trying to emulate the example of Jesus, assist rape victims, run women’s shelters, and try to protect women and children from predators. I feel like all I ever read are demonizing portraits from the Right and Left depicting how idiotic and immoral the other side is. The secular humanism esposed by this site claims to uphold reason, ethics, and justice – does setting up straw men really fit that description?

    • nakedanthropologist

      See, this is a true story. It’s not a straw man – these events actually took place.  Reason and ethics demand that we criticise people who can and do commit these atrocities and/or assist in victim blaming.  Yes, lots of people are good people who run women’s shelters and so on.  But they do that because they are good people, not just because they are Christian.  Showing only the good paints the wrong picture and allows rapists to get away with their crimes more easily – by giving them a public image to hide behind.  Exposing the horrible isn’t fun or generalizing – its just adding another piece to the bigger picture and participating in advocacy for the victim.  So stop with the persecution complex, okay?

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  • Mel

    This is about as disgusting a church as you’ll find.
    Almost. In Gaza and Iran she’d be hanged. Being Christian wouldn’t help all that much.

    Sources:
    http://www.worldandi.com/newhome/public/2003/may/clpub.asp
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/21/iran.humanrights

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    You’re right RM

    These are NOT in any way, shape, or form Christian values.

    According to the Bible the proper response to a rape is for the rapist to pay the girl’s father 50 pieces of silver and then marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

    • http://www.facebook.com/aspired.rose Aspired Rose

      hoverFrog can you find that exact scripture in  the New Testament where that is written as well please?  Christians are under the New Convent (New Testament) which is the saving grace of the Cross of Christ.  Jesus says to follow him and no where could I find such a scripture that you have quoted in the New Testament.  Jesus Christ fulfilled all the commandments and it is by Grace that one is saved.  Besides how many gentiles do you know of that were mentioned followed what you just quoted that were given to the Jews?  Your point does not apply to Christians of today.  If you take the bible out of context it is because you do not have the “Holy Spirit” who gives all understanding about God’s word.  When you mentioned the book of Deuteronomy that is ancient history of the Jews which has passed on.  They followed that a long time ago.  Can you tell me if there are many Jews who today would follow that exact scripture you quoted?  Why not go and ask a rabbi about it?  I would love to hear what kind of response you would get from him or her.

      The Holy Spirit is the teacher of scripture because our flesh cannot comprehend all that God knows.

      John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 

      • hoverFrog

        Just so we understand one another your silly superstitions and myths are very much believed by some very vocal and very disgusting people. They think that gay marriage is the crime of the century because of bullshit written in Leviticus. They think that women deserve to be second class citizens because of some crap found in Timothy. There is still the misogyny inherited from Iron Age biblical myths in our cultures today.

        You should be ashamed of it. It’s vile. Honestly, even trying to defend it fills me with disgust for you.

  • http://godlessgirl.com Godless Girl

    I can’t believe… I just…

    AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!

  • jc

    i couldnt read the whole thing…i just wanted it not to be true and couldnt imagine how adults could put a child through that, religion or no religion…

  • Ex-Canuck

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm… Chuck Phelps.

    Any relation to Fred Waldron Phelps, the homophobe? If so, it must run in the family, as Chuck is giving his relative a run for the money in being one of the most highly embarrassing members of a religious cult.

  • pissedoff

    Any chance that asshole Phelps in NH was related to the asshole Fred Phelps of WBC? Cuz yeah. Probably. Sound like two asshole peas in an asshole pod.

  • Terry C – NJ

    So, what’s the difference between them and the Islamic extremists they’re always screaming about? They have the same attitude towards women.

    You know what blows my mind about these fundies? They think women are mindless, subhuman creatures who need “guidance” from the Almighty, All-Knowing Male but then they believe we weak, powerless creatures can “entice” the oh so superior male gender to do all sorts of “evil” things.

  • abadidea

    Let me just say that my family is *intimately* connected with this church- four of my five cousins spent five days a week in school and two or more days a week in church there, and the eldest cousin married the youth pastor after dropping out of college and now works there herself. That church practices the worst kind of christianity and I am not afraid to say it. One time I was with my aunt to pick up my cousins and I wasn’t allowed to get out of the car because I was wearing pants instead of a dress. They do thinks like publically humiliate girls whose clothing doesn’t meet their excessive standards by forcing them to change into this ridiculous sweater outfit. They even make you sign a contract to never go to the movie theatre, even if it’s Bambi. Well I stayed the heck away from their ideology and learned to practice independence. Now I am a girl with a degree in computer science, which is an engineering discipline, and my four female cousins have skills as widely varied as… oh wait they don’t. All they have is marriageability.

    Trinity Baptist Church and School in Concord, the capital city of New Hampshire, is a sad excuse for what Christianity is supposed to be. It’s “religion by checklist” in the worst way. I am so thankful I escaped that life.

  • Penelope

    I heard a preacher advise a battered wife to stay with her husband because if he killed her, she’d be with the lord.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    From CDM’s link:

    Anderson said she has a “wonderful husband who is 100 percent supportive.” He works at a nearby university. The couple does not intend to go back to the Independent Fundamental Church (IFB). “Going forward, we wouldn’t raise our children and subject them to that,” she said.

    If anything good can be said to have come out of this situation, it’s that at least Anderson is breaking the cycle and her own children won’t be exposed to this incredibly poisonous belief system.

  • Parson Gray

    What was done to that poor child…

    The only sin on that little one was not reporting the crime, for which she was long forgiven by Christ.

    The pastor and the elders are the ones who caused her to sin (not report the crime)

    Mark 9:42
    “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

    Luke 17:2
    It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

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  • MS

    This may be weird, but although I don’t condone the action itself, couldn’t this also be considered slander?  I don’t know anything about this church, but more and more we are hearing prosecutors come forth admitting they were “lying.”  Courts almost always side with the minor in these situations.  I’m not saying the girl is lying, but when a report comes out like this, and we don’t know the people involved whatsoever, what right do we have to judge?  Maybe it is all true and horrible and “sinful.”  But judging someone else’s sin is not our job, either, That’s a job for the courts and the police, and if they get it wrong, God will take care of that, if not in earth, then in heaven.  Case in point:  In case you forgot, St. Paul murdered entire families of Christians before God gave him grace to preach the Word.

    • nakedanthropologist

      Uh, no.  You’re so incredibly wrong here.  You’re doing the same thing the church was – trying to blame the victim.  And whether or not God judges someone after death is not our issue – our issue to protect fellow humans from being horribly traumatized and abused.  Shame on you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aspired.rose Aspired Rose

    That article is totally demented and sick and why do I say that because those people are against the will of God.  I don’t believe that is Christian at all because I don’t know of any Christian believer who would do such a thing like that. Any one who falls into the devils hands can be capable of error and that includes the pope.   The pope, pastor or rabbi is not Jesus Christ and people who follow that religion are deceived by it.   Religion and a Church alone cannot save a person.  Only Jesus Christ can save a person and that is when he or she becomes reborn again.  It’s a rebirth because the “Holy Spirit” comes and dwell with in the person.  This is why I can remember being told over and over time again.  Don’t look to man always look to God.  I have seen Christians put other Christians on pedal stools because the person thinks they are so holy well guess what that is a bad idea because as humans we will fail because flesh fails all the time.   I see every Christian as another human being like me but they have God and that’s it.  I don’t put any one on a pedal stool.  I once did that and it so hard to break from and it’s not easy having to break away from.  Idols are horrible things to hang on too and if we have them they are unhealthy to have.

    hoverFrog can you find that exact scripture in  the New Testament where that is written as well please?  Christians are under the New Convent (New Testament) which is the saving grace of the Cross of Christ.  Jesus says to follow him and no where could I find such a scripture that you have quoted in the New Testament.  Jesus Christ fulfilled all the commandments and it is by Grace that one is saved.  Besides how many gentiles do you know of that were mentioned followed what you just quoted that were given to the Jews?  Your point does not apply to Christians of today.  If you take the bible out of context it is because you do not have the “Holy Spirit” who gives all understanding about God’s word.  When you mentioned the book of Deuteronomy that is ancient history of the Jews which has passed on.  They followed that a long time ago.  Can you tell me if there are many Jews who today would follow that exact scripture you quoted?  Why not go and ask a rabbi about it?  I would love to hear what kind of response you would get from him or her.

    The Holy Spirit is the teacher of scripture because our flesh cannot comprehend all that God knows.

    John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.


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