The death of Tom White, executive director of Voice of the Martyrs, on April 17 was a profound shock.
White, who experienced persecution himself while imprisoned for 17 months in Cuban jails, took his own life.
VOM reports that he was facing allegations of “inappropriate contact with a young girl.”
“Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life,” the statement says.
The Associated Press had more information, according to The Christian Post:
The AP also revealed that the police had requested from the Washington County District Court an order to have White’s cell phone carrier provide “real time GPS pinging” of his phone in hopes of discovering his whereabouts. Authorities had noted in the document that White “had been reported to have molested a 10-year-old juvenile female” and disappeared as the investigation got underway.
Tom was found dead at VOM headquarters.
My wife and I have read Tom’s column in VOM’s monthly newsletter for years and have been inspired by his passion for the persecuted church. I talked to Tom twice over the years about persecuted believers when I was a religion editor. One time was when the Willow Creek church hosted a Muslim following 9/11 and allowed him to represent Islam in a favorable and somewhat misleading light with no rebuttal or clarification. Tom dealt constantly with Christians in Muslim-dominated nations who endured persecution everyday. He wasn’t happy with Willow Creek’s handling of the matter. I always loved his straight talk.
I don’t know what to think about the allegations, but I do know that even great men of faith still have their failings and weaknesses. I’m angered, though, that Tom didn’t stand and face the charges, or, if he was guilty, take responsibility for what he did. Perhaps he realized that molestation is just another form of persecution, and that, if he indeed had molested the girl, he had become the persecutor. The difference is that persecution for religious belief can lead to wonderful testimonies and the growth of the Gospel. Molestation leaves scars that can only be healed by a loving Father in heaven.
I pray that Tom’s family and the VOM staff will be comforted during this tragic time. I also pray for the girl and her family.
One thing I know for sure is that, because of Tom White’s work, thousands of persecuted Christians around the world have received relief, encouragement and support.
UPDATE: 5 Things You Should Know About Child Sexual Offenders is a list of things to be aware of regarding sexual offenders, especially in churches. The author, Boz Tchividjian, is is the founder and executive director of GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment and is a former child abuse prosecutor.
Here is the book that Mr. Tchividjian cites.