First of all, I want to say how difficult it is to type this.
I have been friends with Tommy's kids for a very long time. They
are wonderful kids and I really feel sorry for them for all that
they are having to go through. I have nothing to gain by writing
this, but feel I should, as I was part of the Ezra congregation
and my family was impacted by this as well. Some of you on this
board don't believe what has happened, but I can tell you that
as a teenager who was in this church, and what I was able to
see, there is truth to these allegations.
I first started attending Ezra Church of God in 1974. I remember
Tommy Shelton coming to my house and inviting my family to church.
I was outside playing when this happened. From then until 1987
I attended the church, except for about a span of a year or so
between that time during the mid-80's when the scandal hit.
I started attending the Ezra Church of God Christian School
when I was 13. I was a classmate of Brad Dunning, Duane, Roger,
Scott, Ricky, Greg, etc. These guys were my friends also, as
we played basketball together, sang together, etc. I knew Ricky
since he was about 5 or 6. Greg was one of my best friends.
I also recall the day when Brad stopped going to the school.
Around this time I had heard rumors of what might be happening.
I watched as the split of the church took place in mid-80's
and watched as my family was shunned by the church as they had
sided with the few who believed the accusations were true. Many
mean things came my family's way after all this happened. My
family was friends with Sherry and others who were against Tommy.
We had stopped attending the church for a time, although I myself
went back because of my involvement with different parts of
the church at that time, like music, and I lived with a family
that attended the church as well. I remember well the "nervous
breakdown" Tommy had. I also watched as certain teen guys seemed
to always be with him, driving with him, pulling up in the same
vehicle with him. I would watch as they would just follow behind
and go straight back to Tommy's office before evening church
service would begin. I even remember the song Tommy wrote during
this breakdown called "Sometimes I Just Want to Go Home." I even
remember the lyrics.
For some unknown reason in around 1984 or 85, Tommy bought
me a new pair of black shoes. I remember us going up to Payless
to get them. I felt good wearing them, because my other shoes
were not that great and getting new shoes for me was really unaffordable
with my family.
I have been on a trip to a music studio in Flora. I also was
offered to drive but declined as I didn't feel comfortable. I
remember being at the studio. (Their fridge only had TAB soda).
For some reason, I was allowed to miss school to go on this trip.
On the drive back, Tommy asked me a strange question. He asked
me if I wanted to ask him some personal questions. This made
me feel quite uncomfortable, even at that age. I was not close
to anyone, even my parents, so right away did not feel right
even saying anything personal. The best thing I could come up
with was "Do you think it's ok to have a girlfriend?". After
his quick explanation of if it was ok (can't remember the answer),
he pressed me once more for personal questions, which I had none
I wanted to ask. It just all seemed awkward to me.
I have thus far never spoken of what I am about to write to
anyone, but in light of what has come up, I feel I had to bring
it up. I didn't feel comfortable discussing that type of thing
back then so I remained quiet. I did not want confrontation.
I myself was never a victim. However, I was told by one of
the guys who has not come forward of what had happened to him.
He told me once about something Tommy says to help gain trust.
It's a story of David and Jonathan, and how the Bible talks about
a "special love" between them. Tommy then compares this to him
and this guy. He then tells me that after that, Tommy asks for
this guy to do something for him. This all took place in the
mid 80's, when I was about 15 or 16. I won't go in detail as
to what was asked and done further to him, but it is along the
lines of Duane's letter.
I am not sure why I stayed with Ezra even after my family
left due to the scandal that started. My own family was disappointed
in me when they found out that I had started attending there
again. I already knew the things against Tommy at this time,
but still I stayed, maybe feeling that as long as it never happened
to me, then it's ok. The only friends I ever knew attended there.
Without going there, I had no friends. I had always had this
jealousy at the time that I was never included in anything that
the other guys had, like being asked to sing or participate
in things. Maybe it was because I didn't sing good. I played
piano, which ironically was inspired to me by Tommy.
As for Danny, well I can only give personal views on him.
I didn't really care too much for him, as he did construction
on the school and would play basketball with the team during
P.E. He was a good shooter though but on a personal level, well,
he seemed quite demanding and cocky.
I really don't know what to think about all this. Some relief
perhaps as I know of victims who have not come forward, many
who were my friends. I only hope that something finally gets
done so there can be some closure.
I am not religious, and as of now have not intention of being
religious, although I have some values. My mind is always in
gospel music even though I could never live that lifestyle. But
I do hope that the right thing is done. I truly feel that I could
have been a victim because there are similarities as to what
favors were done for me to gain trust that had also happened
to my friends. Tommy is a very convincing individual and knows
how to gain trust. As one who once attended Ezra and a friend
of these victims from Ezra, we do need closure.