In his growing work of consulting with churches on matters of sexual abuse, Jimmy Hinton says he hears a common refrain.
If a devoted member of a congregation is accused, members will give all kinds of reasons “it just can’t be him,” he says.
The accused is so kind and nice. He’s a family man. He never cusses.
“At the end of that,” Mr. Hinton says, he tells them: “You just described in great detail my father.”
The father, John Wayne Hinton, whom he watched with admiration as he preached the gospel from the pulpit of Somerset Church of Christ, a small evangelical congregation where the elder Hinton was minister for 27 years until 2001.
The father who inspired Jimmy Hinton to go into ministry himself, assuming his father’s old pulpit in 2009.
Then in July 2011, a woman confided to Jimmy Hinton that his father had molested her when she was a girl.
By the end of the conversation, Jimmy Hinton was convinced she was telling the truth.
“I’m not saying I wanted to believe that about my dad,” he said. “Doing the right thing isn’t doing what we want to believe. It’s about doing the right thing.”
The right thing amounted to alerting police about the allegation. After a widening investigation, John Hinton was arrested on 200 counts — one charge of rape and dozens each involving indecent assault on children and the possession and creation of child pornography — including numerous nude, explicit photos he had taken of girls as young as 4.
John Hinton, now 65, ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas in Somerset County. He is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years at State Correctional Institution Rockview in Bellefonte, Centre County.
Jimmy Hinton will be telling his story — and how churches can prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse — at Crossroads Church of Christ, 236 Thomas Road in McMurray at 2:30 p.m. next Sunday. More information is at crossroadscoc.org/safekids. He’ll also be speaking at North Hills Church of Christ, 797 Thompson Run Road, at 6:30 p.m. April 19.
The talk is part of a wider work Mr. Hinton has begun since his father’s arrest. He founded a nonprofit consulting group, Church Protect, and speaks to congregations around the country on the issue.
So far, his audiences have been in the Churches of Christ — the network of self-governing, evangelical congregations that his church is a part of.
“But I don’t limit myself. I’ll speak to anybody,” said Mr. Hinton, 35, who with his wife, Natalie, have two children. His story was first told last year in the Christian Chronicle, a newspaper of the Churches of Christ.
“I’ve never seen anybody who took action like Jimmy did,” said Somerset Borough Police Detective Ruth Beckner, who investigated the elder Hinton’s crimes. “He just wants to make everybody aware.”
Detective Beckner received a visit from Jimmy Hinton and his mother on Aug. 1, 2011, in which they reported the initial allegation against John Hinton. Jimmy Hinton said his father soon confirmed the allegation to him indirectly by saying he was under police investigation — but didn’t know yet who had reported him — and was likely bound for prison.
“More victims started coming forward, and I started fielding phone calls, many of them disclosing what my dad had done to them in very graphic details,” Jimmy Hinton recalled. “They were looking for validation that somebody was listening and somebody believed them. The amount of emotion was incredible. The only thing I did know was that my family would never be the same.”
Jimmy Hinton said he didn’t know how members of the congregation, many of whom became Christians under his father’s ministry, would react. But he has found only warm support, then and since.
Elton Blenden, an elder at Somerset Church of Christ, said he visited Jimmy and Natalie Hinton after getting the news.
“I went in hugged them and said, ‘This is going to be a trying time. I just wanted to step forward and say I support you,’ ” Mr. Blenden recalled.
Mr. Blenden said while he visited John Hinton in jail, he wasn’t shocked by the betrayal.
“If you even look at the Scripture, it tells you to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he said.
Elder Bob Martin said the church, which typically draws a few dozen on a Sunday, grew stronger through “the simple fact that we rallied together.”
SOURCE: Peter Smith