Sunday, November 18, 2012
IHOP Distances Itself from Tyler Deaton as More Details Emerge
In a prior post, Republic of Gilead discussed the murder of 27 year-old Bethany Deaton, a former intern at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. Her roommate, Micah Moore, confessed to her murder, claiming that her husband, Tyler Deaton, ordered the killing. News reports indicate that Tyler Deaton headed a Christian religious group that met in the Deatons' home. Moore told authorities that killed Bethany Deaton because he feared she would tell her therapist about sexual assaults she endured at the hands of men in Tyler Deaton's religious group. Other witnesses also claim that Tyler Deaton had sexual relations with or tried to groom men in his group. Bethany Deaton, Tyler Deaton, and Micah Moore all worshipped at IHOP. Tyler Deaton is currently under investigation, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and his connections with IHOP have come under heavy scrutiny.
Shortly after Moore's arrest, IHOP insisted that it did not have ties to Tyler Deaton's religious group. However, Truthspeaker's Weblog and Feeling the Fiction both observed that Tyler Deaton was acknowledged as a division coordinator for a home fellowship group in a recent IHOP hand-out, but was later removed. The Kansas City Star corroborated these claims. Now, WDAF Fox 4 and the Kansas City Star report that IHOP is distancing itself further from Tyler Deaton and his group. According to news sources, IHOP insists that the listing of Tyler Deaton as an IHOP friendship group division coordinator was an error made by a volunteer, and that Deaton was never a coordinator.
A November 16th statement posted by IHOP's Forerunner Christian Fellowship further denies that Tyler Deaton held any leadership position. According to the statement, after Deaton graduated from IHOPU in May, he attended an Forerunner Christian Fellowship discussion on improving small groups. At one such gathering, he reportedly facilitated a breakout discussion. The statement claims that a volunteer mistakenly listed Tyler Deaton as a division coordinator while compiling a small groups information packet, but did no without consulting the small groups director.
IHOP's November 16th statement was highly critical of Tyler Deaton due to the disturbing details surrounding his religious group. "Knowing what we know now, we deeply regret our failure to discern the nature of Deaton’s alleged secretive, perverse, cultic practices. We further regret his admission to IHOPU four years ago and all connection he had with our organization," IHOP said in the statement. The organization adds that "We now believe his interest in our small groups was to try to promote his own agenda within our organization."
Bloggers such as Truthspeaker are unmoved by IHOP's attempts to distance itself from Tyler Deaton. "Is leadership oversight so lax that they don’t even know the people that are in these positions at IHOP, or is IHOP just trying to cover their tracks and do damage control?" Truthspeaker writes.
Susan at Feeling the Fiction slams IHOP as well. "There are inside sources at IHOP-KC and they will continue to leak truth to the media and to those who stand against this cult group. [Mike] Bickle and others in leadership will undoubtedly continue to scramble, change their stories and lie; but eventually those lies will run dry," she wrote in a November 16th post.
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The media is now probing Tyler Deaton's life before Bethany Deaton's murder, and the portrait emerging is of a charismatic but domineering young man who poured himself into Christianity. According to the Kansas City Star, Tyler Deaton graduated as part of the Corpus Christi Calallen High School class of 2005. His year book portrait included a quote from Ryan Dobson's 2003 Christian book, Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid.*
Tyler would go on to study at Southwestern University, a Methodist-affiliated school in Georgetown, Texas. Fellow student Christy Little described him as domineering. “Everything had to go his way,” she said. “One time he said there would be no discussion until everyone agreed that the King James version was the only true version of the Bible. Well, I was Catholic so I had a problem with that. So we argued and of course Tyler won everybody over because that’s what he did.”
While at Southwestern University, Deaton started a non-official religious group on campus, featuring prayer and singing. The group staunchly believed that homosexuality was wrong and un-Biblical, but some members claim that Deaton himself "struggled with being gay." University administrators eventually decided that the group could not use the chapel anymore, after an angry Deaton called people to the chapel following a homecoming skit he disliked. Deaton and other members had great admiration for the International House of Prayer, and he would later move to Kansas City where IHOP headquarters are located.
While this new information is illuminating, so many questions remain. What gave rise to Deaton's enthusiasm (or obsession) with a particular brand of Christianity? When did warning signs begin to emerge that Tyler Deaton's group was dangerous? What drew men to his group? Did anyone outside know about the abuse that Bethany Deaton experienced, and did they try to help her? Finally, just what was the true relationship between Tyler Deaton, his religious group, and IHOP? In time, I hope that law enforcement and journalists can unearth the answers to these questions.
* As an aside, I've read Be Intolerant, and it's an angry, poorly-written rant that reads more like a disgruntled teenager's journal than a coherent guide to Christian spirituality. Draw what you will from Tyler Deaton's taste in books.