(Underlined words, phrases and sentences link to cited material)
Humans of New York: Detra’s Story
“But before I could officially join the choir, the pastor’s wife told me I needed to meet with a ‘church counselor.’ It ended up being her son. He asked how I could stand before the throne of God, having run away from a pastor husband. Then he asked for my husband’s phone number. I think I made it downstairs before I started sobbing.” -excerpt from the HONY feature story published on June 9, 2022, section 6/15. Detra’s mention of the choir director’s son, actually refers to son-in-law, either Al Toledo or Brian Pettrey, both pastors.
In a prior section of the HONY feature story, section 3/15, recalling when Detra was married to her pastor husband: “When I finally met with a therapist, she asked me the crucial question. She said: ‘Would you leave your husband if he was beating you? Because what he’s doing is worse than beating you….'”
For more information on domestic abuse, a good place to start is The Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel.
New York Post “Model Begged Pastor to Help”
“Benson confessed her fears to Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Heights just weeks before she was shot in the face and killed by her crazed former boyfriend, Robert Ambrosino, last Thursday, just before he took his own life…
“Benson’s last conversation with the pastor revealed how deeply convinced she was that she was going to die. “What if my life is really in danger,” she said in her final meeting with Cymbala. He replied, “We will all die, but we will all be with the Lord.”” (New York Post, April 28, 2003)
Misrepresented Testimonies Among Platform Speakers Published in Cymbala Books
Details of Dawn’s story in Jim’s December 2001 God’s Grace from Ground Zero, were included after she came forward as the last survivor to be pulled out of the towers before everything collapsed. She said that she was misrepresented in the book. Upon the book’s release, she was asked to share her testimony at various stops on the book tour, when she was severely struggling from PTSD, clinical depression and agoraphobia.
In her words: “Pastor Cymbala tried to counsel me on several occasions but he soon gave up. He was frustrated that I was unable to be that super-Christian woman that he had portrayed in his book God’s Grace from Ground Zero, and the many interviews I had done for him on Christian broadcasting and radio shows…. I tried taking my own life several times after I left the Brooklyn Tabernacle. The latest incident was on March 26, 2013. After the attempted suicide I was admitted into North Tampa Behavioral Health Hospital. I eventually transferred into a residential treatment center for severe PTSD for sixteen months called The Refuge in Ocala Florida. They literally saved my life.”
Links: Survivor 9-11 Blog, The Author of My Faith – Guest Post
Details of Roberta’s story in Jim’s 2008 You Were Made For More book were, reportedly, falsely represented and included without permission.
Among various examples cited by the family, the closing portion in the book says this about Roberta: “…she clings to the Holy Spirit for strength to keep that door closed in her life. She is stamping out the appeal of the flesh through the enabling power of God.”
Her family refuted, “the truth of the matter is that although my sister desires to walk in freedom, her life, at this time, does not reflect what has been written here, which is well known by Pastor Cymbala and other members of the pastoral staff. Once again, it pains our family that the hardships of my sister would be deliberately exploited and the facts twisted for financial gain “in the name of Jesus.””
Roberta’s family fought to have the opportunity to confront Jim, which they did in 2008. Jim agreed to have her story removed from future editions of the book. When the next edition of the book was released, her story was still in there. Roberta and her family pursued various forms of justice until Roberta’s death by suicide in October 2016, at which time her family continued to carry the torch from there.
“The Story Behind the Story of Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella – How Spiritual Abuse Leads to Suicide“
The Author of My Faith – Roberta’s brother, Steven Langella’s blog, what’s left on The Wayback Machine:
“The Story Behind the Story…” Part 1
“The Story Behind the Story…” Part 2
“The Story Behind the Story…” Part 3
Roberta’s brother, Steven, appeared to be pursuing some form of justice for his family as recent as March 2018, as is evident by his comments on The Wartburg Watch, a reputable, well-known Christian watchdog site, run by Dee Parsons.
Roberta spoke out on various online forums, published her own account in this Amazon review of Jim Cymbala’s book, You Were Made for More, where her story was reportedly exploited again, and she hosted her own website in 2011, Beautifully Broken. It contained quite a bit of detailed information, some interlaced with the Topix Forum, which is addressed in the next section.
Among several topics discussed in Beautifully Broken, include Roberta’s own story of spiritual abuse and manipulation by Jim Cymbala and The Brooklyn Tabernacle, along with the experience of a former member of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, who claimed the church used her social security number, without her knowledge or permission, to collect royalties totaling over $30,000.
Roberta states, “the purpose of this blog is to bring to the light what has been done in darkness.“
The majority of Roberta’s website is only accessible on the Wayback Machine. Linked sections of her blog are provided, for convenience, as it is difficult to find the latest archives while navigating the site:
Home | Start Here | Churchill’s Restaurant Failure | More?
1. Under Fire | 2. Evidence | 3. Insider | 4. Allegations
5. Bookstore | 6. Learning Center? | 7. 6:4 Fellowship | 8. Leaders
9. Listen? | Hypocrisy? | Letters | MLK Jr.
Resources | Response | Senior Pastor? | Tim Dilena | Videos
In Roberta’s own words, regarding her Beautifully Broken website:
“The purpose of this blog has several facets:
1. Hold PJC accountable
2. Shed the light on spritual abuse and what it looks like
3. Healing for those who have been victimized and exlpoited
4. Reconciliation, Repentance, Restitution
5. Share my story in my own words the amazing journey I have been on and to tell the world that God is faithfull to his promise
6. To provide resources for recovery from spiritual abuse.
7. To help others identify the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to childhood sexual abuse
8. The appropriate treatment for PTSD and clinical depression
9. To be the voice of the voiceless
10. A wake up call for the church , Jesus is coming soon and people are perishing.
11. To prove God’s word is true Isaiah 58 ‘Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear ” “You will be called a repairer of broken walls” (Gods promise to me in February 1995).
12. To be an instrument for the Lord to set the captives free, the body of Christ is in bondage and renders it ineffective.
13. To warn leaders everywhere not to exploit broken people for their own personal gain.
14. Allow people to be human and to grow in the grace of God .
15. Allow the healing process to unfold in ones life before they are thrust into the limelight prematurely and suffer grave unecessary consequences and wasted years . May God Bless you”
Other coverage of Roberta’s Story:
Pulpit and Pen
Heavenly Springs – Roberta’s sister-in-law, Christina Langella’s blog
Topix Forum, Deacon & Usher’s Weblog
An announcement was made on Topix, regarding the Assemblies of God 2007 Prayer Summit, headlining Jim Cymbala as the main speaker :
Someone who appears to have been involved at The Brooklyn Tabernacle (TBT) in some capacity posted this comment, which sparked a discussion that went on for roughly 3 years of explosive dialogue within the Topix forum, regarding rampant financial and spiritual abuse at TBT:
The Brooklyn Tabernacle provided an official response to the copious financial concerns, presented in the Topix discussion, in August 2008:
After the discussion died down in 2011, the Topix web page, in its entirety, was removed. Did The Brooklyn Tabernacle pay to remove the website? If so, why? Were donors aware of this expense? Are donors rightfully provided detailed information regarding all expenses, annually? Was there a marked difference in the church’s transparency after the Topix discussion exposure, which would be at least some indication of repentance, after legitimate concerns were addressed?
As is outlined in the Financial Information section, if TBT were transparent, they would be willing to provide a full general ledger, trace of all outgoing cash transfers, check register, financial statements, balance sheets, construction budget actuals, audits from their accounting firm, Capin Crouse and more.
Even though the Topix page was removed, it is available to some degree on the Wayback Machine, which can be accessed HERE. Some additional comments tied to the Topix discussion were found on Deacon & Usher’s Weblog as well.
Helpful hint: certain pages in the Wayback Machine contain broken links. Many of those broken page links can be entered in manually at the top of the page, as seen here:
Visit the Topix Wayback Machine link and Deacon & Usher’s Weblog link to peruse what is available in the archives. Where there are inaccuracies in the comments at those links, this website welcomes opportunities for correction within its current discussions.