The Presiding Ministers’ Report I: Crooked Images in a Black Hole

Last week Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, posted the Presiding Ministers’ Report on the Sitler and Wight Sex Abuse Cases to the Kirk website. That Christ Church published the report and that the CREC Review Committee did not publish it contradicts the Review Committee’s original statement:

“Christ Church is asking this committee to issue a public report in the next few months.” (Inquiry into the Pastoral Ministry of Christ Church (Moscow, Idaho), October 3, 2015)

Christ Church asked the CREC Review Committee to issue a public report, which did not happen. Instead, the Review Committee delivered its report to the Kirk, who published it according to their good pleasure. Last year’s minutes for Knox Presbytery (CREC) show that the Kirk took control of this detail. Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church attached the following postscript to the minutes:

P.S. Another item worth mentioning is the status of the report that Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church requested from a review committee made up of the presiding ministers of our various presbyteries (re: Greenfield, Wight, Sitler). This needs to be mentioned here because there are two misconceptions that could easily arise concerning their work. The first point to make is that the report was requested by, and will be received by, the two sessions of the churches in question. The committee is not serving as a committee reporting back to the CREC, and is therefore not reporting its results back to the presbyteries or to Council. Rather they will be submitting their review to Christ Church and Trinity. Thus the status of that review does not properly belong in this letter, since there is nothing for our presbyteries to accept or ratify. Even when the report is released there will be nothing that our broader assemblies could act on. Secondly, on a related note, this is a review committee formed to offer counsel to two churches seeking it, and is not a court or an investigation. That should be kept in mind as well. And last, with all this said, I am unaware of the precise status of the report. I am suggesting to Jack Phelps that if the report is not delivered to the Moscow churches by the time our respective presbyteries meet that he provide a status report to the affected presbyteries. (Minutes of Knox Presbytery 2016 Annual Meeting, September 21, Missoula, Montana; 13, emphasis added)

Douglas Wilson doesn’t say anything about a “public report,” contra the original announcement. He refers to an in-house report for two churches only: Christ Church & Trinity Reformed Church. He even excludes the CREC as a recipient of the report — “The committee is not serving as a committee reporting back to the CREC, and is therefore not reporting its results back to the presbyteries or to Council.” So by September 2016, Doug Wilson hijacked control of who would publish the report. No one in the CREC has said how or why this happened.

And everyone who has tried accessing the Presiding Ministers’ Report knows that it is not user friendly. To be sure, it is so difficult to read that the Kirk uploaded this visual instruction on how to use the platform:

Kirk User Instructions

The platform needs instruction because the report, as published by Christ Church, is not a typical pdf.

Properties MenuEvery modern PC is equipped to burn a pdf1 in seconds. The doc would be print-grade quality and could be uploaded to the web with three clicks of the mouse — much like Christ Church did with this timeline. The properties menu on that pdf shows that someone wrote it on an application called Pages and printed it to pdf from their Mac on April 29, 2016. It’s a very clean document that search engines can read and that can be easily downloaded and used (cut & pasted) by anyone; notice also that they blacked out names to protect the victims. This is a perfect example of a pdf done correctly. This was not an accident. Christ Church wanted this narrative in the public domain. Not so the Presiding Ministers’ Report.

The Presiding Ministers’ Report that the Kirk published is not the same kind of pdf as above, and it’s not even the same pdf that the Review Committee generated. The published report is a third-generation document that someone printed to hard copy and then scanned those hard pages, after they disabled the optical character recognition (OCR) utility on their scanner. If they had scanned the report with the OCR enabled, the text would have been legible — that is, the reader could have cut and pasted it, searched, etc. Further, the scanned images are raw, as demonstrated by the crooked pages. They likely scanned the report into Photoshop or a similar platform but didn’t bother to straighten the pages, which would have taken a few seconds per image. Someone wanted crooked pages. Then they combined the scanned images (pages) into a large 60-page pdf, which was massive but legible. So they degraded the document (lowered its resolution) at least once (probably a few times) to create the background noise and pixilation that you see. This job probably took about 4 to 6 hours to complete, whereas if they had simply uploaded the original pdf it would have taken less than a minute. And if they had uploaded the original pdf (blacked-out names, of course), the average reader could have downloaded it as with any other pdf, such as the timeline noted above. But the Kirk went to great lengths to prevent this.

There is only one reason for Christ Church to create its own pdf rather than use the original: Someone wanted to block search engines from indexing the text. There are about a dozen ways to block search engines from seeing certain text on a website — all but one of them leave fingerprints. And fingerprints show intent. There’s only one way to block search engines from seeing certain text on a website without leaving fingerprints and simultaneously claim ignorance: Convert the text into images, which is exactly what Christ Church did.

Search engines such as Bing, Google, Yahoo! etc., cannot read words on an image. When they see an image on a website, they essentially ignore it. Therefore, Christ Church converted the Presiding Ministers’ Report into 60 images and combined them into one pdf to block search engines from reading it. Consider the following examples of specific text from the report:

Google shows only one website with this text: MoscowID.net, because we converted the images into HTML text. Neither christkirk.com nor flowpaper.com (third-party host for the pdf) appear in the search results because both sites only have images of the text:

graphic

Then the Kirk retained a third party (flowpaper.com) to host the document. The third party offered one service that Christ Church required: They made the pdf non-downloadable. This limited when & where a user could read the report. They had to be at a PC connected to the Kirk or the third party, which forced the reader to page through degraded images without the ability to search the text, or cut & paste the text, or rely upon any other convenience that web users have grown accustomed to. There is only one reason for the third party: Christ Church did not want the document to be downloaded and circulated.

The Kirk left other artifacts in the Presiding Ministers’ Report that we won’t bother to observe (yet). The important point is that Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, published the report, contra the CREC’s announcement. And someone at Christ Church really doesn’t want you to read it.

You can read it here.


1 Pdf stands for “portable document format,” which was invented by Adobe and is used on the free platform called Acrobat.

1 Comment

  1. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this website becomes the default place that that people come to to get a searchable/copyable/readable version of the report?

    If/When that happens, they might realize that the attempt to obscure/bury the report completely backfired!

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