By George Culver
Bill Wolfson is a man of many stories. He could tell you the story of how he became one of the most successful financial consultants in the Tacoma region. Wolfson could also describe his transition from his Jewish roots to becoming the Pastor of one of the most diverse non-denominational churches in Washington state. Though both stories would give a glance into the life of Wolfson, the tale of his discovery of a youth pastor guilty of pedophillia amongst his staff remains one of the most shared and controversial stories of his life.
Wolfson has been serving at the Church for all Nations located in Tacoma WA, since 1989. Wolfson said he desired to be a part of a church that would cater to the needs of anyone who yearned to know about the gospel. Before Pastoring the Church for all Nations, Pastor Wolfson said he had his ambitions set in an entirely different direction. Wolfson said he had always envisioned a career in criminal law. After high school, he decided to attend DePaul University in Chicago to pursue his law degree. After completing his first year of school, however, Wolfson said he realized his calling in life was not for criminal law. Instead, he un-enrolled from DePaul and focused his energy into becoming a pastor. Ten years later, Wolfson would confront a matter that would shake the foundation of his congregation and put his integrity to the test.
On June 1, 1999, Pastor Wolfson was contacted by another elder of the church regarding an incident that had recently occurred. Wolfson recalls that he was at the gym when he got the phone call that one of his staff members was accused of pedophilia within the church. After calling a meeting between the elders of the church, Wolfson immediately took action to protect his congregation. Wolfson stated, “It was the first known case of a clergy of a church turning in another clergy.” The youth pastor in question was removed from the church and eventually convicted for eight counts of child molestation and rape.
The press jumped all over the story. Wolfson recalls how he was immediately contacted by the media, questioning and interviewing him and other members of the church about the incident. Wolfson stated, “On the day of my youngest daughter’s graduation, the press showed up on the front lawn. I never let the press become the enemy. I welcomed the media into my home and offered Starbucks coffee and pastries.” He explains that a very important part of handling the media was to be upfront about everything that he knew.
Wolfson took much criticism for his statements that Glenn’s actions were not powered by homosexuality. “I have never seen a credible study that says that homosexuality is the root of pedophilia”, says Wolfson. There was an initial backlash from members of the church and of the local community after Pastor Wolfson took his stance. Combined with the pressure from the press, Wolfson took on more weight as members of his congregation began to gravitate away from him. “The church lost close to 1000 members,” stated Wolfson.
Even though Wolfson endured a significant amount of negativity from the community, he explained that he had an overwhelming amount of support, especially from his family. “My wife and I decided that we needed to compartmentalize our life. Whatever was going on in this part of our life, we made sure that it did not consume our entire life or our family’s happiness. We did not let this issue define our life or our church’s integrity,” Wolfson said.
Josiah Wolfson, Bill Wilson’s youngest son, is on the verge of graduating from the University of Washington at the age of 20. Josiah admits that he vaguely remembers this period in his life. He remembers brief phone calls and the intrusion of the press and the media. Josiah believes that his father has been a powerful role model in Tacoma. “My dad was brought up in the secular world. He knows how to relate to people and he knows how to be genuine,” Josiah Wilson said.
Despite the problems of the past, Pastor Bill has kept his position at the church. Jordan Jones, a member of Wolfson’s congregation, said, “Pastor Bill is an inspiration to his entire congregation. He is a man of his word and you can always count on him to be there for you. He is definitely a great role model for the Parkland community.”
Along with pastoring, Wolfson has taken it upon himself to be an active supporter for churches who have been through similar situations. “I usually receive around three phone calls a month iniviting to different churches to help them navigate through tumultuous issues such as pedophilia,” stated wolfson. Wolfson said he believes that any roadblock can be achieved when individuals face them head on. “People by nature, would rather bury their heads in the sand then to face the issue head on,” Wolfson said.
Pastor Bill Wolfson has been a great motivation in the Tacoma community by being a man of strong integrity.