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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Worship Leader Ronnie Gorton Accused of Sexual Assault

ronnie gorton

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Ronnie Gorton, worship leader (some reports say Gorton is the lead pastor) at Awakening Church in Atoka, Tennessee, stands accused of sexually assaulting several teenage boys.

The Covington Leader reports:

On Monday, former Awakening Church worship leader Ronnie Gorton was indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teenagers.

Last month, Gorton, 39, was accused of sexually assaulting at least two minors. He was indicted for incidents involving three, however.

The nearly four dozen charges included five counts of aggravated sexual battery, 17 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child (Child Protection Act), 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, two counts of exploitation of a minor by electronic means, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of purchasing alcohol for a child and one count of rape.

Tipton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Billy Daugherty said one of the victim’s ages at the time of the abuse was the aggravating factor in the first set of sexual battery charges.

“The nature of these charges clearly indicate the victims, at some point, were under the age of 13. The age of consent in Tennessee is 18,” he said.


In a 2014 interview, Gorton said:

I’d be completely lost without him [Jesus] man. Just knowing some of the things that I have dealt with in my life and some of the struggles I deal with, I can imagine the type of hell that I’d be living in today without Him. So it’s only by His grace by His mercy why I’m here today.

My title, pastor means nothing. I’m human, I’m a man. I struggle like everybody else and there’s no way I could overcome these struggles and be victorious in some of these areas of my life without Him. It’s only by the grace of God that we’re able to have this conversation today.

Local Memphis reports:

A local minister indicted on 47 counts of rape and sex assault with two boys is now out on bond.

Ronnie Gorton’s bond was reduced to $100,000 on Friday.

The senior pastor of the now closed Awakening Church in Munford made bond on Friday and was released Saturday under the condition he wear an ankle monitor.



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    Without Jesus, man, I would be useless and worse than I am. Why sure I rape youngsters and so forth but man, I would probably be doing worse things, you know, without Jesus. I just thank the Lord for his mercy in this!
    This is sick, Christian circular thinking, the double-think of Freedom is Slavery that I was reminded of while watching the doc Icarus, lately. My older brother uses this same nonsensical bullshit talk and says that he would probably be in prison if it wasn’t for sweet Jesus.And perhaps sweet Jesus will assist all the young lives that have been harmed? Yeah, for sure, if they admit that they are rotten at heart and need Jesus too. Oh my, the virus just goes on and on.

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    I just moved from Atoka (a town of 10,000) to a Memphis suburb this winter. I have more connected to this story than I care to have. Back in 2011 my family attended The Awakening Church for a couple of months while it was still on the Atoka side of Hwy 51. The warehouse looking building you see in reports of this story was the Church’s newest location on the Munford side of 51. The newest location was formerly Hosanna, a Word of Faith Church that my family also attended off and on for a few months. From the spring of 2010 to the summer of 2012, my family visited/attended regularly and even became active in nine churches between Shelby and Tipton counties. Sometimes we were involved in two at a time. Hubs and I deconverted in 2012. Obviously, we were doing everything we could to hold onto our faith. Those two years were the last bit of a 20 year deconversion process that began for me while earning my theology degree at CFNI Dallas in the early 90s.

    Back to The Awakening Church that my family attended in 2011 in Atoka, TN….we were there a few months. At the time the church had an older pastor. After visiting and tithing for a while, we had him and his wife at our house for dinner. The senior pastor had a daughter who attended CFNI. On the first or second visit to the church we met Ronnie and his wife Rhonda. At the time I don’t think they had children, but they’re parents now. Ronnie and Rhonda met each other at BRSM. And although I didn’t know them at the time, Brownsville (the church connected to that Bible School) was my home church from the fall of 2000 to the spring of 2003. I even went on a missions trip to England and Wales in 2001 with dozens of students from the school and basically went back to minister as a semi independent agent for the summer of 2002.

    Upon visiting the Awakening Church in 2011, I connected with Rhonda a bit. I believe I only spoke to Ronnie once, twice at best. Rhonda and I had several conversations about “moves” of god. Btw, from what I understand, she has divorced him since this all has come out. While we were at that tiny church, we attended prayer meetings. The sound system was way too loud for the size of the dinky sanctuary. Our boys were about six and three years old at the time. Ronnie and Rhonda were the worship leaders and were in agreement with the rest of the leaders to basically turn the church into an IHOP, an International House of Prayer like in Redding or Kansas City. They also had ties with Karen Wheaton’s ministry in Alabama. There was lots of yelling and praying and loud music. People were following Wheaton’s ministry’s lead at times by wearing all black or camouflage. There was a lot of army and warrior talk. The Awakening Church had the Israeli flag, pro-life paraphernalia and objects representing many nations in their sanctuary. They were connected to other small churches in the tri state area and often hosted radical weekend long series of meetings in their little building.

    My family has just moved, started two new schools and just adopted a dog. Both of my boys have been sick, more on than off, for over a month. We are still seeking help for my lanky oldest whose digestive tract is in absolute shambles. My marriage is a mess. My husband and I are currently seeking forward thinking therapists for help, but separately. Due to all of the stress and activity, we had no knowledge of this story that’s been out for a month or two. We knew that there was some sort of a change going on by the looks of the above mentioned warehouse building as we drove by it this winter. Last night hubs came to me and told me that he just saw Ronnie Gorton on T.V. As I found out the details I became sick to me stomach. In doing some research last night, I realized that he and his now ex-wife are exactly who I thought they were.

    I’m unpacking a lot of emotions right now. I was already in a vulnerable state. And although I am six years away from that Christian life, I can’t help but feel anxious in hearing this news. Even in already knowing how horrible Christian authority figures can be by my past sufferings in their dealings of abuse, severe neglect, thievery, manipulation and gaslighting, I am stil shocked by this! Ronnie supposedly committed dozens of acts of rape at his house for years. I think about our Brownsville connection. And the shitfest that revival was. I reflect upon my time at The Awakening Church’s initial location and the disappointment of the original church (Hosanna) that met at The Awakening’s most recent location. I become absolutely angry with myself for exposing my little boys to such a disgusting abuser. I know he never had any time alone with them. However, I can’t help but cringe, knowing that I held one of my babies’ hands while I reached out to shake Ronnie’s hand with the other.

    I’m one of the lucky ones, my children were not harmed by this guy. Still, I can’t help but feel played. I have nothing but absolute grief for his wife and child/children, as well as for all of those boys who suffered and their families. People need to remember this before they poke fun at any church abuser, there are always a helluva lot of people suffering because of such losers.

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    Charity, thanks for sharing here…. You are a great mom even if you cannot read into biped motives. NOne of us can finally! I recently consoled my daughter of 20 years after she had to break off a relationship with a man who outed himself as a misogynistic predator on Facebook. He actually messaged a woman and said he wanted to fuck her and had some compromising pictures from some movie she had done or something and might post them. The woman called my daughter and she ended all contact with him after offering a list of therapists. We cannot see the future but we can love our kids with all our hearts and hold no love above that, including woo love. That’s what we can do. It means being brave and vulnerable and you sound like the type. My very best wishes to you and yours.

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Bruce Gerencser