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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeffrey Anthony Charles Accused of Sexual Assault

Pastor Jeffrey Charles

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.

Jeffrey Anthony Charles, former pastor of Neighbors to Nations Church in Princeton, Minnesota (previously named Open Door Fellowship Church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and now Souls Church), stands accused of sexually assaulting a three-year-old child. Charles was previously convicted of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Degree, in the state of Iowa in 1997, yet he was still pastoring a church when these crimes were allegedly committed. I hope authorities will investigate whether Neighbors to the Nations Church (now Souls Church) was complicit in Charles’ crimes.

Wispolitics.com reports:

Attorney General Josh Kaul and Douglas County District Attorney (DA) Mark Fruehauf today announced that Jeffrey Anthony Charles, age 61, has been charged with one count of Repeated Sexual Assault of a Child, Persistent Repeater, for incidents that occurred from 2005 to 2010.

“We are committed to holding perpetrators of sexual assault accountable,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “Thank you to DA Fruehauf for his continued partnership with the Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse Initiative, and for the work of his office and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in seeking justice in this case.”

According to the criminal complaint, Charles served as the pastor for Neighbors to Nations church in Princeton, Minn. at the time of the assaults and parishioners routinely traveled to Charles’ cabin in the Town of Summit, Wis. The complaint states that Charles sexually assaulted a victim three to four times at his cabin in the Town of Summit, Wis. over the course of five years, when the victim was between the ages of 3 and 7. Charles was previously convicted of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Degree, in the state of Iowa in 1997.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    S.D. Edmister

    Sorry, I’m a bit hung up on the fact he was convicted of sexual abuse before and was allowed to pastor a church where children were. Even as a church-goer, I would have bailed that place as soon as I found out. I guess Evangelical forgiveness excuses possible liability and professional irresponsibility.

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    S.D.–I couldn’t agree with you more. As I’ve mentioned on some of my guest posts, I was sexually abused by a priest. When I finally talked and wrote about it, I did an amateur investigation of him. Surprise, surprise: I’m not the only one who has accused him of sexual misconduct. He was moved between parishes and dioceses, and was on “sick leave” for ten years.

  3. Avatar
    Keith Snyder

    The problem is not with churches that love
    & forgive- God knows our world could use a whole lot more of this! The problems come when a church is confronted with an issue and either refuses to – or doesn’t know how to -implement church discipline. If these churches had followed the BIBLICAL directions-exactly, people – like Jeff Charles would never have gotten a second chance to repeat his crimes. He would never been allowed to be in any situation where he would be tempted to sin this way. Because of the failure of the churches’ leadership, the legal system will have to step in & try to rectify the situation. Still, the church leaders need to deal with this- as the Bible directs them to! They also need to put in place policies that safeguard the rest of the church.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      So, you are saying churches should handle sex crimes internally, and not law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges; that the teachings of the Bible trump civil/criminal law? (I assume you support Charles being stoned for his crimes?)

      By law, church leaders are required to report alleged sexual abuse to law enforcement. That’s the standard, not the Bible.

      Perhaps Charles confessed his sin and repented. According to I John 1:9, he would then be forgiven of his sin. Isn’t that the “Biblical” way to handle sex crimes? Should Christians be kept out of the church or kept from serving Jesus if they have repented of their sex crimes? What about other “sins”? Aren’t all sins the same in God’s eyes?

      What’s to keep an offending Christian from moving across the country and starting over in a new place?

      Some churches believe background checks are wrong; that they are a denial of God’s forgiveness and grace. If God has forgiven people such as Charles, shouldn’t they?

      The investigating, prosecuting, judging, and punishing of crimes is not the purview of the church. Churches have one duty when it comes to alleged sexual abuse: immediately, without delay or internal investigation, report it to law enforcement. Church leaders who fail to do this should be prosecuted.

      The Evangelical has failed miserably at protecting children, teens, and vulnerable adults from predator preachers, often choosing to protect the church over protecting the “least of these.”

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    The QAnons need to look at actual pedophilia occurring in churches rather than talking about their stories of Democrats and Hollywood folks allegedly sexually assaulting kids and drinking their blood for youth-inducing properties. There’s lots of evidence for clergy sex crimes, but none for the QAnon crap.

  5. Avatar
    JJones

    Thanks for sharing this. I know Jeff from my (former) evangelical days. His focus—when I knew him in the early 90’s was on sexual purity and abstinence aimed at the youth…I actually volunteered at a youth camp and a church lock where he was the main speaker/guest (omg!!!!). Later, my friend’s parents and sister went to his church in Princeton and her sister was one of the underage victims there. Someone needs to thoroughly investigate him as he also did a TON of “missions” work in Haiti. Who knows what he was up to there, since the government in Haiti is so corrupt. I talked to the pastoral abuse tipline in WI and they’re concerned that if more victims don’t come forward, he may be free to continue his disgusting predatory behavior. In addition to raping kids, he was a grifter of the highest order, living large off the churches he spoke at (I remember him taking 2-3 offerings per service) and (according to my friend) also had women from the church in Princeton working for him at his home, cooking, cleaning, etc. for free.

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Bruce Gerencser