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Tag: Pastor Eugene Brandt

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Ryan McElrath Accused of Rape

ryan mcelrath

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.

Ryan McElrath, a youth pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson, Tennessee, stands accused of raping a seventeen-year-old church girl.

Channel 7 reports:

A Jackson youth pastor has been arrested on rape charges.

According to booking information from the Madison County jail, 39-year-old Ryan McElrath was booked into the jail around 5:48 p.m. on Tuesday.

Jackson Police Department’s online Police To Citizen resource shows that McElrath was arrested at a residence on Willow Green Drive, with charges listed as sexual battery by an authority figure, statutory rape, and statutory rape by an authority figure – forcible rape.

In a social media post made by Fellowship Bible Church prior to his arrest — which is no longer accessible — McElrath is described as a “high school pastor.” At the time of this report, the church also has several videos on their website where McElrath can be seen as a featured speaker.

McElrath also hosted a religion-based podcast with episodes ranging from October 2021 – November 2023. The podcast’s description states: “Here, at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson, TN, we are starting our very first Family Podcast in which we are going to create space for families to have great conversations with their kids and have fun at the same time!”

A June 14, 2024 update stated:

A warrant has revealed additional details in the arrest of youth pastor Ryan McElrath. According to the warrant, on the morning of June 11, a man visited the Jackson Police Department to report a sexual assault against his daughter. The warrant states on May 31, 2024, McElrath engaged in sexual contact with a 17-year-old female victim at Fellowship Bible Church, located at 141 Pleasant Plains Road in Jackson. According to the warrant, McElrath met the victim in the high school area of the church for approximately 30 minutes. McElrath is expected to appear in Jackson City Court on June 26th at 9:30 a.m.

Fellowship Bible released the following statement:

Ryan McElrath is no longer employed at Fellowship due to criminal charges filed June 11. Within hours of the allegations, the matter was investigated, Ryan admitted to the violation, and was terminated. The church immediately supported the victim in reporting the allegations to local law enforcement, and notified parents and students. The church is cooperating fully with local authorities, and is engaging an external agency to audit church policies and procedures as well as provide guidance on continued care for the victim and the church. Our priority continues to be the privacy and well-being of the victim, the victim’s family, our students and their parents.

“As a church community we are absolutely devastated by this. And, as a parent, I share in our God’s outrage and grief when the innocent are harmed. We are acting in cooperation with law enforcement in caring for the victim and the victim’s family.”

Eugene Brandt, Lead Pastor Fellowship

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Bruce Gerencser