Tag Archive: Sexual Misconduct

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical John Longaker Continues to Pastor After Sex Crime Conviction

john longaker

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.

My friends at The Wartburg Watch have written several posts about Evangelical Pastor John Longaker’s sordid past; his conviction and prison sentence for having an illicit sexual relationship with a minor girl, Kelly Haines, while he was a teacher at Faith Baptist Academy in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. You can read the original 1997 news report here.  Today, Longaker is pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Bomoseen, Vermont.

The Wartburg Watch contacted Longaker, informing him that they intended to publish a story about his past.  WW provided a summary of their conversation with Longaker:

He claimed that he was innocent of the charges. His lawyer told him to pled guilty so that he would get *only probation.* He appeared to say that his lawyer is to blame for his prison term.

At first, he was friendly as he attempted to convince me he was innocent. He became progressively upset when I questioned his version of events.

He claimed that he and his wife are the real victims, saying that they have suffered every day since the trial. “Not a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about this.”

He attempted to convince me that Kelly was out for revenge and that he was glad when she was arrested for a *false report.* I asked him if he understood the trauma Kelly suffered at his hands and how that might have caused her to think she was seeing him around her town. He did not answer my question.

He claimed that he was going to make a statement to his church on 10/7/18. I asked him if he would share a copy of that statement and he said he would send it to me. I offered to post it in its entirety. It was no surprise to me that I never received the statement.

I told him that I would be writing about Kelly’s story and would use his name. He wanted me to be sure to mention that he was innocent.

When I asked why he was convicted if he was innocent, he claimed that the DA had it out for teachers in Christian schools.

He claimed that his church members asked him 3 times to be the pastor so he believed that this is what God wanted. I’m a bit unclear as to whether he actually told the church of his incarceration a priori. They know now due to Kelly’s diligence. If he did say something,  I’m sure he declared his innocence and that he merely pled guilty so he wouldn’t go to prison like his lawyer promised… Apparently one woman told Kelly that he went to prison to prevent going through the trauma of the trial.

Here is the most interesting (at least to me) part of our conversation. He asked me if I believed in redemption. At this point, I smiled. I knew the direction that he was going in and I also knew that he didn’t understand how this part of the conversation would lead me to conclusively believe in his guilt.

I told him that, of course, I believe in redemption since I’m a Christian. However, redemption, after appropriate repentance, doesn’t mean that a person should be restored to the pastorate. It simply means he is now restored to being a member in good standing of the church. I reiterated that I do not believe that any pastor or teacher, etc. who abuses a student or has an affair with a member of the church should ever be allowed to be a pastor. He disagreed with me.

I explained that teachers who are now convicted of sexual activity with students go to prison and lose their licenses permanently. Did he feel that churches should have lower standards than public schools? Again, he offered no response to my question.

At this point, he brought up how the apostle Paul was forgiven and went on to be a church leader. This is one of the silliest and most common *gotcha* proof texts that I hear frequently. Do people actually read their Bibles? I told him that Paul persecuted Christians BEFORE he became a Christian and that had he continued that activity after his conversion he would have been booted out!

He claimed that there was nothing in the Bible that proved he could not be a pastor. I, of course, referred him to 1 Timothy 3 which proves my point. He disagreed.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (NIV)

However, I believe that he made a serious mistake in this discussion. If Longaker didn’t need redemption, why did he ask me if I believed in redemption? Why did he bring up the sins of Paul if he was totally innocent. If I was accused of a crime that I didn’t commit, I would absolutely refuse to discuss a need for redemption. I am now of the opinion that his discussion with me revealed that, deep down, he feels the need for forgiveness for his actions with Kelly. I fully believe that this man is guilty and should not step one foot in the pulpit.

Since, posting the original story, WW has been contacted by two other women who allege that Pastor Longaker sexually took advantage of them.

Articles published by The Wartburg Watch on this subject include:

John Longaker, a Convicted Predator, Is Now a Pastor and His Brave Victim, Kelly Haines, Wants to Know Why

Pastor John Longaker: Another Woman Recounts Her Sexual Encounter and a Third Woman Describes Her Counseling Experience #churchtoo

An Email from a Convicted Predator: Pastor John Longaker and a Challenge for TWW Readers

Today, WW posted an email Pastor Longaker sent them. Here’s the text of the email:

Hi Dee,

I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about our conversation yesterday. I don’t know your blog at all so I am having a hard time understanding the purpose of your article on me. If you are writing it because you feel that you need to warn people about me then I guess you need to know this: I am pastor of an autonomous non-denominational church of between 80 and 90 attendees.

Since this is not the first time that Kelly has tried to destroy me by contacting different people in my church, there are many people who are aware of my past and have accepted me. They are aware of the charges and they are aware that I pled guilty. I have offered to resign on three separate occasions and my offer was rejected. So, if you want to expose me then after Sunday they all will know in my church anyway.

One of the members who knows was a woman who was sexually abused as a child. Another who knows was raped twice as a young woman. They both love me and trust me. I believe that I have helped both of them very much. One I was able to aid in counselling her out of her bulimia and suicide attempts. She continues to make significant progress.

I understand and respect your view on whether I should be a pastor or not. I talked to my wife about our conversation (incidentally we have been married for 31 years.) She knew Kelly very well.And has stood by me through all of this because she believes that her accusations weren’t true either. She wanted me to tell you again that Kelly was troubled before I ever began counseling her. (Maybe troubled by other sexual encounters?) She said that it’s ultimately up to the church to decide whether I should be their pastor or not and just because you don’t agree with that, does it give you the license to mention me by name? Needless, to say she was very upset that we have to continually live through this nightmare.

One final thought, if after Sunday the church wants to keep me, don’t you think the fact that my name will be on the internet again will damage the church going forward? If they choose not to keep me then your objective will have been met without writing the article. Our church is a loving, growing compassionate church. This blog can only hurt, not help. If your motive is to help, this is not the way to do it.

Even if I did the horrible things that Kelly said I did, I have been forgiven. I served a sentence that was outside the sentencing guidelines. It is not like this has been hidden. I served a public sentence, paid the price, and tried to put the past behind me. I believe that this has made me a better pastor. I have spent 20 years rebuilding my life and my reputation.

I truly appreciate you reaching out to me. Forgive me for using you as a sounding board but I have 20 years of humiliation and frustration pent up. For my own emotional health, I finally had to say something to someone outside of the church. My fear is that my denial of the accusations is just going to stir up the #metoo people all the more. I am already getting emails and phone calls from strangers.

Incidentally, I feel that her tweet was very unfair in addition to being untrue.

Regular readers of the Black Collar Crime series will easily spot the money quote in Longaker’s email: Even if I did the horrible things that Kelly said I did, I have been forgiven.

Even if he did it, Jesus has forgiven him! All praise be to the Lord, right?

blood of jesus

It will be interesting to see if Longaker continues as pastor of Fellowship Bible Church.

Southern Baptist Pastor Bill Coates Retires, Hides Sexual Misconduct Allegation

pastor bill coates

In August 2018, Bill Coates, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida, retired after forty-seven years in the ministry. Coates gave several reasons for his sudden retirement, including the weight of an ongoing civil lawsuit filed against the church that alleges Royal Weaver Jr., a deacon and Boy Scout leader, raped Robert Lawson III during a scouting event in 1985. What Coates didn’t mention was the fact that the real reason for his abrupt moving on to new opportunities was due to a sexual misconduct allegation leveled against him.

The Gainesville Times reports:

The Rev. Bill Coates resigned as pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville in August following an accusation of sexual misconduct, according to a letter emailed to the congregation from church leaders on Monday, Oct. 15.

The misconduct with a female former church staff member allegedly occurred in 2005 or 2006, according to Kent Murphey, executive pastor at the church on Green Street.

Murphey told The Times the misconduct was not a criminal or civil offense, and that church leaders had worked with an attorney and gone “through a series of steps” to “make it possible for the church to avoid this in the future.”

The decision to release information of the alleged misconduct, Murphey said, came after this review and for the “purposes of openness and honesty.” [Greek for correcting Coates’ lying interview]

“Immediately upon receiving this report, the First Baptist Church leaders went to work to provide support for the well-being of the woman with whom Dr. Coates had the inappropriate relationship, in so far as they could, and also to assure that all current staff members are properly informed, educated, and provided with renewed training for appropriate professional ethical standards,” the statement, obtained by The Times, reads. “FBC will continue to work to maintain the highest ethical practices and the safety of its members in all ministries.”

In a text message, Coates told The Times, “I have been forthright and open with our church leadership in this matter.” He referred further comment to the church.

….

According to the church’s statement, the church’s transition leadership team requested late last week that administration release information about the alleged misconduct.

Coates voluntarily retired on Aug. 19, the statement reads, “after learning of a report having been made in which he was accused of sexual misconduct.”

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Ray Comfort on Why Catholics Priests Molest Children

ray comfort atheists hate god

Recently, a very angry man took out his frustrations on me because of pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t blame him for being angry. His language would curl your ear hair, but I certainly felt his pain. He was frustrated because I was preaching in California, seemingly unconcerned that these robed vultures were perched in this religious institution and were swooping in on the most vulnerable among us.

He wanted me to stop preaching in California, and instead go to Rome, talk to the pope, and tell him to clean the filth from the Catholic Church.

I told him that I hated what was going on even more than he did. What I didn’t tell him is that there’s a reason that the Catholic Church is filled with homosexuals and pedophiles who molest little boys (most of the thousand known cases just in Pennsylvania involved boys). This is happening because the institution denies the necessity of the new birth. Jesus said in John chapter 3 that every one of us must be born again or we will not enter Heaven—which happens through repentance and trusting alone in Jesus. They believe that this happens at baptism.

The Bible speaks of this throughout the whole of Scripture—Old Testament and New Testament—where God says that He will forgive us and transforms us so that we love righteousness rather than sin.

If we let people into any religious institution without the new birth, they’re going to take their sinful heart with them, whether it be homosexuals molesting boys or heterosexual priests peering at pornography.

Another contributing factor is that the Roman Catholic Church denies the biblical revelation of the sinful nature of mankind; they claim that even atheists don’t need God’s forgiveness—that they will make it to Heaven without the new birth. They also embrace the unscientific theory of evolution—despite the fact that the Scriptures say that in the beginning God made us male and female.

Roman Catholics don’t allow priests to marry, when the apostle Paul made it clear that it’s better to marry “than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). The Bible also tells us that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14), and that when he and the apostles traveled they took their wives with them (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Yet this monstrous institution has lived on, hiding these criminals from man’s justice for all those years. Every one of us should be as outraged as my foul-mouthed and furious friend. But we should also look at our own sinful hearts, come to the cross, and be born again.

— Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort, The Christian Post, Furious Man Rants About Pedophile Priests, October 21, 2018

Memo to Ray Comfort: Clean up your own back yard first. Evangelicalism has a huge sexual abuse problem. Evangelicalism also has a problem with preachers preying on congregants, using them to fulfill their wanton sexual desires. It’s easy to attack the Catholic church, and quite frankly they deserve it, but you ignore the growing sexual abuse/sexual misconduct scandal in his own back yard. Are all these offending Evangelical preachers, youth pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, college professors, and parachurch leaders “unsaved” too? Have they all followed after a “false” gospel?

Accusations Against Evangelical Pastor Dean Curry Upheld by Church Board

pastor dean curry

In July, Dean Curry pastor of Life Center Assembly of God in Tacoma, Washington, was fired over sexual misconduct allegations. (You can read previous posts about Curry here and here.)  Yesterday, the church board upheld the accusations against Curry.

The News Tribune reports:

They didn’t provide racy details, nor did they name accusers, but leaders of Tacoma’s Life Center church took a methodical procedural walk during a private meeting Thursday, explaining to a crowd of parishioners exactly why lead pastor Dean Curry was fired this summer after 14 years of service.

“The board is in unanimous agreement that Pastor Dean Curry’s removal as senior pastor was the correct decision,” said Nate Angelo, chairman of Life Center’s executive board. “He is disqualified from gospel ministry because of repeat violations of Life Center’s sexual harassment policies. He will not be returning as Life Center’s senior pastor.”

To the end, Curry denied the accusations against him, saying,

I stand by my denial and I stand by my comments about the Assembly of God — very disappointing. My disagreement has to do with mishandling of this process by the Assembly of God. It put Life Center and the board and me in a very awkward situation. I know they were forced into making a decision that was difficult for them. I appreciate their love and kindness to me. They have to make a decision and a statement that is best for Life Center. I totally understand why they want to cut ties.

Julee Dilley, a former church board member who left the church in 2016 over concerns about Curry’s conduct, filed complaints this summer with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Rights Commission regarding Curry’s behavior.

Dilley’s complaints levied the following allegations against Curry:

  • An ongoing relationship with a married church member that turned physical.
  • An incident involving another married church member being visited by Curry late at night, discovered by the woman’s husband.
  • A female administrative employee who spoke of uncomfortable conversations with Curry that included comments on her appearance and discussions of his intimate relations with his wife.
  • Inappropriate counseling sessions when Curry used vulgar terms when describing intimacy.
  • Talking to other women about intimate details of his marriage
  • Talking to women about their appearance, sometimes in crass terms.
  • Telling women, “You are the only one who gets me.”
  • Isolating women and spending time alone with them on multiple occasions, to their discomfort.

According to The News Tribune, DIlley took issue with the Life Center’s board’s characterization of Curry’s behavior as mere “sexual harassment.” Dilley called the board’s findings an understatement, saying:

Dean’s abuse was not consensual. This isn’t about bad language, lack of boundaries with women or flippant sexual comments. This was abuse, in my opinion. I do feel that there is a duty to warn the public about this type of predatory behavior to help protect from the potential of future victims.

It’s time to start the Dean Curry Resurrection® betting pool. How long will it be before the good pastor finds a church that buys his denials or is willing to give him a second chance?  Forgive and forget, that is what Dean Curry is hoping for. And if there’s one thing I know about Evangelicals, they love a great comeback story. If Mark Driscoll, Ted Haggard, and Jimmy Swaggart can find forgiveness, why anyone can!

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeff Jakes Resigns Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor jeff jakes

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.

Jeff Jakes, lead pastor at Orangewood Church and Christian School in Maitland, Florida, resigned today over sexual misconduct allegations. Orangewood Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) — a Fundamentalist sect.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

The probe was conducted by GRACE, an independent Christian organization that investigates claims of abuse and misconduct within religious institutions. GRACE said it spoke to 76 witnesses and surveyed more than 600 Orangewood community members.

It began after a former intern, Katherine Snyder, accused Jakes of abusing his position as youth pastor in 1998 by expressing romantic feelings, making comments about her body and detailing his own fantasies when she was 18. The behavior, she said in a Facebook post in February, continued while she attended college.

The report validated Snyder’s claims and criticized Jakes for saying he regretted “confusing” the former intern, a description GRACE said “marginalizes her dignity and robs her of the honor she deserves in bringing very painful events to light.”

Jakes has previously denied Snyder’s allegations.

One former associate pastor explained to GRACE that the Maitland church had handled the claims against Jakes “by considering it a ‘private sin’ and not a ‘public sin’.”

In its letter reacting to the findings, church leaders admitted “some of our earliest public statements only made matters worse” for victims, “including the use of a term like sexual misconduct without a full understanding for what that term means.”

Church leaders’ initial framing of Snyder’s allegations against Jakes — as nonsexual or, in one elder’s description, an “inappropriate emotional relationship” — angered Snyder, who said he touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable, such as kissing her cheek or caressing her hair.

While the church said it would accept Jakes’ resignation, it added that he could return to preaching in the future.

“It should be noted that the Session has found that Jeff is not disqualified from future pastoral ministry,” the church wrote in its letter. “After a time of counseling, study, healing and restoration, we believe Jeff can effectively serve in pastoral ministry.”

GRACE also reviewed claims of sexual abuse in the mid-’90s from at least three former students against then-Orangewood school coach Timothy Manes, concluding the school mishandled these allegations as well, including by not reporting them to authorities.

Among other recommendations, GRACE said Orangewood should provide funding for counseling received by victims of past sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse from members of the Orangewood community as well as ongoing training for staff.

No one will face criminal charges, and it is likely that Jakes, after spending time in sackcloth and ashes, will rise from the ashes of sexual improprieties and pastor again. Can’t keep a God-called preacher down, right?

February 2018 Orlando Sentinel article

Evangelical Professor Dennis Hensley Accused of Sexual Misconduct

dennis hensley

Dennis Hensley, a professor of writing at Taylor University — an Evangelical institution, stands accused of sexual misconduct. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports:

A Taylor University professor with Fort Wayne ties has resigned after multiple “significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct,” according to a statement from the Christian university in Upland.

The statement, posted online Thursday, does not detail the type of misconduct. But a Fort Wayne-area woman told The Journal Gazette she was the victim of an unwanted sexual advance from the professor, Dennis E. Hensley, more than a decade ago as a student.

Hensley taught professional writing at Taylor and is well-known in Christian-writing circles for scores of books and articles. He has been active speaking and teaching at Christian-writing conferences and has an online blog where he offers mentoring.

According to the statement, the university on three occasions received reports of alleged inappropriate conduct between 2004 and this year. Another surfaced this year.

The last three did not involve students or employees and were not related to the 2004 complaint, the statement said.

Hensley, who lives in Fort Wayne, taught at Taylor’s Fort Wayne campus before it closed in 2009. He resigned June 16, the same day he was told he was being suspended indefinitely while the university investigated the most recent complaint, according to Jim Garringer, director of media relations at Taylor.

The university’s statement says the resignation was “unsolicited and unconditional and we accepted it.” Garringer said he could not elaborate.

Reached by phone at home today, Hensley characterized leaving the university as retiring.

“I thought I should just take the high ground and retire, and just call it quits and let this thing die its own death,” Hensley said, noting he will turn 70 next month.

Hensley said the latest allegations arose out of the “Me Too” movement.

In Christian-writing circles, people may hold hands in prayer or hug one another in greeting or worship, he said. Discussions at a conference may have resulted in concerns being raised, he said.

The university statement said on all previous occasions when complaints were raised, Hensley has been “confronted” and “disciplined and cautioned.”

….

Former Taylor student Rachel Custer said she was the student in 2004. She gave The Journal Gazette a copy of an account of the incident she wrote within hours of it occurring. She reported to the dean of students that day, she said.

Custer said she was upset about being sexually assaulted by someone else earlier that day. She said she broke down in an office visit with Hensley, academic adviser for the professional writing program, whom she was consulting about her schedule. He took her hands, she said, and later pulled her into a hug and then kissed her on the lips.

At this point, accounts diverge. Hensley said Custer pulled him into a hug. He did not continue the story.

“I didn’t want any of it to happen,” she said, adding she was shocked. To her, he was a representative of the church, she said. “I thought he was a Christian man and I felt safe and he would never do anything like that.”

A writing conference leader and a Taylor professor approached her this year, and she again provided her information to administrators.

She now is asking if there are others who need support to contact her on Facebook and on Twitter.

“What I would like to see is Taylor taking some institutional responsibility for enabling him,” Custer said. “But that is not my main goal. My main goal is to support others and bring to light that this type of thing does happen in the church and Christian universities, and they have to find a way to deal with it.”

….

Taylor University released the following statement:

While it is Taylor University’s policy generally not to comment on personnel matters, we are making an exception in this instance. Fourteen years ago (2004), a complaint was filed against Dr. Dennis Hensley by a student. Although the investigation at that time yielded conflicting stories, Hensley was disciplined and cautioned. During the next 14 years, two potential conduct concerns came to the university’s attention, neither of which involved students or were related to the 2004 complaint. Hensley was confronted in both of these situations and disciplined.

Recently we were made aware of significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct by Hensley. Although these allegations did not involve Taylor students or employees, we promptly commenced an investigation, which included interviews and statements from those involved, and subsequently informed Hensley that he was suspended with immediate effect while the investigation was ongoing. On the same day that he was notified of his suspension, Hensley offered an unsolicited and unconditional resignation from Taylor University, which we accepted.

As a Christian institution of higher education, guided by biblical principles of truth, justice and grace, Taylor is grieved by any instance of predatory behavior or abuse of power. We hold accountable each member of our community with the expectation they adhere to the highest ethical, behavioral, and moral standards. We are committed to providing an environment of dignity, respect and safety for all members of our community.

Henley is the author of books such as:

  • Encountering Jesus: Modern-Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power
  • Jesus in All Four Seasons: Having Christ as Your Life Coach
  • Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges of Today’s Business World

Hensley says he is taking the high ground; that the accusations against him are the result of the “Me Too” movement; that his physical familiarity with a former student was all about love for a fellow Christian. Sounds to me like Hensley was serious about spreading the love of Christ to young Christian women. What  I want to know is why Hensley “retired” if nothing was amiss. Why do so many of these “innocent” followers of Jesus abruptly resign or retire when facing supposedly false allegations of sexual misconduct?

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Finley Resigns After Old Sexual Misconduct Complaints Come to Light

pastor john finley

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.

The Bible says, be sure your sin will find you out. That’s certainly true for John Finley, pastor of Bartlett Hills Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee. Thirty-seven years ago, while youth pastor at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Finley allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with at least two church teenagers — one fifteen and one seventeen.  In April, Finley resigned from the church, saying:

I made some poor choices and was involved with two females in inappropriate behavior. There was no sex. Both ladies were over 18. In the best interest of our church, I choose to resign immediately.

“Both ladies were over eighteen, ” Finley said, but the girls in question suggest otherwise.

The Star Telegram reports:

They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. It was true he hadn’t had sex with them, but he’d done more than kiss them, they said. He touched one’s breasts and put the other’s hand on his naked erection, they said.

The alleged abuse began 37 years ago at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Finley served as the youth minister for five years. Travis Avenue is well known in the Southern Baptist community, with strong ties to Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One of the women said she never told anyone about the abuse until college. The other tried once, telling a youth worker at the church. A rumor even reached a deacon. Still, Finley stayed at the church.

….

It took 15 years’ worth of attempts to reach out to Bartlett Hills to get Finley to resign, according to the women and their advocates. Bartlett Hills leaders maintain that the two women were adults when the incidents took place.

Finley’s wife, Donna, told the Star-Telegram there had been no more than kissing and that both women were adults. She said her husband would not comment and provided the name of his lawyer, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

If you take the time to read the feature story about the allegations against Finely (written by Sarah Smith), you will learn that numerous church officials, pastors, and denominational leaders knew of Finley’s transgressions. Some of them did nothing, while others tried to draw attention to Finley’s inappropriate behavior. Both women have filed reports with the Fort Worth Police Department. I suspect that the age of the alleged crimes will preclude criminal prosecution.

Recently, Finley’s wife, Donna, said:

I can tell you for certain it was no more than kissing. She should be over this. She cannot live her life trying to destroy my husband.

Spoken like a true Southern Baptist. Jesus forgives and so should you. After all, he didn’t fuck you, so how bad could it have been for you? Time to move on! And that is exactly what the victims are trying to do; but in doing so, they want to hold Finley accountable for his behavior; behavior that likely includes other women who have not yet dared to speak of that which was done to them in secret.

Evangelical Pastor Dean Curry Faces More Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor dean curry

If you have not read my previous post on Dean Curry, please do so.

The News Tribune reports that Dean Curry, the former pastor of Life Center Assembly of God in Tacoma, Washington, is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct. Additionally the News Tribune story says that a former church board member, Julee Dilley, has filed formal complaints against Curry with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Rights Commission.

Dilly’s complaint details three incidents involving three female church members:

  •  An ongoing relationship with a married church member that turned physical.
  • An incident involving another married church member being visited by Curry late at night, discovered by the woman’s husband.
  • A female administrative employee who spoke of uncomfortable conversations with Curry that included comments on her appearance and discussions of his intimate relations with his wife.

Curry, of course, indignantly and with all the self-righteousness of Jesus cleansing the temple, denies these recent allegations. Curry stated:

More outrageous false accusations. Saddened to see some are opportunistically trying to hinder the forward work of the ministry. I categorically deny all of it.

One, two, three, six. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Evangelical Pastor Art Azurdia Fired Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor art azurdia

Art Azurdia, Calvinistic pastor of Trinity Church of Portland in Portland, Oregon was recently fired over sexual misconduct allegations. The church released the following public statement:

On Sunday, June 24, the elders of Trinity Church of Portland received an accusation that Art Azurdia has been in a sexually immoral relationship with a woman from outside of Trinity Church. The elders of Trinity Church, after an initial investigation, confronted Art with the accusation. Art admitted to the immorality. He also admitted to a previous sexually immoral relationship. Based on these facts and the biblical qualifications required of an elder (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), the elders have removed Art Azurdia as Senior Minister of Word and Worship at Trinity Church, as an elder, and from all pastoral ministry at Trinity Church. We grieve the shame this brings to the Gospel and the sorrow it brings to God’s people.

Pulpit & Pen, lamenting the fall of one of their own, had this to say about Azurdia:

Many thousands have been blessed by the preaching of Art Azurdia, especially in circles that are considered to be more theologically sound. Along with his role of pastor at the church he planted, Trinity Church, Azurdia also served as a professor of theology at Western Seminary and taught homiletics.

Azurdia is from the San Francisco Bay Area, and attended California State University where he got a degree in music. He received his M. Div. from The American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley , California and his Doctorate in Ministry from Westminster Seminary in California. Prior to planting Trinity Church, he had served another congregation for nearly twenty years.  Azurdia founded the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary. His preaching became very popular around 2007-2008 and many know him from clips played on Wretched Radio and elsewhere.

Evangelical Pastor Mark Darling Resigns Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor mark darlingMark Darling, pastor of Evergreen Church in Bloomington, Minnesota — a multi-campus megachurch — recently resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct. The church commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations against Darling. While the church has not made the results of this investigation public, it did rescind Darling’s ordination.

According to Fox-9 News, the investigators concluded that Darling engaged in what the church calls “inappropriate conduct.”  The investigation also revealed that assistant pastor Mark Bowen was aware seventeen years ago of at least two other women who had similar concerns about Darling, but failed to inform the church board of their allegations. Bowen was forced to give up his seat on the board of trustees. He remains part of the church’s pastoral staff.

The woman at the center of this scandal is Suzanne van Dyck, a former church employee. Van Dyck’s husbands was also on Evergreen’s pastoral staff. You can read van Dyck’s compelling, heartbreaking story here.

Evergreen Church released a public statement regarding the investigation and its findings. It’s long and somewhat convoluted, but you can read it here. The statement says, in part:

Suzanne van Dyck’s individual allegations of sexual abuse by definition could not be substantiated.”

“While the investigation revealed that some pastors of Evergreen Church had seen the phrase ‘emotional sexual abuse’ prior to Suzanne van Dyck’s post on an online forum on January 24, 2018, the EC BOT first learned of Suzanne van Dyck’s specific allegation of physical sexual abuse by Mark Darling from a post she made on an online forum on January 24, 2018.”

“A second draft of this letter was shared with Mark Darling, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, and John van Dyck where the phrase ‘emotional sexual abuse’ was changed to ‘inappropriate sexual boundaries’”.

“In 2001, Mark Bowen was also aware of at least two other women who had concerns similar to Suzanne van Dyck’s about Mark Darling’s conduct as a pastor (inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature). (In 2001, apart from Mark Bowen (Chair of the EC BOT), the other members of the EC BOT were not aware of the concerns raised by Suzanne van Dyck and these other women regarding Mark Darling’s conduct and were not informed of the concerns.”

“From the investigator’s report ‘ECC failed to take appropriate action in response to misconduct allegations.’”

“In 2001, the four Evergreen pastors, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson and John van Dyck made aware of Susan van Dyck’s concerns about Mark Darling’s conduct acknowledged those concerns, and engaged with Mark Darling in a process  (Matthew 18) over the course of several months in a good faith effort to address her concerns, but failed to follow through and implement appropriate corrective action regarding Mark Darling’s conduct (conduct that failed to meet some of the standards spelled out in Titus 1:6-9 See Note C below).”

“From the investigator’s report: ‘ECC has no policies or procedures specific to reporting or receiving discipline’ for the misconduct attributed to Mark Darling.”

“The investigator concluded this severance agreement did not constitute ‘hush money’ or an attempt to cover up the allegations Suzanne van Dyck made in 2001.”

“From the Investigator’s report “the investigation does support the fact that Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct…’Specifically, this conduct included spending time alone with women in private settings and inappropriate conversations with women of a sexual nature.’”

“The EC BOT rescinds Mark Darling’s ordination. He will not regain his status as an ordained pastor nor return from leave until the EC BOT and an outside third-party, acting on behalf of EC BOT, determine that he is ready to do so.”

“The church has been informed that Mark Darling has resigned.”  “Mark Bowen will step down as EC BOT chair.”

“Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will participate in and oversee the development and implementation of policies and organizational deficiencies revealed in the investigation.”

“The EC BOT will retain Ms. Harris’ law firm, Olgetree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., to assist with the development of the appropriate policies and reporting procedures.”

“The EC BOT with third-party assistance will work with the pastors to develop procedures to address pastoral accountability, performance, improvement planning and discipline.”

“The EC BOT with third party assistance will work with the pastors to develop a ‘grievance process’ and specific ways we can further open communications and improve the culture of safety in our church”

 

Evangelical Pastor Dean Curry Fired Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor dean curry

Dean Curry, pastor of Life Center Assembly of God in Tacoma, Washington, has been fired over sexual misconduct allegations. Curry denies the allegations leveled against him by a former church employee:

My relationship with Assembly of God has been fractured. This woman accused me of behavior that would have amounted to adultery if it were true.

I have been falsely and wrongly accused [adding that a continuing investigation of his conduct would show] no damaging phone logs, no compromising emails or text messages.

Pastors come and go, and this one is going, and you have to keep doing your Jesus thing. I’m not going to allow myself to be bitter toward my accuser. I’m 50 years old and I’ve got a lot of living to do.

The Northwest Ministry Network issued the following statement:

The Northwest Ministry Network was informed of allegations involving the conduct of Pastor Dean Curry, the Senior Pastor of Life Center Church in Tacoma, Washington. Pastor Curry is a credentialed ordained minister with the General Council of the Assemblies of God located in Springfield, MO and The Northwest Ministry Network in Snoqualmie, WA. The Northwest Ministry Network takes allegations of wrongdoing or violations of ministerial ethics seriously. We consider these issues to be ecclesiastical matters under our governance within our biblical purview.

After a thorough investigation of the allegations, the Northwest Ministry Network Executive Presbytery, having received the testimony of two or more witnesses and acting in their role as the Ministerial Relations Committee, has unanimously recommended dismissal of Pastor Curry to the General Council of the Assemblies of God. This recommendation requests that Pastor Curry’s credentials with the Assemblies of God be terminated for violating prescribed standards of ministerial conduct, and he be listed as a dismissed minister of the Assemblies of God. This recommendation is within the Northwest Ministry Network’s purview as per Article X of the Assemblies of God General Council bylaws.

Given the sensitive nature of the allegations, and because the process regarding Pastor Curry’s credentials is ongoing, the Northwest Ministry Network will not be discussing the details of the allegations publicly. As such, there will be no further comment at this time. The General Council of the Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery will decide what to do with our recommendation and the allegations regarding Pastor Curry and his status as a credentialed ordained Assemblies of God minister.

On July 2, 2018, The News Tribune reported:

The accusation that led to his dismissal wasn’t the first Curry has faced, according to multiple sources, including people with ties to local Life Center leadership.

Those individuals told The News Tribune that Curry had been accused of misconduct with female employees and other women in the past, and the church board had investigated the claims. Curry continued to lead the church after those inquiries, sources said, adding that some members disapproved of the board’s approach.

The News Tribune could not confirm those claims independently.

Curry hinted at past allegations during his Sunday speech. He offered no specifics.

“My integrity, character and reputation are everything,” he said. “And these last few months and even years before, all three of those things have been challenged, and I intend to continue to fight to maintain all three of those things.”

On July 1, 2018, the church released the following public statement:

Life Center church is governed by 15 board members; comprised of women and men who have been nominated and elected by our voting members. As such, we are responsible for the selection and oversight of the senior pastor, for church policy, administration of church finances and the general well-being of the church. We don’t manage the day-to-day operations but serve as your representatives to be the governing authority of the church. This is both a privilege and a responsibility we take very seriously and devote countless hours to.

As a church with membership in the Assemblies of God denomination we are subject to another governing authority structure—namely the NW Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God (sometimes referred to as the “NW District” office), and ultimately, the denominational headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. Of course, our highest allegiance is to God, whom we serve above all.

One role of the board is to consider accusations, which we have done in the past, which may come against a pastor in accordance with Scriptural teaching. Indeed, the biblical standards laid out for this board and pastors are quite high, and we have a responsibility to require adherence to them by our pastors and to carry out discipline when and where they are questioned.

Dean Curry has been Life Center’s pastor for 14 years. Under his leadership, Life Center has solidified its place in the 253 as a place of hope. Countless people in the region have encountered Jesus because of the ministry of Dean Curry and Life Center Church.

A few weeks ago, we learned about an accusation against Dean that was brought to the NW District office (not Life Center nor the church board) by a former employee who felt Dean had acted physically inappropriately toward her. The accuser presented her accusation directly to the NW District office, which in turn notified Dean. Dean immediately notified the Life Center board. Based on the allegations we as a board requested a thorough investigation or substantiation of claims brought to the District, but unfortunately we have not been presented with written details of the formal charge. We have only been told what was presented to the District office.

Then, on June 21st the NW District office presented the Life Center church board with their plan to recommend to the national office in Springfield that Dean be dismissed as an ordained Assemblies of God minister. This has immediate ramifications for Life Center because our bylaws require that our Senior Pastor be a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God denomination. Due to the nature of Life Center’s bylaws the board has dismissed Dean as our Senior Pastor. In this process we have no other choice then to adhere to the decision of the NW District in this matter at this time.

We have raised concerns about the thoroughness of the investigative process used by our denominational officers from the NW District. For an allegation as serious as this and the gravity of the potential outcomes (for all involved) the lack of extensive discovery, review, objectivity and transparency leads us to question the validity of the Northwest District office’s process. That being said we submit to their authority as our governing body.

While we may disagree with the NW District’s process, we do believe that all people (women and men) deserve to be heard. As a board we care deeply for each and every person that steps foot on a Life Center campus. The Life Center staff and board are here to listen, here to support and here to help those who are hurting and/or in need. The team has put in place clear policies and protections for employees who have experienced hurt in the workplace as everyone’s story matters. As a board we are here to help ensure that Life Center remains a place of HOPE in the 253.

Finally, we remain committed to Life Center Church and her mission in the city and greater community. Dean has always been careful to remind us this is not his church and it is not our church—it’s a Jesus church, and we reaffirm that. As a board with governance responsibility for this church, we are determined to guide us through this challenging season in the long history of Life Center. Specifically, that means we’ll be doing the following:

Praying for all involved. Praying for wisdom and God’s guidance as we navigate perhaps the most challenging season in our distinguished history.

Searching for an interim pastor.

Providing strategic support to all Life Center staff and campuses.

Reviewing our options to ensure our internal systems and policies and guidelines protect both pastors and staff and provide a healthy work environment in which men and women can function effectively in a way that honors and respects both. We updated such guidelines four years ago and will continue to conduct reviews to ensure they remain effective.

Developing a strategy and plan for Life Center Church’s future.

Communicating with you all in a more frequent way as we have more information.

Let’s be people of prayer and harmony and fidelity to God’s Word and trust Him to lead us in accordance with His plans. Thank you for listening and praying with us.

On July 2,2018 Curry released the following statement:

There is no witness to this accusation. None The NW district is using bureaucratic words to defend their rash judgment. Misleadingly, they have used a completely unrelated situation, dismissed years ago to justify their statement. I have appealed to the National office of the Assemblies of God and await their input. My optimism is high and I’m grateful for all the love and support.

I am sure there is much more to come in the days ahead about Curry’s alleged misconduct. As far as I currently know, Curry has not been accused of criminal behavior, so this story is not a Black Collar Crime story.

Here’s a taste of Curry’s preaching.Curry shares why he is a anti-LGBT, anti-same sex marriage. Let me translate: We love you, but unless you repent of your non-heterosexuality you will go straight to Hell. Now, Curry doesn’t say that, but he sure as Heaven believes it. Why? Cuz it is in the B-i-b-l-e.

Video Link

Several people have I objected to my characterization of Curry’s view on LGBT people and human sexuality. The following video should silence my critics. I hope regular readers will take the time to listen to Curry’s sermon. If you make it to the end of Curry’s sermon, you will hear him several times equate atheism to homosexuality. Let me know what you think in the comment section.

Video Link

Black Collar Crime: Sex Crimes Abound at The Church of Jesus Christ in South Haven, Michigan

black collar crime

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 McGehee, youth pastor for The Church of Jesus Christ is South Haven, Michigan, stands accused of sexual misconduct with a fifteen-year-old church boy.

The Chicago Times reports:

McGehee is accused of sending naked pictures and videos of himself to a then-15-year-old boy. He also is accused of soliciting nude photographs and videos of the teen, engaging in kissing and touching and offering the teen alcohol. The activity took place for approximately a year beginning in January 2017, the documents state.

Authorities said the victim told investigators “that this touching made him uncomfortable, but he just accepted it.”

The boy also told investigators he was told to keep quiet about his relationship with McGehee by Westmoreland and others, according to the charging documents. He also told investigators McGehee “used to be gay” and was away in rehab. He said McGehee set up a private Snapchat account to exchange photos and videos.

According to news reports, McGehee’s father-in-law — pastor of The Church of Jesus Christ, McGehee’s wife and father were aware of his alleged sexual misconduct with the boy. Not only were they aware of this incident, they were also aware of similar conduct when McGehee was at another church in Tennessee.

valerie clabaugh

Last week, church member Valerie Clabaugh was charged with having sex with a fifteen-year-old church boy. The Chicago Tribune reports:

A 29-year-old South Haven, Indiana, woman has been charged with having sex with a 15-year-old boy in what is expected to be a growing case linked to churches in South Haven and Michigan.

Valerie Clabaugh is charged with a felony count of sexual misconduct with a minor, according to court records.

….

The boy reportedly told police he and Clabaugh had sex multiple times at her home on Capitol Road in South Haven last summer when she was 28.

The incidents came to light when the boy’s mother reported it to police and said her former husband had been dating Clabaugh until their son became involved with her, according to charging information.

….

Leaders at the churches reportedly told police they were advised of some type of relationship between Clabaugh and the boy, and responded by telling them to “knock it off” and washed their hands of the incident, according to court documents.

An investigator said the claim is contrary to text messages he read from Clabaugh’s cellphone, which said a leader at the Michigan church was attempting to persuade the boy’s mother not to go to police.

Clabaugh’s phone also contained messages from others in the church who allegedly knew about the sexual relationship and who were encouraging Clabaugh “not to speak with the police and that investigations such as this one are hard to prove,” according to charging information.

The phone also contained text messages alleging another coverup in the church of an adult sending nude photographs to an underage boy, according to charging information.

Randy Westmorland, pastor of The Church of Jesus Christ, allegedly knew about these allegations and did not report them. He now faces two misdemeanor charges for failing to report.

The underlying story in the McGehee case is the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ believes that homosexuality is a sin. This is why McGehee was sent away to get “fixed.” Evidently, the “fix” didn’t take.  The Chicago Times reports:

“Pastor Randy advised that Michael has had problems (homosexual activity, which is a sin in their religion) in the past,” document state, and that Westmoreland preaches weekly against homosexuality.

Westmoreland also told investigators he told McGehee “not to attempt to make (the victim) gay.”

The Church of Jesus Christ has no web or social media presence. I have, however, been able to discern by looking at their building and those of churches they are affiliated with, that the church believes it is the “true” church of Jesus, founded AD 33.