The following letter was sent via email to the Christ Community Chapel elders and leadership team on Jan 14, 2021.
Dear CCC Elders and Leadership,
We write to you now to renew a call to institutional courage that should have been answered seven years ago when allegations of abuse at Sankey Orphanage first came to light. Fifteen months ago, we offered to meet with you, but you have so far declined. You have apologized for failing to listen when CCC members, local believers, and Joe Mauk tried to warn you in 2014 of problems in your understanding about Sankey. If you wish you had listened then, then we ask you to believe us now when we tell you there is much more that needs to be addressed. We want to share with you our ongoing concerns in these areas:
We have not seen follow-through on your initial apologies and stated goal of reconciliation. On your website, you have said that we (advocates) are “not ready to engage in the reconciliation process with CCC.” We find this misleading. We have offered to meet with you–not under a legally binding mediation process, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, following a true biblical process. As you may have seen in the news recently, Ms. Dabler’s process was used at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, but according to inside reports, it has caused confusion and pain there. Best practices in the field of trauma-informed care do not use NDAs to protect one party with a reputation to maintain.
We have not seen the necessary action to support the Sankey victims. You reached out to Miriam Bongolan on August 7, 2019, and she told you that CCC needed to commission GRACE to perform a thorough investigation of the abuse allegations and an assessment of the victims. Again, if you wish you had listened to us earlier, please listen now: there is much more that went on at Sankey than has been uncovered so far. Although these victims are now adults and have families, we know that the impact on the development and wholeness of adults who have survived trauma in an institutionally abusive environment is lifelong and transgenerational. Specialist help is needed to provide a Christ-centered perspective and develop healthy next steps for healing.
We have not seen accountability applied to Tom Randall. You had received compelling evidence that he exhibited grooming behaviors and even sexually abused a victim in the past. These behaviors were not addressed in Suzanne’s review. Furthermore, the survivor of Randall’s abuse asked you to commission GRACE to investigate these allegations. However, you ignored her request and washed your hands of Randall’s actions. The biblical approach to this situation would have been to investigate these allegations with the victims and to publicly rebuke Randall before the church for gross sexual misconduct (1 Cor 5:4-5). Instead, you allowed him to resign quietly for “falsifying emails”. As a result of your abrogation of responsibility to discipline a fallen pastor, he has restarted his “ministry” under a new organization and in a new location, continues to deny his involvement in covering up abuse at Sankey, and continues to solicit donations for his “ministry”.
We have seen a lack of clarity as well as a conflict of interest in your accounting of World Harvest funds. We read your January 10, 2020 letter to members, but we were left with more questions than answers. How much of the $2,640,518 in World Harvest funds was used by Toto Luchavez to pressure the Sankey victims into silence, to further their trauma, and to drag out legal proceedings until the victims stopped showing up to court? You didn’t specify. Furthermore, according to your accounting, you sent $274,282 of World Harvest funds* to RAHAB ministries—a 251% increase from your prior year’s giving—in the same fiscal year you had their leader, Suzanne, review the Sankey documents. Do you not see how this calls into question the impartiality of Suzanne’s conclusions regarding the actions taken by Joe Coffey and the rest of CCC leadership (p26)? An investigation into Sankey must be free from even the appearance of undue influence, and it must include in scope the church’s actions from the beginning. This is how you will truly learn and move past Sankey.
We have not seen your stated desire to be a safe organization evidenced in practice. Safety cannot be manufactured through classes or conferences. A safe culture must be built with actions showing accountability, transparency, truth, and a desire to listen to every voice without partiality. But instead you have dismissed our offer to meet with you. You have chosen not to commission an independent investigation into CCC’s choices and actions these past seven years.
You said in a CCC member meeting that you only became aware of the Sankey orphan abuse 26 days earlier when you received Suzanne’s report. Yet we have documented and shared with you numerous instances where you were given evidence of the abuse at Sankey dating back to 2014 (Joe Coffey communication with Joe Mauk, Joe Coffey and Tom Randall interaction with Advocate in 2014). This approach shows institutional protectionism instead of frank honesty.
On top of that, more than one CCC member has experienced a dismissive attitude and in some cases spiritually abusive behavior by CCC leadership. This includes the first advocate who was expelled from her CCC community group, another advocate whom you summoned for a meeting before the entire elder board to discuss her “insubordination”, and a potential member who Joe Coffey personally invited to a meeting in September 2019 to discuss his concerns only to have the meeting subsequently cancelled by Stacey DiNardo for his refusal to first “reconcile” with CCC before a discussion even took place. To create a safe organization going forward, you must first address these past failures.
So how does CCC move past Sankey? We have detailed above some areas where we believe CCC has failed to take needed action, and we will summarize again.
First, we renew our call to you to commission an independent investigation into your handling of Sankey by GRACE and to perform an assessment of the trauma inflicted upon the Sankey victims still willing to speak. The Biblical basis for this call is to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:11)”
Second, we believe a long hard look at where CCC’s leadership has been compromised is necessary. This will be a painful process, but it is the only way to grow. All of CCC’s leaders must reflect on how CCC’s processes did not have sufficient safeguards to correct against deception and partiality within the leadership. Why was this the case? It may well be that those most central figures in this saga would benefit from a season of reflection, repentance, and restoration into fellowship with God without the pressures of leadership and weekly services. These actions are not a punishment—they are for the benefit and sound shepherding of both those who step away and those who stay.
Finally, we believe you should involve the entire CCC membership in reviewing the CCC constitution to make drastic changes in service of financial transparency and accountability of the lead pastor and elder board to the entire congregation. These structural checks could have saved you from Sankey. We urge you to put them in place now before something similar happens again.
It is our prayer and earnest desire that the best days of ministry at Christ Community Chapel, where every individual associated with the church feels safe and the culture of the organization is fully reflective of the character of Jesus Christ, lie in the future. We believe this is possible if you commission a GRACE independent investigation and follow their recommendations.
Miriam Bongolan, Jeff Chen, Jess Chen, Cari Gintz, Sarah Klingler, Joe Mauk, Laura Schauer, Melanie Wasson, Michael Wolfe
*Correction: The letter misstated the amount given to RAHAB ministries as $274,282 of World Harvest funds. The actual amount given, according to CCC’s annual report, was $274,024, and the annual report did not specify how much of this total was from World Harvest funds.