Christ Community Chapel Releases Abuse Report, Pastor Tom Randall Forced to Resign over Fake Emails

click to enlarge Christ Community Chapel Releases Abuse Report, Pastor Tom Randall Forced to Resign over Fake Emails (2)
Illustration by Tom Carlson
Pastor Tom Randall, the subject of a Scene investigative story last week, has resigned from Christ Community Chapel (CCC), a nondenominational Christian church based in Hudson.

A 27-page report produced by former FBI agent and current CCC member Suzanne Lewis-Johnson revealed that during her review of sexual abuse allegations at Sankey Samaritan Orphanage, the children's home Randall founded in the Philippines, she discovered Randall had falsified an email corroborating his version of events. (This finding was consistent with the Truth Seeker blog, which has covered the Sankey case and reported on July 27 that Randall appeared to be "ghostwriting" under his supporters' names.)

Once Randall's email falsification was discovered by CCC leadership, the church's "elders" — its board of directors, essentially — asked that Randall tender his resignation on June 3 for his "clear violation of pastoral ethics."

Randall has not been on staff at CCC, in other words, for two months, (a fact that CCC did not share with Scene during our reporting.) On July 15, when Scene told CCC that we were working on a story about the case and requested an interview with Joe Coffey and Tom Randall, CCC's Executive Director of Operations, Stacey DiNardo, told Scene that "it would be most productive to address you meeting with Joe and/or Tom after they learn the outcome of the review." More than a month after his supposed resignation date, there was no indication that Randall was no longer on staff.

Lewis-Johnson's report was distributed on Tuesday, July 27. CCC lead pastor Joe Coffey told church members at a congregational meeting Sunday that the report was not a response to Scene's article last week or coverage in the Akron Beacon-Journal Sunday, but rather was the fulfillment of a promise that the church made to its members back in September, 2018 to more thoroughly investigate the case.

The report's findings, while incomplete, were nevertheless an indictment of Randall's account and CCC's wholesale adoption of it. Lewis-Johnson drew the same conclusion that local advocates have been pointing out for years: Randall's statements about abuse at Sankey and events preceding and following his detention in the Philippines included "significant inconsistencies."

"CCC leadership simply regurgitated what Randall had said," the report found, "and were inconsistent with the established record... For too long, church leadership's belief in Randall was almost blind. As a result Randall's spending and directives went essentially unchecked. Because he brought a reputation and significant assets to CCC, he essentially spent funds freely."

The report found, among other things, that while Randall and his nonprofit World Harvest Ministries were Sankey's primary benefactors, Randall held no legal position at the orphanage. CCC, then, had no legal responsibility to pay for the legal representation and jail bonds of two Filipino workers — Toto Luchavez and Jake Luchavez, Tom Randall's good friend and godson, respectively — who were accused of sexually abusing the orphans. The report found that despite the case's dismissal in Filipino courts, abuse likely occurred at Sankey. It also found that Randall was continuing to wire funds to an account in the Philippines accessible by Toto Luchavez.

"That was inexcusable and indefensible," Joe Coffey said at Sunday's meeting. (Though evidently not grounds for dismissal. Revelations about Randall's financial activity were reportedly made in "early 2019." Randall wasn't asked to resign until June, according to the report's timeline, and for an unrelated pastoral offense.)

At the Sunday meeting and in a recorded statement, Coffey apologized for using Randall as his primary source of information about the case.

"Tom believed the Filipino workers were innocent, so I believed the Filipino workers were innocent," he said. "I thought the review would bear that out. It didn't. That means I made, and ultimately led many of you to make, the horrible mistake of discrediting an accuser. That was wrong, and I am really sorry."

Coffey said that CCC was now taking steps to reach out to the orphans, to apologize to them and "help them heal." Additionally, the church would be working to develop more stringent protocols for their ministries around the world and assessing their policies at home to ensure that children at CCC were safe and protected.

He also said that the case had heightened CCC's awareness of its own members who might be in need of healing and restoration after experiences with abuse. To that end, CCC would be setting up support groups, Coffey said.

Several of the local advocates who have been sounding the alarm about the Sankey case attended the meeting Sunday and sat in the front row. One of them, Sarah Klingler, said on Twitter that they were "not impressed, in fact disgusted," with Coffey's remarks.

"Why would you think survivors would want to come to your support groups?" She said. "You haven't proven yourself safe."

In a statement provided to Scene, Klingler said that while many important details were published in the internal review by Suzanne Lewis-Johnson, its scope was by no means wide enough.

"She shared critical details about Toto and Jake, as well as Tom Randall himself," she wrote, "but the leadership was not held accountable in this report."

That includes Coffey, who in his recorded message apologized for using Randall as his primary source and for "blindly trusting Tom because of [their] history together." But in correspondence with former CCC member Cari Gintz in 2018, Coffey strenuously and preemptively denied that precise charge. He claimed that his understanding of the case was not based on loyalty to Tom. Indeed, he said he'd spent "hundreds of hours" personally reviewing the case.

And please do not say to yourself, 'Oh, Joe’s loyalty has clouded his judgement' until you have spent the hundreds of hours I have spent with this and until you talk to the one person who is right here who knows more than anyone else about [the various aspects of the case, i.e. Tom].  Google Joe Mauk and then google Tom Randall and tell me who has been maligned. We haven’t said or written anything about Joe Mauk since my first blog back in 2013 which I took down within the week. Joe Mauk has posted literally hundreds of things about Tom (including making fun of Tom riding a unicycle for ministry) and about me and about the church to try to discredit us. Miriam posted that we sit under a “glittering dome of lies.” What lies? What is a single lie we have told about any of this? 

Klingler said that one of the missing aspects of Suzanne Lewis-Johnson's review was the way that individuals from the community were treated when they approached CCC leaders with concern.

"They were belittled at best and vilified and spiritually harmed at worst," she wrote. 

Advocate and CCC member Amanda Crist said that she was satisfied with many aspects of the report, especially the detailed explanation of the ways abuse works and methods for safe disclosure. She also appreciated Lewis-Johnson's investigative rigor in uncovering the wire transfers that went directly from CCC (via Randall) to Toto Luchavez.

"Overall, I think Suzanne has given a baseline of facts in the Philippines that indicate we need to examine this further," Crist wrote in an email to Scene. "I applaud the church for turning over key pieces of information which they could have withheld. I do not believe she examined the full extent of the church's role and I do believe there's more that's hidden. Other orphanages connected to the church should also be reviewed. GRACE should be brought in to examine this further and to provide recommendations."

Cari Gintz, for her part, called the presentation of the review a "PR stunt." She said a friend of hers had predicted that Tom Randall would be thrown under the bus so that the rest of CCC could escape unscathed. She also said that Coffey’s use of the word “accusers” instead of “victims” to describe the orphans in the Philippines was a subtle but important distinction. Gintz, Klingler and Crist all cited the fact that the accusations of sexual grooming against Tom Randall by the Mauk daughters — Priscilla Leighton and Miriam Bongolan — were not addressed in the report.

Leighton told Scene she was "deeply disappointed" that the review failed to address these allegations, which have now been published in two venues.

"CCC has not acknowledged my existence," she said. "Perhaps they will claim ignorance yet again."

Klingler wrote, in conclusion, that she thought CCC's new program for abuse survivors was the wrong approach.

"I think the church needs a time of repentance, introspection and a serious deep-dive look into what kind of toxic culture allowed these events to transpire," she wrote. "Had they simply listened to concerns of multiple individuals over all these years, there would be no need to even be having this discussion today."