Illustration by Tom Carlson
Tom Randall and his flock.
After more than a year since their last update, elders at the Hudson megachurch Christ Community Chapel issued a statement
to congregants last week that attempts to close the book on the international sex abuse scandal
in which they've been embroiled for the better part of a decade.
The statement arrives after renewed efforts
by local advocates to publicize the lingering questions in the case and to solicit calls for a third-party investigation into CCC's handling of it.
From the CCC statement: "We believe that we have done all that we reasonably can to acknowledge any wrongdoing, seek forgiveness, pursue healing, make corrections as necessary and through this grow to be more effective servants of Christ for His kingdom."
The elders provided a number of updates on the church's actions since a 2019 internal review found that physical and sexual abuse occurred at the Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in the Philippines. That orphanage was founded by master dissembler and B-list Christian celebrity Tom Randall
, who was then in CCC's employ. It was funded by Randall's nonprofit, World Harvest Ministries, which was folded into CCC in 2014.
Since the internal review, CCC says it has made strides in four "areas of brokenness": providing care and support for the victims in the Philippines, many of whom are now adults; auditing nearly $3 million in World Harvest funds; reconciling with local advocates whose sustained outcry led to Scene's 2019 investigation
; and updating CCC protocols around the safety of minors.
The elders — akin to a corporation's board of directors — said that CCC has sent more than $100,000 to cover the costs of housing, education and care for more than 30 orphans who were living at Sankey in 2013.
On the financial front, the elders reaffirmed what was announced last year
. Of the roughly $3 million in World Harvest funds, only about $500,000 remained after a million-dollar renovation of CCC's Aurora campus, a $400,000 renovation of the Block student ministry building and Randall's extravagant expenditures in the Philippines from 2014-2019, including legal expenses for the Sankey managers accused of abuse and "hush money" for the orphans to keep them from testifying.
The CCC elders agreed to divvy up the remaining World Harvest money between two local ministries with which they'd worked in the past, Restore Addiction Recovery and RAHAB Ministries.
As Scene reported last year, RAHAB Ministries is an organization founded by Suzanne Lewis-Johnson, the same woman who conducted CCC's internal review of the Sankey scandal.
As for reconciliation with the local advocates, those efforts reached an impasse last year when the advocates refused to sign non-disclosure agreements as a precondition for reconciliation talks.
The third-party conciliator CCC hired was a woman named Judy Dabler, who a Christian blog
recently wrote "has reliably defended ministries against legitimate complaints." Among her more notable achievements was serving as the ombudsmen for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. In that role she deflected complaints against Zacharias, a major Evangelical author and speaker who died in 2020, before a massive sexual abuse scandal brought down him and his brand.
CCC was insistent on using Dabler to facilitate the reconciliation, however.
"While the Leadership at CCC was willing to sign the NDA, the advocates were not interested in engaging in the process with the conciliator," the recent statement read. "CCC Leadership desires healed relationships with all involved in this matter... We desire to live peaceably and furthermore pray that God continues to move in this situation to bring us to that place."
In an email to Scene, the advocates said they took issue with a number of the elements in the statement, including the ongoing "nastiness and resentment" that they've experienced from CCC leadership through the scandal and its fallout. They also clarified information about the World Harvest funds, saying that it didn't just fall into CCC's lap in 2014.
"The elder board decided to accept this money and concealed it from the rest of the church until it became broadly known to CCC members in 2019," [due to Scene's reporting and the internal review.] "And how well did this money serve God's kingdom if hundreds of thousands of it were used to defend orphan molesters and buy the silence of the orphans from testifying against their abusers?"
The advocates also noted that of though money had indeed been sent to the Philippines to support many of the former Sankey orphans, it has not been made available to those survivors who were prepared to testify against Randall and the orphanage's Filipino managers.
"In summary, we Advocates are all tired of the gaslighting, half-truths, and outright lies from an organization that has the temerity to claim, 'We serve and exist to bring glory to the God of all justice and truth,'" the emailed statement read. "So, we will continue to advocate for real justice and truth to come about for the Sankey victims and for the Northeast Ohio Christian community whom CCC has abused and broken faith with through an independent third party investigation."
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