Christ Community Chapel says review by member underway, no public statement

Truth Seeker
Mar 12 · 7 min read
“Smoke Creatures” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Georgie Sharp

Update: CCC has now released a public statement from Suzanne Lewis-Johnson on their website.


In my last post, I reviewed the statements Christ Community Chapel made in the wake of sexual abuse allegations at an orphanage founded by one of their pastors, Tom Randall. Their response included a round of applause for the accused orphanage workers being out on bail. Nothing was said about the victims making the allegations.

In August 2014, Joe Coffey tweeted that all charges had been dropped and the raid deemed unjustified. This was not true, and it’s the last public statement I can find from the church (I had asked for a statement for my last article but the church preferred not to make one). But on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Joe Coffey sent a statement internally to church members. It’s quite enlightening.

The “independent investigation” is now a “review”

The statement opens with:

In September 2018, Christ Community Chapel’s leadership team and board of elders initiated a review into the 2013 allegations of abuse at Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in Lucena City, Philippines in addition to the organizational response to the allegations.

Note that now what the church is doing is a “review”, not an “investigation”. Compare to Joe Coffey’s email to a concerned church member on November 15, 2018:

We also have asked a group of trained professionals (men and women trained in human trafficking and law enforcement) to conduct an independent investigation into everything …

Jim Colledge (CCC founding pastor) and Jim Gaul (CCC elder) wrote to this same concerned church member on December 17, 2018:

The elders are asking you to respect both his [Tom Randall’s] privacy and the process of the independent investigation that is being done presently.

Last week, on March 8, 2019, Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch called the church’s bluff:

However, I’ve been told that some believe that one of the directors of Rahab Ministries, Suzanne Lewis-Johnson, a former FBI agent, is conducting the inquiry. If this is true, she is not doing it *for the FBI.* Also, she cannot be independent since her ministry receives funds from CCC and the Sankey Family Foundation. This would be a conflict of interest and any investigation would not be considered independent. …

… If this investigation is being undertaken by anyone associated with Rahab Ministries, it is a biased investigation and useless.

The timing of this backtracking is more than a little suspicious.

Coffey admits the church received inquiries from the beginning but only began their “review” in 2018

Coffey admits the church received concerned inquiries “as the legal process proceeded”(2014–2016) and after:

As the legal process proceeded in the Philippines and even after the last of the charges were provisionally dismissed in 2016, CCC continued to receive questions from concerned individuals regarding the case which prompted the initiation of this review. CCC desires transparency and truth in addition to our commitment to pursuing justice and mercy, especially for society’s most vulnerable.

Yet the review was only initiated in September 2018. They claim to “desire transparency and truth”, but if that is the case, why did it take so long to initiate a review? This investigation/review has ostensibly been going for nearly six months now. I have heard from numerous witnesses around the world — and none have been interviewed by CCC. If the church were really seeking transparency and truth, why have they not spoken to the whistleblowers and witnesses? Remember that in June 2014, Joe Coffey flatly refused to meet with Joe Mauk.

The person conducting the review is a CCC member

Finally, the church admits who is doing their “review” — a member of CCC:

The person conducting the review is Suzanne Lewis-Johnson. Suzanne is a member of CCC who has served ten years as a federal investigator of child exploitation and human trafficking cases before her involvement with RAHAB Ministries. RAHAB is a ministry that works to fight against human trafficking in Akron and the surrounding areas.

Lewis-Johnson is a former FBI agent, which explains why some are claiming the “investigation” is being done by “FBI”. A twisting of words, to be sure.

On RAHAB ministry’s partners page are listed Sankey Family Foundation — for which the orphanage was named — and Christ Community Chapel. RAHAB’s 2016 board (see page 7 of their 990) included Brian Moore, an elder at Christ Community Chapel. (He may no longer be on the board; I can’t find more recent 990s.) On June 18, 2018, Christ Community Chapel hosted an event called “Rahab | A Night Of Worship & Prayer”. One of the organizers was the wife of a CCC elder. Yet Joe Coffey claims:

Her review is being conducted without influence or involvement by any CCC staff member or elder.

This is especially interesting given Jim Colledge’s admonishment on January 4, 2019, to a member who dared to suggest the abuse charges might have substance:

It is not the intent of the elders to address anything related to the events and alleged charges that may or may not linger in the Philippines. Our desire is to address your position and understanding of leadership and governance of Christ Community Chapel and your willingness to (abide) by the membership covenant that you affirmed when you became a member of this local church. … Your demonstration of mistrust and disrespect for the spiritual leadership of Christ Community Chapel is astounding.

Suzanne Lewis-Johnson is a member of CCC. Is she not also required to “trust” and “respect” the leadership’s prior judgement?

Remind you of anything?

Recall that when Willow Creek initially heard the allegations against Bill Hybels, they delayed for a year and then engaged a law firm that specialized in representing management to do an “investigation”. The victims and advocates rightly said that this firm did not have the knowledge or expertise to handle the dynamics of sexual abuse and abuse of pastoral authority. Furthermore, a firm retained by the church with background in representing executives was clearly not in a position to be independent.

We see something even more egregious here — after five years, the church engages… a member of the church under investigation! Yet Coffey’s statement asks:

If you have firsthand information or documentation that is pertinent to this situation, we encourage you to contact Suzanne at facts4review@gmail.com [ed: a later email corrected this email address to records4review@gmail.com]

He should not be surprised if victims and advocates choose not to participate in such an investigation.


The full statement is reproduced below:

Dear CCC Family,

The following is a brief update regarding the 2013 allegations of abuse at Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in the Philippines and the current action that we are taking. We wanted you to receive this directly from me, and to know that we are available for any questions or concerns.

Seeking to make Jesus famous,

Joe

In September 2018, Christ Community Chapel’s leadership team and board of elders initiated a review into the 2013 allegations of abuse at Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in Lucena City, Philippines in addition to the organizational response to the allegations.

Sankey Samaritan was funded by World Harvest Ministries, which became a ministry of CCC in 2014. As the legal process proceeded in the Philippines and even after the last of the charges were provisionally dismissed in 2016, CCC continued to receive questions from concerned individuals regarding the case which prompted the initiation of this review. CCC desires transparency and truth in addition to our commitment to pursuing justice and mercy, especially for society’s most vulnerable. Also, CCC desires to know if there are ways in which we could have better-pursued justice in this situation to determine responsibility and seek to best honor Christ through our organizational conduct.

The person conducting the review is Suzanne Lewis-Johnson. Suzanne is a member of CCC who has served ten years as a federal investigator of child exploitation and human trafficking cases before her involvement with RAHAB Ministries. RAHAB is a ministry that works to fight against human trafficking in Akron and the surrounding areas. Her review is being conducted without influence or involvement by any CCC staff member or elder. If you have firsthand information or documentation that is pertinent to this situation, we encourage you to contact Suzanne at facts4review@gmail.com [ed: a later email corrected this email address to records4review@gmail.com].

We are grateful to Attorney Martinez, the attorney involved in the criminal case in the Philippines, for graciously allowing Suzanne access to legal documentation connected to the case, including affidavits, investigative reports, and court documents. We are also profoundly grateful to those both here in Northeast Ohio and around the world who continue to fight tirelessly for justice and mercy for the vulnerable. When Suzanne completes her review, her findings will be released. Until that time we do not plan to speak publicly regarding this situation. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to ask them, and we welcome the opportunity for conversation. Please contact Stacey.DiNardo@ccchapel.com with any questions or concerns.



I try hard to check facts and link to sources in my posts. If you find an error, please let me know so I can make a correction. You can reach me at truth.arr@gmail.com.

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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

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