The Evangelical Machine That Protected Tom Randall — Until Now

“Gears” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by PMillera4

Note: If you are a church mentioned in this article and you would like to provide a statement regarding your role in this, please send it to and I will add it.

On Sunday, Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, Ohio, released the results of the internal review the church has been calling “independent”. The reviewer, CCC member Suzanne Lewis-Johnson, threw former pastor Tom Randall under the bus and praised church leaders for showing “transparency” and “humility”. Randall’s lies and deception were blamed for the church’s faulty response in 2014 and beyond.

The report confirmed some of what had already been suspected about what happened at Sankey Samaritan orphanage. Yes, multiple children were likely sexually abused by multiple orphanage staff. Yes, Christ Community Chapel transferred money to the Philippines to cover bail and legal fees for the alleged abusers. Yes, Christ Community Chapel continued to transfer money for an abuser’s use — and only stopped in “early 2019”.

But many more questions were left unanswered. The report completely omitted the allegations of molestation and grooming of underage girls by Tom Randall, and it omitted the many times Joe Coffey hid the truth (or the version of it that he allegedly believed at the time). Most notably, the review declined to hold anyone on CCC staff accountable for their negligence and complicity in refusing to listen to those who brought them evidence and in failing to vet Randall’s lies.

Tom Randall could never have gotten away with his deception for so long without help. He had plenty of it. Pastors and elders at Christ Community Chapel worked to prevent anyone from exposing Randall’s lies to the congregation. And around the country, Randall had a stable of high-profile pastors who were ready to lend him a platform and credibility.

Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH

Although omitted by Suzanne Lewis-Johnson’s report, much has been said about Christ Community Chapel’s role in helping Randall cover up the sexual abuse at Sankey. Let’s quickly review some of the main actors.

Joe Coffey, lead pastor.

Jim Colledge, founding pastor.

  • When a church member challenged Joe Coffey’s narrative in late 2018, Colledge wrote to summon her to an audience with the board of elders — not to re-examine the facts with respect to abuse at the orphanage but to address her “disrespect”.

Jim Gaul, chairman of the board of elders.

Chip Ingram, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram, CEO & Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, is probably the biggest name defending Tom Randall in recent months. Living on the Edge reported total revenues of over $7.4 million in 2017 and says it reaches 1 million people weekly.

Ingram was one of the first to give Randall a platform at his church. In June 2014, Ingram hosted Tom Randall as a guest speaker at Venture Church in Los Gatos, CA — not long after Miriam Bongolan and one of the victims gave an interview with their testimony in May 2014. Venture reported average weekly attendance of about 3,000 in 2017. Ingram introduced Randall as follows:

In this last year, he was a prisoner in the Philippines, unjustly charged, but in a horrendous situation. Tom and I go back literally thirty years. Tom and I played basketball together in 1976, and he went on a team to the Philippines, I went on one to South America. We’ve been close friends ever since. And Tom is what I call the Indiana Jones of Christianity. He is a crazy wild man with much faith. And because of that, God has used him in great way. You’re gonna hear some of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard in your life. But they’re stories not about Tom. They’re stories about grace, about God, and about freedom. Now let’s give a big Venture welcome to Tom Randall.

(Note: Venture appears to have taken down its videos of Randall, so I have linked to a backup copy. Randall spoke again at Venture three times in 2015 and once in 2017. Ingram stepped down as lead pastor in 2018 to focus on his other ministry work.)

In May 2019, Chip Ingram took to Twitter to defend Randall, replying to several threads in the afternoon on May 3:

  • Tom has been cleared of all charges and exonerated by the Philippine government as well as local officials. It’s unfortunate that rumors continue (2:37pm)
  • Tom has been cleared of all charges and exonerated by the Philippine government and by local officials. It’s unfortunate that these rumors continue (2:39pm)
  • Tom was exonerated by the local and federal government of any and all charges. It’s unfortunate that this rumor continues. The facts are that Tom did not and has not in anyway been a part of any abuse (2:42pm)
  • Hi Sarah, I don’t know you but I do want you to know that Tom was exonerated of all charges for the Philippine government as well as local officials. Others admitted later to falsely charging people in the orphanage. Some of us have done our homework (2:45pm)

Ingram received replies and follow-up questions from several individuals, many of whom he subsequently blocked. He has yet to respond to requests for an update.

Ravi Zacharias, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Ravi Zacharias is the founder and CEO of the eponymous Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, which in 2014 had a total revenue of over $24 million. RZIM has had a strong relationship with Christ Community Chapel in years past. In fact, RZIM was intending to hold its annual ReMind conference at Christ Community Chapel this week but recently postponed it. The Sankey Family Foundation, after which Tom Randall’s orphanage was named, gave over $2.2 million to RZIM in 2015, and over $4.3 million to Christ Community Chapel in 2011.

In April 2015, Zacharias spoke at Christ Community Chapel at a service that celebrated the connections between Randall and RZIM. When Randall was arrested in 2014, CCC lead pastor Joe Coffey contacted his friend and CCC member Sanj Kalra. Kalra had gotten involved with RZIM some time back, and Zacharias had connected him with Hayden Kho, a Filipino celebrity who, like Kalra, was recovering from a sex scandal. Kho ended up visiting Randall in NBI custody on Coffey’s request. Zacharias said:

That’s [Hayden Kho and Tom Randall’s stories] just an amazing orchestration that only God could have done. And when you hear that, you will know this was His doing. No human being could ever have conjured up this sequence of events and this connection of people to deal with an emergent situation when Tom was in the Philippines.

Zacharias has his own scandals at the moment, including an allegation of an extramarital online relationship as well as an allegation that he pressured a teenage girl, pregnant by Zacharias’s brother, to get an illegal abortion.

Churches lending Randall platform and credibility

One might have expected Tom Randall to have trouble finding speaking engagements after the Sankey abuse coverup allegations emerged. After all, credible and documented accounts from whistleblowers were available online, and a victim had even given an interview in English.

Not so. Randall spoke at many churches, including large and influential ones. For whatever reason, these churches chose not to listen to the victims and instead gave Randall a platform to spread a false narrative discrediting them. The cover these churches provided almost certainly helped Randall get away with his deception for as long as he did.

The Grove Bible Chapel / Harvest Bible Chapel Winter Garden — Windermere, FL

The Grove Bible Chapel, formerly Harvest Bible Chapel Winter Garden, hosted Tom Randall in Feb 2017, Feb 2018, and Feb 2019. Senior pastor Scott Pierre appears to be a longtime personal friend of Randall’s; he introduced Randall in 2018 with the following:

Listen, today is a privilege for me to introduce to you a friend who’s going to come and share God's word with us. A dear friend, a friend that I've known for over thirty years, and a man that has stood for the gospel of Jesus Christ in mighty ways and has influenced many and seen many come to know Jesus by faith and embraced him as their Lord. A man with a simple message, who loves Jesus and has this contagious spirit. And if you know him at all, and I think some of you do, you just see that. And you can't be around Tom — we call him Uncle Tom — you can't be around Tom without experiencing the joy of the Lord. A man that has sat and had dinners with presidents, has been a professional basketball player overseas, led the nation in scoring in the United States his senior year in college. All of these things that he has done, and served the Lord faithfully for over twenty five years in the Philippines as a missionary riding a unicycle and telling about Jesus Christ. I'm not going to steal all of his thunder. But let me just tell you, he is a dear friend. We love him, and I'm so grateful to have him here to share with us this morning.

Harvest Bible Chapel Winter Garden was affiliated with Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, a megachurch now reeling from the ouster of its senior pastor James MacDonald for grossly unethical financial and other practices, as well as a failure to adequately report sexual abuse of minors by youth pastor Paxton Singer. Pierre was previously pastor of a different Harvest affiliate, Harvest Bible Chapel Orlando, but for some reason he was asked to leave his position by the board of elders. James MacDonald, the now-disgraced senior pastor of Harvest in Chicago, stood by Pierre and helped him start a new Harvest campus.

With the name change, The Grove Bible Chapel appears to have cut ties with Harvest.

WestGate Church — San Jose, CA

WestGate Church, a multi-campus megachurch in the Bay Area, hosted Tom Randall in Oct 2015, Mar 2016, Nov 2016, Mar 2017, and Aug 2018 (they have since taken down the videos). The church has sent missions teams with World Harvest and profiled alleged abuser Toto Luchavez in August 2013:

It was as if I was with a celebrity: a white tee shirt and ripped-jeans-version of Mother Teresa, really. Not only does he walk around with an air of authority, but he also brings with him the feelings of hope and love. He never imagined this life for himself, but takes on each day purely because of the love God placed in his heart for the children at Sankey. You see Christ in the way he sacrificially loves these kids at the orphanage — every rule, reprimand, joke, and hug is because he loves them as Christ would.

Lead pastor Steve Clifford appears to be close friends with Tom Randall. He introduced Randall in March 2016 as follows:

I met Tom in 1982. We became fast friends. He’s been patient with my golf game, and I’ve been patient with his height. I normally don’t like tall people, but I’ve been really patient with him. Most importantly, Tom, for many years now, in my life, has been the living example of what it means to walk by faith. And I don’t say that because he’s here. I really do mean that. This man has been given the gift of faith, and he has modeled faith to me many, many times.

Church on the Hill / First Baptist Church of San Jose — San Jose, CA

Church on the Hill hosted Tom Randall in August 2018. It’s unclear how they’re connected — lead pastor Scott Simmerok’s introduction said:

Tom’s a new friend to me and a new friend to our church. He actually spoke at our church a couple decades ago. Tom was a professional basketball player whose coach led him to Christ, and somewhere when God grabbed his heart, he decided to use basketball as a platform to share who Christ was. And God still has a passionate hold on Tom’s heart, and his faith and desire to share Christ with people is just electric. And so you’re gonna love this today.

Church on the Hill was going through its own sex abuse coverup scandal in 2013. The church had hired and fired employee Keith Woodhouse three times for repeated complaints about inappropriate behavior with little girls. They did not report the behavior to police, despite receiving written reports from multiple witnesses in 2007. In fact, they went on to give him a positive reference when he applied for a job at a daycare in 2010. In 2013, Woodhouse was convicted of molesting nine girls and sentenced to 30 to life.

According to the lawsuit, when a San Jose police detective told Church on the Hill Pastor of Business Administration Elliot Sands that he had had a duty to report the abuse in 2007, Sands responded, “Oh well, that’s what insurance is for.”

Purpose Church / Pomona First Baptist Church — Pomona, CA

Purpose Church, a megachurch with weekly attendance of around 4,000, hosted Tom Randall in November 2014 and on previous occasions. Randall’s connection to the church is unclear, but a 2013 bulletin said:

We welcome Tom Randall back to PFB and look forward to hearing his message. Tom has spoken to us several times and is always well received!

Randall is not listed on their supported missionaries page.

Valley Church — Cupertino, CA

Valley Church, a mid-sized church with weekly attendance around 500, hosted Tom Randall in October 2018. Teaching pastor Glen Miller did basketball evangelism with Tom Randall and Chip Ingram in the Philippines in the eighties; he introduced Randall as follows:

I first met Tom in 1976. I was taking a team to South America, to about five countries, and Tom was going on a team to Taiwan. And he just came off the streets of Detroit, been a Christian for three months, hadn't cleaned up his language yet. We started working with him on that. … Tom here … has led more people to Jesus personally — I mean, Billy Graham, Luis Palau, they do it in big crusades — but I don't know anybody in all my years of following Christ, 45 or 46 or what it is, that have led more people to Jesus personally than Tom Randall.

Chapelstreet Church / First Baptist Church of Geneva — Geneva, IL

Chapelstreet Church, then First Baptist Church of Geneva, hosted Tom Randall in May 2015. The church’s Pastor of Leadership and Development is Joe Coffey’s brother, Brian Coffey.

Blossom Valley Bible Church — San Jose, CA

Blossom Valley Bible Church supported World Harvest and/or the Randalls as missionaries. They hosted Randall as a guest speaker in 2015, 2016, and 2018.

I’m sure these churches are in shock after the Wednesday expose and Sunday’s news coverage. Several videos have been taken down, but so far, I have found no public statements retracting their previous support of Tom Randall or offering an apology for their part in silencing and disparaging the boys and girls of Sankey, Joe Mauk, Miriam Bongolan, and Priscilla Leighton. I will update this article if I find any.

Correction (8/8/2019): an earlier version of this story misspelled Scott Simmerok’s last name.

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