Important Church Communication
December 1, 2015
I am writing you and all the members of Fellowship about a very serious matter. You may have seen news reports over the past 24 hours about a lawsuit that was filed late yesterday arising from an outrageous crime—a sexual assault—that was committed on our premises against a young child in our congregation.
We are outraged that this heinous crime occurred. It came to our attention when the victim’s family advised our staff, and we immediately reported it to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and that same morning contacted officers from the Brentwood Police Department. (The authorities asked for our cooperation in keeping the matter confidential so that they could complete their investigation, and, of course, we agreed). I can tell you that the alleged perpetrator is a young teen and the child of a volunteer teacher in our children’s ministry, and both parent and child were immediately removed from their volunteer positions in our church pending the police investigation.
Toward the end of the investigation, a formal delinquency charge of a sexual nature was subsequently filed by the authorities, and at that time we met with all the parents of children in the classroom where this young teen was volunteering. The juvenile status of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator preclude anyone from identifying them or details of the case.
In our cooperation with authorities and our communications with parents, there has been nothing to suggest that this was more than a one-time, isolated event.
We have also endeavored to work with the victim’s family, offering counseling and any other assistance they might find helpful. They have chosen, instead, to file a lawsuit.
Fellowship is committed to supporting victims of abuse in our community. We take any allegation of abuse very seriously. We have no tolerance for anyone who seeks to harm a child in a physical, sexual, or emotional way.
I am distressed that statements in the news media, quoting from the lawsuit, have been so erroneous—that we denied anything had happened, that we claimed the victim had “lied” and urged the family not to pursue criminal charges, that we don’t take child safety seriously and have no proper policies and procedures, and that we sought to hide the truth from other families. All of these statements are untrue.
Please know that we are personally sickened by this crime and will strive to do all in our power as leaders to prevent this grotesque criminal behavior from occurring again.
I want to make sure that we answer any questions you may have, to the extent we can.
Please know we love these families, and we love God’s church.
Teaching Pastor & Organizational Leader
On behalf of the Elders