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Advocates Deny Ohio Church’s Claim That Sankey Orphanage Abuse Is Resolved

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The scandal goes back eight years, to when Tom Randall, a tall evangelist who often told tall tales, was arrested over charges of repeated sexual abuse by overseers at the Sankey Samaritan Orphanage run by his World Harvest Ministry operated in the Philippines.

Randall told even taller tales about his imprisonment with a Muslim terrorist bomber, leading Ohio Senator Rob Portman to intervene on his behalf and bring him home.

Shortly before the arrest, Randall had merged his operations with Christ Community Chapel (CCC), a multi-campus church of some 5,000 people in Northeast Ohio, bringing more than $3 million of additional income to the church.

Now, in a March 19 email to members of the congregation that was forwarded to MinistryWatch, church elders claim they’ve done all they can to provide healing and restitution to those who were harmed, reconcile with advocates urging the church to do more, and close the whole matter.

We believe that we have done all that we reasonably can do to complete that work in an effort to pursue healing, rectify areas of brokenness, and make improvements in our own processes and oversight,” said the elders’ email.

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Not so fast, say members of Justice for Sankey advocates, a small group made up largely of former Christ Community Chapel members who have urged the church to do more for two years.

The advocates say the church hasn’t yet taken the steps necessary to address and heal the scandal, including:

  • A full assessment of victims abuse claims;
  • A detailed plan for providing care and support for victims;
  • A thorough, independent investigation of all actions by CCC leadership in their response to the abuse.

Christ Community Chapel conducted its own in-house investigation of the scandal, which was led by a member of the church whose nonprofit had also received funds from the church. The report absolved church leadership of any wrongdoing and put all the blame on Randall, who denied any wrongdoing and, after parting from Christ Community Chapel, was quickly back in business with another ministry, Florida-based Revelation 12:11.

“We believe the CCC is just reinforcing the normalization of abuse of these victims first begun by Randall,” says Jeff Chen, a leader of the Sankey advocates.

MinistryWatch originally reported on the abuse scandal in 2019, and followed up in a 2020 report that raised questions about the church’s response.

Flawed reconciliation process

Christ Community Chapel’s elders say they have done all they can to reconcile with Chen and other Sankey justice advocates. But the church’s reconciliation process, which it describes on its Sankey Review web page, was flawed.

Here’s how the church described its efforts to reconcile with critics:

“The Elders engaged a third-party conciliator to aid us in the process of reconciliation. The conciliator (not CCC) required anyone engaging in the process of reconciliation to sign a nondisclosure agreement in an effort of creating an atmosphere of transparency and vulnerability. 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 third-party conciliator CCC chose was Judy Dabler, who has reliably defended  ministries against legitimate complaints. Dabler was an ombudsman for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, where she successfully deflected valid complaints about Zacharias’s long-concealed sexual activities in the years before the scandal imploded and brought down RZIM.

Her insistence that critics of Christ Community Chapel sign nondisclosure agreements is another bad sign.  MinistryWatch reported last year on how ministries use NDAs to “silence victims and conceal sin.”

The CCC elders’ March 19 email seems to be a response to an email Sankey advocate Mike Wise sent to church members on Feb. 27 demanding an independent investigation. The email was forwarded to MinistryWatch.

Wise formerly defended Tom Randall and operated the Free Tom Randall Facebook page, but changed his mind after reading CCC’s internal report on the scandal.

“I was lied to,” Wise said. “We were all lied to.”

Wise urged CCC members to do the right thing and take action.

“Act with your feet. If you are still attending CCC, stop.

“Act with your heart. If you are serving, resign.

“Act with your wallet. Stop donating—to CCC or any other connected ministry.”

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.