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#ChurchToo Church Investigations

One Year Later, Still No Report From GRACE on Chris Rice Allegations

On Oct. 15, 2020, Tates Creek Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Robert Cunningham released a statement Thursday (Oct. 15) announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by singer, songwriter, and artist Chris Rice.

The Lexington, Ky., church hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Chris Rice.

Today, a year later, GRACE has not issued a report, and GRACE President Pete Singer told MinistryWatch that he did not have an estimated time for completion of the investigation.  Experts told MinistryWatch that investigations of this nature often take months and should not be rushed because of the impact they have on people’s lives.

The law firm of Miller & Martin completed its investigation of Ravi Zacharias in about six months, and issued an interim report to the public after three months.  Guidepost Solutions completed an investigation into allegations that Pastor Bryan Lorrits mishandled sexual misconduct in his church in about three months.  The Zero Abuse Project completed its investigation into Menlo Church in about 10 months, interviewing 104 witnesses and reviewing more than 500,000 documents.

At the time the allegations were announced, Cunningham said they are “deeply heartbroken” to inform the public of the allegations, “but we are committed to our promise to address them with the severity they deserve.”

The church had hired Chris Rice, whose songs include “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” and “Deep Enough to Dream,” to lead worship on multiple occasions for youth and college retreats between the years of 1995 and 2003. “Through his involvement in our ministry, Mr. Rice developed close relationships with multiple students,” Cunningham said.

The statement went on to say that “one of those male students called to inform me of allegations that Mr. Rice had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions.  While these remain allegations at this point, we are treating them as credible because of the source of the allegations and corroborating evidence we have discovered.”

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Cunningham said he informed the police and called the church elders together, where they unanimously voted to contract GRACE to conduct an independent investigation. The church had previously worked with GRACE to investigate allegations against a former church youth minister.

The investigation will be limited to TCPC, although Cunningham urged other churches who have worked with Rice to conduct their own. Cunningham said as far as he knows, no other staff or church officers of TCPCA were aware of the alleged abuse.

In March, GRACE and TCPC launched a web survey to allow other possible victims to come forward.

The confidential survey, open to anyone with relevant information, asks respondents to describe any interactions with Chris Rice, personal knowledge of any sexual abuse/misconduct of minors during his association with TCPC activities, and for their level of confidence that TCPC will handle reports of abuse/misconduct appropriately.

Songs from Rice’s 2006 album, “Peace Like a River: The Hymns Project,” have been streamed more than 70 million times, according to a press release for the project.

Rice moved to Nashville in the 1980s and wrote songs for Christian artists, including Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant, before signing a record deal with Smith’s Rocketown label in 1996, according to a profile in Billboard magazine. He was named male vocalist of the year at the 1999 Dove Awards, run by the Gospel Music Association.

He later had success with the adult contemporary hits “Lemonade” and “When Did You Fall (In Love With Me).” In recent years, Rice has stepped away from music to focus on painting.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.