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Orange to Conduct 3rd Party Investigation Into Founder Reggie Joiner

Former consultant says board is “the problem”

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Orange is one of the largest children’s ministries in the country. With $25 million in revenue, the organization hosts an annual conference that draws thousands of people to its three-day event in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Founded in 1996, Orange publishes youth ministry curriculum for churches to use with students in preschool all the way up to high school.

By the numbers, the organization appears to be thriving, partnering with over 10,000 ministry leaders to offer training and teaching materials, according to its website

But this April, events emerged indicating all might not be well. Both its founder, Reggie Joiner, and CEO Kristen Ivy resigned unexpectedly from the organization.

According to an official statement from the board, “Reggie has admitted to past inappropriate adult relationships, which violated our company policy and eroded trust within our organization. During the course of the Board’s investigation, Kristen also disclosed a past inappropriate relationship with Reggie. In light of this, Kristen has chosen to resign.”

Then, less than a month after their resignations, Ivy sent a letter to Orange Board Chairman Joel Manby and Board Member Jennifer Barnes accusing Joiner of “clergy sexual abuse” and wrote that her earlier statement about an “inapproproate relationship” with Reggie was a mischaracterization of what actually occurred.

She went on to say that “Reggie has repeatedly abused his power and used it to gain access to vulnerable, often very young women, slowly crossing boundaries, isolating them, and eventually coercing them into agreeing to the abuse.”

Which leads to the question, how did Orange, one of the largest children’s ministries in the nation, and its leader Reggie Joiner get here?

“Northpoint,” says former Orange consultant Maina Mwaura. “If there was no Northpoint, there would be no Orange.”

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Northpoint, an Atlanta megachurch, was founded by Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner in 1995. Joiner was on staff at the church for 11 years, where he led family ministry initiatives.

“When he decided to go do his own thing, it was blessed [by the leaders] to go and do,” Mwaura said. Joiner had already begun selling curricula while at Northpoint.

Thus Orange was born, and the organization quickly grew. From 2011 to 2022, the organization more than doubled its revenue, from $10.9 million to $25.4 million. And according to its website, its curriculum is now being used by “49% of the fastest growing churches.”

It’s a “very well financed, highly visually appealing curriculum,” says Krista Bontrager, an author and podcaster with the Center for Biblical Unity. “It comes at a price…there’s a lot of money behind this. It is very slick looking.”

Bontrager has concerns with Orange’s curriculum, though, and in 2022 hosted a webinar on the topic.

“My interaction with the Orange curriculum, in seeing it in action, this is my concern—this is not Christianity. This is just the law, it is not the gospel. Christianity is both the gospel and the law (righteousness),” she told listeners. “In so much of their wording, the language focuses on the two great commandments of ‘love God, love your neighbor’ and that is an incomplete picture of what our faith is about. Our faith starts with God’s rescue program for us, it starts with the gospel. And our response to that good news is I worship God and love my neighbor.”

Author Alisa Childers, a panelist on the webinar, expressed concerns about the overall content of the Orange curriculum as well.

“In all of the research I was doing…everything I encountered when it came to this curriculum is really moralism,” she said. “Here’s how to be good, here’s how to feel better about yourself, here’s how to act better in the world—and God loves you and he wants that for you. But that’s not a whole lot different from moralistic therapeutic deism.”

Mwaura recalls that Orange staff would “brag about how they were more relatable and more applicable” than other organizations.

“But every church I was part of, we would start off using [the curriculum] and leaders would always say ‘it’s just not that deep,’” Mwaura says. He believes part of the larger issue at Orange has been the culture around founder Reggie Joiner.

“It was known you just didn’t question Reggie,” he said. “He was a rockstar. You knew not to cross him. I remember observing [the idea that] this is an empire that will be protected at any cost. He wasn’t questioned.”

What about the board? 

Orange is looking to put both curriculum concerns and abuse accusations behind it.

At the annual Orange Conference on April 23, Board Chair Joel Manby addressed the resignations.

“I want to say something very clearly, everyone in this organization and the board of directors deplores any action that lacks integrity or breaks your trust,” he told those in the crowd. “And we are committed to having channels of communication available to anyone affected, and we will continue to walk with those who have been hurt by this…Orange has always been about more than one person. It’s true that our leadership has changed, but our mission has not changed.”

Manby has been the board director at Orange for 25 years and, according to the organization’s 2022 Form 990, he is also a consultant who received compensation of $96,469.

Board Member Virginia Ward echoed Manby’s remarks.

“This has been particularly painful for us here at Orange. And for many of you as you have walked with leadership through difficult situations,” she said. “We assure you that our commitment to serving young people and that commitment to walking alongside you who are serving young people will not change.”

But Mwaura believes the board of directors failed to provide proper oversight of Joiner and Orange.

“It’s hard for me to believe the board did not know what [Joiner] was doing. And if they did not know, they’re a lousy board,” he said. “The whole board probably needs to go. They are the problem…. This all goes back to [the question], ‘where was the oversight and why do we not catch people when the fruit of the spirit is not being practiced?’”

In a statement to MinistryWatch, Orange said it has “taken all appropriate steps including starting a third-party, trauma-informed, and forensic investigation. Orange is focused on helping those who have been hurt, carrying out its mission, and doing what is right. Out of respect for the privacy of those affected and to ensure the investigation is unimpeded, we cannot share any additional information.”

The organization has hired the law firm Castañeda + Heidelman LLP (C+H) to conduct the investigation into the allegations, as well as the PR firm Jackson Spalding to handle questions.

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Brittany Smith

Brittany Smith is a freelance writer living in Colorado Springs. She is the co-author of Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice.