Type to search

#ChurchToo Church

TN Academy Teacher Pleads Guilty for Sexual Assault Against Girl

Parents continue to sue church and academy

Avatar photo

In January 2023, Ministry Watch reported on the arrest of a worship leader and music teacher—Joseph “Kade” Abbott, 27—for sexual misconduct against a 14-year-old girl. Authorities charged him with three counts of sexual assault. According to his attorney, last week he agreed to plead guilty to all three counts.

Apostolic Christian Academy in Maryville, Tennessee / Facebook

Abbot taught at Apostolic Christian Academy, held on the property of First Apostolic Church in Maryville, Tenn. The victim was a student at the academy, and the two met weekly one-on-one during school hours. They also participated in the same group trip to the National Apostolic Christian School Competition, where Abbott chaperoned students, including the 14-year-old.

In August 2022, months before Abbott’s arrest, the survivor’s family sued the church and the academy, alleging its leaders must have or should have known Abbott sent inappropriate messages and sexually assaulted the girl on several occasions.

The suit says Abbott sexually assaulted the victim multiple times in 2022, causing her mental trauma and her parents to feel extreme guilt and anguish. The family is suing for $4.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Knox News released multiple reports saying First Apostolic Church leaders have downplayed or helped cover up sexual assault, including against children.

Recordings show church leaders knew Abbott was messaging the girl, and top leaders at the school knew of at least two separate times Abbott sent inappropriate messages to the victim.

Apostolic leaders suspended Abbott both times but did not notify the victim’s parents about the messages, nor is there any evidence to show they informed the police, Knox News reported.

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

Between the time Apostolic leaders learned about the messages and informed the girl’s parents about the inappropriate texts, Abbott sexually assaulted her multiple times, according to recorded conversations with school officials, law enforcement, and the county district attorney.

Additional reports included allegations by people associated with the church of sexual misconduct by other members and a culture that encourages men in their 20s and 30s to date teenage girls. Many women who previously attended the church said the age gap was not uncommon at the church.

Last year, an attorney representing the school confirmed Abbott was no longer a school employee.

His sentencing is yet to be scheduled.

TO OUR READERS: Do you have a story idea, or do you want to give us feedback about this or any other story? Please email us: [email protected]  

Avatar photo
Jessica Eturralde

Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.