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Women Allege That TN Apostolic Pastor Did Not Report Child Abuse as Mandated

The allegations of past incidents came up after a staff member was arrested recently for sex crimes.

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Two Tennessee women have accused the senior pastor of First Apostolic Church in Maryville of failing to report sexual assaults they suffered when they were 11 and 12 years old and offering prayer instead.

Tennessee law requires anyone with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused to report the suspicion to local law enforcement or the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

The women allege they were raped by 18-year-old men who were active in the church. The women said girls in the apostolic church were expected to begin dating at a young age, so it was not unusual for them to be with the men. But the men forced themselves on the girls sexually, Knoxville News reported.

After the incidents, which happened several years apart, each woman said they met with Rev. Kenneth Carpenter, who offered to pray for them. Nothing else was done to their knowledge, and the alleged perpetrators were never publicly disciplined, they said.

The church’s attorneys said the 18-year-old boys were not acting on behalf of First Apostolic Church and the insinuation that the church had a legal duty regarding the incidents is “false.”

The women came forward after a former worship leader and middle school teacher at the church’s Apostolic Christian Academy, Joseph “Kade” Abbott, 26, was arrested in January and charged with abusing a 14-year-old student.

A lawsuit against Abbott and the church asserts the church should have been aware of the abuse.

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One of the women accusing Carpenter of not reporting her abuse said the man who raped her threatened to tell church members the sex was consensual if she reported the incident. She said having sex before marriage in the Apostolic denomination meant “almost like you were damaged goods,” so she didn’t tell anyone.

After being caught together, she and the man met separately with Carpenter and his wife. She said Carpenter prayed from Acts 5 about Ananias and Sapphira, who were struck dead by God for lying in church.

She alleges he told her not to tell anyone and that she could become a “born-again virgin.”

He also advised her parents against pressing charges, she said.

She said she told her husband about the incident after Abbott was arrested.

The other woman said she and her parents turned to Carpenter for guidance after her older brother molested her. She said Carpenter prayed for the family and suggested her brother go to the altar at the next church service.

The abuse continued, she said, stopping only when her brother left home.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Why does MinistryWatch report on sex crimes? These stories are tough to read and sometimes even tougher to report, but we think they are vital to our mission to bring transparency, accountability, and credibility to the evangelical church. To read more about why and how we report these stories, read “Why MinistryWatch Reports On Sex Crimes.” You can find that story here.

Main photo: Apostolic Christian Academy in Maryville, Tennessee / Facebook

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.