The leader of an advocacy group for clergy abuse victims accused a Pentecostal church in Missouri last week of covering up sexual abuse.
Demetrius Sinegal, a Texas clergyman who leads Safehouse #Unmuzzled, said last Wednesday that the advocacy group had spoken with multiple people about allegations against Christ Apostolic Temple #3 The Light of Hannibal.
Two victims and several witnesses described sexual abuse allegedly committed by its youth pastor and one of its deacons, Sinegal said in a press conference. The church issued a statement Wednesday night denying the accusations.
The church is in Hannibal, the Mississippi River town where Mark Twain grew up. It’s a daughter church of Christ Apostolic Temple in Iowa, according to a summary of allegations provided by Safehouse #Unmuzzled.
Thousands previously criticized the 63-year-old bishop of the Iowa church, Dwight Reed, for marrying a teenage woman in his church. The teen had also graduated from the affiliated Christian school, The Roys Report (TRR) previously reported.
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Reed is presiding bishop with oversight of the Hannibal church, according to Safehouse #Unmuzzled’s summary.
On Wednesday, Sinegal accused the Hannibal church’s youth pastor of sexually abusing at least three boys who had been part of the church youth group.
He also accused the church’s lead pastor, Robin Andrews, of trying to cover up that alleged abuse and failing to report it to police. Andrews is closely related to the youth pastor, he said.
In addition, Sinegal accused Andrews of failing to report alleged incest by one of the church deacons against the deacon’s adult daughter.
The deacon has been in jail since 2019 and is facing a jury trial this summer on charges of rape and sodomy of a child, jail and court records show. Sinegal said the victim his group worked with is not the one involved in the deacon’s pending criminal case.
Andrews kept both the youth pastor and the deacon in leadership even after she knew what they were accused of, according to Sinegal.
The church called Sinegal’s allegations serious, but false.
“Christ Apostolic Temple Light of Hannibal stands with our Pastor Superintendent Robin Andrews and Sister Robyn Michelle Harden against the serious allegations brought forth by Safe House UnMuzzled concerning sexual molestations and cover ups of sexual immorality in our church,” a statement posted to the church’s Facebook page read.
“Pastor Andrews and Sister Robyn Michelle Harden dispute these false allegations and look forward to bringing the truth of the matters at hand out in the very near future,” it continued.
Sinegal said one boy the youth pastor had allegedly abused, and the alleged victim of adult incest, went to police Wednesday to press charges.
“Today, I along with another Safehouse advocate escorted victims into the police department to file criminal charges against these that stand accused,” Sinegal said at the press conference. He added the advocates also provided a 10-page report and accompanying evidence to Hannibal police.
TRR attempted to confirm with the Hannibal city police department that a police report was filed but could not connect with a police spokesman.
The deacon’s biological daughter and his ex-wife also spoke during a virtual press conference broadcast Thursday evening. They described being gaslit after they voiced concerns to Andrews about the two accused leaders.
The daughter was identified by her first name, Kyker, in the press conference. She said she witnessed her father touching a child inappropriately in the church nursery. But when she told Andrews, she said, the pastor told her she hadn’t seen that.
“I just went and prayed because I’m just—like, am I crazy or am I crazy?” the daughter recalled.
Betty McArthur, who was married to the deacon for nearly 20 years, said she approached Andrews about abuses she said both the youth pastor and her then-husband had committed.
The former wife noticed a boy in the youth group being “too attentive” to the youth pastor, “like her boyfriend or husband,” she said. But “anytime I would bring anything up in regards to what I was seeing that was wrong in my sight,” she said, “I was always told I was crazy.”
And when the former wife told Andrews about abuse she said she was receiving from her then-husband, “she would believe him and not me.”
Sinegal said Wednesday that police were “incredibly receptive” to working with Safehouse #Unmuzzled and were not aware of the allegations before he and other advocates approached them.
He added that advocates planned to meet with a prosecutor soon to discuss next steps.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.