A Lexington, KY, church announced today that it is investigating an allegation that popular CCM artist Chris Rice repeatedly, sexually assaulted a student in the church’s ministry more than a decade ago.
According to a statement by Tates Creek Presbyterian Church, the student came forward last week with the allegation. The church said it immediately informed police, and hired G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to conduct an independent investigation.
Tates Creek Senior Pastor Robert Cunnigham said in the statement that the church hired Rice to lead worship on multiple occasions between 1995 and 2003. During that time, Rice had “developed close relationships with multiple students.”
Last week, one of those male students reportedly called Cunningham and told him that Rice had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions.
“While these remain allegations at this point,” Cunningham said, “we are treating them as credible because of the source of the allegations and corroborating evidence we discovered.”
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I reached out to Rice for comment but did not immediately get a response.
According to Pastor Cunningham, Rice was good friends with a former pastor at Tates Creek, Brad Waller, who in 2018, confessed to abuse that had a “sexual element to it.” An investigation by G.R.A.C.E. concluded in June, 2019, that Waller had abused multiple men and youth at Tates Creek.
Cunningham said Rice was hired as an independent contractor and was never an employee at Tates Creek. He added that the church has “no knowledge that any staff members or church officers of our congregation knew of (Rice’s) alleged abuse.”
Only one person has come to the church with allegations, Cunningham said. However, he urged any others with information to come to him.
“I assure you that you will find a safe, loving, and confidential place to share your story,” Cunningham wrote. “If you are uncomfortable with coming forward, but want to help in the investigation, GRACE will once again be creating an anonymous way for you to share your story that only they will see.”
Tates Creek said its investigation of Rice will be limited to its church. However, the church added: “We want other churches and ministries where Mr. Rice has been involved to know that we view this allegation as credible, and urge you to look into your own unique situation for any potential harm.”
Pastor Cunningham also apologized to any potential survivors of abuse by Rice in the statement.
“I have wept at the thought of a high school student being exposed to this alleged abuse because of their involvement at the church I love and pastor,” he said. “I am sorry. I want you to know that all of this transparency, urgency, and energy is for you, and I pray that it will bring some measure of healing to your story.”
The pastor also apologized to the outside community, stating that abuse is the “antithesis” of the church vision, which exists “for the glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass.”
“You deserve local churches that are safe places for the vulnerable and intolerant places for predators, and we pledge to continue to make every effort to be that for our community,” Cunningham said.