Chris Rice
Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter Chris Rice

Church Launches Investigation of CCM Artist Chris Rice After Allegation of Sexual Assault

By Julie Roys

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.”

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.

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14 thoughts on “Church Launches Investigation of CCM Artist Chris Rice After Allegation of Sexual Assault”

  1. To immediately do the right thing, regardless of what people may say. To be more concerned about the needs of the alleged victim than the needs of the alleged molester. What a novel experience! Every church in America should put this case study into its policy manual.

  2. Jill Broadwater

    This brought tears to my eyes. At a time when I am struggling with trusting pastors in the local church, Pastor Cunningham’s sincere concern for the victim and taking the allegations so seriously reminds me that there are still good men out there. Praying for the truth to be revealed and for the victim and any others to have the courage to come forward.

  3. It’s so great to hear of a church and a pastor who do not hesitate, wring their hands, and procrastinate but instead do the right thing promptly. I read this almost with a sense of relief–there’s been a lot of bad news lately. A pastor, one who actually cares for the sheep; I hope others will follow this example.

    1. I know this is a bit controversial, but at a minimum, don’t we need to say, ‘if the allegations are true’? While it’s true that organizations have often mistreated actual victims, suppressed them, kept things hidden in ways that protect the reputation of the orgnization and therefore abusers…. here we have a situation where the allegations are taken seriously and an investigation is taking place. But just because there have been allegations that are being investigated doesn’t mean that the conclusion is forgone. (thus the investigation)
      Or to say it another way. Imagine you are falsely accused of sexual abuse and the circumstantial evidence doesn’t look good for you. So your church/organization announces that a credible allegation has been made and an investigation is being made. That is a good thing, because it honors the one making allegations and doesn’t try to cover things up. But how would you feel if everyone started talking about the victim and hoping he gets justice. That would also be unjust.
      Let me be clear: I’m not saying there is potentially no victim here. It’s just seems premature to say that there is one.
      Or to say it yet another way: just because we celebrate a church following a healthy policy in making an investigation and not going into immediate denial doesn’t mean we should swing to the other extreme and assume an allegation is true before the investigation is through. I’m not saying that means we assume Chris Rice should be given positions of trust either while the investigation is happening – others need to be warned. But he also deserves to let the investigation be completed before we make assumptions.
      Probably saying too much, now!

      1. Well said.

        Perhaps you feel you will be considered to be saying “too much” because of this particular publication on which you are commenting. What you’ve said is balanced and sounds loving and fair.

  4. Premature reporting and premature investigation reactions are both unjust and foolish. Everyone involved including reporters and the public need to have the patience to allow solid investigation and evidence to be the basis for responding to possible abuse and dealing with the perpetrator. I am also trying to understand how the first investigation did not query other staff including temporary / contracted staff. Justice, restitution and grace is for everyone not just for alleged victims.

    1. What evidence do you imagine might be found? Is there something other than the truthfulness or untruthfulness of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator to go on?

  5. To An He, AMD and Ed Shick – there is no doubt in this matter – re-read this line “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.” True the investigation is not complete – but the situation is clear.
    Kudos to Cunningham and this church for their response.

    1. Please re-read this line, “while these remain allegations, we are treating them as credible.” Then notice the first part of the phrase. It remains an allegation, which is not the same thing as a conviction. Then note the verb in the second half of the phrase, ‘treating.’ That means they are acting as if they are true to protect the alleged victim and the community (which is great!). But then they are also having a thorough investigation to make sure the allegation is true. Of course, I also notice that they have SOME evidence already. That’s why it’s great that they protect the community AND do a thorough investigation to make sure what seems to be the case is actually the case. Treating something as credible and having some evidence that it might be true is different then something actually being true. [again, I am for taking victims seriously and protecting the community. I’m also for thorough investigations.

      It blows my mind that you can interpret this as ‘there is no doubt in the matter.’

      Please go watch ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and stay away from juries until you do.

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