JOIN US MAY 20-21 FOR RESTORE CONFERENCE

Mary
DeMuth

Scot
McKnight

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 1.50.18 PM

Naghmeh
Panahi

Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Former Chi Alpha Pastor & His ‘Spiritual Mentor’ Indicted for Alleged Child Sex Abuse

By Josh Shepherd
hundl savala chi alpha baylor
Longtime Chi Alpha mentor Daniel Savala (right) and former Baylor University campus minister Chris Hundl have been indicted by a grand jury of the 16th Judicial District Court in Waco, Texas. (Photos: McLennan County Sheriff's Office)

The pastor of a ministry at Baylor University, and a sex offender described as the minister’s “spiritual mentor,” have been indicted for alleged sexual abuse of two minors over a two-year period. It’s the latest action in a widening sex scandal centered on Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, a ministry of the Assemblies of God.

A grand jury in McLennan County, Texas, on Thursday indicted both campus minister Chris Hundl, 38, and longtime Chi Alpha mentor Daniel Savala, 67, on two counts of continuous trafficking of persons. In Texas, each charge carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison without parole.

Hundl, former leader of the Chi Alpha chapter at Baylor University and former pastor of Mountain Valley Fellowship in Waco, was arrested on May 23 in Waco. He bonded out of McLennan County Jail the next day, paying $50,000. 

Savala, Hundl’s mentor, who has been involved for decades in several Chi Alpha chapters in south-central Texas, was arrested on June 2 at his residence in Houston. He remains in custody on a $250,000 bond. Savala has been a registered sex offender since October 2012, following a conviction for sexual abuse of a minor in Ketchikan County, Alaska. The grand jury in central Texas added the past conviction as an enhanced allegation to Savala’s indictment.

According to a police affidavit in the case, Hundl drove two boys to Savala’s residence in Houston where Savala “masturbated both children” in his home sauna. A police spokesperson previously confirmed that abuse reportedly occurred “on multiple occasions” at Savala’s home and at Hundl’s home in Waco, which also had a sauna.

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Baptistland: A Memoir of Abuse, Betrayal, and Transformation” by Christa Brown. To donate, click here.

In a forensic interview with an investigator, one of the victims said Savala and Hundl told the children not to tell anyone about what happened.

savala
On June 2, 2023, Daniel Savala was arrested at his Houston residence on child sex abuse charges. (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Marshals Task Force)

The indictment states the incidents occurred between summer 2021 and March 2022. With the alleged charges of trafficking, the jury stated Hundl and Savala caused the two boys to “engage in or become a victim of” criminal conduct including indecency with a child by contact, indecency with a child by exposure, and sexual performance of a child.

Both Hundl and Savala must now answer the charges, whether in a jury trial, or pleading guilty and negotiating a plea agreement with the district attorney.

According to a past statement from Baylor University, Chi Alpha has been suspended as a campus club since May. The statement noted that Hundl was never an employee of the university.

Former Savala victim praises indictment as first step

Josh Mutart, one of Savala’s victims from Alaska, told The Roys Report (TRR) he’s relieved to see Savala “finally brought to justice.”

Mutart attended the youth group at Clover Pass Community Church in Ketchikan, Alaska, where Savala worked as a visiting youth minister from 1995 to 1997 and groomed students to engage in sexual activity. Savala was convicted of abuse in 2012 and sentenced to three months in prison.

Mutart said Savala’s short sentence “allowed him out to continue his abuse of other victims.” Mutart added, “Daniel is a sexual deviant, and I believe prison is where he needs to stay for the rest of his days.”

Savala, who has resided in Texas for decades, registered as a sex offender following his 2012 conviction. Despite this, Savala was permitted to mentor several Chi Alpha leaders. These leaders gave Savala access to churches and colleges, where he allegedly groomed and sexually abused college students and minors. 

Alleged grooming and abuse in Christian campus clubs

In April, a group of several whistleblowers founded the online forum XA & The Lions Den to expose Savala’s abuse.

Olivia Wolf, a forum moderator and spokesperson for the group, called the indictment “a significant step towards accountability.”

But, she added, “We have a long way to go. Over the past 40 years, my family and many other families have endured unimaginable devastation due to Daniel’s unchecked abuses within Chi Alpha and the Assemblies of God.”

daniel savala
Daniel Savala (center) pictured with several Chi Alpha-affiliated students. (Courtesy of XA and The Lions Den)

The group alleges that Chi Alpha chapter leaders on at least seven Texas university campuses allowed Savala to attend meetings and referred students to Savala for spiritual guidance. Savala has been accused of raping or sexually assaulting at least 13 male students, often in a sauna at Savala’s home.

Leaders close to Savala include former Chi Alpha North Texas District Director Eli Stewart, who was dismissed from his College Station church on May 21. Another is Eli Gautreaux, Chi Alpha South Texas Director, who was suspended from his position in May.

Will Robinson, a former leader of the Chi Alpha chapter at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, whom Savala mentored, was arrested last July and charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child. Robinson, who has pleaded not guilty, is set to appear in court in Corpus Christi on Monday.

Will those who ‘promoted a predator’ be held accountable?

Attorney Boz Tchividjian, whose law firm specializes in defending abuse survivors harmed in faith communities, is also serving as a legal advisor to the advocates’ group. He pointed to the culpability of leaders within Chi Alpha and the Assemblies of God (AoG).

boz
Attorney Boz Tchividjian (Courtesy image)

“They invited a registered sex offender not only into the world of Chi Alpha, where Savala had access to groom and sexually abuse college students,” said Tchividjian. “Through that, he was able to connect with and victimize more minors—and he didn’t do that alone. Individuals and organizations need to be held accountable for this.”

A spokesperson for the AoG national office said that denominational leaders “stand in strong opposition to the reported actions, as well as the teachings and practices these individuals seem to have endorsed. Our hearts grieve for those affected by these reported actions.”

The statement added that Hundl was dismissed as an AoG minister and Savala was never on staff with Chi Alpha or a credentialed AoG minister.

Olivia Wolf countered that whistleblowers have raised concerns about Savala “over decades” that are “only now being acknowledged” by Chi Alpha and the AoG.

“Many people within both organizations protected and promoted a predator, and they also must be held to account—and not only for the cover-up,” she said. “Daniel fostered a spiritually abusive culture that still exists today in many Chi Alpha chapters.”

Both the North Texas District Council and South Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God have stated in recent months that “independent investigations” are being conducted into Savala and his past mentees.

However, Tchividjian said his clients have inquired about the scope and specifics of these investigations and have been stonewalled.

“Just because you call something ‘independent’ doesn’t make it so,” said Tchividjian. “If it’s truly an independent investigation, the larger organization would not be in control of it. At the very least, those who were victimized would receive full copies of the full report that these reported investigators wrote. We have yet to see that happen.”  

TRR reached out to contacts at both district councils and did not receive a response.

This article has been updated to accurately reflect the timeline of Savala’s registration as a sex offender.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.

SHARE THIS:

GET EMAIL UPDATES!

Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore
discussion

3 Responses

  1. “As required by his 2012 conviction, Savala registered as a sex offender when he moved to Texas in the late 1990’s.”

    I think there might be a bit of chronological confusion here

  2. I just watched Scouts Honor, once again my heart feels broken. Whatever is the matter with these men? I don’t understand, why sex with children?

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
 
MOST RECENT Articles
MOST popular articles
en_USEnglish

Book Giveaway!

Enter your email below for a chance to win a copy of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse by Ken Garrett.

We’re giving away 5 copies randomly to those who respond by midnight on Friday. 

*New subscribers in U.S. only. You will receive the Daily News Digest.