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Reporting the Truth.
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Former Members Pressure Baltimore Megachurch After Finding Dozens Alleging Abuse

By Sheila Stogsdill
greater grace protest
On June 29, 2024, dozens of people protested outside Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Facebook / The Millstones)

A group of Baltimore megachurch ex-members is pressuring the church to take responsibility after discovering church leaders repeatedly ignored allegations of child sex abuse.

The group called The Millstones formed in 2019 after Greater Grace Church’s secrets began to unfold at a campout. Greater Grace Church Baltimore is a nondenominational evangelical megachurch in Maryland founded by Carl H. Stevens Jr.

The Millstones dug into the seedy history of sexual abuse hidden within the walls of Greater Grace Church, and into allegations against two of the church’s pastors in Ghana. Their four-year investigation discovered more than four dozen survivors of alleged abuse.

The Baltimore Banner reported the group’s findings in a four-part investigative series

There were seeds of deceitfulness and manipulation and “of turning a blind eye to a culture of abuse,” the newspaper reported.

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protest greater grace
On June 29, 2024, dozens of people protested outside Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Facebook / The Millstones)

Greater Grace officials declined to address specific claims and incidents, issuing a statement saying the church “fully cooperates with any investigations conducted by law enforcement or childcare agencies,” according to The Baltimore Banner, a digital newspaper.

“We welcome and support their interventions, expertise, and authority to bring perpetrators to justice for the protection of society,” church officials said in a statement to the Banner.

Protesters took issue with those empty statements, according to the Banner.

Among dozens of allegations, the group found that three members of an influential church family were accused of abusing young people. High-ranking pastors played down the allegations.

The Millstones uncovered allegations against Jesse Anderson, a youth volunteer, Bible teacher, and camp counselor. Anderson was convicted in 2005 of molesting a boy in the church. He evaded a prison sentence and received a 10-year suspended sentence and probation after his accuser, Shane Villeneuve’s parents, asked for leniency at his sentencing. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

Also accused of abuse but never charged was Jesse’s older brother, Jonathan Anderson, a Sunday School teacher and church camp counselor, and Jesse and Jonathan’s father, Pastor Eric Anderson. Eric Anderson was the longtime head of the Maryland Bible College and Seminary and a friend of Pastor Carl Stevens, the church’s founder.

greater grace
On June 24, 2024, ex-church member Jediah Tanguay protests outside Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: X / Justin Fenton)

Greater Grace released a statement  saying “our hearts are grieved at the thought that anyone who was ever a part of this church could have been a victim of sexual abuse.”

“Sexual abuse of anyone–especially children–is sinful, abhorrent, and reprehensible. Period,” the statement reads.

Church elders pledged to hire a “nationally recognized, independent firm with expertise in dealing with sexual abuse, to conduct a thorough investigation and assessment of Greater Grace World Outreach.”

The process is expected to take at least six months. Once the full report is finished, elders committed to being “transparent about the findings.”

The statement concludes the elders recognize the allegations are “a serious matter, and (the elders) are seeking God’s wisdom and His heart, grace, and mercy.”

The Millstones responded by saying the group does not trust any promises from the church.

The church’s belated quest for truth reportedly comes after years of stonewalling and ignoring repeated pleas for justice.

Greater Grace’s troubled past

Under the name The Bible Speaks, a forerunner to Greater Grace World Outreach, the church came under fire and declared bankruptcy after a $5.5 million civil judgment determining Stevens manipulated and pressured Betsy Dovydenas into secretly donating large sums of money.

The Bible Speaks was founded by Stephens and based in Lenox, Massachusetts.

carl stevens greater grace
Greater Grace World Outreach Founder Carl Stevens, Jr. (File Photo)

Dovydenas’s lawyers claimed “Stevens had used some of her money to outfit a bedroom in his vacation home with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a vibrating bed.” The lawyers also reportedly claimed that Stevens “bought equipment that seemed better suited for an espionage ring than a church: a polygraph, an anti-bugging device, a voice stress analyzer, a bomb sniffer, a concealable microphone and a briefcase recorder.”

In 1987, the ministry moved from Maine to Baltimore, Maryland, and became Greater Grace World Outreach.

Stevens was removed and Thomas Schaller assumed the top post in 2005 promising to reform church policies to provide greater accountability and pastoral discipline.

Under Schaller’s leadership, Raymond Fernandez, a former youth group leader at Greater Grace World Outreach, was convicted and sentenced to a 30-year sentence, with all but 16 years suspended.  He was ordered to register as a sex offender, according to Baltimore TV station WBAL.

The church also ignored signs of abuse from Fernandez, according to The Millstones. 

“People have trusted us. They’ve trusted their children to us,” The Banner reported Schaller saying in a sermon. “This is an honor, a sacred trust that we do not take lightly. We take this honor seriously.”

In an apparent reference to the Fernandez case, Schaller publicly stated that the church had spent $30,000 on professional counseling for the victims. He said the church has a youth protection policy.

greater grace schaller
Pastor Thomas Schaller preaches at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, Maryland. (Video screengrab)

Alleged perpetrator still pastoring

A year after Fernandez was sentenced, Matt Veader, a co-founder of The Millstones, approached church leaders regarding a different alleged victim—his wife.

Johanna Veader’s trauma is what makes this crusade so personal for her husband Matt Veader. He met Johanna while attending Greater Grace, and prior to marriage he learned of her abuse allegations against a former married pastor.

The unnamed pastor has denied the allegations, the newspaper reported.

“He would touch my waist and hips and ask me if I thought about sex,” Johanna Veader is quoted in the paper. “He told me hips are the most attractive part of a woman’s body.”

Matt Veader followed what he believed to be a scriptural mandate and approached the leaders in 2015 at Greater Grace.

Veader was told to move on and forgive as Jesus has forgiven, the Baltimore Banner reported.

greater grace
On June 29, 2024, dozens of people protested outside Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Facebook / The Millstones)

Steven Scibelli, a senior pastor and vice president of the church’s board of elders, reached out to Veader, saying he would look into the allegations. Veader forwarded him one of the many inappropriate emails the pastor had sent his wife when she was a teenager, the paper reported.

The man is still preaching, Veader told the paper.

Recently The Millstones met with Attorney Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham known for his work in church sex abuse cases.

Tchividjian suggested the group publicize its findings, stating the congregation and the general public deserved to know what the group had discovered, the paper reported.

“Burn it all down,” Tchividjian reportedly said.

This article has been corrected to accurately report some details of the case against Anderson and the timeline of allegations against Greater Grace Church.

Sheila Stogsdill is a freelance print journalist and digital reporter, primarily covering crime issues for KSN/KODE.

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5 Responses

  1. I’m pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our former daughter-in-law’s family were members of there churches in the Boston area, as was a former pastor/friend. This has been a cultic abusive group since the 1970s

  2. “He would touch my waist and hips and ask me if I thought about sex,” Johanna Veader is quoted in the paper. “He told me hips are the most attractive part of a woman’s body.”
    Matt Veader followed what he believed to be a scriptural mandate and approached the leaders in 2015 at Greater Grace.
    Veader was told to move on and forgive as Jesus has forgiven, the Baltimore Banner reported.”

    That last sentence seems to be the ongoing scapegoat for sexual harassment and abuse. The same scapegoat women and children have been force fed for so long. “Boys will be boys,” “It’s just locker room talk.” Yeshua didn’t come to be our scapegoat; He came to be the way shower. He didn’t die on the cross to let everyone else “off the hook,” He conquered death to show us we can choose to see the Truth, God’s path as opposed to the way of flesh. We have entrusted men to lead us and have been given deceit, betrayal, abuse, abandonment, terror and death in return. God help us.

  3. My favorite line, “Church elders pledged to hire a “nationally recognized, independent firm with expertise in dealing with sexual abuse, to conduct a thorough investigation and assessment of Greater Grace World Outreach.”

    How many times have we all read about this going south…real quick!

  4. I agree…burn it all down here. What keeps hitting me about a lot of these churches and ‘ministries’ is there’s a tendency to think they are ‘too big to fail’, in terms of people being helped in some of them. That’s true in many of them, but we can’t let kids get abused. Expose it. Reach out to the victims and those whose faith we’re concerned may be shipwrecked to walk with them to have a better foundation (not on a man or a ministry). We can’t pretend it’s not there.

  5. So much to say about this article. Can’t wait til people find out about the spousal abuse, theft & pure LIES that come out of that “church”.

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