Pastor Joe Coffey
Pastor Joe Coffey preaches at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, Ohio. The church is under fire for not following through on abuse reconciliation promises.

Group Asks Ohio Megachurch to Make Good on Abuse Reconciliation Promises

By Steve Rabey

An Ohio megachurch is facing criticism for failing to follow through on promises of reconciliation after a scandal involving sexual and financial irregularities and Christian celebrity, Tom Randall. 

The affair has some asking how a church can recover from a scandal that divided members and put leaders under pressure. What kind of housecleaning is required to return to normalcy?

Taking the high road requires a thorough, independent investigation of all charges, a commitment to calling out and rooting out evil doers, and a program of healing and reconciliation for victims and others who have been hurt.

But in the case of Christ Community Chapel (CCC), a multi-campus church of some 5,000 people in Northeast Ohio led by Pastor Joe Coffey, the church chose an easier route that satisfied some while leaving others crying for truth and justice.

A group of former members is now renewing their call for the church to make good on its earlier promises. “We have not seen follow-through on your initial apologies and stated goal of reconciliation,” wrote the group in a Jan. 14 letter.

I contacted CCC to get its response to the group’s claim, but the church has not responded.

Tall tales

Tom Randall is a tall evangelist who could tell tall tales, like the completely fictional claim that he had been recruited by the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz.

After Randall and two Filipinos that managed his Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in the Philippines were arrested in 2014 over charges of repeated sexual abuse of orphans, he told even more tall tales: About how he was being unjustly detained due to false claims by a rival evangelist. About how he had been jailed with murderers, gang members, and a Muslim terrorist bomber. About how he would likely die a martyr for Christ.

The stories were ridiculous, but convinced an Ohio senator to intervene and bring Randall back to America, and back to CCC, where he had been hired just before his arrest.

Tom Randall
Tom Randall evangelizing through basketball in the Philippines. (Source: YouTube screengrab)

Pastor  Coffey claimed Randall was “more like Jesus than anyone I’ve ever been close to,” repeatedly dismissed the sex abuse charges as “gossip and slander,” and overlooked claims of financial mismanagement at Randall’s World Harvest ministry, which officially merged with CCC, bringing more than $3 million of additional income to the church.

After the scandal hit the news media, CCC launched an investigation. But instead of seeking an independent investigator, it chose a church member to do the job, one whose ministry received a quarter-million dollars from the church.

Not surprisingly, the investigation largely absolved pastor Coffey of any wrongdoing. While acknowledging that “church leadership’s belief in Randall was almost blind,” it put the blame on Randall, who “gave incomplete and inaccurate information to CCC.”

“In hindsight, all allegations should have been taken seriously, which is why we are now pursuing a path of reconciliation,” the church’s report said.

Where’s the reconciliation?

Justice for Sankey, a group made up largely of former CCC members, is asking, what path of reconciliation?

“We write to you now to renew a call to institutional courage that should have been answered seven years ago when allegations of abuse at Sankey Orphanage first came to light,” wrote the group, which operates a detailed website about the scandal.

The church says it had no knowledge of Randall’s behavior until a month before it launched its investigation.

The group’s charges raise questions about the seriousness of CCC’s response. Examples:

  • We have not seen follow-through on your initial apologies and stated goal of reconciliation.
  • We have not seen the necessary action to support the Sankey victims.
  • We have seen a lack of clarity as well as a conflict of interest in your accounting of World Harvest funds.
  • We have not seen your stated desire to be a safe organization evidenced in practice.
  • We have not seen accountability applied to Tom Randall.

The group is also renewing its call for CCC to commission an independent investigation into the church’s handling of Sankey by G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) and to perform an assessment of the trauma inflicted upon the Sankey victims.

Meanwhile, Randall’s new ministry, Revelation 12:11, is seeking donations and standing by Randall and his wife, claiming, “we have found nothing to disqualify Tom and Karen from ministry.”

Steve RabeySteve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.

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5 thoughts on “Group Asks Ohio Megachurch to Make Good on Abuse Reconciliation Promises”

  1. James Lutzweiler

    Functional illiteracy reigns! God help us one and all. Just picture it: sexually abusing orphans! Sounds like something priests would do, not preachers. Live and learn.

    And, yes, I am always in favor of foxes investigating other foxes who have been raiding the chicken coop. And wolves to investigate other wolves who are slurping down sheep!

    James Lutzweiler
    Archivist (1999-2013)
    Southeastern Baptist theological seminary

  2. Thank you for such thorough coverage of the various details involved over the years. Surely this kind of reporting can bring needed results.

  3. There’s a phrase for the kind of “investigation” that CCC did, “fox in charge of henhouse.”

    These guys make Jim Bakker/Swaggart and Benny Hinn himself look squeaky clean. If it weren’t for the fact that boys were raped by this pedastor and his henchmen, I’d be laughing my behind off at the sheer lunacy and audacity of the corruption here.

  4. I just want to point out that WartburgWatch has been running articles on this situation for many years. If you are interested in reading more in depth about these people and this church you can search for Randall’s name and find more articles there.

    Speaking of that site, it and PhoenixPreacher are not run by perfect people. As I have been active for some years reading through the few Christian watchblog sites there is significant hypocrisy on the parts of the people running both sites. I left the latter years ago because of the crazy anger and control issues of the man who runs it. In Dee’s case her hypocrisy with the former is silencing certain particular dissenting views regarding both peoples experiences that are positive in Charismatic circles and any views critical of the whole LGBTQ gay rights being shoved down everyone’s throats. I appreciate Julie not doing either of these things and not giving into the social pressure being applied by strong spiritual forces to hide certain realities. I have to go somewhere else in order to comment on certain things written over there. Dee does need to repent of this along with TheManBehindtheCertain who helps moderate the site, Yet God still uses flawed people and someone needs to write about child molestation getting covered up by evil men like Joe Coffee.

    Regarding this in their latest which is about child abuse in the PCA she leads with a quote I want to comment on briefly. I cannot do it there, so I will do it here: “In his study of 561 sex offenders, Dr. Gene Abel found pedophiles who targeted young boys outside the home committed the greatest number of crimes with an average of 281.7 acts …” I am surprised Dee let this slip. These acts are almost all being done by gay men. This particular fact is new to me. I am aware that gays have child molestation rates that are 30 – 50X higher then straight men. Almost all molesters are men so who is molesting the boys? Yet it appears that there are not just more molesters but also they commit many more acts against children then straight men molesting girls. Both acts are despicable but stats are stats. All those statistics are from the 90’s because the pro-gay lobby has silenced the stats since then so things could have gotten much worse and no one would know. But point out these facts over there that these men are gay and the gay community has a big problem on their hands and your moderated comment will never show up. This is just hypocrisy as they have a page devoted to people complaining about their comments being deleted or forever stuck in moderation on other sites. Dee has gone off very loudly many times on other’s silencing her and the regulars who leave so many comments on her site for most every post. This is just blatant hypocrisy. I am in permanent moderation there for no good reason. Most of the other regulars are not.

    I think an interesting topic for Julie to do a post and or webcast on would be about the silencing of the high crime stats in the gay community along with the high stats of mental and physical sickness over there and these stats about how many child molesters there are in that community and how exceedingly prolific they are at abusing so many children so many times.

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