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Village Church Settles Civil Suit Over Alleged Child Sexual Assault

By Sarah Einselen
village church civil suit
The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

The Village Church (TVC), the Dallas-area megachurch led by Matt Chandler, has settled a lawsuit brought by a woman over how it handled her report of sexual assault by a former TVC pastor.

TVC announced the settlement in a statement, claiming the church “committed no wrong.”

The victim’s family, however, issued a statement, calling TVC’s statement “not fully truthful, transparent, or caring for the traumatized.”

The woman, who attended TVC as a child, has claimed that a former associate children’s minister at the church sexually assaulted her at a church camp when she was 11.

In the civil suit, she alleged the family told church staffers in May 2018 that the former minister sexually assaulted her in 2012. The church previously indicated that the minister worked at the church until June 2018.

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The Village Church acknowledged later in 2018 that a criminal investigation was underway into an alleged child sexual assault at the camp. The church didn’t publicly identify the alleged attacker at the time.

Dallas County authorities indicted the former children’s minister in January 2019, but dismissed the charges in 2020. The charges were expunged from the man’s record last year, according to the church.

village church civil suit
Matt Chandler

Meanwhile, the woman filed suit in 2019 against The Village Church, accusing it of gross negligence and seeking $1 million in damages including for emotional distress. Dallas County civil court records show the suit was dismissed August 1 based on an agreement between the church and the woman, called “Jane Doe” in the suit.

“This marks the closing of only one chapter of a ten-year battle for her to be heard and acknowledged,” the woman’s attorney, J. Mitchell Little, wrote in an email to The Roys Report. “What this now-woman endured as a little girl is heartbreaking and horrific, and it is my prayer that this is another step in a journey toward healing and wholeness.”

Attorneys for TVC didn’t immediately respond when TRR reached out.

TVC publicly announced August 1 the suit had been settled. It reiterated in its announcement that the criminal charges against the former minister had been dropped, too.

“With the dismissal of both the criminal and civil case, litigation has now come to an end,” the church’s statement read. “The safety of our children and the vulnerable among us has been, and remains, our highest priority. After a thorough and lengthy legal investigation, we maintain and firmly believe that we committed no wrong.” (Emphasis original.)

“We pray that the individual and their family continues to heal and receive care following this resolution,” the statement also read.

The woman’s family responded by saying church leadership “appears to prefer to focus on protecting the institution” instead of caring for “a child who was abused in their community.”

“We believe that the leadership at The Village (Church) sent out a misleading public email that is not fully truthful, transparent, or caring for the traumatized,” a statement from the family read. The family went on to state that the church’s communication “invalidates and dismisses” the woman’s story.

The family left The Village Church because of how it handled the woman’s allegations, according to their statement. They added that the woman “is rising above the horrors she has experienced and is finally beginning to live a healthy, happy, and productive life.”

Little declined on the woman’s behalf to comment on the church’s statement. But he said his client’s testimony “has never wavered as to who assaulted her—not one time.” Authorities sometimes decide not to prosecute based on factors besides an alleged victim’s credibility, he noted.

Little added he was proud to represent the woman. “Her story is important, and it took tremendous courage to tell it in her church community and in the justice system.”

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.



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6 Responses

  1. This article is simply missing too much information for the reader to draw any real conclusions.

    The accuser says that the church mishandled her report of the assault but the article offers no details about that alleged mishandling.

    According to the article, she reported a 2011 assault in 2018 and the church fired the accused minister that year. The article then goes on to state that charges were filed against the minister in 2019. But missing from the article is whether the accuser went to the police or if the church followed any mandatory reporting laws that might have been in place and reported the guy.

    When you strip away the fluff, the article says three things:

    1. The church and the accuser settled a lawsuit.
    2. The church says it handled the accusations appropriately.
    3. The accuser says they didn’t.

    There’s literally no info here that lets the reader form any kind of reasoned opinion on the way the church handed things.

    Note: This is in no way meant to impugn the accuser or cast doubt on her claims. My comments are solely on the lack of relevant information in the article.

  2. I saw the letter being shared before the family responded and I didn’t think much of it. Then I saw the family’s response several days later and it clicked.

    The main victim in the letter is TVC. “Don’t worry guys, it’s all over and we’re gonna be okay.”

    1. Jesus had pretty strong words for those who hurt, “one of the little ones.” You would think that this admonition would instill the “fear of God” in them. I don’t get it.

  3. Matt Chandler is walking hypocrisy. He lied.

    “I tell you we did nothing wrong, and she’s probably not telling the truth anyway, but excuse me while we pay money on account of our negligence.”

  4. Something stinks to High Heaven. The truth of the matter is that the victim was never willing to actually ID Matt Tonne as the perp. But the fact that a grand jury indicted him speaks volumes. The evidence against Tonne must have been more than “circumstantial”. I was a big Matt Chandler fan for many years, but this situation along with the Acts 29/Steve Timmis debacle has definitely chilled my enthusiasm for Matt and the whole Village Church ministry. This is not to even mention despicable way Karen Hinkley was treated. THANK YOU JULIE FOR TAKING A STAND AGAINST THE MOST POWERFUL CHRISTIAN LEADERS.

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