A New Jersey pastor who founded the Creation Festival, the largest Christian music gathering in the U.S., has been arrested on charges that he sexually abused at least four kids over the last 16 years.
Harry L. Thomas, the pastor of Come Alive Church in Burlington County, was charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. Investigators say they are looking for other victims to come forward, as well, so there could be more charges added in the future.
The alleged assaults came to an end two years ago…
Thomas was arrested Wednesday, and remains in a medical facility for treatment, where a county department of corrections officer is guarding him. A first appearance in court will be scheduled in the near future.
So Thomas, now 74 years old, reportedly stopped attacking children just two years ago. With his stint in the medical facility, which isn’t explained by the prosecutor’s office, it’s possible he stopped only because he couldn’t physically continue. The fact that he is only being arrested now, when he is perhaps near the end of his life, is a huge problem.
If there is any good news in the revelation of these tragedies, it’s that Thomas, who also defended church members accused of starving their four foster kids in 2003, is being held (at least partly) accountable. Not just by the police who arrested him, but also by his ministry and church, from which he is “indefinitely suspended,” according to Christianity Today.
“It is with deep regret and saddened hearts that the Elders and Trustees of Come Alive New Testament Church have indefinitely suspended Pastor Harry Thomas from all leadership positions with the church, festival, and all associated ministries,” the ministry said in a statement to media Thursday.
Unfortunately, while the church has suspended Thomas, it also discounted its role. Come Alive said the allegations of misconduct are “unrelated” to his leadership at the church.
“While the allegations are unrelated to his roles in these ministries, leadership has determined this to be the proper course of action at this time until there can be a full investigation,” stated church leaders. “It is requested that all pray for the parties involved and refrain from speculation regarding the circumstances.”
Following the arrest, the staff and history pages of Come Alive’s website, which chronicled Thomas’s involvement in the church since its founding in 1983, were no longer accessible.
The prosecution hasn’t released many details about the case or how Thomas got access to his victims, but the church can’t distance itself from these allegations that easily. Regardless of where this man abused the children, he was almost definitely seen as more trustworthy by their caregivers given his role at the church. The church’s response, including scrubbing his photos from their website, points to the church trying to protect itself, as opposed to come out against an accused pedophile.