The Village Church in Fort Worth, Texas — which is already facing a million-dollar lawsuit over its mishandling of a sexual assault case — just admitted it has another case of sexual assault on its hands.
Yesterday afternoon, the church sent out an email and posted a similar message on its website letting people know that Andy Landrum, a church member and volunteer, had “self-disclosed hidden sin” last week that ultimately led the church to ban him from the premises and turn him over to police.
The week of October 6, Andy had several meetings with elders and pastors of TVC Fort Worth. He revealed that he has attempted and acted on sexual sins and criminal acts of voyeurism at his former place of employment, as well as with one individual who attends The Village Church Fort Worth.
Upon Andy’s confession, The Village Church promptly contacted Child Protective Services and the Fort Worth Police Department. His current and former places of employment have been notified, along with the one victim within TVC, who is being ministered to by the staff and pastors from our Fort Worth campus.
Is it the appropriate response? That depends on whether that letter contains the whole truth and no one had any indication of wrongdoing until his confession. Even still, there’s an element of secrecy involved. And if this is considered a more proactive approach, it’s only because of how badly they screwed up a similar situation in the past.
As we posted on this site in July, Matt Chandler, the pastor of the church, had been at the center of a sexual assault controversy. He hadn’t done anything abusive himself, but after a member of his church was accused of sexually violating an 11-year-old girl in 2012, we learned that Chandler didn’t tell his own congregation who the accused person was. In fact, he told them the accused person didn’t have “access to children at the Village Church”… which was only technically true because the suspect no longer worked there.
Then it got worse. Even after Chandler knew about the allegations, he emailed the congregation to say the man was leaving the church due to an “alcohol abuse problem.” Nothing else. The church gave that man a severance package. The third party that was hired by the church to oversee an investigation happened to be owned by people who also served as legal advisers for the church. It was a huge mess. The victim is now suing the church for $1 million.
And now there’s the situation with Landrum. It seems like they’re handling this properly by alerting church members, banning him from their campuses, and letting law enforcement deal with him. But in many ways, they’re also botching this situation. According to Anna Keith, who documents instances of church abuse at the website No Eden Elsewhere, the email that was sent out yesterday was a far cry from what Chandler told a mere handful of church members last week.
A week ago, Keith explains, The Village Church scheduled a meeting for church parents whose kids were involved in youth activities to tell them about Landrum’s confession. (A conference call for those who couldn’t attend was “mysteriously cancelled” before the meeting.) Parents were told that Landrum had confessed to “inappropriate sexual contact with a child” and videotaping kids at his former place of employment. They were also told that, according to Landrum, nothing like that happened at The Village Church.
So not only did church leaders not tell the entire congregation what was going on, they parroted an alleged abuser’s lie to protect their own asses.
(Chandler, by the way, wasn’t even at that meeting. He was apparently having the time of his life at a football game. Because priorities.)
Keith also says TVC didn’t invite one parent whose child attended a church camp with Landrum because she no longer attends the church. Had word not spread, then, that parent may never have known her child had been in danger.
A lot of details still need to be filled in. But you have to wonder how many cases of alleged child sexual assault have to occur in a single church before members decide they’ve had enough. This church isn’t a safe place for children. How horrible a parent do you need to be to hear these stories and still allow your kids to remain alone with anyone who works at this place? It’s clear whatever protocol they have to prevent abuse, if they have any at all, hasn’t worked. And the church’s leaders don’t seem to be doing enough to prevent further issues.