CrossPoint Community Church (formerly First Baptist Church) in Modesto, California had just the worst luck in hiring youth pastors. The church went through three in the span of about a dozen years in the 70s and 80s, and one after the other turned out to like kids. I mean, really like kids.
Take Robert Chapman. The pastor, who led a “disciples group” to “help young teen boys with issues related to reaching puberty,” took a shine to 13-year-old Carl Epperson.
In April 1983, Chapman recruited Epperson and another boy to help him keep watch and prevent vandalism of a large tent that was set up on the church grounds for an upcoming event. After keeping watch, the boys went to sleep in Chapman’s camper, where Epperson was awakened by Chapman rubbing his chest.
You can guess where it went from there.
Epperson said that on Aug. 28, 1983, his 14th birthday, he and his father were called to a meeting at the church with the lead pastor, two youth pastors and Chapman, who denied anything happened. At the end of the meeting “I remember them shaking my dad’s hand and telling him, ‘We have to stand behind our man until we hear otherwise,’” he said. …
Not long after, two detectives showed up at Epperson’s school, pulled him out of class and interrogated him. … “They said I would be serving three to five years in California Youth Authority if I was lying,” Epperson said. “They asked, ‘Did you like it? Did you enjoy it? Did you ever think you might be homosexual?’
Those two events really changed who I was. At that age I got a very clear view of how the police acted and how people who I thought were God-fearing folks acted, and it made me think the world is a corrupt place.”
Sometimes it is. Sometimes predators get off scot-free. That happened to Chapman — for a few more years. The church accused Epperson of lying, the pastor kept his job, and
During the following three years, Chapman molested at least two more boys until he was arrested and convicted in 1987.
Epperson and another man who was molested by Chapman, Larry Spencer, are suing the church, claiming those who ran it failed to protect them when they were boys.
Spencer had kept mum about being a victim of abuse at first, but finally decided he’d had enough when
… he saw Chapman become inappropriate with his younger foster brother.
How many more Chapman victims there are, we’ll probably never know.
But remember I said the church had rotten luck when it hired youth pastors in general? It’s just the damndest thing. It was almost like none of the hirees believed in God enough to think that they’d go to hell for molesting children. Maybe they knew hell to be some bullshit they fed the congregation while they enjoyed the pretty young things that fate dropped into their hotblooded laps.
Consider: Prior to Robert Chapman, First Baptist had a youth pastor named Les Hughey, who repeatedly assaulted a teenage girl over a span of two years.
After Chapman, the church gave the position to Brad Tebbutt, who promptly befriended a 14-year-old girl after her father died in a car accident and then abused her sexually in his office at First Baptist. When she finally worked up the courage to tell the church leaders, of course they
… told her to forgive and forget and … did not advise authorities or her mother.
Epperson, who will finally have his day in court soon, told the Modesto Bee‘s Erin Tracy the other day that the abuse has stayed with him his entire life.
He said he has trouble trusting other people and trusting the decisions he makes. While he said he still has faith in God, he doesn’t trust religious institutions and has a difficult time letting his three teenage children go to church. …
“I had a lot of faith and trust in things I don’t anymore,”
… he added.
Chapman is now in his eighties and still lives in Modesto. He’s one of the many pious rapists who occasionally make me wish there really was a God — preferably a wrathful one.
(Image via Shutterstock)