Did Reformed Baptist Leaders Cover Up Tom Chantry’s Alleged Sex Crimes & Serious Physical Injury of Children?
Tom Chantry was investigated for a year and then arrested and jailed on July 25, 2016. He posted bond on August 10 in the amount of $100,000 and was released. The story of his arrest was first reported on November 26 by The Daily Courier in Arizona. It was republished on Monday, December 5. That is when Todd Wilhelm at Thou Art the Man brought it to my attention. He wrote about it the same day and I wrote about it the next day. The news went viral in evangelical and Reformed circles having been concealed for the past four months. Thank God.
As a result, Miller Valley Baptist Church, where the alleged crimes took place, put out a statement on their website on Wednesday confirming the newspaper account that multiple families were affected. Though law enforcement was contacted, it doesn’t appear the church was told about Chantry until this week. It said in part,
“For those who have seen our church’s name attached to Tom Chantry who was recently arrested for accusations of child molestation, I thought it might be helpful to make a public statement as the pastor here. Tom has not been here for 16 years. I’ve only been serving here for 7, and my associate pastor has been here for 12. We have no real involvement with him, but we have cooperated with the police in the course of the investigation. When evidence came forward, we urged that it be taken to the police (as is required by law). There is only one family still connected to our church that is involved in the case, and the rest have left before all of this came to light for unrelated reasons.”
Chantry’s current church in Wisconsin, did not make a statement about his arrest, but they did add this comment to his biography on Tuesday, “Mr. Chantry is currently on a leave of absence from the church.”
The Daily Courier said, “Repeated calls and emails to the Christ Reformed Baptist Church were not returned. A representative for Chantry’s attorney, John Sears, said neither Chantry nor Sears would have any comment on the case.” That implies guilt. Innocent men are not silent men especially when you are accused of sexual abuse. Furthermore, multiply families have come forward. This is not an isolated incident according to the pastor, Chris J. Marley, law enforcement and newspaper accounts. Even if it were, false allegations of child sex abuse occur less than 5% of the time. It is rare.
As pointed out in my previous post, the police report indicates a mode of operation that is indicative of serial predators. Pedophiles who abuse boys have average of 150 victims during their life time. I don’t presume this to be the case with Chantry but it is a possibility. We know this much.
“A minister in the Baptist church, who left the area 10 years ago, has been indicted on multiple counts accusing him of sexually molesting children in 1995, 1996, and 1998 to 2001 while he was pastor of a church in Prescott. Thomas Jonathan Chantry, 46, faces five counts of molestation of a child, related to two minors, and three counts of aggravated assault on three separate minors as well.” (Scott Orr, The Daily Courier, Dec 5, 2016)
Chantry graduated from Westminster Seminary California – an excellent school – in 1995. The same year he started pastoring at Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona. He was 26 years old. The alleged abuse started immediately. He is 46 years old now.
“In an offense report from the Prescott Police Department, one alleged victim reported that shortly after Chantry became a pastor, he asked the victim’s parents if he could tutor their son, to which the parents agreed. The victim claimed that during these tutoring sessions, Chantry would spank him, ‘grope him, rub him, and make him sit on his lap,’ the report said.” (Tiffany Stoiber, South Now, Dec 8, 2016)
According to another police report, a female victim told law enforcement about physical and mental abuse.
“Another alleged victim claimed, according to a separate report, that Chantry spanked her and her brother ‘a lot harder than they had ever been spanked before.’ The report also said, ‘she stated that there was not only physical abuse, but a lot of mental abuse. She stated that when Chantry would hit them he would tell them not to tell because God would be mad at them.’” (Tiffany Stoiber, South Now, Dec 8, 2016)
These charges against Chantry by law enforcement raise obvious questions if true. Was Chantry abused growing up? That is often the case with serial predators. If not, where or from whom did he learn this supposed behavior? Further, did he abuse other children before this alleged one in 1995. And most importantly, has he abused children since he left Miller Valley Baptist Church in 2000?
Moreover, he is charged with aggravated assault with serious physical (not mental or emotional) injury. This is an extraordinary circumstance.
Physical injury means the impairment of physical condition. Serious physical injury includes physical injury that creates a reasonable risk of death, or that causes serious and permanent disfigurement, serious impairment of health or loss or protracted impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb.
Serious physical injury requires more than a temporary impairment, even if it is substantial. For example, the fracture of a body part that heals normally may not constitute serious physical injury.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-105.)
Such injuries would have required emergency medical care. We know Chantry is an alleged sexual sadist but these charges go way beyond severe spanking or sodomy that causes internal bleeding. If true, he caused extreme bodily harm to children. This raises a lot of questions that will be answered at the trial.
For instance, was the true cause of these alleged serious physical injuries not revealed to medical professionals knowing they were required to report to law enforcement? Or, for example, were bogus explanations provided to family, friends and people in the church who observed the injuries? Or were children hidden away from the public as they healed. Whatever the case, some people had to know these alleged serious injuries resulted from Chantry but did not report them to law enforcement. That could have gotten kids killed if true.
In this regard, we must listen to experts like David Chohessy, Director of SNAP. He posted this news alert on Wednesday. I don’t share it because of the reference to me.
WI--Minister arrested on child sex charges; Victims respond
December 7, 2016 3:49 PM
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, 314 645 5915 home, firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Hale’s Corner minister has been arrested on child sex charges. We are glad that he’s been caught but we’re disappointed in how his supervisors and colleagues are responding. We call on them to work aggressively to help law enforcement prosecute the offender and find - and help – any other victims.
Rev. Thomas Jonathan Chantry of Christ Reformed Baptist Church allegedly molested five kids between 1995 and 2001 in Arizona. But now is not the time for complacency. An arrest is not a conviction. Many times, we see shrewd predators get expensive lawyers and exploit technicalities, escaping convictions or long sentences. Then, sometimes they assault more kids.
So we call on Chantry’s current and former church supervisors, colleagues and members in Wisconsin and Arizona to use pulpit announcements, bulletin notices and church mailings to help law enforcement prosecute Rev. Chantry and seek out – and help – others he may have hurt.
These churches gave Chantry access to kids. So their civic and moral duty doesn’t end with his arrest. They must help put him behind bars and help ameliorate the severe harm he’s caused.
Ministers call themselves “shepherds.” In cases like this, a caring shepherd admits there are likely other “lost sheep” out there, suffering in silence, shame and self-blame. He or she would use every possible method of reaching out to them – church signs, bulletins, mailings and pulpit announcements. Instead, most ministers do little but focus on protecting themselves from criticism and litigation. We hope this doesn’t happen here.
(Chantry reportedly is a well-known Reformed Baptist pastor, according to Brent Detwiler, a brave man who has publicly expose the cover up of child sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has attacked Detwiler because of Detwiler’s courageous advocacy.)
No matter what courts or church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in institutions – especially in churches – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
By the way, Chantry has hired an “expensive lawyer” by the name of John M. Sears. He is one of the top trial lawyers in Arizona. Neither he, nor his client, have put out a statement claiming innocence. If fact, they don’t plan to make any comments. As pointed out by The Daily Courier, “A representative for Chantry’s attorney, John Sears, said neither Chantry nor Sears would have any comment on the case.” Chantry also shut down his public blog and closed his twitter account this week.
Below, is Chantry’s biography as it appears on the church website for now. I’ve added information in brackets. Mr. Clohessy refers to Chantry’s time in Arizona and Wisconsin but doesn’t mention his time in Washington and Illinois.
Christ Reformed Baptist Church
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” - Romans 11:36
Mr. Chantry is currently on a leave of absence from the church. [added 12/6/16]
Tom was born [in 1970] in [Carlisle] Pennsylvania and had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home [his father is noted author, magazine editor and pastor, Walter J. Chantry . He was converted in childhood and began to consider the call to the ministry while still in high school. He attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina and Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California.
Upon concluding his studies , Tom moved to Arizona and worked in full-time ministry [at Miller Valley Baptist Church] for five years [1995-2000]. Subsequently he has been a member of Reformed Baptist churches in [Tacoma] Washington [Providence Reformed Baptist Church, 2000-2001] and Illinois and has spent four years [2002-2005] teaching at a Christian school [Christian Liberty Academy] in the Chicago area. Tom began preaching regularly at Christ Reformed Baptist Church in the summer of 2005. One year later he moved to the Milwaukee area to begin preaching full time [at CRBC].
See these links at Thou Art the Man for more details concerning the information above.
All of these institutions should make a concerted effort to contact all the people who had contact with Chantry and inform them of his arrest and encourage them to report any information regarding alleged crimes to law enforcement. Parents in these settings should also talk to their children as appropriate.
I wrote Tom Chantry, Well Known Reformed Baptist Pastor, Charged on Multiple Counts of Child Molestation & Aggravated Assault with Serious Injury on Tuesday. Since then more information has come out. For instance, that contained in an important article titled Hales Corners pastor facing charges of child molestation by Tiffany Stoiber. She writes for South Now which is part of the USA Today Network. The article should be read in entirety.
Here is one section dealing with an insider investigation of Chantry.
“According to a police report filed in January 2016, an elder of the church [Miller Valley Baptist Church] reported that Chantry had, during a private meeting, admitted to spanking some kids at the church and said that “maybe he had taken it too far.” He added that Chantry apologized to one of the families and left the town a few days after.
“Once Chantry left, the same report said, “more allegations from other victims was (sic) revealed.” The elder said that a committee of church association members investigated the claims, which included interviewing every adult and child at the church about their contact with Chantry.
“After the church investigation, the elder said in the report that other elders, parents, and other church members were “not happy with the end result.” He added that the church association told parents about their options, including reporting the incidents to law enforcement; however, it seems that no families contacted the police at that time.
“The first report of these incidents to law enforcement, according to police records, was not until July 2015.”
Chantry left Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona in 2000 for Providence Reformed Baptist Church in Tacoma, Washington where Tom Lyons was lead pastor. Chantry spent two years there.
“A committee of church association members” is a reference to a committee of pastors from The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA). They refer to themselves as an association but are effectively a denomination. I assume Tom Lyons was a member of that committee. He is a friend of the Chantry clan.
This committee of denominational leaders did not report the multiple allegations of physical abuse to law enforcement. Instead they told the parents about “their options” per the elder which must have included not reporting. Of course, not reporting the physical and sexual abuse of children is against the law. Therefore, it is not an option.
The article doesn’t say whether committee members were told of sexual abuse but it is likely since they “interview[ed] every adult and child at the church about their contact with Chantry.” I could be wrong. During these “interviews,” I suspect they instructed the parents and alleged victims to forgive and discouraged them from reporting to law enforcement. That is what happened in Sovereign Grace Ministries. In so doing, serious crimes were covered up and more children were abused.
In any case, “After the church [ARBCA] investigation, the elder said in the [police] report that other elders, parents, and other church members were ‘not happy with the end result.’” The end result: Chantry did not ask forgiveness of all the families, fled to Tacoma, Washington, was not reported to police and the Lord knows what else. The elders, parents and members of Miller Valley Baptist Church were “not happy” with ARBCA officials.
The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America must do an objective and thorough investigation and publicly confess their faults and make restitution to victims that may have been silenced, mislead or mistreated. This may result in the discipline of committee members or pastors who covered up suspected crimes by not reporting them. If they don’t take responsibility, I expect a civil trial for damages will follow the criminal trial. That is right and just.
Criminal guilt is proven in the courts. Ethical guilt is proven in the church based on the testimony of two or three credible witnesses. Tom Chantry should be going through church discipline.
Moreover, those that may have protected him should be under investigation. For instance, when Chantry left Providence Baptist Church in Tacoma, Washington to teach elementary children at Christian Liberty Academy in Illinois, did officials from ARBCA, or lead pastor Tom Lyons, inform the school administration of the allegations against him. I doubt it. Why? I can’t imagine a Christian school hiring someone who has been accused of physical abusing children by multiple victims over a seven-year period. Furthermore, I’ve been told by people who knew the school’s leaders at the time that they would never have hired Chantry if they knew about the charges against him.
Similarly, I wonder if Christ Reformed Baptist Church was told about the allegations when they called him to pastor in 2006. Was the congregation informed? Did his parents know about the allegations in 1995 or following? Did they inform church authorities? What’s the point? People who knew about these alleged crimes should have reported to the police and church authorities. This line is haunting.
“The first report of these incidents to law enforcement, according to police records, was not until July 2015.”
Law enforcement is rightly focused on Tom Chantry! The Church at large should be focused on helping law enforcement by making the charges against him known and encouraging any additional victims alleging abuse to come forward.
The Church should also be focused on caring for the people who have come forward. If you know them, commend them for us. If you don’t know them, pray for them. They are the real heroes, not the pastors who did not report Chantry for his alleged crimes.
When the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of American removed Tom Chantry's name as lead pastor on their official websitte, they replaced him with Nathan Smith. That was a mistake on their part. I've removed the sentence where I referred to Mr. Smith as the lead pastor in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.
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