After Alleged Mishandling of Molestation Scandal, ARBCA Hurting

Tom Chantry, son of famed Reformed Baptist, Walter Chantry, is now a disgraced former-pastor who rests behind bars for a string of child molestations. Chantry stood trial in July for five counts of child molestation and three for assault. He was found guilty of two cases of assault (the molestation charges received a mistrial), but was soon charged with an additional 9 new cases of abuse in September, re-arrested, and was held on one million dollars in bond.

As sad as this story is, it’s even sadder for many in the Reformed Baptist Community, who knew Tom and respected him as a colleague and peer. He wrote and commented often at Pyromaniacs and was a constant voice in conservative Reformed Baptist social media.

Unfortunately, the consequences for Chantry’s denomination – the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America – are dire.

Accusations against Chantry began coming in as early as 1995. ARBCA chose a three-person panel to investigate the findings. This panel included Mike McKnight, Pastor Tedd Tripp, and Pastor Richard Jensen. The results of that investigation found wrong-doing on the part of Chantry, but the document were sealed from view and Chantry was not properly dealt with. This has lead several ARBCA churches to sever their ties with the denomination.

Pastor Jeff Crippen of Christ Reformed Church in Tillamook, Oregon, was one of them, writing in a letter, “I have spoken to people who do in fact know the facts about the Chantry coverup. Yes, there was certainly a coverup by ARBCA although most of us had no idea the situation even existed. Those who served on the investigative committee that looked into the allegations at Miller Valley against Chantry VERY MUCH need to come right out in the public view and tell the world that in fact there was a recommendation for the charges against Chantry to be announced to the entire association. If myself and others are wrong about that, then I ask the members of the investigative committee to say so publicly. But I believe you will find that this recommendation was squashed by some of the very same bullying individuals who still hold power in the association.”

Christ Reformed Church certainly wasn’t the last church to leave ARBCA over the mishandling of the incident.

The Christ Reformed Baptist Church Hales Corner, Wisconsin, was scuttled this month and its property put up for sale. This was Tom Chantry’s former church.

This church received an envoy from ARBCA leaders Don Lindblad and Steve Martin in January of 2017 in an attempt to dispell the controversy or perhaps explain it to mitigate the fallout, but the attempt seems now to have been unfruitful.

Likewise, Redeeming Grace Baptist Church in Matthews, Virginia, has left ARBCA and posted their resignation letter online. Their reason was the mishandling of the Chantry molestation incidents.

They write:

The letter, written by pastor Van Loomis, was dated December 12, 2018.

ARBCA seems to have made a number of mistakes with Chantry. First, is not reporting the issue to the legal authorities as soon as they were aware of any criminally inappropriate behavior. And second was their error in admitting a church into ARBCA years later, of which Chantry was a pastor, when they knew of the issues involved.

The latter is reportedly explained by ARBCA leadership as not wanting to “tip off” Chantry to a criminal investigation by denying his entry to ARBCA and having to explain why, perhaps under some misguided fear of Obstruction of Justice (it’s a bad excuse, but at least it’s something). There appears, however, to be no excuse for the former.

Let this be a lesson to all denominations or churches who seek to maintain their viability and integrity in the midst of a scandal; report sexual or abuse crimes to law enforcement.

[Editor’s Note: HT Wartburg Watch; this HT is not an endorsement of the theology of Wartburg Watch]