Another day, another story regarding child sexual abuse perpetrated by a church pastor. On July 13th, Pastor Kevin Berry of First Christian Church of Sedgwick was arrested for a felony associated with lewd touching and fondling of a minor between the ages of 14 and 16. He was booked that evening, and by the following morning released on bail. In typical fashion, the church issued a statement supporting the Pastor and giving no mention to the victim:
“The First Christian Church of Sedgwick has accepted Kevin Berry’s request to be placed on administrative leave to give him time to work through the charges he is facing. The church board has taken the position to continue their support of Kevin at this time.”
Allegations were first made to the church in September of 2017. Around October 2017, the church sent a letter to members notifying them of the claims. The church let members know they fully supported the pastor. In the letter, they mention that the pastor had agreed to voluntarily no longer participate in activities associated with minors.
Now, this is where things get a little bit sticky. Several former members say that despite the churches assertation that the Pastor would no longer participate in activities with minors, the Pastor remained active in several programs with children.
Members noted that in December 2017, the pastor was narrating the Christmas Pageant. The church went as far as to upload that video to their YouTube account. At the end of the video, a member tells the camera that the Pastor and his wife wrote the play. She went as far as to say that he played a vital role in the whole production.
Well, that doesn’t sound like a pastor that isn’t involved with the kids.
Members took note of Berry’s involvement in the pageant. Several families pulled their kids from the youth programs as a result of the event. More families indicated the way the church handled the situation was poor. Children no longer felt safe around the pastor.
Apparently, the way they handled the aftermath is pretty similar to how they managed the allegations when they first came to light. In October, rumors were flying about the alleged molestation of a minor girl in the youth program.
A concerned parent Curtis Peters learned from a neighbor his daughter might not be Ok. After learning this information, Curtis went to the youth leader at the church. He spoke with the leader and other kids to find out if inappropriate behaviors by the pastor were going on.
Peters said several of the kids raised red flags about Berry’s behavior.
Peters then brought the information to church leaders. They chastised him for making a big deal out of nothing. Even though numerous children were uncomfortable with Berry, the church refused to do anything about the situation.
Instead, the church opted not to report the incident to the police. Elders alluded to Peters they could take care of matters within the church. Rather than following the instructions of the Elders, Peters filed a police report the next day.Well, thank goodness for Curtis Peters having a set of cojones to do the right thing.
If Peters had not done anything, the pastor would probably still be working with the youth today.
Berry’s arrest is another example of churches choosing to cover up the crimes of their clergy rather than reporting it to authorities. We know based on what is going on in the Catholic Church, covering up the crimes don’t stop the perpetrators from re-offending. Instead, the coverup creates additional victims.
Sexual abuse can never be handled in-house appropriately. Perpetrators need to be charged and tried for their crimes. Churches need to stop trying to protect the church at the cost of innocent children. The concealment of these types of crimes shows the church only cares about the church.
Berry remains on bail for the crimes and is still on administrative leave. I tried to do some digging to learn more about First Christian Church of Sedgwick. However, the church has disabled their website. Their social media pages and profiles are all deactivated.
Based on the church’s response, and their deletion of web pages there could be far more to this story.
What could the church be trying to hide? We will have to wait to see.