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Church reveals abuse claims against Chris Rice

by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 10/16/20, 04:14 pm

Pastor Rob Cunningham of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday released a statement saying a young man called and told him prominent Christian musician Chris Rice sexually assaulted him multiple times. “I have wept at the thought of a high school student being exposed to this alleged abuse because of their involvement at the church I love and pastor,” Cunningham said. He said the church’s elders voted to hire GRACE, a firm that investigated sexual abuse allegations against former pastor Brad Waller in 2019, to address the accusations. GRACE is a nonprofit that specializes in helping churches respond to abuse claims.

What do we know? Tates Creek hired Rice, a Dove Award winner, to lead worship at youth and college retreats as an independent contractor several times between 1995 and 2003. Cunningham said Rice, a friend of Waller, “developed close relationships with multiple students” during that time, including the accuser. Cunningham contacted the police immediately after receiving the call and knew of no one at the church who knew about the abuse at the time, he said. Rice had not responded publicly to the allegations as of Friday afternoon.

Dig deeper: Read a report by Marvin Olasky, Sophia Lee, and Emily Belz on sexual abuse in churches. In it, Rachael Denhollander holds up Tates Creek’s response to the allegations against Waller as a model for other churches.

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Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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  • Ann Marshall
    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 03:39 pm

    No skepticism directed towards the man who made the allegations? I wonder why not...? 

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 11:53 am

    This pastor and church elders are LEADERS. This church is a beacon on a hill for true reformation. May God bless the survivors with comforting arms as the congregation walks alongside them. May God bring to light the truth for Chris Rice and his family. If found innocent, may his name be washed clean. If found guilty, may he repent and humble himself before the God of all righteousness.

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 12:33 pm


  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 12:33 pm

    The fact that there have been allegations like this is very distressing on many levels.  One one hand, I hate that yet another Christian has been accused; and I have enjoyed Mr. Rice's music for many years.  Whether or not the incident actually happened (and there's no way to know either way at this point), it will probably affect Mr. Rice's reputation for the rest of his life. 

    Unfortunately, once something like this becomes public, it is not wise or helpful to ignore it.  Although things like this can intially seem to hurt the cause of the gospel, a failure to deal with it adequately will also hurt the gospel.  Sexual assault is a crime; and, if there's any possibility that the allegations are true, they must be investigated.  As distastefull as it is, GRACE will probably have to look into the personal lives of both people, to determine exactly what is alleged to have happened and if there's any evidence (such as the victim telling someone else at the time or manifesting symptoms of PTSD, the existence of other accusations, etc).     

    I am not taking sides in this, but I can't just dismiss it or call for it to be kept quiet.  I know people personally who were involved in three separate cases where a pastor was accused of abuse, and the church acknowledged the abuse and fired the pastor.  In one case, it came out that the pastor had abused kids at a previous church.  In another, the pastor went on to abuse kids in subsequent churches.  I was not personally assaulted by a pastor, but I found out that a youth leader hired by my church to lead a retreat (and who made me very uncomfortable at the time, though I blamed myself for feeling that way) was arrested years later for molesting OTHER kids. Based on my experiences and the experiences of people I know personally, it seems clear that it is foolish to ignore or dismiss allegations of abuse.

    I have seen how hard it is for a victim to bring an accusation, particularly if the person who is accused is prominent or well-liked by others.  It is well-documented that the fact that years have gone by since the alleged incident does not mean it didn't happen. It's actually very common for victims to stay silent for years because of shame, self-blame, fear of not being believed, or not recognizing the incident as assault. But I also have at least one friend who was falsely accused of abuse.  (He asked if I believed false accusations ever happened since he was apparently tortured by the fear that he may have done it without remembering. I told him, yes, I believe false accusations do happen.)

    It seems that accusations of "sexual assault" have begun to be used as a formidable political and ideological weapon.  This is harmful to EVERYONE.  It's hard enough for victims to come forward and for people who have been accused to defend themselves and clear their names without adding politics or ideology to the mix.  I will say clearly and unequivocably that I think using a situation which is already extremely painful and stirring up the pain it has caused for political or ideological gain is reprehensible.  However, the fact that some allegations of assault may be false does not mean we should dismiss ALL allegations of assault.  At the same time, the fact that some are true does not mean we should accept any and all accusations without evidence.  We must be diligent in seeking truth and pray for wisdom and discernment for all involved. 


  • Ann Marshall
    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 03:09 pm

    I agree with the vast majority of what you have said here and appreciate your perspective. The difficulty, as I see it, in determining something about the past is there is so often no evidence of any kind. There is only the perceived truthfulness or untruthfulness of the people involved to go on.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Thu, 10/22/2020 11:23 am

    For Ann Marshall, unfortunately, you are right: there is often no evidence other than the perceived truthfulness of the people involved.  Unfortunately, the perception of others on the outside is not always accurate.  In cases where a prominent and popular person is accused, the prominent and popular person will usually appear to be "more truthful" than the victim, who may have been made vulnerable in the first place because of family dysfunction or other issues and may have experienced PTSD, addiction, or other mental issues after the incident. Victims know this and it makes them hesitant to come forward and report incidents of assault.  Abusers also know it and use it to intimidate victims and to avoid detection. That is why it is important to question others who may have been around the accuser and accused AT THE TIME the assault is alledged to have occurred. 

    It's not unusual for vicitms of assault to feel violated, ashamed, or even traumatized but not realize at the time that what happened was an assault.  They may feel ashamed, blame themself for what happened, or try to forget it and not realize until years later that the incident was a case of assault.  It's also not unusual for an abuser to find ways to justify what they are doing and/or to blame the victim; and they also may not view the incident as an assault.  Add to all of that the fact that not everyone realizes what actions are appropriate and exactly what things may be considered "assault."    

    I can only pray that God will bring the truth to light in this case, whatever it happens to be.  If Mr. Rice is innocent I pray that his name and reputation would be fully cleared; if he is guilty, that he be brought to repentance and restored by the blood of Christ and that the accuser also find healing in Christ.