MD--Member of controversial church charged with abuse
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 29
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, [email protected])
A member of a controversial church has been arrested for child sex crimes committed over nearly 11 years when he worked in “children’s ministry.” We hope kids at the church weren’t hurt. And we fear that other church members or staff knew of or suspected the abuse but kept silent. Why? Because that’s the pattern in this troubled denomination.
Last week, Larry Ellis Caffery of Damascus Maryland was charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse and false imprisonment in Montgomery County, Maryland. He belongs to Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg. CLC is part of a denomination once called Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). Since 2012, it has faced a series of lawsuits charging a conspiracy to commit and conceal child sex crimes by church staff and members. The cases have drawn national attention:
Caffery joined CLC in 1996, was a member at least until 2010, may still belong to the church, and “takes part in the children’s ministry program” there, according to his autobiography.
In a book that was reportedly edited, in part, by a CLC pastor, Caffery wrote about his fear of sexually abusing any daughters he might have. This comes from Brent Detwiler, a former CLC co-founder and 25 year SGM board member. (He left SGM “as a matter of conscience” in 2009 and has “spent ten years trying to bring about internal reform of an ethical nature.”)
The abuse charges against Caffery cover a period from February 2004 until December 2014. At least some of this time, he worked at CLC. That’s one reason we fear that Caffery may have hurt kids in the congregation.
Often, law enforcement focuses just on those who commit child sex crimes. But it’s crucial that they also address those who conceal child sex crimes, especially in churches with troubling track records of ignoring or hiding – and thus enabling – more child sex crimes. That’s the case here. So we strongly urge police and prosecutors to dig deep and search for evidence that current or former staff or members at CLC knew about or suspected Caffery’s crimes but refused to call 911.
No matter what happens with these charges against Caffery, we strongly urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups at in SGM churches – especially at Covenant Life Church – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, get justice by calling attorneys, and get comfort by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted and cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
NOTE – SGM has changed its name and is now called Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC).
(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)