“I’ve done something I can’t recover from.”
-Pastor Thomas Chantry to Eric Owens, Elder at Miller Valley Baptist Church.
Source – Prescott Police Investigation Report
Myself and the church I pastor were members of ARBCA for a few years but left that association a few years ago when it became obvious to us that a small clique of power-brokers had taken over the reins. They used a minute doctrinal point to drive many churches and missionaries out of the association but in fact the schism, as we now know, existed in secrecy long before. I confronted these men and received nothing but bullying, denial and “if you don’t like it then get out” response.
As stated in your article, the legal system hold that Tom Chantry is innocent until proven guilty. The charges against him are allegations. However, a guilty verdict in a criminal court is not required for the church to determine if a man is “above reproach” as the Apostle Paul instructed as a requirement for the pastoral ministry.
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.
And so what happened? No one came forward. Chantry went off to another church in Washington state, then off to teach in a Christian school. How is it even possible that a school would hire him if they knew about the charges that had been laid against him back in Arizona? I seriously doubt they even knew. If there were more abuse at the school, everyone who has remained silent shares the guilt in it. Again, if I am wrong and the school really did know about the allegations made against him in Arizona, let them say so publicly and admit their fault.
Then, off Chantry goes to become a pastor. How is that even possible? And not only was he a pastor, he became a big shot among reformed baptists!!!
AND THEN the sorry state of affairs continued as, I believe in 2015, Chantry and his church were admitted into ARBCA as members!!! And I also believe you will find that the Miller Valley Church in Arizona protested that action to no avail and resigned from ARBCA themselves. If that is wrong, then please tell us. If it is the truth, then shout it out.
It’s housecleaning time brothers and sisters!! Tell your stories. Let’s find out who is responsible for covering this whole thing up, and let’s hold them accountable for it. The division in ARBCA was NOT the result of “an honest disagreement over doctrine” between brothers in Christ. No. Stop thinking that or saying it. The division happened because there is sin in the camp and the Lord has set up to expose it.
December 27, 2016
On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Detective Justin Landry of the Hales Corner Police Department walked up to a nondescript two-story home on Woodward St in Waukesha, Wisconsin, turned on his recorder, and knocked on the door.
Pastor Thomas Chantry opened the door and seemed extremely happy to see Detective Landry. Detective Landry advised Chantry that he was there to speak to him about some things that occurred between 1995-2000 in Prescott, Arizona. Chantry’s demeanor instantly changed from that of extremely happy to see Detective Landry to that of a shaken man who looked like he needed to throw up.
“Can you tell me what my obligation is here?” asked Chantry. “Do I have to speak with you?”
Detective Landry told Chantry “he could do whatever he wanted.”
Chantry did not want to speak with Detective Landry about the events that took place in Miller Valley Baptist Church of Prescott, AZ, although he did confirm that he was a Pastor in Prescott during the time frame mentioned by Detective Landry and was now the Pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Hales Corner.
“What else would be happening with the case?” Chantry asked Detective Landry.
Detective Landry told him he did not know where the case was going, he was simply asked to interview him. He left his business card with Chantry and told him if he wanted to come into his office to talk about the case he was welcome to do so.
Ten months later Chantry was jailed in Yavapai County, Arizona. Indicted by a Grand Jury on five counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated assault involving five children, Chantry awaits a trial scheduled for the end of March 2017. (Editor’s note – 12-7-2017 I have changed the total count of charges against Chantry from what I had incorrectly reported as 8 to 7 based on a taped phone conversation Andrew Battaglia had with the Prescott Police lead investigator. The conversation is further evidence of a cover-up of the Chantry abuse by members of the ARBCA Administrative Council. I encourage all to go to this link and listen to the complete conversation. )
Assisted by fellow pastors and leaders in the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) Chantry’s abuse of children was concealed for fifteen years! Chantry almost managed to recover but in the end his words “I’ve done something I can’t recover from” proved prophetic. Unfortunately, not a single ARBCA affiliated pastor ever broke ranks and informed Law Enforcement of Chantry’s abuse of children. Nor was the love of Christ and compassion for “the least of these” anywhere to be found. Apparently, their fear of a handful of bullies masquerading as pastors outweighed their fear of breaking Arizona law.
Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect
Current Through August 2015
Any member of the clergy, priest, or Christian Science practitioner who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of injury, abuse, child abuse, a reportable offense, or neglect shall immediately report or cause a report to be made.
A member of the clergy, a Christian Science practitioner, or a priest who has received a confidential communication or a confession in that person’s role as a member of the clergy, a Christian Science practitioner, or a priest in the course of the discipline enjoined by the church to which the member of the clergy, Christian Science practitioner, or priest belongs may withhold reporting of the communication or confession if the member of the clergy, Christian Science practitioner, or priest determines that it is reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion. This exemption applies only to the communication or confession and not to the personal observations the member of the clergy, Christian Science practitioner, or priest may otherwise make of the minor.
Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect
Professionals Required to Report
The following persons are required to report:
- Physicians, physician’s assistants, optometrists, dentists, behavioral health professionals, nurses, psychologists, counselors, or social workers
- Peace officers, child welfare investigators, or child protective services workers
- Members of the clergy, priests, or Christian Science practitioners
- Parents, stepparents, or guardians
- School personnel or domestic violence victim advocates
- Any other person who has responsibility for the care or treatment of minors
Reporting by Other Persons
Any other person who reasonably believes that a minor is a victim of abuse or neglect may report.
Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect
Failure to Report
A person who violates this section requiring the reporting of child abuse or neglect is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, except if the failure to report involves a reportable offense, in which case the person is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
A ‘reportable offense’ means any of the following:
- Any offense listed in chapters 14 and 35.1 of this title or § 13-3506.01
- Surreptitious photographing, videotaping, filming, or digitally recording or viewing a minor pursuant to § 13-3019
- Child prostitution pursuant to § 13-3212
- Incest pursuant to § 13-3608
- Unlawful mutilation pursuant to § 13-1214
What Triggered the Prescott Police Investigation of Thomas Chantry?
In 2015 a young man, 18 years old, attended a summer camp. At this camp, an educational film was shown on sexual abuse. In viewing this film the young man became angry and upset. He had been sexually molested by Chantry in 2000 and had never dealt with the situation and realized he needed to.
The young man is now a member of Cornerstone church in Prescott, AZ. He is a shy individual but trusted Dan Rydberg, an associate pastor at Cornerstone, and bravely recounted his story of abuse at the hands of Tom Chantry to Pastor Rydberg.
Pastor Dan Rydberg, a humble, compassionate, and loving man, instantly knew that Law Enforcement must be notified. He convinced the young man that this was the right thing to do and it was agreed that Pastor Rydberg would first call the Prescott Police and inform them of the alleged crime, and then the young man would talk to police.
Pastor Rydberg is one of the heroes in this sordid story of physical and sexual abuse. In a case where many adults, including pastors, elders and parents knew of the abuse for fifteen to twenty years and did nothing, Pastor Rydberg immediately did the right thing.
Leaders of the ARBCA remained silent! It took an outsider, a pastor of an Evangelical Free Church, to inform the police.
I tip my hat to Pastor Rydberg. Unfortunately, he retired in April 2016. Cornerstone Church has lost a good man.
The Floodgates Open
Prescott Police, being in receipt of credible information that the sexual molestation of children allegedly occurred while Tom Chantry was the pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church, opened an investigation into the matter. It would make sense that detectives would first go to Miller Valley and interview individuals that may have knowledge of the case. This appears to be what happened.
Pastor Marley responded to an email from me in late December 2016. He stated that:
“we have cooperated with the police throughout the investigation since its inception last year. We left ARBCA this past summer and are a founding church in RBN.”
Police reports back up what Marley told me.
Above we see the first mention of the three men who were on the investigative committee assigned by the ARBCA to conduct an investigation into the behavior of Tom Chantry. This three-member panel consisted of Mike McKnight, Pastor Tedd Tripp, and Pastor Richard Jensen.
Mike McKnight was an elder at Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, PA. The pastor of Grace Baptist was Walter Chantry, father of Tom Chantry. Walter Chantry was reportedly very upset with McKnight because of the report of the investigative committee.
Pastor Tedd Tripp was the pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church in Hazelton, PA. Tripp and his brother Paul David Tripp have authored several books and are well known in evangelical circles, holding frequent seminars.
Pastor Richard Jensen is the pastor of Hope Reformed Baptist Church in Long Island, NY. Prior to serving as a pastor, Jensen was a homicide detective!
By all accounts, this investigative committee did a thorough job. They were at Miller Valley Baptist Church for two weeks* and interviewed every adult and child at the church.
*(Editor’s note – On January 9, 2018 I was made aware of a statement published by the ARBCA Administrative Council on April 25, 2017 which stated in part that:
"Those who served in this capacity (investigative committee) were men of integrity, elders in their respective churches, trusted in the association, and had considerable experience in the fields of law, counseling, and law enforcement. These men met with all parties over a period of four days in December 2000 and brought recommendations to all parties.")
Recall that Jeff Crippen stated above that the committee made “a recommendation for the charges against Chantry to be announced to the entire association.”
Another source shared this information:
“There was an ARBCA council called to mediate the matter. At first, Tom cooperated with the council, except he agreed only to meet in Phoenix, and refused to meet in Prescott because he was afraid of being arrested. The council actually decided very strongly against Tom, laid out a series of steps he needed to take for repentance, including professional counseling, public confession before the victims’ families and church, etc. However, at that point, with the support of Walt(Walter Chantry) and several other ARBCA men, Tom stopped cooperating with the council, refused to meet, and refused to follow through with their steps of repentance. He immediately moved to Washington. It is my understanding that the council encouraged the families to bring the matter to the police, but the families decided not to at the time. (I am not clear what the mandatory reporting laws were in Arizona at the time.)
The council actually wanted a report of their meetings given publicly to the churches of the Association, but men on the Administrative Council (several of whom were Tom’s supporters) decided to keep the report private. This whole situation was part of what led to a falling out between Walt Chantry and several men in the Association, especially and including Bob Selph, and why Walt never came to a GA again until 2013. In fact, this was the real reason why Tom Chantry never sought to join ARBCA until 2015, because he had told men he would never join until those who had supported the council were gone – specifically Bob Selph and some others. When Tom’s church officially joined in 2016, the Prescott church protested that their concerns from 2001 had never been addressed, but they were ignored, and the Prescott church resigned from ARBCA last summer. In fact, the Prescott church warned the AC that Tom was likely to be prosecuted and the charges were more severe than in 2001, but the AC chose to ignore their warning and accept the Milwaukee church anyway. There are some of us who see some of the tension and attacks on Bob Selph over the years, leading up to the whole Impassibility mess, as related to all this. It is a very dark and sad mess.”
Another source told me:
“It has been confirmed to me since I wrote you last, that the committee recommended that the case be referred to the authorities, but the Administrative Committee rejected that recommendation. I still cannot explain why so many men, and the members of the church in Prescott did not report this to the authorities except for the “bullying” nature of the men who lead ARBCA. Perhaps the parents of the children involved said “no”. But not even that resolves the matter for me. There exists a “community responsibility” to every other potential victim, if they allow such a man to simply slip away to hide and offend another day.”
I discussed with others how the three-member investigative committee did a good job, yet I openly wondered why, when their report was squashed by the Administrative Committee, they did not feel it was their duty to report their findings to Law Enforcement. This, again from a source:
“I realize that this puts him (Tedd Tripp) and many other men for whom I have a deep and abiding respect, into a very suspicious light. I have never spoken to Tedd directly about his actions and I am certain that the committee of three men were sworn to some sort of secrecy regarding the matter.
Everyone who had knowledge of the facts is responsible. If the ARBCA leaders did not report, someone should have at the time. I believe the “politics” of the Association was in part to blame. But there is no escaping that “the fear of man” played a significant role.”
Who are the Bullies in ARBCA That Have Worked To Suppress the Reports of Tom Chantry’s Abuse?
What follows I will readily admit is speculation, but this speculation is based on my personal experience while conducting research and the input of sources knowledgeable of the men in power in the ARBCA. I have given a partial list of names, it’s really left up to the many good people affiliated with the ARBCA to, as Jeff Crippen stated, do some housecleaning.
“It’s housecleaning time brothers and sisters!! Tell your stories. Let’s find out who is responsible for covering this whole thing up, and let’s hold them accountable for it.”
–Pastor Jeff Crippen, formerly affiliated with ARBCA
Back in early December when I was researching the Tom Chantry story I had deduced that when Chantry fled Miller Valley Baptist Church of Prescott, Arizona, he ended up attending Providence Reformed Baptist Church in University Place, WA.
On December 7, 2016, I placed a call to the church and Pastor Tom Lyon answered. I explained who I was and informed him that I was conducting research for an upcoming article on Tom Chantry. I asked him if Chantry had been a pastor at Providence around the years 2000-2001. Lyon said, “Yes he was.” I then asked him if he had time for a few more questions. Lyon responded that he was on another line and asked if I could call back in four or five hours. I explained I was calling from Dubai and asked if I could email him. He responded that email would be fine.
My first email was through the Providence Church’s website (Link) therefore I have no copy of the email. But I wrote words to the effect of “you have already confirmed for me that Chantry pastored Providence Reformed Baptist Church”…. and then asked a few questions. Pastor Lyon responded with the following:
On Dec 7, 2016, at 11:02 PM, Tom Lyon <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Your statement: "You have already confirmed for me that Chantry pastored Providence Reformed Baptist Church." is incorrect. I confirmed no such thing. I spoke with you for less than a minute and you have introduced misinformation. Hmmmmmmmm...
I was a bit shocked by Pastor Lyon’s email. At the time I had no proof that Chantry had in fact fled to Providence. Of course, the police report above shed some light on the situation. It states:
“Marley reported that Chantry left the church under disciplinary actions and his discipline was handed off to another church for further counseling. According to Marley, there is a letter or record from that church as to Chantry’s counseling in the state where he moved.”
Maybe Pastor Lyon misspoke to me when he told me Chantry was a pastor at his church. It is reasonable to expect Lyon knew why Chantry had fled his church in Prescott.
It would be unreasonable to think that a Pastor with this information would then allow Chantry to work in any capacity in his church. But then it would also seem unreasonable that Lyon would preach at Chantry’s wedding and again at his installation. It would also be unreasonable to think that Lyon didn’t inform Christian Liberty Academy of Arlington Heights, IL, the school where Chantry taught for four years after leaving Providence Reformed Baptist Church, of Chantry’s past. But it seems Lyon is an old friend of the family. Perhaps loyalty to friends trumps character?
“Walter Chantry was born in 1938 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He was raised in the Presbyterian Church and was converted to Christ as a teenager. He graduated from Dickinson College in 1960 with a B.A. in History, and went on to receive a B.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1963.
That same year he was called to be pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he served the Lord for the next 39 years.
Soon after his retirement in 2002 he was asked to be the editor of The Banner of Truth magazine and continued in this ministry for seven years. Walt and his wife Joie now reside in Waukesha, Wisconsin.”
A knowledgeable source had this to say about Walt Chantry:
“Walt is very well known and there is no question he covered up for his son and silenced others in the process. I think he is behind it all in terms of the cover up.”
Another source spoke highly of Bob Selph. Pastor Selph served as the Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church for 17 years. He left the church in Prescott, AZ for Grace Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. Tom Chantry replaced Pastor Selph at Miller Valley. In 1999 Selph became the Coordinator for the ARBCA and most likely is the man who picked the three men for the investigative committee to examine the charges of abuse against Tom Chantry. My source said:
“He (Selph) had bitter words with Walt Chantry and the rest of the AC over their decision to cover Tom Chantry.”
Tom Chantry’s church, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, was accepted for membership in the ARBCA in 2016. According to the ARBCA constitution, the new member church must be recommended by one church who is already a member. I would guess the church who recommended CRBC was Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Rockford, IL. This is the church where Al Huber, father-in-law of Tom Chantry serves as a pastor. Dale Smith is the other pastor. (Link) Both are influential men in the ARBCA. It is hard to imagine that they were unaware of Chantry’s sordid past. I am uncertain if either of them were on the Administrative Council at the time of the investigation, but surely they must have known of the report. If they indeed were the church to recommend Chantry’s church for membership in the ARBCA you have to wonder about their integrity. Also, an alarming thing to consider is if Al Huber knew of Chantry’s past, how could he possibly allow his daughter to marry him?
I will quote another source for other men that were apologists of Chantry:
“There is no doubt that the chief apologists of Chantry’s life and subsequent cover up (apart from his father Walt) were Lyon and another leading pastor in the association Don Lindblad of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church of Kirkland, WA. Other close associates and proponents of Chantry’s cover up as well as his entering again into ministry were Dale Smith of Grace Reformed Baptist of Rockford, IL and David Dykstra of Grace Covenant Baptist Church of Willis, TX. Who as you know, co-authored with Chantry the ironically titled book “Holding Communion Together.” If not all, most of these men were on the AC when the decision was made to reject the investigating committee’s recommendation.”
(Editor’s note – 12-2017) I have received a reasonable request from a reader asking me to clarify that the photo of the Administrative Council above is a photo of the Administrative Council in 2016. The makeup of the Administrative Council in 2000, the year the Administrative Council decided not to release the investigative report of Thomas Chantry’s actions, did not consist of all the same men who were on the Administrative Council in 2016. Specifically Michael Kelly was not a member of the Administrative Council in 2000.