Grace Baptist Church of Cedarville, OH appears to have a penchant for secret operations. First, they kept Anthony Moore’s paraphilia disorder secret from the members. Now Senior Pastor Craig Miller and his fellow Elders (including Dr. Jason Lee, Dean of Theology at Cedarville University) want to keep their admission of the bungled handling of Anthony Moore’s “restoration to ministry” secret from the watching world.
I think enough secrets have been kept concerning Anthony Moore. Arguably, that is what has created the present mess Cedarville University, Grace Baptist Church, and The Village Church find themselves in. I am surprised Dr. Lee signed off on keeping another secret. Apparently he learned nothing from the scandal at CU.
I received a copy of the letter below. It’s reportedly the letter Grace Baptist Church leaders sent out to all church members. I will not offer my thoughts at this time. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.
A Letter to the Grace Family From Pastor Craig (and the Elders) Concerning His Role With Anthony Moore:
[The following is a communication for the membership of Grace Baptist Church only, because it deals with sensitive matters relating to one of our members and his family. This letter is not to be shared with anyone outside of the church membership.]
Over the last few days, our church family and the larger Cedarville community has been affected by public reports related to Anthony Moore—one of our members, his past sin, the decisions made relative to his taking a position at Cedarville University, and then his termination this past week.
In some of the communications, our church has been mentioned. It is a difficult situation for me to address. Offering a rationale for our actions may seem to justify taking sin or even abuse lightly. That is not my heart at all. But failure to offer a rationale could appear to be secretive or defensive–again, not what I want to do. Please hear my heart’s desire that Grace be a place offering hope and grace to sinners, and also a place of safety and healing for those who may have experienced abuse.
First, let me say that Anthony’s moral failure at his previous church is not in dispute—either what happened, or the seriousness of the sin. Don’t look at anything that follows as excusing sin or making light of it. Anthony’s sin was grievous and his church’s removal was totally appropriate and needed. It was not just moral failure or sexual sin; it was the betrayal of the trust of his congregation and of a long-time friend.
However, along with these realities, we believe that the church and the Gospel are capable of restoring even the lowliest of sinners who express genuine repentance and grief over their sin. It is our most dearly held conviction. In light of this faith in the Gospel, we received Anthony into a process of ongoing church discipline and oversight built and based upon the data that we had regarding the nature and details of his sin. Since coming to us, Anthony consistently exhibited repentance and willingness to submit to all requests. We had significantly less information than what has become apparent in the previous days, but the process that was designed and implemented was based upon the knowledge of Anthony’s sin available to us at the time. Anthony was faithful to submit to the best of our knowledge. That said, as more information has come to light it has changed our understanding of the nature of the sin and has raised a number of questions. We want to address a few of those questions here.
Q: What role did Grace play in Anthony coming to Cedarville University and his work there?
A: None. Anthony’s position was offered by the University, accepted by him, and our first interaction was after the Moores moved here. I also had no input in decisions related to the roles Anthony began to fill on the University campus.
Q: How did Grace get involved?
A: The Moores decided to make Grace their church home. Anthony, following directives from both his former church and Cedarville University, sought to submit himself to a pastor and a plan that would keep him accountable. I undertook that personal care, setting up weekly meetings with Anthony where we would discuss his repentance and how that should continue to work itself out. I also attempted to give gospel hope to someone who was, in my observation, exhibiting deep brokenness over his sin. Other elders were aware I was doing this. His involvements were very limited initially—none at Grace, other than attending through the first year here. He was not allowed to take speaking engagements that were being offered during that year. The goal was to bring Anthony to a place in his repentance and healing where he could be a fully functioning church member. He was submissive to instructions I gave and limitations I imposed.
Q: Were the elders involved?
A: While I spoke with various elders and pastoral team members about the situation and my work on personal restoration, especially at the early stages, there were no discussions in elder meetings that I can recall. This was a counseling situation, and I typically only expand the circle of knowledge as is needed. One other elder was in a similar role of accountability and oversight for Anthony at the University as I was exercising at the church.
Q: Wasn’t he still under discipline at his former church?
A: The Village Church, Fort Worth campus wanted Anthony under pastoral care and supervision when he came here, to monitor his compliance with their concerns for his repentance and recovery. I reported regularly to them on his progress for nearly two years, at which time they released him to our care and supervision as his new church home. At that point they were, in my understanding, ending their discipline process. That was not a determination by them that he should be allowed to enter pastoral ministry again.
Q: Did you talk to the victim?
A: Yes, I spoke to the person Anthony sinned against. His care was led by the elders in Fort Worth, who arranged the conversation at his request. They were rightly protective of him as he was dealing with the sin and its impact on his life. In our conversation, I answered questions he had about the process and the current situation, including Anthony’s repentance and gradual resumption of taking speaking engagements.
Q: Was Anthony charged with a crime? Is he a registered sex offender?
A: No to both questions. The victim did decide to file a police report later in 2018 (that is when I heard about it from the Fort Worth elders). The reason was to create a record in case other victims came forward. No charges were filed, and so no “sex offender” status was created. I was asked to inform Anthony of the filing, which I did.
Q: Is Anthony a youth worker or leader at Grace?
A: No. In October, 2018 he spoke at the “Fifth Quarter” evangelistic event, at the invitation of our previous student ministries pastor (who was aware of Anthony being in a restoration process) and then again this past fall. He also spoke at a weekend high school event for our students held in our facility. I gave permission for these events, but I failed to remember that our new and current student ministries pastor was unaware of the restoration process Anthony was in. That was my fault. A recent blog posted an accusation saying that “irate parents” at Grace were upset over an overnight student event where Anthony was present. That is incorrect. While Anthony spoke on successive days to our high school group, he did not spend the night with them. A few weeks ago he also made a video presentation and then answered questions in a Zoom meeting for high school students. No other youth involvements are known to me.
Anthony serves on our Connections Team at the Welcome Table. I had him preach one time in March, 2020, during the recent Spring Break. I viewed that as another step in a restoration process designed to let him use his teaching gift within the Body, but I realize now (and should have at the time) that this should not have happened before a public acknowledgement of some sort of his sin and repentance here. I believed that the progress I had observed, along with the knowledge and support of others aware of Anthony’s situation and progress, warranted the opportunity. But now I believe that was wrong, and I am sorry for that poor judgment.
Q: What has changed?
A: As the person who was victimized by Anthony’s sin continued to process events, a clearer picture has emerged. Recent articles contain details of the sin, its duration, and multiple incidents within and preceding that time period that were new to me. It wasn’t just that there were more incidents, but that these were repeated, separate, premeditated acts over time, not simply a person failing in a moment or even a short season of temptation and weakness. Because of the grace of God we are called to exercise, there still would have been a plan for repentance, restoration and healing undertaken, but it would have looked very different and moved much slower than it did. I also want to reiterate that Anthony was faithful and submissive to every point of discipline required along the way as I was working with him, and no evidence of these sinful patterns has been evident since his arrival.
As a pastor, I want to help broken sinners–which is what we all are–be healed and restored in their walks with Christ. I want Grace to be a church where that continues to happen as it has in the past.
I also want to protect those who have been victims of sins against them—to be a place where their stories can be told and believed, where support and encouragement can be found, and where healing is experienced. We have been that in the past as well.
I don’t believe these are impossible to do together, but it is a difficult road to walk with many potential pitfalls. The recent public disclosures raise questions about allowing Anthony a public venue for using his gifts. My actions were intended to allow the occasional use of his teaching gifts for the benefit of the Body. But given what we now know, they may be interpreted as downplaying the sin and uncaring for victims. I ask your forgiveness for creating that appearance.
Pray for those who have been victims of sexual sin or other forms of abuse for whom this situation may revive painful memories, especially if there has been a lack of support or sensitivity for their suffering in the past, especially from the church.
Pray for Cedarville University and its leaders, for whom this situation has created a storm of controversy.
In it all, pray that we as a church will find a way to minister effectively to all those who are hurting in this moment of great sadness.
Pray for the Moores, as this has brought great pain and loss to their family once again. Pray that God will give us the means to minister well to them in the days ahead.
If you have further questions, or there is any way I can help, please contact me through the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.