Sex abuse claims stem from Tulsa megachurch

A 17,000-member megachurch in Tulsa has been rattled by allegations that five employees waited two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in a campus stairwell, allegedly by a church worker.
BY JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS Modified: September 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm •  Published: September 21, 2012
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The church explained that staff in the ministry's youth department learned of the allegations and spent about a week checking it out before reporting it to supervisors and human resources. Once the complaint reached human resources, “that department did not follow its own reporting policy,” the ministry admitted in the statement.

It was unclear from the ministry statement which of the allegations the youth department checked into on its own.

Sullivan, the human resources director, fired the two men Aug. 24, and then left a message with a member of the church who works with an child anti-trafficking organization to seek advice on whom to contact. Sullivan was advised to call police on Aug. 27. The ministry said Sullivan exchanged voice mails with an officer until Aug. 30, when they finally connected and the officer told Sullivan to dial 911, which he did that day.

“We deeply regret that our employees did not report these incidents to authorities within the proper amount of time. This failure within our organization weighs heavily on us, because our purpose is to help people and minister to their needs,” the church said in the statement. “Our internal response was unacceptable, and we are taking the proper steps to correct it.”

The five employees charged with failure to report abuse have been suspended by the ministry while it considers disciplinary action, the organization said.

Police detective Cpl. Greg Smith, who works in the child crisis unit, said the ministry has fully cooperated with investigators since the alleged abuse was reported.

“There was a couple of weeks in which they were either unsure of what to do or didn't do it, or who knows what,” he said. “There was a couple weeks where we probably lost some evidence.”

Smith said police are pursuing cases involving at least two more victims and another suspect. In one of the cases, police have failed to connect with the accuser. In the other, the victim's parents are not cooperating, Smith said,

“They made a comment that the church is handling the situation and they're going to continue to pray about it,” Smith said Thursday. “We're still hoping to convince them to go forward with it.”

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