GRACE finds sexual abuse allegations against Chris Rice ‘credible’

Allegations that popular Christian singer-songwriter Chris Rice sexually assaulted an older teenager are “credible”, according to a report by leading victims’ advocacy group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).

GRACE detailed the allegations in a 29-page report released today. The report concludes an 18-month investigation commissioned by Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. According to GRACE, the investigation was halted at some point “to consider specific legal issues” and then transferred to a new team.

From 1995 to 2003, the church contracted with Rice to lead worship at high school and college retreats, the report said. The victim, called “Alan Doe,” told investigators that Rice started giving him massages when he was 14 or 15 and groped him when he was 17 or 18.

The Roys Report (RTR) contacted Rice through her attorney, but did not receive a response. GRACE said Rice, through an attorney, “refused to speak to GRACE investigators.”

GRACE said he corroborated some details of Alan Doe’s account with other former members of the youth group. Rice’s alleged actions are consistent with “abuse of power, grooming, sexual misconduct and abuse,” the report said.

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Alan Doe allegedly told GRACE how Rice, in her thirties, took a particular interest in him during a retreat. Rice reportedly established a relationship of trust with the teenager and isolated him first at camp and then during visits to Rice’s home. Alan Doe also allegedly alleged that Rice initiated massages that led to sexual contact.

Two other men, both 18 or older at the time of the alleged incidents, told GRACE they remembered Rice starting conversations about sexual topics and suggesting massages. The behaviors “could also be considered foul,” GRACE said. Friends and church leaders also corroborated the accounts, the report said.

According to GRACE, current Tates Creek management “responded quickly and compassionately once they learned of Alan Doe’s report and the potential for other survivors.”

Robert Cunningham, senior pastor of Tates Creek, issued a 1,500-word statement, confessing the church’s “institutional” and “cultural” failures revealed by the report.

“We are ashamed that it took us a public outrage to seriously overhaul policies and procedures, but sadly that is the case,” Cunningham wrote. “We are deeply sorry and ask for forgiveness, especially to the survivors who were injured.”

In October 2020, when the allegations about Rice surfaced, Cunningham commissioned the GRACE investigation and contacted the Kentucky State Police.

The report said police are not investigating “due to the current preference of . . . Alan Doe and the expectation that the proper jurisdiction for further reports and lawsuits is in Tennessee.

Cunningham praised alleged victims of grooming or abuse who took part in the GRACE investigation.

“Your courage to share was the prophetic rebuke we needed to repent,” Cunningham wrote in his statement. “I hope you will accept our apologies for the failures I have confessed.”

Alleged abuse, grooming by Christian music star

The allegations about Rice first surfaced about a year after a GRACE investigation found that a former youth pastor at Tates Creek, Brad Waller, abused multiple men and youths.

The Waller investigation was also commissioned by Tates Creek. And as already reported RTR, Waller and Rice were good friends.

Beginning in 1995, Waller began inviting Rice to church youth events, according to the report. Rice’s prominent role in church retreats and special services has grown as Rice has become a star in contemporary Christian music (CCM), with several Christian radio hits and nine nominations for Dove Awards over several years, including a win in 1999.

Chris Rice, Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter

According to the report, Alan Doe met Rice when he was “13 or 14” at a youth retreat at Tates Creek Presbyterian Church, where Rice led worship and some teaching sessions.

After another student confessed to a porn addiction, Rice privately asked Alan Doe if he had dealt with online porn, and they reportedly shared their “personal struggles” with it.

Rice suggested that Alan Doe install computer software to notify Rice when the student visits questionable websites, according to the report. This would have facilitated conversations about sexual matters between the adult and the teenager, according to the report.

“He was my accountability partner from Franklin, Tennessee, unbeknownst to my parents,” Alan Doe told investigators.

When Alan Doe was 14 or 15, Rice lodged with him in the church camp and began “exchanging massages” with the teenager, Doe told investigators.

And when the student got his driver’s license at 16, Rice reportedly suggested the student drive to his home, more than three hours from Lexington, to visit.

Beginning with the first visit and continuing on multiple visits over the years, Rice allegedly pressured the teen to sleep in the same bed as him. Alan Doe reported that massages initiated by Rice involved “increasing levels of physical contact” and included touching the student’s genitals, according to the GRACE report.

The report added that Rice’s visits continued through Alan Doe’s early college years.

During one of the teen’s last visits to Rice’s home, Alan Doe told investigators that Rice pressured the student to sleep naked with him in the same sleeping bag. Doe “refused” and Rice was distant the next morning.

Another man, called “Brent Doe,” told GRACE that Rice’s behavior made him feel uncomfortable at times. Brent Doe also allegedly said that Rice touched his shoulders, back, knee and thigh several times while he was staying at Rice’s house.

GRACE said Brent’s story “had some similarities that supported” Alan Doe’s account of explicit sexual abuse.

GRACE noted that Alan Doe’s account was consistent across multiple interviews. The organization also said it found no reason to doubt his story.

“I just want people to be on their guard,” Alan Doe told investigators. “I just don’t want anyone else taking advantage like this, God forbid. It’s just not fair.

Layers of damage to vulnerable people

GRACE concluded by detailing 15 recommendations that she believes would help the church prevent future abuse and respect victims of abuse.

Steps include conducting a policy audit of how “grooming behaviors” may have been facilitated; require church contractors to abide by the same safeguards as TCPC staff and volunteers; and providing “additional training…on the effects of violence” for all church staff.

GRACE also recommended that “any teaching” to young people about sexuality should include “information about consent and the impact of age and power differences”.

Pastor Cunningham said several of the recommendations are already being implemented and that TCPC will “follow all of them.”

Cunningham was appointed senior pastor in 2012 and was not on church staff when the alleged incidents took place. However, it has launched multiple investigations and actions in response to allegations of abuse.

“They did not attempt to cover sins,” GRACE wrote of the church. He also noted that no church staff were aware of the allegations until the fall of 2020.

GRACE’s report highlights the harm caused by sexual abuse and grooming in a religious context. He said such violations have “an additional spiritual layer” of harm.

“This stands in stark contrast to Christ’s calls to protect and honor children and other vulnerable people,” the report said.

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