Famous Christian singer and songwriter Chris Rice allegedly groomed underage male students, who were part of the music youth ministry of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church, through massages and unaccompanied sleepovers 20 years ago, and the investigation said that the stories of sexual misconduct were credible.
Reports from three men revealed that the contemporary Christian musician took advantage of his role as a worship leader and spiritual mentor by inviting young men from the ministry for overnight stays in his house, where they would sleep in one bed and rub each other's back, according to Christianity Today.
The men, who were looking for a mentor in the music industry, also expressed their confusion during the incidents were happening as the interaction seems to involve touching rather than conversations and songwriting.
Christian Post reported that the leading Evangelical organization named Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), whose aim is to empower "Christian communities to recognize, prevent and respond to abuse within religious organizations" and where "caring for children and adult survivors of abuse is non-negotiable," was asked to handle the investigation.
Just this week, they have publicly released the results of their 18 months investigation in a 29-page report stating that all allegations against Rice were found "credible," including one account of "explicitly sexual contact," The Roys Report stated.
"Rice's role as a worship leader and a spiritual teaching leader at one or more retreats created a mentor, non-threatening role that reduces the defenses of those under that person's authority," GRACE proclaimed.
Recollections Of Grooming
The investigation against Rice's alleged sexual misconduct happened in 2020 when the senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, tapped GRACE after a former male member of the church's youth group opened up to him and told of the assaults he experienced while leading worship for the church during youth and college retreats between 1995-2003. The conversation happened during the Brad Waller investigation, pushing the church to launch an independent investigation against Rice.
The six-time Dove awards nominee was said to be a close friend of Brad Waller, a former pastor of the church who was also investigated by GRACE in the years 2018-2019 also for sexual abuse. According to the church in a statement in 2020, it was their friendship that led Rice to Tates Creek, where he was able to develop close relationships with students.
One of the former students, a male, narrated how he and Rice, in his late 30s then, would share a bed during church retreats and overnight stays in the singer's home in Nashville, where they would give each other back massages until the massages and the "touching" reached down his thighs and crotch. The student, who was 17 or 18 then and who recalled that he shared his porn struggles with Rice, also said that on multiple occasions, the latter would place his hand down on his boxer shorts. He went on to say that he found their relationship weird and stopped visiting after.
There were seven former students and volunteers who were interviewed by GRACE, all involved in the church between 1997 and 2003, and only the student above reported an "explicitly sexual contact."
Another student said that after he graduated high school, he stayed at the singer's house for a week where they would sleep together in a tent indoors. He said Rice would ask to look at his back muscles and would grab onto his thigh, which made him feel so uncomfortable.
A third student told of the time when he and Rice were on a bus ride and the singer fell asleep lying on him. He said that he "saw their interactions as a "bromance," but now, in hindsight, he views the behaviors as grooming," as quoted from Christianity Today.
'No Culture Of Awareness,' Says Church
"We are ashamed that it took a public scandal for us to seriously revisit policies and procedures," Tates Creek Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Robert Cunningham said in a statement he released Monday.
The senior pastor along with the entire church acknowledged that leaders failed to create protective policies against possible abusers and a "culture of awareness" about abuse.
Cunningham expressed his apology saying, "Both in policy and culture, our church failed to protect you. I wish so badly we could go back 20 years and change things, but all we can do is move forward in repentance. What allegedly happened at TCPC years ago was horrific. Remain humble, teachable, and vigilant, lest it happens again."
Tates Creek urged other churches and ministries where Rice has been involved to take the allegations and results of investigations seriously and start checking for potential abuse or grooming.
To date, Rice has not commented or released any statement about the results of the investigation. GRACE has reached out to him but to no avail.