The River is Polluted

Today I turn the spotlight on “The River Church,” a Charismatic church that, as far as I can tell, is an independent/non-affiliated church located in Kimball Township, Michigan.

From photos above, it appears The River Church meets in a former school building. Co-lead pastors were husband and wife Bill and Kim Wahl, although in recent days the website no longer lists Kim Wahl as a pastor. Below is a screenshot from The River Church’s website in 2021. For some reason the photos of Kim Wahl and Stefan Wahl did not appear on this saved document from The Wayback Machine.

Stefan Wahl is the son of Bill and Kim Wahl. Stefan’s full name is William Stefan Wahl. He is named after his dad, Bill (William), but goes by the name Stefan. More on Stefan shortly.

The Wahl family lived in Monroe, LA from approximately 2002-2012. While there, Bill Wahl worked as Executive Pastor and Student Ministries Pastor at House of Prayer International Church. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City is somewhat infamous and I wondered if the church in West Monroe was in the same movement. From what I could find, I believe they are – the names seem interchangeable. Whether my information on this point is correct or not is not important. Suffice it to say that the church in West Monroe is Charismatic.  From Monroe, the Wahl family moved back to Michigan, which is where Bill is originally from.


“Bishop” Bill Wahl and his wife, Kim were back in Monroe in 2015 to do some ministry work. The Bishop was preaching and Kim was “ministering in song.” BTW, Kim has a wonderful voice. In researching this story I listened to some church services from The River Church. Kim was leading the worship team and has a lovely voice. (There were also some recordings of her sermons.)


With this background news, I now move on to what caused me to write about The River Church. On Friday, January 21, 2022, Stefan Wahl was arrested and charged with sexual assault of 4 victims. Two of the victims were children under the age of 13.

Here is a video of Bill Wahl addressing The River Church on January 23, 2022 – two days after his son and Student Pastor, Stefan Wahl was arrested.

Below are 3 of the pages from the court case against Stefan Wahl.  He was found guilty on 7 charges. He was sentenced on August 3, 2022 to a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 15 years on counts 1-6. These counts run concurrently. Count 7 runs consecutively, that is, added on to counts 1-6 and the term for count 7 is 16 months minimum and 2 years maximum.

This screenshot below should simplify the time Stefan Wahl must serve in prison. He was credited with 42 days of time served, so the earliest Stefan Wahl could be released is 10/21/2028 and the latest is he could be released is 6/21/2039.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, according to a FOX2 news report from Detroit, a second youth pastor from The River Church was arrested and arraigned on December 24, 2022 on charges of sexual assault against children!

https://www.fox2detroit.com/video/1160695


Here is a screenshot I took from The River Church website. Obviously, I added the mug-shots of Stefan Wahl and David Shegena to make a point of how ludicrous The River Church’s claim to be a safe place for children is.

Something clearly needs to be changed at The River Church. I suggest starting by examining the staff at The River Church. It appears that Kim Wahl is no longer officially on the staff. She is not mentioned as a staff member on the latest update of The River Church’s website. Obviously, neither is Stefan Wahl, I added him to this latest screenshot to emphasize the nepotism on the payroll. Everyone pictured below, with the exception of Bill Forbes, is related.

In case you have trouble making out the screenshot below, Bill Wahl is the lead pastor. Matt Wahl is Bill’s brother. Gabrielle Smith is Bill’s daughter. Scott Smith is married to Gabrielle Smith, making him Bill’s son-in-law. Danielle Oakey is Bill’s daughter. Dylan Oakey is married to Danielle, making him Bill’s son-in-law. Finally, Stefan Wahl is no longer on staff because he is serving time for his crimes in the Michigan State Penitentiary.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell the Wartburg Watch readers that The River Church is a very poor business model. It is ripe for corruption. Were I attending the church I would demand and independent audit of finances. I would also demand that the nepotism structure be dismantled.

This doesn’t even address the sexual abuse issue! In my opinion this church is a dumpster fire. I don’t care how good the music and preaching is.

Below is another screenshot from The River Church website. One of the things they claim to believe is “Restitution where possible.” Have they made any effort to make restitution with the victims who were sexually abused by two of their Student Pastors?  Examining their website and listening to some of their sermons I did not find any mention of helping the victims. Only applause when Lead Pastor Bill Wahl announced he wasn’t going anywhere!

Comments

The River is Polluted — 40 Comments

  1. Franklin Graham, of blessed parents, a diappointment in terms of political power and $$$$$$$$$, sure – a scion lost to the ages who might have found a better way forward to honor his parents than he has done . . . not exactly encouraging, no

    but now in this ‘new’ age, the younger generations are turning on victimizing CHILDREN ??
    as in the horror of ‘precious Josh’ Duggar
    and now ‘Stefan’

    prison inmates, both for crimes against children –

    What is it about a family or a community of faith that PRODUCES these predators? They fed on something, but what was it?
    They preyed on the innocent . . . in horrific ways

    What can we learn from these ‘scions’ and how they were ‘formed’, not in the image of Christ, but in something unspeakable????

    How many more will be exposed, and are there ‘patterns’ in their ‘formation’ into child predators??????

    (sigh)

    what is to be learned? for the sake of the innocent?

  2. Hey Wartburg readers – Dee is under the weather with COVID. Your prayers are appreciated.

  3. Dee – may God give you strength and a smile on your face as you battle COVID.

    Figuring out this family tree is worse than trying to figure out all the Ewing family relations on “Dallas.” (Younger readers may Google 🙂

    This story is a sickening example of “family.” As a therapist I work with many dysfunctional families, and it is always scarily surprising to see how the dysfunction permeates the family layers.

  4. Prayers for Dee and family.
    You said they appeared to be independent and unaffiliated, however that last image of “What we believe”
    says those are the core beliefs of the denomination. It looks like they copied that page from the beliefs of the Church of God denomination (Cleveland TN) and that the Church of God’s church finder includes The River when you search. https://churchofgod.org/church-locator/

  5. By the way, it looks like HOPI in Monroe is also affiliated with the Church of God but IHOPKC is not.

  6. Dee, I hope you have a mild case with a quick and full recovery. I hope the rest of your family is well.

  7. Luckyforward:
    Dee – may God give you strength and a smile on your face as you battle COVID.

    Figuring out this family tree ………..

    This story is a sickening example of “family.”

    More like a briar thicket than a tree …….. with maybe a family of weasels hiding in it.

  8. Good observation, 20John. It looks like you found that other churches, not just the Southern Baptist Convention, are stealthily concealing their affiliations. I do not know what the Church of God’s polity is like, but it’s entirely possible that only the ministers/pastors are members of the national organization, and the churches are not.

    I can say that over the decades, in these churches where there is a relatively loose relationship between the national organization / denomination, and the local church, so many churches end up being family affairs. I’ve found myself on church websites where Dad is in charge and one of the daughters has married a guy who is now an assistant pastor at the same church, with the expectation that he’s going to take over. Or Dad has retired and become a “bishop”, and the son is now the pastor, and a third generation is up and coming.

    I don’t think Jesus intended for the churches to become family businesses, but here we are.

  9. Dee, you’re in my prayers. Like Nancy2(aka Kevlar), may you have a light case with a full recovery. God bless.

  10. Their doctrine seems to be mostly classical Pentecostalism. I think IHOP / Kansas City Fellowship is more of a Third Wave neo-Pentecostal church with very idiosyncratic theology.

  11. Luckyforward: This story is a sickening example

    #pastorpredators: the other pandemic.

    For predatory pastors, their church is their hunting ground, their Epstein island.

    By the time the DOJ intervenes, the damage is done, lives have been ruined.

    Predatory pastors fraudulently and criminally seek and grab church participants’ money, time, and young people, endlessly, like the bottomless pit of a monster with giant fanged jaws.

    Where is the outcry among church leaders? Or, are they all complicit BFF theobros? Their silence says so loud and clear. This crisis outweighs “theology”, their books, sermons, seminary stuff, conferences, music, media, marketing, etc.

  12. Dee, hope you are better soon and take care.

    According to Wikipedia the denomination, Church of God (Cleveland) is hierarchical though it seems to have had several schisms over time (usually yielding Church of God (headquarter city) for the name of the new denomination).

    BTW footwashing as a sacrament is likely a mark of this cluster of denominations.

  13. Dee-praying for an easy case, speedy recovery, and your family to be safe also.

    As to this church, all I can say is when you start doing stuff Jesus said not to do it never turns out good.

  14. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I don’t think Jesus intended for the churches to become family businesses, but here we are.

    Levon sells cartoon balloons in town
    His family business thrives
    Jesus blows up balloons all day
    Sits on the porch swing, watching them fly
    And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
    Leave Levon far behind
    Take a balloon and go sailing
    While Levon, Levon slowly dies

    Elton John —1971 —

  15. Todd Wilhelm: Hey Wartburg readers – Dee is under the weather with COVID. Your prayers are appreciated.

    My first response: An F-bomb (about Dee being sick with Covid-19).

    I haven’t finished reading the comments – I’m sure there are other commenters who will say things much better that I could….

  16. On a completely unrelated note, I was saddened today to hear of the death of anglophile/American comedian Kelly Monteith. I don’t know how well-known he was to the left of the Pond, but he was a great favourite over here. His brand of observational comedy was both unrelentingly good-natured and extremely funny. (I’ll never forget his routine in which he managed to make a glorious disaster out of eating a sandwich while trying to impress an attractive female diner. In fact I’m laughing at it even as I type!)

    In Memoriam:
    Kelly Monteith
    1943-2023

  17. Prayers for Dee’s recovery are being said. We hope she will feel better soon and is comforted by knowing so many are praying for her now.

    I remember getting very ill after our little dog died – I wonder if the sadness of losing Holly was indirectly a contributing factor in Dee’s illness.

    May the God of all comforting care now for Dee and for all who suffer from the effects of covid and all those who suffer from loss of a loved one.

  18. christiane: May the God of all comforting care now for Dee and for all who suffer from the effects of covid and all those who suffer from loss of a loved one.

    Amen.

  19. christiane: What is it about a family or a community of faith that PRODUCES these predators?

    Described exactly in “Legal Grounds”. Why I wrote the novel. It’s a novel, yes, so no survivors had to be exposed regarding hurtful details of their life experiencing terror. Court cases do that, unfortunately.

    ION: Remember The [obnoxious] Loud Family on SNL? Well, here’s The Loud [obnoxious] Church making headlines: https://www.thedailybeast.com/maga-pastor-greg-lockes-loudspeakers-irk-making-global-vision-neighbors?ref=home

    (If you hit a paywall with the article, try a different browser.)

  20. christiane: but now in this ‘new’ age, the younger generations are turning on victimizing CHILDREN ??

    IMHO, this is not new. Throughout humans’ millennia, minors have been disposable or used, and thus targeted.

    We’re reading the Bible Chronologically with Traci Rhodes on FB. In today’s reading, Father Abraham is introduced. His male servants and female servants are listed with his male sheep and female sheep, among other livestock. These people were Abraham’s possessions like his cattle. Imagine the servants’ children, even of less value.

    IMHO, what’s different nowadays it that the church has by and large sold itself out to be the Epstein Island of the community. And like everyone involved with Epstein, it has to do with money. The rich and entitled can get what they want on the Island, with no one watching, and no one cares. Just keep producing great casino-like church productions on Sunday mornings for the community. Look good. Be big (make a shiny splashy impact).

  21. christiane: What is it about a family or a community of faith that PRODUCES these predators? They fed on something, but what was it?

    This stuff is simply Not Tolerated in the Secular World.
    Contrast that with so-called ‘faith’ communities who will do everything they can to cover it up.

  22. Muff Potter: This stuff is simply Not Tolerated in the Secular World.

    It is. Tolerated. Secular and church worlds. Unfortunately. Tragically.

    Epstein Island.
    Every Epstein property.
    Weinstein’s hotel suites.
    Cosby’s residences.
    Hybels’ yachts.
    Among priests and pastors.
    Youth pastors, youth rooms, and youth room couches.
    Dr. Larry Nassar’s exam room.
    College campuses as Hunting Grounds (see doc film).

    Until, FINALLY, some have the moral fortitude to confront and act.

    Like Ronan Farrow.

    Christa Brown is yet confronting the SBC.

    Dee and Todd with TWW.

    It’s a long game. Nothing quick about it … confronting the evil of predators and their playing fields.

  23. I’m grateful to Todd and Dee for such relentless, detailed reporting. Beyond frustrated and disgusted to note that elders are called to “shepherd the flock of God among you, as one who will give an account,exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not with greed but with eagerness; nor yet as domineering over those assigned to your care, but by proving to be examples to the flock.”

    ANY leader, secular or in the church must be on guard against nepotism. The practice within the church of allowing a wife to serve on staff with her husband is DISGRACEFUL. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, I’ve never heard an adequate explanation of “who will the wife report to and how would anyone ever give her a negative review?”

    The leadership of this church should resign immediately. If they were in a secular business, they’d be sued for gross negligence.

  24. Michael in UK,

    The same picture is still up. Churches like River Church Ipswich are actually setting a bad example to churches like River Church Kimball, by establishing style over substance.

    Glitter machine = deus ex machina which does NOT = providence in need.

  25. Why? Why do people keep doing this? Why men raised in church? And why do they get away with it for years?

  26. Tired,

    Because the imposing of Fundamentals as evident maximum belief, has left no room for prior principle such as meaning, which denominations even in the 19 th century had often tried to follow, in the practice of the faith.

    The Five (or four, or seven) Points don’t contain prayer (which is works), providence in difficult days, or the Holy Spirit gift in children, and also designer outlet religion tends to reinforce the irrelevant mini-gospel.

  27. Michael in UK: Because the imposing of Fundamentals as evident maximum belief, has left no room for prior principle such as meaning, which denominations even in the 19th century had often tried to follow, in the practice of the faith.

    There is only The Party Line.

    “Every word Pure Orthodoxy, Pure INGSOC.”
    — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four