Special thanks to the pastor I met today, who is “one of the good guys.”
I think this is a first. I would suggest someone at Chapel Hill Bible Church consider a similar action. In August 2022, I wrote the following post. The Foursquare Denomination Has Been Hiding the GRACE Report for 1 1/2 Years. Looks Like the Leaders Are Afraid of Something. I recommend reading that post if you are unfamiliar with the Foursquare denomination. In the post, I referenced an informative Christianity Today article: Foursquare Abuse Response Ignites Fight over Transparency, which was subtitled: “An investigation found a “culture of unchecked power” at a Virginia college. Denominational leadership has declined to speak about it publicly.”
The denomination deep-sixed the GRACE report.
I doubt many of you would be surprised by this. Due to the many complaints regarding the alleged abusive behavior, which encompassed bullying and harassment, Foursquare hired GRACE to investigate the accusations.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel has suspended a safeguarding team that was working with students who accused a former college president of manipulation, bullying, and harassment.
Members of the team—along with Foursquare ministers and former students at the affiliated school in Christiansburg, Virginia—were raising questions about how the Pentecostal denomination handled a third-party investigation into the allegations. Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) found that Mike Larkin, president of Ignite Life Pacific University, misused his authority and that Foursquare failed to set up adequate structures of oversight and accountability.
But at the denomination’s national convention in June, ministers demanded to know why they hadn’t heard any specifics about GRACE’s report. They criticized board members for not taking abuse seriously enough and voted to recommend the 11-member safeguarding team be given more power and freedom from board interference. In late July, the board informed the team their work would be put on pause.
Mike Larkin, the president of Ignite Life Pacific University, was at the center of the allegations of abuse.
He would eventually step down but would deny the accusations. He claimed it was just “locker room humor.” Allow me to a degree for a minute. When some pastors at my former Baptist church were told by the parents of a young man who saw inappropriate behavior on the part of Dou Goodrich, who would eventually be arrested, they blew off the young teens report, saying something to the effect that it was just “locker room humor.” One year later, Goodrich was found to have horrifically sexually abuse a group of young teens from the church. Dee’s rule: When one hears the excuse of “locker room humor’ one can assume that abusive sexual and/or bullying behavior is occurring. Guess what Larkin’s excuse was?
Later, when interviewed by GRACE, however, he said he had taken more than his fair share of responsibility.
“If I’m the scapegoat in this, I’m the scapegoat in this and I accept it,” he told investigators. “Locker room talk. It wasn’t vulgar. It was never vulgar. And I’ll tell you something else too: It was never sexual.”
Just like Chapel Hill Bible Church, the members were fed drips and drabs by those who have read the actual report.
GRACE interviewed 28 people over the course of several months and submitted a 29-page report to the Foursquare board. Investigators concluded that Larkin abused his authority and “at minimum … crossed professional boundaries as a pastor.” The board reviewed the report and voted that it agreed with the findings in January 2021. Larkin’s credentials were revoked, and the board approved a draft of a public statement about the investigation.
The statement, obtained by CT, said there was an “unhealthy leadership culture” at Ignite, which “commonly exhibited toxicity, emotional misconduct, verbal aggression, and sexual harassment.” The board took responsibility for a lack of oversight and announced the formation of the safeguarding team, which would be led by Paul Kuzma and include Heidi and Jim Cooper.
The Foursquare leaders were adept at playing games with the safeguarding team, sounding a bit like the SBC in their actions.
In open session, the convention body passed a motion recommending the board empower the safeguarding team to operate without board or staff interference. It passed overwhelmingly, people in attendance said. It was not binding, however. The convention can only make recommendations to the board.
The following month, the 11 members of the safeguarding team were notified that their work would be “paused,” with roles and makeup of the team reevaluated. Foursquare then announced that a new board task force would be overseeing the denomination’s “journey toward health, free of leadership abuse.”
According to the denomination’s spokesman, the move to reevaluate and reorganize the safeguarding team was in keeping with the “spirit of the motion” passed at the convention, despite the clause about interference.
The leaders made a show of repentance and then claimed the folks should note their concern for the abused.
Leadership has, according to Abare, made abuse a high priority in the past few years. The church’s concern for victims should be apparent.
When I wrote the original post, I was taken aback by the leadership’s response. They pulled a DARVO, in my opinion. In other words, if one doesn’t see their concern in spite of a questionable response, one must be a nitwit since their concern is apparent.
The alleged original GRACE Foursquare Executive Summary: Independent Investigation of The Foursquare Church
This was given to me by an individual who was involved with Foursquare. I hope this will lead to more transparency on the part of the Foursquare Church.
GRACE Executive Summary
This is an opportunity for folks to read through a report that has allegedly not been released to the membership by or denomination since 2021. I wonder why they chose not to divulge it.
Some findings include the following:
- Emotional misconduct
- Physical misconduct
- Sexual misconduct
- The abuse of power and authority by Mr. Larkin, including economic, verbal, and educational power
- Misconduct in the form of sexual harassment and the crossing of professional boundaries
My heart goes out to the victims. I am willing to post stories of the victims if they contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this summary. Now that you have read it, why do you think Foursquare decided to delay its release? I am thankful that I was able to publish it here to help those who have been waiting for its contents.