The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, announced last week that it had reached a settlement with former church members who accused the church’s former children’s minister of sexual assault.
“The safety of our children and the vulnerable among us has been, and remains, our highest priority. After a thorough and lengthy legal investigation, we maintain and firmly believe that we committed no wrong,” the church, led by Pastor Matt Chandler, said in a statement on August 1.
“It has been our practice to exceed the standard of care as it relates to child safety, and we will continue to take accusations of or suspicion of abuse seriously,” the statement continued. “We provide ongoing training to all of our staff, elders, deacons, and key lay leaders to increase awareness and delineate instructions for filing reports.”
According to The Christian Post, the Village Church settled with “Jane Doe One” on August 1 in a case involving former children’s minister Matt Tonne, who was accused of sexually abusing the daughter of church members Christi and Matt Bragg at the church camp in 2012. Their daughter was 11 years old at the time of the alleged incident.
The couple filed a lawsuit against the church in July 2019 after their daughter opened up about the incident in February 2018. The Braggs initially sought more than $1 million in damages from the church.
The Braggs also accused the church of responding to their concerns in a spiritually abusive manner, asserting that the church seemed more concerned about maintaining the church’s image than protecting their daughter.
In August 2020, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office dismissed criminal charges filed against Tonne, stating “the fact remains that the complainant cannot and has not positively identified [Tonne] as the person who committed [the] offense.”
In late 2021, the charges against Tonne were completely expunged.
According to The Roys Report, the Braggs accused the church of not being “fully truthful, transparent, or caring for the traumatized” in its statement.
“The attempt to communicate care in one sentence followed by language that invalidates and dismisses the merits of the victim’s claims is not the way to express care, compassion, and truth,” the family said.
“And then we wonder why so many victims of trauma are leaving the church. A church that increasingly fails to represent the care, compassion, and truth of Jesus,” they contended.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.