On December 9th, one of the first childhood sexual abuse and cover up lawsuits against non-Catholic churches was filed under new law, against an ex-youth pastor and a large Sacramento church.
Rev. Lemuel Collins, formerly of Greater Grace Worship Center (5550 Sky Parkway, 916 395 0179) pled guilty in 1999 to “lewd or lascivious acts with a child and offender ten or more years older than victim.”
In the 1990s, Rev. Collins worked at Greater Grace, part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World denomination (PAW).
That’s where he met and befriended Pierre Chambers, a church member, “buying him gifts and teaching (him) to drive. Then, Rev. Collins sexually and mentally abused Chambers for four years, starting when the boy was 12. The crimes took place in the pastor’s church, home, car, Chamber’s home and at meetings and conventions of the PAW.
The abuse stopped when Chambers disclosed Rev. Collins’ crimes to his parents. The family cooperated with police, the minister was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to seven of 50 counts of felony childhood sexual abuse. Rev. Collins was sentenced to a six years in a state prison, was released in 2003 and is now on the California sex offender registry.
Bishop David C. Foster, Sr., is the founder of Greater Grace, remains its head pastor and was Rev. Collins’ direct supervisor.
“Foster has not offered even a hint of apology or reconciliation to the victim and his family,” said Dr. Joseph C. George, who represents Chambers. “We suspect that, under oath, he’ll admit to knowing or suspecting Rev. Collins’ crimes. And we hope that others with information about wrongdoing at Greater Grace will voluntarily step forward now and do what’s right.”
"I've learned that experience is not only what happens to us, but what we do with what happens to us. I can no longer be silent or ignored. As a survivor, it is my responsibility to share my testimony with the world in hopes that it will encourage another victim to fight their way out," said Chambers. "I was brainwashed and sexually abused for years while serving as an altar boy. As a child, I was given special privileges and treatment by my predatory youth pastor, unknowingly in exchange for abuse. As a minor, I have been in inappropriate environments within the personal office of Bishop Foster, and in the company of several adult ministers, pastors and bishops of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World."
“Pierre is a brave man who is protecting others by taking legal action,” said his attorney Dr. George. “We hope his courage will prod others with information about Rev. Collins’ crimes –or other wrongdoing—to speak up, file reports with law enforcement, start healing and safeguarding other vulnerable youngsters.”
The PAW calls itself “one of the world's largest Pentecostal Christian denominations. It is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and is led by Bishop Theodore L. Brooks, Sr. (203 787 3393, email@example.com, 317 547 9541). It’s northern California branch is headed by Bishop Noel Jones (510 644 8117, ext. 2).
Greater Grace was founded in 1981 as Norwood Apostolic Community Church and in 1984 changed its name and moved to 2994 Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento.
Chambers was born in 1983. Rev. Collins was born in 1973.
"Abuse of innocent kids and vulnerable adults can happen anywhere," George emphasized. "But it's often more egregious at these personality-driven mega-churches where there's an unhealthy degree of reverence for the founders or pastors and either weak or non-existent boards or supervisors."
In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. It provides a three-year window for anyone who was molested as a child to use the court system to expose those who committed and concealed the crimes, regardless of when the wrongdoing happened.
In addition, it also extends the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual assault, allowing survivors up to their 40th birthday (formerly their 26th birthday), or within five years (formerly three years) from the date of discovery of an adult psychological injury caused by the childhood sexual assault.
Dr. Joseph C. George is both a licensed psychology and attorney and has represented hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual assault. Both he and Pierre Chambers are available for comment via phone and/or Skype.
Contact Information: Dr. Joseph C. George, firstname.lastname@example.org, office 916 641 7300; cell 916 802 7949,
Maricar Pascual email@example.com, 916 641 7300