THORNTON, Colo. — Agape Bible Church canceled all church services last weekend after a FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation into whether its head pastor tried to cover up an alleged sexual abuse case within the church.
A week ago, Agape’s former associate pastor Robert “Bob” Wyatt turned himself into police. He is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl who went to the church.
Police documents and former congregation members allege that Agape’s head pastor, Darrell Ferguson, knew about the allegations in July and refused to go to police.
A 16-page arrest affidavit describes evidence that Ferguson knew about the allegations by July 21, when Wyatt reportedly confessed the crime to the girl’s parents.
“Ultimately, Darrell and [the girl’s parents] agreed to not report the sexual assault to the police or social services because they were concerned with what would happen to Bob,” the affidavit alleges.
It is important to know when Ferguson found out about the alleged abuse because in certain circumstances, if a member of the clergy knows about child abuse and does not report it, it might be a crime.
The Problem Solvers pressed Ferguson on the issue. In a recorded phone conversation, he said he didn’t report it earlier to police or the congregation because “the sexual assault on a child, that wasn’t known until the arrest.”
Wyatt stepped down from his leadership position on July 21 and remained at Agape as a member of the congregation until his arrest.
On Tuesday, Ferguson was asked, “You’re saying you, as church leaders didn’t know that it was sexual assault against a child?”
Ferguson replied, “The, uh, the eldership, let’s see I’m just now getting on the highway here. The eldership, you’re asking when the eldership, when the leadership of the church discovered that it was sexual assault on a child?
“That happened the day of the arrest. That’s when that came out.”
Over the weekend, Ferguson sent a letter to the congregation apologizing for making what he describes as misleading statements.
In my phone conversation with the reporter from FOX31, when I answered her question about when the leadership knew, I said it was when the arrest was made. I began my sentence with “The other elders … but that part was edited out.”
FOX31 edited Ferguson’s response for time in the story that aired. In no part of the interview did he specify he was talking about the other church leaders, excluding himself.
Since Ferguson is the head pastor at Agape, it was FOX31’s understanding that when Ferguson was asked “When did you as church leaders know?” Ferguson’s response was referring to himself too.
The rest of Ferguson’s letter to the congregation goes on to support FOX31’s interpretation of his answer:
“I did not intend to deceive her — I just wanted to make the point that the other elders did not know until the arrest. Nevertheless, I do think what I said was wrong. I knew she wanted to know when I found out, and I had been advised by our lawyer not to discuss that in the press, so I got flustered and just tried to divert to something I did want to talk about rather than answer her question. This was wrong, and it ended up being very misleading.”
Ferguson sent a separate statement to FOX31 over the weekend clarifying that he knew about the accusations of abuse before the other church leaders. He also said that under Colorado law, he does not believe that he had an obligation to report the suspected crime to police.
The full statement reads:
“Regarding the Bob Wyatt matter, it is very important to us at Agape Bible Church that all of our communications be completely accurate. To be clear, the statement about first becoming aware of the allegation on Monday applies to the other elders, but not to Pastor Ferguson, who did have prior knowledge. Also, it turns out the other elders actually became aware of the allegation of sexual abuse the day before the arrest.
It is not true that there was collusion with the father to withhold the information. The things that were said to Darrell by the family in confidential pastoral contexts in July were kept in confidence as required by Colorado law (C.R.S. 19-3-304 II and C.R.S. 13-90-107 (1) (c)). Any information that came to Mr. Ferguson outside of those confidential contexts was reported by Mr. Ferguson to the Child Abuse Hotline (report #667944).”
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