Las Vegas Man Accused of Sexual Abuse While Working at SGM Church in the 1980s

The Associated Press (AP) reports that a Las Vegas man has been accused of molesting four boys between 1985 and 1990 while working at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Says AP:

The criminal investigation began in 2009 when a man reported to police that he was sexually abused by [Nathaniel] Morales when he was between the ages of 12 and 20. The man told police that his parents had spoken to the church pastor but that no police report was made. Source

It is said that the suspect, Nathaniel Morales, helped at the church “with youth ministries, conducted Bible studies, [taught] at a Christian school and [hosted] sleepovers.”

Covenant Life Church (CLC) currently is under the leadership of pastor Joshua Harris. It was the original flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and formerly housed the organization’s offices on its campus, yet recently voted to disassociate from the network of churches founded and led by C.J. Mahaney. In a statement on the church’s website dated 17 December 2012, CLC shares some details:

Over the past year there has been a growing clarity for our pastoral team that our differences with the leadership of SGM make it difficult for us to remain as a member church. After much prayer and sober consideration, the pastoral team presented their perspective and proposed disassociation from SGM to the members of Covenant Life Church at a members meeting on November 4. On December 12, 2012, the members of Covenant Life Church affirmed the pastors’ decision to end our formal association with SGM. Source

In October 2012, a lawsuit was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries accusing some in leadership of neglecting to report allegations of sexual abuse and of protecting known sexual predators. In November, SGM responded to the complaint by stating that it contained “a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.” The original lawsuit recently was amended, and SGM had this to say on 15 January 2013:

On Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, Sovereign Grace Ministries’ (SGM) leadership was served with an amended complaint in the civil lawsuit originally filed Oct. 17, 2012, in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court.

SGM has been carefully reviewing each allegation since the initial claims first surfaced last October. We consider any allegation of harm to a child extremely serious and we have been working diligently in an effort to learn the truth. We ask for patience as we continue to investigate these new allegations. Source

In investigating these charges against Morales, The Associated Press notes that police interrogated at least two other pastors who interacted with the accused regarding this sinful and criminal behavior.

Police interviewed a co-pastor at the church who recalled having confronted Morales about the allegations. The pastor told police that “normally the church would appeal to the person to stop his criminal behavior and then, should it not stop, they would alert people that the person is not acting in a Christian manner. The person would need to show contrition,” according to a police report filed in the case. The pastor said that going to the police was in the “realm of possibilities,” but that he took his cues from the families, the police report says. Source

According to Susan Burke, the lawyer who initiated the case, this latest indictment “supports our lawsuit’s allegations of extensive wrongdoing by Sovereign Grace Ministries and its pastors.”

Nathaniel Morales is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Friday.