Jim Kempner (the older man in the center) and other Beach Cities Calvary pastors.
Jim Kempner (the older man in the center) and other Beach Cities Calvary pastors.

Jim Kempner and Lonnie Frisbee: a Tale of Two Sinners

Enrollment has been declining at Prince of Peace School, a private Christian preschool and K-6 elementary campus in Costa Mesa's Mesa Verde neighborhood, since revelations surfaced that the pastor of the church that owns the campus was accused of soliciting a prostitute.

Brianna Bailey got the scoop in the Daily Pilot.

The Rev. Jim Kempner, who has presided over Beach Cities Calvary Church since 2001, was arrested as part of a special prostitution investigation conducted by the Tustin Police Department in May 2008.

Bailey reports:

He was charged with one misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution after he placed $100 on a dresser in exchange for sex, according to documents provided by the Orange County district attorney's office.

Kempner pleaded guilty and was ordered to complete an AIDS testing and education program, eight days of community service and two years of probation, according to court records.

The charges now show up on court records as having been "dismissed" as part of a plea agreement that required Kempner to meet their terms of his probation, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Bailey reached Kempner by phone, and he at first denied to that he was convicted, but later admitted that he had pleaded guilty as part of an agreement. "The only reason we did that is that I couldn't afford the $10,000 to go to court," he reportedly said.

Prince of Peace parents found out about Kempner's past arrest and conviction when he failed to complete a required background check to work in close proximity with preschool children, according to the story, which adds the school's board passed a resolution banning the pastor from being on school grounds or dealing with school matters.

Struggling to stay open, the school likely will not offer all grades next fall, an official tells Bailey.

Calvary Chapel long forgave Kempner for getting caught with his pants down.

Amid the bad publicity, Kempner has been "disfellowshipped," writes pastor Michael Newnham on his Phoenix Preacher blog.

There is something ironic about that.

According to his bio on the Beach Cities Calvary website:

Jim accepted Christ at a Christian commune called the House of Miracles on Aug. 17th 1969 through the ministry of Lonnie Frisbee who he had known prior to him becoming a Christian. Lonnie was a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa at that time and as a result started attending the same church that Lonnie went to. By Gods grace he was immediately involved in a healthy church that taught the word of God systematically.

A close associate of Calvary Church's founder, pastor Chuck Smith, Kempner was involved in movie and music ministries beginning in the early 1970s before moving to Spokane, Washington, with his wife and two young children to start a Calvary Church there in 1982. The Beach Cities Calvary board asked him to take the pastor position there in 2001.

Frisbee, as I wrote in my cover story "The First Jesus Freak," was already immersed in Laguna Beach's gay scene when he accepted Christ at age 17. By the time he succumbed to AIDS at age 43 in 1993, he'd largely been shunned by the church and all those he saved for several years--and it continued after his death.

"It's like John the Baptist walked through Southern California, and nobody wants to talk about him because he died of AIDS," David Di Sabatino, who made a documentary on Frisbee, says in my story.

In the eyes of Calvary Chapel, Frisbee obviously picked the wrong sin.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >