One of these days, I'm going to get around to investigate Calvary Chapel and the many allegations sent my way that it protects abusers within their ranks. It's one of American Christianity's great open secrets, and only Christianity Today has truly tried to tackle the subject. But maybe others will get there before me–I hope not, but if that means bringing people to justice or exposing Calvary Chapel's far-from-God leadership, so be it.
Consider a scandal brewing in Visalia. There, Calvary Chapel's pastor Bob Grenier has had to fend off allegations from his own sons that he savagely beat them as children during the 1980s and 1990s. The brothers have gone to police and even Calvary Chapel head Chuck Smith with their story–no dice. Their story involves bowdlerized police reports, an uninterested district attorney's office, disbelieving faithful and an apathetic leadership–wait, are we talking about Calvary Chapel, or the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal in Orange?
The story began earlier this year, when brothers Paul and Alex Grenier filed a criminal complaint with the Visalia police department alleging abuse decades ago at the hands of their father. But the story remained under wraps for months until the brothers went to the Bee alleging the police and prosecutors were lagging on the case, probably because Pa Grenier is a chaplain with the black-and-blue.
Police laughed off the code of silence claims, but it took a court order for Paul and Alex to get a copy of the police report regarding their case–and when they got it, the abuse was glossed over. You can find the watered-down report and many abuse stories at the Grenier brothers' website, appropriately called Calvary Chapel Abuse. The report mentions that another Grenier brother, Geoff, lives in Newport Beach and also suffered abuse (although he's not talking). Prosecutors have declined to press charges against Pastor Grenier, citing statute of limitations.
What does Chuck Smith know? The founder of Calvary Chapel visited Visalia in early July, just a couple of weeks before the Grenier matter hit the proverbial fan. Calvary Church leaders told the Bee that the Grenier brothers came to them with the allegations, but they refuse to disclose whether they plan to investigate. But Alex Grenier alleges Smith knows more about what happens in his church than the popular image of the Hawaiian shirt-wearing, ever-grinning fogie has crafted.
“This blog is about accountability and justice,” Alex writes. “Since Big Calvary
likes to be a non-denomination denomination so Chuck Smith doesn't have
to pay for the misdeeds of corrupt jerks like [another Calvary Chapel pastor]…then there
needs to be a place where victims of other corrupt jerks like Bob
Grenier can go to get help, blow the whistle on the abuse and
corruption, and spread the word to warn the church per 1 Timothy 5.“