Most of my exposure to Ernest Angley is from the comedy skits of SCTV and Robin Williams. It’s hard to believe that he is still around and leading a church at age 97. What makes it so unbelievable that he is still serving as pastor of Grace Cathedral in Springfield Township, Ohio, isn’t his advanced age but the fact that he has weathered so many scandals and people continue to deny and cover-up for him.
Angley has been accused of making false claims of miracle healings, financial improprieties, violation of labor laws, and sexual misconduct. Any one of these would be a career destroyer for most ministers, but Angley has managed to gather people around him that deny or cover-up these allegations.
Like most faith healers, Angley has his share of detractors. Angley has been called out for making inflated claims with no evidence to back them up. For example, the Government of South Africa canceled his newspaper advertisements because of his claims that people were being cured of AIDS. Angley claims he can produce documentation but so far has not.
Angley’s financial improprieties are common to televangelist and mega-church pastors. There are questions on why money collected goes to buying extravagances like jet planes. However, Angley was also accused of stalking and swindling an elderly woman out of $340,000.
Angley broke labor laws when his Cathedral Buffet restaurant, a for-profit business, recruited church volunteers to work there. Angley pressured people into volunteering their service there as waiters, busboys, and cooks. He was later ordered to pay $388,000 in damages and back pay.
His newest and latest scandal is a lawsuit brought against him by a former pastor at Angley’s church alleging sexual abuse. Former pastor Brock Miller described some of the goings-on at Grace Cathedral. Miller claims that Angley would encourage church members to get vasectomies and abortions because the world was overpopulated. (Obviously, Angley isn’t part of the Quiverfull movement.) if that seems like a little controlling, it gets weirder. Angley would tell the men of his church after their vasectomies to come to his office so he could inspect their genetics. Angley would fondle and pray over their genitals. The men, who had been raised to believe that Angley was one of God’s special anointed and trained to obey his authority, would comply. Miller claims that the fondling went even further and Angley would meet Miller at Angley’s house and instructed him to masturbate while Angley watched and asked him sexually explicit questions.
Angley, of course, denied the accusations. Many members of the congregation denied the accusations. After all, Angley was a man of God. Angley performed miracles. Angley and his congregation told reporters that these claims of sexual abuse were not only false but that they were demonic inspired attacks against the ministry of Angley.
The church staff rallied around Angley, but they went too far. They didn’t stop at denial; they attacked Miller. The staff claimed that Miller was “Angley’s staff told the congregation he [Miller] was a liar, drug addict, alcoholic, and an adulterer.”
This prompted a former church member to release audio that had been covered up for twenty-three years. In the audio below, Angley is confronted by Rev. Bill Davis, who served as an assistant minister at Grace Cathedral for nineteen years, over comments made by Angley against Davis’ wife. In the audio, Angley admits that he was in bed with a male staff member naked and mutually masturbating. However, Angley denies that either of them ejaculated, so, it’s OK. Angley is also upset that Davis mentions this event since he [Angley] had already prayed for forgiveness.
The audio was made twenty-three years ago! This means that for at least twenty-three years, who knows how much longer it may have been, other pastors and their wives, as indicated by the audio, knew Angley was involved in sexually inappropriate behavior with male church staff members.
This pattern of sexual abuse had been covered up. It was only uncovered to protect the reputation of current accuser Miller. I can understand how a congregation can become involved in a cult of personality and believe that their leader can do no wrong. We have seen that with political leaders, religious leaders, and stars in the entertainment industry. What I can’t understand is why other supposed men of God covered it up.
Maybe they were afraid that it would harm the ministry. it might have been because Ernest Angley asked for forgiveness. Too often abusers get a free walk by claiming they prayed for forgiveness and have received it. I mean if God forgives, who are we not to forgive too. Too many churches have been taken advantage of because abusers manipulate people into thinking forgiveness means no consequences or boundaries. Forgiveness is just a free pass for abusers to abuse again.
Often the rational in covering up a pastor’s indiscretions is that people might lose their faith in their spiritual leader is exposed. Cults of personality are built on fallible people, and the inner circle must protect the image.
My guess is that these other so-called men of God covered it up because Grace Cathedral was a money-making powerhouse that provided them a check. They may have dressed up their reasons with spiritual language like forgiveness or used examples of how God uses flawed leaders to accomplish his work, but at the heart of it, they failed to shepherd the flock and protect it from a predator.
I’m sure they cited the many “miracles” and the number of people getting saved as justification for the cover-up. Yes, Ernest Angley was sexually abusing people, but exposing him would end God’s miraculous work. So, Angley’s inner circle denied, covered up and sacrificed young men at the altar of rationalization. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NRSV)
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