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‘Fight Church’ founding pastor pleads guilty to child sex abuse 3 years after son owned abuse charge

Joe Burress, Paul Burress
Joe Burress (R) is the founding pastor of Victory Church in Rochester, N.Y. His son, Paul Burress (L), brought national attention to the church for its mixed martial arts program that helped it become popularly known as the "Fight Church." |

Joe Burress, the 71-year-old founding pastor of Victory Church in Rochester, New York, also known as the “Fight Church,” has pled guilty to one of two second-degree sexual abuse charges against him three years after his son Paul Burress pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse.

Court documents cited in a recent WHAM report say two teenagers accused Joe Burress of sexually abusing them in separate incidents while they were under the age of 14. One of the accusers says she was abused between Sept. 1, 2018, and Aug. 15, 2020, while the other said she was abused between Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2017.

Joe Burress is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 2 in Pittsford Town Court but will remain out of custody on his own recognizance until the hearing, WHAM reports.

In March 2018, Paul Burress, who was previously charged with four counts of forcible touching after allegedly groping three women in his Henrietta, New York, home, pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor.

Paul Burress, who also served as pastor of Victory Church, gained national attention in 2014 after being featured in a documentary on mixed martial arts called "Fight Church."

Allegations of sexual abuse and claims that he enjoyed life as a swinger dogged his time at the church's helm.

“In 2009, Paul showed me fully nude photos of his wife, and also showed me a pornographic video of him having sex with his wife. This occurred on several occasions that year,” an unidentified source wrote in a letter sent to the leadership team of Victory Church in 2013.  “I was a single, 21 year-old at the time. This weighed on me for years, until I couldn't take it anymore and eventually left Victory because of it. A person should be able to trust his pastor. I could not. 1 Cor 4:2 says it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy."

While the church is currently led by Pastor Alex True and his wife, Sarah, the church has not escaped its abusive past.

Filed on Monday, court documents allege that the church allowed and even encouraged multiple men with histories of sexual abuse in the past to serve on staff and look after girls in unsupervised settings, according to a Democrat & Chronicle report.

The allegations were made in three new lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act in New York State Supreme Court in Monroe County.

Ashton-Krebs, 56, of Penfield, New York, and two other women alleged the church’s leadership created a haven for sexual predators throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Ashton-Krebs recounts how she was groomed by her abuser, who she married after getting pregnant at 19. The three women seek judgments against the church with compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.

When asked about the lawsuits at his home, Joe Burress said he had heard about them but told the Democrat & Chronicle he did not think the claims were valid.

"In all honesty, I don’t even understand the story. It’s silly stuff," Joe Burress said. "It just sounds like that three girls got together and decided, ‘Hey, let’s see if we could get some money.’"

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