US Missions Group Fires Child Sex Abuse Investigators; Claims Process 'Fatally Flawed'

The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), which seeks to promote Christianity internationally, recently announced that it will be dropping its primary investigator, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which was weeks away from releasing a years-long investigative report regarding sexual abuse allegations by former missionary Donn Ketcham in Bangladesh in the 1980s.

In a statement published on the ABWE website, the organization's chairman, Larry Green, said that ABWE would be choosing to use Professional Investigators International (Pii), an independent firm, as a replacement for GRACE.

"We made this decision with great reluctance, and after repeated attempts to reach an agreement with G.R.A.C.E. about how to proceed in an independent investigation that would ensure objectivity, address our concerns, and be in accordance with industry best practices," Green said.

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"Unfortunately, the flaws in the investigative process that were brought to light were so significant that to continue with G.R.A.C.E. would hinder, rather than help us achieve the primary goals for the investigation in the first place – that of discovering the complete truth and facilitating biblical reconciliation with the victims," Green added.

Additionally, Tony Beckett, vice president of church relations and member care at ABWE, told The Christian Post that regardless of the GRACE termination, ABWE is "still committed to discovering the truth and seeking the healing of victims."

The ABWE then provided several reasons as to why it chose to terminate GRACE and what it describes as a "fatally flawed" investigative process, including claiming that GRACE allegedly allowed witnesses to share their stories with each other before being interviewed, did not record witness interviews, asked leading questions to interviewees, and added and cut out important information regarding ABWE.

Additionally, the organization claims that GRACE's "wrong investigative tactics and flaws have led victims to withdraw from the investigation with a number of other victims and witnesses expressing similar concerns about the perceived lack of truthfulness of any report due to the fatal investigative flaws.

GRACE also issued a response to the termination, with Basyle J. Tchividjian, executive director of GRACE, addressing each of ABWE's criticisms point-by-point.

Tchividjian wrote that the group suspects ABWE's decision to terminate GRACE "will inflict a pain as great as any [the abuse victims] have ever known."

"The termination of GRACE strongly suggests ABWE is unwilling to have itself investigated unless the investigation is within your control," Tchividjian wrote, adding that the organization's "[repeated] contractual breaches needlessly delayed this investigation and impaired our ability to fully evaluate ABWE's response to the crimes perpetrated by Donn Ketcham."

The ABWE has reportedly requested that GRACE release its investigative records to Pii to aid in their investigative process.

As Beckett told CP, the expected release date of the investigation, which was supposed to occur in the upcoming weeks, will be extended due to the switch in investigators.

Multiple reports surfacing in 2011 claimed there existed allegations that Donn Ketcham, a medical doctor who volunteered for ABWE in the 1980s in Bangladesh, had sexually abused a 12-year-old girl during his time abroad.

ABWE launched its independent investigation of the allegations in May 2011 with GRACE.

The issue of child abuse in missionary work has been a recent dark chapter in American evangelism, as many investigations have come about in recent years regarding previous abuse allegations.

One advocate seeking to bring attention to the abuses suffered by children and also seeking to protect children from future molestation is Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International, a children sponsorship organization located in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Stafford suffered abuse, both physically and mentally, while his parents worked as missionaries in West Africa in the 1960s, a story which he re-tells in his book, Too Small To Ignore.

Stafford now seeks to aid children in poverty through his Compassion International organization.

In an April 2012 speech to Bethel University, located in Minnesota, Stafford cited the Bible verses Proverbs 31:8 and Matthew 25:40, saying they must be applied to the world's children, as well as adults.

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves," Stafford told the university, adding "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

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