The Village Church in Texas, led by Matt Chandler, could soon be facing a lawsuit from former members who allege that the church mishandled the sexual abuse of their underage daughter by one of the church’s then pastors.
In their first public interview, former Village Church members Christi Braggs and her husband, Matt, alleged in a report in The New York Times that fired Village Church children’s minister Matthew Tonne sexually abused their daughter when she was about 11 at a church camp in 2012.
The couple argue that The Village Church responded to their concerns in a spiritually abusive manner and appeared more concerned about the reputation of the megachurch instead of their daughter.
“No one was looking out for our daughter’s best interest,” Braggs told the publication. “She matters. Jesus says she matters. We say she matters.
“We see the posturing so clearly now. The church is not doing this well, and not just mine.”
Braggs told The New York Times that she was getting ready for a family weekend at a lake with friends in February 2018 when her daughter, who is now an adult, asked to talk to her alone.
Her daughter then recounted how six years earlier, while she was at the church camp she woke up in the girls’ room to some of her undergarments pulled down. A man, whom she did not name, was sitting on her bed, touching her. He left when a light went on in the bathroom.
Braggs, who revealed she is a sexual assault survivor, wasted no time in filing a police report and contacting The Village Church.
Her daughter later identified Tonne as the man from her memories.
It was only earlier this year that Chandler revealed to his church that Tonne was charged with sexual assault involving a minor from his church. He had declined to say if any person of interest in the case was ever affiliated with the church after first revealing the assault last September.
He had also announced that "no persons of interest" in the investigation had access to children at The Village Church at the time of the announcement, which the Times described as a technicality. Months after reporting what happened to her daughter, the Bragg family, who has since left The Village Church, say they weren’t treated with the care they expect victims of abuse should get.
“What we encountered … was a church that has made a conscious choice to protect itself rather than reflect the Jesus it claims to follow,” she wrote to the pastor of her church campus in Southlake.
“It’s a terribly sad joke,” she continued. “We followed the rules. We followed the bylaws. We have no clue where to go from here.”
Attorneys Boz Tchividjian and Mitch Little, who are now representing the Braggs’ daughter, told The New York Times that their client plans to move forward with formal litigation in order to hold Village “accountable for the sexual trauma inflicted upon her as a child by an adult employee.”
Tchividjian wasn’t immediately available for further comment when contacted by The Christian Post Monday.
When asked if they had a response to the Times report, a representative of The Village Church noted in a response to CP: “We are preparing an update that we will be sharing with our members soon.”
Information from court documents reviewed by The Christian Post earlier this year shows that Tonne, 35, was charged with indecent child contact and released on a $25,000 bond. He was ordered to have no contact with the complainant in the case against him or her family.
Tonne was also ordered to have no contact with children 17 years or younger except his own children.
At the time of the announcement, Pastor Chandler updated the congregation and said: "This whole thing is a mess. I have personally felt thin and exhausted and worn out and heartbroken. We want truth … we want justice … and we want healing."
Before he was removed from his post at The Village Church last June, Tonne, a longtime church employee, was known as a beloved leader and family man with a wife and three children of his own.