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Apologia Church Defends Reported Child Abusers

Welcome back, church checkers.

Before we get started, if you haven’t already, check out our most recent report on the Apologia Church Members, the Hendricksons, that were reported to have abused their adopted child in 2018. The entities that have reported this abuse are the Chandler Police Department, the Maricopa County Superior Court, the Children's Protection Team at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, DCS, and a Forensic Psychologist.

At the end of our report, we asked you, ourselves, and the leaders of Apologia Church what their response would be to all of this information. Where would they stand after seeing all the documentation regarding the reported abuse of an adopted child by two of their church’s members? What would they do about it as church leaders, as Christian men, and as parents? Would they hold their church members accountable, hold themselves accountable, or answer our questions? Would they do anything at all?

In pursuing answers to these questions, I shared screenshots of my email interactions with Apologia Church and Jeff Durbin at the end of that report. Here, we're going to go back and take notice of some of those emails, as well as the behavior that followed them. Both will show us exactly what Apologia Church’s response has been and where they stand on this issue, but it’s also important to remember that Chelsey’s mother emailed the church and Jeff Durbin multiple times as well. Their contradictory statements to her compared to what they’ve said to me will also show the deceptive character of this church’s leadership.

Apologia Church’s Defense of Reported Child Abusers

As fun as it would be for me, I will not waste time on every ridiculous claim and accusation made in Apologia Church's and Jeff Durbin’s emails to me. Since we assert that Apologia Church is actually defending reported child abusers, I want to focus solely on whether they believe the evidence, which supports Chelsey, or not. Then, what specifically Apologia leadership has done or said in response to our report that shows support for either Chelsey or the Hendricksons.

It didn't take long to realize Apologia Church's defense of the Hendricksons is sadly obvious. In their first email response to my request for comment or correction of the August report, Jeff Durbin made the following statements, which can be read in their original context in that report:

“...Your threat to spread false witness and to commit libel against us or others within our body is not something that we will take lightly. Please be on notice, you have a history of and are threatening to spread false allegations publicly. You are threatening to put false allegations into print, something that is classified as a crime in both Utah and Arizona, and is open to the remedy of the courts. Allegations that you have made are demonstrably false with numbers of eyewitnesses that can and will be brought on record and it will be incontrovertibly demonstrated to be false to the satisfaction of the courts and the public record…”

So immediately, Jeff Durbin/Apologia Church seems to ignore everything in the report we attached for them to read and review, and flat out denies that it's true. They are taking a position that paints Chelsey as a liar, but not just Chelsey. Everyone else that has gone on record throughout the investigation of abuse against her must also be a liar if we are to believe Apologia Church’s position.

Jeff also mentions “eyewitnesses” they can bring on record to show the allegations are false, but the report we published is full of eyewitness accounts from people who have already gone on record multiple times. Those recorded reports and interviews were evidence to the Maricopa County Superior Court and led to the court ruling that the Hendricksons abused Chelsey. No amount of “eyewitnesses” (other members of Apologia Church perhaps?) brought in to defend the Hendricksons can change what the police have already filed as child abuse and the court has already ruled as child abuse.

But back to the point. Don’t be distracted by the aggression, the legal threats, and the false accusations made by Jeff Durbin, church checkers. This statement by him and the Apologia Church Elders alone clarifies that the church is defending the Hendricksons. Whether they honestly believe our report to be true or not, I am still uncertain, but the position they’ve taken is blatantly clear.

As a brief side note before we move on, I find it interesting that Jeff sounds upset because he supposedly thinks I’m being slanderous and threatening. He is actually being very slanderous and threatening himself. I believe that’s called projecting, Jeff. Maybe do some introspection, brother. Your hypocrisy is glaring.

Anyway, let’s move on.

Jeff Durbin’s Contradictory Claims to Chelsey’s Mother

Before getting to our final examples of how Apologia Church is defending reported child abusers and members of their church, Mike and Tiffany Hendrickson, I’d like to point out some deceptive and contradictory behavior by Jeff Durbin. This behavior may help us discern more about the church’s position and place in this situation, but it also shows the dishonest character of the church's leadership‌.

While Apologia Church and Jeff Durbin were angrily launching accusations at me, calling me slanderous, libelous, and threatening to sue me for supposedly “threatening” to spread “false information”, Jeff Durbin’s emails to Chelsey’s mother seem to contradict that position. In his emails to her, he actually claimed he was taking the allegations seriously because Apologia Church's leaders want to make sure they protect children, that they were investigating the allegations of child abuse themselves, and he even repeated the claim that he’d called the police regarding these allegations.

“...Pastor Luke sent you a message on August, 8th, which was a Monday. After reading your email above we're fearful you possibly didn't see it. You wrote, "I didn't even know that you were investigating." When he responded, he wrote, "Hello Jennifer, We have received your email and are reviewing the information. God Bless, Pastor Luke Pierson…"”

“...We take claims of abuse seriously. As I stated before we have worked with Law Enforcement on a number of occasions. It is the duty of the Christian church to care for victims and to allow the civil magistrate to do their duty in bringing justice. We regularly teach on this. With that, we also believe in rigorous standards when it comes to receiving accusations. Which is why we believe it's very important to patiently work through them, gather appropriate and available evidence, and cross-examine witnesses…”

“...I completely understand your concern and I am grateful for the love you have for Chelsea. My fifth child, Augustine, was adopted and he is the most precious thing in the world to me. Our concern is, and will always be, for true justice. It is against every theological conviction that we have to protect abusers or show partiality. Which is also why we had no problem or hesitation in reporting the claims that were going to be written in the article…”

“...We are still in the process of reviewing these claims ("claims" is in no way intended to be derogatory or diminish; it's simply regarding what is being said). We will respond to you when we have had an appropriate and careful examination…”

If you don't know whether allegations of child abuse are true and you’re investigating it for yourself, you would be out of your mind to threaten a defamation lawsuit against someone for simply publishing the facts and evidence surrounding those allegations, even if their opinion differed from the one you were leaning towards. You would either have to already believe them to be true or false confidently or be very determined to shut someone up for talking about it, regardless of what you honestly believe.

As we can see, Jeff is clearly claiming that he believes the allegations are lies to me while claiming he doesn't know if they're true or not to Chelsey's mother. He's also telling her he's investigating them, while telling me nothing of the sort, and threatening to sue me for spreading “false information.”

So which is the truth, Jeff? Or are they both lies? Did your church really do your own investigation or not? Did you ever take Jennifer’s emails seriously, or were you just trying to placate her to give the impression that you were, while your true position was better expressed in your emails to me?

Did you already know about these allegations, the police investigation, DCS’s report, and the court ruling before Jennifer contacted you? Did you already know about everything and just decide to treat me one way and Jennifer another way in order to manipulate us both?

Whatever the case may be, Jeff Durbin and Apologia Church are being dishonest about a very serious matter, either to the mother of an abuse victim, or the person trying to give that victim a voice by reporting the facts on it.

In Jeff's last email to Chelsey's mother, some of these questions are answered.

Apologia Church Concludes its “Investigation”

Near the end of Jeff’s last email to Jennifer, he claims Apologia Church has concluded their "investigation" of the allegations against the Hendricksons. Apologia Church’s position in defense of the Hendricksons remains clear (emphasis mine):

“...With regard to the accusations, your recent message had made some claims that we had not heard before. So, we wanted to review them and look for evidence. Having been present during some of Chelsea's time with the Hendricksons, after speaking to witnesses both then and now, and after witnessing how the police and DCS investigation was done, we have a suggestion. We want to make sure your questions and challenges are answered and we want to offer ourselves and time to help mediate a conversation between yourself and Mike and Tiffany. There are a lot of questions you have (rightfully so) and there is a lot of history as well as a lot of witnesses and evidence that needs to be examined. You were fearful in your message that you were speaking to men who would simply abandon truth and justice to "save face". Jennifer, we would be honored to get to know you better and for you to get to know us: that is not a description of the practice of the Pastors of our Church. Our theological commitments would forbid any such thing. We hope you find some comfort in that…”

Rather than answering Jennifer’s questions, Jeff seems to try to manipulate her into discussing this in person instead. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a pastor a question that needed only a “yes” or “no” answer, but I got something almost identical to this email instead. “Oh, let’s not talk about that here. How about we meet in person?”

There are a few reasons I believe wolves use this kind of response to questions. First, they want to control the environment, their target, and the conversation. Meeting in person as opposed to emails or even on the phone, where they still have no control over the environment, allows wolves to do this. If you don’t believe me, offer a Zoom or Skype meeting instead of in person. It provides all the same things as an in-person meeting without being in-person, but they will still object, because they’re not literally in your physical space, where they are most comfortable, and you, perhaps, are not.

Second, wolves want to avoid saying anything that could damage their image/mask in a recorded format. Emails, texts, DM’s, Zoom meetings, and even regular phone calls (as Jeff is well aware) are all forms of communication that can be recorded.

Even though Jeff claims he wants to answer Jennifer’s questions and acts very helpful and compassionate in this email, he doesn’t actually answer any of her questions or provide any information that’s helpful to her. At least, not on purpose I don't think. He wants to mediate an in-person meeting between her and the Hendricksons, whom he clearly has sided with at this point. This would not help Jennifer or Chelsey. Unless, of course, she could record the conversation and bring someone else who was involved in the investigation with her, like DCS, or the police.

Furthermore, please pay close attention to Jeff’s words in bold in this last email. He actually states that he spoke to witnesses “both then and now.” I’m assuming “then” is regarding the time during the investigation into the allegations of child abuse. If this is the case, it means Jeff knew the Hendricksons were being investigated for child abuse while it was happening. He then claims he actually witnessed how the DCS and police investigation was done. If that’s the case, not only did he know about it before Jennifer or I reached out to him, but he must have known a lot about it, and perhaps he was even counseling the Hendricksons throughout the investigation, as was claimed by the Hendricksons in several DCS reports.

The Cease & Desist Letter from Apologia Church and the Hendricksons

One last example of how Apologia Church has defended the Hendricksons is through the Cease and Desist Letter I received a few days after publishing the report. It came from a law firm that stated it was representing both Apologia Church and the Hendricksons.

This is the most blatant proclamation of "WE'RE WITH THESE GUYS" that Apologia Church could have possibly made in defense of the Hendricksons. Nothing says "we support you" like sharing an attorney.

To read the Cease and Desist Letter, which is just as ridiculous as Jeff's emails, see below.

2022 0822 Letter to SY
Download PDF • 4.47MB

I won’t respond to all the false claims and statements made in this letter. The point