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.
I won’t respond to all the false claims and statements made in this letter. The point in sharing it here is to further show that Apologia Church has defended the Hendricksons adamantly, even potentially legally, despite the evidence. I still have a few questions though.
Who are these eyewitnesses Jeff mentioned, and how does he explain the mountain of reports, records, and evidence showing Chelsey was abused by the Hendricksons, such as the court ruling, the hospital examination, and the police report? He can claim it’s false until he’s blue in the face. He has provided no facts, no evidence, and no reasonable explanations, and neither have the Hendricksons.
In fact, it doesn’t sound like Apologia Church’s “investigation” was an investigation at all. Did they actually talk to the police, to DCS, or to anyone besides the Hendricksons when conducting this investigation? Jeff has mentioned talking to the police a few times now. Does he have documentation of those interactions or any evidence that he reported anything to the police at all? Or how about the cross-examinations he mentioned to Chelsey's mother? Did he actually conduct any of those, and with who?
Did they ask for Jennifer’s insight or input? Did they review the court documents, the police reports that were made by the school, the hospital report, or even read the forensic psychological evaluation, that Chelsey’s mother sent to them? Jeff claims in one of his emails to Chelsey’s mother that he counseled her during her time with the Hendricksons. Did he see the bruises and injuries that her school teachers noticed? Did he find her to be small for her age? Did he notice anything at all?
We know many Apologia Church members and leaders believe that hitting children is an acceptable form of discipline, but what about the form of discipline that Mike and Tiffany Hendrickson practiced on Chelsey according to DCS reports, police reports, and their own recorded admission to the police and the court?
We've heard from parents that advocate for spanking who found the documentation of the Hendricksons' “discipline” toward Chelsey to be both humiliating and traumatizing. If Jeff Durbin believes Mike Hendrickson disciplined Chelsey in the way which Mike described to the police and the court, and he sees nothing wrong with it, is this how all Apologia Church parents discipline their children? By having them strip naked and laying face down on a concrete floor to be whipped on their bare butt (and apparently their back as well) with a belt, spoon, or their father’s hand?
Doug Wilson is another spanking advocate and Calvinist Pastor that many Apologia Church members go to for parenting advice. He has stated that spanking should never damage the child. While I would argue that hitting damages the child psychologically even if it doesn’t leave a visible mark, even spanking advocates like Wilson confirm there is a line between discipline and abuse. So where exactly is that line according to parents like the Hendricksons and other members of Apologia Church? If they don't see this as child abuse, what exactly is child abuse to them? Does Jeff Durbin agree with Doug Wilson, or is it okay to cause six-inch wide bruises on a 7-year-old girl’s back because she, as the Hendricksons claimed, “bruises easily”?
Does Apologia Church’s leadership genuinely believe the Hendricksons are innocent of the allegations against them, and even what the Hendricksons admitted about themselves to DCS, the court, and the Police? Or do they defend them purely for their own self-interest and to protect their own image, regardless of what they believe the Hendricksons may have done to Chelsey? This distinction is important because depending on their motives, Apologia Church's leaders are either unbelievably incompetent or shockingly malevolent. One is certainly worse than the other, so I’d like to know which one it is.
Until the church answers these questions, we’re left to discern these things for ourselves, and we should. A reader recently commented that Apologia Church isn’t obligated to answer my questions, but how about Jennifer’s? How about Chelsey’s? How about their own members? How about yours? Do they owe anyone an explanation?
How about this supposed investigation the church conducted? They didn’t provide any details on that or what the result actually was, although we can certainly draw our own conclusions based on Jeff's email.
Despite our many remaining questions, a few things are sure, church checkers.
Apologia Church has defended and sided with the Hendricksons, who lost their adopted child because of a court order that declared them as abusive in late 2018, and early 2019. I've sent Apologia Church my report, so they have seen all the same evidence that you have. Chelsey’s mother has sent them the forensic psychological evaluation of Chelsey and even other evidence I didn’t include in my report.
Apologia Church's leaders are well aware of the situation; they were apparently aware of it while the investigation was happening, but before (perhaps unwittingly) admitting to that, they told Chelsey’s mother they were investigating the allegations for themselves, giving the impression they were uncertain of the truth or limited in their knowledge of the allegations while telling me they were false and threatening to sue me.
The deception is palpable, but the facts remain untouched despite all of this nonsense. I believe this church’s leaders wear a mask that many Christians adore: protect the unborn; the most vulnerable people in the world. Heck, I adore it. I hate abortion. And yet, when faced with Chelsey and her mother, who fights endlessly to help Chelsey heal, Apologia Church defends the Hendricksons.
This is why we check churches. Please check these institutions that call themselves biblical Christian churches for yourselves seriously and objectively, my friends. The Christian Church has a massive infestation of wolves these days, and the more we stand up, talk about it, and fight to protect the sheep, the harder it will be for these wolves to continue abusing and exploiting the flock.
Until next time, have courage, examine everything, use discernment, and tell the truth, church checkers.