Former Modesto pastor accused of sexual abuse placed on leave at Kansas City church

Jennifer Graves Roach talks about what happened at Modesto’s First Baptist Church

Jennifer Graves Roach discusses how she was sexually abused as a teenager by Brad Tebbutt, a former youth pastor at First Baptist Church, starting in the 1980s in Modesto, California. (Garth Stapley/Modesto, Peter Haley/Tacoma News Tribune
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Jennifer Graves Roach discusses how she was sexually abused as a teenager by Brad Tebbutt, a former youth pastor at First Baptist Church, starting in the 1980s in Modesto, California. (Garth Stapley/Modesto, Peter Haley/Tacoma News Tribune

A former youth pastor accused of sexually abusing a teen girl three decades ago at Modesto's First Baptist Church, as revealed a few days ago in a Modesto Bee report, is now on leave at the religious organization where he's been working in Kansas City, Mo.

Brad Tebbutt groomed and took advantage of Jennifer Roach from ages 14 to 17, she said in The Bee's report, and another clergyman formerly in charge of youth pastors said Tebbutt confessed to him. The abuse was not reported to authorities and Tebbutt went on to a 30-year career in youth ministry elsewhere before taking a job directing a seniors mentoring program at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City.

"In light of the recent accusations against one of our staff that took place over 30 years ago, as is typical in situations of these type of accusations, the staff member is on administrative leave while the veracity of these accusations is ascertained," said spokesman Adam Wittenberg in an email Thursday.

The International House of Prayer learned of the accusations in Bee inquiries four weeks ago, and reached out to Roach regarding Tebbutt almost three weeks ago, but failed to respond to The Bee until after the story was published.

"It's all too easy for a religious organization to put a pastor on administrative leave. But it's worth the observation that they've only done this on the heels of a media spotlight," said Christa Brown, who has been writing about Baptist clergy abuse for 12 years.

Before The Bee's initial report, Tebbutt asked via email if he should submit a statement, then went silent for three weeks. He did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

Putting him on leave "is an appropriate action for any church in their situation," Roach said Thursday.

First Baptist changed to CrossPoint Community Church in 2010 and now has safeguards in place to protect against sexual abuse by employees and volunteers, its current lead pastor has said.

Roach, now 47, is an Anglican minister and therapist near Seattle who counsels victims of sexual abuse, among other clients. She is married and has a teenage son.

At 14, Roach was distraught over her father's death in a car accident, she said, and at first she welcomed attention from the 27-year-old First Baptist youth pastor in charge of students at Modesto's Beyer High School. Soon he was kissing, fondling and having sex with her, she said, and it went on for 2 1/2 years.

When she did come forward after Tebbutt left town, church leaders did not tell her mother or authorities and instructed her to forgive and forget, citing concern for "the reputation of the church, and of Jesus himself," she said.

Marvin Jacobo, now executive director of City Ministry Network in Modesto, said he didn’t go to Modesto police about Tebbutt 30 years ago because Roach “did not want to press charges." Tebbutt later went through an “18-month repentance and restoration process” with a psychologist, a pastor at his Missouri church said in a recent email to Roach.

Tebbutt can’t be prosecuted, local authorities said, because the statute of limitations for such crimes has long since expired.

Roach said a church that's serious about looking into clergy abuse might hire outside experts with skilled investigators, noting one led by the late Billy Graham's grandson.

"Looking into not only these accusations, but hopefully also trying to find out what other contact he's had with vulnerable people, is a good thing," Brown said. However, "what about all the other people who knew, who for 30 years could have raised some question of whether this guy was fit to be working in a position of trust, and kept their mouths zipped until this media coverage? Until the cover-uppers face consequences, this will keep happening."

Jacobo and Matt Whiteford, CrossPoint's lead pastor, did not respond to inquiries for this story. Whiteford took the helm at CrossPoint five years ago; Bill Yaeger, the top leader of its predecessor, First Baptist, when Tebbutt was employed here, died in 2005.

Founded in 1999, the International House of Prayer is a 24/7 mission with world headquarters in Kansas City. Tebbutt’s bio says he has been married 36 years and has two children. He leads the Simeon Company Internship at IHOPKC, described as "a training experience and mentoring community for those 50 and older” who "desire to give their lives more fully to prayer, worship, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, outreach, and works of justice.”

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390