Billy Graham's grandson hired to investigate former youth pastor at Modesto church

A former youth minister at a prominent Modesto church accused of sexually abusing a then-teen girl three decades ago is the target of an upcoming independent investigation.

GRACE, or Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, led by a grandson of the late Billy Graham, will conduct the probe of Brad Tebbutt, who now works for a religious organization in Missouri, GRACE confirmed to The Modesto Bee late Thursday.

The alleged victim in Modesto, Jennifer Graves Roach, now 47, said she will cooperate with the investigation.

"You don't get better than that," Roach said of GRACE's "impeccable credentials." She said, "I trust them, and (a third-party investigation) is what I've been pushing for."

2ND Tebbutt Mug
Brad Tebbutt

The Kansas City Star, a sister paper to The Modesto Bee in the McClatchy company, also received confirmation Friday morning from the International House of Prayer of Kansas City. That group had placed Tebbutt on leave March 1 after a February Bee report that included a Modesto clergyman saying Tebbutt had confessed to him about the abuse.

Tebbutt worked for Modesto's First Baptist Church when he sexually abused Roach for about 2 1/2 years starting when she was 14, shortly after losing her father in a car accident, she told The Bee. He was 27 and married.

IHOPKC cited "inconsistencies between the parties’ accounts of what took place 30 years ago" in an email to the Kansas City newspaper. Tebbutt will remain on leave, IHOPKC said.

First Baptist, which changed to CrossPoint Community Church in 2010, did not refer the girl's report to authorities and Tebbutt went on to a 30-year career in youth ministry elsewhere before being hired to lead a seniors internship program in Kansas City.

The investigation by GRACE, a nonprofit based in Virginia, will stretch from Tebbutt's ministry with First Baptist in Modesto to subsequent years with Horizon Christian High School near Portland, Ore., as well as his time with IHOPKC, said GRACE's Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian, in an email.

"Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot make any further statements at this time," Tchividjian said. He is a former child abuse prosecutor and grandson of Graham, the nation’s most well-known Christian evangelist who died in February at age 99. Tchividjian also is a professor at Liberty University School of Law.

Roach said, "The idea that potentially other victims could be found and receive some help is immensely satisfying." She now is an Anglican minister and therapist near Seattle who counsels victims of sexual abuse, among other clients, and she is married and has a teenage son.

She has a website providing information about clergy sexual abuse, and recently posted an 11-page pamphlet urging sexual abuse victims to speak up, empowering themselves and others in the #MeToo movement. She provides tips for approaching media and details what people might expect in dealing with reporters, and the public's reaction to their stories.

"Your voice is needed more than ever," Roach says in "Talking About It," the pamphlet. "Your brave heart can set others free."

CrossPoint now has safeguards in place to protect against sexual abuse by employees and volunteers, its current lead pastor has said.

GRACE's client list includes Bob Jones University, a bastion of Christian fundamentalism. For decades, the university had told sexual assault victims that they were to blame, and told them not to tell authorities, GRACE said in 2014 findings.

According to its website, GRACE helps develop child abuse prevention and safety programs for churches and Christian organizations, conducts independent investigations into sexual abuse allegations and assists churches and ministries facing such allegations. GRACE's investigation team includes child abuse prosecutors and psychologists with expertise in abuse and trauma, as well as theologians and clergy members who have trauma and abuse experience.

“Our desire is to get to the truth of the matter,” the website says, “so that compassion and assistance can be demonstrated to those who have been hurt and changes can happen on an organizational level.”

IHOPKC was founded in 1999. Tebbutt’s bio says he has been married 36 years and has two children. He had been leading the organization's Simeon Company Internship, 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