Former residents of Chicago’s Jesus People USA Christian community are claiming that while they lived at the commune, they were abused as children by commune members.
According to a civil lawsuit filed in January in Cook County against Jesus People USA and the Evangelical Covenant Church, the leaders of the commune hid the abuse for years. A documentary filmdetailing the allegations was also released today.
"My intent is to expose truth, bring it to light, because it hasn't been in the light," filmmaker Jaime Prater told Christianity Today. "No one loves JPUSA more than I do. It's my home. Why would I want to see Jesus People shut down? Do I believe that those in power need to step down? Absolutely. But it is my hope that the community can somehow get past this and safety precautions can be put in place to preserve the innocence of children.”
Prater said that he was sexually abused by a man 10 years older than him when he was living with the commune.
JPUSA hasn’t issued a statement, but the ECC did briefly say:
"We care about partnership with our local congregations, but in terms of governance each local body is an independent and self-governing entity. Our member churches run themselves."
JPUSA has about 400 members. It joined the ECC in 1989.
"For the first time in the history of Jesus People, former members have come together and coalesced through this journey and have started to heal collectively,” Prater said. “My ultimate goal is for reconciliation. When the chips fall where they may and appropriate action is taken towards leadership, I would love to walk in my childhood home again and see where I grew up. That's irrational. But I'm an optimist. Healing on all sides is certainly possible."
Publication Date: March 5, 2014.