A board of elders for a church in Denton, Texas, says they failed to prevent at least 14 girls from being sexually abused by one of its former youth pastors.
The 15-member board of Denton Bible Church sent a letter to the congregation in May, saying the church did not help the girls or try to involve women in the church's evaluation of the abuse allegations.
"Our church culture lacked involvement of women in decision-making processes related to the abuse of these girls. Further, in almost all meetings with the victims, no women were present, which was inappropriate," said board chair Curtis Elder and Senior Pastor Tommy Nelson in the letter to the congregation first published by Fox 4 on Tuesday.
The letter referred to former Denton Bible youth pastor Robert Shiflet, 51. He was arrested in June 2020 and later sentenced to 33 months in federal prison in June 2021 for child sex trafficking charges, The Denton Record-Chronicle reported. He is set to be released in 2023.
The May letter to the church also included the findings of an independent investigation conducted by Scott Fredericks, a third-party investigator and lawyer with the law firm Cantey Hanger LLP.
"In total, the investigators found credible accounts that at least 14 girls were victims of Shiflet's abuse: 11 at Denton Bible and three at Fellowship Bible. The misconduct described in these accounts was characterized by everything from grooming behavior and sexual harassment to criminal sexual abuse, abuse of power, and spiritual abuse," the elders said. "Equally troubling, was the consistent accounts that Denton Bible did not shepherd and care for the victims after they showed great courage coming forward."
According to the investigation, witnesses said Shiflet was observed "regularly spending time alone with girls in his ministry, including before and after school, in his office, in his vehicle, in his home, and in a hotel room."
"On at least one known occasion, two youth workers confronted Shiflet about his being alone with girls, which he dismissed. They also raised concerns with church leadership, including Pastor Nelson, about Shiflet's being one-on-one with girls. Shiflet's supervisor was told by Pastor Nelson that Shiflet should not be meeting alone with girls," reads the letter.
However, "there was no evidence that any other corrective or disciplinary action was taken."
Shiflet was also witnessed "wrestling with a girl, counseling a girl sitting on his lap, pulling girls over his body while caving in a small tunnel, and otherwise interacting with middle school girls in ways that made the observers feel uncomfortable."
Shiflet began volunteering in youth ministry at the church in 1993 and was hired to work with middle school students from 1996 to 2001. In 1999, a college intern first reported Shiflet's inappropriate behavior. Then in 2001, he was denied a promotion because of his behavior.
He then left Denton Bible Church to become the youth pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was then fired in 2003 after reports of sexual assault at the Arkansas church surfaced.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.