Home Christian News Alleged Victims Say ACNA Church Leaders Failed to Acknowledge Their Abuse Allegations

Alleged Victims Say ACNA Church Leaders Failed to Acknowledge Their Abuse Allegations

Holly said she later texted Rivera that seeing pornography on his computer had made her uncomfortable. Rivera allegedly told her they were just pop-up ads. At least one other person said they encountered Rivera watching porn while they were visiting him in his basement on other occasions.

Holly also said Rivera used to touch her frequently while they were with other Christ Our Light Anglican members. When she was 15, Rivera asked her to sit in his lap and began rubbing her feet, telling her how beautiful her arches were.

“When I think about it now, that was just incredibly inappropriate,” said Holly.

Cherin’s sister, Alice, who asked to keep her last name private, claimed that Rivera would often touch children without their consent. “He would pick up kids without asking them if they wanted to be picked up,” she said. “He was very physically affectionate, always hugging. He wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to touching the kids.”

If questioned, several of his accusers said, Rivera would attribute his behavior to his Puerto Rican culture.

Another church member, who wished to remain anonymous, said Rivera would often give her and other young girls “prolonged and repeated hugs.” The best friend of one of Rivera’s daughters and a cousin of Cherin’s, she attended Christ Our Light Anglican — known as COLA — and had sleepovers at Rivera’s house growing up.

In 2015, when she was 13, she alleged, she and Rivera’s daughter were sleeping in Rivera’s basement when he came in and started touching her feet, then feeling his way up her legs. She said she thrashed around and Rivera left. The next day, she said nothing, thinking Rivera must have been sleepwalking.

The same thing happened again two years later, she claimed. “That time, I was actually getting scared,” she said. “I thought, oh shoot, he knows what he’s doing. And it freaked me out.”

Rivera would often watch movies with this girl and his own kids. She said Rivera offered and even pressured her to drink alcohol and would insist on sitting next to her to watch the movies. On two occasions, she said, Rivera touched her between her legs, then apologized, saying he meant to reach for the popcorn.

Christ Our Light Anglican, which drew no more than 40 people on Sundays, lacked any official mechanism for reporting alleged abuse. So when Cherin went public with her daughter’s allegations, she became an unofficial point-person for collecting other allegations against Rivera.

According to Cherin, Holly shared her allegations with Cherin as did the mother of the teenager who had watched movies with Rivera.

Cherin, who then attended Church of the Resurrection, reported Holly’s and the other woman’s allegations to Val McIntyre, head of pastoral care at Church of the Resurrection, in June 2019. Cherin also named three others who made allegations against Rivera and two other vulnerable youth demonstrating warning signs of abuse. According to Cherin, McIntyre promised to report all the allegations to her supervisor, Bishop Stewart Ruch III.

In an email to Religion News Service, McIntyre said she could not say whether she reported the allegations to Ruch because she is under formal review by the Anglican Church in North America and is part of an ongoing independent investigation by an outside firm appointed by the diocese.

Ruch, who is taking a leave of absence during the investigation, did not respond to a request for comment. However, in a December 2020 email to a former Church of the Resurrection member, Ruch said he was told of some allegations against Rivera, but didn’t remember all of them.

Regardless of whether McIntyre reported the allegations to Ruch in June 2019, the alleged survivors say they did not receive the support they needed. “No one in either church community reached out at any point,” said the anonymous alleged victim, who said an investigator from Grand River Solutions, the firm hired by the Upper Midwest Diocese, became the first to inquire into her allegations and offer counseling only a few weeks ago, two years after Cherin said she reported her claims to McIntyre.

Holly also said that no one at COLA or Church of the Resurrection ever reached out to her.

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KathrynPost@churchleaders.com'
Kathryn Post is an author at Religion News Service.