IHOPKC was warned in 2019 to investigate sexual misconduct claims, leaked report shows

Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

A 2019 report of an independent investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against an IHOPKC staffer warned leaders that additional allegations against others associated with the ministry had surfaced that needed to be immediately investigated.

Failure to do so and to implement recommended changes, the report said, “is likely to result in continued missteps when handling and responding to misconduct issues at IHOP.”

The release of the report comes as the International House of Prayer of Kansas City grapples with sexual misconduct allegations against founder Mike Bickle that surfaced late last month. The allegations prompted IHOPKC’s leadership team to ask Bickle to step away from public ministry “to allow for a proper inquiry to be conducted.”

The executive summary of the investigation findings concerning the staffer, which IHOPKC did not make public but was leaked on Monday, was dated Jan. 31, 2019. It involved Jennifer Graves Roach, a Washington woman who in 2018 accused the staff member, Brad Tebbutt, of sexually abusing her for 2 ½ years when she was a teen and he was a youth pastor at a Baptist church in Modesto, California.

Roach, who is referred to as Jane Doe in the report, has spoken publicly about her case and once sued over the allegations.

IHOPKC put Tebbutt on administrative leave and hired GRACE, a Virginia nonprofit whose name stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, to conduct an investigation after Roach came forward. GRACE was founded by Boz Tchividjian, a former child abuse chief prosecutor and grandson of the late Rev. Billy Graham.

During its investigation into the Tebbutt allegations, the report said, GRACE found other disturbing allegations as well.

“GRACE also noted that several different individuals brought concerning information to GRACE relating to specific instances of alleged sexual misconduct reportedly committed by other individuals associated with IHOP,” the report said.

“This information falls outside the scope of this investigation regarding Brad Tebbutt and is therefore not included here but will be addressed in a follow-up communication with IHOP in the coming weeks.”

It is unknown whether follow-up communications with IHOPKC occurred.

An IHOPKC leader told The Star that the organization would comment on the 2019 report later in the day Tuesday. Tebbutt, who has never spoken publicly about the allegations, could not be reached for comment.

Roach told The Star on Monday that the report “is evidence of an ongoing pattern at IHOP.”

“The report investigates Tebbutt but also alludes to victims of other leaders,” she said. “IHOP was asked to correct these issues in that report and given specific suggestions on how to do so. It does not seem those suggestions were taken.”

Bickle, 68, founded IHOPKC in 1999 as a 24/7 evangelical and missions organization with its world headquarters in south Kansas City. The allegations against him were presented to IHOPKC on Oct. 24 by three of its former leaders. IHOPKC’s current leadership team then called a meeting to inform staff on Oct. 27. They originally described Bickle’s alleged actions as “misconduct,” then later said the allegations were “unsettling” and involved “sexual immorality.”

The day after IHOPKC leaders told the staff about Bickle, the three former leaders issued a statement describing the incidents as “clergy sexual abuse” and said they found the allegations “to be credible and long-standing.”

Bickle has not responded publicly to the allegations. Last week, IHOPKC leaders released a report of their initial findings involving the allegations against him. The report discounted some of the allegations brought forth by the former IHOPKC leaders.

“After three weeks of examination, IHOPKC has identified five of eight alleged victims,” said the report, dated Nov. 15. “Three of those five have publicly called the allegations lies, a fourth has not wanted to communicate with IHOPKC’s attorney, and the fifth’s allegations relate to incidents that preceded IHOPKC’s founding.”

The 2019 report leaked Monday said that “GRACE has received no information pertaining to Mr. Tebbutt’s engaging in sexual misconduct or sexual abuse while at IHOP.”

It said Tebbutt declined to speak with GRACE during the investigation, which began in March 2018. It found that when Tebbutt applied for an internship at IHOPKC in 2012, the application asked about any previous allegations of physical or sexual abuse. Tebbutt answered that while an intern in youth ministry, he “moved outside of (his) marriage to find emotional fulfillment” with a 16-year-old girl that “went no further than inappropriate touch.”

“Despite this admission, Mr. Tebbutt was admitted into an IHOP internship,” the report said. In 2013, it said, Tebbutt was elevated to director of the Simeon Company Internship, a ministry for those 50 and older.

The report said that IHOPKC “should have proactively pursued learning as much information as possible about the true nature of all of Mr. Tebbutt’s alleged criminal behavior through any and all available sources, including contacting Jane Doe to find out her version of events before he was granted admission, and certainly before he was granted a leadership position.”

Tebbutt’s admission alone, the report said, “regardless of whether he committed the act of sexual penetration, should have been enough to prohibit him from working in a leadership and/or pastoral role.”

The report concluded that though evidence was not raised during the investigation that Tebbutt sexually abused anyone in the IHOPKC community, “the evidence shows that Mr. Tebbutt repeatedly exploited the access and trust granted him by Jane Doe and by the church by sexually abusing a youth in his care from a position of spiritual authority.”

It added that his “vague” responses to the matter when Roach reported it in 2018 and his explanation of those events on his internship application in 2012 “demonstrate that Mr. Tebbutt minimizes or fails to appreciate the gravity of his potentially criminal and clearly destructive sinful behaviors.”

Among GRACE’s recommendations was for leaders to decide whether Tebbutt would be permitted to return to IHOPKC.

“Without a proven demonstration of authentic repentance, Brad Tebbutt’s employment and association with IHOP should be terminated,” the report said. “Should he be permitted to return to IHOP, he must never be allowed on the property when minors are present. In addition, he must never be allowed at, or granted participation in, any off-campus IHOP activities in which minors are present.”

Former staff members, however, say Tebbutt was still at IHOPKC as recently as last month and working as an admissions manager, helping recruit minors.

“Not only do they allow him to be on campus when minors are present, they placed him in a position of leadership and authority to work with minors,” said Samuel Hood, a former staff member who grew up in the IHOPKC community, attended IHOP University and whose father was a longtime associate director there.

Hood said the report about Tebbutt was devastating. He said the young people being recruited by IHOPU and Tebbutt were the same age range — “14- to 17-year-olds” — as Roach when she said she was sexually abused.

It’s not just that IHOPKC failed to follow GRACE’s recommendations, Hood said: They did the exact opposite.

“That’s what’s so egregious about it, and it breaks my heart,” he said. “I would consider this one of the greatest betrayals of my trust in the leadership of IHOPKC. What it said to me as someone who grew up there from age 4 to 22 is that IHOPKC is not a community that is safe for youth.”

Former staffer Madison Pierce said that in 2021, Tebbutt led a recruitment luncheon with several IHOPU leaders.

“He interacted with minors, and basically got all of their contact information for his role,” Pierce said. “At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was not aware of any of his prior allegations.”

Once he found out, Pierce said, “I felt incredibly betrayed.”

“And I felt like I was put in a position where I was entrusted with the safety of children and minors coming to our camps, and I unknowingly put them in a position where they were no longer safe,” he said.

If he had known about the GRACE report and Tebbutt’s history, he said, “I would not have put those children in the same room, and I would not have continued in my job.”

Pierce said his experiences with Tebbutt had been positive.

“He’s been gentle and kind, even beneficial,” he said. “For me, the greatest betrayal isn’t necessarily Brad’s. The betrayal I feel is about IHOPKC leadership and their blatant ignoring of the GRACE statement.”

Pierce said when he left in 2021 to pursue his theological education, he decided not to return as staff because of the Tebbutt situation.

“Now reading this report, and understanding that it was actually worse than I was told, is completely disheartening,” he said. “It has made me no longer trust the ability of IHOPKC leaders to navigate issues of sexual abuse well.”

Former IHOPKC staffer Daniel Cawley, who at one point worked with Tebbutt in the recruitment department, said he and other staffers didn’t know about Tebbutt’s past.

“It grieves us in the thought of parents putting their children’s lives and trust in this ministry, in this organization, in this camp,” he said. “As of what we know now, nothing has happened. But I do think it’s extremely egregious that nothing was communicated outside of, ‘Hey, he’s gone through the process.’ And so finding out that Brad was recommended as someone that shouldn’t be around minors is really upsetting.”

Cawley said he thinks IHOPKC made an attempt to keep Tebbutt away from minors.

“At least from what I could see, the student workers were given the job and the role to be in communication with students,” he said. “Brad was not necessarily in those conversations. If the school knew, it seems like they were at least attempting to create barriers. But for Brad, no, that’s not an excuse.”

In May 2018, Roach filed a lawsuit against Tebbutt, First Baptist Church in Modesto and its successor, CrossPoint Community Church. She later dropped Tebbutt from the suit when he agreed to cooperate with the case. CrossPoint settled with Roach in 2019 for $267,500.

IHOPKC issued a news release in April 2019 saying all investigations of Tebbutt had been completed.

“The critical conclusion of the report is that no evidence of further incidents was discovered by the independent firm, nor has there been any evidence of further wrongdoing over the last 30+ years, including time spent at IHOPKC,” it said.

The statement also said that during both the internal and external investigations, Tebbutt had “demonstrated genuine remorse and repentance over the clear moral failure committed at that time, as well as complete cooperation with the litigation.” It added that “the injured” realized that Tebbutt had made “a genuine apology and has genuinely forgiven him.”

In June 2022, Tebbutt was listed as an alleged sexual abuser in a document released by Southern Baptist officials. When The Star asked if Tebbutt was still on staff at IHOPKC, it responded in an email, referring to Tebbutt as “one of our missionaries” and referring The Star to its April 2019 news release.

Tchividjian, GRACE’s founder, is now in private practice and is representing some of Bickle’s accusers. Last week on X, formerly Twitter, he sharply criticized IHOPKC’s handling of the issue.

“Without a legitimate independent investigation, these issues will continue to overshadow IHOPKC for the next 20 years,” he said. “Unresolved disclosures of abuse don’t simply go away. In my opinion, this is a travesty on so many levels.”