Cantey Hanger Investigation
Completion of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
A Public Statement from Pastor Ken Werlein • May 23, 2021
In December 2020, Faithbridge hired the law firm Cantey Hanger to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by former Young Adults Pastor Kyle Pettit with another adult parishioner. Investigators were also tasked with determining whether there were any other claims of sexual misconduct by Kyle. As was announced publicly on December 16, 2020, Kyle was immediately terminated.
Cantey Hanger is a Fort Worth-based law firm with attorneys specializing in church-related investigations. Within a week of learning of the allegations against Kyle, Cantey Hanger was retained and a special email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) was announced to the entire church for the purpose of receiving communications from anyone who wished to provide information. The investigators were also given unfettered access to Faithbridge staff and documents.
In conducting its investigation, Cantey Hanger interviewed 10 current staff, former employees, and parishioners, comprising more than a dozen interviews. They also thoroughly reviewed the structures and procedures in place (or lacking) at Faithbridge to prevent, report, and address any incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment.
Cantey Hanger’s investigation is complete. The following findings were made:
- The allegations against Kyle Pettit were serious, credible, and supported with copies of explicit correspondence provided by the victim. Significantly, Kyle’s sexual misconduct went beyond a mere violation of biblical morals but also constituted an abuse of the pastoral office he held.
- The investigation found no other incidents of sexual misconduct by Kyle.
- The investigation did find that Faithbridge did not consistently adhere to its policies and procedures with respect to Kyle during his employment. Further, following his summer internship here, Faithbridge did not put Kyle through either a vetting or training process in line with his role and responsibilities.
- The investigation also resurfaced one unrelated incident of sexual harassment by a Faithbridge employee against another Faithbridge employee in 2019. Neither employee served in a pastoral role and neither still works for the church. Nevertheless, the investigation concluded that the incident was not appropriately handled by Faithbridge. Specifically, the harassment was not initially recognized and classified as harassment and, after terminating the offending employee, specific commitments made to the victim went unfulfilled. Meanwhile, attempts were made to enfold the offending employee back into the church community without appropriate regard for the victim’s feelings.
While Faithbridge has robust, protective protocols well-established for the protection of all youth and children’s ministries, the investigation revealed that Faithbridge needs to implement similar victim-centered structures and protocols for the prevention of, and protection against, sexual harassment and abuse of power within the adult ministries of our church.
Faithbridge takes these findings seriously. We are wholeheartedly committed both to elevate our awareness and to avoid any recurrence. Cantey Hanger lawyers have met with the Lead Team and Lay Elders for two days of presentation. They provided us with a framework for revising our policies to prevent any further occurrences of this sort. Chief among them:
- To treat sexual harassment and abuse of power in any form as overt HR issues and distinctly separate from matters of personal discipleship.
- To implement annual training on these topics for staff, as already occurs annually with our child-protection policies.
- To instruct staff that any and every situation which might involve abuse of power or sexual harassment will be escalated immediately to my awareness — and to the awareness of our Lay Elders — rather than dealt with only at lower levels.
- To implement new HR policies in how we screen, interview, hire, train and supervise all prospective employees in ministry — including former interns.
Though some of these changes will be more obvious than others, this aspect of the investigation will remain: if you experience or become aware of behavior at Faithbridge that you believe is inappropriate, please immediately contact Cantey Hanger at email@example.com. We welcome Cantey Hanger’s willingness to continue as independent advisors to Faithbridge.
To the two victims and their families, please know of my deep sorrow for the hurt and betrayal you experienced here. Your cries awakened us to a need to improve the oversight of our adult ministries. We intend to remain vigilant to ensure all our sheep are protected from harm. I pray that all this will bring some measure of healing to your story as we all journey forward for the sake of our Lord, Jesus.
In His Name,