The man stood quietly on the sidewalk outside the Greater Grace World Outreach complex in East Baltimore on Monday night. He was barefoot and shirtless, with two pieces of duct tape covering his mouth. There were words painted on his face, arms, legs and torso, and across his khaki shorts.

Shame. Broken. So Much Failure. Stolen. Guilty. Worthless.

Jediah Tanguay, 43, had positioned himself near the entrance to the evangelical megachurch whose inadequate response to child sexual abuse allegations was the focus of a Baltimore Banner series published last week. It was the night of the church’s annual homecoming celebration that draws people from around the world, and he wanted them to see him.

One young boy craned his neck to get a look at Tanguay as his family’s minivan pulled into the parking lot. A woman who had already arrived approached him on foot. Are you one of the victim-survivors, she asked? He nodded. She bowed her head in prayer.

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About this series

This is part of a series investigating allegations of child sexual abuse at Greater Grace World Outreach.

Part I: Megachurch warned of hell, then hid its own sins

Part II: Web of sex abuse leads to trusted pastor and his sons

Part III: One family’s agonizing journey to uncover secrets and abuse at a Baltimore church

As a group of former church members calling themselves The Millstones embarked on an investigation of the hidden history of sexual abuse within the church, Tanguay’s suffering at the hands of a Greater Grace youth leader was already well-known. The abuser, Raymond Fernandez, had been investigated by police, charged, convicted and sentenced to prison.

But even within this case, there was more to learn about chances the church may have missed to bring the long-serving youth leader to justice sooner.

Years before Fernandez was investigated by police, Tanguay says, he had complained to two high-ranking pastors about the abuse, only to be told to move forward. The shocking revelation that the youth leader had abused two others as children — one of them Tanguay’s own brother — came much later.

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A series published last week in The Banner found that high-ranking Greater Grace pastors repeatedly dismissed child sexual abuse survivors’ allegations or pressured them to forgive the perpetrators.

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Defending the church during recent sermons, head Pastor Thomas Schaller referred to the Fernandez case as a good example of how the church properly dealt with abuse allegations.

And another man abused by Fernandez as a boy says the church provided support and healing. He remains active in the ministry.

The Tanguays remember differently. And they want to tell their story.

“One of the most beautiful effects of healing is having a voice to speak what was silent for too long,” said Ben Tanguay, 41.

Photograph of middle aged white man with short hair and facial hair standing in front of lush green background and wooden fence.
Jediah Tanguay was abused by a long-serving youth leader at Greater Grace World Outreach and kept it to himself. Years later, when he came forward and told two high-ranking pastors what happened, he said they told him to let it go. But after he learned of abuse involving a family member, he went to police. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

The clergy’s response

At the height of his popularity in the 1990s, Fernandez was often seen with a pack of tweens and teens from Greater Grace. He coached their sports teams, helped host their summer camp and chaperoned them on overnight trips. They exchanged jokes and hung onto his every word.

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Jediah Tanguay kept what happened to himself, but the abuse that occurred in parked cars and on class trips never left him. When his first child was born in 2008, he was seized by a fierce desire to keep her safe. He decided to share his experience with church leaders.

Tanguay said he confided in Schaller, Greater Grace’s head pastor. He also met Pastor Brian Lange and told him what happened.

Fernandez had since left his position within the church. Neither pastor reported the allegations to law enforcement, Tanguay said, nor did they encourage Tanguay to do so. Their advice? Let it go. Forgetting would mean a fresh start.

Lange, Tanguay added, steered the conversation to the “male sex drive,” as if Tanguay, a teenager when the abuse occurred, was somehow responsible.

Lange said in an email to The Banner he now regrets how he handled Tanguay’s disclosure. He wrote that he was “not well educated (blissfully ignorant) about how to care for and help adult victims of childhood sexual abuse” at the time.

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“I am a different person, far more empathetic and sensitive, than I was before this came to light,” said Lange, who leads a Greater Grace affiliate church in Hungary. He added that counselors he spoke with after Fernandez’s conviction taught him and the church how to prevent child abuse from happening and how to treat those who have been victims of it. Lange declined to elaborate when asked what changes had been made, saying he would defer to the church, which did not respond to questions.

Greater Grace Church head pastor Thomas Schaller speaks to mourners at a 2022 vigil for Rachel Morin, who was killed on a walking trail in Harford County
Thomas Schaller, the head pastor at Greater Grace, speaks to the crowd at a 2022 vigil unrelated to claims now surfacing that the church did not adequately handle complaints of child sex abuse. Schaller this week defended the church's handling of such incidents. (Julie Scharper)

The church has been dogged by controversy for decades — indeed, its origins in Baltimore came after a court judgment in Massachusetts, which resulted in a “60 Minutes” segment from 1987 that described “intimidation and manipulation” at the church. Critics have in the past described the church as “cult-like.” And many took anonymous claims to a defunct website called FACTnet in the early 2000s to document allegations of abuse.

Reporters who attempted to speak with Schaller in person were asked to leave the church property. In response to another request for comment, the church’s chief operating officer, Peter Taggart, reiterated Wednesday that Greater Grace abides by mandatory reporting requirements and “has a history of fully cooperating with any investigations conducted by law enforcement or childcare entities.”

Greater Grace “denies all allegations and assertions that we had knowledge of improper conduct with members of our youth ministry and failed to take appropriate steps to address the situation,” Taggart wrote in an email.

Another victim revealed

Instead of walking away from Greater Grace after telling the two pastors what happened, Tanguay got even more involved. He and his growing family moved to Zambia to serve as missionaries. The church has 550 offshoots outside the United States and more than 1,000 missionaries around the world. A map on the site lists 354 churches in 72 countries.

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But as the years passed, Tanguay’s PTSD symptoms, which he attributes to the abuse, became unbearable.

Flashbacks of assaults were playing on a loop in his mind, distracting him from daily life. The family moved back to Baltimore in 2013 so he could obtain mental health care.

A few weeks later, at the church’s annual convention — the same event that kicked off in Baltimore this week — Tanguay said he saw Fernandez and asked him to step outside.

“I haven’t been doing okay, and I think you know why,” Tanguay recalled telling him. “You’ve ruined my fucking life.”

He demanded that Fernandez acknowledge he had abused him years earlier and asked if Fernandez was getting help. Fernandez apologized, Tanguay recalled, and said he was being counseled by a pastor at another area church, noting that he was no longer a youth leader at Greater Grace. But Tanguay was dismayed to realize that Fernandez was the manager of a popular White Marsh movie theater, supervising a crew of young people.

Tanguay issued a warning: If he ever found out Fernandez had molested another kid, he would go to the police.

A few months later, he received another allegation — one he never saw coming.

Ready to heal, and knowing he needed support, Tanguay decided to tell his parents and siblings about the abuse he had endured. Then his younger brother revealed that he, too, had been molested by Fernandez.

“He had no idea I was a victim, and I had no idea he was a victim,” Ben Tanguay said. “That was a big moment for both of us.”

Years later, he was sitting around a campfire with other former church members when they realized that alleged sexual abuse — and the church’s failure to adequately respond to such allegations — was more pervasive than they had known.

Some of those people would go on to form the group known as The Millstones. In all, 32 people told the group that they had been sexually abused as children by men of Greater Grace, primarily prominent church members or leaders. Some shared their stories for the first time, several before they had mustered the courage to tell their own families. The Millstones learned of 18 additional survivors through people they considered trusted sources.

Middle aged white man with shoulder length hair and facial hair standing in lush forest.
Ben Tanguay disclosed that he had been abused by a Greater Grace youth leader after his older brother Jediah stepped forward to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of the same man. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

The church’s image

Ben Tanguay’s abuse occurred while he was in middle school — at sleepovers at Fernandez’s home and on church-sponsored overnight trips. It began when Ray lured him to a snack bar, offered him candy, then molested him. For Jediah Tanguay, his abuse started at age 16 when Fernandez, then 32, took him out for ice cream, and continued for more than a year, including on a church trip to Las Vegas. Both men said Fernandez had started grooming them years earlier.

The revelation prompted Jediah Tanguay to contact Baltimore County police in 2013. A few weeks later, Fernandez was arrested. Schaller urged Janet and Don Tanguay to show mercy toward the man who abused their sons and not blow Fernandez’s crimes out of proportion, given how long ago they had occurred, the brothers recalled.

It’s a phone call Janet Tanguay said she remembers well. The family had belonged to the church for decades, but the head pastor had never called their home before. She said she was shocked by Schaller’s fixation on the church’s image — and his lack of concerns for her sons’ wellbeing.

“There was no ‘How are you?’ or ‘How is your family doing?’” Janet Tanguay recalled. “I held the phone away from my ear in disbelief. Then I said, ‘Would you say this to your own wife if this happened to your kids?’ ”

He didn’t answer.

After his arrest, records show Fernandez’s former landlord told Baltimore County police she had seen boys walking into the basement apartment he rented from her in Nottingham, then heard noises that suggested he was “pleasuring himself.” She also told police she sent the church an anonymous letter, warning them about her concerns. Ben Tanguay says the apartment was one of the locations where he was abused.

It’s unknown if church officials reviewed the letter. They declined to comment. John Love, Greater Grace’s top youth pastor, told police he never suspected Fernandez. “Mr. Love advised that he never saw Mr. Fernandez alone with any of the youth. He never thought that Mr. Fernandez was abusing any of the youth at the time. No one ever said anything to him at the time about Mr. Fernandez abusing them,” police wrote in court documents.

During the Millstones’ later investigation, an old friend reached out who had worked in the church’s audiovisual department in the 1990s and early 2000s. Sherm Stevens, a nephew of church founder Carl Stevens, told the Banner one of his duties was to record sermons and informal “rap” sessions led by pastors. On two or three occasions, he said he recorded Love making remarks about Fernandez liking children. In each instance, Stevens said another church employee would appear in his office, and ask him to erase the comments from the recording, which he did.

Love said in a statement he was not aware of the allegations against Fernandez back then and did not ask or direct anyone to alter or delete any church recordings.

Shun earthly justice

Publicly at the time of Fernandez’s arrest in 2013, Greater Grace leaders praised the “courageous” actions of the Tanguay brothers and a third man who came forward.

“The mistreatment of any child or teen is abhorrent and harming a child is absolutely contrary to the ministry and mission of the church,” the church said. “Our thoughts, prayers and compassion go out to the church members and their families, as well as anyone in our community who has ever been the victim of sexual, physical or other abuse.”

The third man whom Fernandez assaulted remains active in Greater Grace today. In a statement, he said church leaders worked with police and supported him during the trial.

“I believe in the power of forgiveness and that through the person of Jesus anyone can find healing and hope,” said the man, whom The Banner is not naming to protect his identity as a victim of sexual abuse. “The Greater Grace Church was an important part of the investigation, trial, and my road of recovery. During my trial many of its pastors and members came to support me, sit with me, and even cry with me. Since those early days I’ve found that the only way to move forward was ultimately through the hard but necessary work of forgiveness.”

He said he believes the church has grown since the investigation, ”most of all by the awareness, seriousness, and reality that no one is above reproach.”

Others questioned the church’s sincerity.

Greater Grace leaders pledged to partner with a nationally respected organization, Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, to provide counseling and abuse prevention training at the church. Neither intervention occurred, prompting Safe Harbor to issue a statement months later castigating Greater Grace for making false promises.

Safe Harbor’s executive director, Erik Sundquist, told The Banner he personally and his company have worked with survivors of abuse who belonged to the church and “didn’t want our name attached to Greater Grace.”

Meanwhile, from the pulpit, Schaller had harsh words. Not for Fernandez, the disgraced youth leader, but for Greater Grace members who might find fault with the church’s response.

He urged congregants not to speak to one another about “the sex predator,” according to a video of the sermon. Schaller cautioned church members not to wish for earthly justice; what matters is God’s justice, he said. Those who disagreed with the church’s response were free to walk away and find a hobby, or another house of worship.

“Do not accuse. Do not blame. Do not judge. Do not gossip,” he said in the 2013 sermon. “Do not go on any of those social networks and propagate your garbage.”

Ben and Jediah Tanguay eventually resigned from their roles as pastor and missionary, respectively, and ultimately left the church, too. Both men’s marriages crumbled. Fernandez received a 30-year sentence, with all but 16 years suspended, and was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Ben Tanguay said he recalled feeling betrayed by Schaller’s response to the abuse and satisfied with the idea of Fernandez receiving a prison sentence.

“Perhaps tonight you will know how we felt, when you stare at a closed door, a locked door, a heavy door that you can’t open no matter how hard you try or how free you wish to be,” Ben Tanguay said at the 2014 sentencing.

Fernandez was released from prison last year. He did not respond to multiple letters seeking comment.

A bodily reproach

After renewed scrutiny of Greater Grace, Schaller was back behind the pulpit on Sunday defending the church’s handling of child sexual abuse. He said the church was being unfairly blamed and said its leaders couldn’t conceal abuse, because God sees all.

In an apparent reference to the Fernandez case and the Tanguays, he said the church had spent $30,000 on professional counseling for the victims. He said the church has a youth protection policy.

“People have trusted us. They’ve trusted their children to us,” he said. “This is an honor, a sacred trust that we do not take lightly. We take this honor seriously.”

But Schaller said during one of his sermons that he did not know who some of the victims were or what exactly they were complaining about. He said the church consisted of good people who did good things, and hoped those complaining found God. He received a standing ovation.

Years earlier, Jediah Tanguay said he planned to stand in front of the church with cinder blocks and chains, going so far as to acquire the materials, but did not follow through.

Listening to Schaller’s remarks on Sunday, which he perceived as dismissive, Jediah Tanguay felt compelled to make a powerful statement, one that would be hard for the faithful to ignore. They knew him and his family. He was not anonymous. He had suffered.

His ex-wife and three children accompanied him to a local art studio, where he had his face and body painted. It was something he had done previously in sexual abuse recovery, a process of the survivor “tracing their own body.”

Before staging a silent protest outside Greater Grace, Jediah Tanguay visited a local art studio and had his face and body painted. He chose to paint "shame" across his face to symbolize how he felt hidden. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

“Shame” was painted across his face, symbolizing how he felt hidden. “Broken” was painted across his chest, because that’s how he felt in function and heart. “Guilt” on his shoulders, symbolizing the crushing burden.

In the years since Fernandez’s conviction, Jediah Tanguay said he experienced “deep and profound healing.”

He took up sailing as a hobby and started a small business specializing in custom woodwork for high-end yachts. He enjoyed the work, but he said he didn’t feel fulfilled. A few weeks ago, a group of Baltimore police detectives on a sailboat named Gun sparked an idea for a new career.

“I just applied to become a police officer and hope to one day become a detective,” Jediah Tanguay said in an interview. “I want to offer the same type of justice that detectives years ago offered me.”

Around 7 p.m. Monday, Jediah Tanguay stood on the sidewalk outside the church. Inside the gated compound, a live band played smooth jazz and people milled about under large tents. He vowed not to leave until every car had left the parking lot.

More than two hours later, he was still there. As members drove out, many rolled down their windows shouting “We love you!” This is the part of being a Greater Grace member that he recalls fondly.

Jediah Tanguay stood on the sidewalk outside Greater Grace with his face and body painted for almost two hours. He had vowed not to leave until every car had left the parking lot. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Several people approached him, saying they were concerned about the church’s response and that they were attempting to voice concerns internally.

“These people were my family; there’s a lot of love here,” he told a reporter as the lot thinned out. “The biggest problem here is leadership is not set up to listen to anybody.”

Editor’s note: The Banner updated this story to include a response from Pastor John Love, which he provided after publication.

Resources for survivors of sexual assault & religious trauma