'Internet evangelist' held on child rape charges

News-JournalOnline.com/April 28, 2005
By Lyda Longa

Deland -- A self-described Internet evangelist who has preached about everything from morality to spirituality on his family's Web site was arrested Wednesday and charged with raping a child younger than 12.

Charles Michael Balfe, 60, was picked up at his job site at 84 Lumber in DeLand, DeLand Police Cmdr. Randel Henderson said. He is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail without bail.

Balfe, married and the father of three, is accused in three warrants of raping a child younger than 12, Henderson said. The remaining counts accuse him of sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation and domestic violence.

Court records show Balfe was divorced in 1998 and remarried in October 1999. While the Web site identifies him as an "Internet evangelist," the site doesn't mention his educational background or his connection to any organized theological group.

On his Web site's Frequently Asked Questions page, Balfe notes he doesn't have "a permanently constructed building that we own and maintain" for church services, but does have "an assembly of other Jesus believers" as members.

To the question of whether he is a Christian, Balfe's response is: "Yes, and also a born-again believer."

On the site, Balfe denies his group is a cult.

As of Wednesday morning, the Web site for the First Christian Church/Disciples of Christ of DeLand listed Balfe as a member and linked to Jesusbelievers.beliefnet.com, which was described as a Web site of the Balfe family's ministry.

But those references were removed from the First Christian Church Web site by Wednesday night, when churchgoers at First Christian attended services.

A group assembled outside the church after the service and most did not want to comment.

Courtney Myers, a 15-year-old member of the First Christian Church, said she was surprised by Balfe's arrest.

"He appears to be a nice man," Myers said.

The Balfe family used to attend Wednesday services regularly, Myers said, but she hasn't seen them lately.

"They would all sit down for dinner and stay for youth services," she said. "They looked like a normal, happy family."

Knocks at Balfe's North Orange Avenue home Wednesday went unanswered and neighbors avoided questions.

Jesusbelievers.beliefnet.com includes information promoting prayer in schools, a What Would Jesus Do? checklist and a discussion about heaven and hell.

The Web site also features a family portrait of Balfe, his wife and their three children and includes the question, "Do you see guardian angels in this picture?"

Circuit Judge S. James Foxman ordered Balfe held without bail on the domestic violence count, which supersedes the $1 million amounts for each of the sexual abuse charges, jail officials said.

Police would not say whether Balfe's wife was the victim of the domestic violence or when the incidents happened, although court records indicate the attacks occurred at Balfe's home in 2000.

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