In 1996, internationally known televangelist Ernest Angley admitted to his assistant minister that he had had sexual relations with a man who was employed by their church, Grace Cathedral in Cuyahoga Falls.
The telephone conversation was tape-recorded and made available to the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com last month.
The person who provided the tape did so for a promise of anonymity. That person felt called to action after reading about an exchange of lawsuits between Angley and another former Grace Cathedral pastor, the Rev. Brock Miller. Miller sued Angley in August, claiming that sexual abuse Angley inflicted upon him has caused permanent damage. Angley has countersued for defamation.
The source believed releasing the tape would show that Angley, who has preached vehemently against the “sin” of homosexuality, has a history of sexual abuse involving his employees.
The assistant minister on the tape is the Rev. Bill Davis, who left the church after learning about Angley’s activities. Although Davis made the original recording, he did not provide the tape and had absolutely nothing to do with initiating this story. In fact, he only reluctantly agreed to talk about the tape after praying about the decision and consulting his wife and his attorneys.
Angley did not respond to a request to comment.
We are not naming the person Angley was involved with in 1996 because he was the alleged victim of sexual abuse.
On the 23-year-old tape, Davis expresses anger over Angley telling someone that Davis’ wife, Regina, made a “vulgar” comment. Word got back to her, and she was distraught.
Davis: “There’s been horrible discord here ... [while Angley was on a mission trip in Africa]. It’s all I could do to keep [Regina] from talking. She was so angry over that word ‘vulgar.’ You know what she said she was going to tell? She said, ‘I’ll tell you what vulgar is: Him and [name withheld] naked, laying in Angel’s bed, masturbating each other and going to the bathroom to have to wash the ejaculation off his hands.’ ...” Angel is Angley’s wife, who died in 1970.
Angley: “That’s not true because I didn’t ejaculate him. I didn’t make him cum.”
Angley: “Well, I didn’t make him cum.”
Davis: “Well, he made you cum then because he ... described your penis.”
Angley: “He didn’t make me cum. No, he didn’t.”
Davis: “Well, you was in there naked.”
Angley: “Well, I didn’t say I wasn’t.”
Davis: “That’s vulgar.”
At the end of the 8½-minute tape is the following exchange.
Davis: “You’ve inflamed people. ... It’s not about your affair with [name withheld], and your sexual promiscuousness [or] impropriety, whatever you want to call it. Now, that hasn’t got out. But it’s got out about me leaving,” which he decided to do after his relationship with Angley had deteriorated badly.
Angley has consistently condemned homosexuality. In a 1995 book called “Oh, God, What a Mess!” he wrote, “Homosexuality is vile, vile before God; and it will send souls to hell.”
Angley, 97, has declined media requests for interviews since the publication of a six-part Beacon Journal series in 2014 that enumerated allegations of improprieties at the church.
2014 interview with Angley:
The existence of the recording had been rumored for decades and is often cited by former members as the reason Grace Cathedral suffered a significant drop in membership in 1996. Estimates of the number of parishioners who left what was then a megachurch range from 100 to 300. (The church has long declined to release information about the size of its membership.)
It is unknown how many copies of the recording exist, or how many people have heard it. But the Beacon Journal spoke with five people with former ties to the church who said they had listened to it.
The person who offered the tape to the Beacon did so because that person read a two-part Beacon Journal series about the Rev. Miller published early last year, then later read about Miller’s lawsuit against Angley. The source believes Miller is telling the truth and thought releasing the tape might help his cause.
In last year’s articles, Miller said he had been sexually abused by Angley on and off for nine years and left the church in 2014 because he just couldn’t take it anymore. At least a dozen times, Miller said, his boss required him to disrobe and masturbate in front of him.
Miller said he grudgingly acceded because, having grown up in the church, he believed Angley was “the man of God” and wouldn’t ask him to do something that wasn’t right.
Starting in 2006, Miller said, Angley would summon him to his home for what he called a “special anointing,” in which Miller would be required to strip and lie on a circular bed while Angley massaged him.
Miller says virtually the same things in the lawsuit, filed Aug. 22 in Summit County Common Pleas Court against Angley and Grace Cathedral. Because of Angley’s conduct and the church’s failure to halt it, the lawsuit says, Miller has suffered “severe and permanent injuries, great pain of body and mind, mental anguish and required psychological and medical treatment.”
He is seeking “full back pay, benefits and reinstatement to a position [or] front pay,” plus compensatory and punitive damages.
Angley countersued on Nov. 1. No trial date has been set.
Now living in South Carolina, Miller declined to comment for this article on the advice of his lawyer, citing the pending lawsuits.
But Davis agreed, reluctantly, to talk about the tape publicly for the first time.
That conversation took place Jan. 7 at the church where Davis has preached for the past 18 years, Overshadowed Ministries on the corner of Arlington and Warner roads in Coventry Township.
Although expansive in his answers during the 90-minute interview, Davis was clearly uncomfortable, more than once comparing the situation to “pulling a scab off an old wound.”
“I don’t have a bit of malice toward him,” Davis said of Angley. “That’s why I don’t want to hurt him now with you. I don’t want to throw poison in here. But by the same token, I feel sorry for Brock. But I don’t agree with either one of them in [filing a] lawsuit.”
Even at age 86, Davis has a commanding presence. He is tall, direct and passionate, and looks 20 years younger.
A former boxer, he ran away from home at the age of 14 and ended up spending plenty of time on the streets, drinking and brawling, until finding Christianity in his early 30s.
He worked with Angley for 19 years, drawn to him initially because Angley reminded him of a New York City pastor who had rescued Davis from his life of depravity.
Davis learned about the 1996 incidents when the person involved came to him for counseling. The man said Angley had initiated five encounters in various locations, including in a Sunday-school room.
Davis’ initial reaction? “Dumbfounded.”
“I want to tell you something,” Davis said. “Before his wife died [three days after Christmas in 1970], Ernest had it together. I could see the way he’d work with people.
“When his wife died, something happened to him. He was heavily sexed and got twisted around, I guess.”
Although Davis told Angley he would never go public, Angley slowly began to mount a vicious assault on Davis’ character to discredit him in case he did, Davis said.
Davis remained with the church about a year after finding out about the alleged sexual abuse, in part because his wife became terminally ill and he was preoccupied. But as Angley’s attacks on Davis slowly ramped up and began to filter back to him, the situation became untenable.
Davis was being portrayed as a hard-drinking, womanizing devil who had X-rated encounters inside Grace Cathedral and, after he left, at the new church he had been persuaded to pastor, the Church of God on East Market Street in Akron. Some people associated with the new church believed Angley’s claims.
“That man did his best to destroy me,” Davis said.
The obvious question: Why didn’t Davis counterpunch by releasing the tape?
Brock Miller wonders the same thing. During his interview with the Beacon last year, he expressed anger that Davis did not make the tape public. Shortly after Miller left the church, he confronted Davis and said: “Why didn’t you release this in 1996? Then I wouldn’t have gone through the hell I went through.”
Miller said Davis told him disclosing the tape “would hurt more people than it would help.”
Some former members of Grace Cathedral have speculated that Angley paid Davis hush money, a charge Davis vehemently denies — “before God.”
Davis said he decided against going public after an agonizing inner debate. Asked whether he regrets his decision, he said no. But he regrets something he didn’t do, and that haunts him to this day.
He didn’t try to help Angley get back on track.
“The Scripture tells us, ‘If a brother be overtaken of a fault, restore that brother with all meekness ... .’ I didn’t do that. All I did was judge him because I was angry. Disappointed. Confused.
“It pushed me into a terrible [spiritual] incompetence. If I had it do over again, I would have REALLY reached out to try to help him.
“I missed it. I missed it. That was the mistake of my life.”
To be sure, Davis considered releasing the tape, in part because Angley’s campaign against him was affecting his family.
“Out in public, my wife would be scorned and mocked. She started to go over to Canton just to get groceries.
“I did weigh it out. And here’s the conclusion I came to: Sometimes truth has to suffer that love prevail. You’ve got to hold it.
“After I got myself oriented right, and admitted to myself that I missed the mark in not trying to help him, I wasn’t going to compound it by causing more trouble.
“So I just decided I would take the abuse.”
Angley’s accusations eventually made their way to Davis’ new church. In an effort to prove his innocence, Davis quietly paid $1,800 for a lie-detector test administered by noted Akron lawyer and polygraph expert Bill Evans. During the session, Evans asked about each of the specific allegations Angley had been spreading. According to a letter from Evans to Davis, he passed with flying colors.
Davis also hired an expert to prove that the voice on the recording was indeed Angley’s, just in case Angley claimed the tape was fake. That analysis was done by the late private investigator Michael Robertson of North Canton, who had previously served 17 years in the U.S. Secret Service. But almost anyone who listens can recognize Angley’s distinctive voice.
Davis understands Brock Miller’s anger, attributing it to the deep wounds he has suffered.
“Brock is mad at me, but he doesn’t know I suffered just like he did.”
Davis repeatedly emphasized that he wishes Angley no ill will.
“I have to give Ernest credit. He still keeps the atonement. But his behavior! My God in heaven. ... It’s a disgrace.
“And then to cover it up. That’s the worst part.
“All he’d have had to done, in the beginning, he could have got before the people and said, ‘You know, I must confess. I was lonely, I had a weak moment with somebody.’ Give a brief confession. The people would have forgave him like that [snaps his fingers] and it would have been over. There would have been no fear whatsoever of blackmail. ...
“What really shocked me was when he had a countersuit against Brock and denied everything. But yet you and I both know it’s got the same trail of deceit, a pattern. I can’t say what he did there with Brock was true. I don’t know. But I’ll tell you, it sure has a familiar ring to it.”
Discussing Angley’s fall from grace, and the damage it caused to members of Grace Cathedral, made Davis teary-eyed.
“At times I almost weep over it. All the destruction. The people. Children raised up with parents that are bitter, angry.”
Davis said he talked to his parishioners the day before talking to the Beacon Journal, alerting them to the upcoming story and discussing the huge negative impact Angley has had on his life. He also told them this:
“I have somebody deep inside of me who is a true friend, and that’s Christ. Deep down inside of me. And that’s consolation.”
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