Abuse widely known

Letter to Apostolic leaders detailed Keyes allegations two years ago

The Star Beacon, Ohio/May 24, 2005
By Shelley Terry

Leaders of the Apostolic Faith Church of God Organization in Franklin, Va., knew two years ago about the possibility of sexual abuse in a Jefferson Township church, according to a letter dated June 1, 2003, by Ruth Jones of Jefferson.

Jones, the adult daughter of the Rev. Robert Lyons of Conneaut, told the Apostolic General Assembly she provided shelter to a minor female after the girl suffered sexual, emotional and physical trauma at the hands of Apostolic Faith Church, Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly, members.

"The alleged perpetrators include the leader's sons and other regular members of the church," the letter stated. "These abuse practices apparently are common and well known amongst many, if not all, members of this church, including its leaders."

Jones went on to say the girl told her the abuse started at age 11 and continued until she ran away in 2002. Another young female also told Jones she suffered sexual trauma beginning at age 5, the letter stated.

This letter surfaced a little more than two weeks after former church member Carolyn Clark, 43, was beaten to death in her Ashtabula apartment.

Police charged her estranged husband with murder within hours. Ralph Clark, 43, has since been indicted and is being held on a $2 million bond at the Ashtabula County jail.

Six weeks before her murder, Carolyn Clark said in a divorce affidavit that her husband was under the "mind control" of Charles Keyes, leader of the Jefferson church. She described the church as a cult and worried for her safety and the welfare of her children, some of whom remain under the influence of the church.

She also claimed:

  • She was beaten with a belt by church members;
  • The church sexually and physically abused children; and
  • She was forced to have sex with Keyes twice.

Ashtabula County Children Services Board is conducting a criminal investigation into the situation, investigator Michael Rose said.

Keyes' brother, Robert, church spokesman, declined to comment, but he has denied that the church is a cult or that his brother has had a sexual relationship with women in the church besides his wife.

Jones' letter to the Apostolic General Assembly said she was concerned about the safety and well-being of not only minors in the Jefferson church, but also adults.

She said Keyes, as well as church members, hounded her to return the young girl to them. Jones claimed Keyes told the girl's mother to do "whatever it takes to get (the girl) home so she won't talk," the letter said.

In addition, Jones raised questions regarding alleged pornography, incest and homosexual acts involving the church, according to the letter. She asked the assembly to suspend all activities of Keyes' church, including marriages, voting rights and services. She attached a petition containing signatures of other Apostolic Church members to her letter.

The Rev. Robert Lyons, who has served for 36 years as pastor of Apostolic Faith Church of God in Conneaut, said the church investigated the allegations and called the Children Services Board.

Soon after, Keyes and his church left the denomination and remain independent of the denomination to this day.

"Nothing was done - nothing!" said Heln Waytes, a member of Mount Horab Mission Apostolic Faith Church in Bedford, and Carolyn Clark's landlord at the time of her death. "The church should have done more."

Waytes' pastor, the Rev. Ora Tyus, agreed.

"We need to clear this up now," Tyus said. "We need to tell people what we know."

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