By Timothy C. Morgan -
Dozens of individuals raised in Chicago's Jesus People USA Christian community (JPUSA) are alleging that commune members sexually abused them as children, while leaders covered up the abuse for years.
The allegations are contained in a 90-minute documentary film, released today online, and in a civil lawsuit, filed in January in Cook County against the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and JPUSA in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
"My intent is to expose truth, bring it to light, because it hasn't been in the light," filmmaker Jaime Prater told Christianity Today. "No one loves JPUSA more than I do. It's my home. Why would I want to see Jesus People shut down? Do I believe that those in power need to step down? Absolutely. But it is my hope that the community can somehow get past this and safety precautions can be put in place to preserve the innocence of children.
The commune once published the journalism award-winning Cornerstone magazine, produced the Cornerstone Music Festival from 1984 to 2012, launched REZ Band, and was active in exposing harmful religious cults. It also operates mercy ministries to the poor, homeless, and elderly in Chicago as well as a roofing supply business.
But as a community, JPUSA has been dogged by controversy since the 1994 publication of Recovering from Churches That Abuse. In that book, Ron Enroth, author and Westmont College sociologist, chronicled how former JPUSA members reported being spiritually abused. In 2001, the Chicago Tribune reported that JPUSA leaders held an "iron grip" on commune members. In both instances, JPUSA members denied the community or the governing council had engaged in spiritual abuse or was overly authoritarian.
More from Christianity Today HERE