Church reacts to former pastor’s arrest

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Members at Grace Christian Fellowship Church said “there isn’t a strong enough word to describe” what they felt when they learned their now-former pastor had allegedly used their church as a platform to sexually abuse and torture multiple young male church members.

One church member, who is related to one of Aaron’s victims and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity Monday, said as soon as Ralph Lee Aaron, 54, was placed in handcuffs on the initial charges of sexual abuse of a child under 12 and sodomy, he ceased to be the church pastor. On Wed., Oct. 21, the church officially terminated him.

Tuesday, law enforcement officials announced Aaron is now facing 152 charges that include possessing and producing child pornography and allegedly abusing and sexually torturing multiple young boys while on church camping trips.

“Anger, hurt, lied to, all those words you can think of — that’s what we felt,” the church member said. “When (law enforcement) first said it, there was doubt, but once the evidence started coming out, the emotions started running. We didn’t know if we should be hurt or be angry.”

Members said Aaron had been at the small church on Shreve Road for a little more than three years, after previously serving at Andalusia’s Victory Baptist Church and another in Samson. Grace’s 50-plus-member congregation said first and foremost, “we are a family and we’re going to remain a family and stick by one another.

“As hurt as everyone is and what we are going to have to go through in the days ahead, all we can do is stick together and look towards God,” the member said. “We haven’t lost a member and we don’t want people to keep from coming to our church. We have erased (Aaron) from anything that had his name on it.”

The church member said counselors are being brought in to help the congregation deal with the tragedy.