Christian Week has chosen to tackle what is often a difficult topic for a religious magazine.
Peter Youngren, a Canadian evangelist who has been licensed to operate a TV channel is the subject of an investigative piece by the magazine.
In the BDBO post Peter Youngren, Running out of Grace, readers point out all is not well in the televangelists world. Readers stepped up to the plate and contacted Canadian religious media.
In Peter Youngren Making Waves, Christian Week confirmed an affair, the loss of Youngren’s ministerial credentials, the separation of Youngren and his current wife, the loss of his son from ministry.
Youngren’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1982, and he remarried; this time to RoxAnne Rutkey (now Youngren). But about eight years ago Youngren had an affair with a married woman in the Niagara congregation he was leading. The affair resulted in a child.
After news of the scandal leaked out in 2003, Youngren stepped down from his position as founding president of Open Faith Bible Fellowship, an independent association of charismatic pastors and ministries. The fellowship’s current president Rick Ciaramitaro says the fellowship is no longer associated with Youngren “in any way shape or form.”
“OBFF will have nothing to do with his ministry,” Ciaramitaro says.
“Peter has not been in fellowship with OBFF since November of 2007. We do not support him as an organization in any way,” reads a statement posted by Ciaramitaro on the fellowship website.
According to a member of the fellowship contacted by ChristianWeek, details about Youngren’s infidelity were sketchy at first, and the board only learned about the child a few years later. Ongoing conflict between the board and Youngren ended in an unpleasant parting in 2007. The fellowship also stripped Youngren of ministry credentials he held through the fellowship.
“I had a great failing in my life eight years ago. I’m not trying to hide that. I didn’t try to hide that eight years ago when it happened,” Youngren told ChristianWeek. “All matters of my personal life were discussed at the time.
“Why, five years later, there was a parting of ways is something that could be explored, but I don’t have any comment on it.”
The statement on Open Bible Faith Fellowship’s website also states that the fellowship is “not in agreement with [Youngren's] current action to divorce his wife on unbiblical grounds.”
“That is not entirely accurate,” Youngren said when ChristianWeek asked if he and RoxAnne are getting divorced. “I don’t think something is news until it is news. So until someone has filed for divorce, which has not occurred, I don’t think there’s anything of newsworthiness there.”
Youngren says he has not signed a separation agreement, and Canada’s national divorce registry has no record of divorce proceedings between Youngren and RoxAnne. RoxAnne did not return calls from ChristianWeek.
But sources who know the Youngren family tell ChristianWeek their relationship remains rocky and they are living in separate residences. RoxAnne is senior associate pastor of the Niagara Celebration Church,”part of a network of three Celebration churches founded by Youngren, and her husband is listed as senior pastor of the Celebration church in Toronto.
I want to be very clear here about the comment given to Christian Week below. I am not interested in being painted as someone out to tarnish anyone’s ‘reputation.’ Youngren is not important to me personally, his behavior is his own to be worked out with his family, his church and his friends. I do care people have been harmed.
Others are not required to accept responsibility for his choices. Shooting messengers and framing questioning as attack are tired old tactics in the Word of Faith movement, and attempts were made by BDBO to get Mr. Youngren’s people to confirm or deny facts. Youngren and his staff chose not to respond.
As the Christian Week article makes very clear, people are concerned.
What is important is his choice to be in public ministry, on public airwaves and his conduct around his ministry.
Youngren says rumours circulating about him in the blogosphere are part of a campaign to tarnish his reputation, but he doesn’t have time to find out who is behind it.
“I get under duress all the time about these things, and I’ve got to keep my eye on the ball. I’m trying to build a television channel across Canada. I’m trying to do something for the gospel in areas that are tough like Orissa,” Youngren says.
The TV station bought by Youngren, formerly The Christian Channel, is under a limited broadcast licence with the CRTC. Grace TV recently expanded it’s coverage on the Shaw Cable network. Questions remain. Who owns the building Grace TV is operating in? Who is financially benefiting from the station purchase and operation? Whether Grace TV is adhering to broadcast policy is also a public and open question. Another asked and unanswered question is through what association does Peter Youngren, owner, operator and star of Grace TV, senior minister of a Toronto church and host of a show broadcast on other Canadian religious channels, hold ministerial credentials?