Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of the 8,000-member Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, said he is “heartbroken” after Ben Widrick, a former 24-year-old church intern and Liberty University graduate was arrested last Tuesday for statutory rape of a student.
“On Tuesday of last week, we were informed that one of our former summer interns was arrested for the statutory rape of a student. As you can imagine, I am both heartbroken for the victim and angry that this took place. In an effort to be as transparent and open as possible, I want to share with you as much as we can,” Gallaty began in a statement Sunday.
“The timeline is fuzzy (and details are still coming together), but the abuse appears to have taken place last summer during the former intern’s 10-week service period with our student team at the Gallatin Campus. One of our student pastors first heard rumors of the situation in December, and he immediately informed local law enforcement and our leadership team,” the megachurch pastor continued.
“Since law enforcement was conducting an investigation, we were unaware of the outcome until local police made an arrest last week. Regardless of the time and location, the fact is that an intern who was representing our church allegedly abused their position of influence with a student. And, if true, this is unacceptable to us. We will continue to work closely with law enforcement in every way we can,” he added.
Gallaty said he was in contact with the victim and her parents and noted that “we hope to support them with love, support, counseling, and prayer.”
He further noted that the church had worked very hard to conduct background checks on all interns but it still wasn’t enough to prevent what happened.
“As we grieve for the victim, we are also deeply saddened that an event like this took place, especially with a student who was entrusted to our care. As with all of our employees, every intern we hire must pass a strict background check and interview process before they can serve with our church family. It sickens me that our processes and safeguards didn’t prevent this from happening,” he said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair