(RNS) — The founder of Creation Festival — the nation’s largest Christian music festival — has been “indefinitely suspended” from the ministry and his position as pastor of his New Jersey church after he was arrested on charges of child molestation.
Harry L. Thomas, 74, was charged Wednesday (Dec. 6) with sexually assaulting four minors “over a lengthy period of time ending two years ago,” according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges include one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.
Those alleged assaults occurred over a 16-year period between 1999 and 2015 in Medford Township, N.J., where Thomas lives, according to the prosecutor’s office. His church — Come Alive New Testament Church, which has been described as charismatic — also is in Medford Township.
The prosecutor’s office did not name the victims or detail the assaults, but Come Alive said the allegations are “unrelated” to the pastor’s roles at the church or its ministries, including Creation Festival, according to a post on its website. Its leadership is “actively cooperating” with authorities, it said.
A similar message was posted Friday on the Creation Festival website and Facebook page.
Thomas was criticized previously at a 2014 congressional hearing for his advocacy on behalf of a couple from his church who were accused of starving four foster children, according to New Jersey’s Courier Post.
The former disc jockey-turned-pastor founded Creation Festival in 1979 after he had a vision of “thousands of kids on a hillside,” he told RNS as the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. It grew from attracting 5,000 people to a park in Lancaster, Pa., that first year, to annual, multi-day events in both Pennsylvania and Washington state.
The two festivals, Creation Northeast and Creation Northwest, draw up to 100,000 attendees a year, according to Christianity Today. Creation Northeast brought more than 75 Christian speakers and musical artists to central Pennsylvania in June 2017, including popular musicians Crowder, Casting Crowns, Relient K, Sho Baraka, TobyMac and For King and Country.