(RNS) — Police in the Canadian city of Hamilton have charged the disgraced former pastor of one of the country’s largest churches with sexual assault.
Bruxy Cavey, who grew The Meeting House into a megachurch with 20 campuses across the province of Ontario, was charged with one count of sexual assault on May 31. Cavey, 57, was asked to resign from the church in March after an independent investigator found he had a years-long sexual relationship with a member of his church who had sought counseling.
Police in Hamilton confirmed the alleged victim was an adult female but did not say whether it was the same woman who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Cavey late last year. The investigator for the church found that Cavey had committed “sexual harassment” and “abuse of power” but did not label the misconduct as sexual abuse, which the victim later challenged.
Clergy sexual misconduct has run rampant through multiple Christian denominations as well as other faiths, but criminal charges against clergy have been relatively rare. Notably, last year Brian Houston, co-founder of the Hillsong megachurch and media empire, was charged in Australia with concealing alleged child abuse by his father. He stepped down while awaiting the trial.
Detective Jeremy Miller of the Hamilton Police Service said his unit applied and received a “publication ban,” which allows information about the circumstances of Cavey’s alleged crime to remain sealed.
Miller said Cavey voluntarily came to the station to be charged and was released. He will appear before a judge at a Hamilton court on June 27.
“Generally, if a person doesn’t have a criminal record they’re released with specific conditions to stay away from the victim and witnesses,” Miller said.
Miller said the alleged assault took place in Hamilton, which is where Cavey lives, but not on church property. The church is headquartered in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto, about 20 miles north of Hamilton and under a different police force.
In the days after his resignation, the board of The Meeting House announced to church members that it had received two more allegations of sexual misconduct against Cavey.
In its June 6 press release, Hamilton police also said it believes “there may be more victims” and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
In a blog post in March, Cavey acknowledged the first woman’s accusations but characterized his actions as “an extramarital affair.”
A spokesman for the church declined to address the criminal charge.
“As that matter is currently before the courts, we are not able to comment,” Meeting House spokesman Jared Taylor said. “The Meeting House has cooperated with the police and has offered our continued cooperation.”
Canada does not have a statute of limitations, or time limit, on bringing criminal charges for sexual assault, so the alleged assault may have taken place years ago.
The Canadian criminal code defines sexual assault as “any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another or sexual activity without one person’s consent or voluntary agreement.”
Police charged Cavey with Level 1 sexual assault, which involves minor physical injuries or no injuries to the victim. Canadian law around consent allows for criminal charges of sexual assault if the “accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority.”
Cavey, with his long hair and tattoos, is one of Canada’s most recognizable church leaders. He became the senior pastor of Upper Oaks Community Church in 1997, later changing its name to The Meeting House. The church grew exponentially as it sought to appeal to people alienated from Christianity and church traditions. It boasted an attendance of about 5,000 people. He is the author of a popular book, “The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus.”
The church is part of Be In Christ, an Anabaptist denomination that stripped Cavey of his ministerial credentials in March.