Sexual Predation by Christian Author and “Apostle” Frank Viola

The pattern is common, but the carnage is great.

After months of investigation, Nathan’s Voice – a victim support ministry by a network of fellowships in Virginia – has confirmed through multiple witnesses a history of lies, abuse, sexual predation and cover up involving noted Christian author and self-proclaimed “apostolic worker” Frank Viola.

Eventually, the edifice of lies and cover up in such cases comes crashing down, as the voices of the victims – even when initially silenced – are finally heard.

In this case, his former church finally had enough and dared to expose Frank Viola’s history of sexual exploitation and leadership abuse, only to be muzzled. That church eventually fell apart because of the lies, deceptions and cult practices foisted upon them.

Finally, however, Nathan’s Voice is allowing their story and first-person accounts to be heard once again – as a warning to all.

Unlike the past, we are resolute in standing against any further threats and other efforts to silence them yet again.

A Familiar Pattern

Nathan’s Voice has worked with and helped hundreds of abuse victims over the years, and been involved in some significant cases against church leaders who have abused people under their care.

It is amazing  how we see this pattern repeated over and over…

A popular church leader projects a false persona of empathy, expertise and success – while covering up a pattern of infidelity, sexual predation and exploitation, persistent detachment from any accountable local fellowship, and past ministry failures.

When facing the risk of exposure, they then appeal to unity and loyalty, personalize everything as hateful attacks against them by spiteful people, and turn on their well-rehearsed charm (and if that doesn’t work, fall back on lies, threats and intimidation) to silence those who dare ask troubling questions.

All the while, they work behind the scenes and through others to purge all dissenting voices and any contrary information – both in their churches and on public forums like the Internet.

One Church’s Brave Response

Folks from a church in Brandon, Florida, which Frank Viola had been part of and helped “plant”, decided they needed to warn others about him under the mandate of 1 Tim. 5:19-21 after years of abuse and learning about his sexual predation in their church.

In a web site they created but then removed from the Internet following the hassle of various legal threats, they posted many documents and statements regarding their own experience with him. To summarize their warnings, Frank Viola had been their apostolic “worker”, but he was abusive, deceptive, and engaged in predation and sexual exploitation of a teenage girl in the church.

During his time with them, he wielded overall control as their “apostle”, “worker” and “church planter” – refusing to allow any local elders or other form of local church accountability to emerge.

One of his victims was a girl who had been a high school student of his (he taught in the local public high school at the time) who was part of the church while Frank directly led it.

While there, over an extended period of time, he preyed on and exploited her as an older man and church leader. She was, at the time, under his direct care and claims of “apostolic” authority.

His secret exploitation of her continued for a long time, with police eventually discovering Frank Viola in a motel room with her. At the time, she was a teenager nearly half his age and Frank Viola was married with three children.

Following exposure of his infidelity with a teenager in the church, a couple of weeks later Frank Viola once again started seeking affairs with more young women half his age – including an Internet solicitation where he explicitly said he was looking to link up with women who were only twenty years old. At the time, he still married and near forty years old himself.

Mr. Viola’s infidelity contributed to the breakup of his marriage and his first wife divorcing him. However, he refused to deal with his history of sexual predation and exploitation of younger women, and instead blamed his ex-wife for the breakup of their marriage. The Brandon church found his attempted blame shifting to be without merit.

In the midst of all this, the church in Brandon, Florida, struggled on for a while but eventually disintegrated because of his abuse, controlling behavior and sexual predation.

Within a few months of things blowing up in Brandon, Frank Viola incorporated his “Present Testimony Ministry”. Under his newly incorporated ministry, he then began writing and publishing popular books and a blog, “Beyond Evangelical”, on topics like how to start and be a church and on his “deeper life”  claims – while touting his services as an experienced “church planter”.

Frank Viola’s newest book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, is due out next week.

Lies and Cover Up 

The documents and witness statements originally published by the Brandon church were removed from the Internet following legal action and threats by Gene Edwards, who was openly defending Frank Viola and acting on his behalf at the time. Frank was part of Gene Edwards’ network of hand-picked “apostles” (they since have had a falling out).

Gene Edwards and Frank Viola, while this was going on, justified his subsequent divorce by accusing Frank’s first wife of being at fault – because she demanded that Frank step down from ministry because of his problems. According to them, Frank Viola therefore was justified in the break up of his marriage because supporting his “ministry” – despite his now obvious issues – was more important than his marriage vows.

Fortunately, despite all efforts to purge the Internet of these and other witness statements, they are still preserved in an obscure, overseas Internet archive. All copies on U.S. servers, however, were effectively purged from the Internet and from all U.S. archives – thus hiding Frank Viola’s pattern of failed churches, false biography and sexual predation.

Nathan’s Voice has taken the time to track down and publicize these first-hand accounts and warnings in the links above, because it is important for others to protect themselves and their churches against any continued predation, grooming or inflated claims of success and experience as a “church planter” or other leader.

Other Voices

Jon Zens, a Christian writer, is the principle author of another first-hand account of events at Brandon (although his name was removed from this copy). In it, he confirms his own investigation and the facts surrounding Frank Viola’s sexual predation against a teenager who had been in the church and was half his age.

How I Had to Deal with Spiritual Abuse and Got Kicked Out of a Cult is a more recent first-hand account of continued abuse and cult practices – including predatory grooming type behavior against women – by the “apostles” (also called “workers”) at Frank Viola’s affiliated church in Gainesville, Florida, where he was living at the time. It is followed with confirming comments.

Why this Warning?

We have learned a vital lesson from working with hundreds of victims and cases:

Where a leader has violated his position of trust by willfully abusing those under his care, then absent open confession and repentance – which is at least as public as the influence and leadership he continues to seek – there is no assurance of adequate safeguards to protect against additional deception and victims.

There has been no public confession or open repentance by Frank Viola and his fellow “apostolic workers” – who have known of his problems but also remained silent. Instead, there has been a history of predation, deception, intimidation and cover up. Absent public exposure and warning, therefore, others remain at risk from more of the same.

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