Former Village Church children’s minister charged in assault of minor

Matthew Tonne
Former Village Church Children's Minister Matthew Tonne, 35, ministers at a hospital in 2014. |

Just months after he was quietly removed from his role last June, the Matt Chandler-led Village Church in Texas has revealed that a former children’s minister, Matthew Tonne, has been charged with sexual assault involving a minor from his church.

The assault reportedly took place at a camp for kids in 2012.

“We have an update regarding the 2012 Kids Camp situation that we communicated publicly last September. The Dallas County District Attorney filed charges in this case against a former employee of The Village Church, Matt Tonne, who was indicted by the Dallas County Grand Jury and is being prosecuted by the District Attorney's office. Matt turned himself in and is now out on bond. The outcome is pending trial,” the church said in a statement this week.

The admission comes after Chandler declined to say if any person of interested in the case was ever affiliated with the church after revealing the assault last September. He also said that "no persons of interest" in the investigation have access to children at The Village Church.

Information from court documents reviewed by The Christian Post shows that Tonne, 35, was charged with indecent child contact and released on a $25,000 bond. He was ordered to have no contact with the complainant in the case against him or her family.

Tonne was also ordered to have no contact with children 17 years or younger except his own children. He is expected to answer to the charge at 9 a.m. on Jan. 29. 

On Sunday, Pastor Chandler updated the congregation and commented, "This whole thing is a mess. I have personally felt thin and exhausted and worn out and heartbroken."

"We want truth … we want justice … and we want healing," he stressed.

Before he was removed from his post at The Village Church last June, Tonne, a longtime church employee, was known as a beloved leader and family man with a wife and three children of his own.

A former colleague, Courtney Hofmann, described Tonne in a 2013 blog post as a humble and devout leader who loves children.

“Matt loves the Lord and is marked by humility, wisdom and patience (he works with a staff of all women for goodness sakes and yet somehow he puts up with all our emotions and craziness on a never ending basis). He loves and shepherds the children, families and volunteers of our ministry and is a great asset to our church body. He likes YouTube videos, internet memes, and is pretty consistently rocking out to the most recent pop hits while cranking out Children's curriculum from his office. He speaks in moderate language and has a bandwidth that is unreal,” Hoffman wrote.

In his statement on the investigation last September, Chandler said the minor began recalling the alleged 2012 assault at Mount Lebanon Kids Camp that The Village Church attended. The Cedar Hill Police Department in Texas, which investigated the case, could not immediately reveal any additional details about what happened when contacted by CP on Friday.

Chandler noted in his statement that even though the assault took place in 2012, it was only in early 2018 that she “came to a place where it was possible to verbalize the memory of what happened for the first time through ongoing therapy.”

The church has cautioned that the charge against Tonne does not mean he is guilty.

“This indictment is not a declaration of guilt or innocence; it is only the next step in the process. When a person is indicted, they are formally charged with a crime, but like any citizen in our country, they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law,” the statement said.

It also noted that when Tonne was removed from his post last June, it was not connected to the investigation against him.

“We anticipate and understand questions about why Matt Tonne left staff and whether this case had anything to do with his transition. We removed Matt from The Village Church staff in June of 2018 for other reasons, and we communicated those specific issues to our staff, as well as to members and volunteers in his ministry department at that time,” the church said. “We have been and will continue to be in close contact with those directly involved in this situation and will continue to do all we can to assist with any request that authorities have for us.”

Church officials also asked for prayers for all involved in the situation.

“There are no adequate words that can express the pain, sorrow and grief that are wrapped up in this whole situation. We are committed to pursuing healing and justice and will continue to follow the lead of the authorities and experts involved in the case. As we all wait for updates, we ask for you to pray for everyone involved, as we look to Christ for hope in such a dark situation,” church leaders noted.

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