H/T: Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
Published Fri., Jun. 5 2015 at 10:15 AM
For critics of First Christian Church of Florissant’s embattled lead pastor Steve Wingfield, the road to reform has been paved with hollow promises and paper victories.
In April, Wingfield sued four former members of the north St. Louis County megachurch for defamation. These so-called whistleblowers, Wingfield insisted, were actually spreading lies about how he’d supposedly ignored early warnings about Brandon Milburn, a charismatic youth minister who this March was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing two young boys between 2007 and 2009.
Milburn’s crime devastated the 2,500-member congregation, some of whom believe Wingfield hasn’t done nearly enough to help Milburn’s victims or come clean about the full scope of his work at the church. Some current and former members are calling for Wingfield’s resignation, while his supporters (including the church’s board of elders) have stood firm behind their leader.
But the tide may be shifting. Last month, Wingfield dismissed the defamation lawsuit against the four former church members. Now, one of those defendants, a woman named Dawn Varvil, is taking some demands of her own to Wingfield.
“Wingfield’s entire purpose in filing the lawsuit was to harm people who he knew had a constitutional right to speak up for what they believed,” wrote Varvil’s attorney in a demand letter dated June 4 that was sent to Wingfield’s legal counsel. “However, instead of filing a lawsuit, she is willing to attempt to resolve her claims amicably.”
Varvil occupies a unique position in this rolling controversy. Once a friend and youth outreach partner with Milburn, Varvil observed his behavior around teen boys grow increasingly brazen. In 2012, she met with Wingfield to discuss her concerns.
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For more on this story, make sure to check out last month’s Riverfront Times’ investigation: A Youth Minister’s Downfall Is Tearing First Christian Church of Florissant Apart
It’s also worth noting that last week Daily RFT uncovered evidence that Wingfield’s brother, a pastor at a different church, yanked funding to a bible college that employed one of Varvil’s main supporters.
E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com