CARSON CITY, Mich. -- Allegations of sexual abuse over the course of decades have been brought to light by several former members of a church in Montcalm County.
On Friday, the pastor at the Church of Carson City responded to those allegations in an exclusive interview with FOX 17. He called most of them lies.
Bill Hubler Sr., the current leader of the Church of Carson City, openly admits he never called police despite knowledge of alleged criminal activity by their former leader, Lee Sherman. Hubler also addressed more recent allegations of abuse by other church members, which both Hubler and his assistant call lies.
Former member Jessica Moser told FOX 17 she was abused as a child by a man named Tim Crater. Crater also had a brother at the church named Terry Crater.
"[Terry] tried to rape my brother Dan’s daughter," said Hubler. "He was probably 16 or 17 years old, and Dan called me that night and said Terry just jumped on [her] in her bed.
Hubler says Terry Crater was arrested after they called police for that incident, serving time in jail as a result.
Eventually, they let Terry Crater return. "We came up with the decision that if he got married that we would give him a try," Hubler said. "This was after a lot of years: give him a try to let him come back to our church."
FOX 17 questioned Hubler on his decision to allow a man back into the church who had openly hurt a child.
"It was just the thing with my brother, the only thing we knew what he had done was what he had done to [her]," said Hubler.
FOX 17 then questioned Hubler on his decision to allow Crater back into the church on the condition that he had to be married, then he could return. "We also believe in repentance," said Hubler.
Despite a second chance, Terry Crater was later arrested and convicted of child sexual assault involving different victims. He's now serving a decades-long prison sentence.
"We made a big mistake, I’ll be the first to admit it, a horrible mistake," said Hubler. "We’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We’ve all got skeletons in our closet.”
Hubler also addressed allegations against his own daughter as recent as 2011. Some have accused her of giving alcohol and illegal drugs to three underage teens and engaging in sexual acts with one of them.
"That’s a lie. There’s some truth to that, though, but that is very much a lie," said Hubler.
FOX 17 questioned Hubler on what parts of those allegations were true.
"Some of the younger boys were asking about making a cocktail out of something, I don’t know just what. I don’t think there was any sexual involvement," said Hubler. "If my children are naughty, I’m not going to decide whether they should be in the church, out of the church, put out for a couple weeks, or whatever. The other guys do that. So she met with the other guys, and you’d have to ask them, I don’t really know. She’s married.”
Hubler says he didn’t look into the incident and never called police.
"There was nothing to call about that I know of," said Hubler.
FOX 17 asked Hubler is any laws were broken.
"None that I know of," said Hubler. "None that I know of. She got married. She’s 31 now, has two 11-year-old children, she’s just a beautiful lady."
Hubler told FOX 17 the only knowledge of abuse he was aware of prior to our reports involved Lee Sherman, who led the church prior to Hubler and has since died. Hubler also says he tells members what happened with Sherman when they come to the church, but Hubler’s assistant and likely future leader at the church, Jacob Jeffreys, says otherwise.
FOX 17 asked Jeffreys when he learned about what happened with Lee Sherman.
"A few days ago," answered Jeffreys. "Yep. I never knew anything. I still don’t know all the details of it. I wasn’t even born yet.”
Jeffreys also denies knowing of any other allegations of abuse ever happening in their community.
"You can’t cover something up that isn’t happening," said Jeffreys. "There is no sexual assault that I’m aware of happening."
Jeffreys was born in Carson City 42 years ago, attended Fish Creek School, and was elected as Hubler’s assistant a few years ago. He also has no formal seminary training, but works with Hubler and plans to replace him as pastor in the future.
“If they were happening, I believe would know about it," said Hubler. "They would be addressed."
FOX 17 asked Jeffreys why he thought he would know about abuse happening within the community.
"If something bad was happening? Because I’m here," said Jeffreys. "I’m in and around people every day. I have children here that go to our school, I’m involved in a lot of people’s lives. I would know if something was happening. I would be very surprised if something was happening and I didn’t know.”
Both of the leaders believe the allegations are lies made up by former members.
"I hate sin from the depths of my soul," said Hubler. "That’s why I'm here. These people that’ve talked to you, I know more about them than you do, and they got a lot of skeletons in their closet, real serious, real bad ones. Real bad ones. Some of them are just downright mean, hateful.”
As of last week, Michigan State Police say there have been no recent reports of any abuse or illegal activity at the Church of Carson City, but they urge anyone who might have experienced anything to contact them, no matter how many years it dates back.