AUSTRALIAN Christian Churches will try to strike out compensation claims by two child sex victims during a two-day NSW Supreme Court hearing in November, only a year after rejecting Swansea child sex victim Brett Sengstock's claim against the church group on legal technicalities.
At least one senior ACC executive will be questioned by lawyers for two victims of former youth pastor and convicted child sex offender Chris Bridge who was jailed in 2017 for crimes against them, during a two-day hearing in Sydney from November 14.
Bridge, 71, entered guilty pleas and confessed to crimes against four teenage boys in Dubbo and Newcastle between 1973 and 1983 during a taped phone call with an Australian victim while Bridge was in the Philippines in August, 2015.
Bridge also confirmed admitting his abuse to a victim's mother at Dubbo in 1974. The mother raised it with her Assemblies of God pastor, Jack Allsopp, who was the church group's NSW superintendent at the time. Assemblies of God changed its name to Australian Christian Churches in 2007.
An ACC executive will be questioned about church knowledge of Bridge's offending and how Bridge moved to the Newcastle area in 1975 to start "youth leadership" work at Hamilton Assemblies of God, only months after Mr Allsopp was told Bridge committed crimes against two boys he gained access to while working as youth pastor at Dubbo Assemblies of God.
Bridge went on to commit further crimes against the son of "regular attendees" at Hamilton Assemblies of God and a teenage boy he met through Charlestown Assemblies of God.
Australian Christian Churches is trying to strike out the Dubbo victims' claims after telling the Newcastle Herald in December, 2017 that the "first time the ACC movement was made aware of Christopher Bridge's paedophile activities in the 1970s and 1980s was when a victim spoke of his experiences to an ACC pastor in October, 2014".
The ACC is expected to argue Bridge used the title youth pastor in the Dubbo church but was not employed when he sexually abused two boys only a year after graduating from the Assemblies of God Bible College in Brisbane in 1971.
The ACC is expected to argue offences against the Dubbo victims occurred on camping trips and occasions arranged between Bridge and the victims' parents he met because of his church work.
In 2018 Australian Christian Churches rejected a claim by Swansea man Brett Sengstock, who was sexually abused from the age of seven by the late Assemblies of God leader Frank Houston. In 1999 Houston's son Brian Houston accepted Mr Sengstock's allegations were true. Brian Houston was the then Assemblies of God national president who went on to establish the Hillsong Church.
Australian Christian Churches rejected Mr Sengstock's claim because offences against him occurred while Frank Houston was visiting Australia from New Zealand at the invitation of another pentecostal Christian group, and was not a credentialed Australian Assemblies of God pastor until several years after the abuse occurred.
In its statement to the Herald after Chris Bridge was convicted and jailed for three years the ACC said an internal investigation revealed Bridge "never held a ministerial credential with the ACC or Assemblies of God, nor is there any documentation relating to allegations of child sexual abuse in the churches in Newcastle and Dubbo where he was apparently involved in youth leadership roles".
"The AOG/ACC has no record or knowledge of allegations made to the pastor at the Dubbo AOG church at the time, Jack Allsopp, who is since deceased, so there was no action taken at the time."
The church group said it did not appoint pastors and "these decisions are made by the local church governing board".
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse criticised ACC after its national executive, Wayne Alcorn, gave evidence the national body had "no disciplinary power over people holding themselves out as pastors who do not have an ACC credential".
It was "a weakness in the necessary safety controls the Australian Christian Churches should have in place to protect children," the royal commission said.
Mr Alcorn told the royal commission that in the case of youth pastors, the lack of control over who used the title carried "very particular" dangers.
Bridge is believed to have worked in NSW Teen Challenge refuges for troubled youths.
During the August, 2015 taped call from the Philippines Bridge denied sexually abusing other boys, including children he regularly babysat for a Hunter Assemblies of God family, and denied sexually abusing a boy in his care when he attended a Mudgee wedding.
But he confessed to sexually abusing two boys in the Newcastle area, and admitted he was "beat up in the middle of the night" while at Newcastle because he had "touched a boy".
In the taped call Bridge told the Dubbo victim he was aware that Jack Allsopp confronted the victim in 1974 who disclosed Bridge's crimes to his mother, and then confronted his second victim.
"Jack Allsopp came around and he looked me in the eye and he said to me '(The first victim's) been telling some stories and he's in a lot of trouble'," the second Dubbo victim told Bridge in the taped 2015 phone call tendered to Bridge's trial.
"The first thing he said was 'Has anything happened with you and Chris?' The first thing I said was 'No' because (the first victim) was in trouble and there's no way I wanted to get in trouble as well. But I knew in myself that what was happening was wrong," the second Dubbo victim said.
The two Dubbo victims are at the centre of the Supreme Court attempted strike-out hearing in November.
In 2017 a Hunter victim's mother said she told a senior church pastor in the early 1980s about her son's description of explicit sex acts committed by Bridge.
The Hunter victim backed his mother's account, saying the failure of the senior church pastor to act had devastating consequences for him and his family. His brother was also sexually abused by Bridge, the victim said.
"Bridge denied it and the pastor said he didn't believe my brother. I felt I had no choice but to move on and pretend the abuse against me never happened because nobody would believe us. It wrecked my relationship with my brother," the Hunter victim said.
His brother abused serious drugs, was jailed for a drug-related assault and died only days before his 30th birthday.
"My brother died and I suffered in silence for 30 years until I got a phone call from a detective, because we knew we wouldn't be believed," the victim said.
"It tears me to pieces that I didn't speak back then. It's still a huge regret of my life."
In his sentencing comments in 2017 Judge Michael Bozic, SC, said offences against a boy sexually abused at a Cardiff refuge that Bridge managed were "particularly egregious". Bridge met the boy through Hamilton Assemblies of God, also known as Generation City, where the boy's parents were "regular attendees".
The sexual abuse occurred three years after Bridge met the boy, and after the boy left home and moved into Bridge's refuge.
The boy was "in a position of some vulnerability and the offence occurred at the refuge at a time and a place when (the boy) was entitled to expect protection".
The boy returned home after the offending.
Judge Bozic noted that Bridge bought gifts for boys at the Dubbo church and let them drive his car and ride his motorbike.
In one incident in 1973 Bridge travelled to his parents' Wyong home with a Dubbo victim. Judge Bozic found Bridge sexually abused the boy, 13, at his parents' home and later rode a motorbike on a property where he broke his arm.
Bridge "allowed (the boy) to drive from Wyong to Dubbo where the offender attended Dubbo Hospital for treatment".
Solicitor Michelle Martin of North Star Law, for the Dubbo victims, declined to comment as the case is ongoing.
Australian Christian Churches national executive was contacted for comment.
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