The Religious News Service has reported that a former ACNA lay pastor has been arrested for sexual assault in Kane County, Illinois.
On Wednesday, December 29, 2021, 48-year-old Mark A. Rivera was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault. This comes just a year after a victim accused Rivera of raping her twice, once in 2018 and again in 2020. The victim lived next door to the Rivera. At the time, he was a lay pastor at Christ Our Light Anglican, located at 301 Rhodes Ave, Big Rock, IL 60511. He served at this ACNA church plant from 2013 to 2019. Previously from the middle of the 1990s to 2013, he served as a volunteer leader at the Church of the Resurrection located at 935 W Union Ave, Wheaton, IL 60187.
These accusations follow a string of abuse allegations, including additional felony sexual assault charges and predatory abuse of a victim under 13. At least eight other victims have come forward accusing Rivera of child sexual abuse, grooming, and rape.
The ACNA reported on August 28, 2021, that a Provincial Response Team was set up to investigate how the allegations were being handled. However, by November 30, 2021, they had only just begun to form a list of potential investigative firms, and the official investigation had not started. In July, the diocese’s bishop had taken a leave of absence amid concern they were mishandling the sexual abuse allegations.
Rivera has been released on bail but is required to wear a GPS bracelet to monitor his location. He is currently facing two felony counts of criminal sexual assault on top of the previous charges.
Update: January 10, 2022 - A petition started by ACNAtoo, a survivor-centric advocacy group for spiritual and sexual abuse survivors of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, has garnered over 300 signatories since releasing on January 6, 2022. The group supports all of the many victims abused by Mark Rivera. It seeks to hold accountable the failures and mishandling of the ACNA leadership. After forming in June of 2021, they have provided resources for survivors and offered them an outlet to tell their stories. The group's goal is to have the Provincial leadership honor the survivor's request for an informed investigation.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer in Illinois. For years, Brian has represented victims sexually abused by a church pastor in civil lawsuits. During a recent interview, Brian shared some information regarding when a victim can sue a church for sexual abuse by a pastor.
“Too often, sexual predators will place themselves in roles of trust and power in order to commit abuse. Lately, many reports have been made with these predators taking positions within the clergy of churches to exploit their victims. This sexual exploitation has been seen across all religious denominations. Numerous pastors and ministers have been charged with sexually abusing their members. It is the legal responsibility of churches to do their best to offer their members safety with preventatives to stop predators. Such measures should include background checks on all clergy members, security cameras on the church property, and investigating reports of misconduct.”
“A church can be held accountable for not upholding the safety of its members. If abuse occurs and the church fails to implement safety precautions, they can be deemed liable in a court of law. Some cases of sexual abuse only happen due to negligence on behalf of the church. If complaints had been filed against an active clergy member, but church officials ignored the allegations, this could be considered negligence. In cases of negligence, sexual assault victims and their families should know their legal rights. By contacting an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer, they can determine if they have sufficient grounds to file a civil lawsuit.”