Michael Joseph Combs

Date of birth

August 7, 1945

Description

Mike Combs was arrested in Nov. 2015 and charged with four felony counts of sexual crimes: two counts of Rape and two counts of Aggravated Indecent Liberties with a Child under the age of 14. On Mar. 22, 2016, Combs pled “no contest” to one count of felony rape of a child in exchange for dropping the other charges and with an agreement that the State would not file charges related to an investigation/reports involving additional victims.

The rape, arrest, plea deal, and resulting FMC congregational process occurred under the leadership of pastor Anita Kehr and church board chair James Schrag, a former executive director of Mennonite Church USA.  

Several months after Combs was arrested, church leaders had not made a public statement addressing the arrest of a lay leader on charges of raping a child. After four and a half months of silence, two concerned church members, one of whom was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, contacted several committees, the church board chair, and the pastors, asking leaders to publicly acknowledge Combs’ arrest and begin to process it openly with the congregation. Three weeks later, after more than five months of silence, pastor Kehr made a public announcement that did not include the rape charges, stating, “As you may have seen in the newspaper or heard from other people, Michael Combs was arrested in November for aggravated indecency with a child.”

In the following months there were a variety of communications and interactions between the concerned church members, Combs’ wife Cindy, various members of church leadership, and Pastor Kehr. Almost a year after the congregation learned of Combs’ arrest, they hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to provide analysis, feedback, and recommendations.

According to page 18 of the GRACE report,  Mike’s wife, Cindy, “was fully aware that her husband had sexually abused two different teenage girls [in the 1980s] and yet she failed to warn a number of different individuals and entities,” including the victim’s parents. Cindy was chair of the Nurture Commission, which oversees the Safe Sanctuaries Committee, and “she had the obligation to inform church leaders of this highly pertinent information before permitting a known sexual offender to be certified as a Safe Sanctuaries caregiver” and allowing him to have access to children at FMC activities.

FMC continued to allow Cindy Combs to lead Vacation Bible School for two more years, and members re-elected her to a position on the Nurture Commission. She continued in church leadership roles until GRACE recommended that she resign from leading or engaging in any children’s activities and withdraw her name from the Safe Sanctuaries list.

Church-related positions held

  • Lay leader and active member at First Mennonite Church (FMC) of Newton, Kansas for more than 20 years
  • Certified by FMC as receiving required Safe Sanctuaries training, a child abuse prevention class.
  • Church organist
  • Served on the Worship Commission 2007-2012
  • Served on the leadership team of Life Sharing SS Class for adults and taught other adult Sunday School classes
  • Preached sermon September 6, 2015, just months before he was arrested on November 19, 2015.

Current employment/location (as of 2016)

  • Serving a 93 month (7 ¾ year) sentence
  • As of 2018, incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, El Dorado, Kansas
  • Earliest possible release date: Jan 09, 2023
  • Required to register as a sex offender for life

Documentation

Other documentation

  • When the Church Walks Away,” Our Stories Untold website, Dec. 18, 2017. Tim and Kathy Wiens, active members at FMC tell of their experiences in a five part series published Nov. 6, 2017 through Feb. 12, 2018.

 

Send corrections, updates, or documentation to mennonite@snapnetwork.org, The MAP List, P.O. Box 1768, Harrisonburg, VA 22803.

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