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Father Under Fire: A Westlake Church Rallies Around its Pastor After Charges that He Sexually Abused His Adopted Daughter

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"Indicators of Child Sexual Abuse" is published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in their Child Welfare Information Gateway. Many of the behaviors described in earlier police reports and observed by church members as reasons not believe the victim's allegations are recognized in the document's "Psychosocial Indicators of Child Sexual Abuse" section, and the years during which the girl's behavior changed coincide with the years she alleges she was abused. The report mentions possible problems including enuresis, promiscuity, running away, substance abuse, depression and social withdrawal, problems relating to peers, school difficulties, and sudden noticeable changes in behavior. It also notes that false allegations represent between only 1 and 5 percent of reports.

On May 29, the day after Endrei was arrested and then released on $50,000 bond, the church released its side of the story.

The Church on the Rise of Westlake is aware of the recent indictment by Lorain County of Pastor Paul Endrei. We pray for Pastor Paul, his wife and 5 children. We are aware that the allegations are coming from one of the children adopted by the Endrei's. We pray that this troubled adolescent receive the help and counseling she needs.

The Church believes in our legal system and that the truth will come out. To assist in that end, we are requesting that the media and press respect the privacy of Pastor Paul and his family. Church grounds are for spiritual growth and not for media or press interviews. We hope this request for privacy is respected and the press and media refrain from entering Church property.

Pastor Paul maintains his presumption of innocence and hope that all reserve judgment until all facts are properly aired in a court of law. We not only have faith in our lord but also in our system of justice. Only after both sides present their case can a judgment be made in this very serious matter. We thank all members of the church and community for their prayers and continued support.

That Sunday, just a few days removed from his indictment for alleged sexual abuse of his daughter, Paul Endrei returned to the Church on the Rise stage, preaching to a packed house of unwavering supporters who never believed for a second Pastor Paul did what he's accused of doing.

"Well it really stunk to be me this week. Its times like this that you really find out who your friends are, and I thank God that we have a lot of friends," opened Endrei, wearing a suit and holding the microphone at the front of the stage before a fully supportive, and oftentimes cheering congregation. "We have a lot of friends not only in this church, but outside this church, in this city, across America. You know bad news travels fast. I have people from Florida, Texas contacting me — like how did you find out so fast? Yeah, bad news travels faster than good news. But here's the reality, the Bible says a brother is born for adversity, and I feel like I'm going through adversity university right now. But I'm not the only student: How many of ya have gone through something you didn't expect, something that was off, without rhyme or reason — like God, where did that come from? Today, Patti and I wanna say thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for the hundred or so text messages, emails, Facebooks, saying, 'Hey, we love you, we support you, we're behind you, we're praying for you and your family.' Thank you, thank you, thank you."

The churchgoers gave him a round of applause. Endrei paused for a second, and continued.

"One thing I learned, that when I'm cut I definitely bleed. And I just wanted to let you know, I'm a man, I have pain, you know, what's transpired hurts me deeply. My wife as well. She said to me just yesterday — I asked her, 'How are you doing?' and she says, 'You know, Paul, now that this has happened, the news report's gone out, and the people of God have responded, I feel the power of their prayers.' And let me tell you, your prayers mean all the difference in the world, so thank you, thank you, thank you for praying for us."

It's been more than four months since the case hit the papers, and you wouldn't be able to tell the church's main leader is out of jail on bond while awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges if you didn't already know. Church leaders are cheery, the seats are filled, and money is continuing to flow in.

"We actually have had more people — I think initially it was because they wanted to know what's going on with the whole news phenomenon," says Jennifer Bell, a preschool coordinator at the church, "And then I think the pastor's really starting to preach from his heart, preaching about what he's going through, and in my mind his preaching has gotten better. It's become more real. Its one thing if you're always preaching about success, success, success and prosperity, but when you're hurting and you're preaching from there, I think the draw of the word is stronger, and you can really see he's reaching the people who are hurting. And after all, that's what church is for — to help those who are hurting."

Others in the church's inner circle are more adamant about Endrei's innocence, portraying the case as an example of overzealous prosecutors looking for charges no matter what.

"It got so obnoxious to the point where they were actually considering indicting Pastor Frank, his dad," one said. "Really? If you know that man, it's just preposterous. You know how the grand jury system works? Well, the grand jury recommended to not press charges, but the prosecutors overruled them and said they're going to do it anyways."

It is unclear if that belief is correct — grand jury deliberations are secret and prosecutors declined to comment — or if that's simply a rumor those close to Endrei have passed along to bolster his defense.

One close confidant of Endrei's says he's holding up well — publicly, at least.

"Of course when you have the Holy Spirit and you know God is on your side, you know you can't lose," Endrei's friend says. "And most of all, you know the allegations, accusations and all that stuff is false, how can you be down? How can you?

"Their character is phenomenal, he doesn't sway," he says. "If I suspected something different, I wouldn't be there anymore. I'm not going to have somebody lead me in life and direct my path according to the Holy Spirit all of a sudden let me down like that. I will say that everybody can fall short, but he has not. I do not believe that happened. That [girl], I've heard stories about her flirting with the boys."

A pre-trial for the Endreis was held the last week of September and another pre-trial is scheduled for November. No trial date has been set.

In the meantime, normalcy has returned to the church, where Endrei is judged not by a jury of his peers but by a flock flush with faith banking on that belief paying dividends down the line.

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