Second of two parts
The Rev. Brock Miller's 2014 resignation triggered something of a civil war at Grace Cathedral.
The fuel was provided, in part, by a secret recording of a 2½-hour service that was devoted almost entirely to bashing the former associate pastor and ridiculing his allegation that Ernest Angley is gay and had sexually abused him.
During that service, Angley admitted that he routinely examined men's genitals before and after vasectomies. A member of the congregation recorded the service and provided a copy to the Beacon Journal.
Some of the admissions Angley made on the tape led to a six-part investigative series in which nearly two dozen former church members claimed Angley runs a dangerous cult. They said pregnant women are encouraged to have abortions, childless men are encouraged to have vasectomies and Angley — who preaches vehemently against the “sin” of homosexuality — is himself a gay man who has abused both his associates and members of the congregation.
But the focal point of the July 13, 2014, service was Miller, who had resigned nine days earlier.
Angley told his flock that Miller's allegations were “dirty lies [from] someone who committed adultery.” He said Miller “has been getting drunk. He was like a zombie. I gave him four hours [in a meeting], but it didn't do any good. There was not enough to work with.”
Associate Pastor Chris Machamer hammered away as well, calling Miller “a proven liar” and “a drug addict” whose motivation for the “lies” was his desire to take control of the church.
Usher Mike Kish chimed in, too: “You're not fighting flesh and blood. You're fighting the devil himself, straight from the pits of hell.”
Two months after that service, Angley consented to a Beacon Journal interview in his office that lasted 90 minutes.
Machamer and Kish were there, too, leveling similar accusations.
Angley said the problems began when he went to preach in Africa and turned the local preaching over to Miller. The praise heaped on Miller by the congregation gave him a big head, Angley said.
When Angley was asked why he would accuse Miller of all those horrible things during an open church service — rather than saying something like, “He had personal problems and we are praying he will be able to straighten himself out” — Angley said:
“We had to do it. They were really fighting. ... It was awful stuff. They wanted money.”
Angley produced a statement from a church employee who said one of Miller's family members told her they planned to demand $100,000 in hush money.
Brock Miller scoffs at the accusation.
“That's absolutely not true,” he said during an interview at the Beacon Journal earlier this month.
“I wrote a resignation letter that was very nice, just thanking him for the opportunity to preach. We never demanded any money. I didn't want any of his filthy money. I really didn't.”
Angley, 96 and still working, did not respond to an invitation to comment for this story made Thursday morning.
During Angley's 2014 interview with the Beacon, he also supplied a copy of an email he said Miller wrote to a female church member one night at 3 a.m. Angley said the email was proof that Miller was an drug-addicted, alcoholic adulterer.
In his January interview, Miller confirmed that he wrote the email in question — dated a month before his resignation — but says it was completely and intentionally misinterpreted
In the middle of the long, rambling email expressing his frustration with Angley and other associate pastors, Miller wrote:
“I want to thank you for that card and [lottery] scratch-off and Percocet! It was the trifecta of birthday perfection! It means a lot to me what you wrote cuz I know you meant every word, and I'm very thankful that you're my one and only sister! ...
“I can't wait to scratch off my winning ticket tomorrow. ... As for the Percs, I'm saving them for a real special time, a time called camp meetin'. We should both take one on the same night at the same time and see who can best discern the Rays new song while high on drugs!”
More to it
Miller says the email is damning only in the eyes of those who don't know the backstory.
In late 2012, Miller says, Angley told him that he would look better without glasses and gave him $2,400 to get corrective laser eye surgery. The recipient of the email, a member of the choir, was the eye surgeon's assistant.
She had undergone the same procedure a few years earlier.
“I was very nervous about it — them cutting on my eyes — and she told me it's not that big of a deal,” he said. “She said, 'The doctor is going to prescribe some pain meds, but they're probably not going to cut it.' She said she knew this person who could get me some Percocet for the pain.”
Miller says the woman gave him about 10 pills, all of which he consumed over the post-surgery weekend.
“That was kind of an inside joke between us,” he said.
“I had never taken any drugs in my life. When I took those I was in the clouds. It was good stuff and really helped me. But it was only for the pain.”
He said the tiny bag of pills she gave him for his birthday was a “gag gift” and that he never took them.
“That's what I was referring to in this email,” he says, laughing. “And they blow it up like I'm this full-blown drug addict.
“I was taught from the time I could understand anything that drugs are bad, they'll send you to hell, all this stuff. I would be too terrified to ever do drugs back then, or drink or anything like that.”
He also disputes the other major allegations.
“I had never committed adultery. I had never done drugs. Alcohol had never touched my tongue. I had never said a curse word. I had really tried my best, out of the fear of hell, to live a pure life.”
Miller admitted that a couple of the allegations against him were valid. “Yeah, I did go to R-rated movies. That was kind of an escape for me.”
He also confessed to playing PlayStation, fantasy sports and Words with Friends on his cellphone — all no-nos at Grace Cathedral.
Miller said the campaign to discredit him was totally expected because he had seen what happened to others who leavethe church.
He and his wife's families were immediately shunned. Miller's mother, a secretary for Angley for 30 years, couldn't get Angley to return her phone calls.
The shunnings Miller had witnessed so often kept him from telling his parents for a long time about the sexual abuse he says he endured.
“I was terrified to tell them what happened because they had been part of the ministry for so long and I had that fear in my mind that they wouldn't believe me, that they would shun me and I would be on my own. My mom and dad were actually some of the last people I confided that in.”
His fears were baseless.
“When I finally told my mom what happened to me, she immediately started bawling,” he said, himself tearing up. “She grabbed me and she couldn't stop crying. She had no doubt whatsoever that I was telling the truth.
“She was saying how sorry she was that I didn't feel safe telling her years ago. Her and my dad still struggle with a lot of guilt. I try to put their mind at ease and tell them I'm OK. I don't blame them — they were brainwashed, too.
“They were trying to do what was best for me. They're great parents.”
Miller thought the church was great, too, with the exception of its leader.
“I loved those people. I did. I loved preaching and going to hospitals and nursing homes and visiting with those people. And I truly felt like that was my calling. I just loved it so much.”
Adjusting to life away from Grace Cathedral has been difficult.
“When we left the church we knew we would be losing everything,” he said. “We did have one car that we owned. But [Angley] took the other car and the house and our jobs, our [extended] family, our friends — everything, really.”
Miller and his wife moved in with her brother and sister-in-law for a year, then lived in an apartment Miller's parents owned behind their house.
The marriage began to fall apart.
His wife's connection to the church and to Angley “was just too much for me,” Miller said. “I didn't think our marriage was meant to be. I felt like Ernest had put us together and that was the only reason we were together. I do love her. We still have contact.”
Miller left her two years to the day after his resignation
In February 2016, he moved to Myrtle Beach and took a job at a payroll firm where his cousin is the chief operating officer — a cousin whom, ironically, his family had completely shunned when he and his side of the family left the church in 1996.
Before Miller moved south, he was seeing a professional counselor who specializes in sexual abuse. After his move, he figured he'd try to work things through on his own. But recently he decided to look for a new counselor “because I know I need more help.”
He hasn't soured on Christianity, just Angley's version of it.
Free at last
As difficult as the transition has been, Miller is thrilled he made it. He says the only thing he can compare it to is being released from prison.
“I've never been to prison, but when a prisoner has been locked up for years and is finally free, they don't even know what to do with themselves because they've been incarcerated for so long.
“It took me a while to adjust to the real world. Everything was new to me because I had lived in a bubble my entire life. Thirty years of my life.
“I feel like I've grown 30 years in three years.”
Miller says he hopes telling his story will spur others to escape.
“If I can save one person from the hell I went through by telling my story, then it's worth it,” he said.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31
Ernest Angley blasted his associate when he left
Second of two parts