Anglican Watch

Inside the shadowy world of Steve Berger’s Christian nationalist empire

Steve Berger

As democracy and democratic institutions increasingly come under assault by pastor Steve Berger and other Christian nationalists, it’s essential to understand how Berger’s shadowy empire of money, power, and corruption works. As part of our ongoing investigation into the death of Grant Solomon and the abuse of his sister, Gracie, Anglican Watch has been exploring the inner workings of Berger’s unholy organizations.

Berger’s emergence

Berger started in southern California, where he claims to have started Calvary Chapel Diamond Bar following ordination at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Oddly, details are few, and the church’s timeline and story do not align with Berger’s claims.

Notably, Berger’s departure from Southern California occurred about the same time as a significant sex scandal in the loose consortium of independent churches that comprise the Calvary Chapel group.

And while Berger purportedly arrived in Franklin, TN, with three other families, inside sources tell Anglican Watch that none still have contact with Berger. Only one of the families purportedly is still active at Grace Chapel.

Efforts to date to contact churches in the area for clarification have been unsuccessful.

It subsequent years, it appears Grace Chapel quietly left the Calvary Chapel group, as it no longer appears in the organization’s church finder. While we do not have the reasons for this, it may be related to Berger’s unusual claims to be able to communicate with his dead son. The church is now affiliated with a splinter organizaton, the Calvary Chapel group found here.

Far-reaching network

So what comprises Berger’s network?

Berger’s empire extends across large swathes of Tennessee society, forming a loose coalition from which Berger and his loyalists reap enormous financial benefits. In many cases, we see people who have amassed resources seemingly inconsistent with their employment history. 

To understand this network, Anglican Watch relied on public information, including corporate records, tax filings, land records, and criminal reports. We also interviewed dozens of insiders, often on condition we do not identify them for fear of retribution.

Here are the key organizations directly related to Berger:

  1. Grace Chapel, Liepers Fork. Founded by Berger and a group of loyalists following Berger’s move from California, Grace is an ostensibly non-denominational mega-church. We believe the church has ties to the Calvary Chapel organization, which holds pretribulationist and premillennialist views. With an average Sunday attendance in the neighborhood of 3,500 people, the church has significant income. Federal law does not require churches to file information returns, so we cannot determine specifics.
  2. Ambassador Services International (ASI)Berger’s current ministry operates out of a virtual office in Nashville located at 131 3rd Ave N, Suite 101, Franklin, TN 37064. Also incorporated as a charity, “Our Turn Foundation,” the group employs one full-time individual, Elise Glasser, aka Lourine E. Shirley. ASI reported 2021 revenues of $1,048,755, with Berger earning $33,257 during that time, reported as 1099 income.
  3. Promise Keepers InternationalA parachurch, evangelical organization, this organization sat dormant from 2003 – 2015, when Ken Harrison, a former Los Angeles police officer, was appointed as board chair and CEO. Often aligned with Focus on the Family, the organization emphasizes Victorian notions of “muscular Christianity” and complementarianism. Its headquarters is at 10807 New Allegiance Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, the same building as Harrison’s donor-advised Christian investment fund, Waterstone. The organization’s 2021 tax returns do not reflect any direct income to Berger or other officers but include a mysterious $882,065 in “management fees.”
  4. Grace Christian Academy (GCA)Located on the same campus as Grace Chapel, the school reported 2021 revenue of $11.8 million. It paid headmaster and board chair Robbie Mason $167,790 during that time. The school paid $199,484 in occupancy fees during that time, likely to Grace Chapel.
  5. Josiah’s House — located in the Dominican Republic, this orphanage is a ministry of Grace Chapel. Anglican Watch has received multiple unconfirmed reports of child sex trafficking via the orphanage.

Related organizations

As referenced above, Waterstone appears to be a critical financial pipeline into the Berger empire, sharing several directors with other organizations.

Other organizations align less closely with Berger but still form part of the mechanism by which Grace Chapel loyalists get rewards. These organizations include:

  • Narrow Gate, a discipleship ministry with close ties to Grace Chapel. Although Narrowgate faces declining revenue, current Grace Chapel senior pastor Rob Rogers claims to be a recovering addict who came to the church via the organization. We question the veracity of this claim, as addicts often suffer relapses and other challenges, yet we see no evidence of these issues with Rogers.
  • DeFatta Homesa custom homebuilding company owned by the DeFatta family, provides a lucrative income to the wife of GCA teacher/coach Len McKnatt. The LLC does not disclose ownership interests but has an annual projected revenue of over $5 million. We do not believe Berger derives direct income from the organization.

Insiders

Over the past few weeks, Anglican Watch has covered numerous insiders within the Berger fold. These insiders include Patti TremblayAmy Blaylock Curle, lying Senior Pastor Rob Rogersand Len McKnatt.

These persons all share some commonalities. These commonalities include:

  • Willingness to disregard corruption within the church.
  • Failure to report child abuse and child sexual abuse.
  • An us-versus-them mentality that they use to justify bad behavior.
  • A willingness to gaslight abuse victims within the church via reference to gnostic information. This gaslighting includes the familiar strategy of “well, there are two sides to every story” and other efforts to blur their culpability.
  • A lack of basic Christian kindness and compassion.

In addition to those insiders we’ve already covered, some lurk behind the scenes. 

Foremost among these is disgraced former VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson, fired by the company after a video of him harassing a same-sex high school couple went viral on social media. Johnson lied about the incident before his termination.

Long regarded by church members as Berger’s hatchet man, Johnson may be unacceptable to corporate America. However, he serves as a board member for Ambassador Services International, Berger’s Christian nationalist ministry to politicians.

Like many of Berger’s followers, Johnson is affluent, living in a $2 million home in Franklin, TN. Public records suggest that Johnson and his wife paid $2.5 million in cash on December 22, 2022, for a property located at 256 5th Ave N, Franklin, Tennessee, 37064, which appears to be a car dealership.

Johnson’s outrage and aggressive demeanor towards a same-sex high school couple are curious and telling, as several persons in Berger’s immediate circle are married but known to have sex with men. More on that later.

Politicians and celebrities

Berger has long surrounded himself with celebrities and politicians. Early in his Tennessee career, for example, he bragged about Wynonna Judd doing a free concert to raise money for the church.

Similarly, Promise Keepers’ board of directors reads like a who’s who of right-wing Christianity, including:

  • Donald Burgs, Sr., noted Baptist minister. Dead since 2011, his attendance at subsequent governance meetings has reportedly been spotty.
  • AR Bernard, New York mega-church pastor and owner of a six-bedroom, six-bathroom luxury home in St. James, NY.
  • Samuel Rodriguez Jr., head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and owner of a $2.5 million home in Granite Bay, California.
  • James Lankford, the senior senator for Oklahoma.
  • Chad Hennings, former Air Force pilot and NFL player.
  • Ken Harrison, the fund manager identified above.
  • Tom Wiens, CEO of New West Capitol, which shares office space with Waterstone, above. Wiens owns a $3.5 million home in Sedalia, CO.
  • Del DeWindt, former Stanford golfer and CEO of BYLD Software, owner of a $3.2 million home in Denver.

In addition, many Tennessee politicians were members of Grace Chapel before Berger departed from the church. 

These politicians include:

  • Governor Bill Lee
  • Senator Jack Johnson
  • Judge Deanna Johnson
  • Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti

The wages of Grace

While members of Grace Chapel likely give with the expectation of furthering the Kingdom of God, there are many places between here and heaven where funds find a home.

Among these places are Berger’s digs, which are not cheap. 

Currently, Berger owns a home in a gated community at 4008 Grace Creek Valley Ln., Thompsons Station, TN, 37179. The house, worth roughly $2 million, was purchased as new construction. But don’t drop in for a visit–according to public records, Berger has a concealed weapons permit.

Berger’s new home
Berger’s new home

Berger’s previous home, located at 3273 Southall Rd, Franklin, TN 37064-6240, also worth approximately $2 million, appears now occupied by Berger’s daughter, Heather Owens. Patti Tremblay and her husband may have also occupied the property.

Berger’s daughter’s home, complete with 11 parking spaces
Berger’s daughter’s home, complete with 11 parking spaces

Of course, this lavish lifestyle contradicts the carefully contrived image of Berger and his wife as persons of modest means. But at the same time, Berger adopts the trappings of money and power when it suits his purpose.

Modest Steve Berger
Modest Steve Berger

And while none of Berger’s children appear to have high-end careers, they all seem to be living the good life.

Nor is life bad for incoming Senior Pastor Rob Rogers. He recently bought a new home, located at 2032 Conductor Ln, Thompsons Station, TN 37179-2940, worth approximately $2 million. Estimated monthly mortgage payments are $5,200. His previous home, located at 1421 Mayberry Ln, Franklin, TN 37064-9612, is valued at $741,000.

Power Steve Berger
Power Steve Berger

So, how much does Grace Chapel pay? We don’t know, as churches are not required to file federal form 990’s. But assuming housing costs are about one-third of annual income, Rob Rogers would be making at least $200,000 yearly.

And, of course, we have scores of hangers-on who have shown up in Liepers Fork with little in the way of assets but now can pay cash for homes. These include teacher Len McKnight, whom we previously covered.

Rob Roger’s $2 million home
Rob Roger’s $2 million home

Berger and messaging

As Berger makes the rounds of DC, we see he’s fine-tuning his message.

For example, the ASI website was replete with anti-LGBTQ vitriol not long ago.

Today, however, every reference to LGBTQ persons has been erased from the site, replaced by the dog whistle of Wokeism. To this, Berger adds photos of rainbow flags and other indicia to ensure his message is clear to readers. Yet, in so doing, he can truthfully claim he doesn’t mention the issue at all.

Thus, even as Berger bloviates about being willing to discuss issues other pastors won’t, his reliance on sneaky indirect references to issues makes clear that he’s noisy but not brave.

Corruption, the common bond

So what holds the ugly, incestuous bunch together? And why doesn’t local law enforcement stop protecting Aaron Solomon?

We don’t know the answers. But Anglican Watch has been told that Aaron Solomon, Sam Johnson, and Steve Berger appear to have known each other, even when Berger first arrived in the area.

Other issues on our radar about Grace Chapel’s inner circle include:

  • Multiple reports of sexual harassment.
  • Allegations of sexual activity outside of marriage.
  • Homosexual relations by married men.
  • Claims of domestic abuse and violence by Sam Johnson.

To these, we add the corruption of state Judge Deanna Johnson, and a portrait of far-reaching ethical collapse arises, with its locus at Grace Chapel. Its high water mark extends all the way to Governor Bill Lee and other top officials in his cabinet.

As to Aaron Solomon, we believe the allegations of human trafficking and find claims that he has incriminating evidence against local officials convincing.  Thus, we believe Tennessee officials are afraid to deal with Aaron, for fear their own corruption comes to light.

If we are correct, the entire house of cards is about to implode for Steve Berger and the corruption that oozes like toxic slime from Grace Chapel. Meanwhile, the outside world looks ever more closely at the evil, corruption, illegal conduct, and mistreatment of children at Grace Chapel and Grace Christian Academy.

Time is running out for Berger and his minions.

Anglican Watch will profile additional persons at Grace Chapel and Grace Christian Academy in coming days.

One comment

  1. you should watch the documentary Marjoe. It was in the 70s but he does an amazing job exposing these church business empires.

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