Arlington youth pastor charged with child rape

Kendal Kippen, now 27, was formally accused of abusing a girl, 15, he met at Jake’s House Church. Others have alleged abuse, too.

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ARLINGTON — An Arlington youth pastor has been charged with two counts of third-degree child rape for accusations he abused a girl he met in a youth group.

Kendal Kippen, 27, of Stanwood, worked at Jake’s House Church in 2017 and 2018, according to charging papers filed this month in Snohomish County Superior Court. His father is the lead pastor of the church.

In August 2017, a 15-year-old girl reported she met Kippen, then 22, at a church camp in Eastern Washington. They became friends and exchanged contact information.

“The victim was flattered at first,” wrote deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn, “as the defendant was quite a few years older than she, and she felt that his position in the church would mean he was a safe person.”

The following month, Kippen reportedly asked the girl if he could pick her up and take her back to his house in Marysville, saying his parents were out of town. She agreed and sneaked out of her house. Back at Kippen’s home, the two had sexual contact, the charges say.

The girl and Kippen continued to see each other for months.

“The defendant would often tell the victim that she couldn’t say anything to anyone until after she turned 16 as that is the age of consent in Washington,” the prosecutor wrote.

In September 2020, an anonymous tipster called police to report a youth pastor at an Arlington-area church had been having “inappropriate relations” with several young members of the congregation.

“The caller was concerned,” the charges say, “because it appeared the leaders of the church, which included the defendant’s father, were attempting to handle the situation without involving law enforcement.”

A police investigation revealed Kippen had repeated sexual contact with the 15-year-old girl he met at Jake’s House Church.

In November 2020, church leadership sent out an email to congregation members announcing Kippen had been “removed” from his position as youth pastor, as of August that year. He later resigned entirely from the church staff, according to the email.

The youth pastor was arrested in February and booked into the Snohomish County Jail in Everett for investigation of child rape. Hours later, he posted $30,000 bond.

Earlier this month, the victim in the child rape cases, now in her late teens, filed a civil lawsuit against Kippen and Jake’s House. The legal complaint alleges Kippen’s father and other church leadership were negligent in their handling of abuse allegations.

When accusations surfaced in 2020, a group of senior leaders and pastors started meeting with Kippen to give him counseling and spiritual advice regarding his “sinful behavior,” according to the complaint.

Keith Kippen reportedly met with the victim’s father later that year and told him his son had an “inappropriate” relationship with the victim.

Keith Kippen “said that he would do anything he could to make this right, and that God had told him to give (the victim) his sports car,” the complaint reads.

Another woman told The Daily Herald she was a victim of Kippen’s abuse, beginning in 2016 when she attended youth group at Jake’s House. She was 17.

They started out as friends. He began grooming her and sent her sexually explicit messages, she said.

Kippen sexually abused her at church-sanctioned events, such as a summer camp, she said.

The young woman dreamt of working in church leadership one day. He leveraged that goal, she said, and told her those dreams would never come true if she came forward about the abuse.

That trauma dissuaded her from being part of any kind of church.

Six years later, she said she’s doing really well. She recently started a new job in a community where she feels safe and supported.

The official charges brought her some relief.

“It feels really good,” she said Thursday. “On the one hand, I’m shocked, and on the other hand, I’m not surprised at all.”

She said her main concern with the case moving forward is the chaos it could cause in her life. Every time there is a new development, she said she gets a barrage of messages.

“I’ve set a lot of boundaries with people,” she said. “I’ve had to learn to say, like, ‘I’m not engaging in this conversation with you.’”

If there’s anything positive she gleaned from her trauma, it was gaining resilience and the ability to prioritize her own mental health.

“A lot of people don’t learn how to set boundaries like that until later in life,” she said. “Unless you go through something like this that forces you to.”

Recent court records did not list a defense attorney for Kippen.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives believe there may be more victims, according to court documents. Tips can be directed to 425-388-3845.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; ellen.dennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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