OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The sprawling campus of Church of the Harvest opened in 1989 with just one building.
Three decades of prosperity under the leadership of the Pankratz family and the church grew to a small empire.
Kirk and Nancy Pankratz are the founders. Their son, Grant Pankratz, was promoted to Senior Pastor in March of 2018.
There is a chink in the armor, though.
A swarm of angry ex-followers are now calling Church of the Harvest a “Christian concentration camp.”
“It felt a bit like indentured servitude,” said former employee Malika Cox.
Years ago, the church added a school, a camp and eventually a two-year program they call a college, where interns pay to come, learn and work.
“I think it’s common in non-denominational churches without oversight,” Cox said. “They have these internships or two-year unaccredited colleges. It’s a great ability to have a workforce that you don’t have to pay.”
Cox worked at Church of the Harvest off and on for 15 years.
She described the “honor culture” perpetuated at Harvest.
“If you were faithful and loyal to the leadership then you were honored. If you weren’t, you were shamed.”
Last week, a former intern sounded the alarm on Facebook.
Former intern, Branden Palesano, posted about his negative experience at Church of the Harvest, and the floodgates burst.
“Mental abuse, sexual abuse,” said Palesano. “And finally, people are coming forward. It’s been going on for 20 years.”
There are 4,900 comments on the post, including hundreds of allegations of misconduct.
Havilah Capshaw Bagnaro was a student at the school for two years.
She has stayed silent 19 years about an alleged sexual assault by a member of the founding family.
“He kept reaching and trying to feel me up and grope my breasts,” Capshaw Bagnaro remembers.
She was 15 years old when she says the senior pastor’s son made an unwanted, unsolicited advance.
“His hands were on my body, different places, and I’m just…[I said], ‘Grant this is inappropriate. I don’t like this. I don’t like you like that.'”
She asked to go home. He drove her to Hafer Park.
“I said ‘STOP! You have to stop,’ and he turned me around. He grabbed me and spun toward me. I had on a button down shirt. It had pearl snaps, and he ripped it open and he grabbed my breasts. I started screaming and sobbing.”
Capshaw Bagnaro did not report the incident to authorities when she says it happened, in October of 2001.
“I never told my parents because I felt ashamed.”
However, she claims she told the Pankratz family about the sexual assault.
“I recall his sister saying to me, ‘Oh no. He’s done this again to one of my friends.'”
Today, she reads through the heartache of thousands of others, grieved with a secondary wave of guilt because she did not speak out back then.
Havilah Capshaw Bagnaro is still afraid to go to Hafer Park.
“I’m a snowflake on the tip of an iceberg. What happened to me is nothing compared to what I’ve seen has happen to other women at the hands of Grant Pankratz.”
The accused rose in the ranks over the years.
Bred for leadership, Grant Pankratz has been the lead pastor for two years.
However, according to church attendees, Pastor Grant has been absent from the stage for the past six months.
His father, founder Kirk Pankratz, has been preaching.
Kirk Pankratz addressed the allegations last weekend from the pulpit.
“I know, church family, over the last 72 hours there have been a lot of concerning and disturbing issues that have been posted on social media. We are very aware as we see that happening. I want you to know we are working with outside professionals that have already started working with us in our church,” said Kirk Pankratz.
News 4 was unable to confirm official roles for either Kirk or Grant Pankratz as the church did not return our calls, and the “Meet the Team” section of the church website has been taken down.
Leaders are now promising transparency and accountability.
“I want to make this clear, if there is something broke, we’re going to fix it. If there is something wrong, we’re going to do what’s right. We are not blind. We are not deaf. We are not in denial. Are we hurting? Yes. And my heart goes out to you. I am praying for you.”
Thousands are calling for the church to shut the doors through a Change.org petition.
Havilah Capshaw Bagnaro plans to file a civil lawsuit.
Edmond Police and Oklahoma City Police are both investigating the allegations, after she filed a report this week.