by Sharon Rondeau

Gary Church was an elder for the Appalachian Youth Missions organization based in Tellico Plains, Monroe County, TN

(Jan. 13, 2016) — Earlier on Wednesday, The Post & Email learned that Gary Wayne Church, a leader of the Appalachian Youth Missions organization in eastern Tennessee who worked with George Joseph Raudenbush III, died in a plane crash on December 12 in Benton.

Church, 61, was flying what is described as a “single engine, fixed wing aircraft.”

The Post & Email had interviewed Church on at least two occasions in regard to the actions of then-Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens against the youth mission, which included the confiscation of a trailer containing tools and supplies which young people participating in the program utilized during the summer months to help others in need.  According to Raudenbush when we last spoke with him, the trailer was never returned, despite a complaint filed by Church with the Knoxville FBI in 2011.

Benton is located in Polk County, which is one of four counties in Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District, where judicial and law enforcement corruption is a way of life.

In an interview from late 2014, Church told us that Raudenbush’s retrial on seven charges of vehicular infractions was “just a pretense” because of jury-rigging and evidence which was withheld from the jury.

In an as-yet unpublished part of that interview, Church explained how he and his wife had effected a change to the interpretation of Tennessee’s laws in regard to home-schooling, which he reported had at one time been prosecuted as a crime.  Church said that he stood up to local law enforcement after they told him he would be jailed if he continued to teach his children at home.

Church was flying alone and was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff, according to eyewitnesses.

Raudenbush, who attended Church’s funeral last month, told The Post & Email on Wednesday, “We were very close as we both worked together at the mission for years, it is a great loss for us to lose him as the senior counsel elder.”

The Post & Email wishes to extend its deepest condolences to Church’s family members and friends.

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  1. Gary Church was an individual who would go out of his way to help another person without recognition or repayment. He gave of himself selflessly and wholeheartedly. He was the example that Christ set for us to follow. Gary was strong in his faith and I never once observed him to compromise his integrity in the most trying of circumstances. I praise God for putting Gary in my life. It was a great privilege, joy and honor to have known a great servant of God. He taught me about compassion and forgiveness while demonstrating Christ’s Love in every circumstance and challenge the world could muster. Gary would give the last dollar he had or the coat of his back to someone in need. I know this because during the winter of 2014 after I was released from prison Gary took off his leather jacket and put it around my cold shivering body and with a smile he said, “George, that looks pretty good on you”. I will never forget Brother Gary. I look forward to seeing him again, serving with him again, one day soon.

    George J Raudenbush III
    National Missions Coordinator
    Appalachian Youth Missions