WAUCONDA, Ill. (CBS) — Police are investigating claims that a minister who broke away from the Willow Creek Community Church held naked religious ceremonies with his female followers.
Multiple news reports identify the man as Philip Livingston, 52, who broke away from the South Barrington-based church to found his own Life of the World Ministries in Wauconda.
Livingston would hold “light therapy” sessions where he and other church members would remove their clothes and touch each other. He claimed it helped cure everything from drug addictions to yeast infections.
The Chicago Tribune reported that in one-on-one sessions in a small house overlooking Bang’s Lake in Wauconda, Livingston would allegedly direct the women to strip, get naked himself, and touch their bodies while telling them to touch his.
The Tribune reported Livingston admitted to and defended the “light therapy” ritual in testimony in a Kane County case, but said it was only ever performed between consenting adults. But a participant said a teenage girl was also involved, the newspaper reported.
“Information was brought to our attention that he was allegedly performing ‘light therapy’ and there may be underage people involved,” said Wauconda police Cmdr. John Thibault. He said police opened an investigation into the allegations at the end of May.
“We’ve conducted some interviews. It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re trying to figure out what happened and what didn’t happen and where,” Thibault said.
“There’s obviously cause for concern and needs to be looked at, and that is what we are doing,” he added.
Livingston had been the leader of a small group of Willow Creek members who met for a prayer group, in which the Tribune reported he told the church members that God had implanted messages in their dreams and he could decode them.
Willow Creek leaders did not approve of the practices, and said Livingston never had permission to lead the group, so Livingston and some other followers quit Willow Creek and started their new church.
The Tribune reported graphic details of what allegedly went on at the “light therapy” sessions. In more Kane County testimony, a participant reported lying on a couch while Livingston touched her private parts and inserted his fingers, and said the women touched Livingston’s penis while praying, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper said Livingston also claimed light therapy would turn “homosexuals” and sex addicts into “virtuous people.”
According to news reports a Cook County judge ordered Livingston, his wife and his top assistant to stay away from the one-time follower whose allegations of child endangerment sparked the investigation.
The Lake County News-Sun contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.