Dozens of young Methodists are in immediate danger.
This Sunday, July 31, unless leaders in the UMC take action, at least three youth groups from Greater New Jersey will arrive at Olivet Blue Mountain Camp in eastern Pennsylvania to spend a week under the leadership of a known sexual predator.
Here are the facts.
* In 2013, “Lisa” (not her real name) filed a complaint of sexual misconduct against then-Rev. Darryl Duer. He wasn’t her minister, but he was the minister who led the summer service project that she had attended with her church youth group since she was in junior high. Duer had begun giving Lisa love notes and personal gifts when she was only 15. When she turned 18, he offered pastoral support, but very soon began demanding sex. He abused her for several years, telling her that his sexual abuse was God’s way of loving her. He knew of her history of abuse growing up, and he correctly assumed she wouldn’t know she was being abused. But eventually she figured it out.
* Bishop John Schol of the UMC’s Greater New Jersey jurisdiction received Lisa’s complaint. Rather than launching a formal investigation, Bishop Schol simply asked Duer to hand in his ministerial credentials. He later characterized Lisa’s complaint as “serious and substantiated,” but at the time he chose to cover it up. He hid the truth from Duer’s congregation, his fellow ministers, and the parents of the youth who had participated in those summer camps over the years.
* In 2014, Lisa learned that Duer was again offering the camp, and that three of Bishop Schol’s ministers were bringing their youth groups. After a great deal of effort on Lisa’s part, and with the involvement of the national church office, Bishop Schol agreed to inform those three ministers of Duer’s offense. In response, Duer canceled the camp.
* Lisa thought this was the end of the story. But in early 2015, Lisa saw online postings for Duer’s camp on one of the same three church websites. She wrote to the minister immediately. He assured her it was “old information,” and he promised to take down the posting. She believed him at the time, but later that summer she found evidence that this minister had brought his youth group after all, despite Bishop Schol’s warning in 2014. This youtube video shows the youth group’s presentation afterwards. Duer’s face is prominently shown in one of the slides.
* The horror continues. A few weeks ago, Lisa learned that Duer is still running the camp, and the same three churches are still bringing their youth. On July 5, Lisa sent a powerful email to Bishop Schol and a to key contact in the denomination’s national headquarters. She waited two weeks for a response, then wrote to a higher authority in the national church. She also reached out to the bishop in Eastern PA where Duer’s camp would take place. Although she’s heard from the national office, she has yet to receive a response from either bishop, and the national office seems to lack the power to take action.
* Lisa posted a comment about this situation on Bishop Schol’s facebook page. An administrator immediately took down her comment, but at least she had their attention. The bishop has finally agreed to speak with Lisa by phone about how he handled her case. He has also promised to “talk to” the three ministers when their youth groups return from Darryl Duer’s camp. But with a full week left before the train wreck, Bishop Schol said it was too late to stop his district’s youth from attending, or to inform their parents of the danger.
Where is the leadership? Where are the shepherds who are supposed to protect the sheep from wolves like Darryl Duer? Does it really fall to an obscure blogger to get this word out? The odds that any of my readers know any of those parents is infinitessimally small. Still — if you do know someone involved, please share this warning. Young people have a right to expect a safe experience when they attend a church-organized camp, and parents have the right to know if their children are about to walk into a viper’s nest.
Update, afternoon of July 28. I’ve now spoken with the bishop of Eastern PA. She had not received Lisa’s email; she is very concerned and has promised to do what she can to keep UMC youth safe.
Update, January 2017: Bishop Schol’s excellent response.
Comments on: "UMC Protecting a Predator" (3)
Very often it does really fall to a blogger to get this kind of word out, but my The Emerson Avenger blog, which deals with Unitarian Universalist clergy abuse, amongst other U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy, isn’t all that “obscure”. It chugs along at 3 or 4 hundred page views a day, with a good number of days getting higher levels of readership. It recently had a “peak” of over 1,300 page views in one day, and hasn’t fallen below 400 pages views per day since. . .
The Emerson Avenger blog’s impact on “The U*U Movement” has caused top-level Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) leaders to hire Stikeman Elliott Barristers & Solicitors, a major Canadian law firm, to have me served with arrogant and aggressive cease and desist demand letters that, amongst other ludicrous accusations, falsely accuse me of the archaic crime of “blasphemous libel” for allegedly, and I do say *allegedly* making “unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape”. Needless to say my online allegations about “less than perfect” Unitarian Universalist clergy, to say not of U*U Sunday school teachers, who have been charged, tried & convicted of “such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape” are by no means unfounded, and I have not deleted so much as a comma from The Emerson Avenger blog since the UUA had me served in June of 2012.
It seems that the “shepherds” are much more interested in protecting their “wolves in shepherd’s clothing” than protecting their sheep. . .
John Schol needs to be ashamed of himself. I know John from the late 1990’s when he served as, I think, DS under Bishop Peter Weaver in the Phila. conference. I met both of them at a Shalom Conference in the Frankford UMC in 1998. Sadly, I was raped by my pastor (from Maine) at that conference. I did not come out until mid 2000’s (I am a middle aged woman) for all the usual reasons. By that time, as the Holy Spirit would have it, Weaver was now Bishop of the New England Conference. He told us he had dealt with ‘many CSM cases’ while Bishop in the PA conference. (Surely John must have known about them!). Our perpetrator was defrocked under Weaver, but not without the help of GCSRW and Garlinda Burton and Marie Fortune, who had to hold their behinds to the fire to get justice done. Do you have contact info for John Schol?
I’m glad the UMC’s Commission on the Status & Role of Women is involved. I know some of these people and the ones I know are honorable and committed to stopping this sort of thing. I hope they can find a way to keep these kids (and all vulnerable people) safe.
I think one of the difficulties of these situations is when the perpetrator is NOT a clergy person (not under the jurisdiction of any particular church discipline) and has escaped the legal system as well. Those who want to protect victims are hamstrung by what they can do legally without being sued. They may even be limited in what victims allow them to make public.
To me, one of the possible safeguards would be to work towards legislation in every state that makes clergy as accountable as counselors, doctors, etc. In most states, sexual contact between the counselor, doctor, etc. is illegal even if was supposedly “consensual.” It is hard to prove sexual contact without physical evidence, so there is (like all rape) limited legal recourse for the victims. It is even more difficult to prove sexualized comments unless they are recorded (secretly by cell phone?).This may not be admissible as evidence, but it does prove something worth investigating has occurred. No more “he said, she said.”
Making this illegal creates one more safeguard. It tells perpetrators in a very clear way that sexualized contact with members of their congregations is wrong. It tells society the same thing. It means that a perpetrator may dodge his own church’s discipline, but he will still have to face consequences from those outside the church, i.e. the criminal justice system and if that fails, civil lawsuits (think of Nicole Brown/OJ Simpson).
It also sends a message to church hierarchy to “keep their own houses clean” and adds pressure to end up on the right side of the law. No church wants to hear this in the news: “Pastor X was indicted in Y Court for sex with a church member; it appears that church officials were aware and did not report him to police for investigation. Church officials who were aware of this may also be charged as accomplices, under the statute that makes failure to prevent a known harm punishable by law.”
Even callous church officials whose only interest is in covering things up would feel the pressure of this kind of constraint. This reminds of the movie “Spotlight” all over again.
Are the newspapers/media our last resort here?