From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Statement on Texas Civil Case

Date Mon, 12 Apr 2004 17:11:56 -0500


April 12, 2004

ELCA Statement on Texas Civil Case

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is thankful
to have reached a settlement in a civil case that arose due to
the criminal conduct of former pastor Gerald Thomas.  We continue
to pray for all who have been adversely affected by this
disturbing case, and we ask your prayers for the victims of
Thomas and for the congregation that he once served in Marshall,

This lawsuit has been deeply troubling to all involved and we
acknowledge its seriousness.  Prior to Thomas' arrest, the ELCA
was unaware of the former pastor's reprehensible conduct toward
the plaintiffs in the case.  Nevertheless, the ELCA is deeply
sorry that anyone was victimized by Gerald Thomas.

The ELCA is grateful that, with the cooperation of its insurance
carriers, its share of the total settlement payment is being
funded without adversely affecting the mission and ministry of
this church.  In reaching its settlement, the ELCA admitted to no
wrongdoing by the church.

It is our understanding that, as of this date, not all of the
parties to the civil lawsuit have been able to reach an out-of-
court settlement with the plaintiffs.  Therefore, it would be
entirely inappropriate for us to comment on the specific
allegations made in this case.	If a trial does proceed, we ask
that the public keep an open mind about this matter until all of
the evidence has been heard and a verdict reached.

Allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with children by ELCA
clergy are very rare.  Molestation of children is a crime, and
the ELCA cooperates fully with law enforcement authorities when
incidents do occur.  The ELCA urges its congregations and members
to immediately report cases of suspected child sexual abuse to
local authorities.  The ELCA seeks compliance with all states'
laws regarding the reporting of child abuse.

The ELCA does not tolerate cases of sexual abuse involving
clergy.  The ELCA's clergy standards policy states: "Ordained
ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the
manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and
all attempts at sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including
taking physical or emotional advantage of others."

When ELCA bishops are presented with allegations of improper
conduct by pastors, they investigate the matters promptly.  If
there is credible evidence to support the charges, the bishop
will immediately seek the pastor's resignation from the ELCA's
clergy roster.	ELCA bishops do not have authority to reassign
clergy and they do not move known perpetrators to other ministry

Candidates for ordained ministry in the ELCA go through an
extended process of study and evaluation.  To our knowledge, no
other pastor who has completed the ELCA candidacy process has
ever been accused of the conduct for which Thomas was convicted
in Texas.  Still, in a continuing effort to guard against such
tragedies, the ELCA will review its guidelines and procedures for
candidacy for the ordained ministry.
-- -- --
     The related news release is at
on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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