Minister Accused of Sexual Abuse
Parents Suspected a Sexual Relationship between Their Teen and Their Minister
By Darla Cameron
August 1, 2006
A minister who used to serve in Columbia was arrested Monday on suspicion of sexually abusing a 15-year-old worshipper Monday.
The Rev. Roberto Edger Lopez, 36, faces one count of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of second-degree statutory rape. He is accused of being sexually involved with a 15-year-old girl who attended Horeb United Methodist Church, a Spanish-language church that Lopez helped found two years ago. Lopez, who is originally from Mexico City, was the sole minister at Horeb until he was relocated to another Spanish-language church in Monett in late June.
On July 25, the girl's parents reported to Columbia police that they suspected abuse after they said they found online instant messages from the man to the girl, according to the Police Department. An investigating officer found that the messages, sent from two personal computers in the girl's home, were sexual in nature.
Sgt. Ken Hammond said that the man and the girl knew each other for two years.
Lopez was arrested in Monett around 3 p.m. Monday. He was being held in the Lawrence County Jail on a $100,000 bond and awaiting transfer to the Boone County Jail.
The Rev. Nick Campbell, minister at Fairview United Methodist Church in Columbia, said Lopez was removed from his Monett position for the course of the investigation starting on Monday.
"We're following all the procedures to protect the congregations," Campbell said.
Campbell said Lopez was not transferred from Columbia to Monett because of the allegations, but because Methodist ministers move to a new church once every year or two and a Monett church needed a Spanish-speaking minister. Campbell said the church did not know about the charges until Monday.
"We were completely surprised by these charges," Campbell said.
Campbell worked with Lopez as the chairman of the Methodist church's Spanish Initiative, which was formed to support the development of a Spanish-language church in Columbia.
Originally, the Horeb church met in the basement of a parsonage at on Crown Point road. It now meets in extra rooms at the Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church.
Campbell said Horeb has 50 to 60 members, but only about 10 attend the Sunday service. The services are bilingual in Spanish and English.
Campbell said that Lopez was "personable, very close to his wife ... very willing to serve his congregation" when he was minister at Horeb.
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