California United Methodists Reach Out-Of-Court Agreement
World Faith News
August 3, 2006
Los Angeles &mdsah; California United Methodists have reached an out-of-court agreement to resolve a sexual abuse lawsuit stemming from the actions of a former pastor during the 1970s.
The denomination's two regional bodies in California, joined by two congregations, have agreed to pay plaintiffs $6.7 million to end the suit. It was brought by three men who claimed their former pastor, Gary Carson-Hull, abused them in the 1970s when he was associate pastor at Los Altos United Methodist Church in Long Beach.
Carson-Hull was immediately dismissed from the ministry when the parents of one of the plaintiffs complained to the church's senior pastor in 1979. The suits were brought after the California legislature reopened the state's statute of limitations for these kinds of cases in 2003.
According to officials of the conferences, insurance will pay most of the $6.7 million settlement costs.
"We hope resolution of this lawsuit brings healing to the victims who have suffered since the 1970s," said Bishops Mary Ann Swenson, leader of the Pasadena-based California-Pacific Conference, and Beverly Shamana, leader of the West Sacramento-based California-Nevada Conference, in a joint statement issuing a public apology on behalf of the conferences and churches.
"In the decades since the incidents in this case occurred, we have implemented a number of policies and procedures designed to safeguard those who come into our churches," the bishops said. "We are continually looking for ways to create a safer environment in all of our church programs and facilities."
In addition to the California-Pacific Annual Conference, the other defendants in the case include the California-Nevada Annual Conference, based in West Sacramento, Los Altos United Methodist Church in Long Beach, and Walnut Creek (Calif.) United Methodist Church.
Carson-Hull was employed as a youth leader at Walnut Creek in a work-study capacity while attending seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., in the early 1970s. After completing seminary, he was appointed to the Los Altos position under the jurisdiction of the California-Pacific Conference.
One of the plaintiffs died after filing the suit. His place in the case was taken by his estate.
*Hygh is director of communications for the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
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