Ex-Bath Minister Faces Porn Allegations
Pastor Tells Investigators of Abuse over 37 Years
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal [Bath Township OH]
August 15, 2006
The Rev. William Meyer isn't quite sure what he is going to say to his congregation on Sunday about its former pastor, who is facing federal charges of buying child pornography and who has told investigators that he has fondled girls during the past 37 years.
But Meyer is determined to make sure his church responds appropriately, if there are any victims at Ghent Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Bath Township.
"The time frame that he has indicated certainly overlaps his time here at Ghent, but I don't have any hard facts," Meyer said.
"We're still sorting things out and I don't know what we're dealing with. But I can assure you that we will not blame, shame or attempt to silence anyone who has been harmed."
During an arraignment hearing last week in U.S. District Court in Columbus, a postal inspector testified that David H. Waser admitted in a letter that he had groped girls. Waser, the former pastor of Newark's Second Church of Christ and a former pastor of Ghent Christian Church, also said he had exposed himself to children at church camp and pretended it was an accident.
Child porn charges
Waser and his wife, Judy, face charges of receiving and possessing child pornographic videotapes. The charges are federal because the videotapes in question were sent across state lines. Waser reportedly ordered 11 tapes in June from an Internet site that offers hard-core pornography. The tapes included scenes of children as young as 4 years old involved in sexual acts with other children and adults.
The 57-year-old minister is being held without bond in the Franklin County Jail. His wife, 54, is expected to be placed on electronic monitoring and released.
Waser, who had served the independent Newark congregation since 2001, was removed from his position after his arrest a week ago. Church records at Ghent indicate that he served there in the early 1990s but the exact dates could not be determined.
Ken Dorsey, president of the Ghent congregation, said there were never any indications of wrongdoing by Waser when he served the local church.
'Very meek individual'
"He was a very meek individual. He never did anything that caused any concern," Dorsey said. "I couldn't believe it when I heard what had happened. I went to the Internet to look up a newspaper article and I recognized the picture of him. I was rather shocked."
Dorsey said he believes Waser served Ghent for two or three years and left to move to a farm in Kentucky. He was uncertain about whether Waser served a church in Kentucky.
Meyer, who was out of town over the weekend, said he never met Waser but spoke with him once on the telephone when he was contacting former pastors about their impressions of the Ghent church.
No complaints filed
"From what I can gather from the members here, he didn't make that much of an impression. I have never received any complaints about his pastorate," Meyer said. "One member told me that he served during a period of time when we didn't have a lot of children in the congregation.
"I can only hope that either there weren't any opportunities for him to violate his position of trust here or that he had those inclinations under control when he was here," Meyer said. "I am hoping there are no victims at Ghent, but I don't know that."
The Ghent church adopted a child protection policy about two years ago that requires mandatory reporting of any suspicions of abuse to civil and church authorities and mandatory background checks of anyone working with youth. The policy borrows language from the policy of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and the Boy Scouts of America.
Published reports indicate that Waser was licensed as a minister in 1983 at the Church of Christ in Hubbard.
Meyer said his preliminary research indicates that Waser does not have "standing" in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Protestant denomination of about 800,000 in the United States and Canada. A spokesman for the Indianapolis-based denomination could not be reached to comment.
The Rev. Roger McKinney, pastor of Hiram Christian Church and a former assistant regional pastor, said a pastor without standing in the Disciples of Christ Church is not officially recognized by the denomination as an ordained or licensed minister. He said the denomination has a screening process and checks and balances to prevent pastors with improprieties on their records to move from church to church.
"When situations like this occur, we need to remind ourselves that the church has a mission to help people who have been hurt, even people who have been hurt by others in the church," Meyer said. "And we need to remind ourselves that we have a duty to make sure the church is as safe a place as we can make it.
"Quite frankly, the church is sometimes a magnet for people who have an interest in children and the church needs to be proactive so that these people do not gain access to children."
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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