Church commission says minister had sex with minor

Associated Press/November 13, 2008

Chicago - A Presbyterian minister accused of having sex with a woman when she was a teenager, even tattooing her initials on his buttocks, kept working as a pastor and college administrator after the church's insurance company paid his accuser $150,000.

Rev. Ronald Campbell was removed from the ministry in April - nine months after the insurance payout. But he did not resign from Trinity International University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Trinity Graduate School in Deerfield until this month, shortly after a church commission ruled he sexually abused the woman in the 1980s.

The commission's three-page decision was released to the media Thursday by Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, in part to highlight the fact that Campbell remained at Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church long after Julie Hokanson received the settlement.

Nevertheless, he said, "After the allegations came to light we asked him to only meet openly with students and their families and not privately with individual students."

Campbell has not been charged criminally. The Presbytery of Chicago said the state's statute of limitations had run out when the woman came forward two years ago.

Campbell's Nov. 3 resignation came a few weeks after The Permanent Judicial Commission of The Presbytery of Chicago of the Presbyterian Church found him guilty of sexual abuse.

The commission also found Campbell guilty of using "force, threat, coercion, intimidation, or misuse of office or position" against the girl.

During the three-day hearing, Hokanson told the church panel that Campbell instigated a sexual relationship with her when he was an associate pastor at a church in River Forest, outside Chicago. She said the relationship lasted for about four years, extending into her freshman year in college.

She testified that Campbell showed her a tattoo on his buttocks that included her initials inside a heart, and that he showed her a gun, which she interpreted that as a threat.

"I definitely felt like I wanted to stay in his good graces," Hokanson said.

The commission also found that Campbell lied about the relationship and the tattoo, though he eventually admitted he had the tattoo. Hokanson said she thinks that helped persuade the panel of Campbell's guilt.

"There would be only one reason I would know that the tattoo was there," said Hokanson, a 37-year-old mother of three now living in Minnesota.

James Betke, Campbell's attorney, said that while his client admitted having the tattoo, he "steadfastly denies" allegations of sexual abuse. He said he did not know what Campbell planned to do now.

Campbell is removed from ordained ministry for at least four years, after which he can apply for reinstatement if he takes steps, including a public confession to the woman, according to a presbytery news release.

"Even though they did pay that, Rev. Campbell was still in a position of authority, still in a position where he could abuse more children," Barbara Blaine, SNAP's president, said in a news conference at which Hokanson spoke publicly.

The Associated Press does not normally name victims of sexual abuse, but Hokanson said she wanted to go public in the hope of encouraging others who have been abused by clergy to come forward.

"I wanted to use my name so people would know that I am not ashamed to have been abused by an adult while I was a child," she said. "The shame is not to be mine, it is to be the abuser's."

Executive Presbyter Rev. Robert Reynolds said the church could not remove Campbell until after it conducted its own investigation, which was completed in March. Campbell was removed the next month.

But Blaine said Campbell was removed only after activists, including Hokanson, went to the church on a Sunday and handed out leaflets.

Campbell was allowed to keep working as a director of admissions and financial aid at Trinity International for more than a year after he notified the school about the allegations and after the settlement because, "they were just allegations and they were all from the '80s and he had an exceptionally good record in his career since then," said Gary Cantwell, a school spokesman.

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