Two weeks ago, I was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by James Oakland, who served as an associate pastor at Trinity from 1976 to 1980. A victim has carried the pain of this experience for forty years, and in May, filed a report with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which opened an investigation and found the report to be credible.
In fact, at least one other report of sexual misconduct by James Oakland has been made.
At this point, there is still much we don’t know. However, our primary concern is with the wellbeing of these victims and any other victims who may not have come forward yet.
When an allegation like this comes forward, even one that is 40 years old, it is a best practice to hold a congregational “disclosure meeting.” It is critical that while protecting the privacy and wishes of the victims, we move forward with full transparency. And if there are others who were victims of these horrible actions, we want to create a safe space for them (and for anyone else who has ever been the victim of sexual abuse) to receive the assistance and care they need and deserve.
We will hold this Congregational Disclosure Meeting on Monday, October 21, at 7:00pm in Fellowship Hall. The entire congregation is invited, though I would advise that children not participate because of the content of the meeting. Our nursery will be open and staffed if you are in need of childcare. Our Bishop, Regina Hassanally, of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be with us.
Our synod advises that we not distribute any additional information about the situation until the meeting. To avoid rumors and misinformation, it is critical that we all hear the same information together.
If you are a victim of this sexual abuse, and you are ready to come forward, I encourage you to contact me. If you have a family member or friend who was victimized, please encourage them to contact me. First and foremost, we want them to be cared for. And their wishes for privacy will be maintained. I can be reached at church (507.451.4520), by e-mail (ToddB@tlcowatonna.org) or on my cell phone (612.597.6565). Or, a person could contact an ELCA Advocate by calling 773.380.2568.
This is a difficult situation for all of us. In the days ahead I ask you to pray.
- Pray for the victims
- Pray for their family members and friends
- Pray for our congregation as we work through this breach of trust
God calls the church to be a place of healing. That is an important part of Trinity’s mission. Together, we will work for the healing of those who have been affected by this abuse.