Elmwood Park pastor accused of sex abuse

source: Chicago Tribune, March 5, 2008

Accuser says minister must leave church

By Azam Ahmed

Tribune staff reporter

March 5, 2008

A woman is calling for the removal of a Presbyterian minister from an Elmwood Park church, saying he sexually abused her when she was a teenager.



The alleged incidents occurred from 1984 to 1988, when Julie Lemley
Hokanson, who is now 37, said she was abused by Rev. Ronald Campbell,
who at the time was director of the youth program at First Presbyterian
Church of River Forest. Lemley Hokanson, who said she was 14 when the assaults first occurred, came forward with the accusations in March 2006.

Lemley Hokanson said she is
upset that Campbell has been allowed by the Chicago Presbytery — which
oversees Presbyterian churches in Lake, Cook and DuPage Counties — to
remain active as a pastor at Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church. Campbell
stayed at the job after an investigating committee convened by the
church found in the summer of 2007 that there was "probable cause to
believe an offense was committed" by Campbell.

Since 2005, Campbell also has been the financial aid director at Trinity International University in Deerfield,
school officials said. In 2007, he was given the responsibilities of
admissions director for Trinity's divinity and graduate schools because
of his exemplary performance, officials said.

"I understand the justice system has to take its time. But my thing is
that if you believe him to most likely have done this, you should
remove him immediately [from his job]. I don't want another kid to be
abused," she said. The Tribune does not normally identify victims of
sexual abuse, but Lemley Hokanson agreed to have her name published.

Church officials said that they are acting under the guidelines of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and that Campbell is innocent until
proven guilty. Campbell, 52, who could not be reached for comment
Tuesday, has maintained his innocence since the accusations surfaced,
church officials said.

"In order to be removed from the position of ordained minister, a
pastor must plead guilty, resign or be found guilty after a trial,"
Rev. Robert Reynolds, head of the Chicago Presbytery, said in a

Reynolds said Tuesday that church charges are expected to be filed this
month against Campbell, following the recent completion of the
investigation. Lemley Hokanson said that a six-figure settlement the
church made with her last summer is a sign of Campbell's guilt. On July
30, she was paid about $100,000 to prevent any civil suits against the
church or Campbell, she said.

A pastor accused of sexual misconduct will often be put on
administrative leave, though discretion ultimately rests with the local
presbytery, said Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News
Service, part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

But Reynolds said that a committee formed by the Chicago Presbytery
decided that an administrative leave from the Elmwood Park church would
not be necessary because "Rev. Campbell served in a church with [an]
older congregation that did not have a youth group or a Sunday school."

In his duties at Trinity International University, Campbell works
primarily with families and rarely has contact with students when
parents are not around, said Gary Cantwell, vice president of
communication at Trinity.

"To the best of our knowledge, no criminal charges were ever filed. We
are not aware of any civil suit, and we respect the claim of Dr.
Campbell and plan to take no further actions without further
substantial evidence of proof," Cantwell said.

Campbell will be tried within the court system of the Presbyterian
Church, not in a criminal court. Lemley Hokanson said that she had
tried to pursue criminal charges, but that the statute of limitations
had run out.

Campbell's trial is likely to start about three months after the formal charges are filed, Reynolds said.

"We feel that we've followed our process along the way," he said. "The investigation was just recently completed."

Lemley Hokanson, who lives in Minnesota, said she waited so long partly because she always blamed herself for the abuse.

But as her daughter became a teenager, Lemley Hokanson said she felt a
responsibility to speak out, partly because it made her realize how
innocent she was at the time of the abuse.

"My daughter is the same age as I was, and I thought 'She's a little kid,'" she said.

She also wanted to speak out to help make sure that no other children would be abused, Lemley Hokanson said.

On Tuesday, Lemley Hokanson's family, who live in the Chicago area,
gathered outside the Chicago Presbytery offices downtown to protest
Campbell's continued position as a pastor.

Her brother, David Lemley of Naperville,
said he did not want vengeance and punishment for what happened to his
sister. He simply wants Campbell to be removed from his position at
Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church and for his congregation to be warned.

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