An Oregon pastor resigned earlier this year over “sexual immorality,” after four women accused him and two former church staffers and a member of an affiliated church of sexually assaulting them.
The women outlined the allegations last year in a 23-page letter that was given to board members at the Morning Star Community Church in Salem, and they sought legal counsel and hired a private investigator before asking Pastor Ken Engelking to resign, reported the Statesman Journal.
The church cited sexual immorality as the reason for Engelking’s resignation in January, but the women told the newspaper the pastor and three other men had sexually assaulted and raped them for more than 20 years — and as recently as 2010.
They said church leaders, including Senior Pastor Scott Nelson, covered up the abuse and forced them into silence through patriarchal pressure.
One woman, who was in her 30s at the time, said a church leader blamed her for her own rape because she had been flirting and wearing a tank top.
A 15-year-old girl said she told Engelking that she hadn’t revealed her assault to her parents, and the pastor encouraged her to remain quiet.
Clergy members are required by law to report child abuse in Oregon, where the age of consent is 18 — so any sexual activity with a younger teen is considered abuse and must be reported.
But neither Nelson or Engelking reported the incident involving the 15-year-old, which allegedly happened in 1994.
“We did fail in many ways in our follow up and in our care,” Nelson told the congregation Feb. 25. “We don’t control what people think about us, we simply put our eyes on Jesus and we continue doing ministry. Yeah, we’ve blown it, we’ve missed it, we failed.”
One of the board members is a Keizer police officer, but he did not report the abuse detailed in the letter received by church officials in April 2017.
Sgt. Bob Trump continues to serve on the board of directors, but Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron resigned in May after an investigation into the letter’s allegations was launched.
Morning Star is an unaffiliated church that grew out of a Bible study in Nelson’s living room in 1982 and now offers three Sunday services in a 1,200-seat auditorium.
Engelking served as pastor for 31 years until his resignation.