We were contacted by a victim from Colombia who is currently studying at an educational institution in the United States. From age 12 till age 16, she was groomed by a youth/pathfinder leader in her local Adventist church and raped by him. His local church in Colombia disfellowshipped him on March 22, 2022.
She filed a criminal case against him, and he fled the country. According to her, he attempted to cross the border illegally on March 14, 2022 and was detained for two months before being paroled into the United States.
This victim recently discovered that her abuser is attending a local Adventist church in the United States, in the New Jersey Conference. He has ingratiated himself with the local church community and has spoken at several week of prayer events at other churches. And he is working with Pathfinders and the adolescents in the church.
[See note below] The victim contacted
the local a church pastor to alert them about the risk this person poses to underage females. They, in turn, informed a pastor in the New Jersey conference, who contacted the Jersey City Pastor. However, this individual continued to attend church-sponsored youth events and associate with underage adolescent females.
She contacted Intelligent Adventist to assist her in alerting the Conference of the danger posed by this individual. We called the Conference and alerted them to the issue. We were assured that the Conference would investigate the matter.
Subsequent inquiries into the membership status of this individual in Colombia have revealed several disfellowships at various Adventist churches and subsequent re-baptisms and being accepted by profession of faith.
IA is unsure how this individual has been allowed to participate in Pathfinder activities with a history of being disfellowshipped specifically due to sexual sin. We aren’t sure what his current membership status is with the local church in New Jersey. And how someone who isn’t baptized or has been disfellowshipped overseas can associate with adolescents here without being given membership status here.
When the victim contacted the pastor [IA Editor Line Retraction Note: We misunderstood the victim. She clarified that when she said she talked with the pastor, she was talking about another individual who had discussed the situation with a pastor in New Jersey. This conversation happened over a month ago, and the urgency and risk remains.]; this person, who the victim spoke to, said the local pastor shared that the accused individual disclosed that one of his disfellowships in Colombia was due to “an incident with an adult female.” However, the victim believes the pastor was told less than the whole truth as her abuse spanned from age 12 to 16. IA has learned that he has previously targeted other underage and young adult women in Colombia. According to the testimony of one young adult woman, he forcibly attempted to kiss her after leading her down a dark pathway. In another incident with another female, he kissed her; she rebuffed him, and he bit her on the lips. Both incidents were without consent.
There is a place for the presumption of innocence. However, in the case of sexual misconduct involving minors, we believe that the individual should be separated from associating with children during the investigation. This has not occurred in this case.
We cannot wait for the New Jersey Conference to convince the local Adventist church to separate this individual from youth events at church, pending an investigation. Our responsibility is to the public, including the Seventh-day Adventist church members.
As we initially advised the New Jersey Conference, we believe the risk to adolescent and young adult females is real. This individual has a history of sexting underage girls and using manipulation, coercion, and threats to perpetrate sexual violence against them.
We encourage parents whose girls attend these churches to search their daughters’ phones to ensure their safety. If they find concerning images or texts, we encourage them to contact law enforcement directly and immediately.
Good record-keeping at local churches is essential and careful reporting of members to the next church should be encouraged in cases of sexual abuse. As members of our church move from region to region, it is the responsibility of our local churches to reach back to the previous congregation to inquire about the individual. The local church should require criminal background checks to be conducted, but they may not reveal past indiscretions in other countries. And in cases where an actual criminal case is pending, but no convictions are yet procured, these individuals should be withheld from service in our church.
The local churches where this individual is attending and is participating in youth and pathfinder events are listed here:
Jersey City Heights SDA Church at 66-68 Bowers Street, Jersey City [Active Member] and the
Nuevo Amanecer SDA Church.
There may be other churches where he has attended or associated with youth at this Conference and elsewhere. Please contact Pastor Lee at the New Jersey Conference for more information on this case.
IA Note: This story has a line retraction and was updated on March 13, 2023. We previously stated that the victim contacted the local pastor at the Jersey City Heights church directly. We misunderstood the victim. Neither the pastor from Jersey City nor the pastor who spoke with the victim has spoken with IA or contributed to this story. The conversation with the victim was informal and private, and the victim decided to share it with IA and it wasn’t the pastor’s intention to have it published by the victim. We regret the misunderstanding on our part.