08.11.10 Six persons named by Abuse Review Panel in physical, sexual abuse investigation

A seventh person suspected of abuse also was named, even though the abuse couldn’t be conclusively proven, because that man later spent time in prison in Kentucky for sexually abusing children and, according to the panel’s report, was found by the board that stripped him of his medical license to have had a 30-year history as a pedophile.

The perpetrators named in the report include one Presbyterian minister who is still alive – Douglas Stubblefield, who served as a housefather at a school in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s, the report states. The abuse panel says it has referred its findings regarding Stubblefield to his presbytery for possible disciplinary action.

The abuse panel also names other perpetrators, some of whom are now dead, but some of whom went on to serve Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations in the United States after returning from the mission field.

The report makes it clear that the abuse panel determined that some of the male perpetrators had a pattern of seeking out vulnerable children and sexually abusing them, and that it is possible there may be other victims in other places – including at Presbyterian churches in New York, West Virginia, California and Washington where these men once worked, as well as at Presbyterian-related colleges or camps or other programs for children.

In discussing the abuse panel’s report during a news conference Oct. 8, top leaders of the PC(USA) – including Linda Valentine, executive director of the General Assembly Mission Council, and Hunter Farrell, the PC(USA)’s director of World Mission – expressed deep regret for what had happened, apologized repeatedly to the victims and praised the courage of those willing to tell what had happened.

They did not mention the review panel’s finding that the perpetrators may have abused other people in other places, including at Presbyterian congregations in the United States. The abuse panel made it clear it was naming these men because the information could be useful to others who have not come forward, but may be victims too.

Another of those named in the report is Samuel Shamba Warlick – known as Shamba Warlick – who was in the late 1980s the teenage son of Presbyterian missionaries serving in Kinshasa in Congo. In the report, the panel said it found that Warlick sexually abused at least two other boys at the Methodist-Presbyterian Hostel associated with the American School of Kinshasa, and that Warlick later abused at least one of those children again, even though the victims had immediately informed the hostel’s houseparents after they were first abused.

When each of those two victims first reported being abused by Warlick, the houseparents took Warlick home to his parents in the middle of the night, yet each time he was later allowed to return to the hostel, the report states. It says the second instance of abuse against one of those victims occurred after Warlick had already been taken home once for abusing the same child.

After Warlick returned to the United States, the PC(USA) appointed him as a volunteer in mission, serving at a YMCA program in Scotland, the report states. It says that he also worked with a Boy Scout troop in Orlando and at a Christian camp for children in Georgia, and that he spent time at Presbyterian College in South Carolina.

The review panel says it has referred its findings about Warlick to the session of the congregation of which he is a member for possible disciplinary action. The report lists eight places where Warlick has “participated in activities or been employed” since the abuse occurred, including two congregations in Orlando, but does not indicate at which congregation he is currently a member.

Warlick could not immediately be reached for comment.

His parents are long-time Presbyterian mission co-workers Bill and Nancy Warlick. Nancy Warlick, speaking for the family, said the Warlicks would not have an immediate comment, although they do intend to make a statement later, and disagree with the report’s findings.

“We’re really praying” about the situation and the right thing to say, Nancy Warlick said, adding that “it is a very painful experience” for the family.

Along with Stubblefield and Warlick, these men also are named in the report as having sexually abused children:

    * Richard Fiete, a former teacher at Hope School in Cameroon. The report says Fiete later became a Presbyterian minister and served churches in the Albany, N.Y. area, and in West Virginia. According to the report, Fiete is dead.
    * Charles D. Messinger, a Presbyterian minister who served as a houseparent at Chiang Mai Children’s Center in Thailand in the late 1950s. The report concluded that Messinger had sexually abused at least five young girls. The report states that Messinger later served in ministry at First Church in Hayward, Calif., and at Walla Walla Church in Washington; worked at Hasting College in Nebraska; and died in 1986.
    * John Morrow, a teacher at Good Shepherd School in Ethiopia in the 1970s, who was employed by the Sudan Interior Mission (which later became the Society for International Ministries).

The report stated the review panel received reports of “potential grooming behavior” involving Keene Watson, a medical doctor who was a Disciples of Christ missionary in Congo from 1951 to 1962 and a Presbyterian missionary there in 1982 and 1983. The panel said it named Watson in its report because he was reported to have tickled and kissed children, in a way that made some uncomfortable. He later was sent to prison in Kentucky for sexually abusing two young girls and lost his medical license.

The review panel also made one determination of physical abuse, committed at the Murree Christian School in Pakistan, by a Lutheran housemother, Bernice Hase, from 1962 to 1965. Hase, a missionary for six years with the World Mission Prayer League, is dead, the report states.

Two other men who the panel found to have abused children were identified by role – one in Cameroon and one in Ethiopia – because their full names were not known, the report states.

The panel documented that abuse had occurred in 30 cases from 1950 to 1990.

It publicly names nine people by name or role – two in Cameroon, two in Congo, two in Ethiopia, one in Pakistan and two in Thailand. Others are named in three “need-to-know” reports as possible abusers – giving the information to denominational officials should further need to investigate those persons arise.

The focus of the inquiry was on Presbyterian mission, and consequently the schools examined were those used by Presbyterian mission families, though sometimes the schools were shared with other denominations.

The victims included both girls and boys, all of them minors at the time. Those who committed the abuse included teachers, houseparents in the boarding schools or dorms, and students.

In its report, the panel cites the difficulty of tracking down those involved and verifying what happened. It relied on both first-hand accounts and on corroboration from others who were present and from family members.

It also dug through personnel records, journals, old letters, and denominational and other historical records for leads on who served where and in what capacity. In some cases, the children did not know or couldn’t remember the full names of the adults who they said had abused them.

When possible, the panel spoke with those accused of the abuse as well as to the victims. Some of the alleged abusers, including Shamba Warlick, were themselves the children of missionaries and were living at boarding schools or hostels.

The report states that at least two of the offenders the panel contacted “cited abuse on the mission field as playing a role in their own subsequent behavior.” Those who cited their own victimization as a reason for abusing others included an adult who said he had also been abused as a teenager at a boarding school for missionary children.

Some of the abusers also cited stress as a factor in their behavior – including the stress of parents moving farther away or traveling more.

The report also cites a “disturbing trend” found in allegations of older brothers sexually molesting their younger sisters. “In speaking with witnesses, this type of abuse was often the last to surface,” the report states, leading the investigators to conclude that “this abuse is some of the most hidden of all that occurs on mission fields.”

The sexual abuse by older brothers of their younger sisters “was as serious as, as frequent as, and as coerced as” the allegations of abuse involving adults or incidents happening outside of family relationships, the report states.

Here is more detail, country by country, on what the review panel’s report found.

The panel’s largest investigation involved Hope School and Ononobeta Dorm (a dormitory at Hope School) in Cameroon – reports of possible abuse there began trickling out as the earlier Independent Committee of Inquiry, which issued its final report in 2002, was investigating abuse at two schools in the Congo.

The panel investigated reports of humiliation and severe punishment inflicted by two houseparents at Ononobeta from 1955 to 1965 – but said that what emerged from the investigation was “a sobering, heartbreaking account of a boarding school that . . . received insufficient attention and resources from the U.S. mission office.”

With a large number of children, run-down facilities, too much stress and not enough money, the well-intentioned houseparents became rigid and the rules oppressive. Children were berated for bed-wetting. One former student told of being unable to finish the morning bowl of oatmeal and of the houseparents presenting the same bowl of cereal at meal after meal until the child vomited into it. The child then was forced to eat the vomit.

Some of those being shamed like this may have then become “easy targets for other children” – and less likely to be believed if they complained, the panel wrote.

Some missionary parents felt pulled too – torn between their children and the work they felt called to do. Some had no idea there were problems at the school. One missionary parent said “we had the attitude of ‘the Lord provides.’ The Lord would take care of them.”

In this environment, a pattern emerged of older children abusing younger children, with both boys and girls among the victims, the report states. Some children were abused by more than one person and some perpetrators abused multiple children; some were repeatedly violated over and over, two or three times a week. There were hints – although no definitive evidence – that some of the abusers, who seemed to have “sophisticated sexual knowledge” at a young age, may themselves have been victims of sexual abuse by adults, the report states.

The report states that a girl at the school also was sexually abused – fondled on the breast – by a “respected and well-liked” male teacher, who is identified in the report as the late Richard Fiete.

The report states that the panel named Fiete in this public final report firstly “because he returned to the United States, attended and graduated from seminary, was ordained as Presbyterian clergy and served churches in the Albany, New York area and in West Virginia. There was very credible information about two victims on the mission field. Secondly there may be other potential victims from his subsequent places of employment.” The investigation showed that “while the fondling incident with one victim may have been a one-time occurrence, the kissing and hugging behavior persisted over time. The duration of time represented in one report, the reports of multiple victims, and the progression of inappropriate and abusive behavior, from kissing to fondling,” led to this decision.

The panel investigated reports involving two schools: the Kananga School, in the Kasai, and The American School of Kinshasa, which had a hostel or dormitory jointly run by the Presbyterians and the Methodists. In the 1980s, as the number of missionaries serving in the area declined, the hostel also began taking in guests associated with religious groups who were traveling and needed inexpensive housing.

The panel investigated reports involving Keene Watson, a medical doctor who was a Disciples of Christ missionary in Congo from 1951 to 1962, and then was a Presbyterian missionary in 1982 and 1983. While the panel did not substantiate any charges of abuse against Watson, it did receive reports of what the report calls inappropriate “grooming” behavior – tickling and kissing children, and trying to give them money, behaviors the panel members thought might represent “how a pedophile might groom a victim,” the report states.

While the panel did not substantiate charges of abuse against Watson, it named him in the report because a background check found he later was convicted twice of sexual abuse in Kentucky and served time in prison, for charges involving sexual contact with two girls, ages 5 and 10, the report states.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure revoked Watson’s medical license and, according to the panel’s report, the record of that revocation includes a finding of fact stating that: “Dr. Watson admitted that he has had a problem as a pedophile for the past 30 years, in which he has had some form of sexual contact with small children, both male and female.”

The panel also determined that a teenage boy who sometimes stayed at the hostel from 1985 to 1989 and whose parents were missionaries in Kinshasa had sexually abused at least two other boys at the hostel – fondling their genitals in the middle of the night, according to the report. Both of those victims immediately informed the houseparents, who drove the boy home to his own parents in the middle of the night.

But, despite those notifications, the perpetrator was allowed to return to the hostel later, so the victims stopped reporting later incidents. One of the victims told the panel that the hostel parents “had betrayed me when it was cut and dried. Why would they believe me now?”

The panel identified the perpetrator in the report as Samuel Shamba Warlick. While Warlick was a minor when the abuse occurred, the panel said it named him publicly in the report because he was at least 16 at the time of the offenses, he selected smaller, younger victims; and his behavior demonstrated “purposefulness and planning” — for example, he sought out victims in dark and isolated places and in the middle of the night.

The report also states that “some missionary parents, at the time, viewed the behavior as abusive and took steps to try to protect” other children of missionaries “who they thought were at risk.”

The panel concluded that two governing boards of the hostel had failed to protect children from Warlick, because some of the adults who knew of at least one of the incidents at the hostel were members of the board. “It is tragic,” the report states, that adults from the mission community did not do more to protect the hostel residents. The governing boards “had the role and the authority to keep Shamba Warlick out of the Hostel, and they failed to do this, resulting in further abuse.”

Even though Warlick’s parents lived in Kinshasa, he still sometimes stayed at the hostel. The report states that, in the late 1980s, “it would have been more difficult for the board to prohibit a child from staying at the Hostel if it was perceived that such an action would hinder the mission work of the parents. There were large, successful mission programs underway at the time.”

For the denomination, “the primary focus was the mission work and its accomplishment, and the schools/dorms were a means to that end,” the report states. When the missionary parents trusted the church and also were single-minded about their work, “children were left without adequate advocates,” the report states.

Ethiopia. The panel investigated reports involving Good Shepherd School in Addis Ababa, which was sponsored by about a half-dozen Christian denominations.

The panel found that in the 1970s a teacher at the school who was not Presbyterian, John Morrow, had sexually abused at least two teenage girls. Morrow was employed by the Sudan Interior Mission (which later merged with other groups to become the Society for International Ministries). Two daughters of missionaries gave statements that several times a week over the course of a school year, Morrow had kissed them, fondled their breasts and genitals while their clothing was removed, and digitally penetrated their vaginas.

The report states that Morrow seemed to select vulnerable targets and showed them special attention, and that “by justifying his behavior as normal preparation for marriage, he misled them into believing that it was desirable to acquiesce to others’ demands.”

Pakistan. The panel’s inquiry in Pakistan involved Murree Christian School, a school established in 1956 a little east of Islamabad with support from about a half-dozen denominations.

The panel found evidence of physical abuse inflicted by a Lutheran housemother, Bernice Hase, from 1962 to 1965, including punching, hitting, slapping, throwing a teenage girl against a wall and down the stairs, and stomping on her back while saying: “I’m going to slap Jesus right out of you.”

The report states that there were a series of victims and that “each year, a child was the primary target for physical abuse.” It also says “the offender was very skilled at hitting and slapping in ways that avoided bruises and marks that could be seen and questioned by others.”

Hase, a missionary for six years with the World Mission Prayer League, is dead, the report states.

Thailand. The panel considered reports involving Chiang Mai Children’s Center, at which children from a number of countries and denominations were educated, and which operated two hostels.

The panel concluded that a Presbyterian minister who served as a housefather and a teacher at the school, Charles D. Messinger, had sexually abused at least five young daughters of Presbyterian missionaries. According to the report, Messinger made one girl repeatedly feel his penis; he touched another’s vagina; he grabbed a girl by the breasts and touched her, whispering that she was developing nicely.

Messinger served five years in Thailand as a Presbyterian missionary in the late 1950s. After that, he came back to the U.S.; served in ministry at First Church in Hayward, Calif., and at Walla Walla Church in Washington; and as a chaplain and assistant professor in Hasting College in Nebraska, the report states, adding that Messinger died in December 1986.

The report states that Messinger was named because he had multiple victims, and the reports showed indications of manipulation and intimidation. It says there may be other victims who might benefit from knowing Messinger’s history.

The panel also documented sexual abuse at the school committed in the late 1960s by another Presbyterian minister, who is still alive.

The report states that a Presbyterian housefather, on multiple occasions, stopped by the bed of a teenage girl – the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries – as he was saying “good night” to the children. He fondled her breasts, French-kissed her, and laid on top of her, pressing his groin into her, the report states.

The report identifies the housefather as Douglas Stubblefield, who came to Thailand in 1961 and served, with some breaks, at Chiang Mai until 1974. The report states that the panel’s findings regarding Stubblefield have been referred to his presbytery for possible disciplinary action.

The report also cited reports from other children at the school that “strongly supported the concerns” regarding Stubblefield. Two girls said they saw him stop by another girl’s bed, although they couldn’t see what he was doing. The girls in the dorm rotated beds every week, so no one would have to be in the bottom bunk all the time, the report states.

The report also states that because Messinger and Stubblefield were ministers, that “added a layer of spiritual betrayal” for some children. Both “were highly regarded and well-loved by some parents and the mission community. Children who were victimized were aware of this, and felt like an outsider after the abuse because they did not share the same opinion.”

Also, “one of the more disturbing aspects of these reports, taken as a group, is that other missionaries seemed to have some awareness of inappropriate behavior of both houseparents with female children, yet there is no indication in the archives that any formal action was ever taken,” the report states.

The panel heard of informal confrontations – including an account of a mother telling Messinger to stay away from her child.

“The panel also heard indirectly that someone had taken a concern or a complaint to the Board, and that Mr. Stubblefield had been told to stay out of the girls’ rooms at night,” the report states. “Attempts to gather specific details about some of these accounts, however, were thwarted by the lack of cooperation on the part of some adult missionaries, who declined to participate in the panel’s inquiry.”

The report states that “children remain vulnerable, perhaps become more so, when adult responses to abuse are half-hearted and halfway.” If a parent protests and nothing changes, “the offender, for all intents and purposes, has proven to the child they are more powerful than the parent. For a child, then, this may mean that there is no hope of escaping from the abuse.”

The PC(USA)’s ministerial directory lists Stubblefield as being a member of Middle Tennessee Presbytery. He did not respond immediately to a message from a reporter left on his home telephone.

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