Man accused in Presbyterian abuse panel report arrested in Florida

Samuel Shamba Warlick, who had been accused of sexually abusing children of Presbyterian missionaries in the Congo in the 1980s, was arrested in suburban Orlando Jan. 14 on federal charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. If convicted, Warlick could face up to 30 years in prison.

            Last fall, an Independent Abuse Review Panel investigating reports of sexual abuse involving the children of Presbyterian missionaries serving abroad documented 30 cases of abuse at boarding schools in Africa and Asia from 1950 to 1990. The panel publicly named six people that it determined had sexually abused children.

Among them was Warlick, who in the late 1980s was the teenage son of mission co-workers in the Congo. The report determined that Warlick had sexually abused at least two boys at the Methodist-Presbyterian Hostel associated with the American School of Kinshasa, where both he and the boys were then staying. In a brief interview with the Outlook, Warlick denied the allegations made against him in the report and said the review panel’s process was flawed.

In December 2010, Sean Coppedge of California filed a lawsuit against the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), saying he was a victim of abuse at the Methodist-Presbyterian Hostel in 1988 and claiming the church should have done more to prevent that abuse.

            Coppedge, the son of former Presbyterian missionaries in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, alleges that those running the hostel in Kinshasa knew of an allegation that the son of another Presbyterian missionary couple had earlier fondled a boy at the hostel. But the teenager accused of the abuse was allowed to return to the hostel despite that accusation, and subsequently that older teenager abused Coppedge as well, he alleges in the lawsuit.

            Coppedge’s lawsuit does not directly name the person who he claims abused him. But it states that he was an unnamed victim from the Kinshasa hostel whose alleged abuse, around 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 16, 1988, was described in the Independent Abuse Review Panel report.