Over the past couple of days I've been talking to people that were pastored by the former Kanakuk Counselor accused of sexually abusing children through ministry. He was released after a few hours for a mere $50,000 bail or 5,000 cash to a bondsman. His next court appearance is slated for late October. His freedom is contingent on him having no contact with anyone under 17.
This hurts us all.
The shocking details aren't limited to the details submitted to Judge Tony Williams in a probable cause statement drafted by the Taney County Sheriff's Department.
The accusations and charges filed against Peter Newman are being published here.
This hurts a successful ministry.
Kanakuk is internationally known for their high dollar Christian Sports Camp, a charity camp that runs in tandem for inner city kids and international contribution to evangelism.
I recall a sermon by Ted Cunningham of Woodland Hills Community Church, who is heavily affilliated with Kanakuk. Cunningham had recently welcomed a minister who was stripped of the "clothe" for similar circumstances. The congregation fell silent as Cunningham challenged attendents to forgive the hanus acts against children as a Christian. You could hear a pin drop in the room. For many of us an act of harming a child is worse than murdering an adult - impossible to forgive. Perhaps most would be hard pressed to find room for mercy and grace when the crimes hurt the most innocent with such long term effects. Lives ruined.
This breaks my heart.
The final page of the probable cause statement deals a profound blow. The suggestion is Newman's entire ministry could be summed up as a "grooming process" to identify victims. The details of Bible studies, outings, personal interest into leading children to live Christian lives all in vain for the most perverse personal benefits.
This hurts our families.
A friend of mine from the Charismatic Branch of Christian Practice submits Hebrews 4:15:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin."
For most of us it's hard to imagine what this type of temptation entails - Christian or Athiest alike.
This hurts our community.
From a civic perspective the recent aftermath is equally as shocking. An eight page testimony led Kanakuk Leaders to report the incident which resulted in Newman's firing mid-summer. After leaving Kanakuk, post Newman's admission to crimes against children there are records that he continued to pursue ministry.
Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt issued a press release promoting the execution of those who abuse children under the age of 12. Missouri Senator Jack Goodman echoed his support for such legislation boasting a move to give life sentences for the crime as a positive move. But most who commit these types of crimes have far lighter sentences.
This hurts our state.
Kanakuk's damage control was swift as Joe White distributed a personal e-mail shortly before a warrant for Peter Newman was issued.
"For the last 34 years, Debbie Jo and I have poured our hearts and prayers into this beloved place. Therefore it is with a heavy heart that I am writing to you today regarding a difficult situation.
"Because you are an important part of the Kanakuk family, we wanted to make you aware that earlier today, the Taney County Missouri prosecutor filed a four-count criminal complaint against our former employee, Pete Newman. As you may know, Pete Newman was employed at K-Kountry. The prosecutor’s criminal charges allege that Pete engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with adolescent boys, including some who had been Kanakuk Kampers.
"When we became aware of this situation we took immediate action, terminating Pete Newman’s employment. Since that time, we have been working closely with the affected families and appropriate authorities. We reported what we knew to investigators and stayed in contact throughout the process, providing whatever assistance we could. We have also offered our assistance to the impacted families.
"Our fervent prayers are with those who have been impacted. We look forward to the completion of the legal process to ensure that justice is served.
"As you know, Pete Newman's alleged behavior is counter to everything we believe in, everything we stand for and everything we work to instill in the young people who come to us seeking to grow personally and in their relationship with Christ. In fact, for years, we have had very clear policies and extensive training in place for all staff regarding appropriate behavior. Our staff members go through background checks, personal interviews and extensive training on our policies.
"We understand the difficulty that this situation causes you and your children. We pledge to work with you to help you address questions your children may have. Kanakuk is a family, and families often face challenging times. We also pledge that Kanakuk will continue to do all we can to champion efforts to prevent inappropriate behavior from occurring at any camp.
"If you have questions or concerns about this situation, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Thank you for being part of the Kanakuk family.
On Tuesday, Doug Goodwin, chief operating officer of Kanakuk Kamps, issued this statement:
"Our camp family was deeply saddened and shocked to learn of the allegations involving a former employee. The alleged behavior is counter to everything we believe in, everything we stand for and everything we work to instill in the young people who come to us seeking to grow personally and in their relationship with Christ.
"Our prayers and thoughts are with those who have been affected, and we have worked closely with authorities investigating this matter.
"Most importantly, we have offered our assistance to the alleged victims and their families. We are committed to protecting their privacy, and we cannot say anything further about the allegations at this time.
"For years, we have had very clear policies and extensive training in place for all staff regarding appropriate behavior. Our staff members go through background checks. In light of this situation, we’ve reviewed and, where appropriate, updated our policies to reinforce our commitment to the families we serve."
The "alleged acts" took place over ten years leading many ponder how many children were victims, what damages Kanakuk will have to pay and if the ministry even has a future. After a swine-flu outbreak at their Stone County facility, no-one could imagine anything worse happening to the reputation of the camp.
**At this time, Counselors who keep personal blogs and websites with photos of campers would be wise to edit posts which could identify campers.
Great efforts from the court and the press will be taken to ensure the identities of the victims will remain hidden.
Undoubtedly, there will be more brave young men coming forward as they gain understanding this isn't their fault and it's likely more charges will be filed.