In what may be the largest per capita clergy abuse settlement ever, nine victims will receive $36.8 million from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod and two former officials. The civil case follows the conviction of Gerald P. Thomas, former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, Texas, for sex crimes against children. An additional $32 million out-of-court settlement was reached before the trial ended. Total awards amounted to nearly $69 million awarded to 14 victims.

Individual awards ranged from $50,000 to $9.8 million depending on medical needs and the amount of abuse suffered. The settlements involve Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Ohio, a Michigan candidacy committee that ordained Thomas, Good Shepherd Church, the Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod, and Bishop Mark Herbener of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod and his assistant Earl Eliason. According to the ELCA, the 5 million-member denomination will pay $8 million of the total settlement.

Thomas was first accused of misconduct in a West Texas church, where he served as an intern. The Marshall News Messenger writes, "Among the information the synod did not disclose was that Thomas had given tequila shots to two teenage boys and that the boys had found a homosexual pornographic video in the parsonage when Thomas served as a ministry intern."

The Associated Press writes,

Other terms of settlements reached by plaintiffs' attorney Edward Hohn include apologies to victims and parishioners nationwide; development of a strategy for preventing and handling sexual misconduct, including a review of all current ministers; and creation of a denomination-wide national reporting system for sexual abuse.
"Just as important today are the non-economic agreements, which will hopefully not only be the start of a new reformation for the Lutheran Church but will also serve to raise the bar nationally for all institutions charged with public trust over our children," Hohn said.

The ELCA says, "People who seek to become ordained ministers in the ELCA go through an extended process of study and evaluation, [spokesman John] Brooks said. To the church's knowledge, no other pastor who completed this process has ever been accused of the conduct for which Thomas was convicted in Texas. … 'Still, in a continuing effort to guard against such tragedies, the ELCA will review its guidelines and procedures for candidacy for the ordained ministry,' Brooks said."

More on Lutheran and other church abuse:

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  • Victims abused by Lutheran minister win $37 million award | Victims of a former Lutheran minister who sexually molested boys won a jury award of nearly $37 million Thursday, bringing the total payout in the case to about $69 million. (Associated Press)

  • Jury awards $36.8 million to plaintiffs | United States judicial history was made Thursday in Judge Bonnie Leggat's 71st District Court as a verdict was read and $36.8 million awarded to young plaintiffs who were sexually abused by a former Marshall Lutheran pastor. (Marshall News Messenger, Texas)

  • Plaintiffs get $8 million in ELCA portion of Texas civil case settlement | Fourteen plaintiffs and their attorneys will get $8 million in a settlement of a civil suit against the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Initially, all of the ELCA portion of the settlement will be paid from insurance funds, said John R. Brooks, a spokesman for the ELCA. In reaching the settlement, Brooks said the ELCA churchwide organization admitted to no wrongdoing. (ELCA news service)

  • Groups offer info on sexual assault | Bryan Loewen of the Red Lodge Ministerial Association knows anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. "As I'm studying all this and learning it through our Coordinated Community Response Team, I know there's a pretty good chance some ladies in our church have been abused," he said. "Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but that's statistically speaking." (Billings Gazette, Montana)

More Articles:


  • Appeals judge describes changing church | Many people view the Catholic Church as dominated by unchanging tradition, but it is an institution willing to change, Judge John T. Noonan Jr. said. (Yale Daily News)

  • Incarnate Word decides to drop 'Crusaders' | The University of the Incarnate Word will begin the next school year with a new mascot for its athletic teams after administrators decided Crusaders is offensive to Muslims and inappropriate for a Catholic institution with a multicultural mission. (San Antonio Express)

  • Fear of Muslim anger put off Pope synagogue trip: officials | Fears of repercussions in the Muslim world or attacks against Christians played a major role in Pope John Paul's decision to decline an invitation to visit Rome's Synagogue again , Catholic sources said on Thursday. (Hi Pakistan)

  • Mexico invites Pope to October meeting | The government has formally invited Pope John Paul II to make a sixth visit to Mexico to attend the World Eucharistic Congress in October. (Associated Press)

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  • Chaldean Church mediating in release of Iraq hostages | Baghdad Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni says the Chaldean Church is trying to mediate in the release of the three Italian hostages who remain after the last week's killing of fellow hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi. (Catholic News, Australia)

The Passion:

  • Friars petition Gibson to make St Francis Film | Franciscan friars in New York loved Mel Gibson's hit movie "The Passion of The Christ," so much they are petitioning him to follow-up with a film biography of the order's founder, Saint Francis of Assisi. (Reuters)

  • Franciscan friars petition Gibson | Franciscan friars have asked Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson to make a movie biography of the founder of their order, St Francis of Assisi. (BBC)

  • Israeli theater to show 'Passion' | An Israeli movie theater has decided to screen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," a decision likely to raise an uproar in the Jewish state over accusations the movie is anti-Semitic. (Associated Press)

Religion & politics:

  • The Liberals make religion 'divisive' | I do find it curious, though, that someone who wishes to forbid abortions is deemed to be "imposing his beliefs" on the rest of us, but that someone who taxes us to pay for somebody else's abortions is never accused of it. (National Post, Canada)

  • Accusations fly over e-mails of 'Pastor Randy' | E-mails from "Pastor Randy" have been the subject of stories in several N.C. newspapers as well as Washington's The Hill. Most of the e-mails have been strongly critical of Tabor, who has appealed to Christian conservatives. (Charlotte Observer)

  • 'Withdrawal will cause anti-Semitism' | An Israeli withdrawal from the territories could lead to an anti-Semitic backlash among evangelical Christians who are today among Israel's strongest US supporters, said Herbert Zweibon, an American Jewish activist with close ties to the evangelical community. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Church to take on the BNP | Religious groups across Wakefield are joining forces to encourage voters not to vote for the British National Party in June's local elections. (Wakefield Today, UK)

  • Vatican document may spur debate on Catholic Kerry | In a document likely to charge the debate on whether Democrat John Kerry should be denied communion because of his views on abortion, the Vatican said on Friday that Catholics had to be free of grave sin in order to receive the sacrament. (Reuters)

  • Vatican clamps down on abuses in Mass | The Vatican clamped down Friday on abuses in the celebration of Mass, barring lay people from giving homilies, non-Catholics from taking communion and rites of other religions from being introduced in the service. (Associated Press)

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Archbishop of Canterbury speaks against British politicians:

Life ethics:

  • Catholics back freedom of conscience for doctors in US states | The Michigan Catholic Conference has backed four bills which allow doctors and hospitals to refuse to perform abortions or other procedures they object to. (Catholic News, Australia)

  • Mice created without fathers | Scientists have created two female mice without fertilising the eggs they grew from, the journal Nature says. (BBC)

  • Mice created with 2 genetic moms, no dad | Just ahead of Mother's Day, scientists have found a way to cut dads out of the picture, at least among rodents: They have produced mice with two genetic moms — and no father. It is the first time the feat has been accomplished in mammals. (Associated Press)

  • The mouse with two mothers … but no father | A mouse without a father has been created for the first time in an experiment that shatters the standard scientific belief that mammals of the same sex cannot produce viable offspring. (Times, London)

  • Unfertilized eggs yield fatherless mouse | The mouse, named Kaguya after a Japanese princess of legend, grew normally to adulthood and bore her own young. Researchers created her with a technique called parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, which occurs naturally in lower creatures from insects to snakes, but was long thought to be impossible in mammals. (Boston Globe)

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  • Virgin mouse gives birth | A laboratory mouse born by virgin birth - that is without benefit of sperm, male chromosomes or male mating - has developed to adulthood and reproduced normally, according to a report in Nature today. (The Guardian, London)

Sexual ethics:

  • Porn link to young sex offenders | Internet service providers should be made to filter online content because sexual assaults perpetrated by children are increasing, an internet media and mental health conference in Brisbane will be told today. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Homosexuality & religion:

  • Ex - Episcopal leader: 'We are in danger' | Lord George Carey, who retired as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, said that although the Episcopal Church should be inclusive, the American branch of Anglicanism went too far by consecrating openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop last November. (Associated Press)

  • Tragedy changes mom's life | Speaker urges churches to abandon anti-gay stands (Chicago Tribune)

  • Congregations hire homosexuals | Defying Evangelical Lutheran Church in America teaching, two California congregations and one in Minnesota have hired openly homosexual pastors. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Christian activist's son says he is gay | The son of Christian activist Randall Terry, known for his strident opposition to abortion and homosexuality, says he is gay. In an article in the May issue of Out magazine—for which he was paid $2,500—Jamiel Terry, 24, says he first realized he was gay seven years ago, when a male friend with whom he'd been intimate asked if they were gay or bisexual. (Associated Press)

  • Baptist group agrees to restore funding to Averett | The Baptist General Association of Virginia will renew its funding to Averett University after the two parties reached a new covenant agreement Thursday. The association voted in November to withhold $350,000 in funding from the school in response to a controversial column by Averett professor John Laughlin. (Associated Press)

  • Episcopalians establish breakaway church | Amid the anger over the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, a group dissatisfied with the direction of the church has formed a new parish in New Hampshire. (Associated Press)

  • City says gays have rights to stay married | Lawyer argues couples deserve due process (Boston Globe)

  • Catholic bishops warn over 'gay marriages' | Catholic bishops voiced their fears today over Government plans to allow "gay marriages". In a toughly worded statement they warned that if the proposal became law, traditional marriage between a woman and a man as the best basis for raising children will be undermined. (PA News, Scotland)

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  • The gay covenant | Jeffrey John has called for the Church of England to bless same-sex unions. Do you agree with him? (Times, London)

Church life:

  • God or mammon? | African archbishops call U.S. Episcopalians to "repent and come back" or walk away entirely; meanwhile, they won't accept funding from apostates (World)

  • Woman favourite to be new archbishop | The Anglican Church could have its first woman archbishop next month because a woman is in pole position to succeed the retiring primate of the province of Canada. (Times, London)

  • Church lament | Worship it is argued can't wallow in the past if Christianity is to survive. So here's a modern church for a modern people and a God who, after all, did give us the internet and the ease to communicate around the world at the press of a button. (Belfast Telegraph)

  • Dedication to service | The Our Lady of Lourdes grotto is a comforting place for Rev. Robert Pung, who has returned to the grounds of the St. Augustine's Seminary in Bay St. Louis, where he once taught. The site is now a retirement and religious retreat center, but a few of the old landmarks remain, including the grotto. (Biloxi Sun Herald, Mississippi)

  • Learn to forgive | Mr. Charles Yeboah, Atwima District Chief Executive, has admonished Christians to learn to forgive and forget wrongs committed against them by their fellow human beings and live in peace with them. He asked Christians to pray for peaceful elections. (Accra Daily Mail, Ghana)

Church & state:

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  • Sikhs make mockery of French ban on the veil | Attempts by the French government to ban the wearing of headscarves by Muslim schoolgirls in state schools threaten to dissolve into confusion and farce. (The Independent, UK)

  • Muslim call to prayer riles Michigan town | The elders of a Bangladeshi mosque have sparked controversy in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck by requesting official permission to broadcast the daily call to prayer over loudspeakers. (Agence France Presse.)

  • U.S. court refuses Amish man's appeal | A federal appeals court on Thursday refused a request to keep a Canadian Amish man in the United States while he challenges a law requiring his photo be taken for legal residence in the country. (Associated Press)

Muslims fight for call to prayer in Mich. city:

Religious freedom:

  • Islam's Distant Battle | Uzbekistan is repressing a religious resurgence. The former Communist government makes no excuses—but the backlash is deadly. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Religion briefs | Banned in Beijing (World)

  • Pakistan blasphemy law used to threaten, harass Christians | The Masihs are among a growing number of Pakistanis, both Christian and Muslim, whose lives have been thrown into turmoil because of false allegations of blasphemy. According to prominent Karachi-based Christian attorney M.L. Shahani, from 1948 until 1986, only 14 blasphemy cases were registered. But from 1987 until 1999, 44 stood accused of blasphemy, and in 2000 alone, 52 cases were registered—43 against Muslims and nine against Christians. (Religion News Service)

  • Beijing crushes a student group | Beliefs tested in saga of sacrifice, betrayal (Washington Post, via MSNBC)


  • When will Armenians stop focusing on genocide? | Every year on April 24, people of Armenian descent organize blood drives, picket Turkish embassies, and celebrate special church services to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 arrest of several hundred prominent Armenians in Constantinople, which was the beginning of the genocide in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923. (Slate)

  • Rape, torture, and one million forced to flee as Sudan's crisis unfolds. Will we move to stop it? | This is where some of the world's worst human rights abuses are occurring and nothing is being done to stop it. This is ethnic cleansing Sudanese-style. A government-sponsored campaign, led by Arab tribesmen against their black African neighbours, has triggered the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and - with the world's eyes fixed on Iraq - its most forgotten calamity. (The Independent, UK)

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  • Archbishop 'blamed Jews for Nazi policy' | Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1928-42, said shortly before the Second World War that he believed German Jews had brought on themselves the hatred of Hitler, according to newly released diaries. (Times, London)

Missions & ministry:

  • Religious row over aid in Somalia | Thousands of Somalis have marched through streets in Mogadishu protesting at what they say is an attempt by aid agencies to spread Christianity. (BBC)

  • No es facil: It's not easy | It's downright difficult living in poverty under a brutal dictator's thumb, but an army of compassionate Americans could help churches better the lives of poor Cubans (World)

  • Methodists sets up fund for the needy | The Obuasi Wesley Methodist Cathedral has launched a special fund with a seed-money of 22 million cedis to assist the needy in the church to establish small-scale businesses. (Accra Daily Mail, Ghana)




  • The best offering | A top Ichthus attraction, Third Day redefines praise and worship as it rocks on (Lexington Herald Leader, KY)

  • Building 429 band tops Christian music charts | Building 429 now calls Nashville home, but the group got its start in Snyder's fellowship hall. The band rehearsed there every week for years. (Fayetteville Online, Fayetteville NC)

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  • God, teens & zines | At first glance, the covers seem to scream the same teen ingredients that all the other teen magazines do: "Girls, cash and cars!" "Beauty secrets you've never heard before!" "Today's hottest songs!" But look closer and you'll find headlines such as "Are You Dating a Godly Guy?" and "100 Practical Ways to Live your Faith." (The Oregonian)

  • Southern Baptists produce new Bible translation | General editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Blum spent nearly eight years poring over every jot and tittle from Genesis to Revelation. April 15, the fruit of his labors hit bookstores nationwide. (Religion News Service)

More articles:

  • Profiting from the prophet | People have sold Christian art for centuries. Religious jewelry, art and wall crosses are staples at local religion stores. And a few years ago, "WWJD" bracelets—meaning 'What Would Jesus Do?'—flew off the shelves by the millions. But Christian symbols may have never been as widespread as they are now. (Express-Times, New Jersey)

  • Writer discovers spiritual core to TV's 'The Simpsons' | Donut-munching Princeton University students hear talk by author of "The Gospels According to the Simpsons." (Princeton Packet, NJ)

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