MONMOUTH — More than 30 years after he was sexually assaulted by a pastor at the United Methodist Church in Monmouth, Michael Chapman is getting some closure.
In April, Chapman asked in a UMC website “live chat” whom he should speak to at a national level about his experiences.
He was referred to the head of United Methodist Sexual Ethics, based in Chicago, and then to Bishop Elaine Stanovsky’s office, in the Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Conference.
“I wanted to make sure that current leadership knew of what happened,” Chapman said. “I wanted to make sure that safeguards were in place so that nothing similar happens in the future.”
The incident happened in 1984, when Chapman was 20 years old. He reported it in 1986.
Chapman and his college ministry leader met with Pastor Jack Powers, but at that time Powers “denied everything,” Chapman said, so “the issue was dropped.”
Chapman stopped going to the church in Monmouth and told a pastor at his new church about the incident about a year later when he heard Powers may have been exhibiting similar behavior with others.
That led to another meeting with Powers.
After that meeting in 1987, Powers wrote a letter of apology to Chapman, which Chapman learned of only recently.
Chapman did not receive the letter at time, which he said may be attributed to his moving. He was a college student at the time.
In the letter, Jack Powers apologized for his “conduct with” him.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Powers said in the letter. “In no way were you responsible nor in any way did you encourage my conduct.”
Powers did not specify what his “conduct” was.
“Since the first part of June, I have been in counseling,” Powers said in the letter. “This experience has been very helpful and valuable. I have gained many understandings about myself. I can now say with confidence that no such type of activity will occur again.”
He ended the letter by saying he was “grateful and thankful for the manner in which you have dealt with your concerns. Again, the actions that you took were totally appropriate.”
Officials at the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church verified the authenticity of the letter.
Powers died in 2014.
According to his obituary, Powers ended his full-time employment at the United Methodist Church in 1987 but continued to serve as a part-time pastor until 1999.
In correspondence between Chapman and UMC officials, they were apologetic and agreed to pay a portion of his therapy bills, though the officials and Chapman are in disagreement about the amount.
According to correspondence between Chapman and UMC officials, there were at least two other victims, though details of those situations were not given.
Chapman hopes that coming forward with his story will help others who may have had similar experiences in the church.
The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church declined to comment for this story.
Kristen Caldwell, the Oregon-Idaho UMC interim communications director sent the I-O a statement from Laurie Day, director of connectional ministries/assistant to the bishop.
“We believe it’s improper to comment on the specifics of the case the Polk County Itemizer-Observer is referencing here in the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church because we believe in the sanctity of preserving the privacy of individuals who have filed complaints of clergy misconduct,” Day said in the statement. “If at any time that trust is broken because of misconduct by a clergyperson, the (conference) investigates these matters thoroughly, using processes put in place from our United Methodist Church ‘Book of Discipline’ so that justice, reconciliation, healing and wholeness may be realized by all concerned. This has been the practice and policy of The United Methodist Church and this Conference for decades and will continue to be in the future.”
While Chapman now lives out of state, he thought it would be beneficial to tell his story.
“I was hoping there could be some sort of outreach so that other probable victims, who have never come forward, would know that they could come forward, that they would be believed, and that help is out there,” Chapman said. “And that they would be believed.”