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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Texas verdict spurs policy review

Last spring a Texas court handed down a $36.8 million verdict, finding several ELCA leaders and agencies liable for the actions of Gerald Patrick Thomas. A former ELCA pastor, Thomas sexually abused 14 adolecent boys. (June 2004; pages 48, 58.)

Prior to the trial, several ELCA defendants negotiated settlements totaling about $32 million. The boys' families had sued, saying the church should have known Thomas was dangerous because several leaders knew he gave alcohol to minors during his internship in Wilson, Texas, and allowed them access to homosexual pornographic videos.

The Michigan candidacy committee that approved Thomas for ordination following his internship and final year of seminary was never given this information by Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, where Thomas had been a student. If it had, Thomas would not have been approved for ordination, several said in interviews.

The Texas verdict raised a persistent question for those involved in the candidacy process: How can we alter our procedures to prevent recurrence?


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