In February, a federal jury found a former pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church, Fargo, N.D., guilty of taking sexual advantage of a female parishioner.
In the suit, Jean Enderle claimed Dale Trautman sexually exploited her from 1988 to 1995 while he was her pastor and counselor. Enderle and her husband, John, also named Olivet and the Eastern North Dakota Synod in the suit, claiming they knew or should have known about Trautman's sexual misconduct with her and another parishioner. The congregation and synod were not found negligent.
In 1995, another female member reported Trautman's misconduct to Bishop Rick Foss, who immediately asked for and received Trautman's resignation from the ELCA clergy roster. After that, Enderle came forward and filed suit.
But the civil court jury also found Enderle 40 percent responsible. Based on percentage of responsibility, she will receive $48,000 in damages and her husband will receive $9,000 for damages to his marriage.
In the testimony, Trautman admitted the sexual relationship but denied being Enderle's counselor.
Both Jeff Sandgren, current pastor of Olivet, and Foss said there are no winners in the case. "Obviously we wish this hadn't happened and would not want anything like this to happen again," Foss said. "If there is a bright spot, it's that the congregation has been open and candid from the moment this became known seven years ago."
"We will keep doing mission and ministry without denying where we've been," said Sandgren, who asked the congregation the Sunday after the verdict to pray for all who have been affected by this case and to speak out against all forms of abuse.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers