A senior Pentecostal pastor says he still struggles to accept the guilt of his son-in-law, who sexually abused a boy when he worked for the same church.
A senior Pentecostal pastor whose son-in-law ran his church’s youth program had no idea he was sexually abusing a 13-year old boy, an inquiry has been told.
Ian Lehmann, who led a small Queensland church where Jonathan Baldwin took sexual advantage of the boy between 2004 and 2006, says he still struggles to accept his son-in-law’s guilt.
Baldwin, who had charge of a 200-strong youth congregation, was jailed in 2009 for eight years, with a non-parole period of four years, for indecent treatment of a child under 16 and for one count of sodomy. He is no longer in jail.
Pastor Lehmann on Wednesday told a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing he found “pedophilia and homosexuality” repulsive, but when he sits down to have a meal with Baldwin “I don’t think I am doing this with a pedophile”.
He says his son-in-law made errors of judgment “but I have two grandsons by him, a third one about to be born and if I believed he was a pedophile, then I’ve got to face the reality that our three grandsons are at great risk.”
Pastor Lehmann said during his time at the church he never believed “anything deviant” was happening, even though there were three complaints about the intensity of 25-year-old Baldwin’s relationship with the 13-year-old boy, given the pseudonym ALA.
The pastor denied ever being told Baldwin and the semi-naked boy were seen in a locked office with a mattress on the floor.
Baldwin was hired after a recommendation from an Adelaide church and Pastor Lehmann said he assumed he had working with children credentials.
He said there were no written child protection policies at the church and Australian Christian Churches (ACC) – the umbrella body for Pentecostal churches – never made state and national policies available.
Pastor Lehmann left the Queensland church in 2006.
Earlier the commission heard from ALA’s father, who said the Pentecostal church shunned his son and offered no pastoral help.
He emailed in 2011 pleading for help for his son, who was still suffering, and was asked by the ACC if his email was spam.
The father said he was unhappy about how his son was treated during civil proceedings.
He thought the church would offer pastoral and associated care, but instead they “start reshuffling the deck chairs” to protect their assets.
In a brief statement, ALA said: “Pain, thoughts and considerable suffering haunt me every day. People say it gets easier with time, no. That’s a lie. It never goes away.”
This is the third case study by the commission into how ACC dealt with complaints of child molestation.
It continues on Thursday.