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Local United Church minister to be reinstated, despite sexual harassment finding

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/5/2015 (824 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Westminster United Church's minister will be reinstated to his post despite a ruling that upheld a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Robert Campbell, the 61-year-old longtime leader from the Wolseley-area church who was suspended with pay from his duties in late January, will return to his post next month. 

A trusted, long-serving minister from Winnipeg’s Westminster United Church will be reinstated next month, despite sexual harassment allegations


A trusted, long-serving minister from Winnipeg’s Westminster United Church will be reinstated next month, despite sexual harassment allegations

The move comes after a formal hearing under the United Church of Canada's sexual abuse prevention and response policy and procedures that was held last week.  

The executive secretary of the United Church's Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario announced Sunday that the complaint of sexual harassment and pastoral sexual misconduct was upheld during that hearing. Another complaint involving another individual was dismissed. 

"Based on the evidence put forward by the parties, including a report of Reverend Campbell’s treating psychiatrist, the Committee restored Reverend Campbell to the functions of the ministry effective June 1, 2015 with specific terms and conditions that were put forward in a joint recommendation on behalf of Reverend Campell and the Presbytery Commission," Rev. Shannon McCarthy announced in a news release.

Those terms and conditions include continued treatment with a psychiatrist as well as peer group sessions. 

A formal investigation into sexual harassment complaints against him produced a 27-page report completed in January, which concluded Campbell's "actions and comments amount to sexual harassment and is behaviour of a sexual nature that is known or ought to be known to be unwanted or unwelcome." 

The United Church of Canada's Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario committee reviewed the complaints submitted in an agreed statement of facts during their formal hearing process Monday. The agreed statement of facts did not contain the same information as the 27-page investigator's report, the committee wrote in a news release today.

"Many of the allegations contained in the Investigator’s Report, which was released without prior knowledge of the church and quoted in previous articles in the Winnipeg Free Press, were not proven nor admitted. The only facts that were admitted were those contained in the Agreed Statement of Facts, which was before the Committee, and upon which the Disposition was based," said McCarthy.

Not all of those in the congregation at Westminster United Church agree with the United Church committee's decision to reinstate Campbell, nor are they willing to welcome him back.

"While the United Church’s abuse procedures have failed to take the necessary actions to protect the vulnerable members of our congregation, I am confident that Westminster United Church recognizes that it is not our place to forgive someone else’s abuser," said David Puranen, the head usher at Westminster. "It is however our place to ensure that everyone in our congregation is protected."  

The detailed investigation report obtained by the Free Press listed numerous alleged incidents in which Campbell "touches and caresses" the backs and arms of young men who are church members, has had young men alone with him in his office, has shown up uninvited at a young man's workplace six times in two months, and has gone uninvited twice to a young man's apartment when he knew the man's wife would be away.

The report included evidence from six witnesses containing statements that describe Campbell as participating in "excessive drinking," referred to Campbell as "dangerous and a predator" and "actively pursuing young males at the church."

In a pair of lengthy written responses contained within the report, Campbell admitted to taking a church member's friend into his bedroom and closing the door for an estimated 45 minutes, and telling a church member her young son was "incredibly attractive." He also stated it was "an innocent remark" when he asked a young male church member "if he liked cuddling."

Campbell told the investigator "he had his drinking under control, his attitude was just fine and his actions were often misunderstood."


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Updated on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 8:20 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of reverend's name

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