Dan Herron Hope Presbyterian Church
Dan Herron, founding pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church. (Photo Credit: Hope Presbyterian Church)

Indiana Presbytery Will Put Pastor Accused of Sexual Abuse on Trial

By Julie Roys

After nearly two years and numerous allegations of cover-up, a ruling body in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is advancing the case of an Indiana pastor accused of sexual harassment and abuse to trial.

On Friday, the Central Indiana Presbytery (CIP) announced in a statement that it had approved a report, recommending that the presbytery bring charges against Dan Herron, the founding pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church near Indiana University.

The CIP now will draft official charges, conduct a trial, and “if appropriate, determine disciplinary actions,” the statement said.

It added that the CIP is also suspending all of Herron’s official functions for the duration of the trial. This is a major victory for victims and their advocates who have objected that Herron has used his vote as an elder to influence prior outcomes of his case.

Kara Million, one of at least 10 alleged victims, said she’s worked what amounts to a full-time, unpaid job for the past couple years to bring Herron to justice and is heartened by the result.

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“It didn’t really quite sink in the first time I found out about it,” said Million. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Million was one of five people who initially sent a letter to the CIP in 2019, demanding an investigation of Herron. That investigation eventually concluded that the charges against Herron had “no strong presumption of guilt.”

However, numerous people complained that the investigation had been biased. And a higher church court later found that the initial investigation had erred and should have found a strong presumption of guilt.

Million said she is cautiously optimistic about Herron’s trial, but noted this is the third time CIP leaders had announced that Herron was going to trial.

The first two times were because of complaints by CIP Elder Steve Marusich.

“I’m optimistic, but given that this is the third time I’ve heard that, I’m unsure,” she said.

In response to an earlier article about Herron’s case, Boz Tchividjian, an attorney and founder of Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), tweeted: “Presbyteries are wholly unqualified to investigate allegations of clergy sexual abuse. While we’re at it, the Book of Church Order should never be the guide to investigating abuse.”

Marusich noted that the Presbyterian Church Book of Order demands that a minister must be tried in his own presbytery. The only exception is if two other presbyteries ask the General Assembly to judge a case that the first presbytery refuses to resolve.

Marusich said that it will be difficult to find elders in the CIP who don’t have some acquaintance with Herron.

“The hope is that everyone will be true to their vows in the sense that they will come in seeking truth and justice for all sides,” he added.

Herron’s new trial will use evidence gathered in the previous investigations along with anything new that Herron or his prosecutor wish to submit, said CIP administrative pastor Ben Reed.

To prevent conflicts of interest, the prosecutor, the accused, and court members can raise objections to some elders judging the case, Reed added. The court will then vote on these objections.

Marusich said that although he does not know when the trial will happen, he suspects that it will proceed through this summer.

Jackson Elliott contributed to this report.

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10 thoughts on “Indiana Presbytery Will Put Pastor Accused of Sexual Abuse on Trial”

  1. Jennifer Eason

    Thank you for mentioning which branch of presbyterianism we’re talking about here. Holding a church trial seems…quaint, somehow. The PCA apparently holds that a group as inherently biased as the presbytery to which the accused belongs can be depended upon to hear evidence impartially and come to a just conclusion. Who, other than a dyed-in-the-wool presbyterian, could believe that?

  2. Nicole Rothfleisch

    I don’t understand why this is in trial in the church court instead of the legal court. Aren’t these criminal charges being investigated and tried?

  3. Charles Martel

    A church trial does not determine anything criminal, but rather is used to determine the following:

    1. Removing him as a minister of a particular congregation
    2. Defrocking him by removing ministerial credentials (so he cannot preach in any church in the denomination.
    3. Excommunicating him as an official member of the denomination.

    It determines whether or not the person is still biblically qualified to be an elder.

    This is something completely different from either criminal or civil legal proceedings.

  4. This surprises me that they would do anything at all. We have a PCA pastor admit in writing to murder and bearing false witness and refusing to repent. His Toronto church leadership would do nothing except close ranks and shield him in his sin. When I tried to take it up higher, the stated clerk of their general assembly, Mr. Roy Taylor, stated “there is nothing that I can do.” which is a lie. When I contacted Mr. Taylor’s assistant, Bob Hornick, he stated “We take sin seriously” but when I called him on this he hung up the phone on me.
    These men are just a bunch of phoney religious bureaucrats. They care only about their comfortable lives with no concern for Christ’s honour and their neighbour’s spiritual health.

      1. Looking through the website that the commenter links to his name (there’s 15 minutes of my life I’d like to get back), the murder is in the sense of Matthew 5:21-23, hatred toward a brother.

  5. He should remove himself from the pulpit and or any other place of authority within the church immediately. Wait for the outcome.

  6. I found an update on Kara Million’s Facebook page (July 30):

    “Daniel Todd Herron has been suspended from his elder office ‘with censure’ and has been barred from receiving the sacraments by the Presbyterian Church in America. He has been ruled ‘contumacious’ for interfering with his upcoming trial by intimidating witnesses and refusing to drop the lawsuit he filed against two of his victims for coming forward. The trial is now canceled, and if Dan does not demonstrate repentance for his actions in a timely manner, he will be excommunicated. According to the Book of Church Order, this censure is to be made ‘public’, so this is me doing my part to follow process.”

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