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Methodist Church Settles Sex Abuse Case with Man Abused By Former Pastor and Foster Parent, Who Ran Clown Business

By Josh Shepherd
gavel judge settle court case
(Photo: Katrin Bolovtsova / Pexels)

The United Methodist Church and the Department of Social Services in Warren County, New York, have agreed to pay $875,000 to a man abused as a child by a pastor who served as his foster parent. The abuse occurred over 40 years ago, and since then, the pastor has run a children’s clown show business.

On Monday, officials in Warren County, New York, announced the settlement with the adult victim, whose name was not disclosed, reported the Times-Union. According to the case, Richard A. Reynolds, former senior pastor of North Creek Methodist Church and the victim’s foster parent, sexually abused the victim from 1978, when the victim was 11, until 1985. 

Reynolds, 82, currently of Guilderland, served as lead pastor for decades at the United Methodist Church (UMC) in upstate New York, which also reportedly owned a foster home where the abuse took place. In a statement to The Roys Report (TRR), Shelby Winchell, a spokesperson for United Methodists of Upper New York, confirmed that Reynolds was discontinued as a United Methodist pastor in 1999.

Warren County Department of Social Services, which managed the foster placement, reportedly paid the victim $750,000, and the church’s affiliated denomination, the UMC, contributed $125,000. 

Upon retiring from the church in 1999, Reynolds opened a party business where he performed as a clown for children. He told the media that his business closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?” by Skye Jethani. To donate, click here.

north creek methodist church
North Creek Methodist Church in North Creek, NY, which closed in 2020. (Photo via social media)

Reynolds, who also pastored First United Methodist Church in nearby Gloversville, New York, has been “accused of molesting numerous boys in the 1970s and 1980s,” the Times-Union reported. 

The victim’s attorney, Vincent Nappo, presented evidence in court that church leaders and county officials failed to protect the boy from Reynolds “for years on end.” 

Nappo said it left the boy “vulnerable to unthinkable acts of sexual abuse by the very adult charged with his protection. No child should ever have to endure such trauma and abuse.”

Nappo added, “The church never reported Reynolds to law enforcement, and, in fact, pleaded with the victim’s family to keep the abuse silent out of fear of bad publicity.” 

A reporter reached Reynolds and asked if he denied the sexual abuse allegations or if he had any comment. “No, that was a long, long, long, long time ago,” Reynolds reportedly told the Times-Union.

North Creek Methodist Church permanently closed in 2020, and the building was recently renovated as an antique gift shop.

“United Methodists of Upper New York are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the people we serve, especially the most vulnerable among us,” UMC regional spokesperson Winchell told TRR. “We will do all we can to bring justice and healing to survivors.”

The case against Reynolds was brought under New York’s Child Victims Act, which was enacted in August 2019 and temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on abuse claims.

The state law allowed a one-year window for childhood abuse survivors to file claims “against their abusers or the institutions that harbored them,” the Times-Union reported. 

new york settlement case church survivors
Child sex-abuse survivors, advocates and members of the Assembly and Senate celebrate the passage of the Child Victims Act at the Capitol in 2019. (Photo: NY State Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

Despite warnings, pastor resumed duties and victimized others

In another recently settled case, Reynolds allegedly sexually abused a boy at the church parsonage beginning in 1979, when the victim was age 7, until the boy turned 15.

The terms of that settlement were not disclosed. 

Cynthia S. LaFave, attorney for the victim in the latter case, told media: “All the money in the world cannot make up for the suffering of the survivors of child sexual abuse. However, the more the public knows, the more we can protect the children.” 

cynthia lafave
Cynthia LaFave, Esq. (Courtesy Photo)

LaFave added that, “Reynolds should never be anywhere near children, ever.”

The mother of another alleged victim, who has not filed suit, reportedly wrote a four-page letter to leaders of North Creek Methodist Church in the late 1980s. The mother stated that Reynolds had confessed to abusing her son and she believed he had victimized other minors.

According to Nappo, a church representative responded to the mother by citing excerpts from the UMC’s Book of Discipline. He reportedly added that he would speak with Reynolds and that “it would be helpful if her concerns remained a private matter.”

The church reportedly sent Reynolds to “sexual deviancy treatment,” after which he resumed his duties as pastor where he had access to children. 

In a statement, Winchell, spokesperson for the UMC’s Upper New York Conference, did not address specifics of the claims against Reynolds but provided details on church safety policies that have been refined and expanded in recent years. 

“The United Methodist Church is committed to reducing the risk of child sexual abuse in the church through the Safe Sanctuaries guidelines,” she told TRR. “United Methodist churches across the country, including those in New York State, have implemented these policies and procedures to provide a safe environment and prevent harm to all of God’s children.”

This article has been updated to accurately describe the Safe Sanctuaries program.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.

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One Response

  1. They limit the retroactive cases to being filed within one year because they know the justice system will be OVERWHELMED with abuse cases if they don’t cap it off. This is the state of the world, people. Places where people are gaslit and manipulated to believe they can find God and His refuge in have been repeatedly abusing women and children for CENTURIES. Why are people in the 21st century still attending them? Come up out of the illusions! Christ and Truth are not found in dens of Pharisees!!

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?” by Skye Jethani.