Sunshine Coast pastor 'failed to protect abused teen'

A SENIOR pastor failed to act protectively towards a young teen who was sexually abused at the hands of a youth pastor because the youth pastor was dating the senior pastor's daughter, an inquiry has found.

Only a few months after Sunshine Coast senior pastor Dr Ian Lehmann hired Jonathan Baldwin  in 2004 to head the church's youth ministry, Baldwin began sexually abusing a 13-year-old who attended the church.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard the abuse continued for two years.

Only two days before Baldwin married Dr Lehmann's daughter he forced the teenager, known during the inquiry as ALA, to perform oral sex on him.

The commission's case study into Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches released on Monday found Dr Lehmann failed to recognise the signs the teen was at risk of sexual abuse, despite observing some indicative behaviour.

Dr Lehmann also received reports of concerns from the pastoral team and church board.

"The conflict of interest for Dr Lehmann unfolded over time and started when Mr Baldwin resided at Dr Lehmann's house, dated his daughter and subsequently became his son-in-law," the commission report said.

Although Baldwin had no pastoral credentials, Dr Lehmann considered Baldwin had sufficient training for youth ministry because Dr Lehmann had taught him at bible college.

The commission said Australian Christian Churches needed a requirement for its pastors to have credentials to ensure necessary safety controls to protect children.

Dr Lehmann also did not ask to see Baldwin's blue card.

Dr Lehmann told the commission, in hindsight he could have done things differently.

Australian Christian Churches, formerly known as the Assemblies of God, recommended its affiliated churches such as Dr Lehmann's adopt its child protection policy.

But during his time at the church Dr Lehmann did not adopt any written policy for child protection.

ALA's father told the commission hearing in October, 2014 that his son could not attend the inquiry because he was "too afraid of the feelings and emotions this process would bring up in him".

"The past 10 years of my life have been a living hell," ALA said in a statement to the commission.

After ALA revealed the abuse to the pastor at his new church, Baldwin was charged with 47 sexual abuse offences.

He was convicted of 10 offences and sentenced to eight years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of four years.

Australian Christian Churches did not contact ALA or his family after learning of the charges or Baldwin's conviction.

The organisation also did not contact ALA or his family after his parents sent emails pleading for help and recognition.

In 2012, ALA sued the church and received $550,000 after mediation.

His father told the commission his son felt he was entitled to justice and compensation because of the abuse and as "the church had not been forthcoming".

An Australian Christian Churches state executive member met with the family and offered counselling in 2012.

The commission said the organisation did not review what occurred or whether any steps could be taken to prevent such abuse.

During the public hearing, Dr Lehmann said he struggled to accept Baldwin was guilty.

"I have two grandsons by him, a third one about to be born; if I believe he is a pedophile, then I've got to face the reality that our three grandsons are at great risk," he said.

The commission also handed down its findings into the responses of Hillsong Church in NSW and two Victorian churches to allegations of child sexual abuse.

- APN NEWSDESK



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