Kerri Moore

Ex-coast pastor called to testify at royal commission

A FATHER has criticised a Pentecostal church organisation for abandoning his family after a Sunshine Coast youth pastor sexually abused his son.

Two senior Australian Christian Churches' executives will come before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse as it investigates the responses of the movement and its affiliated churches.

The Sunshine Coast church's former senior pastor Ian Lehmann will also testify at the public hearing which began in Sydney on Tuesday.

Pastor Lehmann is accused of being slow to act after the allegations surfaced because the youth pastor, Jonathan Baldwin, was his son-in-law.

The victim, who cannot be named to protect his identity, was aged between 13 and 15 when he came to Baldwin for counselling and was abused on and off church premises.

Baldwin was found guilty in Maroochydore in 2009 of 10 sexual assault charges and was sentenced to eight years jail time, with a non-parole period of four years.

Pastor Lehmann left the church - which also cannot be named to protect the victim's identity - before Baldwin was convicted.

His replacement Pastor Christian Peterson will also testify.

Pastor Peterson offered to pay for professional counselling support on behalf of the church.

Within months of Baldwin's conviction, the teen's father emailed Pastor Peterson for help for what he described as "the deafening silence from the AOG".

The ACC was once known as Assemblies of God, or AOG.

The father questioned whether the leadership cared and he went on to email a large number of people and the organisation.

The organisation's State Ministries Director in 2011, Gary Swenson, will likely give evidence that he reviewed the matter and found no record of the ACC being advised of the conviction until 2011.

Counsel assisting Simeon Beckett said the evidence would likely show ACC national secretary Sean Stanton and Mr Swenson agreed Mr Swenson should visit the young man's family to explain the organisation's policies and procedures.

Mr Beckett said Mr Swenson would likely give evidence he reported the family's "pain and grief over the abuse and subsequent journey" to be very evident and they "felt completely abandoned".

The commission will also examine the church and ACC's responses during the criminal trial, conviction and then the civil claim.

Other Pentecostal churches and a school will also be investigated in relation to allegations against former pastor William Francis "Frank" Houston in New South Wales and former teacher Kenneth Sandilands in Victoria.

- APN NEWSDESK



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