Church Members Add Twist to Lawsuit
Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard
Former members of New Hope Christian Center in Veneta filed a lawsuit Thursday asserting they are entitled to nearly $1.5 million - the value of the property and furnishings of the church from which they say they were evicted last summer.
The former members also allege that district and international officials with the Pentecostal Church of God knew, or should have known, that former New Hope associate pastor Charles Fenwick Jr. previously had engaged in "sexually inappropriate conduct" with minor females while serving a church in California.
The suit was filed in Lane County Circuit Court on Thursday during a settlement hearing before Judge Karsten Rasmussen. The hearing has been continued to an unspecified date sometime this summer.
The mediation session and new filing are the latest wrinkles involving Fenwick, who was sentenced last August to five years in prison, the maximum term, for sexually abusing a female parishioner, beginning when she was 14.
The female, now 20 years old, filed a $10 million lawsuit in October alleging that New Hope and a second church, the Lighthouse Temple in Eugene, were negligent in hiring and retaining Fenwick as an associate pastor. Fenwick worked at New Hope in 1998 and 1999 and at the Lighthouse Temple in 2000.
The suit also listed New Hope's parent groups - the Pentecostal Church of God in Joplin, Mo., and its Oregon-Southern Idaho district - as defendants. The suit was amended in March, pushing the amount of damages sought to $12.5 million and adding two top Pentecostal Church of God officials - Harold Gore of Drain and Jamie Joiner of Kennewick, Wash. - as defendants.
Gore is bishop of the denomination's Oregon-Southern Idaho district. Joiner is bishop of the denomination's adjoining Pacific Northwest district and an assistant general superintendent on the church's 12-member national executive board based in Joplin.
The revised suit alleged that Gore and Joiner violated Oregon state law that requires clergy to immediately report any allegations of sexual abuse of minors to police. Gore and Joiner in late March said the charges against them are inaccurate and characterized the revised lawsuit as an attempt to win a larger settlement.
The suit filed Thursday asserts that New Hope members were criticized by district and national church leaders for supporting the rape victim rather than Fenwick. …