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United Methodist Bishop comments on sexual misconduct allegations involving former American University Chaplain

by Premier Journalist

A campus minister has surrendered his credentials after admitting to allegations of misconduct at American University.

On Wednesday, United Methodist Bishop LaTrelle Easterling revealed information regarding allegations against Mark Schaefer in an email to the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Schaefer had served as a chaplain at American University, based in Washington DC, and as an ordained elder within the UMC.

Bishop Easterling states that she had heard formal complaints against Schaefer in 2019, which accused the former chaplain of misconduct between 2002 and 2003. The Conference then initiated the process of a just resolution, as laid out in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline.

The resolution set the term, notes RNS, requiring Schaefer to "disclose his misconduct to American University, undergo six months of psychological assessment and counseling and complete three years of probation with the understanding that any additional violations could result in surrendering his credentials." American University then terminated Schaefer's employment. 

Other victims filed second and third complaints about similar conduct in 2009 and 2015. The second complaint would lead to Schaefer surrendering his credentials, only for the third to be dismissed outright due to him not being employed by the Baltimore-Washington Conference. 

What inspired the bishop to write about this was a civil lawsuit filed by the first complainant against Schaefer, the Conference, and American University. The individual, who remains unnamed, claims that Schaefer "Groomed" her in 2002 while she was a freshman and had been singled out by Schaefer several times, including several attempts at physical conduct. 

"Clergy misconduct is a violation of trust. It also violates the inherent responsibility we as clergy carry for the vulnerable individuals God has placed in our care. There is no excuse for this kind of betrayal," Easterling wrote in her letter. "I take all allegations of misconduct seriously and seek, through our administrative and judicial processes, to impose accountability, bring healing and achieve resolution in each circumstance."

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