At least 20 allegations of abuse against former Austin pastor

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – For decades, Dr. Helen Maidment carried mixed memories of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in North Austin.

On one side, there was the joy of a fulfilling spiritual and social life centered around the church. Her husband started a church camp, and they hosted parties with church friends.

“But in the shadows, there were things that weren’t so good,” Maidment told KXAN.

That was the other side: pain from the disturbing memory of a sexual assault, she alleges, by Gethsemane’s former pastor in 1998. Maidment said she pushed that memory to the back of her mind, but it weighed on her for decades, at times even making it hurt to breathe.

Last November, it was finally too much, she said.

So, she came forward and called Bishop Sue Briner, who oversees the Southwestern Texas Synod – a collection of Lutheran congregations that includes Gethsemane and are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA.

Briner initiated an investigation that turned up many more allegations beyond Maidment’s.

The revelations of sexual misconduct caused an upheaval for the church. In February, Gethsemane’s longtime senior pastor submitted his letter of retirement after some of the women who came forward accused him of knowing about the sexual misconduct and failing to act. The pastor said he refutes accusations he knew of misconduct, and it was his time, at the age of 82, to move on to the next chapter.

According to Briner’s investigative report, there were at least 20 people with credible allegations against Gethsemane’s former assistant pastor, Vance Daniel, who died in 2000.

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