Lead Pastor During Nazarene Child Molestation Scandal Speaks Out Through Attorney
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Church Of The Nazarene is moving on from a child molestation scandal this week. The pastor who critics said ignored key warnings said he would have made different decisions if he knew everything he knew now.
The church settled a lawsuit late June with the families of five little girls who were molested by their church pastor Ryan Wonderly. Wonderly is currently serving a 35 year prison sentence for the crimes.
The lead pastor of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene at the time was Melvin McCullough. Court records showed McCullough was aware of Wonderly's inappropriate behavior with young girls but did not do anything besides putting Wonderly on probation.
"He acknowledges in hindsight, he would have acted differently," said McCullough's attorney, Bill Cathcart.
McCullough was informed that Wonderly was putting ice down little girls' pants and was giving little girls wedgies.
"Mel McCullough did not know, did not believe, did not understand that the reports of boundary violations by Ryan Wonderly were anything more than immature behavior on Wonderly's part," Cathcart added.
He said the case should be looked at in context and cannot be looked at through today's eyes.
"What we know now is totally different from what we knew then," Cathcart said.
Cathcart described it as ignorance because molestation was not a widely discussed topic at the time of the crimes and neither were the warning signs.
The settlement requires big changes to church policy when it comes to child sexual abuse. The reforms include a paper trail of documentation for allegations of sexual misconduct with children and education efforts on the signs and effects of child molestation.
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