Methodists Settle Sex Suit for $6.7 Million

Three men alleged that a youth pastor at a Long Beach church molested them 30 years ago.

By Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writer. LA Times
August 4, 2006


California United Methodists agreed Thursday to settle a lawsuit involving allegations of sexual abuse by a former associate pastor three decades ago for $6.7 million, church officials said.

The out-of-court settlement, which will come primarily from insurance, resolves a lawsuit brought by three men who alleged that Gary Carson-Hull abused them when he was an associate pastor at Los Altos United Methodist Church in Long Beach, officials said.

"He was working as a youth pastor at the time," said church spokesman Grant Hagiya. "We dismissed him and revoked all ministerial privileges after a parent complained in 1979."

The lawsuit was filed against two of the church's regional bodies, along with two congregations, in 2003 after the California Legislature reopened the state's statute of limitations for such cases.

One of the plaintiffs died after filing the suit, officials said, and was represented by his estate.

In a public apology on behalf of the defendants, Mary Ann Swenson, leader of the church's Pasadena-based California-Pacific Conference, said, "This situation has been a painful experience for all involved.

"In the decades since the incidents in this case occurred," she said, "we have implemented a number of policies and procedures designed to safeguard those who come into our churches."

In addition to the California-Pacific Conference and the Long Beach church, the other defendants were the West Sacramento-based California-Nevada Conference and Walnut Creek United Methodist Church.

Carson-Hull was initially employed as a youth leader at Walnut Creek in a work study capacity while attending the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley in the early 1970s, Swenson said. After completing seminary, he was appointed to the Los Altos position.

Carson-Hull was arrested in 2002 after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged him with molesting the boys dozens of times.

The case was dismissed a year later after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a California law that extended the statute of limitations in child molestation cases beyond 1988, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said.