Orangewood Presbyterian Church faulted in report about allegations. What are your thoughts?

Orangewood Presbyterian Church faulted in report about allegations – Orlando Sentinel
An investigation into abuse and misconduct allegations against a pastor and a school coach reveals a pattern that spans at least two decades of several Orangewood Presbyterian Church and School leaders dismissing the claims, refusing to speak directly with alleged victims and failing to keep appropriate records of employment, according to the report.
“Attempts to discuss this matter over the years have been a twisted, convoluted, and self-aggrandizing attempt to minimize the reality of what actually occurred …,” the 35-page report shows.
One former associate pastor at the Maitland church explained to GRACE in an interview that it handled the claims “by considering it a ‘private sin’ and not a ‘public sin’.”
The accusations against Jeff Jakes — now a senior pastor who denies many of the allegations, according to the report — stem back to 1998 and were made public earlier this year in a post on Facebook by Katherine Snyder, who was 18 when she worked for Jakes. The report validated Snyder’s accusations, adding that Jakes’ assertions that he regrets “confusing” Snyder “marginalizes her dignity and robs her of the honor she deserves in bringing very painful events to light.”
Orangewood Presbyterian Church faulted in report about allegations – Orlando Sentinel
The probe first reported by the Orlando Sentinel in February lasted nearly six months and was conducted by GRACE, an independent Christian organization that investigates claims of abuse and misconduct within religious institutions. GRACE spoke to 76 witnesses and surveyed more than 600 Orangewood community members, according to the report that was released on Saturday.
The investigation also reviewed claims of sexual abuse in the mid-’90s from at least three former students against then-Orangewood school coach Timothy Manes. Investigators concluded that the school mishandled these allegations as well by not reporting them to authorities and even mocking the child victims with jokes about their abuse that could’ve been “soul-crushing.”
“Attempts to discuss this matter … have been a twisted, convoluted, and self-aggrandizing attempt to minimize the reality of what actually occurred."— Excerpt from GRACE’s independent investigation report
Disclosing the allegations to law enforcement, the report shows, could have allowed for earlier intervention with Manes, who later pleaded no contest to charges of lewd and lascivious behavior in an unrelated case in 2003. He is now a registered sex offender in that unrelated case.
Among its recommendations, GRACE proposed Orangewood provide funding for any counseling received by victims of past sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse from members of the Orangewood community as well as provide ongoing training for staff on addressing sexual misconduct. It is unclear how much funding the church would provide.
Snyder detailed experiences as a former intern for Jakes, during which he expressed he had romantic feelings for her and made various comments about her physical appearance and his own fantasies during a mission trip to Mexico. She said he continued expressing his feelings for her while she attended college, which consumed her with guilt during her early adult years until the conversations stopped.
“The fact that the Orangewood leadership did not make a concerted effort to reach out to [Snyder] in 1998, even though she was an adult, was a fundamental failure in how this matter was addressed,” the report said.
Jakes could not be reached for comment for this story.
John Zielinski, an attorney for Manes, said the former coach was not asked to be part of the investigation or given the opportunity to see any accusations against him. He also added Manes was not terminated, but rather that he resigned from his position.
“Having to defend oneself from false accusations made 20+ years after the alleged dates in a public forum without the ability to obtain contemporaneous records is beyond stressful,” Zielinski said in an emailed statement, adding that Manes “vehemently denies” the accusations described in the media. The Orlando Sentinel made several attempts to reach Manes and family members before publishing accusations against him.
Orangewood executive director Allyn Williams said in a statement that Jakes remains on leave from pastoring while the church leadership processes the report’s findings.
The GRACE report shows that although Jakes informed a number of pastors at the time of what he first called an emotional relationship, he expressed frustration that his words were construed as an admission to Snyder’s allegations.
“What I was sorry for was creating confusion for her with words of affirmation,” Jakes told GRACE, the report shows. “That has been so twisted … the way that the Sentinel and others have carried this, is wrong.”
But GRACE found that Jakes’ comments were inconsistent and understanding his perspective was “quite complicated.”
“If people want to know about it, they have a way to know."— Katherine Snyder, former intern at Orangewood Church
Orangewood Presbyterian Church faulted in report about allegations – Orlando Sentinel
GRACE also points to accusations that Jakes undermined victims’ accounts of abuse by Manes, calling the church leadership’s decision to appoint Jakes to oversee safeguarding protocols “extremely naive and unwise.”
At least three former students accused Manes of sexually abusing them as minors, touching or harassing them — sometimes repeatedly.
“At least two reported victims recalled Pastor Jakes telling them that Pastor Jakes had talked to the alleged offender and also told the reported victims that it was a ‘big misunderstanding’ or that they had ‘misjudged’ the coach’s intentions,” the report said.
The report’s authors also could not verify why Manes was no longer at the school because they did not receive any documents from the church about Manes’ employment at the church’s school, except for a W-2 form.
When asked why the abuse claims were not disclosed to law enforcement at the time, Jakes said he did not have specific information about what happened. “This was the ’90’s. I know that’s not an excuse. I don’t know why… in my mind it was nothing more than horseplay,” he told GRACE.
Blair Jackson, an attorney for two of Manes’ accusers, said in a statement that his clients had contacted law enforcement and were interested in pursuing charges.
After reading the report, Snyder said it was difficult to read some of Jakes’ statements about her allegations, but she was grateful to read GRACE’s response validating her experience. She said she is not considering any litigation against the church.
“The most important thing to me was that the truth was known,” she said. “If people want to know about it, they have a way to know. … If people want to listen to and follow someone like [Jakes], that’s kind of their problem.”
bpadro@orlandosentinel.com or 407-232-0202. Follow me on Twitter @BiancaJoanie

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