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Sex-abuse complaints voiced at site of Detroit conference

By Dennis Pelham - Daily Telegram Staff Writer
May 22, 2005

ADRIAN -- Complaints of sexual abuse by two United Methodist Church ministers were voiced Saturday from the sidewalk in front of the Adrian College campus where an annual weekend gathering of church leaders in the Detroit Conference was taking place.

A board member of the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held a press conference along with a Dearborn Heights man who said his former minister destroyed his marriage and sexually harassed his four daughters.

After the press conference, SNAP board member Janet Patterson of Kansas walked across the campus to try to hand deliver a letter to Michigan Conference Bishop, Jonathan Keaton.

She was not able to meet with him. She also passed out copies of her letter to people attending the conference, including to one of the two ministers SNAP is asking the church to take action against.

Patterson is the mother of a sexual abuse victim who committed suicide nearly six years ago at the age of 29. She said he was abused by their family's Catholic priest when he was 12 years old.

"Since my son's death I've become an outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse," she said.

Patterson said SNAP is asking the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church to follow its own policies for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse by having the Rev. Charles Boayue step down as pastor of Second Grace United Methodist Church in Detroit.

He is being sued by a former church deacon, Joy Veronica Reyes Singer, for alleged sexual abuse in 2003.

Church officials have not adequately investigated the case, she said.

"Denial is very, very deadly in this process," she said.

The letter from SNAP also asks for suspension of the Rev. Robert Selberg, currently a visitation pastor in the Plymouth United Methodist Church.

Curt Szajnecki said Saturday he is making his first public complaint against his family's former minister after a nine-year struggle with the United Methodist Church. He said Selberg sexually harassed his four daughters and caused his wife to divorce him. Selberg then secretly married his wife, Szajnecki said.

He passed out copies of a Dec. 14 order from Wayne County Probate Court settling a lawsuit on behalf of his 14-year-old daughter against the church for alleged harassment by Selberg from 1997 through 2003. The amount paid by the church's insurance provider was not revealed.

A bishop of the Michigan Conference placed Selberg in therapeutic counseling for one year. After the counseling concluded last year, he said, Selberg was transferred to the Plymouth church. Szajnecki said Selberg is in a position to repeat his behavior with other children in a church where members are not aware of his background.

"If an independent, thorough investigation of this family's charges is not carried out, others may be in jeopardy," said the letter from SNAP to Bishop Keaton.

Szajnecki said he first reported the harassment of his daughters and seduction of his wife in 1996.

Church policy calls for a response team to investigate sexual abuse claims and attend to the needs of sexual abuse victims, he said.

"I'm still waiting after nine years for this response team to show up," he said.

"I'm here today on behalf of children's rights, of adults' rights and of victims' rights," Szajnecki said.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests