Home Christian News UMC Settles Sex Abuse Case Involving Former New York Pastor, Foster Parent...

UMC Settles Sex Abuse Case Involving Former New York Pastor, Foster Parent Who Ran a Clown Business

The First United Methodist Church, formerly the First Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 7 Elm Street at Bleecker Square in Gloversville, New York, was built from 1869 to 1870 and was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by Horatio Nelson White. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The building was sold to another religious organization in 2000, but has been vacant since then. Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The United Methodist Church (UMC), along with New York’s Warren County, has reached a financial settlement in a sexual abuse case dating back almost 50 years. Troy resident John Smith claimed that Richard A. Reynolds, a former UMC pastor who also served as his foster parent, sexually abused him as a child.

According to information from Smith’s lawyers, the settlement included $750,000 from Warren County and $125,000 from the UMC. Neither entity provided comments to local news outlets about the settlement. ChurchLeaders has reached out to the UMC for comment and will update this article in the event of any reply.

Reynolds was also the subject of a similar lawsuit filed in Fulton County, New York. The terms of the settlement in that case haven’t been disclosed.

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Church Failed to Report Sexual Abuse

Richard Reynolds, 82, served at North Creek Methodist Church in North Creek, New York, and First United Methodist Church in Gloversville, New York. After retiring 25 years ago, he ran a clown business, performing at children’s events.

Smith’s lawsuit alleged that Reynolds, his foster parent, abused him from 1978 to 1981, starting when Smith was 11 years old. Although the statute of limitations had expired, Smith was able to sue under New York’s Child Victims Act.

North Creek Methodist Church, now permanently closed, owned a foster home, according to Smith’s attorneys. They allege that the UMC let Reynolds remain in ministry despite knowing about his abusive behavior.

“The church sent Reynolds for sexual deviancy treatment, and then allowed Reynolds back into its congregation to continue serving in leadership positions where he would have access to children,” said Vincent Nappo, an attorney for Smith. “The church never reported Reynolds to law enforcement, and in fact, pleaded with the victim’s family to keep the abuse silent out of fear of bad publicity.”

During its investigation, Nappo’s law firm indicated, “multiple foster children came forward” to allege sexual abuse by Reynolds. The mother of one alleged victim reportedly wrote a lengthy letter to church leaders, claiming that Reynolds admitted to abusing her son. The UMC’s response to her included excerpts from the denomination’s Book of Discipline, plus a request to keep the concerns “private.”

Former UMC Pastor: ‘That Was a Long, Long Time Ago’

When a Times Union reporter contacted Richard Reynolds for comment, the former pastor said, “Well, that was a long, long time ago, and I’m 82 now, and I’m getting a tinge of Parkinson’s, I think.” Reynolds, who said he closed his clown business during the pandemic, added, “You’re going to write an article, which is not going to look good for me, is that right?”