CLEARFIELD – A Bigler United Methodist Church pastor who has been accused of inappropriately touching and anointing a parishioner had all charges bound over by Magisterial District Judge James Hawkins at Centralized Court on Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.
Thomas Clarence Lenker, 60 of Bigler, faces charges of indecent assault and harassment, from a Sept. 18, 2009 incident at his parsonage. He was also ordered to have no contact with the victim, her husband, children and family members.
During her testimony, the alleged victim stated she’d returned home from work around 4 p.m. on the date in question. She said she found a box of peaches and the church bulletin on the floor.
She explained she was scheduled to cover for the pastor on Sunday. When reviewing the bulletin, she said she questioned a gospel reading. As a result, she said she telephoned Lenker, who confirmed he’d dropped off the readings.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Lenker said he was “disappointed” she wasn’t at home to give him a hug. She said he answered her questions about the reading and also discussed her family’s calling into the ministry.
The alleged victim then said Lenker requested to speak with her sometime, when they were both alone. She told him to go ahead, as she was alone then.
“He asked, ‘did you feel guilty that time we held each other real close and then you came,” she testified. The alleged victim said she related she was confused by his comment and thought he could’ve been referring to something from seven or eight years prior.
She said he told her when they held each other, “her muscles tightened and she came.” She said she neither felt that, nor did it occur with him in previous contact.
She related back that perhaps he felt guilty about not liking her, when he and his wife came to the church. She said she changed the subject and spoke about her back. She said it felt better but had gotten worse.
The alleged victim said Lenker requested she come to his parsonage. She said she arrived around 4:15 p.m., and he was alone at the time. She said he gave her “a really tight hug, rocked her back and forth and kissed her” once by her right temple.
“I went to see him because I trusted him sand work under him in the ministry. I trusted the man. You’re supposed to be able to trust your pastor,” she said during cross-examination.
She said Lenker was not a “hugger,” and they’d only done so a few times in the past. She said she could count the hugs that they’ve shared over the years. She said but on the date in question, his hug was different than before.
When asked under cross-examination, she also said she didn’t recall him grinding her with his pelvic area during the hug. She then indicated she didn’t consider it inappropriate or indecent assault.
According to the victim, her pastor then took her by hand, leading her into the living room. She testified observing a change in Lenker after they entered this area of the parsonage.
She said his eyes became red and blood shot and his face reddened. She said at a glance, his eyes appeared normal, when she initially arrived. In addition, she said he was breathing hard like he’d just run a marathon.
She said he sat down and patted his lap, whispering “Sit here, on my lap, like you did before.” She said she sat down on the couch, adding she’d never sat on his lap in the past. She said she related she’d remain seated on the couch.
The alleged victim said he suggested they pray. At the time, she said he placed his hand on her back and began rubbing it all over. She said he then began to rub her lower back during which his fingers were about an inch below her pants.
“He said it sometimes helps if you rub down below the area. He started to say ‘butt’ but just got the ‘b’ out,” she said. She said his fingers were not only under her pants, but also the waistband of her underwear.
She said he asked her again if she was sure she hadn’t came in reference to a prior incident. She said he “kind of chuckled and laughed,” stating he’d prayed for another woman who once denied it over and over. She said he related he knew that woman had done so, as he observed a wet spot in her pants.
The alleged victim said she began to state “Ok. Thank you. I’m going to leave.” She said she stood up and took a step to do so. But she said the pastor interrupted her before she said “leave.”
She testified that he commented ‘no, we’re not done.” She said he related if you want “increased anointing and healing,” you take all clothing off and rub the whole body naked.
“I wanted to go. I was in shock, I was numb. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I trusted him,” the victim said during cross-examination.
She said Lenker neither retrained nor threatened her, but she was “overwhelmed” by the situation. She said she didn’t verbalize or physically display any concerns.
The alleged victim continued, “I was able to talk. But he definitely had me speechless.”
At this time, she said he took her hand and led her into the dining room area. She said she was seated in a chair, while he kneeled on the floor. She said he picked up both legs and prayed again.
She said he asked her to stand up and close her eyes. She said he told her to clasp and extend her hands, while the “chiropractic angels” came and ministered.
The victim said he came behind her and whispered, “I’m going to anoint your back with oil this time. Don’t tell anybody though. It’s just between me and you.” She said he lifted her T-shirt and rubbed the oil all over her back.
She said he then put his hands on her shoulders, and his nose was almost touching her own. She said he stated repeatedly, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” She said she told him she loved her husband.
According the woman, Lanker inquired about her sex life. She said he told her they needed to “switch it up a bit.” She said he then suggested the victim and her husband engage in oral sex.
She said he related he enjoyed both giving and receiving oral sex. She said she and her husband viewed it as sinful due to teachings by minister Lester Sumrall.
She said Lenker discussed the book of Solomon. He told her in the scri ptures, Solomon wrote about the women’s lips, her flow and how he sucked her nectar.
The victim said he explained masturbation was acceptable, indicating woman could “get different flavors.” She said he told her not to tell anyone about their conversation, especially her husband.
She said Lenker said her beliefs conveyed those in the Old Covenant. She said he then related, “Now Jesus came, and it’s OK.”
She said Lenker suggested he pray for her heart. At this time, she said he placed both hands on her chest with his fingertips just below her collarbone.
Under cross-examination, she said Lenker had his hands semi-cupped. She said he didn’t fondle her breasts while praying over her heart. She said she never indicated to him that it was an inappropriate action on his part.
Tpr. Kimberly J. Ronan, of the Clearfield State Police, said Lenker admitted to “bits and pieces.” She said he told her if inappropriate touching happened, it was accidental in nature.
She testified she asked Lenker if it’s standard practice to anoint women alone. She said he related they shouldn’t have been, and it was a mistake to do so.
She said he denied engaging in sexual conversation with the victim. When asked about anointing the body naked, he said he didn’t mean her specifically. He also said he was making a reference to massage therapy.
In his closing statements, Pentz said his position was based on two areas. He said when the defendant touched the victim’s chest, he didn’t rub her in the nipple area.
“It was done over clothes. There was prayer,” he said. He said when rubbing the victim’s back, he didn’t touch her buttocks.
Pentz emphasized she also didn’t give Lenker any indication that she had experienced displeasure or indecent contact. He said he didn’t find the contact intimate or sexual.
“There has to be some sort of indication. None of that is present here,” he said.
He said they needed to look at the separate incidents within the whole. He then requested that all charges be dismissed.
Assistant District Attorney Trudy Lumadue said the defense had only considered the pieces. She said if you take a look at the whole picture, it’s actually quite clear.
“He talked about climaxing,” she said. She said Lenker touched the victim underneath her waistband.
She pointed out the victim made an indication to leave but was interrupted while doing so.
Lumadue reminded that the defendant told the victim, ‘No, we’re not done yet.’” She said the victim was numb, in shock and there out of obligation.
She said the victim succumbed to her pastor but wanted to get out the door. She said although Lenker didn’t tell her to undress, he looked at her and waited.
“He wanted to see how far he could take it with the victim,” she said. She said even if the victim didn’t indicate the inappropriateness, it had no bearing on the case.
Lumadue recommended the case head to court. Hawkins agreed, saying, “That’s what I’m going to do.”