PCA pastor accused of sexually harassing churchgoers to be tried in ecclesiastical high court

Dan Herron
Pastor Dan Herron speaks at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois in August 2020. |

A pastor with the Presbyterian Church in America who filed a defamation lawsuit against a group of women who accused him of sexual harassment will have a case against him brought before the denomination's highest court.

Dan Herron, the founding pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana, will have his case brought before the PCA Standing Judicial Commission, a church body comprised of 12 teaching elders and 12 ruling elders.

The hearing comes amid allegations that the Central Indiana Presbytery mishandled the allegations.

Commission Chairman Rev. Fred Greco sent a letter on June 3 to Central Indiana Presbytery Stated Clerk Rev. Taylor Bradbury regarding Herron's case.

Greco outlined the stipulations for the hearing, which include the presbytery having to "provide the prosecutor for the case" and that the SJC's Trial Arrangements Commission will "be tasked with considering arrangements for conducting the trial and report to the SJC at the earliest possible date."

The allegations date back to 2019 when five accusers wrote a letter to the presbytery highlighting their allegations against Herron.

A commission reviewing the allegations voted unanimously in 2020 to issue a statement declaring "the commission does not believe that the accusations rise to the level of a chargeable offense."

In February, Josh Holowell, who served as a prosecutor in the presbytery's ecclesiastical trial, resigned from the case. In a letter, he cited "the inability of the Central Indiana Presbytery to render justice" and his "own personal weariness from the constant opposition to the pursuit of justice and truth." 

"The rules of discipline as laid out in the Book of Church Order have been ignored to the benefit of the accused on multiple occasions," Holowell wrote. "The bias of this Presbytery has made the rendering of justice in this ecclesiastical court impossible."  

Last year, Herron filed a defamation lawsuit against two women who accused him of harassment. A jury trial in the case is slated to begin in April 2023. The presbytery initially punished Herron for taking the matter to the secular court system but that discipline was eventually reversed, according to The Roys Report. 

According to Sarah Einselen of The Roys Report, an "unprecedented number" of PCA presbyteries claimed the Central Indiana Presbytery "botched the matter" as both parties have alleged flaws in the investigation. 

Last year, the independent Indiana University student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, published a report detailing the multiple allegations of abuse leveled against Herron by former attendees of his church. 

Kara Million, one of the accusers, told IDS that she spoke with at least 10 people who had complained to the church about Herron's alleged behavior.

In January 2020, Herron resigned as pastor from Hope but remained an elder.

Although an initial investigation into the allegations concluded in February 2020 that Herron had "no strong presumption of guilt," a new investigation was launched that same month after allegations the case was mishandled. 

Herron denied the accusations in a statement to IDS.

"[T]he specific accusations brought against me that I am aware of, I strongly and unequivocally deny any wrongdoing attributed to my actions, words, motivations, and character," the statement reads. 

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