Bi­ble camp cuts ties with ex-preacher

Sus­pect who was on board of di­rec­tors re­signed within days of be­ing ar­rested

The Province - - NEWS - DAN FU­MANO dfu­mano@post­media.com twit­ter.com/fu­mano

A pop­u­lar bi­ble camp on Van­cou­ver Is­land is pub­licly sev­er­ing ties with Sa­muel Emer­son, the for­mer Sur­rey preacher fac­ing dozens of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual of­fences.

Emer­son was, un­til shortly af­ter his ar­rest in May, a di­rec­tor of the Cowichan River Bi­ble Camp, the same pop­u­lar camp he at­tended as a child more than two decades ago.

Emer­son, 34, and his wife Made­laine, 37, were ar­rested in May and then charged last month with 28 counts in­clud­ing sex­ual as­sault and be­ing in a po­si­tion of au­thor­ity and touch­ing a young per­son for a sex­ual pur­pose. Most of the of­fences are al­leged to have taken place in Sur­rey, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment filed in court, which is where Emer­son was a pas­tor at the Cloverdale Chris­tian Fel­low­ship. But one of the al­leged sex­ual as­saults, the court doc­u­ments state, oc­curred in or near Cowichan Bay, B.C. be­tween July and Au­gust of 2014.

There is no in­di­ca­tion any of the al­leged of­fences took place at the Cowichan Camp or had any­thing to do with the camp or its par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion. None of the al­le­ga­tions have been tested in court.

In ad­di­tion to Emer­son’s long­time po­si­tion as a pas­tor in Cloverdale, he was a mem­ber of the Cowichan River Bi­ble Camp’s board of di­rec­tors for five years start­ing in 2012, Canada Rev­enue Agency fil­ings show. Emer­son is listed as a di­rec­tor on the bi­ble camp or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most re­cent fil­ing, but a camp rep­re­sen­ta­tive told Post­media this week that Emer­son re­signed from the po­si­tion in May, within days of po­lice re­ceiv­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct, ar­rest­ing the Emer­sons, and re­leas­ing them with strict con­di­tions.

The pair were for­mally charged in Septem­ber, with the 28 counts in­volv­ing at least five vic­tims. Sa­muel’s charges in­clude sev­eral counts of sex­ual as­sault and one count of sex­ual touch­ing of a per­son un­der the age of 16, while Made­laine faces a to­tal of three charges, in­clud­ing sex­ual as­sault and one count of mak­ing threats of bod­ily harm or death. Last week, the Sur­rey RCMP is­sued a pub­lic ap­peal for more vic­tims to come for­ward.

Af­ter find­ing Emer­son’s name listed in the Cowichan River Bi­ble Camp’s pub­lic fil­ings to the Canada Rev­enue Agency, Post­media con­tacted the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s man­age­ment to in­quire about Emer­son’s work with the camp.

In re­sponse, camp gen­eral di­rec­tor Ger­ald Wall sent an emailed state­ment say­ing: “In the light of un­fold­ing in­for­ma­tion and charges in­volv­ing Sa­muel and Made­laine Emer­son, we first want to ex­tend our prayers and sup­port for the vic­tims of these re­ported (al­leged) events. Words do not soften the pain of those vic­tim­ized or take away the shock of those on the pe­riph­ery.

“When the first news of these al­le­ga­tions were brought to light the Emer­sons were re­moved from our sum­mer guest speaker lineup and Sa­muel re­signed his po­si­tion on the Board of Di­rec­tors. They have not been to camp since,” Wall said in the email. “We know that only a small por­tion of the Emer­son’s itin­er­ary in­volved time at Cowichan Camp, but we would en­cour­age any­one who may have been a vic­tim of the ac­cused to reach out to the au­thor­i­ties.”

The Cowichan Bi­ble Camp wanted to limit its re­sponse while the RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ued, Wall said, but he em­pha­sized the camp has more than 60 years of his­tory and “thou­sands of great, kind and trust­wor­thy in­di­vid­u­als and lead­ers who have and con­tinue to make Cowichan Camp a great place.”

Thou­sands of campers in­clud­ing chil­dren, youths and their fam­i­lies, pass through the camp each sum­mer, Wall said. He had not been con­tacted by the RCMP, but would “ab­so­lutely” co­op­er­ate with them if he was.

The Emer­son fam­ily’s con­nec­tion with the Cowichan Camp goes back decades. Sa­muel Emer­son be­gan at­tend­ing the camp as a child, said his fa­ther Randy, the se­nior pas­tor at the Cloverdale Chris­tian Fel­low­ship. Sa­muel at­tended as a camper dur­ing sum­mers while he was grow­ing up, and as a teenager served a brief stint as a camp coun­sel­lor long be­fore he was ever a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors.

In a video on the Cowichan Camp web­site, en­ti­tled “Sum­mer Promo Video 2017,” a man, iden­ti­fied by a for­mer Cloverdale church mem­ber as Randy Emer­son, ap­pears in the video and says: “Lots of the peo­ple from our church have had en­coun­ters with Christ here.” Later in the video, a younger man, iden­ti­fied by the same for­mer church mem­ber as Sa­muel Emer­son, is shown preach­ing on a stage.

The video in­cludes im­ages of adults and kids tak­ing part in typ­i­cal sum­mer camp ac­tiv­i­ties such as archery and camp­fires, as well as re­li­gious rit­u­als like adults bap­tiz­ing chil­dren in a river.

There was no ev­i­dence to sug­gest there were other vic­tims in the Cowichan area or that the “area was tar­geted by the sus­pects,” a Sur­rey RCMP rep­re­sen­ta­tive said in an email, adding that the Emer­sons’ next court ap­pear­ance sched­uled for Oct. 31.

Sa­muel and Made­laine Emer­son are fac­ing more than two dozen sex charges.

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