Bible camp cuts ties with ex-preacher
Suspect who was on board of directors resigned within days of being arrested
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.