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NEWS DIGEST: S.C. pastor arrested on prostitution charges; Fourth victim of former Saddleback youth volunteer comes forward

Editor’s note: This story was updated after its initial publication to include information received from both churches.

South Carolina pastor arrested for ‘aiding or abetting prostitution’

SENECA, S.C. (BP) – A South Carolina pastor has been arrested for knowingly “aiding or abetting prostitution.” According to an arrest report obtained by Baptist Press, William Kannarney, 51, was arrested Feb. 7. The incident occurred in Seneca Oct. 28, 2023.

Kannarney, a resident of Liberty, S.C., was pastor of Blue Ridge View Baptist Church in Pickens. A representative from the church told Baptist Press in an email that the pastor had resigned from the church and that his letter of resignation was shared with the congregation Feb. 18.

Former Saddleback youth volunteer awaiting trial on abuse charges

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP) – A former youth volunteer at Saddleback Church in Southern California awaits a second trial for sexual abuse against two 14-year-old boys.

According to KTLA News, Ruven Meulenberg, 39, was a youth mentor at the church in 2016 and 2017, when the alleged incidents (some on church property) took place. He was arrested and charged in 2017. A third victim came forward before the trial. Saddleback is no longer a Southern Baptist church, but it was at the time of the incidents.

Meulenberg was convicted in 2018, but the conviction was overturned due to jury misconduct. A new trial has yet to be scheduled. Meanwhile, a fourth victim has come forward alleging abuse by Meulenberg.

A representative from Saddleback Church sent Baptist Press a statement that was sent to church members when the incidents first came to light in 2017. It says in part: “We are shocked and grieved to share that this week a Saddleback member reported that a student ministry volunteer had acted inappropriately with two 14-year-old boys. Of course, our staff quickly reported this accusation to our Orange County Sherriff’s Department. The next day, the volunteer was arrested on suspicion of the offense. The investigation of the accusation is now in the hands of the proper authorities.”

If you are/have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, please reach out for help at 202-864-5578 or [email protected]. All calls are confidential

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