Social Issues

Former youth pastor charged with church sex abuse

Police say a man serving as a youth pastor at Emanuel Baptist Church in South Haven had inappropriate sexual contact with two girls from the church, including one who had confided with him that she had suffered abuse at home.

Timothy Lawrence, 30, of the 700 block of McCool Road in South Haven, is charged with three felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. He had not been arrested yet as of late Friday morning.

The abuse allegedly took place between November 2013 and July 2014, according to court records.

One of the girls, who was at least 14 but younger than 16, told police Lawrence was a big part of her life because of her bad home life. She considered church her escape, police said.

She said Lawrence began touching her during a car ride home and then began texting nude photographs and a video of himself and asking her to do the same, police said. The level and instances of touching then accelerated, she said.

The girl “noted that she felt like she had to comply to Tim’s requests in order to keep him as a friend in her life,” police said.

The second girl, who was the same age, said Lawrence also sent her inappropriate text messages and photographs of himself, in addition to touching her, police said.

“She felt like she had to go along with his requests or she would lose their friendship,” police said.

Upon hearing Lawrence confirm he had abused the girls, the church pastor immediately fired him.

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