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Saturday, November 10, 2001

Pastor faces charges of sexual assault, indecency with a child

FORT WORTH (AP) - A former North Texas pastor has been indicted on counts of sexual assault and indecency with three children, and police say allegations against the man go back at least 10 years.

Evidence collected at Jon Warnshuis' house in Argyle has led to accusations that he sexually abused at least five boys in Argyle, Grapevine and Laredo, police say.

On Thursday, a Denton County grand jury returned three indictments against Warnshuis, 41, alleging two counts of indecency with a child, eight counts of sexual assault and four counts of aggravated sexual assault, District Attorney Bruce Isaacks said.

Argyle Police Chief William Tackett said the indictments involve three children at Oak Hills Evangelical Free Community Church near Argyle, where Warnshuis was pastor for four years.

Warnshuis, who has declined to be interviewed, is in Denton County Jail with bail set at $360,000.

An investigation of Warnshuis' past reveals an on-again, off-again minister exiled from churches and Dallas Theological Seminary because of his sexual behavior with children, documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicate.

In the mid-1980s, Warnshuis moved from California to Texas, where he worked toward a master's degree in divinity from Dallas Theological Seminary, officials have said.

Warnshuis was to have graduated in 1988, but allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior led to his expulsion, Donald Campbell, president emeritus of the seminary, has said.

After leaving the seminary, Warnshuis was treated by a clinical psychologist in Richardson, according to court documents. Campbell has said that Warnshuis was allowed to return to the seminary and graduated in 1992.

But neither Warnshuis' history of counseling nor his expulsion from seminary were mentioned to officials of Oak Hills Evangelical Free Community Church, where he was hired as interim pastor in 1996.

"While school policy prohibits recommending any student to churches looking for pastors and staff, the alumni office regularly responds to requests for alumni resumes filed in our placement system," the seminary said in a statement released Friday. "Not only was Jon Warnshuis not in the placement system, according to placement office logs, which note every query, no church or person _ including Oak Hills Evangelical Free Community Church _ ever called to inquire about him."

A year later, Warnshuis was promoted to senior pastor. He was fired just before being arrested in August.

Last summer, he took a church mission trip to Laredo, where he came into contact with an 11-year-old who says he was sexually assaulted, police said.

On Oct. 25, Grapevine police filed probable cause warrants against Warnshuis alleging aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault of a child.

Police are also investigating accusations of sexual assault of boys at a church that Warnshuis attended in the early 1980s in Escondido, Calif.

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