parishioners react to abuse charges
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 5, 2002)
MOUNT KISCO — Parishioners at the Presbyterian Church of
Mount Kisco yesterday were coming to grips with revelations
that their former pastor was charged by the presbytery with
sexually abusing eight boys.
Richard Farrell, 69, a church member, couldn't miss the
headlines in newspapers or the stories on television over
allegations against Jack Miller that the Hudson River
Presbytery announced Tuesday.
"I can't comment on them because they're allegations," said
Farrell, a former chairman of the church's board of trustees.
"I do not condone the alleged actions, but I'm not about to
turn my back on an individual, no matter who he or she is, who
has been a friend."
The eight charges, unveiled at the presbytery's regional
meeting at Webb Horton Memorial Presbyterian Church in
Middletown, outline abuse of boys under 18. Among the
allegations are that Miller invited a child into the shower
with him, that he had oral sex with a minor on numerous
occasions over two years and that he made inappropriate sexual
remarks and propositions.
Miller resigned last month amid the allegations. Some of
the former pastor's supporters, including Edward Manley, said
they had thought that once Miller stepped down, the charges
would have been kept under wraps.
"This whole thing is so upsetting," said Manley, 64, of
Chappaqua. "I thought this whole thing would go to rest, and
Miller was removed as pastor in August over the
allegations, the first of which was filed in March, according
to the presbytery.
He wrote in a Nov. 9 resignation letter to his former flock
that he decided he would step down to avoid a divisive church
He also acknowledged his homosexuality in the letter.
Upon stepping down, Miller said he was going to continue to
work for worthy causes. In 1982, he co-founded Lexington
Center for Recovery, a substance-abuse program based in Mount
Two years ago, he started Neighbors Link, a community
center for low-income residents, which is also in Mount Kisco.
About a month ago, Miller resigned as president of
Neighbors Link to become executive director of the center — a
job he'll start on Jan. 1, said Sheelah Hyland, the center's
He'll have more say in the day-to-day operations of
Neighbors Link, including fund-raising and writing grant
applications, she said.
Hyland said the public airing of the charges won't affect
"I don't really want to make any comment on that. That's
his personal life," Hyland said. "He's a wonderful person.
He's done a lot of good in the town of Mount Kisco and in a
lot of other towns."
Elder Harriet Sandmeier, the stated clerk for the
presbytery, read the charges again yesterday at the Mount
Kisco church before parishioners who packed into a meeting
But before she could give her report, one man who said he'd
already heard it at Webb Horton left the room, calling the
report "a disgrace." Others filed out behind him.
"Perhaps you have asked, 'What about my son? What about my
daughter?' " Sandmeier said after reading the charges.
Miller's lawyer, David Montgomery, took aim at the
presbytery's judicial process, saying little was done to
investigate the credibility of the former pastor's accusers.
"What's being aired here in this sacred space is
unsubstantiated, unproven allegations," Montgomery said. "Some
of them are true. Jack has admitted that. Many of them are not
The charges didn't say when the alleged abuse occurred, but
Montgomery said they were more than 15 years old, meaning the
allegations couldn't be used as the basis for criminal
The reading of the charges means that the church's
oversight of the matter is now finished, Sandmeier said.
"Miller would have been better off going to trial because
what he tried to avoid happened anyway, and you only get one
side of the issue," said Farrell, who criticized the Mount
Kisco church leaders for keeping the congregation in the dark
over the allegations for months.
Even though Miller, 58, a Pound Ridge resident, sidestepped
a trial when he left the ministry, Sandmeier has said it was
still her duty under church policies to report the matter to
the presbytery, which easily passed a vote to disclose the
charges. After she gave her presentation, she suggested that
having the charges aired publicly could help start a healing
Miller had written in his Nov. 9 letter that he didn't want
the allegations to harm a movement to defy a church provision
that would keep gays and those having intimate relationships
outside of marriage from holding leadership positions in the
"My reaction is very similar to many of the members — very,
very sad — and (I) feel almost devastated by many aspects of
the case," said church member Nathan Nahm, 63, of Chappaqua.
"He admitted he did some inappropriate behavior. So he
resigned after that. This publicity thing makes me even
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