A Texas jury has awarded nearly $37 million to nine victims who accused a Lutheran governing body of hiding the history of a pastor later convicted of child abuse. The nine plaintiffs said former Lutheran Bishop Mark Herbener and his assistant Earl Eliason should have warned Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, Texas, about allegations involving former pastor Gerald Thomas.
Thomas, who served as the church’s pastor from 1997 to 2001, is currently serving a five-year federal prison term on child pornography charges. Last year he was sentenced to an additional 397 years in state prison for 11 counts of multiple sex crimes against children.
Thomas is no longer listed on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Herbener is retired as bishop of the Northern Texas–Northern Louisiana Synod.