Teen reveals shocking tale of minister’s sex abuse: Church allegedly knew of charges for two years
Tuesday, May 15, 2007, The Boston Herald
P. Edward Harrison of Roxbury says that the Rev. Lawrence Brown sexually molested him more than a dozen times from the start of 2004 until February 2005. That’s when Brown reportedly confessed to sexual misconduct to officials at both South End institutions where he worked as a youth minister - Mount Calvary Baptist Church and the Emmanuel Gospel Center, according to interviews and letters obtained by the Herald.
Harrison, the son of the Rev. Shaun Harrison, was 14 and a member of Mount Calvary Baptist, where Brown continues to work as a minister, when he said the abuse began.
“He would rub my back by giving me a massage and touch my private places. He would put his hands down my shorts. . . .He had me sleep in the same bed when everyone was asleep (on a camping trip in New Hampshire) and started touching (me),” Harrison, now 18, said in a series of interviews.
Harrison said he wanted to tell his story “to put closure on this so it doesn’t happen to any other kids.”
The ordeal led to the breakup of his parents’ 27-year marriage, according to the Rev. Harrison, who said the couple bickered over pressing criminal charges. Brown is the Rev. Harrison’s wife’s first cousin. (She declined to be interviewed for this story.) The younger Harrison landed in Somerville Hospital for severe depression on Oct. 31, 2006, according to hospital records.
“This ruined my life. I wanted to die,” the youth said. “He (Brown) told me if I told, he would commit suicide. So I decided that I would commit suicide first.”
Hospital documents state that Harrison reported “sexual abuse by a male cousin in his forties working with youth. . . . DSS is referring this matter to the DA.”
But allegations of Brown’s sexual misconduct had been discussed at Mount Calvary Baptist and Emmanuel Gospel Center since early 2005. Brown allegedly confessed to sexual misconduct to the Rev. Harrison and his wife; to officials at Mount Calvary; to Doug Hall, his former boss at the gospel center; and to his friend, the Rev. Chris Sumner, the former head of the Ten-Point Coalition.
An unsigned letter to the Rev. Harrison dated May 1, 2005, purportedly from Brown, stated: “I am writing . . . to update you on what I have been doing since the day that I confessed. As you know, I have stepped down from my ministry activities. I know that God has forgiven me, but I still need to do . . . things to be healed and delivered. I also do these things because I really do want you to both know how sorry I am and that I want to even be restored in your eyes. I cannot imagine what you must feel.”
By the time Brown allegedly wrote that letter, he had been fired by the gospel center, where he had been employed as a minister since 1992. One of the center’s directors, Jeff Bass, said Brown was terminated May 6, 2005, after he “confessed.”
“(Center director) Doug Hall immediately began an investigation,” Bass said, adding that the center also set up a disciplinary committee with a Mount Calvary official. The recommendation was for Brown to attend a program at Living Waters, which is billed as “a Christ-centered program for people seeking healing in areas of sexual and relational brokenness.”
Brown went to Living Waters last year. But a criminal investigation was not launched until late December 2006, when the Suffolk district attorney’s office opened its probe. No Boston police report was ever filed.
Bass insisted his church reported the allegations to the Department of Social Services after Brown confessed in 2005. “We terminated Larry very quickly. We did what we were supposed to do and reported it to DSS,” Bass said.
Sumner said that he did not report the abuse because he assumed that the Rev. Harrison had told authorities. “I plan to cooperate fully with the district attorney’s office,” said Sumner, who now works at Children’s Hospital.
Based on its review of the agency’s records, DSS said it was first alerted to the allegations against Brown in November 2006, when Somerville Hospital staff filed a 51-A report to the agency.
A DSS case worker investigated the claims and a report recommending criminal prosecution was given to the Suffolk district attorney Dec. 6, 2006, said DSS spokeswoman, Denise Monteiro.
“The Hyde Park office began an investigation and found out that the child was not in contact with the alleged perp anymore and that the abuse had happened a while ago. We knew then that the child was safe in a hospital,” Monteiro said. “We knew we needed to pursue criminal charges. We forwarded our suspicions to the DA.”
Suffolk County spokesman Jake Wark confirmed that the DA’s Child Abuse division began its probe in December. Prosecutors are working with state police in New Hampshire, where some of the alleged abuse occurred at a church camp ground, he said.
“The very active investigation in this case is ongoing in multiple jurisdictions. We have been in close contact with law enforcement and social services agencies both locally and out of state,” Wark said. “We do not take these allegations lightly.”
Brown did not return repeated calls to his Dorchester home and Mount Calvary Baptist.
One Mount Calvary official, the Rev. George Bullock, who is the alleged victim’s grandfather, refused to say why the church did not report the substance of Brown’s alleged confession to authorities.
“I’m not interested in talking about Larry Brown and something he did two years ago. Everything was taken care of properly through the system. That’s all I am going to say,” Bullock said.
Another church official, Betty Baxter, the wife of the Rev. Parnell Baxter, was asked why the allegations were not reported - as required by law. “This boy is 18 years old,” she said. “He should have reported it himself. All the necessary steps were taken. Larry Brown went to get help, and he was reinstated recently.”
Brown’s return was not welcomed by everyone in the church. Sister Maggie Gary, 64, of Mattapan, a former Sunday school teacher at Mount Calvary Baptist, was so infuriated by his reinstatement that she left the church.
“This is what the Catholics did to their kids, acting like it’s no big deal. No one called the police. No one did anything,” Gary said. “It’s not right. He (Brown) worked with youth. He had youth readily available to him. I can’t live with that.”
See also "DA investigates teen's assault" in the Boston Globe, and
"Perp slams social service agency" in the Boston Herald.