The pastor of a Chicago church has resigned after confessing to sexually abusing an underage female relative when he was a teenager, saying he owns his “sin of sexual abuse.”
Charles W. Lyons, who led the 400-member congregation at Armitage Baptist Church for the last 45 years, resigned in July after telling church leaders two years earlier about his misconduct, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“I own my sexual abuse,” Lyons, 68, told the outlet Wednesday. “It’s awful. It’s ugly. It’s terrible. I would give 10 lifetimes to erase it.”
Criminal charges have not filed against Lyons in connection to the abuse, which occurred in the 1960s, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
While he still grieves for the victim, Lyons said the sexual abuse was not an automatically “disqualifying” offense from the church, claiming it had nothing to do with his ministry or service as a pastor.
A pastor at Armitage Baptist told the newspaper that Lyons “confessed” to his fellow church officials about the abuse in October 2017. Relatives of the victim then contacted the church in April 2018, leading it to launch a formal investigation, Pastor Leandro Gomez told the Tribune.
Several months later, in October 2018, Lyons was given a leave of absence while church leaders contacted the victim and attorneys. They also interviewed congregants to ensure that no churchgoers were victimized by Lyons, Gomez said.
Lyons’ decision to step down was described as “multifaceted and largely spurred by unresolved concerns” about his leadership and the sexual abuse he committed years before leading the church, according to a statement posted on its website.
“We acknowledge the pain that many people have felt throughout this process, and we continue to pray for all the parties involving trusting in the healing and restorative power of God,” the statement read.
Lyons, who said he has apologized to the relative, told the Tribune he informed church leaders about his transgression when his family started talking about the abuse again several decades later.
“The world has changed with ‘Me Too,’” Lyons told the newspaper. “Our culture is different. People’s perspectives have shifted significantly. People have a heightened awareness and sensitivity to anything deemed sexually inappropriate … and anything that might fall in an abuse category.”
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