Richard Dean CalderwoodArticle from cjonline.com.

Case to be reviewed in Osage County District Court on Monday

An Overbrook church is being sued for allegedly aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of two children.

A court review of the case is scheduled on Monday, March 6, in Osage County District Court.

The plaintiffs in the case are four unnamed individuals, including two minors. Grace Community Church, in Overbrook, and Richard Calderwood are listed as defendants.

On Feb. 21, Calderwood, 53, was granted 36 months on probation in connection with two counts of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child in Wabaunsee County District Court. His sentence includes lifetime registration as a sex offender. According to the original criminal complaint which was filed in October 2014, the crimes took place between May 1, 2013, and Jan. 1, 2014, and involved children who were 4 and 6 years old at the time the complaint was filed.

The civil lawsuit, filed in September 2016, alleges two children attended Grace Community Church and Cultivate Community Church, which was a “plant” church supervised by GCC. GCC is located in Osage County while CCC is located in Wabaunsee County.

The plaintiffs contend Calderwood was a volunteer with both churches and allowed to supervise and access children at both churches, as well as a home where services were held on some occasions. The sexual abuse occurred between 2013 and 2014 during services and events sponsored by the church, the plaintiff’s petition reads.

Lead pastor Travis Van Meter came to Grace Community Church in September 2015 after the relationship between GCC and CCC began. His understanding of the relationship between the two churches, through looking back at church documents, was GCC was one of many churches that aided CCC financially.

Over the course of a number of years, as CCC grew and became more independent, the financial aid decreased annually and eventually ceased, he said.

“Our involvement with (CCC) was in no way in a leadership role,” Van Meter said.

Cultivate Community Church wasn’t a “plant” church supervised by Grace Community Church, GCC’s attorney Vincent Cox argues in an answer to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs allege GCC “received multiple reports of Calderwood’s inappropriate activities and boundaries with children.” However those reports were silenced and Calderwood continued to have access to minors, the petition says.

The lawsuit lists seven counts including child sexual abuse; failure to supervise children; negligent supervision, retention and failure to warn; negligent infliction of emotional distress; breach of fiduciary duty; outrage; and action for restitution. The plaintiffs ask that defendants pay for present and future expenses related to medical, psychiatric and health care that resulted from the “unlawful and improper conduct.”

Van Meter said he couldn’t comment fully on the ongoing case, but that the allegations pertaining to the church aren’t true.

“I do believe the church did their due diligence concerning the issue at hand,” he said.

In the answer to the petition, Cox denies allegations that sexual abuse took place on premises used for the church’s services and events or that they knew or should have known of any risk Calderwood posed.

Rebecca Randles, an attorney for the plaintiffs, also said Calderwood was a church Elder, a position Van Meter disputes Calderwood having.

According to Grace Community Church’s 225-page policy manual, dated Jan. 1, 2017, “The role of the Elders at Grace Community Church is to oversee all the policies of the church and guide the direction of the church in such a way that it fulfills our purpose, to glorify Christ in all things.”

Elders are recommended by pastoral staff and confirmed by the congregation, according to the manual.

Van Meter said the situation is a painful one that no one wants to go through. The church’s focus is on the gospel and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Things like this detract from that, he said.

“We’re hoping it can end amicably,” Van Meter said.

He added that the church needs to heal and that he’s confident with God’s power and peace, they will be able to.

Calderwood’s attorney, Michael Helbert, denies the sexual abuse in his answer to the plaintiff’s petition.

Randles said she believes there are more victims.


If you or someone you care about was sexually abused and you would like advice from an attorney about the rights and options for victims of child sexual abuse, please contact Crew Janci LLP today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or by using our private online form.  We will treat you with discretion and respect.

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Peter Janci

About Peter Janci

Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade.  ...