22 Feb 2008

Pastor denies abuse claims / Breast fondling greeting recalled

Canoe (Canada), February 20,21,22, 2008
by Jane Sims, Sun Media

Witness says he left the church after seeing inappropriate behaviour on the pastor's part.

It was not the "affection program" former Ambassador Church member Richard Leblanc had envisioned when his church leader described it.

At the front of the church, under the pulpit, his revered pastor, Roy Wood was entangled in a 20-minute embrace with a female member, his waist thrust forward into hers and her arms around his neck.

A month after seeing that, he said at Wood's Superior Court trial in London yesterday, he left the church he'd believed in for more than 20 years.

LeBlanc, one of Ambassador Baptist Church's original members, was clearly shaken at testifying for the Crown at the trial of his former pastor.

"Saying these things here would be easier to say against my father," he said, tears in his eyes, to assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk.

"I didn't go to bed last night because I didn't want to be here."

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 involving a "self-control" discipline program imposed on three boys in the church's alternative school between 1985 and 1987, and three sex- related charges involving females.

The case has focused on the activities of the now-defunct church at King and Adelaide streets and some of the unusual ideas of its leader.

Yesterday, Superior Court Justice Templeton lifted a publication ban on the names of the three boys after assistant Kierluk indicated he wouldn't seek a permanent ban.

Now men, the boys - John Melonis, 35, and brothers Richard Howell, 34 and Norman Howell, 36 - have testified to being ordered to stand at attention for hours, run laps around the block, have hair pulled from their faces with fingers and pliers and be hit on the shoulder repeatedly. They also described "the basement treatment," the most extreme discipline where they were punched in the stomach.

LeBlanc, who left the church in the late 1990s, testified to seeing some of these disciplines, but nothing extreme, and added the boys were proud of their self-control.

Wood said at church he was helping the boys become men.

LeBlanc, instructed by Wood once to punch Richard Howell, said he had "complete trust in Roy at that time."

In cross-examination, Wood, representing himself without a lawyer, reminded LeBlanc four types of affection were taught, although he could only remember three, including physical.

Kierluk asked LeBlanc about church members who left and how Wood would talk about them from the pulpit.

When members left, LeBlanc said, they lost their family and friends. Personal conversations with Wood were leaked.

The affection program was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for LeBlanc. He stood up to voice his concerns.

When LeBlanc left, Wood told the members he owed money and passed bad cheques, LeBlanc said.

"I snuck out the back door like you told me to," LeBlanc told Wood.

The trial continues today.

Breast fondling greeting recalled

It seemed like unusual behaviour inside a church.

The adolescent girls who attended the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church had come up with "the Ambassador handshake," a woman at the trial of the former senior pastor Royden Wood said yesterday.

It comprised of three parts.

"Handshake," they'd say, and shake hands.

"Man-shake," they'd say, and grab their hands with thumbs locked.

"Milkshake," they'd say, and grab each other's breasts.

Six years ago, said the 20-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by court order, the three-part "handshake" was common in the main sanctuary of the church.

So was coming up behind a girl and undoing their bra.

"It was very funny to do it to me because I am a larger girl," she said.

And twice, she said, she had her bra lifted at the front by Wood.

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 involving alleged assaults on three boys between 1985 and 1987 when they were under a "self-control" program devised by Wood when they were students at the church's alternative school.

The other three charges --two of sexual assault and one of sexual interference -- involved two of the female witnesses yesterday.

One of them testified to having her breast touched by Wood, then having him comment on its size, during conversation.

The 20-year-old was a life-long member of the church and was close to Woods until her parents decided to leave the church.

She described being 14 and standing with her mother in the main sanctuary of the church speaking to Wood and his wife.

"Don't move," he told the girl, then put his finger under her bra and lifted it over her breasts.

"I didn't move," she said. "I didn't know what he was going to do."

She said she didn't react. She turned around and put herself back together.

"I think we left shortly after," and added she didn't think much more about it.

Two years later, after the family had left the congregation when she was 16, Wood visited their home.

On his way out, she said, she went to give him a goodbye hug when he said, "Don't move."

She said he lifted her bra and said, "Look, two sets."

She said she laughed, but told assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk she wouldn't consent to that activity.

She said she never discussed the event with anyone until she talked about it with her mother.

She told Kierluk her mother and siblings were sad to leave Ambassador in 2003. Her father made the decision to leave the congregation.

She said they knew "in no time no one would talk to us."

When they attended other churches, she said, it was "nice to have someone not come up and undo your bra or comment on your breast size."

The trial continues today.

Witness testifies former pastor 'very much in charge' at church

It was supposed to be the men who made the decisions at the now defunct Ambassador Baptist Church.

But ultimately, one female church member testified yesterday, Pastor Roy Wood was "very much in charge" and made the decisions.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton heard from the woman who testified to a range of activities at the church while she was a long-term member.

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 of which involve assaults on three boys who were pupils at the church's alternative school that operated between 1985 and 1987.

The other three charges --two of sexual assault and one of sexual interference -- involve breast-grabbing of two women in the congregation.

The witness yesterday said women were not given any position of authority within the church's structure, which followed some Biblical scripture that said men were to be the head of the households and the church.

In the early days of the church, the men would meet to discuss issues. But soon, Wood found the meetings "too problematic," she said.

Church members thought it was the men making the financial decisions, but the witness said it was Wood, who had "a good business mind" and "a distaste for legalities and red tape."

Church votes were usually on issues that Wood didn't have any opinion on, although, the congregation agreed to the paint colour he and his wife picked for the the church at Adelaide and King streets.

Wood took over the church school as teacher, even though, the woman said, "formal education was not valued highly."

Wood said he had trouble in Bible college and thought education should be at home and at church, not at schools.

The woman said she saw the boys -- brothers Richard and Norman Howell and John Milonas -- disciplined by Wood, when they were ordered to run around the block and stand at attention.

"Roy made it apparent they were sloppy, lazy and disrespectful," she said.

The trial continues today.




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