A man has filed a complaint against a prominent Episcopalian church, claiming that its female assistant minister seduced him with nude Skype dates and assurances that the Man Upstairs didn't mind what was going on downstairs. "God brought you to me," 33-year-old Rev. Ginger Strickland allegedly told 34-year-old Erik Campano.
“I felt betrayed by my church, which was supposed to enforce rules against pastors having relationships with parishioners,” Campano says. Here's how the paper alleges the relationship began:
Strickland, from a Texas oil baron’s family, and Campano, from Queens, met in late 2010 at the American Church in Paris, where she held a job leading a youth ministry. He was going to medical school, attended services, and—at Strickland’s urging, he said—became a church volunteer. Over several months, Campano says, Strickland first engaged him in e-mail discussions dripping with pastoral concern and advice for coping with his studies and his mother’s cancer. He says he resisted her invitations to socialize. Finally, alone in a gym after an outing with a jogging club, she leaned over to kiss him, the start of a four-month affair.
In one e-mail, Strickland mocked a seminary course on sexual harassment.
“Formally [it’s] called ‘Preventing Ministerial Misconduct.’ Informally—‘Don’t Do the Pew.’ It was super awkward,” she wrote him.
She also jokingly cited a “theological justification” for their unholy hookups, loosely quoting Martin Luther: “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Sin boldly! Be a sinner and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger.”
According to Campano, after Strickland moved to New York, they continued to chat on Skype, but refused to see him in November, saying she needed "space." Strickland was then ordained in December. The paper says the breakup "left him so devastated emotionally and spiritually that he considered suicide."
Campano's case was initially dismissed by the Church, but it's currently getting a second look by the US Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, who happens to be a woman.
[UPDATE // 4/24/14] In an email, Campano says that the Post story is false. "This was a serious sexual assault, not an affair gone wrong," he writes. Campano touches on his experience in an op-ed for The Columbia Spectator entitled, "What Many Men Don't Understand About Sexual Assault."