For the past year, a pastor at a Boca Raton church has been serving up the good word from the pulpit while higher-ups in the faith look into allegations that he was sexually involved with a teenager in the 1980s.
Kirk A. McCormick has been a pastor for the past 18 years at Grace Community Church, a Presbyterian congregation on West Camino Real. But in early June, the pastor abruptly "renounced the jurisdiction" of the congregation's parent body, the Presbyterian Church (USA).
McCormick's decision came just as testimony was to begin in an inner-church trial over the accusations. By bailing from the faith, McCormick dodged the proceedings -- which leaves the matter in a kind of unresolved middle ground.
The allegations stem from McCormick's time as an assistant pastor at a church in Newport Beach, California, in the late 1980s, when McCormick was in his late 20s. The alleged victim was a 17-year-old member of the church's youth group at the time. It wasn't until 2012, in a letter addressed to the church in California, that she revealed her alleged sexual relationship with McCormick.
"I don't think she stipulated whether it was wanted or unwanted, but we stipulated that it was inappropriate," says the Rev. Ben Sorensen, an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale who steered the investigative committee that dug into the charges. After the allegations were first brought to the church's attention, Sorensen's committee began investigating. Sorensen claims that police in California were also alerted then. McCormick was allowed to continue on at Grace Community while the investigation ground on.
"It was a yearlong, incredibility thorough process, which included traveling to where the accuser was, traveling to the general vicinity of where it took place," Sorensen tells New Times. By the church's definition, sexual abuse constitutes "inappropriate sexual contact with an individual through use of the order of the ministry," he says. After a year, Sorensen's committee brought six charges against the pastor, laying the stage for a formal church trial.
According to the minutes from a June 20 meeting of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida obtained by New Times, the alleged abuse took place between June 1988 to 1990. Although the victim isn't named in the documents, the charges are specific on some of the incidents. In April 1989, there were "nights of kissing, 'dry humping' and touching of... breasts and vagina." On a trip to a water-ski camp in June 1989, McCormick was allegedly "completely naked" with the girl "while sharing sleeping bags," "rubbed his penis against" her vagina, and "ejaculated while in the sleeping bags." The charges also laid out "late night meetings" "following card games with other youth leaders where back rubs and inappropriate touching would occur."
But the facts of the case were never fully fleshed out -- at least not by the Presbytery. Before the charges could be settled in a trial, McCormick renounced the church, shutting down the church judicial process.
"[S]ince I no longer believe I can receive an honest and fair trial, and given the abject abuse of the process and my rights," McCormick wrote in his renunciation letter, "I renounce the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church USA, effective immediately."
McCormick did not return New Times' messages on his voicemail at the church. The number listed to his home address is out of service.
Another Grace Community pastor also did not return calls for comment.
No criminal charges have been filed against McCormick, and a representative from the Newport Beach Police Department tells New Times an investigation into McCormick is not currently open.
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