Complainants say ‘man of God’ guided them to have sex

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In April, 2008, Royden Wood — the former senior pastor of the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church in London, Ontario — was convicted of beating three boys who attended the church’s alternative school in the 1980s and grabbing the breasts of two church members.

Wood was sentenced to one year in jail and three years’ probation.

He faces six more sexual assault charges.

The London Free Press reports

While a church pastor, Royden Wood liked to compare himself to David, the Old Testament king who had 1,000 wives.

From the pulpit in the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church, he would preach about the king and would tell his flock that women’s breasts weren’t sexual and that God wouldn’t be upset about adultery.

Complainants at his London sexual assault trial say Wood was practising what he preached.

On Tuesday, the once-revered pastor, now 62, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, sat in a London court on charges he sexually assaulted five women members of his church before it closed in the fall of 2007.

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Rollings said in his opening statement the primary issue to be decided by the jury is “whether consent was freely given by each or any complainant.”

The first witness, a 62-year old woman whose identity is protected by court order, said it wasn’t.

In a second London Free Press report, Jane Sims says

The pastor pushed for physical affection and freely allowed congregants to give each other back rubs during services. Part of his program, revealed in a sermon around 2000, instructed the flock that it was fine to ask a church member of the opposite sex to go out for coffee or a meal.

One woman, who testified at the former Ambassador Baptist Church pastor’s sexual assault trial, said she tried to go along with it. She knew other women in the church went out with Wood frequently.

She walked up to him and asked him to go out for coffee.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Wood said to her.

That began a change in the relationship between the 47-year-old happily married woman and church member for more than two decades and the minister who insinuated himself into the lives of all his church members. And that change, she said, was sexual. […]

The woman, whose identity is protected by court order, was the second to describe Wood’s persistent sexual advances and how she believed she couldn’t say no to him because of his position in the church and his closeness to God.

“I can’t emphasize enough the power he had over us, the control he had,” she said. “I don’t think the average person could understand what life was like in that church. In hindsight, it was close to being a cult.”

Wood knew everything about every church member – from their finances to their sex lives. The biggest fear, the woman said, was to displease Wood and be kicked out of the church.

The first woman who testified also said

Wood had such control on her life, she couldn’t tell him to stop. She saw first-hand how people were ostracized once they left the church, that he said was “Bible believing and soul winning.” She never left the church until it closed because she was too scared to leave.

The woman admitted she wrote a letter of support for Wood for another court proceeding in 2008. “I felt I had to do it,” she said.

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014