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Church responds to pastor's arrest

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

The governing authority over a local church congregation has publicly decried the Aug. 4 arrest of one of its members on child sex charges.

Samuel Walsham Chapman, 58, of Decatur, is being held without bond in the Clayton County Jail on child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes charges. He has a $5,000 bond for solicitation of sodomy in the same case.

Chapman told police he worked at Riverdale Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Jonesboro. At the time of his arrest, Chapman was identified as one of the pastors on the church's web site.

However, church officials said, Thursday, that Chapman was a volunteer and has been removed from that position. Elder William L. Winston, executive secretary for the South Atlantic Conference, said the church's governing authority is cooperating with the police investigation.

"The South Atlantic Conference does not condone child abuse in any form," said Winston. "At the time of his arrest, Mr. Chapman was not an employee of, or selected for his volunteer position by the South Atlantic Conference. Mr. Chapman has been suspended from volunteering any further with the church."

Warrants allege that Chapman took a 15-year-old boy to the parking lot of Tara Stadium in March and performed a sexual act in front of him. Chapman asked the boy to perform oral sex on him, but the boy refused, according to the warrant.

The boy told his mother and grandmother, May 4, about the alleged incident. Officials conducted a forensic interview with the boy, which led to the filing of charges Aug. 1.

Winston said families should continue to feel comfortable reaching out to their church for support and guidance.

"The conference wholeheartedly encourages families to talk about child abuse, and to rely on the church for support, love and spiritual guidance in dealing with these very serious issues," he said. "As such, the South Atlantic Conference provides counseling services through our children's and families' ministries to encourage healing through faith in Jesus Christ."

According to court records, Chapman is being represented by Atlanta attorney J. Kevin Franks. Franks did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.