In what may be the largest per capita clergy abuse settlement ever, nine victims will receive $36.8 million from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod and two former officials. The civil case follows the conviction of Gerald P. Thomas, former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, Texas, for sex crimes against children. An additional $32 million out-of-court settlement was reached before the trial ended. Total awards amounted to nearly $69 million awarded to 14 victims.
Individual awards ranged from $50,000 to $9.8 million depending on medical needs and the amount of abuse suffered. The settlements involve Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Ohio, a Michigan candidacy committee that ordained Thomas, Good Shepherd Church, the Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod, and Bishop Mark Herbener of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod and his assistant Earl Eliason. According to the ELCA, the 5 million-member denomination will pay $8 million of the total settlement.