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UCCtruths

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Toro to face 6 felony charges

Thursday, March 29, 2007

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A former Methodist pastor who joined the United Church of Christ and rose to national leadership positions after leaving Wisconsin has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in 1987 while pastor of a church in Rice Lake.

Angel R. Toro, 56, is scheduled to appear April 25 in Barron County Circuit Court in northwestern Wisconsin on four felony counts of third-degree sexual assault and two felony counts of child enticement.

Toro, who apparently left Wisconsin in 1989, was pastor of the First United Methodist Church from about 1987 until his departure, said Rice Lake police Detective Chris Fitzgerald.

The incidents are alleged to have occurred on two days in a church washroom and church office after Toro picked the boy up to do work at the church and bought beer for them to drink, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Toro was granted ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ in October 1997 and became pastor of Chapel on the Hill in Seminole, near St. Petersburg, Fla., said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a national church spokesman.

Acclaimed for increasing attendance there from about 30 people to 500 people, Toro has served on the denomination's 90-member executive council, was on the team that implemented the "God is still speaking" national identity campaign and is a past president of the Local Church Ministries Board, one of the denomination's four national ministry boards.

Toro, who says he is innocent of the charges, had been on a leave of absence as pastor since late January. On March 19 he resigned his ministerial standing with the United Church of Christ and his position as pastor out of concern for the church, the Rev. Jean Simpson, regional conference minister for the Gulf Coast of Florida, said Wednesday. To be reinstated, he would need to undergo a fitness review.

Time limits extended

Toro was able to be charged because he left Wisconsin to live in another state, which stops the clock on the time limits within which a person can be charged.

Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a release praising prosecutors and saying that Toro will be the 15th clergyman brought back to Wisconsin to face child molestation charges since 2002.

If Toro fails to appear in court in April, an arrest warrant will be issued, Fitzgerald said.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, March 29, 2007

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