A Presbyterian official who stunned delegates at a church convention in June by resigning from a top post soon after his election has been cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation involving charges of sexual misconduct.
The Rev. W. Clark Chamberlain of Houston, a Texas regional official of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was cleared by a special five-member committee that reported no "probable grounds" for finding him guilty of misconduct.
Chamberlain, 45, resigned as stated clerk the day after defeating the incumbent at the church's General Assembly in Milwaukee. James Andrews was then reelected.
The committee report was accepted by the Permanent Judicial Committee of the church's New Covenant Presbytery in Texas, in effect clearing Chamberlain's name.
The decision was announced last Saturday at a regular presbytery meeting at Bellaire Presbyterian Church in Houston and was greeted by a brief standing ovation by about 300 Presbyterians present. Because of his church position, Chamberlain was seated on the dais at the front of the sanctuary.
As is customary in cases of alleged misconduct, church officials kept the name of Chamberlain's accuser confidential. But in late June, Presbyterian publications quoted Chamberlain as saying that the accusations had been leveled by an employee of the church's General Assembly office in Louisville.
Chamberlain would have headed that office had he not resigned as stated clerk.
Chamberlain said he had been vindicated with "no cloud over" his head. He said he hopes the nature of the complaint will not make it "psychologically impossible" for everyone to take that perspective.
"I think we have a good system," said Chamberlain, who teaches philosophy at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Tex. "We certainly have to care for people. If anything, we have in the past often made the mistake of covering up or trying to be very quiet about things."
He joined other church officials in saying that allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment must be investigated because of their seriousness.
Officials urged Presbyterians to "exercise confidentiality" and "avoid rumor and innuendo" in the future when such cases arise.
"The unusual pain involved in such cases warrants the prayerful and pastoral response of the church," according to a statement by the Rev. Thomas K. Tewell of Houston, head of the special disciplinary committee.