A New Tribes Missionary was arrested at the Orlando International Airport last Friday as he was flying in from Brazil, where he had been living for several years. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations has been investigating him for posting child pornography online. Warren Scott Kennell denied the charges at first, but later admitted to molesting four children in Brazil and photographing the incidents. It is not clear whether the children who were molested are connected with New Tribes. Here is the story from Orlando Sentinel.
New Tribes has already been linked with sexual abuse many times in the last few years. The investigation by G.R.A.C.E which ended in 2010 uncovered numerous cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by at least 12 different adults at the Fanda boarding school. Since then at least three victims have brought sex abuse lawsuits against New Tribes Mission. There is an ongoing investigation into other boarding schools where MKs have reported abuse. Apparently after all that they are still unable to stamp out the perpetrators from among their ranks.
Here is a statement by a New Tribes spokesperson published in the Sun Sentinel yesterday: “Our mission organization is one of the largest in the USA, if not the world. We work diligently to screen all applicants and have stringent child protection policies in place. We are grateful to the authorities for their actions and pledge our 100% cooperation. We defer to law enforcement for any future comments.”
New Tribes has put Kennell on administrative leave while they sort this out and “try to confirm whether there is a connection between New Tribes Mission and Kennell’s actions.” I don’t know, do YOU think there is any connection between a sexual abuser and the mission that he works for?
Kennel, who is forty five years old, is a New Tribes MK himself. He was born in Brazil where his parents served for decades. Here is Kennell’s blog, last updated May 6 of this year. I would be willing to bet he grew up a victim, as did many other MKs out there from many missions, including SIM. Obviously the “stringent policies” didn’t help to find this abuser. Would an MK get a lighter screening than a brand new missionary, or be treated differently than someone who did not grow up with the mission?
Here is what can happen when missions ignore the abuse that went on in the past and even welcome abused MKs back on board to become missionaries themselves.