Eric L. Landram

Virginia and Pennsylvania Church of the Brethren minister sanctioned for ‘crossing boundaries’

In 2022, Eric Landram (b. 1984) was found by the denomination’s Atlantic Northeast District to have “engaged in multiple acts of crossing boundaries” with a teenage girl while in roles of authority at her church camp and congregation. As a result, the district restricted Landram’s contact with minors while he was required to engage in relevant counseling and training. Landram reportedly resigned from his new pastoral position at Elizabethtown (Pennsylvania) Church of the Brethren shortly after the determination, but he retains his status as an ordained minister in the district.

In August 2021, after a 20-year-old woman learned that Landram was interviewing for a pastoral position at Bridgewater (Virginia) Church of the Brethren, her home congregation in the Shenandoah District, she told an interim pastor that she had had harmful experiences with him. In a detailed report later submitted to investigators, she described Landram as having used his positions as a Church of the Brethren camp leader, seminary intern, and pastor, to routinely create opportunities to spend time alone with her over seven years, beginning when she was 13 years old. She said he flattered her appearance, gave her gifts, shared secrets and personal information with her, encouraged her to tell him things she didn’t tell others, and repeatedly told her that they had a special relationship and no one else could understand them.

The woman reported that in 2020, when she was 19 years old, she reached out to family members and a therapist for support and began identifying grooming patterns in the relationship with Landram. She says she subsequently blocked Landram on all mediums of communication he had used to contact her, but several weeks later he tried to resume contact with her through an email address she had not given him. After learning he was then applying for a position at the church she was attending, she decided to inform church leadership.

After receiving the woman’s report, church leaders reportedly consulted with the Shenandoah District executive, John Jantzi, and Landram did not proceed as a candidate for the position there. The woman says she asked the interim pastor for information about filing a formal complaint with the denomination, but the interim pastor did not give her that information.

Two months later, in October 2021, the woman learned that Landram was leaving his position at the Lititz Church of the Brethren to become a pastor at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, both Pennsylvania congregations that are a part of the Atlantic Northeast District. Having received no information from the Shenandoah District about how to file a complaint, she reached out to two pastors at the Elizabethtown church to express concerns about Landram, and again asked about the denomination’s process for filing a complaint. The Elizabethtown pastors reportedly told her that it would be a district-level process, but after she said she wanted to wait a number of weeks before proceeding in order to finish her school semester, they did not inform her of any next steps.

A week later, the woman learned from one of the Elizabethtown pastors that the complaint process had started without her knowledge. The pastors had reportedly spoken to Landram and then contacted the Atlantic Northeast District executive, Pete Kontra, who initiated the formal complaint process without contacting her. Kontra reportedly told her she had effectively filed the complaint by speaking with the Elizabethtown pastors.

In contrast, her earlier conversation with the pastor at her home church, and the previous involvement of the Shenandoah District executive, had not triggered a complaint process. John Jantzi from Shenandoah District and Pete Kontra from Atlantic Northeast District each confirmed to MAP that the woman’s initial report to Shenandoah leaders had been shared with Atlantic Northeast leaders, but they declined to give any further explanation as to why no further action was taken with the woman at the time.

The woman supported the Atlantic district’s investigation as she was able, speaking to the ethics committee in November 2021 and then submitting a detailed written account in January 2022. In February, Kontra informed her that the district had substantiated “inappropriate actions” by Landram and outlined steps that would be required of him, including acknowledging the “improper conduct,” working with a district-appointed Church of the Brethren mentor for an unspecified period of time, receiving “proper counseling” from a district-appointed counselor, reporting quarterly to the district executive, and training in “ethics of working with minors.” Landram’s contact with minors was also to be restricted.

According to the district’s decision, other leaders at Landram’s congregation were to be made aware of the requirements and restrictions, and Landram’s congregants were to be made aware that “a complaint was brought against him” as guided by the Church of the Brethren 2008 Ethics in Ministry Relations. It’s unclear whether only the Elizabethtown church was to be made aware, or if the Lititz church was also to be included, and whether any notifications were enacted before Landram reportedly resigned his position at the Elizabethtown church.

Church-related positions

  • Summer intern through Bethany Theological Seminary, Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, Bridgewater, Virginia, 2014
  • Pastor, Lititz Church of the Brethren, Lititz, Pennsylvania, 2015–2021
  • Executive pastor of administration and planning, Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, announced Oct. 21, 2021 to start Feb. 2022

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