Kenneth Duncalfe

Holdeman Mennonite man convicted of sexually abusing daughter, church leaders knew for 18 years but “did nothing about it”

In 2008, Kenneth Duncalfe (1939–2023), a member of Abbotsford (British Columbia) Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, was convicted of sexual assault for repeatedly molesting his daughter while she was between 14 and 22 years old, in the 1970s and 1980s.

In approximately 1990, according to news reports, a family member reported the abuse to the church’s minister. Duncalfe was then “summoned before a church assembly and excommunicated for ‘lasciviousness,’ a punishment that lasted for a number of months, at the end of which he was allowed to rejoin the congregation.” Judge John Lenaghan would later say of church leaders, “They have known about the sexual abuse of this young woman for 18 years and did nothing about it.”

The woman reports that she left the church so that the abuse would stop: “I realized once I left, he would stop touching me. Being a member of the church was a very sheltered thing, men were the authority figures, and while I was a member he could touch me with impunity because he knew I wouldn’t complain.”

The victim later wrote a letter to her parents saying the family needed counseling, and that her father needed psychiatric help and therapy. She said the letter resulted in a visit to her home by minister Bev Toews of the Abbotsford church, who stressed reconciliation and discouraged pursuing criminal charges. The victim reports that the minister told her that he would get Duncalfe the help he needed, but she soon discovered that the minister himself, not an outside professional, was the one counseling Duncalfe. In 2006, out of concern for the safety of Duncalfe’s grandchildren, she then contacted the police.

Duncalfe pleaded guilty to two counts and the judge sentenced him to nine months in jail, presumably with accompanying treatment for sex offenders, saying, “ seem to regard his actions as sins and to be of the opinion that the actions taken by the church should suffice as far as punishment is concerned. … The defendant’s actions were not merely sins which could be expiated by confession to spiritual mentors, but crimes, offenses against the social order which fall to be dealt with by civil society.”

The victim asked the court to lift the standard Canadian publication ban of her name and Duncalfe’s, to allow open reporting of the trial.

Duncalfe died in 2023.

Church-related positions

  • Member, Abbotsford Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, Abbotsfort, British Columbia

First-person accounts

Documentation

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