Lawrence Pentelow

Ontario Mennonite camp director barred for abusing former camper

Lawrence Pentelow sexually abused a teenage girl who knew him as director of her childhood summer camp, Silver Lake Mennonite Camp in Sauble Beach, Ontario, and later as her employer at the camp. He was camp director from 1978 to 1987.

The victim reported the abuse to Silver Lake in early 2018 and the camp issued a no-trespass order to Pentelow. Pentelow then emailed the victim several times, admitting to the abuse: “I realize your assessment of what happened as a teenager is so accurate.” And, “For 25 years I have agonized daily about getting caught about what I did to you.”

In his emails, Pentelow pressured the victim not to make the abuse public, saying it could hurt his family, and he threatened to name the victim publicly if she named him: “I just did a little research on you,” he says, and then, “You are brave and if you and I both need to name the other publicly then that is what is needed.”

Pentelow also admitted that, “It almost happened to me a second time and through circumstances and God’s grace she was saved the pain you had.”

In July 2018, Silver Lake Mennonite Camp issued a press release, along with a statement from the victim, Ruth-Ann Klassen Shantz, who first met Pentelow at age 12 when he became camp director:

“Lawrence quickly became part of my world. He knew me well. I trusted him. My family trusted him. I spent time with Lawrence and his wife and their young children. He was welcomed into my family home in the offseason. We were like family.”

“For years, I tried to ignore [the memories of the abuse]. … I have perfected the art of falling asleep quickly so that I do not have to lie awake remembering him leaning over me…. … I somehow thought that if I kept silent, I would not have to own the pain. … My inability to ask for help when I was 17 years old was deeply rooted in my desire to spare both the people and the institutions I loved.”

The following month, in August 2018, Canadian Mennonite published an article about the case in which they quoted Pentelow — in full, at his request — describing his admitted sexual abuse of power with a young person in his care as a “relationship.”

Editor’s note: In addition to framing his abuse as a relationship, which blames the victim and normalizes abuse, Pentelow’s apology was indirect: he does not apologize for causing harm himself, but “for the stress and pain caused to her,” “by our relationship.” As described by Dr. Harriet Lerner, true apologies focus on the action of the person apologizing.

In June 2019, Canadian Mennonite contacted Ruth-Ann for a story on Silver Lake’s SafeZone training curriculum: “What advice and input did you offer in the review of [Silver Lake’s] policies and in the writing of the SafeZone curriculum?” But while Silver Lake had publicized that Ruth-Ann would provide advice as they reviewed their related policies and procedures, she found that the SafeZone curriculum had already been written and that she was not involved in the formation of a related task force. Canadian Mennonite then decided not to pursue the story.

Ruth-Ann had also not heard from Silver Lake that they were concerned about the Canadian Mennonite article that quoted Pentelow. Then in January 2020, Silver Lake and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada published a statement about the article, which said, in part: “The word ‘relationship’ is an offensive and inaccurate term to describe the abuse inflicted. Silver Lake and MC Eastern Canada believe that the use of this term and the decision to interview Pentelow caused harm.” The statement also included a general apology for not having spoken out sooner.

Canadian Mennonite editor Virginia Hostetler responded in defense of the magazine’s decision to publish Pentelow’s statements in full, claiming that “censoring” his statements would be a “disservice to readers.”

Church-related positions

  • Camp director, Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, Sauble Beach, Ontario, 1978–1987
  • Managing director, Crieff Hills Retreat Centre, Presbyterian Church in Canada, Puslinch, Ontario, 2003–2018

Have updates to share with us?
Get in touch if you have any other information, corrections, or documentation.

Scroll to Top