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Allegations of sexual abuse surface at University Park United Methodist Church

Allegations of sexual abuse surface at University Park United Methodist Church

James T. Ackley, mug shot, Dallas, January 2013
James T. Ackley, 25, has been charged with sexual assault of a child and online solicitation of a minor.  Photos courtesy of University Park Police Department
University Park United Methodist Church
James T. Ackley, mug shot, Dallas, January 2013

James Truman Ackley, a 25-year-old youth leader at University Park United Methodist Church, has been charged with sexual abuse of a child and online solicitation of a minor.

According to a January 16 arrest warrant, Ackley was having a sexual relationship with female in his charge at the church who is under the age of 17. The two also exchanged texts and phone calls. 

The girl's father noticed she had received a number of texts "during the night time hours" from an unknown number. The girl told her father that the sender was Ackley.

The arrest warrant states that while the father and daughter discussed the matter, an image of a white male, presumed to be Ackley, holding an erect penis appeared on the young girl's phone. 

When interviewed by police, the girl said she had been in a "boyfriend/girlfriend" relationship with Ackley since a youth retreat in August 2012. In addition to exchanging explicit photos and text messages, the two have reportedly engaged in sexual activities.

In the arrest warrant, Ackley's employer was identified as Bishop Lynch High School. However, he does not appear in the school's online directory. When reached by phone on Tuesday, a school official said Ackley was a volunteer with the choir. 

University Park Police Capt. Leon Holman said that Ackley was arrested and is now out on bond. 

University Park United Methodist Church operates several programs for children, including a day school for ages 6 months through kindergarten. Ackley is not listed as a staff member on the church's website

All volunteers and staff members who work with children are subject to a criminal background check and agree to the terms of a 17-page policy manual entitled "Safe Sanctuaries." The manual delineates different kinds of abuses, including verbal, physical and sexual. 

In a January 16 email alerting congregants of the allegations, church staff promised cooperation with police efforts. 

In the investigation going forward, we will assist those authorities in any way we can. We will also continue to take action to protect the children and youth of our church family by providing them a safe and secure environment. 

On Tuesday, the church's website included information about helping children "cope with hurt and crisis."