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Our church is falling apart + my own issue


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#1 Sahamamama

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:29 PM

I'm going to try to summarize the situation without giving too many personal details. Three Sundays ago, we arrived at our church to find the pastor and his wife were "missing." A guest -- turned out to be a district denominational representative -- preached a sermon (that I didn't really hear), then read a statement about our pastor: "______ has experienced failure in his personal and ministerial life, and as a result will no longer be serving as pastor of this or any congregation. Next week there will be a meeting to discuss the situation." :001_huh: We were then told to (1) not ask questions; (2) not speculate; and (3) not contact the pastor or his family.

That was some week. When we came back the following Sunday, we could tell that some people (it's a small church) did know by then what was going on, but we did not. Long story, short: The pastor has had an ongoing gambling addiction, and had stolen money from the church to support his habit.

This past week we went again, and we are learning that most of the families plan to leave, or to stick it out for another week or so... just to "see what happens." No one seems to want to stay, except a few of the older, core group that was not the pastor's extended family. It was run mostly like a "Mom-and-Pop-Shop" type of laid-back, family-feeling kind of church, with the same group running the place for the past 35 years. And this revelation of the pastor's long-term behavior has left the whole congregation in a shambles.... what will be left? Probably not much, honestly.

My husband and I want to think of our commitment to what's left of the church, but we also want to consider our young children. There don't seem to be any families with young kids who will commit to stay and work it out. We don't feel quite "released" yet, so we'll see.

Here's my ISSUE, something I just HAVE to get off my chest. I'm really sorry if someone out there doesn't understand why I need to say this to cyberspace, but here goes...

I feel that because this issue was based on years (decades) of secrecy, years of the family knowing and not "telling;" because the two men who finally did bring it out into the light have been condemned by others (but not by us); because the district denominational people are also trying to keep it "out of the mainstream," that is, out of the press (understandably, I suppose); and because the pastor had the opportunity to address, and confess to, and ask forgiveness from, the congregation while it was intact, but declined to do so -- for all these reasons, I feel like... I WISH, strongly, that I could pick up the phone and call the local county prosecutor, or the local papers, and say, "Hey, did you know that this pastor has allegedly misappropriated church funds for years, according to his own reported admission, and is getting nothing more than a denominational reprimand?" :001_huh:

Yes, he loses "his" church and his credential. He has another job, so it's not like he's lost his main livelihood. He loses his reputation, only to the extent that the small group of people who know about it know about it...

Why am I struggling with this so mightily? Why? I could just let it go, let them get on with their lives and counseling and "rehabilitation program." And say nothing to the powers that be, and let the pastor and his family save face, at least that much.

Why does this seem like less than right to me? Like more "sweeping it under the rug" -- again? I feel like I'm lying to the world by not letting the community know... Does that make sense?

Please don't pummel me too hard, it's been a rough month around here for us all.

UPDATE: We contacted the proper legal authorities and informed them of the situation.

Edited by Sahamamama, 18 February 2011 - 09:32 AM.
Update: We contacted the legal authorities.


#2 Catherine

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:32 PM

Call the prosecutor! He's a criminal.

#3 4blessingmom

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:35 PM

...b/c what he did is criminal...and he should rightly answer in a court of law.



:grouphug: to you. It sounds like there is more abuse going on there than what you've shared. It's a stinky situation to be in, and I'm sad for the congregation...you and all of your friends who trusted this man/church.

#4 Susann

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:36 PM

:grouphug: I am so sorry that you and your church family are going through this! I think you'll know when it's time to go, if that time comes, and feel "released". In my mind, if he stole church funds he should be prosecuted. I think there should be legal ramifications to his actions and he should be reported and held accountable. It would be no different than me stealing from my place of employment. Again, :grouphug:

#5 Carol in Cal.

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:38 PM

I don't know what is right in this situation.

But I can see just how hard it would be.

I am praying for you and your family.

It is natural and maybe even somewhat righteous to be angry. Closure through the pastor's confession would have been helpful and, in my view, quintessentially Christian. Why that did not happen I can't imagine.

What a heartbreaking, unnecessary situation.

#6 Sebastian (a lady)

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:42 PM

Would there have to be an injured party who pressed charges to interest outside authorities? If the church isn't going to hold him criminally accountable, would a prosecutor be interested?

Would others get caught up in the fallout? For example, were there other people who maybe should have caught on to the embezelling who didn't and might be held liable. Or is it possible that there was more going wrong than just what involved the pastor? (A close family member of mine stole money from their work. They ended up going to the authorities and admiting it before any charges were filed. However, in the end, they were held responsible for loses beyond what they were responsible for. Best guess is that a boss, probably one of the people they confessed to, was also taking money and found it convenient to have this cover.)

I'm not necessarily in favor if going to the authorities in cases like this. But I do think that the church is owed a public confession and acknowledgement of responsibility and wrongdoing. Of course it is painful. But I've been in churches where missionaries have been pulled from missions for wrongdoing and this was the first step in their restoration with their immediate family and wider church family.

I think the denomination may be short sighted if it thinks that everyone will just move on. (On the other hand, I know churches where the denomination would be ok with a church failing because the sale of the property is worth more than the continued success of the church. This was a threat to one of our former churches.)

#7 FaithManor

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:42 PM

I completely understand. He did something that is, to the civil courts, criminal, and to the church a total and utter abuse of power and trust. On top of that, he doesn't have the guts to face the music and ask for forgiveness. It is being swept under the rug. The church books need to be audited and on top of that, depending on his indescretions, could leave the church in trouble with the IRS if in cooking the books, there was a failure to comply with sending in witholding, reporting earnings, etc.

The church should get a CPA auditor in there now so they know what they are up against. It might be that they will need to have him charged in order to look as though they are not sweeping it under the rug if the IRS gets involved.

(((HUGS))) I am so sorry you have to go through with this.

Our pastor does not sign on the church credit card nor does he have the combination to the church safe and he doesn't sign on the church checkbook. He prefers it that way and so does the church family.

I hope your church finds healing.

Faith

#8 simka2

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:44 PM

Why am I struggling with this so mightily? Why? I could just let it go, let them get on with their lives and counseling and "rehabilitation program." You are hurting!!! That's okay. Read up on the cycles of grief, because you are going to go thru them...a lot!!!

And say nothing to the powers that be, and let the pastor and his family save face, at least that much. It's normal to want the person who hurt you and the ones you love, held accountable. I would caution against taking action when it is this fresh. Plus, it is good to consider his wife and if there are any kids. I will say, I am very uncomfortable that you were told "not to ask questions." This is not healthy. You need to be able to ask questions.

Why does this seem like less than right to me? Like more "sweeping it under the rug" -- again? I feel like I'm lying to the world by not letting the community know... Does that make sense? Yes, it makes sense. The community will know. It is okay to talk to your neighbors and people outside the church. It's okay to share your pain and grief with "safe" people. It's okay to share the facts of what you know.

Please don't pummel me too hard, it's been a rough month around here for us all.


:grouphug:'s There is no defense, no justification, things are gonna suck for awhile :glare:. Please get "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse." If there are people who left the church before this that have kids around the same age, find out where they went. Keep your head high. Love your kids. Rant to God.

I'm here if you want to pm me. I have been on both sides of this coin a few times.:glare:

#9 VinNY

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:44 PM

Why does this seem like less than right to me? Like more "sweeping it under the rug" -- again? I feel like I'm lying to the world by not letting the community know... Does that make sense?

Because this "sweeping it under the rug" only invites more of this behavior. Theft, sexual abuse etc should not be covered up at all. It doesn't deter others from thinking of exploiting religious, trusting people.

#10 kalphs

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:48 PM

I'm going to try to summarize the situation without giving too many personal details. Three Sundays ago, we arrived at our church to find the pastor and his wife were "missing." A guest -- turned out to be a district denominational representative -- preached a sermon (that I didn't really hear), then read a statement about our pastor: "______ has experienced failure in his personal and ministerial life, and as a result will no longer be serving as pastor of this or any congregation. Next week there will be a meeting to discuss the situation." :001_huh: We were then told to (1) not ask questions; (2) not speculate; and (3) not contact the pastor or his family.

That was some week. When we came back the following Sunday, we could tell that some people (it's a small church) did know by then what was going on, but we did not. Long story, short: The pastor has had an ongoing gambling addiction, and had stolen money from the church to support his habit.

This past week we went again, and we are learning that most of the families plan to leave, or to stick it out for another week or so... just to "see what happens." No one seems to want to stay, except a few of the older, core group that was not the pastor's extended family. It was run mostly like a "Mom-and-Pop-Shop" type of laid-back, family-feeling kind of church, with the same group running the place for the past 35 years. And this revelation of the pastor's long-term behavior has left the whole congregation in a shambles.... what will be left? Probably not much, honestly.

My husband and I want to think of our commitment to what's left of the church, but we also want to consider our young children. There don't seem to be any families with young kids who will commit to stay and work it out. We don't feel quite "released" yet, so we'll see.

Here's my ISSUE, something I just HAVE to get off my chest. I'm really sorry if someone out there doesn't understand why I need to say this to cyberspace, but here goes...

I feel that because this issue was based on years (decades) of secrecy, years of the family knowing and not "telling;" because the two men who finally did bring it out into the light have been condemned by others (but not by us); because the district denominational people are also trying to keep it "out of the mainstream," that is, out of the press (understandably, I suppose); and because the pastor had the opportunity to address, and confess to, and ask forgiveness from, the congregation while it was intact, but declined to do so -- for all these reasons, I feel like... I WISH, strongly, that I could pick up the phone and call the local county prosecutor, or the local papers, and say, "Hey, did you know that this pastor has allegedly misappropriated church funds for years, according to his own reported admission, and is getting nothing more than a denominational reprimand?" :001_huh:

Yes, he loses "his" church and his credential. He has another job, so it's not like he's lost his main livelihood. He loses his reputation, only to the extent that the small group of people who know about it know about it...

Why am I struggling with this so mightily? Why? I could just let it go, let them get on with their lives and counseling and "rehabilitation program." And say nothing to the powers that be, and let the pastor and his family save face, at least that much.

Why does this seem like less than right to me? Like more "sweeping it under the rug" -- again? I feel like I'm lying to the world by not letting the community know... Does that make sense?

Please don't pummel me too hard, it's been a rough month around here for us all.

:grouphug::grouphug::grouphug::grouphug:

#11 Heather in Neverland

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:49 PM

Things like this are so hard because it goes beyond just an employee stealing from an employer. This man was the pastor. He was trusted to be honest and upright. He was trusted with the spiritual guidance of the congregation.

I would be angry, hurt, feel betrayed, etc.

Before you call you have to ask yourself WHY you are calling? Is it really a matter of "justice" or do you (in your deepest part of your heart) sort of want "revenge"? Sometimes when we are hurt we want to hurt someone back.

If he HAD apologized to the congregation he would STILL be a criminal but would you STILL want to call the prosecuter? The answer to that question could guide your next step.

#12 gardening momma

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:51 PM

We were then told to (1) not ask questions; (2) not speculate; and (3) not contact the pastor or his family.

I don't have advice, except to say except that perhaps the reasoning for the above is to not tear apart the church any further. We are members of a church that lost a couple of hundred people a few months ago when a pastor was asked to leave for doctrinal issues. But half of those people didn't leave because of the doctrinal issues, it was in a second wave of leaving because of the behavior of some people in the church.

You might see if you can find someone in a high position in the church who you can tactfully ask if there are going to be criminal charges or a financial audit. That may already be in the works and you don't need to be a part of it. The less the church body gets involved, the less tangled mess there may be. I'm sure that in the course of investigation the appropriate people will be questioned. We went through a whole-church financial audit as well.

#13 elegantlion

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:51 PM

:grouphug::grouphug::grouphug: I'm sorry.

#14 jplain

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:53 PM

A church with integrity would conduct an audit in an extremely public manner, and would have contacted the attorney general's office as soon as they had reason to suspect financial wrongdoing.

What you've described stinks.

#15 Sahamamama

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:58 PM

On the other hand, I know churches where the denomination would be ok with a church failing because the sale of the property is worth more than the continued success of the church. This was a threat to one of our former churches.


Yes, this is probably the case in this situation. We were a small congregation to begin with, mostly the older "core" and then young families with lots of little kids running all over the place. :001_smile: The pastor is mid-50s, his sons are all married and in their 30s. There is an even older group in their 80s, and I feel the most sorry for these dear people. How will they start over?

The building, though small, was completely paid for, as far as I understand it. The way the district handled the situation seemed designed to break up the congregation, KWIM? Not to bring healing and forgiveness, but to let the wounded, gasping church keel over and die.

If the congregation does "go under," the property reverts to the district. So you may have hit the nail on the head.

#16 Mommy22alyns

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:02 PM

:grouphug: I don't have any words of wisdom, but wow.

#17 mcconnellboys

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:05 PM

Well, the church as a whole was the victim of theft. I think that the majority of members of the church would have to elect to press charges in order for anything more to happen to him....

#18 Kathleen in VA

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:09 PM

Things like this are so hard because it goes beyond just an employee stealing from an employer. This man was the pastor. He was trusted to be honest and upright. He was trusted with the spiritual guidance of the congregation.

I would be angry, hurt, feel betrayed, etc.

Before you call you have to ask yourself WHY you are calling? Is it really a matter of "justice" or do you (in your deepest part of your heart) sort of want "revenge"? Sometimes when we are hurt we want to hurt someone back.

If he HAD apologized to the congregation he would STILL be a criminal but would you STILL want to call the prosecuter? The answer to that question could guide your next step.


:iagree:I'm still dumbfounded that he didn't apologize to the congregation.:001_huh:

#19 Danestress

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:12 PM

whether some of the people at the denominational level who are calling the shots here are trying to protect themselves or others - even apart from protecting the pastor.

I wonder if they are wanting to silence the pastor because they are afraid of what he might say - like perhaps he had been caught or confessed in the past but they kept it hidden from the congregation or perhaps someone failed to properly track finances so he might have been caught earlier.

#20 katemary63

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:13 PM

Is this a non-denominational church? If so, I would call in a heartbeat. If you ask me, he should be reported to the authorities because it's just the right thing to do. If he was repentant, he would report himself. If he is not sincerely repentant, he needs to be reported so that he may realize what he's done. He STOLE MONEY! He is no different then other criminals. I would call the authorities even if he was my own son! No kidding. It has nothing to do with unforgiveness or getting back. It's just what happens next if you steal.

If it is a denominational church, I would be SHOCKED if he had not been already reported. But hey, if not, call.

:grouphug: Sorry. And seriously, you should not feel bad about this AT ALL. You may be feeling guilt because you know it should be done.

#21 DawnM

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:18 PM

This would bother me a great deal as well. I would want to know why he isn't being prosecuted. If he stole from any business or company, he would have to answer to the legal authorities, this should be no different (legally speaking), of course, the hurt involved is different, but in a pure legal sense, he needs to be brought up.

Dawn

#22 MariannNOVA

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:34 PM

This would bother me a great deal as well. I would want to know why he isn't being prosecuted. If he stole from any business or company, he would have to answer to the legal authorities, this should be no different (legally speaking), of course, the hurt involved is different, but in a pure legal sense, he needs to be brought up.

Dawn


:iagree: and I am so sorry for you and your family. I was in a church that went through something similar many years ago. It was awful.:grouphug::grouphug::grouphug:

#23 Gooblink

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:38 PM

This would bother me a great deal as well. I would want to know why he isn't being prosecuted. If he stole from any business or company, he would have to answer to the legal authorities, this should be no different (legally speaking), of course, the hurt involved is different, but in a pure legal sense, he needs to be brought up.

Dawn


:iagree: You have every right to hold the church leadership accountable.

#24 54879525

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:53 PM

I think if nobody says anything beyond the private organization what will stop him from doing it again? I feel for the guy, he has a problem, but he should not be put in a situation where he is entrusted with money. What will stop him from moving away somewhere and doing it again? Also, he needs help. Although there are legal ramifications, he might be forced into some sort of treatment for his addiction. Otherwise, probably not. Then what? He isn't going to just say "oops, I'm not going to do that anymore". Nobody with a serious addiction does that.

What a tough situation.

#25 dcurry

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:15 PM

I haven't heard anyone else say this, which surprised me, but I don't think calling a prosecutor is the right thing to do. There is scripture to support this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

" 1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."

Why bring to the secular courts a dispute between Christians? If you can't work it out with him (I believe you should go to him yourself if you can't get over it), then why not rather be wronged?

Gambling is a real addiction. He should have gotten help for it. He probably doesn't know how to quit or to get help, and it was probably harder for him to admit he needed help since he was in a position of authority. His intention was probably to finally win and pay everything back plus some. I'm not excusing his behavior, it was entirely wrong and there is no excuse for it! But what should our response be? That's what you need to decide, and what your family needs to decide.

I'm sorry your family & your church are needing to go through this. There should be a meeting between church members to let everyone get out on the table what is concerning them... including talking to the family who knew but didn't say anything. It's worth working out if you can. I'd spend a lot of time in prayer over it, though, before you do anything at all.

I did assume that since you belong to a church that you would not be against my using scripture. I know that everyone on this site is not a Christian and would choose the legal route.

#26 Susan in TN

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:30 PM

As my pastor has said, "There ain't no hurt like a church hurt".

I tend to agree with dcurry. It seems your denomination has taken some steps, but maybe you have elders or other denom. leaders who will be willing to have some conversations with the congregation. Lots and lots of conversations, Q&A sessions, meetings, whatever they can do to let you know how justice will be taken care of.

The church has been wounded and needs some assurances that they are going to be cared for, as a shepherd would care for his flock after being attact by wolves.

#27 KristinaBreece

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:47 PM

While I understand about the church not prosecuting (my church would do everything in their power to keep such a matter within the church body), I would probably feel the same as you.

#28 kathkath

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:49 PM

I haven't heard anyone else say this, which surprised me, but I don't think calling a prosecutor is the right thing to do. There is scripture to support this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

" 1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."

Why bring to the secular courts a dispute between Christians? If you can't work it out with him (I believe you should go to him yourself if you can't get over it), then why not rather be wronged?

Gambling is a real addiction. He should have gotten help for it. He probably doesn't know how to quit or to get help, and it was probably harder for him to admit he needed help since he was in a position of authority. His intention was probably to finally win and pay everything back plus some. I'm not excusing his behavior, it was entirely wrong and there is no excuse for it! But what should our response be? That's what you need to decide, and what your family needs to decide.

I'm sorry your family & your church are needing to go through this. There should be a meeting between church members to let everyone get out on the table what is concerning them... including talking to the family who knew but didn't say anything. It's worth working out if you can. I'd spend a lot of time in prayer over it, though, before you do anything at all.

I did assume that since you belong to a church that you would not be against my using scripture. I know that everyone on this site is not a Christian and would choose the legal route.


I was thinking this too, yet we are citizens of our country and responsible to other citizens. Therefore the authorities ought to be involved.

#29 NayfiesMama

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:53 PM

He should work it out with the prosecutor... or... have confessed and worked it out with the church (and been under church discipline.... and be monitored, willingly)

That's my thought... Yup, if my money was stolen... I'd want it to be returned.. or for the person to get punished. We had this handled at a church once, in much the same way, except that the church wanted him to be "forgiven" and wanted him to continue preaching....

#30 Spy Car

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:57 PM

I'm sorry this incident has brought pain to you and your family. This person has stolen your money, but don't let him steal anything else.

:grouphug:

Bill

#31 gardening momma

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 08:58 PM

While I understand about the church not prosecuting (my church would do everything in their power to keep such a matter within the church body), I would probably feel the same as you.

Unless she is positive and has confirmed that there is no prosecution taking place, we shouldn't assume so.

#32 LizzyBee

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:01 PM

I was thinking this too, yet we are citizens of our country and responsible to other citizens. Therefore the authorities ought to be involved.


:iagree: What if he's embezzling from his current employer, and he doesn't get caught because the church swept it under the rug? I'm not sure what I would do in that situation, though.

Edited by LizzyBee, 16 February 2011 - 09:06 PM.


#33 LizzyBee

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:05 PM

The church should get a CPA auditor in there now so they know what they are up against. It might be that they will need to have him charged in order to look as though they are not sweeping it under the rug if the IRS gets involved.

Faith


:iagree: They should hire a tax attorney, and the attorney should hire the CPA. Otherwise, client/CPA confidentiality doesn't exist wrt the IRS.

#34 Gooblink

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:06 PM

I was thinking this too, yet we are citizens of our country and responsible to other citizens. Therefore the authorities ought to be involved.


:iagree: The first thing that occurred to me when I read the OP was the scripture dcurry quoted, but this isn't an matter of two disputing individuals. This is a community affected and the church elders...officials...whatever your denomination calls them, have already decided on sweeping the issue under the rug and refusing comments/explanation to the very people who they are supposed to be shepherding, which is a blot on the church, IMO.

These congregation members probably sacrificed their tithes and more, and their leadership ought to honor that.

I'm not necessarily saying call the prosecutor, but this is theft which is punishable by law and just because he's a pastor doesn't put him above that law. Who will he steal from next to feed his addiction?

Not to mention, being forced to confront his actions for what they are will probably be (in the long run) the best cure for his illness.

#35 VanillaCupcake

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:06 PM

I haven't heard anyone else say this, which surprised me, but I don't think calling a prosecutor is the right thing to do. There is scripture to support this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

" 1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."


:iagree::iagree::iagree: What he did was wrong. He should no longer be the pastor, he should apologize. However, God does not want matters within the church aired out in court.

:grouphug: I'm so sorry that you and your congregation are dealing with this. Pray for guidance.

#36 simka2

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:11 PM

I haven't heard anyone else say this, which surprised me, but I don't think calling a prosecutor is the right thing to do. There is scripture to support this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

" 1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."

Why bring to the secular courts a dispute between Christians? If you can't work it out with him (I believe you should go to him yourself if you can't get over it), then why not rather be wronged?

Gambling is a real addiction. He should have gotten help for it. He probably doesn't know how to quit or to get help, and it was probably harder for him to admit he needed help since he was in a position of authority. His intention was probably to finally win and pay everything back plus some. I'm not excusing his behavior, it was entirely wrong and there is no excuse for it! But what should our response be? That's what you need to decide, and what your family needs to decide.

I'm sorry your family & your church are needing to go through this. There should be a meeting between church members to let everyone get out on the table what is concerning them... including talking to the family who knew but didn't say anything. It's worth working out if you can. I'd spend a lot of time in prayer over it, though, before you do anything at all.

I did assume that since you belong to a church that you would not be against my using scripture. I know that everyone on this site is not a Christian and would choose the legal route.


I'm just going to point out that the context of this verse is between two people of equal standing. It's about lawsuits being brought by "members" of a congregation. It is not refering to how to handle a an erring Pastor.

If he broke civil laws, he needs to be held accountable by a civil court.

#37 Jean in Newcastle

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:12 PM

:iagree::iagree::iagree: What he did was wrong. He should no longer be the pastor, he should apologize. However, God does not want matters within the church aired out in court.

:grouphug: I'm so sorry that you and your congregation are dealing with this. Pray for guidance.


I think that applies to lawsuits - disagreements between individuals in the church, not situations like this. The pastor broke the law of the land. Thus he needs to be judged by the law of the land.

#38 Mary in VA

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:13 PM

I haven't heard anyone else say this, which surprised me, but I don't think calling a prosecutor is the right thing to do. There is scripture to support this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

" 1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."

Why bring to the secular courts a dispute between Christians? If you can't work it out with him (I believe you should go to him yourself if you can't get over it), then why not rather be wronged?


I believe this passage is regarding civil disputes between believers, a disagreement. Christians should not file lawsuits against each other. In this case the individual broke the criminal code and the state should take action.

Mary

#39 FaithManor

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:23 PM

Mark 12:17 "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's; Give to God what is God's."

I still think some responsibility to Caesar is owed in this case. Churches operate, by the grace of government, under 501c stipulations that allow them to not be taxed on their offerings and funraisers. When illegal accounting takes place, which could very likely have occured in this case so that he would not be discovered, the 501c standing is jeorpardized. He is guilty of a crime against the government. This is not about scriptural law...this is also about civil law. Without any accountability to "Caesar", he is likely to get a job elsewhere and continue to defraud another employer and put that employer in potential trouble with "Caesar". We have laws on the books about NOT aiding and abetting criminals and the scriptures are clear that we should obey the government when it does not put us in jeopardy of disobeying God.

This was not an infraction that only affects this church family, therefore it does not fall under the guidelines of "offending brother" as given in Matthew. I actually think it is unGodly to hide such a man from the authorities and I would not want it on my conscience when he does this again which he is likely to do if he does not face the consequences for his actions.

My husband is our church treasurer and he has been to several seminars on how money must be accounted for in the church in order to stay out of trouble with the law. This church is in peril. They need to do what is right which is to get their financial house in order as fast as possible, get a tax attorney, an auditor, and inform the civil authorities. They do not have to press charges themselves. I can see the value in not doing that. But, there is greater price to be paid for not informing "Caesar" of his actions. Some actions are immoral but not illegal, some are illegal but not immoral and therefore not a matter for the church to even have a hand in. This pastor's actions are rooted in both. Therefore, both church discipline and civil discipline are called for. Immorality and disputes between believing brothers that does not involve illegality are what is referred to in Matthew. Those verses can not be used to misconstrue a scriptural admonition to blatantly aid and abet felonious crime.

Faith

#40 Sahamamama

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:46 PM

This is theft which is punishable by law and just because he's a pastor doesn't put him above that law. Who will he steal from next to feed his addiction? Not to mention, being forced to confront his actions for what they are will probably be (in the long run) the best cure for his illness.


Yes, this is the heart of the matter for me. The officials of the district say that the notoriety will do damage to the entire fellowship. Perhaps this is true, and I do understand that.

BUT, and here's the crux of it for me, there is a natural, universal consequence for being caught stealing that ought to apply regardless of who is doing the stealing. What I mean is this: Suppose I, Mrs. Citizen, go into my local dollar store and steal $5 worth of gum. If I am caught, that store will prosecute me! There are signs that warn of "no tolerance," and so I know, going in, that I either (a) pay for what I walk out with, or (B) leave it there, or © run the risk of being arrested, being tried, having my stupidity reported in the press, paying fines, and going to jail.

You know, I would not steal the gum, but what would stop any of us from doing it, if there really was no deterrent, no natural consequence? "Oh, you poor thing, you stole the gum. Well, put it back as soon as you can, and don't take any more, and we'll not let this thing get out, okay?" :tongue_smilie:I can imagine businesses taking that approach. :glare:

Why should a person "in the ministry" feel entitled to a different standard of conduct? In a sense, he is being given the message, "If you were anyone else, in any other role, you would be facing legal action, but because you are a credentialed minister, we will protect your reputation as a way of protecting our own."

If the pastor stole a certain amount -- let's just hypothetically say he stole around $40,000 -- and he pays part of it back now, part of it later (assuming there is a church to pay it back to later, otherwise it goes to the district ;)), how is simply paying it back, going to counseling, and so on -- how does THAT restore to the church any healing? There is no confession of wrongdoing, no appeal for forgiveness, no profound consequences... just the church falls apart, and the pastor basically gets on with his life.

Oh, and BTW, he is sort of in business for himself -- again, involving finances. His day job is this: He works for a BANK, as a broker for huge, huge loans. :001_huh: I wonder, does his employer know about this situation?

Sorry to ramble. Thanks for all the :grouphug:.

#41 Smithie

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 09:52 PM

:iagree:

My congregation recently went through something like this (less serious, but a similar nature), and when we reflected upon it and sought legal counsel, it was very clear that while we were unwilling to pursue a civil action against a member of the community, safeguarding the community as a whole required that the criminal aspects of the situation be reported. It will probably never be prosecuted, but when we took that government tax break we committed to following the government's laws, and by covering up a crime we would lend credence to any future accusations that create an environment that fosters crime.

OP, you may find if you purse it that this matter HAS been reported by your denomination, and that they are only "sweeping it under the rug" in terms of trying to avoid the story hitting the press. Their lawyer has no doubt advised them to do 1) report and 2) minimize chit-chat, with both measures intended to reduce their risk of liability stemming from this incident. If they haven't reported the crime - honestly, I'd separate myself from that body.

#42 simka2

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:01 PM

Yes, this is the heart of the matter for me. The officials of the district say that the notoriety will do damage to the entire fellowship. Perhaps this is true, and I do understand that.

BUT, and here's the crux of it for me, there is a natural, universal consequence for being caught stealing that ought to apply regardless of who is doing the stealing. What I mean is this: Suppose I, Mrs. Citizen, go into my local dollar store and steal $5 worth of gum. If I am caught, that store will prosecute me! There are signs that warn of "no tolerance," and so I know, going in, that I either (a) pay for what I walk out with, or (B) leave it there, or © run the risk of being arrested, being tried, having my stupidity reported in the press, paying fines, and going to jail.

You know, I would not steal the gum, but what would stop any of us from doing it, if there really was no deterrent, no natural consequence? "Oh, you poor thing, you stole the gum. Well, put it back as soon as you can, and don't take any more, and we'll not let this thing get out, okay?" :tongue_smilie:I can imagine businesses taking that approach. :glare:

Why should a person "in the ministry" feel entitled to a different standard of conduct? In a sense, he is being given the message, "If you were anyone else, in any other role, you would be facing legal action, but because you are a credentialed minister, we will protect your reputation as a way of protecting our own."

If the pastor stole a certain amount -- let's just hypothetically say he stole around $40,000 -- and he pays part of it back now, part of it later (assuming there is a church to pay it back to later, otherwise it goes to the district ;)), how is simply paying it back, going to counseling, and so on -- how does THAT restore to the church any healing? There is no confession of wrongdoing, no appeal for forgiveness, no profound consequences... just the church falls apart, and the pastor basically gets on with his life.

Oh, and BTW, he is sort of in business for himself -- again, involving finances. His day job is this: He works for a BANK, as a broker for huge, huge loans. :001_huh: I wonder, does his employer know about this situation?

Sorry to ramble. Thanks for all the :grouphug:.

I know this is incredible frustrating!!!! It's maddening. I still want to caution you to use restrait. Mostly to protect yourself. When a denomination and/or a pastor go into self preservation mode things get ugly fast. Now, obviously these are verifiable facts, but at the least you will carry the label of "divisive" (even though you aren't)...and at the worst they could threaten with a libel suit. Be careful! :grouphug:
Also, remember there are 2 separate issues going on: the embesslement of funds and the gambling addiction. The stealing is wrong, and is way to common. The gambling addiction is just that, an addiction. It's unfortunate and my heart goes out to him and his family, but just being an addict is not a sin.

When I was going thru something similar and wise people counseled me on waiting till my emotions had cooled, I was frustrated with them. Now, that time has worn on, I see that they had my best in mind. Vent here, proccess, do what you can, and get your family to a healthy place. Thinking of you.

#43 Punks in Ontario

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:02 PM

I'm not sure what the law's like where you live, but here in order to work in positions of trust you need to be bondable (no criminal record). Sounds like this guy needs to be kept out of temptation's way and not be able to work with other people's money. I would be livid if I found out I'd trusted someone with my money and others knew full well that he'd committed fraud in the past.

#44 Trish

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:02 PM

:iagree::iagree::iagree: What he did was wrong. He should no longer be the pastor, he should apologize. However, God does not want matters within the church aired out in court.

:grouphug: I'm so sorry that you and your congregation are dealing with this. Pray for guidance.


Sorry, the Catholic church has already been through all that (sweeping stuff under the rug, letting pastors move on to new positions, NOT calling the prosecutor). I can't say that ended well.

The next community of believers need to be protected, so a little Faux Charity in this case harms them, and may even harm HIM. If he paid the money back maybe the authorities will go easy on him. Maybe he'll get probation, but at least it would be a red flag to other communities. (who is going to provide that as things currently stand?)

How would anyone feel if he goes off and scams people the way Bernie Madoff did? If his "issue" has not gone away, he very well could. There are Christian examples of Madoff-style scams.

If the authorities are informed at least everyone can feel they "did what they could." Is there any other arena besides "the church" where someone would think it's okay to let him continue on his merry way?

#45 Patty Joanna

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:26 PM

What strikes me is the lack of repentance.

My car was "smash-and-grabbed" a few years ago, and we had an interesting talk with my son about it afterward. We prayed that the thieves would be caught. My then-9yo son thought that was pretty vindictive of us. My dh explained that it wasn't so we would have vindication, but so that the thieves would be stopped from doing worse things that would hurt other people, and that they would also be stopped in their tracks down a terrible path.

A church I was in a number of years ago had almost this exact situation, and the pastor ended up doing jail time. After he was released THE CHURCH found him a job which used his talents, but kept him far away from any money. During his jail time, he was able to face what he had done, and repent and ask forgiveness. The church received him back into fellowship, but also knew that his particular weakness meant that he wasn't to be put in the way of temptation related to money.

I think that was a very Christian community. The pastor had committed a criminal act (for the same reasons) and he had to deal with it...including the consequences of this anti-social behavior. I daresay he still struggles with the gambling temptation, but the church helps him ... and did not abandon him.

BUT: this required that everyone stood together and that restoration was desired. If it is not, I still do not see the benefit to the pastor's soul in hiding from him the consequences of his actions.

#46 jdahlquist

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:35 PM

Problems within the church are SO difficult. They don't just harm friendships, but they can devastate individuals spiritually. These problems get very messy in a community, even if it is not the church. In my hometown, a school secretary was embezzling money from the student organizations, yearbook, lunch money, etc. When the administration figured out what was happening, the offices at the school caught on fire! She was relieved from her position, but no criminal charges were ever brought. It caused a lot of conflict in the community for many years.

I do wonder this: Should Bishop Myrial have turned Jean Valjean over to the authorities for theft?

#47 Something

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 11:06 PM

Well, when people feel betrayed, they often want the betrayer punished. That's why a lot of the time people will jump at the option to "sue him!" or "call the cops on him!" or "give him what for!"

But, that's not really going to soothe the hurt of the betrayal. It's going to make you feel temporarily vindicated, perhaps you'd even feel a few moments of moral superiority, but that isn't going to make you feel any less betrayed.

I believe that what goes around comes around. This man will pay a price. It may even be a more costly price than the courts would give him -- or it may not -- but he will pay, and he will suffer for what he's done.

The questions to ask yourself: Am I willing to accept the consequences of being this man's prosecutor? Because if you are the one who blows the whistle on him, that would be what you are doing, not directly, but you will have set the gears in motion. He has already been exposed and is beginning to pay his due to his church. Are you willing to bear the responsibility for having dragged him out into the public light? Is that really what is in your heart?

#48 simka2

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 11:16 PM

Well, when people feel betrayed, they often want the betrayer punished. That's why a lot of the time people will jump at the option to "sue him!" or "call the cops on him!" or "give him what for!"

But, that's not really going to soothe the hurt of the betrayal. It's going to make you feel temporarily vindicated, perhaps you'd even feel a few moments of moral superiority, but that isn't going to make you feel any less betrayed.

I believe that what goes around comes around. This man will pay a price. It may even be a more costly price than the courts would give him -- or it may not -- but he will pay, and he will suffer for what he's done.

The questions to ask yourself: Am I willing to accept the consequences of being this man's prosecutor? Because if you are the one who blows the whistle on him, that would be what you are doing, not directly, but you will have set the gears in motion. He has already been exposed and is beginning to pay his due to his church. Are you willing to bear the responsibility for having dragged him out into the public light? Is that really what is in your heart?


Audrey, this is incredible! When I was in this situation, I asked myself if I could be resposible for ripping apart the Pastor's family. If I had gone forward with criminal charges I would carried the knowledge of the pain that particular scenario caused his kids. I was able to find an alternate path, that both allowed be to document what happened, in case of other victims, but didn't require the full fledge court case. As a result, natural consequence (and even spiritual consequence) took over, He destroyed his ministry and he fled the state in shame. Since then he has not been able to get another pastoral position.

Sometimes, I have beaten myself up for not doing more, but then I pictured his kids...and there was only so much I could carry.

#49 Something

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 11:22 PM

Audrey, this is incredible! When I was in this situation, I asked myself if I could be resposible for ripping apart the Pastor's family. If I had gone forward with criminal charges I would carried the knowledge of the pain that particular scenario caused his kids. I was able to find an alternate path, that both allowed be to document what happened, in case of other victims, but didn't require the full fledge court case. As a result, natural consequence (and even spiritual consequence) took over, He destroyed his ministry and he fled the state in shame. Since then he has not been able to get another pastoral position.

Sometimes, I have beaten myself up for not doing more, but then I pictured his kids...and there was only so much I could carry.



:grouphug: I understand. You do what you have to do. I know I have it in me to be brutally vindictive. I've faced that part of myself, too. But, I always have to bear in mind that the burden of the consequences of our actions inevitably falls to ourselves to carry. I also know my heart couldn't carry that kind of weight, even if I might think so in the heat of the moment.


Not to say I'm so darn sweet or anything. I like to see justice in the world. I don't like jerks to get away with their particular brand of jerkiness. Certainly, when it comes to my kid... all bets are off. But, that's not what the OP is describing. She's talking about a situation that was betrayal of her trust, and probably the destruction of her perception of someone she may have admired. Truly painful things. My sympathy goes out to her.

Edited by Audrey, 16 February 2011 - 11:27 PM.


#50 katemary63

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 11:40 PM

Well, when people feel betrayed, they often want the betrayer punished. That's why a lot of the time people will jump at the option to "sue him!" or "call the cops on him!" or "give him what for!"

But, that's not really going to soothe the hurt of the betrayal. It's going to make you feel temporarily vindicated, perhaps you'd even feel a few moments of moral superiority, but that isn't going to make you feel any less betrayed.

I believe that what goes around comes around. This man will pay a price. It may even be a more costly price than the courts would give him -- or it may not -- but he will pay, and he will suffer for what he's done.

The questions to ask yourself: Am I willing to accept the consequences of being this man's prosecutor? Because if you are the one who blows the whistle on him, that would be what you are doing, not directly, but you will have set the gears in motion. He has already been exposed and is beginning to pay his due to his church. Are you willing to bear the responsibility for having dragged him out into the public light? Is that really what is in your heart?


Honestly, I don't think reporting the crime of embezzlement has anything to do with trying to make yourself feel less betrayed or hurt. Give me his name, I'LL call! It's just the right thing to do for everybody involved. I can't believe how many people think he should not face criminal prosecution for such a crime. It is BETTER for someone to face the consequences of their actions then for others to protect him from them. It is better to be sure the community at large is protected from someone who may steel from them. It's better for "the church" that the public knows that the right and legal thing was done once a crime was discovered. Covering it up and protecting him would look awefull to those outside that denomination AND Christianity in general if it were found out. Calling the authorities protects the testimony of everyone else. If the crime is hidden, not only is the pastor untrustworthy, then in the eyes of others, so is everyone who knew about it. How many seakers will be turned off by THAT? There are lots of other reasons it's the right thing to do, but I'm just too tired tonight to spell it out. Suffice it to say, I'm really surprised that so many people think this should be handled "privately". I like what one poster said about the church standing by the man and helping him after he got out of jail. Sounds like a perfect and Biblical plan to me. But letting him off? Nope.

Edited by katemary63, 17 February 2011 - 12:20 AM.



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