Title: ELCA Synod Bishop Issues Statement after Arrest of Former Treasurer ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 14, 2008
ELCA Synod Bishop Issues Statement after Arrest of Former Treasurer 08-028-FI/BM*
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. B. Penrose Hoover,
bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa., shared his sadness in a pastoral letter March 13 regarding events surrounding the charges and arrest of Barry R. Herr, the synod's former treasurer.
Herr, 61, was arrested March 13 and charged with misappropriation of church funds. The charges stemmed from months of investigation by the synod and the Lower Paxton Township Police Department into the misappropriation of endowment funds for which Herr was responsible. It was estimated that those funds were in excess of $1 million and that wrongdoing began in 1991.
Herr was arraigned March 13 in the court of
Magisterial District Judge Joseph S. Lindsey, Harrisburg, on 36 counts of criminal use of a communication facility (electronic transfer of funds) and one count of theft by deception. Each charge is a felony of the third degree. Lindsey set bail at $25,000. Herr was released on his own recognizance.
"This shocking and tragic event saddens us all and touches the lives of all who are part of the gospel ministry we share in the Lower Susquehanna Synod and the church at large," Hoover wrote to the synod's professional church leaders.
The synod includes 122,000 members and more than 450 clergy and lay leaders in 261 congregations across nine counties in south-central Pennsylvania. Its operating budget for 2008 is more than $4 million.
Referring to the funds in question, Hoover told church leaders that "to the best of our knowledge irregularities that were uncovered were solely in the areas of long-term investments of synod funds, not funds received through regular giving."
"The daily ministries of the Lower Susquehanna Synod have continued -- and do continue -- and offerings supporting these ministries are secure," he said.
Funds were taken from bequests to the ELCA global mission program and from the synod bishop's discretionary fund for pastors in need of financial assistance, synod officials said.
The synod's governing council dismissed Herr on July 31, 2007. It took several steps to prevent such occurrences again, including implementing additional checks and balances as a further means of internal control, and requiring more than one authorized signature on endowment fund accounts.
Hoover and other members of the synod staff are meeting March 14 with professional church leaders across the synod to provide pastoral care and to answer any questions. Church leaders were asked to share Hoover's letter with the congregations they serve.
In his letter, Hoover reminded Lutherans "that the church is a divine institution, called into being by God to praise and witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is also a human institution, marked by all the sin and degradation of our fallen natures."
"When we are inescapably confronted with the reality of sin, we can only turn to God to make us whole," the bishop wrote.
Hoover pledged to help the synod move forward. "I will listen to members' concerns and suggestions," he said. "Our ministry to the people of this synod will continue, and we will be stronger as the people of God as a result." -- -- --
Supporting documents and the full text of Bishop Hoover's pastoral letter are at http://www.lss-ELCA.org on the Web site of the ELCA Lower Susquehanna Synod.
* Barb Myers is director for communication, ELCA Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa.
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