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Tuesday, December 13, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Accused pastor placed on 90-day suspension

By CAREN M. PENLAND
SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM


EULESS -- Methodist church officials placed a pastor accused of molesting a 21-year-old man on a 90-day suspension Tuesday, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Bishop Ben Chamness has called for a special meeting Dec. 14 of top officials of the 28-county Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church to discuss further disciplinary action against the Rev. James L. Finley, 68.

They will determine then whether to permanently relieve Finley of his post as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Euless, conference spokeswoman Carolyn Stephens said.

"What happens at that meeting depends on pastor Finley," Stephens said. "He has not indicated that he wishes to resign, though he has met with the bishop to discuss the situation."

Finley will retain his salary and benefits during the investigation. The Rev. Charles McClure, retired director of the conference's finance and administration, will lead the Euless congregation until an interim pastor is appointed Dec. 14, Stephens said.

Finley, of Euless, could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

He was arrested Thursday in Euless after police say he molested a 21-year-old man. He was released that evening after posting $1,000 bail.

On Sunday, Chamness read a prepared statement to the Euless congregation: "This week, the news reported that your pastor, Rev. Jimmy Finley, was arrested for an act unbecoming of a Christian, much less a United Methodist minister. It has grieved me, and I am sure that it has grieved you. ... I trust that you will work together as never before, pray for one another, and seek the healing mercy of God."

Finley, who is married and has four adult children, has been at First United Methodist Church of Euless for the past four years, according to church records.

He is expected to be charged with public lewdness, a Class A misdemeanor, police have said. He could face a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

AND MORE

Euless pastor leaves ministryBy CAREN M. PENLANDSPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAMEULESS — A pastor who was arrested this month on suspicion of molesting a 21-year-old man has withdrawn from the United Methodist Church ministry, church authorities said. James L. Finley, who had been pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Euless for four years, relinquished his ministry credentials during a meeting Wednesday with Bishop Ben Chamness, head of the 28-county Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Finley, 68, will no longer be able to serve as a pastor at any church, perform weddings, or preach, officials said.

The Rev. Charles McClure, retired director of the conference’s finance and administration, will serve as interim pastor in Euless until Jan. 31, while church authorities search for a permanent replacement.

Finley, who was arrested Dec. 1, had been placed on 90 days’ suspension from the Euless church, which has about 1,400 members. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

Conference spokeswoman Carolyn Stephens said a pastor from another church will be appointed in Euless, which may cause “a shift in clergy in other area churches,” though she couldn’t say how many or which churches may be affected.
United Methodist pastors generally don’t spend more than five or six years at any given church, she said. In situations where a pastor resigns, a cabinet of top church authorities chooses a replacement from another area church, which will then also need a replacement, causing several pastors to move.

“We find the best person for the congregation,” she said. “Different congregations have different needs, and when something like this happens, church members need a strong and compassionate pastor to lead them through hard times.”

Finley, of Euless, was arrested after a 21-year-old man called police to report that he had been molested. Investigators urged the man to call Finley on the telephone and talk with him about what happened. Police recorded that phone conversation, during which Finley offered to perform additional sex acts on the man, police have said.

After the man returned to his apartment, Finley showed up and the man called police, who arrested Finley about a block away.

Finley is free on $1,000 bail. He is accused of public lewdness, a Class A misdemeanor, police have said. If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

“The church regrets that any [persons] might have been harmed by the undesirable actions of Finley,” Chamness said in a written statement Thursday. “The church stands ready to offer counseling to any of those who request it.”