The senior pastor of Bloomington Illinois' Second Presbyterian Church has been put on medical leave following his arrest during a domestic dispute with his estranged wife, church officials said Monday.
The Rev. Ted Pierce has been charged with aggravated battery, criminal trespass to a residence and domestic battery after a June 29 incident. Prosecutors say he choked his wife, from whom he is separated, and threatened to kill her.
Pierce has been active in the community during his five years at the helm of Second Presbyterian, helping to create the Compassion Center, a day center for homeless people in downtown Bloomington, and ShareFest, an annual countywide volunteerism program.
The Rev. Roane Deckert, who has served as minister of pastoral care under Ted Pierce and has assumed Pierce's pastoral duties, said many were shocked and saddened to hear about the incident and continue to support Pierce.
"Do we approve of what happened? Of course not. Nobody in their right mind would," Deckert said. "But the issue is that Ted is still one of us. These things happen to people. Nobody is in a position to point fingers."
Report of a dispute
The dispute started when Pierce arrived at his wife's new home and learned she was inside with a male friend, according to court records.
Prosecutors say Ted Pierce entered the house, grabbed Laura Pierce by the neck and began choking her in an attempt to make her admit the man was her boyfriend, court records state.
Ted Pierce then held a knife to Laura Pierce and said he was going to kill her if she didn't confess by the time he finished counting to three, according to the charges.
Laura Pierce suffered several scratches and wounds from the knife as she pushed it away from her body, charges state; those wounds led to the charge of aggravated battery.
Ted Pierce eventually left the home after his wife told him to think of their two children, court records said.
The man who had been in the house with Laura Pierce left through a back door moments before Ted Pierce gained entry to the house, court records showed.
Ted Pierce referred all questions about the incident to Bloomington defense attorney Leann Hill when contacted Monday by the Pantagraph. Hill could not be reached for comment.
Pierce was arraigned on the charges Friday and remains free after posting $1,500 cash. A judge has ordered that he have no contact with Laura Pierce or her residence.
Meanwhile, Pierce will remain senior pastor at Second Presbyterian until further action is taken by members of the personnel committee, said Deckert.
David Strand, who was president of Illinois State University from 1995 to 1999, serves on the committee that would take action on Pierce's status.
"Right now at this point, there are no plans for the committee to take action," Strand said Monday. "We continue to pray for Ted and Laura Pierce, and their children, during these difficult times."
Second Presbyterian, which has more than 1,500 members, is one of the larger churches in the Twin Cities.