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Thursday, December 21, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with stealing Bibles and money

A pastor charged with swiping antique Bibles from a Royersford, PA, church in Montgomery County and peddling them on eBay is now facing another charge: stealing money intended for needy families from a fund he established at the church.

When confronted, the Rev. William Shrout Jr. admitted taking the money from the fund at First United Church of Christ and using it for personal purposes, according to a news release Monday from Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor.

Shrout will have a preliminary hearing Thursday in Limerick on his charges.

The news release didn't disclose the amount of money taken.

As pastor of First UCC, Shrout set up "The Sunshine Fund" to help needy families. Shrout had sole control of the fund to keep the recipients anonymous, the news release said.

As investigators worked on the charges that Shrout and his wife, Carla, stole antique Bibles from the church, they learned Shrout had stolen from the fund, the news release said.

Shrout served as pastor at First UCC from 2003 to 2005. The month he left, an old cedar box and leather-bound Bibles, some of them dating to the 1920s, disappeared.

They then appeared on sale on eBay, and were spotted by a church member. That member successfully purchased them, and the package came with Shrout's return address in Upper Mount Bethel Township, where he moved after leaving First UCC.

The Shrouts were arrested in October and charged with theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.

A few days later at a Sunday service, the congregation at Trinity United Church of Christ in Upper Mount Bethel, where Shrout is interim pastor, gave him a standing ovation in support.