ELCA Synod Bishop Issues Statement after Arrest of Former Treasurer

3/14/2008 12:00:00 AM

     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.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

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