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Methodists/church staff taking church property


Dear Rev. Neal,
One of our staff resigned when his position was converted from paid to a non-paid volunteer position. After he left, we found out that he took several items that belong to the church. These items were donated by church members or were purchased by the church using church funds. He had access to the church even after he left because he still had in his possession a set of church keys and the electronic gate opener.

He admitted to taking these items but the church leaders decided not to pursue the matter further. The congregation was not informed of this incident to avoid embarrassment to his other family members who are also members of this church.

To date, the church leaders have not taken any steps to retrieve the church property nor is there any plan to inform the congregation of this incident. A few people knew about the incident but are keeping mum about it to avoid hurting his family members who are members of this church.

How should the church handle this situation? Please advice. Thank you.

This is a very disturbing story, and I'm sorry to read of it.  Unfortunately, if the SPRC and the Trustees have determined not to address the situation or in some other way attempt to reacquire the items that were taken, there really isn't much recourse to be had.  Causing a stink about it might cause action, but would it truly solve the problem?  Sometimes it's better to err on the side of grace and "be wronged" rather than push an issue and further the hurt and the pain.  In some ways, pushing this issue would probably result in the theft's generating more pain and hurt than the simple taking of the items generated.  Perhaps this is the reason why the SPRC and the Trustees decided not to act?  I cannot say.

In the end, it is probably best to leave this situation in the hands of the SPRC and the Trustees, and not attempt to force the issue.


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Rev. Gregory S. Neal


I can answer questions dealing with all issues of United Methodist Doctrine and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. In particular I can answer questions dealing with the Sacraments and other liturgical and worship-oriented questions. I can also answer questions dealing with the form, structure, and organization of the United Methodist Church and our relationship with other denominations.


I am an ordained United Methodist Elder with more than 20 years of ministerial service experience in the local Church.

I am a Clergy Member in Full Connection and have been a member of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1991. I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Emmaus Community, and am currently serving as Senior Spiritual Director for the Dallas Emmaus Community. I am a member of the Order of Saint Luke in the United Methodist Church.

I have my own website:   I have written two books, "Grace Upon Grace" and "Seeking the Shepherd's Arms," both available at and in bookstores.

I have a BA in Religious Studies, History and Russian. I have an M.Div in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies and a Ph.D in Sacramental Theology and New Testament.

Awards and Honors
Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church
Fellow of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

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