Friday, December 02, 2005

 

Pastor of Euless church faces sex charge



Thanks to Cowtown for this:

EULESS, Texas - A pastor who was also a police volunteer was arrested Thursday after authorities say he molested a 21-year-old "immature" man and later was recorded offering to perform more sex acts on him.

The Rev. James Leonard Finley, 68, was stopped by Euless patrol officers just a few blocks from the man's apartment in north Euless, police said.

Finley, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Euless, was released from the Euless City Jail on Thursday evening after posting $1,000 bail. He is accused of public lewdness by molesting the man Thursday.

"He had befriended the kid," Euless Detective Kimberly Althouse said. "He had even helped his family pay some bills."

Police said the encounter occurred in the Euless apartment the man shares with his mother. In addition to Finley's pastoral duties, he has also been active in the city's citizens patrol and is on a list of pastors called to help to console people involved in tragic events, police said.

Upon hearing of Finley's arrest, Associate Pastor Beverly Springer said she couldn't answer questions about the church or the pastor, except to say that First United Methodist Church of Euless has 1,385 names on its membership roster.

"I have to go to the jail and find out what's going on," Springer said.

Finley will not be in the pulpit Sunday to oversee a scheduled youth musical, said Connally Dugger, district superintendent for the Mid Cities District of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Springer will be in charge until Finley meets with Bishop Ben Chamness next week to discuss the situation, Dugger said.

"The bishop's out of town," Dugger said. "I've informed him of what I know, and he said we'll figure things out when he gets back."

Finley has ministered at First United Methodist Church of Euless for the past four years and has spent most of his career ministering across Texas, Dugger said.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I spoke with him this evening, and he told me about being arrested and about the charge. But that's it. The details are troubling."

A woman at Finley's home declined to comment.

Authorities said they were investigating the possibility of other victims.

"The investigation is not over," Althouse said.

During questioning, police said, Finley denied wrongdoing, but he asked for a lawyer when police played the telephone recording.

Police said the man and Finley met in July at a Euless store where the man worked, police said. Generally, the Star-Telegram does not identify people who report being victims of a sexual assault.

Althouse described the man as "immature" and who trusted the pastor.

"He had talked to the pastor about a Web site he had created," Althouse said. "The pastor visited with the man every time he went to the store. At one point, the pastor asked for the man's telephone number."

The man thought that was odd, but he believed that it was fine because it was a pastor, Althouse said.

"The pastor later told him that he loved him," Althouse said. "Again, the man didn't think much of it because it was coming from a pastor."

Their relationship reached another level on Thursday morning, police said.

His mother was not home, the man told police, when the pastor came to his Euless apartment, bringing him breakfast. At some point, the pastor began talking about having sexual experiences, he said.

Finley is accused of fondling the man, who pleaded for him to stop, police said.

The pastor left the man crying in the apartment after the brief encounter, police said.

The young man called police and was taken to the station to discuss what happened. "He was quite upset," Althouse said.

While at the police station, officials asked the man to telephone the pastor and ask him about what he had done, authorities said. In a brief recorded conversation, the pastor offered to perform more sex acts on the Euless man because he wanted to be the first, police said.

After aiding police, the man was driven back to his Euless apartment, Althouse said.

Within minutes, the man called police to report that the pastor was at his apartment, trying again to get inside his home, Althouse said.

Finley was gone when officers arrived, but he was stopped a few blocks away, Althouse said.

Finley could be is expected to be charged with public lewdness, in the next few days, a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, he faces a maximum of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Finley has been ministering for 43 years, according to a newsletter posted on the church's Web site. He is the senior pastor, with Springer assisting.

First United Methodist Church of Euless is located at 106 N. Main St.


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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