A senior pastor from a Red Wing, Minn., church handed in his resignation last week after he was caught soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Pastor Gary Elg of First Presbyterian Church had served at his position for 23 years and had a respected leadership role in the community, PostBulletin.com reported, but on July 26 he admitted to his transgression and mailed his resignation letter to the church's 350 members.
"I have failed you as a pastor and a friend," 60-year old Elg wrote. He also read from the letter during a special session. "I have crossed some serious ethical and moral boundaries."
"I apologize for my inappropriate behavior that has led to this decision," he continued. "I will be seeking therapy and healing for my life and for the good of my family."
The 12 members of the Presbyterian session who listened to his explanation admitted that they were "stunned" by what had happened, but had no choice but to accept his resignation. Officials also made sure that church members were made aware of the situation even before Elg's admission.
"It certainly can be (stunning) and has been," said First Presbyterian session member Ian Sheerer. "Gary has been our pastor for 23 years. Widely, the response has been an outpouring of love for Gary and his family… as we go through the various stages of grief and mourning."
It is unclear just how severe the charges for the pastor are going to be for offering money for sex to the undercover officer, but spokesman Paul Paulos of the St. Paul Police Department shared that the citation Elg received was for a misdemeanor charge. St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing further explained that the penalty for his transgression might be more serious if it is found that the solicitation took place at a public place.
Elg is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 10. In the meantime, the congregation is set to consider on Sunday whether they should make a "separation package" for their long-serving pastor. The package would include up to two month's salary, with benefits, along with payment for the remaining two weeks of vacation he is due this year.