A former pastor at a church in Pennsylvania has been charged with stealing over $357,000 from the congregation he served for 40 years.
The Rev. Wayne Peck, who retired from being the pastor of Community House Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh in 2017, turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Peck was charged with receiving stolen property and theft, with the former pastor having allegedly stolen $357,478 from the church.
Detectives said Peck took the large sum from the church’s account at First National Bank via checks made payable to himself and deposited into accounts controlled by himself and his wife.
The Peck family then allegedly used the $357,000 taken from the church’s account to pay their mortgage, travel and meals, and utility bills, the Post-Gazette reported.
The congregation and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Presbytery of Pittsburgh reached out to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office after they became aware of “irregularities” in their finances, according to news outlet WPXI.
Julia Gitelman, attorney for Peck, was quoted by WPXI as saying that she believed it was “shocking that the Pittsburgh Presbytery has chosen to resolve an honest dispute in this manner.”
Peck and his congregation have ties to the More Light Presbyterians, an LGBT advocacy group that successfully lobbied for the PCUSA to change its official position against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
In 2012, Peck and Jan Leo of Community House Presbyterian received the National More Light Church Award for their efforts, according to the TribLive news site.
On its official Facebook page, Community House Presbyterian describes itself as a “progressive community full of intellect and passion.”
“We celebrate and share the gracious love of God who welcomes everyone to the table of grace, peace and light,” stated the church.
“At our church, you find more than an intimate community of acceptance and a sense of belonging: you also find your authentic spiritual home.”
According to CBS Pittsburgh, the church has about 50 members.