Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh the Vulnerability . . .

'I ask your forgiveness': First Baptist pastor Flockhart's lies on resume led to his resignation

By Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The Rev. Steven Flockhart lied, and for leaders of the venerable First Baptist Church West Palm Beach, it came down to that.

On Sunday, a little more than a day after Flockhart, 40, resigned as pastor of First Baptist, the chairman of the church's personnel committee told hundreds of congregation members why they asked the charismatic pastor to leave.

"First Timothy says very clearly that a pastor should be blameless, and, moreover, he must have a good testimony with those from outside or fall under reproach and smear of the devil," Ben Bassett said. "The reality of our goal at a time like this is to deal with the issue of sin, and Dr. Flockhart has spoken untruth to us and confessed it is a sin."

Shortly after Flockhart's appointment in June, The Palm Beach Post reported that a Georgia church had sued him to force repayment of a $162,799 debt allegedly rung up by using church credit cards for personal use and writing checks to himself without church permission. Flockhart repaid the debt last year.

On Sunday, The Post ran a front-page story about Flockhart's résumé, which contained false claims about his education, including that he had graduated from Columbia International University and had earned degrees from two other respected institutions. He actually obtained bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees through correspondence courses offered by a Georgia theological school that is not accredited by a recognized agency.

Flockhart wrote a resignation letter that Bassett read to church members at Sunday's service.

"Never did I expect my foolish mistakes from eight years ago to resurface and cause such embarrassment," Flockhart wrote. "I ask your forgiveness for this situation. You embraced our family and loved us from the beginning. We immediately fell in love with First Baptist and this community. I will cherish the sweet memories that we shared in this brief time together."


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