Retired Lutheran pastor accused of inappropriate
Sunday, May 26, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG — A recently
retired Lutheran pastor may no longer minister in any capacity in the wake
of allegations of inappropriate behavior with female parishioners, his
About the same time the Rev. Bruce Wilder left his 400-member
congregation in March, multiple female church members came forward with
accusations, said Bishop Edward R. Benoway of the Florida-Bahamas Synod of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"The behaviors contained in the allegations include inappropriate
hugging, kissing on the lips, fondling of the breasts and genital sexual
contact," Benoway told the congregation at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in a
letter dated Tuesday.
An allegation concerning a girl was passed on the to St. Petersburg
Police Department which is investigating, Benoway said Friday.
In the letter, Benoway said the council of the synod voted to deny
Wilder, 65, retired roster status which allows retired pastors to continue
serving, perhaps at understaffed congregations.
Wilder will receive his pension benefits but won't be allowed to
perform religious duties.
Benoway said Wilder denied the allegations and is believed to have left
the area. He had been at St. Andrew for five years and served a
congregation in Virginia for the previous four years where there had been
no complaints, the bishop said.
Florida-Bahamas Synod oversees 220 congregations in Florida and one in
the Bahamas, Benoway said.