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Jacksonville pastor suspended, arrested on child porn charge

July 22, 2005

By Tita Parham*

LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — The Rev. Eric Young was suspended from his duties as pastor of Fort Caroline United Methodist Church in Jacksonville in response to allegations that he used a computer at the church to access Web sites featuring child pornography.

Those allegations led to a two-week police investigation and Young’s arrest July 8 on a state felony charge of possessing child pornography.

The Rev. Rick Neal, Young’s superintendent, filed a formal complaint against Young with Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker July 11.

“I have a responsibility to care for children. I have a responsibility to the church and pastor,” Neal said. “In that list, children come first, and after taking into consideration many factors, I felt a formal complaint and request for suspension was warranted.”

Young declined to comment when contacted July 22 by United Methodist News Service.

Following a supervisory hearing with Young, Whitaker recommended to the Florida Conference Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry that Young be suspended. The board voted unanimously July 15 to affirm that recommendation.

Young will continue to receive his salary but will not carry out any pastoral duties at the church.

“He is not doing anything in relation to the church or any other church,” Neal said. “This will be his status until the judicial process runs its course.”

Police began their investigation June 24 after leaders at Fort Caroline United Methodist Church notified them about questionable Internet activity taking place on a computer at the church. The phone company’s Internet service provider contacted the church the day before and told them they had noticed the activity. Police technicians examined Young’s computer and files and said they found links to pornographic Web sites and other illegal material.

Immediately after the allegations were made, Young agreed to discontinue practicing ministry at the church at the direction of Neal and the church staff pastor parish relations committee. Since then, Neal has been providing leadership for the church and arranging for other clergy in the area to preach and handle pastoral duties. He is looking for an interim pastor.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline allows the church to take action against a pastor only after a formal complaint has been made. Young faces the possibility of charges by a committee that will investigate the complaint, a church trial and the removal of his ministerial credentials. Young was ordained an elder in full connection in 1982. He was appointed to the Fort Caroline church in June 2004.

Whitaker said the Book of Discipline outlines a process for fairly assessing any evidence related to a complaint, and the conference will go through that process before further action is taken.

“We must investigate the matter thoroughly and follow the judicial procedures carefully in order to see the matter through to its proper resolution,” Neal said. “This is the only way to really care for the church and all the other parties involved.”

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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