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Texas pastor arrested, accused of lewdness

Dec. 6, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

A United Methodist pastor in the Central Texas Annual Conference is facing charges of “public lewdness” and is accused of allegedly molesting a young adult man.

The Rev. James L. Finley, 68, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Euless, Texas, was arrested Dec. 1 after authorities said he molested a 21-year-old man and was later recorded offering to perform sexual acts on the individual. He was released from jail that evening after posting $1,000 bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

He was suspended from his ministry Dec. 6, a conference spokeswoman said.

Finley, pastor at First Church for four years, was ordained in 1964 and transferred to the Central Texas Conference in 1970, according to church records.

“The Central Texas Conference acknowledges that charges of public lewdness have been brought against Dr. James Leonard ‘Jimmy’ Finley. This is a tragic situation, and we are concerned for the well-being of anyone who may have been harmed — the young man, the pastor and the congregation” said Bishop Benjamin Chamness on Dec. 2, following Finley’s arrest. Chamness leads the Central Texas Conference.

“We understand that humans are fallible, but we also know that through God we have the means and faith to bring healing,” Chamness said. “Within the United Methodist Church we have a clearly defined process for dealing with such matters, including counseling where needed.

“While that process in under way, the Rev. Beverly Springer, associate pastor at our Euless church, will be in charge of day-to-day operations,” he said.

Finley was suspended for 90 days and was relieved of all pastoral duties during that time, said Carolyn Stephens, associate director for mission ministries and director of communications.

Chamness and the Rev. B. Connally Dugger, superintendent of the conference’s Mid-Cities District, met with Finley and his attorney Dec. 5 to “work on the impact of this matter” on Finley, First United Methodist Church and the denomination, Stephens said. Counselors also met with church staff and members Dec. 5.

An outcome of that conversation is that a special meeting of the bishop’s appointed cabinet will meet Dec. 14 to decide on whether an interim pastor will be assigned to the First Church or an appointment made, she said.

According to news reports, Finley allegedly molested the man at the man’s apartment and the police were called. After the man told police what had transpired, detectives had him telephone Finley to inquire about his actions. In a recorded conversation, Finley allegedly offered to perform more sexual acts on the man. Police arrested Finley Dec. 1 a few blocks from the man’s apartment, which he shares with his mother.

When contacted by United Methodist News Service on Dec. 6, Finley declined to make a comment on the advice of his attorney.

The bishop and other conference officials visited the First Church congregation Dec. 4 to worship and stand in solidarity with the 1,385-member congregation.

Chamness, speaking to the congregation, told them he has been grieved since their pastor was arrested for “an act unbecoming of a Christian, much less a United Methodist minister,” but when all of the facts are gathered, “we have the means of dealing with them.”

The bishop told the congregation that his office had no knowledge of any past incidents involving Finley. “In fact, Rev. Finley has served the United Methodist Church faithfully for more than 40 years, according to every record that I find.”

Dugger said he would use all resources at his disposal to ensure that the church’s ministry is unimpeded. “During these next days, I will be in close touch with your staff parish committee to see that all areas of ministry are adequately covered,” he said.

Chamness echoed Dugger, promising that both would be in contact to provide counseling to members and asking them “to work together as never before, pray for one another and seek the healing mercy of God.” He urged the congregation to remember “we will seek to do God’s will in these imperfect circumstances.”

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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