Fountain of Life struggles after $160,000 theft
An employee of a Springfield-area United Methodist Church has been charged with four counts of theft following her arrest Jan. 20.
The Buffalo-Mechanicsburg Police Department and U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force arrested Deborah A. Moore, 46, charging her with theft of more than $160,000 from Fountain of Life UMC, located in Buffalo.
The charges allege that Moore took the money between October 2009 and December 2010, making checks payable to herself with forged church leaders’ signatures and then deposited the money in personal accounts or used the funds to pay off credit cards.
Even as authorities continue to piece together, the church is examining what it can do to continue its ministry and outreach.
“It’s more than the money. It’s the whole situation,” Rev. Jennifer Seder told the Springfield State Journal-Register. “Debbie is someone who was loved and trusted. We are feeling very victimized. It’s affecting the congregation and the greater community.”
Sangamon River District Superintendent Terry Harter has been in contact with the congregation offering support and looking at ways in which the conference can provide assistance in this difficult time.
“This certainly is tragic, but hopefully, there is a teaching moment for congregations to ensure that proper internal financial controls are in place so that this will not happen,” Harter said.
Harter pointed to a 2008 document prepared by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration that provides a template of internal financial controls for local congregations. The document is located for download on the IGRC website at: http://www.igrc.org/internalcontrols
The 2008 Book of Discipline empowers local church’s committees on finance with the responsibility to “establish written financial policies to document internal controls of the local church.” The provision requires that financial policies be reviewed “for adequacy and effectiveness annually” by the committee on finance and submitted as a report to the charge conference.
Some of the $160,000 came from the church’s general fund but the church’s savings and building fund were also targeted in the theft.
The $160,000 represents roughly the annual budget of the congregation, which formed in 2002, following the closing of the Buffalo, Dawson and Mechanicsburg UMC’s in a specific effort to reach a new generation for Christ.
About 100 are involved in the congregation which does a great deal of outreach to young persons and families. The congregation recently completed the first phase of renovations of a former Catholic Parish Hall in Buffalo.
“We are very involved in community outreach,” Seder told the newspaper. “We host events for high schoolers and junior high students. We have provided milk money for some students. We have supported the local food pantry. This (the theft) will affect our giving, because we don’t have the funds that should have been there.”
Even as church members struggle in the aftermath, Seder said the church will need to go through a process of forgiveness.
“We will get to the point where we will be able to forgive Debbie. We pray for Debbie and her family,” Seder said.