The pastor of Benevola United Methodist Church in Boonsboro has been suspended from her position for not fully disclosing her husband’s status as a registered child sex offender, a church superintendent said Wednesday.
David Alvin Smith, 57, the husband of the Rev. Helen Smith, pleaded guilty in 2008 to a third-degree sex offense charge after his adult daughter told authorities he had sexually abused her as a child.
As details about his conviction came to light in media reports this spring, a congregation member alleged the information differed from what the Rev. Smith had told her congregation about the matter and alerted church supervisors, said John Rudisill, superintendent of the Cumberland-Hagerstown District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.
About two weeks ago, the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry voted to suspend the Rev. Smith and seek a replacement pastor for the Benevola church, Rudisill said.
“Our decision was because the information that Pastor Smith had provided the congregation differed from the facts and evidence in police reports and other transcripts,” he said.
Rudisill said he could not disclose what the pastor had told the congregation about the matter.
The Rev. Smith is away on an unrelated sabbatical and could not be reached for comment.
Church officials still were investigating the Rev. Smith’s compliance with church policies and expect to make a final decision about her future with the church by the first week in June, Rudisill said.
The Rev. Smith has been pastor of the Benevola church for 15 years, Rudisill said.
David Smith also is a church member and might have participated in one or two of the congregation’s singing groups, Rudisill said.
He did not have any involvement with children or youths in the church, and church officials have no indication he was involved inappropriately with anyone in the congregation, Rudisill said.
The Smiths have been away since January on a family getaway in the Caribbean that was arranged before the situation came to light, Rudisill said. The church has had an interim pastor since they left, he said.
The Rev. Smith’s absence has complicated the church’s investigation into the complaint filed against her, but she is expected back soon, Rudisill said.
The church has a “Safe Sanctuary” policy that requires members to disclose any information they have about congregation members who are convicted of a sexual offense, Rudisill said. Once that information is available to church leaders, the pastor is obligated to report it to a supervisor, he said.
The policy is intended to ensure the safety of children and to encourage anyone else who might have been a victim of a sex offender to come forward for help, Rudisill said.
“Silence just is not appropriate in a situation like this,” he said.