A North Carolina pastor has been placed on administrative leave after he was arrested and subsequently replaced for allegedly spending $540 of his small-town church’s money for his personal use.
The pastor, 34-year-old Cole Altizer of Maggie Valley United Methodist Church in Maggie Valley, which has a population of 1,687, according to the 2020 Census, is now facing one count of felony larceny by an employee, but he isn’t saying much publicly about the allegation.
He told The Mountaineer, “I want to be as cooperative as possible and help the truth come out.”
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done, and I’m very sad with where we’ve found ourselves,” Altizer added. “All of us involved in this are disappointed in the distraction of all of this.”
When asked how the money was discovered missing, Maggie Valley United Methodist Church Board Chair Ken Brown said it happened during a count of the church’s money.
“I can say the money was counted and it was determined that amount was missing,” he told ABC 13 News. “It’s an upsetting circumstance.”
Maggie Valley Police Chief Matthew Boger told The Mountaineer that the investigation is still ongoing, and more charges could potentially come for Altizer, but Brown says he hopes Altizer isn’t guilty of the crime.
“There could be more. We don’t know. We hope not. We hope when it’s all said and done that, frankly, Cole’s not guilty of anything,” he said.
A church volunteer who asked that her name not be published told The Christian Post that Altizer had already been replaced. His name was removed from signs at the church about a week ago.
“We have a new pastor as of this time. We were informed of that Sunday,” the church volunteer said.
When asked about Altizer’s removal from the church and the case against him, Maggie Valley’s new pastor, Mike Shirley, declined to comment on Thursday.
With not much information to go on except the alleged missing $540, members of the church and the small town have been left reeling.
“It’s not a good feeling at all. It’s surprising, it’s heartbreaking, but we will just try to continue the work that we’ve been doing,” the church volunteer told CP.
“As a Christian, I just feel really sad that it has happened for any church,” Barbara Tyson, who runs Aunt Bee’s Blessing Shop near the church, told ABC 13 News. “I don’t belong to that church, but it’s a sad situation.”
Brown explained that Altizer will remain on administrative leave through December when his fate will be decided by the bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“And that decision has been made, but it’s not been announced yet. He is part of the church and subject to reassignment as the church determines,” Brown said.
Aimee Yeager, director of communications for the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, told The Mountaineer that they are aware of the case of the missing $540 and they were praying through the investigation.
“This is a painful situation for everyone involved and for the congregation at Maggie Valley, and we are holding everyone in our prayers as the investigation continues,” Yeager said.
“It’s just a very unfortunate situation for the church and the community that have to go through this,” the police chief added.
As he awaits the outcome of the investigation, Altizer urged Christians in the town to focus on the good work the church has done.
“Maggie Valley United Methodist Church is a church that has been around for 150 years. It’s done so much good for the community,” he said. “After this all settles down, I hope people can remember that the most important thing about this church and this community are the good people that want to help others.”
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