ANDERSON — A statewide church organization has issued an apology for the recent appointment of a lay pastor who was convicted five years ago of official misconduct. After an outcry from church members, the pastor was removed.
Indiana United Methodist Church Bishop Julius Trimble emailed a statement Friday to The Herald Bulletin saying the appointment of Jerry Hoss to lead congregations at the New Horizons United Methodist Church in Anderson and Aroma United Methodist in Atlanta, Indiana, was “a mistake we cannot afford to make.
Trimble wrote that it was “right, responsible, and redemptive that I apologize.”
Hoss served as principal of Frankton Jr./Sr. High School before his contract was terminated in 2013 during an investigation into allegations that he sent inappropriate texts to students. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to official misconduct and served 18 months of probation.
After The Herald Bulletin published a news article July 13 about Hoss’ appointment at New Horizons and his criminal record, some members of the local congregation objected and more than 845 United Methodists signed a petition to have him removed.
A regional official of the Indiana United Methodist Church, Chris Nunley, initially defended the appointment of Hoss in the July 13 article. But the day after the article was published, he sent a statement from the IUMC retracting the appointment.
“Because of the things we have discovered over the past 24 hours, Bishop Trimble has ended the assignments of Mr. Hoss at both the New Horizons and Aroma United Methodist Churches,” the July 14 statement read.
After the United Methodist member petition circulated, Bishop Trimble issued a much longer statement Friday.
Trimble wrote that the congregations at the Anderson and Atlanta churches would be given “care and concern” and that healing would be offered to those in the church “who have relived trauma during this time.”
The statement also said “review is underway to implement necessary procedural changes that ensure all assignments of laity and clergy to local churches meet the highest standards of vetting for safety and success.”
At the end of the Friday statement, Nunley issued an apology to those in the church and those who have experienced sexual abuse in their lives.
“While I reviewed some information with my colleagues on the Appointive Cabinet, I now realized that more information should have been shared in the process.” He also said his colleagues did not have enough information to provide “adequate counsel” on the assignment.
Trimble declined to offer additional comments Monday.
The investigation of Hoss that began in 2013 found that he had asked a 16-year-old student for nude or semi-nude pictures and had sent two photos of himself to her. In one, he was naked from the waist down, according to authorities.
Detectives also said that in 2010 Hoss had texted a 17-year-old student, asking her to come to his house and drink alcohol with him.