Do you know where your tithe dollars are going?
If you were a faithful member of Bethel Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Houston Texas, then they may have been going right into the pocket of your pastor and his wife…then to a Louisiana slot machine.
KHOU-11 news in Houston reports:
A Houston pastor and his wife are in the Harris County jail charged with bilking their former congregation out of more than $400,000 and using that money for gambling trips to Louisiana.
Charles Gilford, 58, and Adriane Gilford, 53, were indicted Wednesday by a Harris County grand jury and charged with aggregate theft and “misapplication of fiduciary property.”
Prosecutors allege the Gilfords used at least $430,000 in church funds to gamble at the Coushatta Casino near Lake Charles between 2004 and 2007. They were pastor and first lady of Bethel Institutional Missionary Baptist Church (BIMBC) on Selinsky Road in southeast Houston at the time.
“Over that three-year period of time as fiduciaries there, they were able to take that total of $430,000 from that little Baptist church,” said Amy McCauley with the white collar crimes section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
At that little Baptist church, a fixture in this neighborhood for decades, the current leadership told us they didn’t want to comment on the case. The Gilford’s left BIMBC five years ago.
Not only did this pastor and his wife allegedly steal money from the church, but they are believed to have gambled it away too? Looks like one idiot move leads to another.
Of course, as we’ve seen in several high profile scandals in churches across the country, even when faced with damning evidence, congregants cannot wipe the smoke out of their eyes and see when they’ve been had. Unfortunately, some members of this church are no different. The article goes on to say:
Close friends say they have trouble believing the couple would steal from their congregation.
“And when I tell you impeccable people, outstanding people willing to help, I just, this is a little bit too much for me,” said friend Regina Davis when she learned about the arrests.
“It doesn’t make sense,” added her son Freddie Davis. “As far as I know, they are really genuine people, both pastor Gilford and sister Gilford. They have been courteous and amazing over the years.”
But after poring over boxes and boxes of financial records, prosecutors convinced a grand jury to indict the pair on charges that carry anywhere from 5 years to life in prison.
Ummmm of course they were “courteous and amazing” — the members were funding their gambling addiction. I know that no one wants to believe the worst about leaders in their church, but unfortunately you can’t put this kind of behavior past anyone. You also can’t be too shocked when it happens. You like to think people are honest, but when you do the math, even small churches bring in a ton of money and most don’t have any financial oversight. In addition, too many of these pastors have people around them willing to turn a blind eye to their egregious actions. Granted, it definitely takes a special kind of boldness to steal money from a church, especially if you’re the pastor or his wife. Unsurprisingly, Adriane’s thievery was not confined to the church building. The story also said she was arrested in 2010 on a felony charge of writing bad checks in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
This couple is out of control. Fortunately, congregants who tithe out of obedience to the Bible know that they will be blessed regardless of any “misappropriation of funds”, but it does make you think twice before dropping your hard-earned money in the offering plate.
Alissa Henry is a freelance writer (and church girl) living in Columbus, OH. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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