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Embezzlement ordeal leaves church ‘anxious to move on’

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) — Days before its former treasurer faces arraignment in the alleged embezzlement of more than $300,000 from the congregation, Antioch Baptist Church remains focused on ministry, pastor Jack Emmite told Baptist Press today (March 16).

[We’re] just anxious to move on with what the Lord has for us to be doing,” Emmite said. “We’re trying to just stay focused on doing ministry right now.”

Donald R. White, 68, of Hannibal was arrested March 9 on two federal counts of wire fraud “in connection with the theft of monies in excess of $300,000 dollars from the parishioners of the Antioch Baptist Church,” Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie announced in a press release. White was transferred to St. Louis for incarceration, the sheriff said.

White is expected to face arraignment March 19, Emmite said, in the case that stemmed from a suspicious fire that destroyed the church building days before Christmas of 2016. Church members suspected White “of being involved with the large scale theft of church funds just prior to the fire,” the sheriff’s office said in its press release.

Antioch Baptist is rebuilding its church facility while worshipping in a Seventh Day Adventist congregation’s building in Hannibal on Sundays, Emmite said.

“We’ve been through a lot, obviously with this and the fire,” Emmite told BP. “But the church is anxious to get into our new facility we’re in the process of rebuilding, and we’re really, really trying to focus on that.

“Of course all of this is still ongoing,” Emmite said, “so we’re not finished with this I’m sure.”

Volunteer construction teams from Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri and possibly other states will help the church rebuild in June on a foundation expected to be in place by May, Emmite said.

“We anticipate by possibly fall or winter we could be in the building,” Emmite said. The church was founded in 1870 and had been rebuilt in 1966. With 200 resident members, the church attracted about 60–75 to Sunday morning worship services as recently as 2017, according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Church Profile.

White had served as volunteer treasurer since at least 2000 and deacon chairman since 2012, according to SBC data. The Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service and the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office assisted the Ralls County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation, the sheriff’s office said.