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FBI investigates missing money from Baptist church, pastor quits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an inquiry into the disappearance of money from a Southern Baptist church just days after the church’s pastor resigned, according to a report in the Associated Press.

James Altus Newell, pastor of Deermeadows Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., resigned May 31, ending 10 years of service to the 2,100-member congregation. About 300 people met for three hours before voting to accept Newell’s resignation.

Newell, who has previously served congregations in Alabama and was president of a Baptist seminary in Europe, said he has done nothing wrong and was resigning due to a medical disability.

However, the Associated Press reported that some church members opposed to Newell said they have documents that show $100,000 went to a Swiss bank account instead of mission work in the Czech Republic.

Newell’s attorney, Arch Wallace, said his client has documents that show the money did go to missionary work.

On June 2 the FBI subpoenaed the church’s financial records about contributions made by Newell and unidentified church members. An FBI agent met with the church’s administrator and financial secretary before leaving with several documents.

A spokesman for the FBI told the Associated Press the agency was trying to determine if any federal violations were committed.

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