Church: Text messages ‘crossed the line,’ prompted investigation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2013

High Rock Community Church officials say they want the community to know they don’t condone the alleged actions of a pastor they fired several days ago over inappropriate relationships.
The church fired east campus pastor Torrey Morgan before the 36-year-old was charged.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office charged Morgan of Crawford Road in Salisbury late Friday with two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child, felony second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, misdemeanor charges of disseminating harmful material to a minor under 18 and felony disseminating harmful material to a minor under 16. Morgan was placed in the Rowan County Detention Center and was issued a $50,000 secured bond. He has since been released from jail.
A phone call to Morgan on Saturday was not returned.
Morgan, who began with the church nearly three years ago in its youth ministry, had been leading the east campus, located at Bringle Ferry Road.
The executive leadership received an accusation of an inappropriate relationship involving Morgan, said Dr. Tom Bartlett, a member of the executive leadership. The church leadership team met with Morgan, conducted its own investigation and terminated his job. In its official statement, the church said when it discovered the alleged inappropriate contact involved high school students, they contacted law enforcement.
Bartlett said the church’s first concern was those “who have been hurt.” Church officials did not want to “hide anything from the church and the community,” he said.
Bartlett said after the accusations were made, they were brought to the attention of the church’s executive leadership team. Senior pastor Ray Johnson, who had been at the church’s Myrtle Beach campus, returned to Salisbury and met with the leadership team.
Bartlett said it all began with inappropriate text messages to a young adult woman. The church has a zero tolerance policy against inappropriate contact. He said the text to the adult woman did not contain sexual content, but the church felt it “crossed the line.”
In talking with Morgan, church leaders determined “his story was inconsistent and that led to other admissions of inappropriate contact,” Bartlett said.
Law enforcement officials said in a statement the complaints were from teenage members of the church and involved allegations of sexual activity and advances made by Morgan.
Bartlett said the church leadership realizes people have been harmed by the situation and the first priority is to give emotional and spiritual support to those affected.
“Our pastors are devastated. We consider ourselves a family,” Bartlett said.
He said the leadership notified the church congregation and wanted to be open with them.
Morgan agreed to issue an apology to the church, Bartlett said, but at the last minute opted against it. Instead, the church leadership read Morgan’s apology statement to the congregation.
“We have many guidelines for our pastors and accountability partners. The only way a person could do these things is if they are dishonest with their accountability,” Bartlett said.
“These actions are inconsistent with the teachings of the church and bypass the standards of conduct and accountability our church has established for its pastors,” the church statement said.
Bartlett said the church has safeguards in place and there has always been a code of conduct for pastors.
Johnson, the senior pastor, will head the east campus along with other ministers and leaders there.
“We have some outstanding pastors and very godly men that are there at the east campus,” Bartlett said.
Anyone with information concerning the case is asked to contact Lt. Chad Moose, of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division, at 704-216-8687.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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