A Letter to the Presbytery Regarding Pastor Brent Dugan from Jim Mead
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November 5, 2006
Beloved in Christ,
I am writing at a time of deep loss and sorrow for many in the presbytery, and especially for the people of the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon. Last Friday evening leaders of the congregation and the presbytery were notified that the Reverend Brent Dugan had taken his life. Because so many of us knew and loved Brent, and because the circumstances leading up to his death have been the subject of articles in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, I thought many of you would want some reflections from the presbytery and the congregation.
Brent had been missing since late Wednesday afternoon, shortly after he learned that he would be featured in an undercover television news story by KDKA that would make sensational revelations of what KDKA alleged was misconduct. Members of the congregation made every imaginable effort to reach Brent through friends and family members, and a missing persons report was filed, but to no avail. Ultimately, KDKA decided not to air the story after they learned that Brent may take his own life. It is the view of many, including me, that KDKA may well be said to have crossed boundaries of acceptable journalistic practices in its development and treatment of this story . . . and its treatment of our pastor who was its subject. On Friday evening we were notified by the State Police that Brent had been found lifeless as a result of a self-induced overdose of medication.
I have been asked by the media whether there had ever been any concerns about Brent’s conduct. The unequivocal answer is, “no—none whatsoever.” Brent was and is deeply respected in this presbytery, known for the fruit he bore in ministry, his caring and thoughtfulness, and for his humble, missional leadership. He was a very dear man.
It is a comfort to know that Brent is now safe from harm and at peace in the presence of the One who called him, loved him in life and death, and whose promises are sure.
Brent left behind a note to the presbytery, expressing his profound sorrow and a kind of solemn grief and embarrassment. He closed his letter with this encouragement to us, “Please consider your own lives, dear friends. Cleanse them of all unrighteousness. Live in love and purity with your God and with one another.” Amen—I’ve been doing what Brent enjoined us to do, and hope you will, too. All of us are serving God on the basis of God’s calling and the grace of the Lord Jesus: the calling is high, the grace is deep. Thanks be to God.
The session, staff and leaders of the Ben Avon congregation have worked with great skill in providing care for their flock during this tragic time, with constant support from the presbytery’s staff, especially Rev. Carol Divens Roth, Sharon Stewart and from me. Rev. Dr. Jean Henderson has been named moderator of session and will pastor the congregation as temporary supply. Carol preached this past Sunday, assisted by Jean.
The session’s letter to the congregation included these words, “We are a community in grief over this tremendous and unnecessary loss.” Yes. And when one part of the body suffers, all suffer: I have received numerous calls from pastors across the presbytery expressing their grief at the loss of a dear friend and colleague, offering every help to the congregation, and wanting the congregation to know that they are being held in constant, affectionate, prayer.
Grace and peace to you in Christ Jesus,
Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery
We do not live to ourselves,
And we do not die to ourselves.
If we live, we live unto the Lord.
If we die, we die unto the Lord.
So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s possession.
For to this end Christ died and rose again,
That he might be the Lord of both the living and the dead.
(Romans 14: 7-9)