Megachurch pastor's dismissal based on accounts from 'two or more witnesses,' church leaders say

Leaders of the Northwest Ministry Network said Monday they relied on "the testimony of two or more witnesses" before unanimously recommending the dismissal of Tacoma megachurch pastor Dean Curry, who announced his departure from Tacoma's Life Center church over the weekend.

The news regarding Curry, who was accused of unspecified physical misconduct with a former female employee, sent shock waves through the local religious community and sparked numerous social media conversations. Formally, church officials remained tight-lipped, offering little comment. A call to Life Center's communications office went unanswered Monday.

Curry denied the allegations against him during a speech Sunday to church members, and said he had been "falsely and wrongly accused."

The accusation that led to his dismissal wasn't the first Curry has faced, according to multiple sources, including people with ties to local Life Center leadership.

Those individuals told The News Tribune that Curry had been accused of misconduct with female employees and other women in the past, and the church board had investigated the claims. Curry continued to lead the church after those inquiries, sources said, adding that some members disapproved of the board's approach.

The News Tribune could not confirm those claims independently.

Curry hinted at past allegations during his Sunday speech. He offered no specifics.

"My integrity, character and reputation are everything," he said. "And these last few months and even years before, all three of those things have been challenged, and I intend to continue to fight to maintain all three of those things."

He added that he and church board members requested evidence from the network, also known as the "district office." Curry said network leaders responded by saying, "We have her account of things."

The Northwest Ministry Network serves as a kind of parent organization to Life Center and other regional churches under the Assemblies of God umbrella. In turn, the network follows bylaws established by the General Council of the Assemblies of God, based in Springfield, Missouri.

Greg Stern, the network's senior director of operations and finance, said he could not comment directly on the allegations against Curry. He supplied a written statement in response to an inquiry from The News Tribune.

While cloaked in administrative language, the statement indicates that network leaders spoke to more than one witness, not just the accuser.

"The Northwest Ministry Network takes allegations of wrongdoing or violations of ministerial ethics seriously. We consider these issues to be ecclesiastical matters under our governance within our biblical purview," the statement reads, in part.

"After a thorough investigation of the allegations, the Northwest Ministry Network Executive Presbytery, having received the testimony of two or more witnesses and acting in their role as the Ministerial Relations Committee, has unanimously recommended dismissal of Pastor Curry to the General Council of the Assemblies of God. This recommendation requests that Pastor Curry’s credentials with the Assemblies of God be terminated for violating prescribed standards of ministerial conduct, and he be listed as a dismissed minister of the Assemblies of God."

Curry responded to the network's statement via email after this story was published.

"There is no witness to this accusation. None," he wrote. "The NW district is using bureaucratic words to defend their rash judgment. Misleadingly, they have used a completely unrelated situation, dismissed years ago to justify their statement. I have appealed to the National office of the Assemblies of God and await their input. My optimism is high and I’m grateful for all the love and support."

Leaders of the General Council in Springfield declined to comment directly on Curry's dismissal, and supplied a copy of the organization's bylaws, which describe the potential basis for discipline.

The grounds list 14 items, including "moral failure involving sexual misconduct," "a contentious or noncooperative spirit" and "any moral or ethical failure other than sexual misconduct." The bylaws also describe the authority retained by districts such as the Northwest Ministry Network.

In plain terms, the action by the network effectively suspends Curry's license to preach at Assemblies of God. While Curry is entitled to an appeal to national leaders, that process could take months.

Life Center is one of Tacoma's largest churches, with weekend attendance of 4,500 or more. The church also operates a school and a senior housing complex. Curry was selected as senior pastor in 2006, succeeding the Rev. Fulton Buntain, a revered figure in Tacoma religious circles. Buntain led Life Center for 40 years prior to his retirement.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 @seanrobinsonTNT