Private meeting at Tacoma megachurch expected to deliver final verdict on fired pastor

For Dean Curry and the leaders of Tacoma’s Life Center church, a moment of reckoning has arrived.

The executive board of the Tacoma megachurch has scheduled a members-only meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the church’s main campus on South Union Avenue. The purpose of the meeting, described only as a “members forum,” has not been publicly disclosed.

Church members have been advised not to speak to the media about it. Life Center’s human resources manager also emailed members Wednesday, urging a 72-hour blackout on social media posts. The email added that the church’s main campus would be closed Friday, “to let everyone process Thursday night.”

Through a spokesman, the church’s executive board declined to comment Wednesday when reached by The News Tribune and asked about Thursday’s meeting.

Sources familiar with church workings say the forum will finalize the parting of ways between Curry and the church where he served as lead pastor for 14 years, only to be dismissed for alleged physical misconduct with a former female church employee.

“It has been concluded by the board that Dean Curry is guilty,” said a source who asked not to be named, citing concerns about the church’s treatment of members who speak out. “The board has said they are shocked and horrified by what they have learned.”

Curry, 50, was fired as lead pastor of the church on July 1 after a complaint was filed with the Northwest Ministry Network, a state-level parent organization to Life Center and other regional churches in the Assemblies of God denomination.

A preliminary investigation followed. At the time, the Northwest Network said the allegations against Curry hinged on the testimony of “two or more witnesses.” The Network announced that its decision would be forwarded to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the church’s national overseer.

Curry denied the allegations at the time, stating he would appeal the decision to the General Council. In a speech to church members, he said he had been “falsely and wrongly accused” of “behavior that would have amounted to adultery if it were true.”

Wednesday, he reaffirmed his denial.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I stand by my statement.”

The Northwest Network released a statement Wednesday regarding the status of its inquiry, in response to questions from The News Tribune.

“After a thorough investigation of the allegations, including an opportunity for Pastor Curry to defend himself, and pursuant to Article X of the Assemblies of God General Council bylaws, the NWMN recommended to the General Council of the Assemblies of God that Pastor Curry’s credentials be terminated,” the statement read.

“The General Council met and thoroughly reviewed the allegations and the evidence regarding the conduct of Pastor Curry. Pursuant to the process laid out in the General Council’s bylaws, the General Council Executive Presbytery voted unanimously to terminate Pastor Dean Curry’s credentials with the Assemblies of God.”

The final decision means Curry permanently loses his license as an Assemblies of God pastor. Wednesday, he said he was given no chance to present an appeal to the state or the national organization, and that he was not interviewed after giving an initial response to allegations last spring.

“There was the initial interview they did with me in June or something,” he said. “After their decision they haven’t contacted me at all or responded to me. They never responded to any of my calls, so I haven’t been able to appeal anything.”

In July, multiple individuals with ties to church leadership told The News Tribune that Curry had been accused of misconduct with female employees and other women in the past. Those claims were investigated, but the Life Center board did not dismiss Curry, who continued to lead the church for three more years.

Some members disapproved of the board’s approach. One was Julee Dilley, a former church board member who left the organization in 2016, unhappy with Curry’s conduct and the church’s response. In July, she filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Rights Commission — both complaints are still in the investigative stage.

Dilley’s complaint cited circumstances that appeared to be separate from the current allegations involving Curry:

An ongoing relationship with a married church member that turned physical.

An incident involving another married church member being visited by Curry late at night, discovered by the woman’s husband.

A female administrative employee who spoke of uncomfortable conversations with Curry that included comments on her appearance and discussions of his intimate relations with his wife.

The complaint filed by Dilley suggested that women who came forward to church leaders were typically dismissed or marginalized, or told they had misunderstood Curry’s behavior.

Dilley’s complaint included a statement from another church member who also described leaving Life Center in 2016, believing church leaders were unwilling to take corrective action. The church member described various acts of misconduct, including:

Inappropriate counseling sessions when Curry used vulgar terms when describing intimacy.

Talking to other women about intimate details of his marriage

Talking to women about their appearance, sometimes in crass terms.

Telling women, “You are the only one who gets me.”

Isolating women and spending time alone with them on multiple occasions, to their discomfort.

Curry called those allegations false when they emerged.

He continues to post regularly on Facebook, offering occasional sermons and homilies. He still has loyal followers who offer encouragement and support. He is promoting a new book: “Finale: The End Times and Happily Ever After?” He said it was written earlier this year, before tension flared at Life Center.

Asked about his plans, including the prospect of opening a new church and preaching in a new setting, he said he’s not certain.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just trying to think through my future and what’s next. Right now I’m just being thoughtful and prayerful, and not making any plans.”

He won’t attend Thursday’s meeting. He sees no reason. He said he bears no ill will toward the church he once led.

“Those people, that board, have been so kind to me, so loving to me,” he said. “I can’t say enough how good of friends they have been to me through all of this. I’m sad that I’m not a part of that family any more, but I’m happy for them that they’re doing so good. They are wonderful people. My disappointment has been with the denomination they’re affiliated with, not with that church.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 @seanrobinsonTNT