The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Pastor charged with soliciting sex from 14-year-old

The pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Pensacola, Fla., was arrested April 13 on charges that he solicited sex over the Internet.

Michael Anthony Harris, 42, was arrested after meeting a 24-year-old decoy sheriff's deputy at a soccer field. Harris allegedly had been in contact for two weeks with Ski Gowitze, an investigator with the sheriff's office computer crimes unit, who was posing as a 14-year-old boy on Internet chat sites.

Shortly after his arrest, deputies sought a search warrant to seize the church computer they believe was used to make contacts, as well as the car Harris was driving. Officers were unaware Harris was a pastor until seeing letters to "Dear Reverend" while processing the vehicle for evidence.

"We were shocked and saddened to learn of this," said Bishop Edward R. Benoway of the Florida-Bahamas Synod. "Michael has been one of our most respected pastors in the synod."

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