Dave Roepke, Published January 14 2011
Olivet says pastors arrested on drunken driving charges will keep jobs
The two pastors, the Rev. Kristopher Gorden and the Rev. Jeffery Sandgren, are charged with driving under the influence, a Class B misdemeanor, after police say Gorden got stuck in a snow bank and Sandgren stopped to help him out.
Olivet’s council, the Rev. Kari Bahe and Bishop Bill Rindy of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met with Gorden and Sandgren on Thursday night to talk about how to address their arrests.
Ann Burnett, a member of the Olivet council, said the possibility that either man would be asked to resign wasn’t broached.
“That was not discussed at all,” she said. “We talked a lot about forgiveness.”
Late Thursday, after the meeting, the council released a statement: “As our church leaders, staff, council, and synod travel this difficult journey, we will deal with this matter in forthright, transparent, and caring manner,” the council statement reads.
“We take this situation seriously. At the same time, with the aim of health, healing, and wholeness, we will support Pastors Jeff and Kris and their families, as well as the staff, one another, the entire Olivet congregation, and community.”
According to police:
Gorden, 44, 1002 Park Drive S., was turning from 25th Street South onto the eastbound ramp of Interstate 94 around 1 a.m. Thursday when he slid into a snow bank and got stuck. After police had already arrived at the scene, Sandgren, 50, 3317 Parkview Lane S., also pulled up to help Gorden and had contact with police.
Officers arrested both men on suspicion of driving under the influence and were taken to the Cass County Jail. The pastors later bailed out for $625 apiece.
Police will not comment on what blood-alcohol level either man registered.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Rindy also released a statement, in part saying: “These two servants of God serve the people of Olivet Lutheran very well, yet have made mistakes of a painfully public nature.”
A third person, Kayla Dronen, 25, of 4014 3rd St. S. in Moorhead, was also arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after she arrived at the I-94 on-ramp at 1:20 a.m.
Though he initially said the pastors knew her, Sgt. Mark Lykken later said that wasn’t the case.