New Mount Kisco Presbyterian Minister Is Looking Forward
By Sean Gorman
The Journal News
May 21, 2006
MOUNT KISCO — When the Rev. Molly Blythe Teichert speaks about becoming pastor of the Mount Kisco Presbyterian Church, she says the congregation is in a period of "resurrection" following the turmoil three years ago when sexual misconduct allegations engulfed former minister Jack Miller.
"Everything is new here now," said Teichert, 41. "This church, while it is in a period of resurrection and rebirth, has not forgotten the past ... There is not an ignoring or sweeping the past under the rug."
Teichert, who has served as pastor since December, will be formally installed in a ceremony today. For 11 years, she was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson on Long Island, where a previous pastor also faced sex-abuse allegations.
"Churches can recover. Churches do recover," Teichert said. "To have walked that path with one church, I think, enables me to have the confidence to hold one hand on God and one hand on them (the congregation) and just say 'We're going to walk through this.' "
Miller resigned in November, 2002 to avoid a church trial on the accusations. About a month later, the Presbytery of the Hudson River revealed the charges that accused Miller of sexual misconduct, many years earlier with boys younger than 18, over a two-year period.
Miller has denied many of the allegations and objected that all the charges involved minors.
In a resignation letter to his congregation, Miller wrote: "While I strongly deny specifics of the misconduct charges, I openly acknowledge that many years ago, before I came to accept myself as a gay man, I did things that were wrong and inappropriate to my position as a minister."
Many church members backed the charismatic Miller, pastor for 30 years and founder of Neighbors Link, a Mount Kisco community center that provides immigrants with job skills training and a hiring site.
In fact, many Miller supporters left the church, causing membership to drop from around 800 to fewer than 400, Teichert said.
Miller, 61, did not want to comment at length for this story last week, although he did say he continues to pray for his former congregation.
"I miss them very much," Miller said. "I believe great things will happen for the congregation."
Membership is starting to climb, Teichert said. Churchgoers nowadays talk with a sense of optimism when they speak about the church's mission work or its growing congregation, but they also acknowledge the painful period following Miller's resignation.
Sue Chadeayne, said the church isn't about one person but about the congregation as a whole.
"Jack Miller did a lot of good things for the church for a number of years, and he had a very strong group of people that believed in him," Chadeayne said. "We all have our flaws and imperfections, and I'm not going to judge him."
Chadeayne was one of about 25 church members who went on a mission trip in February to D'iberville, Miss., to help that community recover from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
The church is one of the founding members of the Emergency Shelter Partnership, a coalition of churches and religious organizations that shelter homeless people during the winter months.
Teichert gives credit to interim pastor Rev. William J. Fuerstenau, who took over the church shortly after Miller left. Under his tenure, church members sat down to discuss their congregation's future. They decided they wanted to have more say over how the church operated, said Ron Lundberg, 64, a Carmel resident and member of the church choir.
"It (the Miller controversy) wreaked havoc with that church, but out of the ashes we have come around and are a strong and united congregation today," said Lundberg.
"It was not the church of Jack Miller." Lundberg said. "It was the church of Jesus Christ."
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