Ex-Priest, Once Imprisoned, Resigns Ministry

By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star (Kansas & Missouri)
May 15, 2002

A former Roman Catholic priest who was sent to prison in Kansas for molesting a teen-age boy and later became a Protestant minister in Rapid City, S.D., has resigned.

The Rev. James A. Forsythe stepped down Saturday as minister of Metropolitan Community Church of the Black Hills in Rapid City, a week after The Kansas City Star revealed that he had not registered as a sex offender there, as required by law.

Forsythe, 47, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Jim Birkitt, national spokesman for the Metropolitan Community Church - a growing denomination that serves predominantly gay and lesbian worshippers - said Forsythe was not forced to resign.

"Two things came into play," Birkitt said. "It's a really small church, so they couldn't support him financially. So he had two secular jobs in the community. And he was fired from both of those once the story circulated. After that, he realized that it would be likely that attention would stay focused on him instead of this church and its congregation and ministry."

In addition to his pastoral duties, Forsythe taught computer classes at a business school in Rapid City.

Forsythe admitted molesting a 15-year-old boy about 20 times in the late 1980s while a pastor at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Overland Park. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 8, 1989, to attempting to take indecent liberties with a child and was sentenced to one to five years in prison. After serving three months, he was placed on probation and sent to a Catholic facility in New Mexico for seven months of residential treatment. He left the priesthood in 1990.

Forsythe moved to Denver in the early 1990s and was placed on the pastoral staff of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies until December 1999, but was prohibited from working with minors, Birkitt said. Since January 2000, Forsythe had been a minister at the church in Rapid City. Church officials said that they were aware of Forsythe's past and that there had been no allegations of sexual abuse against him since he joined the denomination.

Forsythe told The Star earlier this month that he hadn't registered as a sex offender in South Dakota because he didn't know it was required. He said that he had remorse for what happened in Kansas, but that he did not pose a threat to teen-agers today.

Rapid City police said Forsythe registered last week as a sex offender in South Dakota.

Capt. Christopher Grant said that Forsythe's failure to register appeared to be an oversight and that he would not be charged with any crime. Failing to register can carry up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"We're giving him the benefit of the doubt," Grant said. "And he knows that you only get one honest mistake when it comes to being a sex offender. If there are further problems, we'll handle it differently."

Birkitt said he didn't know what Forsythe would do now.

"I don't know if he even has definite plans at this point," Birkitt said. "He was just caught in the current situation, and he seems understanding of that. It's so different in a smaller community. I think if it had been a larger metropolitan area, it would have been different."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.