Pastor David Uhrich of Christ Community Church in Nisswa resigned Dec. 14 after he was asked to do so by the church's leadership team.
In a lengthy meeting the night of Dec. 13, at which Uhrich was not present, the seven-member leadership team voted unanimously to place the pastor on indefinite administrative leave and request his resignation. According to a statement from the leadership team, the team's actions were in response to allegations recently brought forward to the church concerning Uhrich's involvement with Lutheran Youth Encounter from about 1984 until 1990. At the time of his departure, Uhrich served as vice president of Lutheran Youth Encounter.
"The congregation is devastated by these allegations and is heartbroken for everyone involved," according to the church leadership team's statement.
Church leaders said Dec. 14 they were in the process of planning an internal investigation.
Lutheran Youth Encounter, later shortened to Youth Encounter, was a Twin Cities-based organization engaged in youth ministry, including the sponsorship of year-long mission tours for Christian bands worldwide. The organization disbanded in 2016 after 53 years.
Uhrich, 66, was the senior pastor at Christ Community Church in Nisswa for 23 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he first became a pastor there in 1992. The nondenominational church on Hazelwood Drive counts 130 people as affiliates.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Dec. 19, Uhrich confirmed he is no longer with Christ Community Church and the church leadership team's decision to remove him as pastor was based on allegations brought forward Dec. 11. Uhrich said he couldn't respond to the allegations because he did not have them and just had "grapevine sort of stuff." However, Uhrich went on to state he was familiar with the nature of the allegations.
"I understand that the allegations are about sexual impropriety," Uhrich said.
When asked whether he was denying the allegations, Uhrich said, "Yes, that's what I'm saying. But now you're leading me down a road where I'm not interested in creating a trial by media and public and whatever. ... Suffice it to say, that I am unaware what allegations are there, and I wouldn't even begin to know who would be accusing me. So I have to wait. I have to just take this all as it comes. Let it unfold."
Uhrich sought to correct the timeline as described in the statement issued by the church. Uhrich said he was apprised of the existence of allegations and the leadership team's meeting, and after discussion with his wife, he went to the church Thursday night before the meeting began to announce his retirement.
"I came in and they said, 'Oh no, no, no, no, no. You can't be here,'" Uhrich said. "And I said, 'I know. You have to have privacy to talk through what you're talking through, but I'm only going to be here to read a devotion, lead a prayer and make an announcement.' And that's what I did. I led a devotion, I led in prayer, and then I said to the board, 'I'm going to submit my resignation and retire.'"
Uhrich said he submitted his official letter of resignation Friday morning, following a conversation with two members of the leadership team.
"If you interviewed the church and talked to them, they may have said in light of the allegations we've asked Pastor Dave to resign. ... They didn't really ask me to resign, because I offered my retirement. I offered my resignation before they asked anything," Uhrich said. "When you said it sounds more like they asked you to resign than like you retired, I guess both statements are true. If that would've been, if I hadn't gone to that meeting, very likely at the end of that meeting, they would've come to ask me to resign."
When asked for clarification Wednesday, church leadership said Uhrich did show up to the church Dec. 13 before the meeting and offered a retirement date of Jan. 1, 2019, but the leadership team was not interested in Uhrich's proposal.