GILFORD — The First United Methodist Church was aware that Alger Conger was a registered sex offender when he joined its Missions Committee, Pastor Jim Shook said Wednesday.
Conger agreed to a policy prohibiting unsupervised contact with children and abided by that policy, Shook said. He also said there is no indication Conger acted inappropriately with children.
Police arrested Conger on May 9 after receiving a tip that he is a registered sexual offender who should not be involved with minor children. He is now facing a Class A felony charge.
The tip came after Alger appeared in a photo last month in The Laconia Daily Sun, posing with a group of young people who were sorting items that the church was preparing to donate.
Conger, 80, was convicted in 2004 of aggravated felonious sexual assault of a person under 13 years of age, along with two counts of felonious sexual assault.
State law (RSA 632-A:10) outlines the prohibition from child care service for those convicted of any felonious offense involving child sexual abuse images, physical assault, or sexual assault, if "he or she knowingly undertakes employment or volunteer service involving the care, instruction or guidance of minor children.”
In a statement released Wednesday, the church said Conger has been a member of the church for several years and serves as the co-chair of the Missions Committee and as a sound technician.
"Ensuring the safety of children is a sacred duty, and we have rigorous, long-standing policies to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual misconduct or abuse,” the statement said. "While we deplore the actions of abusers, we affirm that these are persons who are in need of God's redeeming love.”
The statement said Conger abided by church policies against him having unsupervised contact with children, but noted "the legal restrictions on Mr. Conger are a separate issue; one that will be handled through the justice system. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities on this matter.
"We want to assure those in our congregation and in the community that we are committed to making our church a safe space for everyone."
Shook said that the church’s understanding was that it was doing the proper thing by ensuring Conger had no unsupervised contact with children.
Shook said Conger’s role on the Missions Committee did not entail regular contact with children.
“We’ve had strict guidelines that we have followed that have kept him away from ministry involving young people,” Shook said.