Shellman -- A well-respected preacher has been arrested by U.S. Postal Service authorities on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. Harold Clinton Lasseter, pastor of the Shellman Methodist Church was taken into custody today.
The Shellman Methodist Church near the town square in Shellman, is over 100 years old, and has about 60 members. Wednesday afternoon, Pastor Hal Lasseter's name was still on the marquee, but he has been fired by the church where he was pastor for 12 years.
The congregation was taken completely by surprise when Lasseter was arrested on child porn charges after his office was raided Friday. His computer showed evidence of child porn, investigators said.
"Of course it was a shock," said one church member. "But we stand behind him 100%. Until we know some more facts, that's all I have to say," said Beryl Rigsby, Church Board Chair.
Lasseter was well thought of by the town and the congregation. He is 53-years-old, married, the father of two, and a grandfather. He is now under arrest for receiving child pornography.
"He's a fine man, you couldn't ask for a better pastor," said Rigsby.
"It's just a shock, and with him being a clergyman, you're really shocked, " said Shellman Mayor Paul Langford.
Sunday a member of the Methodist organization held services, while the congregation did not know of the pastor's troubles. The congregation is still considering the future of their church. Lasseter was arraigned Monday in Federal Court.
This statement was issued late this afternoon by Bishop B. Michael Watson, of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church:
"Protecting the children in our churches and our communities is a main priority for us. We take these allegations very seriously. These kinds of actions are unacceptable behavior for any United Methodist clergy."
"The former pastor in question has surrendered his credentials from the ministerial office and is no longer a United Methodist Clergy."
The Shellman church is in the Columbus District of the United Methodist Church. Lasseter is being represented by a lawyer from Columbus.