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Pastor under investigation found dead at Mercer Motel

11-5-2006 Pennsylvania:

A Pittsburgh-area Presbyterian minister who was the subject of a television news probe into reports of “public and illegal sexual behavior” killed himself last week at the Mercer Motel.

A woman who answered the phone at the motel, but wouldn’t give her name, said the Rev. Brent Dugan checked in Wednesday evening at the motel located on U.S. Route 62 in Mercer. She said she didn’t remember if Dugan had stayed at the motel previously.

Dugan’s body was found at about noon Friday and Mercer County Deputy Coroner Dr. David Hoyt told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Dugan died of an overdose of aspirin and alcohol.

Hoyt — who could not be reached for comment Sunday — ruled the death a suicide.

His death came a day after KDKA-TV canceled plans to air an investigation that focused on Dugan’s personal life because the station “received information from someone close to Pastor Dugan that indicated he was considering doing harm to himself,” the Post-Gazette reported.

KDKA had promoted the story earlier last week, but only referred to Dugan as a “local minister.”

Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon has been “in shock and grief” over the death of the Rev. Brent Dugan, said the Rev. James Mead, pastor to the Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Dugan had been missing since Wednesday afternoon, and a suicide note was found Thursday morning in his home, Mead said Saturday.

Mead said that Dugan wrote in the note about his “profound sorrow and sadness, and sense of solemn grief and embarrassment, about what he thought would come to be known about his personal life.”

Mead did not elaborate.

After learning of Dugan’s death, the station issued a statement Friday expressing condolences to the pastor’s family and friends. It declined to comment Saturday.

Mead emphasized that Dugan had provided stellar leadership during his 18 years as pastor of the church.

“He was an outstanding pastor who loved the Lord, loved the church and served the church with great effectiveness,” Mead said. “This is an occasion of profound sorrow in this presbytery. People are brokenhearted.”

The Rev. Carol Divens Roth, an associate pastor to the presbytery, was asked to take Dugan’s place at the pulpit on Sunday, Mead said. ..more.. by Herald Staff / The Associated Press

Last letter to flock reflected pastor's anguish
12-8-2006 Pennsylvania:
During an emotional meeting yesterday, members of Pittsburgh Presbytery prayed about how they might handle property disputes if some of their congregations leave the denomination and heard a final letter written to them by a pastor who committed suicide after KDKA-TV ran promos for an expose on his sex life.

The letter from the Rev. Brent Dugan, who died in early November, was read by a weeping Rev. James Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery. It was intended only for members of the presbytery, but a reporter was briefed on its general outline.

In it, Mr. Dugan, pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, apologized for the shame he believed he had brought on the presbytery. He said he had struggled with his sexuality all his adult life, hoping to fall in love with a woman, but concluding he was to devote his life only to his congregation.

He said he did so until four years ago, when he became close friends with a man who claimed to love him, and with whom he had occasional sexual encounters. That man cajoled him into leaving specific kinds of sexual fantasies on his answering machine, and then betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore, where KDKA-TV recorded him, Mr. Dugan wrote.

He urged his fellow pastors to renounce any sins they might be tempted to commit and live pure lives. He also explained that just before KDKA confronted him, he had accepted a call to become pastor of a congregation in Northern California.

The KDKA expose never aired because the station was told that Mr. Dugan had threatened to kill himself, but it's not clear if he ever knew that the station had decided not to run the segment.

"I will ask for an apology [from KDKA] and do what I can do to send a message to leave our pastors alone," Mr. Mead said. He noted that literally hundreds of people would have helped Mr. Dugan and stood by him if he had asked for help. He urged other pastors to reach out if they ever feel desperate.

During an earlier worship service, Mr. Mead asked the 275 clergy and elders to pray about how best to handle property disputes if one or more congregations secedes from the presbytery due to ongoing strife over gay ordination and gay marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA). "In the end, beloved, you will take a vote -- probably in the next year," he said.

No decisions on the matter were made yesterday. ..more.. by Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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