Hanover church holds first service since youth pastor arrest

Posted at 7:01 PM, May 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-26 19:02:21-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Advent Christian Church off Studley Road in Hanover held their first Sunday service since the arrest of their youth pastor on embezzlement charges.

Hanover Sheriff's deputies arrested and charged Chris Phillips with felony embezzlement last week.  Deputies said Phillips embezzled $80,000 from the church, which only has about 50 members.

On Sunday, senior pastor at Advent Christian, Heath Simpson, told CBS 6 that Phillips has been suspended from his job as youth pastor.  Simpson declined to go on camera because of the ongoing investigation.

CBS 6 News found a listing for Chris Phillips to an address in Mechanicsville that sits directly next to Advent Christian Church.  No one answered the door when CBS 6 reporter Jake Burns dropped by Sunday.  A call to the phone number listed for the address was not returned.

Pastor Simpson said he could not confirm if Phillips lives there or if the home is owned by the church.

Things were pretty normal at Sunday's service, Simpson said.  The pastor added he is "in pray and support for Chris [Phillips] and his family."

"We all encounter issues in life," said Simpson, "but God's grace is bigger than those things.

CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone says the potential punishment for embezzlement charges is up to 20 years in prison.

"This is church money; this is money people donated with the expectation that it was going to do some good for people; and then somebody converted it for their own use.  That's the type of thing that makes it more aggravated in a judge's mind," said Stone.

This is a developing story.  Check back with for updates.