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Arrested pastors get Olivet's support

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Two pastors arrested for drunken driving Thursday are not in danger of losing their jobs, a member of the council for Olivet Lutheran Church said Friday.

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The two Olivet Lutheran pastors, the Rev. Kristopher Gorden and the Rev. Jeffery Sandgren, are charged with driving under the influence, a Class B misdemeanor, after police say Gorden got stuck in a snowbank and Sandgren stopped to help him out.

Olivet's council, the Rev. Kari Bahe and Bishop Bill Rindy of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met with Gorden and Sandgren on Thursday night to talk about how to address their arrests.

Ann Burnett, a member of the Olivet council, said the possibility that either man would be asked to resign wasn't broached.

"That was not discussed at all," she said. "We talked a lot about forgiveness."

Late Thursday, after the meeting, the council released a statement. "As our church leaders, staff, council, and synod travel this difficult journey, we will deal with this matter in forthright, transparent, and caring manner," the council statement reads. "We take this situation seriously. At the same time, with the aim of health, healing, and wholeness, we will support Pastors Jeff and Kris and their families, as well as the staff, one another, the entire Olivet congregation, and community."

Burnett said Sandgren and Gorden plan to send a letter to members of Olivet's congregation and will "probably say a few words" before the start of Sunday's worship services.

According to police:

Gorden, 44 was turning from 25th Street South onto the eastbound ramp of Interstate 94 around 1 a.m. Thursday when he slid into a snowbank and got stuck. After police arrived at the scene, Sandgren, 50, also pulled up to help.

Police arrested both men on suspicion of driving under the influence. They were taken to the Cass County Jail and later were released on bail of $625.

Sgt. Mark Lykken said police will not comment on what blood-alcohol level either man registered.

Gorden and Sandgren have declined to comment on their arrests.

According to the charges filed in Fargo Municipal Court, the DUI conviction would draw a mandatory minimum of a $250 fine and an addiction evaluation. The maximum penalties would be 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Gorden is set for an initial court appearance of Feb. 3. Sandgren's court date is scheduled for Feb. 2.

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