Back in February, a team of laypeople and I attended a meeting aimed at helping (mostly) congregations in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ renew themselves. The keynote speaker was as unassuming older gentleman, a member of the Church of the Brethren, who had an easy laugh and a very warm way of highlighting the issues in renewal. He had spoken on the subject many times, including in Wisconsin. In fact, I found out later that he had written more than thirty books on the subject of congregations. We came away feeling like we had gotten good advice.
A couple of weeks later, I started hearing from colleagues in the non-profit sector about losing their investment funds through trusting their money to the wrong financial sponsor. Little did I know that the keynote speaker we had enjoyed so much—Steven Clapp—was the head of the organization that lost the funds. Nor did I know—nobody really did—until he committed suicide last week that Clapp had done jail time for financial fraud and failure to appear in court.
Obviously, it's a bit strange to meet someone one day, then find out they've killed themselves only weeks later, leaving behind a huge mess and a troubled past. It's even weirder to meet someone and then hear from friends that he's defrauded them. But most of all, I suppose this serves as a reminder that the church is made up of broken, imperfect people, some of whom carry dark secrets with them even as they do good in another area. It's a sad end to Clapp's story, obviously. I hope that he is at rest now, that his family can heal, and that the people who lost money with him get something like restitution or justice.