ANDERSON — A former Frankton school principal who was convicted of official misconduct five years ago has been removed after a brief appointment as pastor of New Horizons United Methodist Church in Anderson.
“Because of the things we have discovered over the past 24 hours, Bishop (Julius) Trimble has ended the assignments of Mr. Hoss at both the New Horizons and Aroma United Methodist Churches,” reads a statement from the Indiana United Methodist Church emailed Tuesday night to The Herald Bulletin.
“We are caring now for these two congregations and addressing any harm that has come to them in light of this story.”
The statement is attributed to Larry Whitehead, executive assistant to Trimble, and Chris Nunley, superintendent of the North Central District of the IUMC.
Five years ago, Hoss was sentenced to 18 months in the Indiana Department of Correction for a felony charge of official misconduct after he sent inappropriate text messages to two female students when he was principal of Frankton Jr./Sr. High School.
New Horizons United Methodist Church posted a statement to its Facebook page Wednesday morning, saying the church recognizes the seriousness of the appointment and is “profoundly embarrassed and sorry that this happened.”
“We have a small congregation of mostly older retired people who aren’t as tech savvy as younger people. More should have been done to vet Mr. Hoss by us,” reads the statement.
The Herald Bulletin reported Monday that Hoss’ appointment to lead the Anderson church was announced June 23 via Facebook.
Hoss did not respond to multiple messages left requesting an interview for the Monday article. Reached by phone Wednesday for comment on his removal as pastor, Hoss declined to be interviewed.
Nunley told The Herald Bulletin last week that he and the appointing committee were aware of Hoss’ criminal record. But Nunley said that he had no qualms about Hoss’ appointment beyond “normal concerns” he would have about any candidate for a pastor’s position.
On Wednesday, Nunley said that the decision to remove Hoss was made after “a deeper dive into Mr. Hoss’ background and understanding the full context of the conviction.”
Nunley said that this incident has sparked a statewide conversation about the vetting process in the Indiana United Methodist Church.
“For any pain or hurt that this assignment caused, I’m sorry,” Nunley said. “It was never intended to cause any discomfort or pain to anybody who suffered sexual misconduct or sexual abuse. It is our intent to create a safe environment for all people to enter.”
In 2015, Hoss’ sentence was suspended with supervised probation. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor after his probation ended.
In June 2013, the Frankton-Lapel Community Schools board terminated Hoss’ contract amid rumors that he was being investigated for inappropriately contacting students.
Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Lockwood said a couple of months later that Hoss had asked a 16-year-old student for nude or semi-nude pictures and had sent two photos of himself to her. One was from the waist up and the other was from the waist down while naked.
Detectives also said that while examining Hoss’ cellphone records, they found messages sent in 2010 inviting a 17-year-old student to come to his house and drink alcohol with him.
Pastors of churches affiliated with the IUMC are appointed to congregations by the bishop and cabinet, also known as the conference superintendents of each district. This committee, rather than individual churches, searches for candidates.
According to Nunley, Hoss was not yet a pastor but was going through a candidacy that could last until January 2021.
Hoss’ candidacy, like others, requires “rigorous background checks,” Nunley said in the Monday article.
In the statement sent Tuesday night to The Herald Bulletin, church officials said, “This situation has helped us see a very important opportunity to re-evaluate our process for assessing the assignment of new clergy for the future.”
In his first sermon July 5, available on the church’s Facebook page, Hoss did not address his criminal conviction but mentioned a past problem with addiction.
“In my 30s and early 40s, I faced the battle of addiction, and that addiction is real. It’s a disease. Conniving, baffling, powerful, it controlled me for a while,” Hoss said.
“It brought me to my knees, it humbled me, it brought me back to a relationship with God. And because of that relationship with God, my story continues to evolve. My life continues to get better each and every day, and that’s what I am here to share with you today.”
Aroma United Methodist Church is located in northeastern Hamilton County. Initial attempts to reach Aroma church officials Wednesday morning were unsuccessful.
Paul Malone has been attending New Horizons since 1960, and said the bishop’s decision to end Hoss’ appointment was the right decision “at this point.”
“I don’t know that it is a Christian outlook, though,” Malone said. “We are supposedly helping people in need, but to have him as a leader I guess is really not appropriate at this time.”
Malone was not aware of Hoss’ previous charges before the Monday article.
Fellow churchgoer Gene McMahan said that the bishop “absolutely” made the right decision.
“We go along with what the bishop says. He’s our spokesman,” McMahan said. “We will have a new pastor that doesn’t have a background.”