Arson is a difficult crime to prove, therefore it’s clearance-rate (arrest of a suspect) is low. This helps explain the low number of cases reported here on Church Crime Information’s web-page.
Entries on these pages can contain arrests, charges, or indictments, which may eventually be reduced, dropped, or expunged, and as such, these actors may in fact be innocent in a court of law.
Click on the link to read the report.
2019 – Emmanuel Fellowship Church, Riverside, AL. Ricky Van Mitchell (pastor) was charged with arson in church fire. The pastor died of heart problems the night before trial. Lawyer: Pastor Charged in Church Fire Dies Before Court Date.
2019 – United Church of Christ, Ames, IA. Adolfo Martinez was arrested for allegedly “tearing down and burning an LGBTQ flag flying at a church” because “he opposes homosexuality.” Man Convicted of Hate Crime For Tearing Down LGBTQ Flag at Iowa Church.
2019 – Tamaqua Salvation Army, Tamaqua, PA. Sharon Whispell (former major) was charged in court with setting fire to a room at the Salvation Army she commanded. Suspect in Tamaqua Salvation Army Theft Hit with Arson Charge.
2019 – Emmanuel Fellowship Church, Riverside, AL. Heather Whitten (pastor’s wife) was indicted for arson in church fire. Her husband was also charged, and her charges dismissed due to lack of evidence. Lawyer: Pastor Charged in Church Fire Dies Before Court Date.
2016 – Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Greenville, MS. Andrew McClinton (parishioner) arrested and charged with setting fire to a black church and spray-painting pro-Trump graffiti on its exterior. Parishioner Arrested For November Arson Of Black Church In Mississippi.
2016 – Abundant Faith Lighthouse of Jesus Christ, Conway, SC. Cameron Julius Xavier Banks, aka Reggie Staggers (senior pastor) was charged with “burning down his church.” Official charges included “obstructing justice, second degree arson, burning personal property to defraud insurer and making a false insurance claim to obtain benefits for fire or explosion loss.” Conway Pastor Arrested for Intentionally Burning Down his Own Church.
2016 – Antioch Baptist Church, rural Hannibal, MO. Donald White (treasurer) arrested. Arrest Made in Connection to 2016 Antioch Baptist Church Fire.
2009 – Blue Ridge Baptist Church, Belton, SC. Christopher Patrick Daniels (pastor) arrested for arson of his church. “Daniels has also been charged with breach of trust for with fraudulent intent for ‘receiving funds valued at more than $5,000 belonging to Blue Ridge Baptist Church.’” Belton Pastor Charged with Arson in Church Fire.
2008 – Trinity Metropolitan Baptist Church, Albany, GA. Joseph Howard III (pastor) arrested and charged with “first degree arson in connection” with fire at his church, which was behind financially. Georgia Pastor Charged for Arson in Church Fire.
2005 – Ministries Church, Harris County, TX. Roger Marcus (pastor) arrested for hiring a homeless person to burn his church in an insurance fraud case. Sentenced to prison, the pastor escaped and was caught. Apologetic Pastor Gets 10 Years in East Harris County Church Fire.
2005 – New Life Deliverance Church Ministries, Barrow County, FL. Quincy Arnold (pastor) arrested for arson of his own church. His son was also arrested. The motive is said to be for insurance proceeds. Police Arrest Pastor in Arson of Church.
2005 – Bethel AME Church, Summerville, SC. Harold E. Hunter (pastor) charged in attempting to burn his own church. “Just one day after the pastor gave a sermon in which he said he prayed for the ”sick, sadistic” person who burned down the church.” The first trial ended in a mistrial. 1) Jury Deadlocks in S.C. Church Arson Case Involving Former Pastor. 2) Pastor Charged with Setting Church Fire in South Carolina.
2005 – New Life Apostolic Church, Salisbury. Joshua Wayne Lawson (pastor). Salisbury Church Arson Follows Pastor’s Arrest *UPDATED*.
2002 – Dale City Christian Church, Dale City, VA. Carl Ellis Jenkins (pastor) arrested and found guilty of arson for “trying to kill his ex-lover and her two sons.” Pastor Found Guilty of Arson.
2002 – St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, New York, NY. Daniel Montgomery (Franciscan seminarian) is charged with setting fire to a church rectory (living quarters) after shooting the pastor to death. He was charged with aggravated arson. Cleveland Seminarian Is Held In Rectory Killing and Arson.
2001 – Rivers of Life Fellowship Church, Steelville, MO. David Cartee (pastor) arrested and charged with arson of a church. Charges were later dropped by a judge for lack of evidence, but other charges stand. Pastor charged with stealing, forgery; arson charges dropped. Jefferson City News-Tribune (MO) – March 30, 2001.
1998 – Hartford Baptist Church, Hartford, GA. Felton York (pastor) charged with “deliberately setting fire to his rural church. He was indicted by a grand jury. Faith and Religion Briefs: Grand Forks Herald (ND) – October 10, 1998.
1996 – Breeden Church of God, Breeden, WV. Ernest Kirk (pastor) arrested for setting fire to his church. Pastor Faces Charges Of Burning His Church.
1996 – Kentucky Missionary Baptist Church, Benton, OK. Eric Daniel Harris (pastor) charged with one count of arson. Pastor Charged with Torching his Church.
1994 – Twisp United Methodist Church, Okanogan County, OH. Gordon Hutchins (pastor) charged with burning his church for insurance money. Pastor Charged With Arson in Church Fire. Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – July 16, 1994.
1994 – Antioch A.M.E Zion Church, Montgomery, AL. Venus Longmire (pastor) charged with arson for a fire at her rural church. Pastor Charged with Arson. Mobile Register (AL) – October 5, 1994.
1987 – Emanuel Church of Christ Oneness Pentecostal, Nashville, TN. John David Terry (pastor) arrested and “charged with first-degree arson and murder in the death of a maintenance man whose decapitated body was found inside the fire-gutted church.” Minister Sentenced to Death.
Pastors Implicated in Other Arsons
2018 – Ministry of Love Church, Baton Rouge, LA. Bridgett Steib (pastor) pled guilty to setting a fire that destroyed her home. Local Pastor Accused of Burning Down Her Home Takes Plea Deal.
2017 – Lead Church, Washington DC. Jamel Carelock (pastor) pled guilty to setting his apartment on fire in an attempt to collect insurance money. Church Pastor Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to His Apartment in Scam to Collect Insurance Money.
2014 – Fellowship Baptist Church, Vacaville, CA. Mark Wayne Lewis (pastor) arrested for arson and stalking and pled no-contest. He was an ex-con who recruited a church member to toss Molotov cocktails into his ex-girlfriend’s trailer home. Former Pastor Takes Plea Deal to End Arson, Stalking Trial.
2014 – Donald Lafferty (pastor) charged with “enlisting his mistress and her husband in an unsuccessful plot to burn down his home and kill his wife.” It was in part a scheme to collect insurance money. Missouri Pastor Living in Vermont Charged in Arson.
2013 – Unidentified Pentecostal church, Philadelphia, PA. Teofilo Santiago (pastor) arrested for burning his car to collect insurance. The fire which needed expensive repairs reportedly started in the passenger compartment. Philadelphia Pastor Arrested On Charges Of Arson, Insurance Fraud.
2011 – New Life Church of Restoration, near Gatesville, TX. David Keith Allen (pastor) charged with arson by setting fire to his occupied mobile home (on church property) to kill his wife. He pled guilty to drop two perjury charges. Gatesville Pastor Convicted of Arson in Wife’s Death.
2012 – Ministry of Love, East Baton Rouge, LA. Bridgett Barnes Steib (pastor) arrested for setting fire of her home. She “has been charged with simple arson and arson with intent to defraud.” National Home Really? Pastor Arrested For Trying To Burn Own House Down!
2009 – Blue Ridge Baptist Church, Belton, SC. Christopher Patrick Daniels (pastor) arrested for arson of his church. An additional charge was levied for “unlawful use of more than $5,000 belonging to the church for personal reasons.” After his conviction, he escaped from prison by walking away from a work assignment at a landfill. 1) Belton Pastor Arrested for Arson Faces Additional Charge. 2) Former Pastor And Convicted Arsonist Arrested In Buncombe County.
2009 – Lake Hills Baptist Church, Fayetteville, AR. Jon Hughes Allen arrested for starting a fire to burn down his home. Former Pastor Arrested in Connection with Winslow Arson.
2008 – Anis Shorrosh (minister) charged with “first degree attempted arson for allegedly burning tax records of his religious organization in an attempt to set his building on fire.” Evangelist Minister and Islam Critic Charged with Arson in Alabama.
2005 – Miracle Revival Center, Fairmont, WV. Jeremy Johnson (preacher’s son), and brother Donald Johnson Jr. (preacher’s son) were arrested and charged with arson of their father’s church. Three Enter Guilty Pleas to Burning Down Church.
1998 – St. Mary’s County, Southern Maryland. Daniel Leon Lindsey Sr. (pastor) arrested and charged with arson of a homicide suspect’s home. Suspect’s Home Burned; Pastor Charged in Case Cleric Faulted Police for No Arrest in Slaying. The Dallas Morning News – September 6, 1998.
1997 – George Crossley (religious broadcaster) arrested and charged with “solicitation to commit murder and arson.” Orlando Sentinel 5/14/97
1922 – First Presbyterian church, Lawton, OK. Thomas J. Irwin (pastor) arrested on charges of arson of church. Pastor Arrested on Arson Charge. Sacramento Union, Volume 226, Number 25983, May 6, 1922.
Arson of Churches
Overall, church arson has been in rather steady decline since at least 1980.*
The overwhelming majority of church fires (84%) are NOT arson*, but rather caused by cooking and heating equipment, poor-housekeeping, or electrical failures. Not surprisingly, many churches were struck by lightning and caught fire.
Churches succumbing to arson fires are more often hate-motivated attacks targeting African-Americans or LGBT people. Arson is also occurring as revenge for sexual abuse or assault.
*Source: National Fire Protection Association estimate.
For more information on church arson, see: List of attacks against African-American churches.