Sacked Survivor pastor: I didn't steal!
Christianity Today is frequently asked to cover more "Christians in the media," especially those in the midst of their 15 minutes of fame. In the last few years, not a few writers have pitched us stories on the Christians of reality TV. We've noted a few of these folks in the past, and now one of them is back in the news.

Unless you're Clay Aiken, being a reality TV contestants rarely means fame and fortune. But for John Raymond, life has been especially difficult since Survivor: Thailand. See, you probably didn't even remember John Raymond. He was "Pastor John," who lasted all of three days on the 2002 show before being the first one kicked off the island. (CT interviewed him shortly thereafter.)

It's hardly a surprise that Raymond didn't make the upcoming Survivor All-Stars series, which starts Sunday after the Super Bowl. "John was one of those exceptions—he was the 'first-off' who you hate to see go," Survivor host Jeff Probst told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "You knew he was going to be a great character because he had such strong opinions about life. But you only have 18 slots, and he didn't have enough time on the show to have an impact or be memorable enough for people to instantly 'get' him."

Too bad: Perhaps Raymond could have used the work. It turns out that he was fired last May as executive pastor of The Harvest, a 2,700-member Assembly of God church in Slidell, Louisiana. (That's a pretty big church for the denomination: the average is 131 members.)

Now Raymond is suing the church—not for firing him, but for the reasons given for the dismissal. According to the suit, as reported by the Times-Picayune, Elder Michael Dunn told church member Ronald Boelter that Raymond was fired for stealing, and that "the locks on the church had to be changed before Pastor Raymond was fired, because The Harvest did not know what Pastor Raymond would steal next."

Raymond says the accusation is "preposterous," and said the reason that Senior Pastor Doug McAllister gave for his firing was that Raymond was late in turning in his sermon notes. The real reason for his sacking, Raymond says, is that he and McAllister have a long history of tension.

Tension, indeed. "I never had access to the money any more than [anyone else] did," Raymond told the newspaper. "I'm not good at deception. That's why I got voted off Survivor in the first round. Doug should have gone on the show instead of me. He would have won the million-dollar prize."

Raymond, who has since started New Horizon Christian Fellowship and runs a business selling red, white, and blue cross necklaces, told the Times-Picayunelast year that the reasons given for his leaving were "totally ridiculous." "I think Doug didn't like the fact that I was getting some media attention," he said of his childhood friend. "I think [Survivor] might've gotten him jealous."

Boelter, the church member named in the suit, says pastor McAllister had told the congregation that Raymond wasn't sacked for "illegal or immoral" actions.

McAllister isn't talking (he earlier said the reason Raymond was let go "was job-performance based"), and elder Dunn isn't answering questions. "Even though John's suing, we are friends," Dunn told the paper. "It's probably something that should stay between us. … The church has tried to keep all of this within the church, which is where it should be."

That view has changed, Dunn later told the local paper, the Slidell Sentry-News. "There is no comment," he said. "I wish I could give you more, but our position now is that this is going to be handled in the courts."

More articles

Persecution:

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Money and business:

Marriage:

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Sex, marriage, and family:

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Ten Commandments:

Crime:

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Social justice:

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Games and gambling:

Missions & ministry:

Southern Baptists leaving Baptist World Alliance:

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Anglicanism:

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Church life:

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Land disputes:

Orthodox church in Cuba:

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Lewis vs. Freud:

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Education:

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Religious schools in Scotland:

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Abuse:

Catholicism:

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