CORONA DEL MAR — A minister suspended after allegations by several female parishioners of sexual misconduct has dropped an appeal of his suspension.
The Rev. Donald Kutz, former pastor of the Community Congregational Church, withdrew his appeal this week to the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, according to the Rev. Charles Schepel, who headed Kutz's disciplinary review committee.
Kutz was suspended earlier this month after an investigation by church officials into allegations by six current and former church members of sexual harassment and exploitation. The allegations, none of which involved criminal charges, ranged from inappropriate sexual innuendoes to sexual involvement with members of the congregation.
He has denied any wrongdoing and, according to Schepel, has expressed a desire to return to the ministry despite the withdrawal of his appeal. Schepel would not say under what conditions Kutz might return.
"That's between him and the church and the ministry committee," Schepel said.
Kutz, 50, who is divorced and lives with his 10-year-old daughter, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
But Gary Van Otten, a friend and supporter, said the minister decided to withdraw his appeal because he felt that "the church has been through enough."
"He was of the opinion that he stood a decent chance of his appeal being upheld," Van Otten said, but was upset that the allegations had polarized the congregation. "He thought that going through the whole process would have made it worse," Van Otten said.
The charges and publicity have been hard on Kutz, who is now trying to "get on with his life," Van Otten said.
Van Otten said an associate minister has been filling in for Kutz while the church searches for an interim minister.