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Pastor Relieved of Duties After Affair Is Revealed

Religion: Officials at Orange County church say he admitted a 2-month relationship with female congregant.

October 03, 2001|MIKE ANTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The popular pastor of a Costa Mesa church has been relieved of his duties after admitting he had an extramarital affair with a female congregant, according to church officials.

Keith Page, 36, a founder of the nondenominational Rock Harbor Church, told church leaders of the two-month affair 10 days ago, said Spencer Burke, chairman of the board of elders.

"Pastors are real people just as all of us are, and Rock Harbor is a real church," Burke said. "This is one other way of being real in our community, to say that our pastor fell into sin and admitted to deceit and adultery."

Page could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The news came as a blow to the unconventional church, which spun off from Mariners Church in Irvine four years ago to offer its largely young congregation a view of Scripture taught with hipness, humor and rock music.

Page, who was youth pastor for more than a decade at Mariners, became nationally known through his work at Rock Harbor, a voice to churchgoing Generation-Xers.

Dress is casual at Rock Harbor's four Sunday services--piercings, tattoos and leather are common--and Page's cutting-edge sermons would often center on how age-old human failings such as greed and lust should be handled in a modern, technological world.

Rock Harbor's 2,000-member congregation was told of Page's departure Sunday, as church leaders read a statement from him in which he apologized for the affair.

"The statement was open, honest and complete," Burke said. "He was broken and sorrowful for the pain he has already caused."

Page is still receiving his salary and benefits, Burke said, although he didn't know "how long that will last." A replacement is not being sought at the moment, and pastoral duties will be shared by church leaders.

Both couples touched by the affair are "committed to restoring their marriages, and taking the next step in health and healing," Burke said. If asked, the church will provide professional counseling, he added.

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