Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Convicted burglar to lead church

Baptist pastor with colourful past, including fraud and burglary convictions, will soon be Dean of Wellington

Lloyd Wilkinson.
Lloyd Wilkinson.

A Baptist pastor who is about to become Wellington's new Dean of the Anglican church comes with a chequered past, including convictions for fraud and burglary of a parishioner's house - all while he was a Bay of Plenty pastor.

But the church says Lloyd (known as Digby) Wilkinson is an "ideal" candidate who has moved past his criminal background.

Bishop of Wellington, Justin Duckworth will announce to the Wellington congregation on Sunday that Wilkinson will be the capital's new dean. Wilkinson, a senior pastor at Palmerston North's Central Baptist Church, will start his new role in January next year.

His ascent through the church ranks comes 10 years after being sentenced to 175 hours of community service at the Tauranga District Court after guilty pleas to a charge of theft, two of fraud and one of burglary.

The offences occurred between March 2001-October 2002, when Wilkinson was a pastor at Tauranga's Otumoetai Baptist Church.

Two involved false insurance claims on personal property, one the theft of an office laptop computer - which he later sold back to the church for $3456 less than the insurance company had paid out - and the fourth charge concerned a break-in at a parishioner's home.

The householder was overseas and had left a key with the church office.

Sentencing judge Peter Rollo said Wilkinson had an "exemplary background" until the offending.

Bishop Duckworth said yesterday Wilkinson was an "incredibly" good communicator and proven leader.

He accepted some parishioners might have concerns around Wilkinson's criminal history, which was something Wilkinson had spoken about, as well as his journey forward from that.

"In many senses it's the church's message of transforming grace lived out in his life. So I think in some sense it makes him an ideal candidate to make him a church leader, in the fact that he has experienced transforming grace from a place of deep despair to actually finding a way forward again and putting his life back together."

An Anglican Church spokesman, Lloyd Ashton, said the appointment was a "brilliant decision" by the church and was what the church was all about.

A senior pastor at Otumoetai Baptist Church, Brian Cochran said Wilkinson maintained a positive relationship with the church.

"I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but I know that he was well loved and respected, despite his slip-ups, shall we say."

Wilkinson's appointment surprised one bishop, the Right Reverend Te Kitohi Wiremu Pikaahu, who said such appointments were usually given to people with a "high profile".

Victoria University religious studies senior lecturer Geoff Troughton said Wilkinson must have undergone a certain amount of rehabilitation during his time at the Central Baptist Church.

"I would imagine there had been a fairly thorough checking out of his background and how it had gone in Palmerston North," he said.

Wilkinson was not available for comment yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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