A pastor who recently started a new church in Lone Tree left his former Castle Rock church in financial disarray after leaving there in December 2011, according to current leaders of Castle Rock’s Calvary Chapel.
Brian Abeyta, senior pastor at Calvary Chapel from 2003 to 2011, in April led the debut service of the Beauty for Ashes Fellowship in a rented space at the Lone Tree Recreation Center.
In January 2012, he gave his last address to parishioners at Castle Rock’s Calvary Chapel, asking forgiveness for his behavior there.
“I let my guard down,” he said in a recorded address. “I became self-absorbed, financially irresponsible, bitter, a liar, deceptive, even unforgiving, all within these last few months. And for this, I’m deeply sorry.”
According to officials at the Castle Rock church, they’re still paying back rent and property taxes on their building, left unpaid under Abeyta’s leadership. Senior pastor Dave Love and board member Dave Weston said that for the last three years Abeyta was at the Castle Rock church, it operated without a board, in violation of bylaws. Based on an independent audit, they believe Abeyta spent more than $200,000 for personal use in 2011 alone.
“The money we’re talking about is well beyond any benefit or salary,” Love said.
“It’s unambiguous,” Weston agreed. “People have gone to jail for less.”
Abeyta said the money was properly spent for his housing and gas allowances.
“At the audit, they said we think you should be taxed on this housing allowance and gas allowances,” Abeyta said. “I said, ‘I agree.’ Whatever you feel is income that is invalid, send it to me. We’ll take that hit.
“I was irresponsible with some of the church finances. To say there was money that was stolen, or taken from the church? I’ll tell you what, it’s still 100 percent inaccurate. Everything’s been twisted and distorted to make us look like something we are not.”
Abeyta also consistently failed to pay the full monthly rental amount, Love and Weston said, leaving the church $440,000 in arrears with its landlord. Love said the landlord has agreed to reduce that amount and is allowing the church to slowly repay the balance.
“We’re hoping by the end of the year to be debt-free,” Love said.
Love and Weston said the church also had no board in 2009 and 2010, but they opted not to do a financial audit of those years.
“We already had our answer,” Love said.
Because Abeyta has a wife and four children, Love said the church opted not to prosecute him, instead sending him a 1099 for $200,000.
A 1099 is a tax form detailing income beyond salary; the person who was paid those funds must pay taxes on that income.
“Biblically, that’s what we saw as the best thing to do,” Love said. “We didn’t want to cause any hardship for them. As a body of believers, we needed to move forward.”
Abeyta took a corporate job on the East Coast after his resignation, but said he felt it wasn’t a good fit and that God was calling him back to Douglas County to start a new church.
Abeyta said he renegotiated the Castle Rock church’s lease agreement, and could provide documentation to refute Calvary Chapel’s claims. He did not do so, saying he and his wife, Jenipher, prayed about the best way to respond.
“We were both in agreement that bantering back and forth is not glorifying to the Lord,” Abeyta wrote in a June 26 email. “I am deeply sorry for how my actions affected the innocent people that we loved so dearly. We have put layers of protection around us this time, to ensure those things do not happen ever again.”