By Bob Allen
The American Baptist Churches of Connecticut has withdrawn the ordination of a pastor accused in criminal and civil cases of misusing his ministerial status to bilk the elderly.
Judy Allbee, executive minister of the regional arm of American Baptist Churches USA, told the Connecticut Post that the Commission on the Ministry — the part of ABCCONN’s structure charged with the responsibility for recognition and suspension or withdrawal of recognition of ordination — took action against Robert “Bob” Genevicz, pastor of Stratford Baptist Church for the past 16 years.
“As far as the American Baptist Churches are concerned, Rev. Genevicz is not ordained,” Allbee said.
Genevicz, 67, was arrested in March and charged with first-degree larceny for allegedly scamming a 71-year-old retired school teacher residing in an assisted-living facility out of more than $173,000.
A civil complaint filed July 9 in Connecticut Superior Court in Bridgeport accuses Genevicz of depleting the assets of an 88-year-old man who died in 2010, after Genevicz and an accomplice talked the victim into giving the pastor power of attorney.
According to a typewritten confession to Stratford Police obtained recently by the Connecticut Post, Genevicz blamed his actions on his 15-year relationship with a woman with an extensive criminal record who suckered him into taking part in her schemes.
According to the lawsuit, a woman named Doraine Reed worked as a live-in home health aide for Arthur Devack during the last four months of his life. Reed allegedly introduced Devack to Genevicz, and two weeks later Devack gave him power of attorney.
Devack rewrote his will to leave his entire estate to Reed, disinheriting his two children and excluding grandchildren and other relatives. A probate court ruled Dec. 12, 2011, that Devack had the “requisite testamentary capacity” to sign the will but was under “undue influence” of Reed and Genevicz when it was executed.
The judge declared the will null and void, reverting to a prior will naming Devack’s daughter as executrix of his estate. By then, according to the lawsuit by executrix Cathy Devack, it was too late.
She claims her father did not have a history of lavish spending prior to April 2010, but over the next two months a number of credit card accounts were opened in his name with Reed authorized to use them.
In June 2010 Genevicz changed Devack’s reverse mortgage from a monthly payment to a lump sum of more $224,000 and deposited the money in Devack’s bank account, Cathy Devack believes, to make it easier for the couple to defraud her father out of every cent he owned.
According to a probate court document, Reed is a nine-time convicted felon with a criminal modus operandi of preying on the elderly and infirm. Genevicz knew about her record, the document said. He has no criminal record of his own, but there are two Social Security numbers associated with his name.
Genevicz’s next scheduled court appearance is Aug. 7. Reed is named in both the arrest warrant and civil case but has not been formally charged in either.
In American Baptist polity, ordination is done by the local congregation in consultation with associated churches. Because it is impractical for a local church to be responsible for the minister’s faithful service as he or she moves from church to church over a period of years, American Baptists vest responsibility for counseling, consulting, monitoring and continuing recognition of clergy in each of 34 autonomous regions in the United States and Puerto Rico.
When questions arise about an ordained individual’s fitness for ministry or possible violations of a ministerial code of conduct, a region can suspend or withdraw recognition of a minister’s ordination.
The local congregation may allow the person to continue as minister, but the action is reported to American Baptist Personnel Services, the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, original ordaining church and region and other bodies that rely on denominational endorsement, approval or recognition.
Shortly after Genevicz was arrested, Stratford Baptist Church released a statement saying the congregation “supports fully Pastor Genevicz in these matters and desires that he remain pastor.”
According to the Stratford Star, the statement was written at a meeting of about 120 of the church’s 200 members, and agreement by those in attendance was unanimous. According to recent media reports, the church still stands by that statement.