well received following nightmarish ordeal
By John W. Kennedy
It hasn’t been
an easy couple of years for J. Lowell Harrup, senior pastor
of Northland Cathedral in Kansas City, Mo.
Less than a month
before Harrup and the Assemblies of God congregation planned
to relocate to new $12 million facilities in August 2001, a
member called and told the pastor to flip on his television
to a local news report. Harrup saw a church council member (name
withheld), a pharmacist, being charged with an unthinkable crime:
diluting drugs of cancer patients.
Eventually, the church
member pleaded guilty to 20 counts of misbranding, tampering
with and adulterating cancer drugs for 34 late-stage cancer
patients. Now 50, he is serving a 30-year prison sentence after
being convicted in the worst drug-dilution case in modern U.S.
Although the pharmacist
ultimately admitted greed motivated his behavior, initially
he claimed he watered down drugs in part to finance a $1 million
pledge for the church building fund. In reality, he never paid
$400,000 of the pledge, and he confessed that he had started
altering doses a decade earlier.
In the aftermath
of the consuming nightmare, Northland Cathedral has emerged
battered but strengthened. For months, the church received daily
calls from media outlets seeking comment. With resolution of
the court case, Harrup has broken the silence that he maintained
through the ordeal.
In March, the church
announced that it would donate $600,000 to victims of the drug-diluting
scheme. That figure represents the amount of stock the pharmacist
liquidated to donate to the building fund, even though the entire
amount probably didn’t represent tainted money. To avoid
the appearance of gaining from the atrocities, Harrup and the
Northland Cathedral council decided to relinquish contributions
the member had made.
The church decision
to act with integrity prompted a laudatory editorial in the
Kansas City Star plus commendations from U.S. Attorney
Todd Graves, who prosecuted the case, and lawyer Michael Ketchmark
who represented victims.
“From the beginning
the church found itself in an awful situation, not only because
he was a member of the church but because of the wide media
coverage,” Ketchmark, 37, told PE Report. “It was
a tremendous witness to their faith that they returned the money,
which they thought had been rightfully given. For nonbelievers
to see a church act in a Christlike fashion was marvelous.”
After selling two
houses, the church has made a $250,000 contribution to an existing
$11 million restitution fund for victims and their families.
Northland Cathedral also has committed to donating $350,000
to a victim trust fund during the next three years. That money
will have to be raised by additional contributions from church
members. The dollars the pharmacist donated to the building
fund were spent long ago.
Harrup, who has been
Northland Cathedral’s pastor for 14 years, believes he
couldn’t preach ethically to the congregation if the church
somehow had benefited from oncology patients who didn’t
receive the prescribed chemotherapy dosages.
to be careful how he builds the kingdom of God,” Harrup
told PE Report. “I cannot deliberately build a church
with money that I know was illegally gained.”
The pharmacist led
a secret life hidden from even his family members. He began
weakening chemotherapy drugs administered intravenously or through
injections and pocketing the gains.
the two pharmacies he operated, his home and investments.
The man’s wife
and children remain active members of the church, where attendance
averages 1,200 on Sunday mornings. Instead of withdrawing, Harrup
says the family has allowed others to minister to them.
Harrup says he empathizes
with those whose loved ones have suffered. “I understood
their hurt,” Harrup says. “My wife is a cancer survivor.
If someone had given my wife watered-down drugs I would have
Still, Harrup has
not forsaken his former church member, whom he visits in prison
in hopes of bringing restoration and redemption. “The
activity was terribly evil,” Harrup says. “My job
is not to make him feel good; my job is to make him be good.
I’m still his pastor. Pastors do not wash their hands