St. John's Lutheran Church is reacting to the news that their head pastor has been charged with stealing from the institution.

A media release issued by the church Friday says "These allegations have come as a great shock…If confirmed, they reflect a serious breach of trust."

It continues, "However, both the congregation and the wider church are endeavoring to address this situation in an open and forthright manner."

Pastor Paul Hartig was charged with theft over $5,000 on Wednesday, in connection with money that allegedly disappeared over a 16-month period.

The charges follow a three-month investigation by Waterloo Regional Police that began after members of the congregation began to express concerns.

In accordance with the disciplinary policies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, Hartig has been suspended from his duties until the investigation is complete.

Information regarding Hartig has also been removed from the church's Web site, as has his blog "Confessions of a Parish Pastor."

The release goes on to ask for continued prayers for both St. John's congregation and Hartig, "as we seek healing in the days ahead."