Reverend Paul Hartig, the senior pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Waterloo, has been charged in connection with thefts from the church.

The 46-year-old Kitchener resident was arrested following an investigation into thefts of money in 2009 and 2010. He is charged with one count of theft over $5,000.

Hartig has also been suspended from his duties at the church until the allegations are resolved.

Reverend Mark Harris of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada says "because of the seriousness of the allegations and because there is a criminal investigation underway, the pastor has been put on suspension with pay."

Waterloo Regional Police spokesperson Olaf Heinzel says they were "approached by members, concerned members of the congregation about…allegations of money disappearing."

The investigation began three months ago, and concluded with an arrest at the church on Wednesday afternoon.

Police have not released any information on exactly how much money was stolen, but Heinzel says it was reported to be disappearing over a 16-month period.

Hartig was released on a promise to appear. A court date is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2011.

There is concern about how the situation will impact a church already troubled by declining membership, attendance and offerings.

Harris says "for many people it pulls into question the trustworthiness of religious leaders and the church as a whole…it's important to respond to situations like this with a process that is open, that is transparent and promotes truth-telling and responsibility on the part of all people."

Hartig describes his background on his blog "Confessions of a Parish Pastor," saying he grew up in the Preston area of Cambridge, completed an undergraduate degree through Wilfrid Laurier University and a Masters through Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.