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Olivet church offers support for pastors arrested on drunken driving charges

Kris Gordon and Jeff Sandgren

Two pastors arrested for drunken driving early Thursday will have the support of their congregation, Olivet Lutheran Church, according to a statement released by the church council.

The council met Thursday night with pastors Jeff Sandgren and Kris Gorden, along with Bishop Bill Rindy of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Pastor Kari Bahe.

"As our church leaders, staff, council, and synod travel this difficult journey, we will deal with this matter in forthright, transparent, and caring manner," the council statement reads.

"We take this situation seriously. At the same time, with the aim of health, healing, and wholeness, we will support Pastors Jeff and Kris and their families, as well as the staff, one another, the entire Olivet congregation, and community."

According to police:

Gorden, 44, 1002 Park Drive S., was turning from 25th Street South onto the eastbound ramp of Interstate 94 around 1 a.m. Thursday when he slid into a snowbank and got stuck. After police had already arrived at the scene, Sandgren, 50, 3317 Parkview Lane S., also pulled up to help Gorden get out of the snowbank and had contact with police.

Officers arrested both men on suspicion of driving under the influence and were taken to the Cass County Jail, where they later bailed out.

Police would not say Thursday if breath tests were performed or what blood alcohol concentration levels were measured if they were.

"These two servants of God serve the people of Olivet Lutheran very well, yet have made mistakes of a painfully public nature," Rindy said in a statement released after the arrests.

The church council released its statement late Thursday evening after meeting with the pastors.

A third person, Kayla Dronen, 25, of 4014 3rd St. S. in Moorhead, was also arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after she arrived at the I-94 on-ramp at 1:20 a.m.

Though he initially said the pastors knew her, Lykken later said that wasn't the case.