Alledged Pedophile Stays And Pastor Goes In UM Politics
I'm not really in a panic about this but it would be really nice to have someone with me on August 8. John Grenfel dropped out because of a scheduling conflict. Another good brother from Dallas also has a schedule problem.
I need an Elder in full connection to be with me at 1 p.m., Thursday, August 8 at First UMC in North Little Rock, Ar. Max Whitfield, Superintendent of the Fayetteville District, filed a formal complaint against me for not accepting appointment to Pea Ridge in his District. It was the job designed to be refused, too far from my children and well below the level I had achieved.
I've attached my response to the complaint to this message. I think it is a strong argument.
I am prepared to go it alone but it would be nice to have a witness and some moral support. Please, pray; see if the Lord lays something on your heart. I'm flying out of here on Sat. morn., July 29 so I can be there for my son's birthday. You can reach me here before that or leave a message with Emily Allen in North Little Rock at (501) 758-3422.
Yours in Christ,
Michael D. Hinton, M.Div.
ANSWER AND COUNTER-CLAIMS
I am in receipt of the complaint lodged against me by Max Whitfield on June 20, 2000.
I stipulate to all facts presented therein. I did not accept the appointment to Pea Ridge.
However, I plead not guilty to the charge of disobedience to the order and discipline of the Church. Rather, I am in faithful obedience to both the spirit and letter of the law of the Church and will argue for dismissal of the charge against me.
My obedience to the order and discipline of the Church is demonstrated by commitment to values and principles specifically delineated in Scripture, Methodist doctrine and the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, especially the Social Principles, which have the force of law in our Church. I did not go to Pea Ridge because the appointment is invalid: the Bishop and Cabinet did not obey Chapter Three, Section VIII of the Book of Discipline that governs appointment-making. Therefore, I assert my right to "dissent" in "civil disobedience" "when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust or that are discriminately enforced," according to Paragraph 68 (E) of the Social Principles.
In our system, Bishops do not speak EX CATHEDRA. Neither is obedience to the order and discipline of the Church equal to obeying a mere administrative decision of a Bishop. The order and discipline of our Church is contained in the Book of Discipline, rules to which we all answer, including the Bishop and Cabinet. The Discipline recognizes that some rules are of greater import than other rules. Therefore, Bishops do not have an absolute power of appointment but are limited by legislation concerning the process and criterion for making appointments. The Bishop and Cabinet have created an atmosphere of abuse toward my family and myself that compels me for conscience sake seemingly to disobey. I am confident that a careful examination of the facts will support my contention that the Bishop and Cabinet are enforcing the law of the Church discriminately and unjustly.
The rules guiding my decision to protest are found, among others cited below, in Paragraph 66 (B), which states, "We urge policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions. We condemn all overt and covert forms of religious intolerance we assert the right of all religions and their adherents to freedom from legal, economic, and social discrimination." Bishop Huie is abusing my family and me because I am an out-spoken, activist evangelical within the United Methodist Church, a friend of Good News and formerly part of the Confessing Movement. She also reckons that I am politically vulnerable. Nevertheless, I have decided not to be personally abused by this Bishop any longer. Neither should "the faith once delivered" nor Wesleyan theology be suppressed in our diverse ecclesiastical fellowship by those with contrary agendas, who put political power over principle.
But more importantly, I seek to obey those rules of our Church concerning children and youth. Paragraph 66 (C) Rights of Children, states, "Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations All children have the right to quality education Moreover, children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care and emotional well-being In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, and sexual exploitation and abuse." Paragraph 66 (D) says, "Our society is characterized by a large population of youth and young adults who frequently find full participation in society difficult. Therefore, we urge development of policies that encourage inclusion of youth and young adults in decision-making processes and that eliminate discrimination and exploitation." The appointment to Pea Ridge proposed to take me far from my small children and would force my son to change high schools. This was designed to punish and discourage us, using my children in a nasty political strategy that I resent with all my heart.
Therefore, I counter-claim that Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Jan Edwards and now Max Whitfield are in violation of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. They have conspired to defraud me of my standing and remuneration as a United Methodist Pastor, to which I have a right as a faithful minister of the Gospel, having fulfilled qualifications for and exhibited effectiveness in ministry. Knowing from previous conversations that I would object to the Pea Ridge appointment, said persons have maliciously entrapped me in this charge and complaint. According to Paragraphs 432.2, 432.2e and 433.5a, the Bishop is required to be pastorally sensitive and conscientious toward the Pastor's family, consulting with and considering the needs of the Pastor's family in making appointments. But just the opposite happened, the Bishop proposed to take me far from my children, knowing how I would feel about it even calculating what I might do about it, sending carefully crafted letters to set me up, violating the spirit of consultation and collegiality. The consultation process is not intended to gather information to determine how the Bishop may more effectively abuse a Pastor and family! My only recourse is this act of conscience.
Paragraphs 430, 431 and 432 of the Book of Discipline stipulate both the process and criteria for making appointments in our Church. The Bishop and members of her Cabinet have knowingly and willfully ignored and discounted said rules in favor of extraneous political outcomes and personal agendas. Bishop Huie, who is ultimately responsible for the appointment process, practices reverse discrimination, which is immoral and illegal. I am succeeded at Amboy by a woman who professes to be a personal friend of the Superintendent yet lacks experience and barely has the standing to assume responsibility in a troubled church like Amboy.
In addition, the Book of Discipline, Paragraph 66 (C), says, "In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, and sexual exploitation and abuse." Yet, Bishop Huie seems to care little for children, as evidenced by two facts: 1) she failed to lend me the authority and support of her office through the Superintendent in order to address and resolve the controversy surrounding the activity of a pedophile in the Amboy church. Instead, she and the Superintendent colluded with the perpetrator and his friends, fostering the deterioration of my ministry and enabling the perpetrator to continue his abuse and exploitation of the children of the church. My letter to the Bishop concerning this matter was not answered until over two months later, and only on the occasion of this complaint. This was done to effect an extraneous political outcome, as one said, "to keep pressure on" me, to create an unhappy church environment and then to make the appointive system appear as "savior" of the congregation by removing me. That's not leadership; that's manipulation.
2) The well-being of my children has been totally disregarded in the proposed appointment to Pea Ridge.
In advancement of this fraudulent activity, through a strategy of planned negligence, Jan Edwards failed to perform the functions of her office as outlined in Paragraph 420 of the Book of Discipline. She failed to return my calls in a timely manner (for over 2 weeks in January of this year) and did not respond in person to numerous requests for the same from myself and members of the Amboy church (immediately thereafter). We needed her to address the issue of a child molester loose in the church, with the hard feelings it was causing, dividing the congregation.
Nowhere in Section VI. Specific Responsibilities of District Superintendents does it say that a Superintendent should communicate or have any contact or relationship with individual members of the churches in her District. Yet Jan maintained continual contact with Kelly Cannon of the Amboy church, saying to me over and over, "I'll talk to Kelly." Her letter to him of February 8 concerning the controversy of the pedophile was extremely weak and ineffectual. It is obvious to me that Jan, seemingly ignorant of the potential legal consequences, was in sympathy with the perpetrator and his friends. Jan went so far as to say of the molester, "He needs a place in the church, too." While damning me with faint praise, she used the situation politically rather than address the pastoral issues. Now I am both without a decent appointment and under investigation while the pedophile goes to church with children. This is outrageous.
Jan should have obeyed the Discipline, providing me with "pastoral support" according to Paragraph 420.1, not only in helping stop child abuse in the church but in many other ways, even to the point of developing "adequate compensation for all clergy, including provision for housing, utilities, travel and continuing education" (Paragraph 423.3). Instead, in boundary-less and people-pleasing weakness, at the Charge Conference on November 30, 1999, Jan failed to follow the Rules of Order, allowing non-members of the Conference both to speak and vote. She thereby undercut the efforts of those who wanted to provide me adequate compensation and went so far as to tell the Conference they did not have to obey the Discipline in the process for removing members, which they wanted to do to reduce apportionments. She openly criticized her predecessors on the District and under-cut my ministry -- in front of the people.
There is no question of the fraudulent nature of activities at Amboy that removed me. Some members willingly joined efforts to violate their membership vows, refusing to attend church or give offerings, in order to extort the appointive system and force me out. The system caved in to irresponsible and unchristian laity, and betrayed me. When it was all over, the Chair of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee said, "Now I know what Judas felt like."
Finally, the question of obedience rightly flows to those who put personal political agendas above the good rule and order of the Church, who endanger the children of the church, who abuse Pastors and their children, who neglect sound pastoral judgment and functioning, and who never fail to manipulate the system to their own benefit, comfort and convenience.
Michael D. Hinton, M.Div.
4 July 2000
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