Renewal Leader Makes Plea For Prayer To Reverse UMC Thuggery In Alaska
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 6:51 PM
Subject: St. Paul (UM) Church
Please pray for the good members of the St. Paul (UM) Church congregation. They are the congregation who had their property seized by the Alaska Missionary Conference (AMC) and will be appearing to argue their case before the Alaska Supreme Court tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25th.
Please pray for favor with the judges. The specific parts of their case and the history of this very unfair seizure are below.
Theirs is a worthy case if there ever were one.
Allen Morris firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The February edition of the Update is being sent out two weeks early so that you will be alerted to an urgent situation. As you will remember, St. Paul Church, started by the laity of the congregation, had their property taken from them for no apparent reason. The hearing for their case goes before the Alaska Supreme Court on January 25th at 10:15 A.M. Alaska time. Enclosed in the last four "Update"; pages is a reprint of the background story for those of you who missed it.
I am asking each of you to be in earnest prayer that the Godly people of this church will find favor with the judges of the Court and that their property will be restored to them.
Following are the points submitted to the Alaska Supreme Court on September 3, 2004
Points on Appeal
I. The Superior Court erred in quieting title to the real property in favor of the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church ("AMC";) and in evicting St. Paul Church, Inc., from its real property.
A. The Court erred in its application of the "neutral principles"; doctrine.
B. The Court erred in finding that the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline created secularly enforceable contractual rights and obligations between St. Paul Church, Inc., and the AMC.
II. The Superior Court erred in holding that the individually named defendants Pat Turner, Chris Case, Thomas J. Hallinan, Robert F. Carlson, and Cam Carlson are individually and personally liable to the Alaska Missionary Conference for trespass and conversion and in concluding that they are subject to individual and personal liability for damages.
III. The Superior Court erred in determining that St. Paul Church, Inc.'s personal property belonged to the AMC following the discontinuance.
IV. The Court erred in determining that the Alaska Missionary Conference (AMC) had standing to file the underlying litigation and in denying St. Paul Church, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for lack of authority.
V. The Court violated the "neutral principles doctrine"; when it selectively applied provisions of the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline while ignoring other provisions.
VI. The Court erred in its application and interpretation of AS 10.40.010 150 in concluding that once the Alaska Missionary Conference (AMC) voted to discontinue St. Paul Methodist Church, Inc., as a Methodist-affiliated church, that the assets of SPC immediately vested in the AMC.
VII. The Superior Court erred in holding St. Paul Church, Inc. subject to the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline after May 30, 2002, when the Alaska Missionary Conference on May 30, 2002, discontinued St. Paul Church, Inc. as a United Methodist Church "effective immediately";.
VIII. The Court erred in asserting that a schism existed within the St. Paul United Methodist Church congregation since by doing so, the Court was impermissively determining issues of religious law.
Again, I ask each of you - please pray earnestly for the people of St. Paul Church, that they will find favor with the justices of the Alaska Supreme Court.
In His service,
Allen O. Morris,
In Whose Name?!
It was a gorgeous summer June day in Fairbanks, Alaska when the call came. Dazzling sunshine, brilliant blue sky and not a cloud in the sky. Nature was bursting forth all around with wild flowers adorning the roadsides and trees and bushes leafing out making the snowy winter a distant memory.
Into all this loveliness came the phone call--the call that would drastically impact our lives in the days, months and years ahead. It was Pat Turner, chair of the administrative council at St. Paul Church, calling to report an incident that had just occurred at the bank. When Pat and Tom Hallinan, church treasurer, had gone to the bank to change the signatories and update the church name on our church account, they were told that the church account had been closed out and all the money withdrawn by a former treasurer of St. Paul Church..
We headed out to see if our church had been attacked in any other manner. We drove to the former treasurer's home and retrieved the financial records from him. There we learned that he had been driven to the bank by Glenn Gibson, a former church member, along with Rev. Rachel Lieder Simeon, superintendent of the Alaska Missionary Conference (AMC) of the UMC, and Lonnie Brooks, a member of the Administrative Unit of the AMC. They had directed the former treasurer to withdraw the money from the St. Paul Church account, to close the account, and to write a cashier's check for all the withdrawn balance to the Alaska Missionary Conference.
Next, we headed out to the church to see if it was okay. As we approached our little brown country church, the most appalling sight revealed itself. There on our member built, member paid for church were 15"; X 19"; fluorescent orange signs saying, "NO TRESPASSING";! FIVE of them. One at each door and one on the walkway. That anyone would place such a sign on the house of the Lord was most shocking. Who would have such disrespect for God's house? (Two work teams from the lower 48 helped on the construction and several UM churches from the lower 48 gave some money for which we are very grateful; over 90% was member work and member money).
We tried the doors; all were locked and our keys could not unlock them. The locks had been changed. The view through window into the sanctuary revealed missing items: the candlestick holders and offering plates were gone from the alter. What else was missing, we wouldn't discover for several more weeks. Our thoughts turned to the parsonage. A trip there revealed another set of changed locks preventing any access.
At this point we reported these findings to the legal authorities, the Alaska State Troopers.
But what, you're probably asking, precipitated all this and what is it all about? The members of St. Paul Church are still asking those same questions of Bishop Edward Paup and Superintendent Rachel Lieder Simeon of the Alaska Missionary Conference of the UMC.
My thoughts went back to when we'd first dreamed of starting our church and the chain of events that brought us to this day. A group of lay people met in homes to organize "The Proposed Methodist Church";. We petitioned Bishop Cal McConnell to consider letting us join the United Methodist connection. He was supportive of our efforts and said it was only the second time in his ministerial career that laity had come to him wanting to organize a church instead of the denomination coming in to plant a church. He encouraged us to proceed.
It was December 18, 1983 when "The Proposed Methodist Church"; held its first worship service in rented space. AMC Superintendent Thom White Wolf Fassett traveled up from Anchorage to Fairbanks to preach for us. After the service we enjoyed a potluck dinner, then discussed how to become a full-fledged church. Supt. Fassett told us we would have to have 100 members and be financially totally self-supporting before we could be chartered as a United Methodist Church.
We accepted this challenge with enthusiasm and charged ahead to grow this gathering of Christians into a full-fledged church. Most of us in the group had at one time been members of the First UMC in Fairbanks, but over the years had wandered off for one reason or another. Various paths had been taken by the individuals. Some went off to the Presbyterian church, some to the Lutheran, Assembly of God, Baptist and elsewhere. And some had chosen to just stay home on Sunday mornings. We were excited to come together and begin a second Methodist church that could offer the community a Wesleyan type experience of a spiritual, God centered worship, void of political overtones-or undertones-or agendas! Sunday worship was the first order of faithfulness, to include a special Christmas Eve service.
By January 5, 1984 we had organized an Administrative Council and committee areas, opened a checking account, obtained a post office box and decided to put out a weekly newsletter. Plans were moving ahead to file articles of incorporation with the state, begin Sunday School in March, settle on rental space for the long term, and, seek a full time pastor by June 1984. Such a flurry of activity: meetings, potlucks, choosing a name, fund raising for hymnals, woodcutting parties (wood stove), social events.
On a festive Palm Sunday, April 15, 1984, Supt. Thom Fassett again came to Fairbanks to preside at our Constituting Church Conference and present us with a Certificate of Organization. We had 51 adult members and 29 preparatory members, and, were paying all our own expenses. In the brief time since our first worship service on December 18, 1983, we had evolved from "The Proposed Methodist Church,"; to "St. Paul Methodist Church,"; and now, to "St. Paul United Methodist Church!";
How elated we were to have a church focused on God and Jesus Christ. Worshipping the Lord in His house, even if it was a rented house. Sunday School had begun in March. The AMC had recommended a pastor to us, and after he and his wife visited Fairbanks, they made the decision to accept appointment to St. Paul UMC. They arrived in June 1984.
How richly God had blessed our little country church with a congregation full of people with many talents and skills. There were members who had previously, in other churches: served as lay leaders and lay member to annual conference; chaired or been members on administrative board, council on ministries, PPR, trustees, finance committee, nominations committee, worship, education; and had served as treasurer and secretary. God also blessed us with members with musical ability and teaching experience. Thus we had 6 pianists, choir directors, a choir, and wonderful Sunday school teachers. All were ready and eager to serve in these capacities in this new church. Praise the Lord! And we did!
A search for land on which to build a St. Paul UMC building concluded in 1988 when we found a lovely 3.4 -acre parcel on Farmers Loop, the main highway that circles around the north side of Fairbanks. On a clear day, one can see Mt. McKinley (150 miles south) from our church lot. That same year we also found a fine 3-bedroom house to purchase as a parsonage.
In late August 1993 we did what you just don't do in Fairbanks, Alaska that time of year. We began constructing our church building! After the scare of an early September snow fall, we were blessed with a wonderful long Indian summer allowing us to complete the shell of the structure and enclose the basement before winter really took hold. After trying to nail on exterior siding at 20 degrees, it became clear the rest of the construction would have to wait until spring of 1994. By Christmas 1994 our members had completed enough of the church building, that we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ in our almost finished sanctuary.
And again, we thanked God for his blessing of this new church building. Sunday Worship could be at "prime time,"; 11:00 AM on Sunday. There was room for Sunday School classes. Everything didn't have to be packed back up and put away before leaving church. Events could be scheduled when it served our purposes. Offerings could be expanded. Acreage was available for outdoor activities: games, volleyball, softball, BBQs. Wonderful!
Although the economic boom caused by construction of the Alaska Pipeline boom collapsed, taking "pillar"; families from our church midst, new members and pastors with talents and skills to share kept joining St. Paul UMC. With all these many blessings, we had no hint at what was coming our way.
In 1999, St. Paul UMC got a new superintendent, Rev. Rachel Lieder Simeon. Although contact with superintendents is quite limited (once a year at the All Church Conference for the congregation), it appeared from what contact she did have with us, she did not like our church. The handling of the All Church Conference in January 2001, had not gone well. Supt. Simeon seemed upset when what appeared to be her choice for administrative council chair was not elected to that position. In a loud and angry voice she told us we were a "conflicted"; church. And, she was going to find the best mediator/conflict manager she could, to be our next pastor. How strange. "Conflicted?"; We didn't know we were "conflicted."; But if we were, and this being a body of Christ's followers, why not find a great spiritual leader for our pastor?
The chain of events from January 2001 to the current time is very confusing and leaves us with numerous unanswered questions. In February 2001 Supt. Simeon told us that Rev. Steve Eldred would be our pastor come June. In March 2001 Supt. Simeon called us from some airport as she was leaving the country and told us Rev. Eldred would not be coming, that Rev. Don Strait would be our new pastor. She did not give an explanation, nor did she have time to meet with the PPR committee.
When Rev. Don and Nancy Strait arrived in July 2001, we were told they were an interim appointment, but we were not given any firm date as to departure time. The Straits had some wonderful skills that could have been shared with our congregation and would have made it grow, but there appeared to be some other agenda at work. At Administrative Council meetings and committee meetings, Rev. Strait often insulted members and was argumentative with them. It became clear that some members would be his friends and others would not. He even told some members, "I cannot be your pastor."; Later, in a very strange Ash Wednesday service, he told us he was going to depart from the traditional Ash Wednesday service and do things differently. He said he needed to ask us for our forgiveness. We had no idea what that was all about.
But, back to November 2001, just prior to Thanksgiving, the PPR committee received a rather unfriendly un dated, unsigned memo on plain paper from Supt. Simeon. It demanded that we read various paragraphs of the UMC Book of Discipline, and then "The lay leadership and congregation needs to consider seriously whether it is truly willing to be and become a United Methodist church."; The PPR committee was to share this memo with the Administrative Council.
Well,-.that seemed like an unchristian, unloving slap in the face. For 18+ years, since the Proposed Methodist Church had become St. Paul UMC, we had followed the Book of Discipline faithfully. In fact Bishop Cal McConnell had said we were marching forward with the Bible in one hand and the Book of Discipline in the other. We had faithfully paid our apportionments to the UMC in full every year, even the first year when not required to do so. We had a devout, active, viable congregation with: Sunday worship. Sunday School, bible study, prayer group, UMW, UMM, Whatever Tuesday, Family Day
Our, special social events, special worship experiences, terrific receipts for Thank Offerings, outreach into the community, cooperation with other UM churches for special events. We were financially solvent. What was the problem?
Supt. Simeon was present during our November 2001 Administrative Council meeting, but either couldn't or wouldn't give an explanation for the meaning of the memo. One member specifically asked her, "What are we doing wrong?"; Again, she couldn't or wouldn't tell us.
Then as we were entering the joyous Advent season, leading to the celebration of Christ's birth, St. Paul UMC received a memo from Supt. Simeon with a formal request that all our officers step down and be replaced with all new officers. And, we were told, the new officers must stay in place a minimum of three years. Once again, we were accused of being a "conflicted"; church. And, once again, no explanation or examples of how we were "conflicted"; were given.
At this point, since conversations with Supt. Simeon had produced no information or explanations, I tried to reach Bishop Paup. After a week of repeated attempts, I had a brief conversation with the bishop. He informed me that the AMC cabinet had spent a lot of time on St. Paul UMC and he didn't really have any more time to spend on it. I asked when St. Paul UMC would see the fruits of all the time spent on St. Paul UMC, as we had heard nothing about this from the cabinet and had no knowledge St. Paul UMC was even under discussion by them. He had no answer.
When the Lay Leadership Committee (LLC) met to work on the slate of officers for the January 22, 2002 All Church Conference, Pastor Strait reminded us of the cabinet's request to replace all officers with new people. St. Paul member Bob Carlson had sent a January 7, 2002 memo [included as Appendix N in this book] to the AMC Cabinet (which includes Bishop Paup), Pastor Strait, and most of the leadership at St. Paul UMC. In the memo he outlined all the paragraphs in the UMC Book of Discipline that speak to inclusiveness. Thus, to comply with the cabinet's formal request by excluding certain persons from office would have put the Lay Leadership Committee in disobedience to the order and discipline of the UMC, which is a chargeable offense. In addition, with over 20 positions to fill and an average attendance of approximately 35-45 (including children), the request was mathematically improbable.
At the January 22, 2002 All Church Conference, upon seeing the slate of officers, Supt. Simeon stated that she saw we had not complied with the cabinet's request. She said she would note that. Both Joyce Carlson, co-chair of LLC, and Pat Turner were questioned about the slate. Supt. Simeon made no other comments to us about either the "conflicted church"; issue or any other problems.
At our February 12, 2002 Administrative Council meeting, Pastor Strait said he had a letter from Supt. Simeon for the PPR chair to read to the council. It stated that the Supt. was "calling a special meeting to discuss and share plans for the immediate needs of St. Paul UMC,"; on March 12, 2002. It was anticipated that the full cabinet and the bishop would be there. She also indicated that March 3, 2002, would be Pastor Strait's last Sunday at St. Paul UMC. It was beginning to appear that the AMC bishop and superintendents were unaware of the Christian calendar and the events we, as a Christian congregation would be celebrating: Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas-and now the Easter season interrupted by "conflict"; inflicted by the AMC clergy!
All attempts to find out what the special meeting was about, what the agenda would be or even more specifically what the topics of conversation would be, met with stonewalling by Supt. Simeon. At the March 12th meeting with the full cabinet (Bishop Paup and Supts. Monte Baker, Dennis Holway and Rachel Lieder Simeon) in attendance, Supt. Simeon announced that the Annual Conference of the Alaska Missionary Conference would be asked to vote on a recommendation for St. Paul UMC to be discontinued. When asked under which paragraph of the Book of Discipline we were being discontinued, Supt. Simeon stated paragraph 2548.2(a). According to that paragraph, an annual conference may declare any local church discontinued "on such recommendation that a local church no longer serves the purpose for which it was organized and incorporated."; When asked how St. Paul UMC was no longer serving the purpose for which it was organized and incorporated, Supt. Simeon merely replied, "I've told you that already."; All questions as to what we were doing or had done wrong and why we were being recommended for discontinuance were stonewalled. Bishop Paup, and Supts. Simeon, Holway and Baker refused to give any explanations or reasons. And, except for telling us Rev. John Campbell, from First UMC, would preach on March 17th, no plans for the immediate needs of St. Paul UMC were addressed.
Between the March 12 meeting and the Annual Conference on May 30th, the members of St. Paul UMC made numerous attempts to find the answers to these questions:
-What had we done wrong?
-What could stop this "railroad job"; of discontinuance?
Questions to all levels of United Methodism failed to find anyone at any level that could or would offer any solutions or help. Contacted parties included: Pastor Strait, Supt. Simeon, Rev. Tom Dahl, chair of the AMC Administrative Unite; Lonnie Brooks, rule chair of the AMC Administrative Unit; Bishop Paup of the AMC and the Oregon/Idaho Conference; Bishop Elias G. Galvin, President of the College of Bishops; and, Sally AsKew, secretary of the UMC judicial council.
Unknown to the St. Paul UMC congregation, in April/May of 2002, the AMC superintendents Baker, Holway and Simeon were "visiting"; the churches throughout Alaska and telling them about St. Paul UMC. We have no idea what was said about us and we, obviously, had no opportunity to speak for ourselves.
It is little wonder then that on May 30, 2002 when the AMC Annual Conference was asked to vote to discontinue St. Paul UMC the vote was 61 to 1 in favor of discontinuance. This was a standing vote before Bishop Paup, who of course makes the pastoral appointments. Although an hour of "testimony"; was allowed, no real debate or discussion took place.
Interestingly, before the floor vote, Bishop Paup called a private meeting of the few St. Paul UMC members that were there at the conference. He indicated he did not want to go to court and cause us both a lot of financial expense. At that time he offered to give St. Paul UMC our St. Paul church building and indicated the AMC would take possession of the St. Paul UMC parsonage. This was a rather specious offer, since he had no authority to make the offer (only the AMC could) and the St. Paul member to annual conference had no authority to accept such an offer.
Again, let me emphasize:
-No charges were made against St. Paul UMC.
-No charges were made against any St. Paul UMC officer/officers.
-No charges were made against any St. Paul UMC member or group of members.
So, back to June 7, 2002. There we were, "St. Paul Church"; locked out of our church building, locked out of our parsonage and our bank account stolen. We also discovered all our business accounts had been transferred to the AMC without ever contacting us about it. All the phones were disconnected and the AMC even tried to close our St. Paul Church post office box, which was ours even before we were ever a United Methodist church.
What to do!? Having decided we were not dealing with rational people, we chose to worship at an alternate location for a few weeks in the hope that tempers would settle down and that God might work some miracles in some hate filled hearts.
Although we quite enjoyed worshipping in Tom and Nancy Hallinan's greenhouse next to the pool with flowers all around and sunshine streaming in, we decided it was time to return to the St. Paul Church building. And, on the advice of an attorney, on July 21, 2002, after a locksmith re-keyed the locks, we began worshipping in the church building once again with guest preachers leading worship. Upon re-entering the church we found that Supt. Simeon had taken (stolen?): all the hymnals (both the blue and the old red sets); the beautiful myrtle-wood communion service, offering plates and candle stick holders; all the phones (even one in a cabinet that was only used for meetings); the computer, computer monitor and computer printer; the copy machine; framed certificates and photos from the wall; membership book; UM Book of Worship; and, other books and records not completely itemized yet. At our first worship service upon re-entry, just as the pianist was to begin playing the prelude, she exclaimed, "The piano is locked!"; So much for Christian love!
Soon after we began using our St. Paul Church building again, the AMC served us with a "Notice to Quit,"; meaning they wanted us to vacate the building. With the building deed in our name and since we were advised that we had every right to be there, we did not vacate and continued to worship in our church building. On September 27, 2002, the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc., filed a law suit against St. Paul United Methodist Church, Inc, an Alaskan Corporation (even though by their action St. Paul UMC no longer existed!). In addition, six individuals were named as defendants even though St. Paul Church was incorporated. They sued us as individuals so that we would be financially liable for 75% of the attorney fees (in excess of $175,000) if we lose. We see this as pure vindictiveness and an attempt to intimidate us with the thought of financial ruin. We soon were required to attend an eviction hearing at which, thankfully, the judge ruled against the AMC and let us remain in our church building until a trial is conducted.
The phrase, "God will provide";, has taken on real significance for the St. Paul congregation over the last year and a half. He has blessed us with ten to twelve guest preachers who have rotated in providing us with wonderful God & Christ centered-messages each Sunday. He has blessed us with the help and prayers of many wonderful United Methodists across the lower 48 states. And, on October 8th, 2003 he blessed us with the arrival of Pastor Doug and Marilyn Brownrigg who have come to pastor at St. Paul Church for one year. Praise the Lord!
Surely you are still asking, "Well, come on-..what precipitated all this?"; We are still asking the same question and receiving no real answers from Bishop Paup and Supt. Simeon.
The only reason we can find for Bishop Paup, Supt. Simeon and the Alaska Missionary Conference to want to destroy St. Paul UMC is that we were loyal to the United Methodist Book of Discipline and the Wesleyan teachings. Our church would take petitions to Annual Conference requesting that the AMC and the UMC be faithful to the Book of Discipline, and that they not support partial birth abortion, politics, and homosexual "marriage";/the gay agenda with UM money. We requested that they honor the BoD in matters such as paragraphs 431-432 on consultation on pastoral appointments. We suggested that bishops have term limits and not be bishops for life; that apportionments not be mandatory; and, that petition materials be sent out in a timely manner.
For 18-plus years the St. Paul UMC congregation: worshipped and praised the Lord; taught and trained our children in the Christian beliefs; paid our UMC apportionments in full every year; was financially solvent and responsible; worked in mission with others in the community; was faithful to the Book of Discipline of the UMC and the Wesleyan teachings; provided many learning and social opportunities for our members; was a wonderful, warm, friendly group of Christians; and, opened its doors to all who wanted to worship with us.
Through the tireless labor of church members we had nearly completed construction of the St. Paul Church building. Neither the AMC nor any of the UM churches in the AMC offered any help with the construction. With less than 10% from outside contributions, and through the faithful and very generous contributions of the members, the parsonage and church were now debt free properties worth between $400,000 and $500,000. All this from a small country congregation of 50-60 members.
So, what could we at St. Paul Church have done to bring on such wrath and hatred from the clergy of the AMC and to have them take such an egregious action against us? One question we now ask is, "Can you be faithful to the Wesleyan teachings and the UMC Book of Discipline and be a United Methodist in the Alaska Missionary Conference?"; And the answer-..apparently not!
More importantly, in whose name are Bishop Paup, Supt. Simeon and the AMC taking these actions? Surely not our Lord's!
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Written on November 15, 2003, by Mrs. Cam Carlson, and updated telephonically with her on January 13, 2006.
Editorial note - The people of St. Paul Church can be contacted at:
St. Paul Church, P. O. Box 83725, Fairbanks, Alaska 99708. Their telephone number is: 907-479-7998
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