VIOLATED DIRECT MANDATE OF DISCIPLINE IN PUNISHING EVANGELICAL PASTOR
A Commentary on
the Discipline and Talberts Flaunting It
by James Gibson
With the quadrennial General Conference now history, Melvin Talbert, renegade leader of
the apostate California Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, has
wasted no time flaunting his disregard for the authority of the denominations only
official law and policy-making body. After setting himself and his conference above the Discipline
by refusing to certify charges against 68 rebel pastors last February, Talbert has now
leveled the iron hand of punitive action against a pastor who dared to stand up to him. In
so doing, the soon-to-be-retired prelate once again violated The Book of Discipline.
As reported per UCMPage.org:
Yesterday, May 18, 2000, Rev. Kyle Phillips, pastor of Tehachapi Valley UMC was
summoned to meet with Bishop Talbert and the Cabinet. Kyle is the leader of the six
evangelical pastors who have called for escrowing apportionments in response to Talbert's
disregard for the UMC Discipline following the failure of the Committee on Investigation
to charge Rev. Don Fado, et al for performing a gay marriage last year.
Coming one week after GC2000, this is clearly retributive on Talbert's part and
reflects what DS David Bennett told another of the six during GC2000 that "Kyle will
be targeted." All 6 pastors, plus several intercessors, also went, in support. The
bishop told Kyle that Kyle was the most arrogant man he had ever met, and that he was
surprised Kyle still had a church if he treated his parishioners the same way he treats
his colleagues and superiors. He then told Kyle that he was being moved to another
smaller, almost dead church effective July 1, and Kyle has absolutely no choice. This is
against Kyle's wishes and his congregation's wishes, and clearly seems a punitive move. It
involved absolutely no consultation and was clearly premeditated and deceptive, waiting
until after GC2000 to spring it on him. Ministry in Tehachapi was going great, the church
there loves Kyle, and they have had very significant growth and renewal. Kyle thanked the
bishop, but will soon have a public letter posted announcing his response.
The fact that this action "involved absolutely no consultation" is consistent
with Talberts previous action in dismissing the charges against Fado and company. It
indicates a clear pattern of behavior on Talberts part to disregard the Discipline
whenever it gets in the way of his personal agenda. The latest violation involves
paragraph 431, "Consultation and Appointment-Making":
Consultation is the process whereby the bishop and/or district superintendent confer
with the pastor and committee on pastor-parish relations, taking into consideration the
criteria of p. 432, a performance evaluation, needs of the appointment under
consideration, and mission of the Church. Consultation is not
merely notification. Consultation is not committee selection or call of a
pastor. The role of the committee on pastor-parish relations is advisory. Consultation is
both a continuing process and a more intense involvement during the period of change in
The process of consultation shall be
mandatory in every annual conference.
- The Council of Bishops shall inquire
annually of their colleagues about the implementation of the process of consultation in
appointment-making in their respective areas.
What is different about this particular violation, however, is that the Discipline
places the mechanism for accountability squarely
in the lap of Talberts colleagues on the Council of Bishops!
Traditionally, the bishops have abdicated the responsibility of holding their colleagues
accountable, opting instead to let pastors and lay persons exercise their right to file
complaints. However, this time, the bishops themselves have a clear mandate from the Discipline
with regard to Talberts reprehensible conduct. Will they be obedient to it? Or will
they, like Talbert, simply ignore it?