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Church Law My Have Been Violated By Disobedient Bishop For Denying Consultation Process


May 20, 2000

Rev. Victorine Armour Healy [District Superintendent]
2435 N. Thesta
Fresno, CA 93703

Dear Vickie,

I find it difficult to respond to a directive to leave Tehachapi Valley United Methodist Church and go to another congregation when the appointment process has been so blatantly ignored.

In paragraph 431 of The Book of Discipline I read,

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 paragraph 432, a performance evaluation, need of the appointment under consideration, and mission of the church. Consultation is not merely notification.

Then, in paragraph 431.1, I read,

The process of consultation shall be mandatory in every annual conference.

My experience and recollection of our meeting on May 18th, 2000 with Bishop Talbert was a very different experience. Bishop Talbert clearly informed me that I was being appointed to a different congregation because he experienced me as arrogant and unwilling to submit to authority. Because of what he described as my arrogance, the Bishop said he lacked good faith that I have been building a faithful United Methodist Church in Tehachapi. Instead of suggesting some kind of supervision or process of growth, he unilaterally, without consulting Tehachapi Valley’s Pastor-Parish Relations Committee or myself, appoints me to another United Methodist Church. When he asked me to respond, I asked if anything I said would change his mind. He said it would not. That does not seem to be consultation, but rather notification and violation.

Vickie, help me understand. Have you ever experienced me as "arrogant and condescending?" Do you believe our colleagues on the Fresno District Committee on Ordained Ministry, where I have served faithfully for some years, would say they experience me so? I do not believe that Rick Plain, who preceded you as my District Superintendent, would so describe me. If you have experienced me as arrogant, as my immediate supervisor, why have you not talked with me about that? In actuality, on more than one occasion in recent weeks you have shared with me that you experience me as a thoughtful team player. Have you any record of the attitudes or behaviors with which the Bishop characterized me?

The Bishop remarked that he could not imagine how someone as arrogant as myself could possibly have a successful ministry. That’s a great question. How could someone as arrogant as he describes grow a congregation from and average worship attendance of 60 to an average attendance of 200? In reviewing ten years of Pastor Parish Evaluation reports, I find no mention of either "arrogance" or "condescension."

How could someone as arrogant as he describes have a successful ministry serving as a Share Jesus team leader? A Share Jesus team leader must be willing to submit to the authority of the pastor receiving a team. Further, how could someone as arrogant as he describes lead colleagues from numerous denominations in Tehachapi in community outreach events? I would imagine I could gather thirty or more affidavits from colleagues in ministry from half a dozen different theological traditions to bear witness to my lack of arrogance and willingness to submit to others in ministry and in authority over me.

Is it possible that the Bishop’s impression of me is colored by two brief months of correspondence? In these months I have attempted to be faithful to my calling as a United Methodist elder in the complex and conflicted context we know as the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

The Bishop said he lacked "good faith" that I was building a faithful United Methodist Church in Tehachapi. Just recently I preached a four-part sermon series instructing the congregation on the blessing and value of United Methodism. Up until the crisis triggered by the Bishop’s comments on February 11th, I’ve led the congregation in 100% payment of our apportionments and each year have received a letter from the bishop thanking me for my faithfulness. For the past five years the men of TVUMC and myself have worked hard to bring life to the Fresno District United Methodist Men’s Retreat. Disciple Bible Study is the center of our disciple making process where the people of TVUMC are exposed to the leading personalities in our church today. The Walk to Emmaus, sponsored by the Upper Room, is another central component in our disciple making. I serve on the High Desert Emmaus, West Board of Directors.

Other than his subjective feelings, what evidence would the Bishop bring to support his claim that I am not building a faithful United Methodist Church? The people of TVUMC would be outraged to know that their bishop considers them unfaithful.

Paragraph 432 of The Book of Discipline reads,

Appointments shall take into account the unique needs of a charge, the community context, and also the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of a particular pastor. To assist bishops, cabinets, pastors, and congregations to achieve an effective match of charges and pastors, criteria must be developed and analyzed in each instance and then shared with pastors and congregations.

I know little or nothing of the community to which the Bishop has appointed me. There has been no attempt to share information about the community nor the congregation. I have not met with the Pastor Parish Relations Committee of the congregation, and obviously, they have not met with me. Would the Bishop foist what he considers an arrogant condescending man on an unsuspecting congregation? What does that say about his regard for either myself or the congregation to which he would appoint me?

Again in paragraph 433.5a,

The district superintendent shall confer with the pastor about a specific possible appointment (charge) and its congruence with gifts, evidence of God’s grace, professional experience and expectations, and the family needs of the pastor, identified in consultation with the pastor.

Would it be asking too much for you to sight the date and time of the meeting when you sat down with me and consulted on the congruence of my gifts with the needs of the congregation to which I would be appointed? Have you ever asked about my family, either their present needs, or simply general information? Do you know how many children I have? Do you know their names? Their ages? My wife is saddened that you have never asked about her needs.

You and the Bishop have asked me to keep silent about this appointment. There has been no consultative process. The grounds the Bishop has used in unilaterally appointing me are specious. I fear his motive is vindictive. I fail to concede that a valid appointment has been made.

Help me understand how I may be wrong in my evaluation. If you can help me see that the appointment has followed a valid appointment process, I will respond to it. If the Bishop has a complaint against me, he may file a complaint. I experience this process as clear evidence of supervisory abuse, and I grow tired of being so handled.

If you would be so kind, please respond in writing.

Sincerely,

 

Kyle Phillips

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