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Pro-homosexuality, Pro-partial-birth Abortion General Agency Head Retires, May Run For Bishop

Fassett plans to leave Board of Church and Society Nov. 1

Feb. 21, 2000 {086}

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The top staff executive of the United Methodist Church's social action and advocacy agency will leave office Nov. 1.

The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the Board of Church and Society, has announced that he will have completed his term in office under the church's 12-year limitation rule for elected agency staff. Governing members of the board had asked Fassett to remain until July 2001, but he announced he will be taking an appointment in the church's New York West Area this fall.

Elected program agency staff are barred from serving more than 12 years in the same position. The clock for Fassett began ticking on Jan. 1, 1989. The denomination's Book of Discipline further provides that the agency responsible for electing staff may annually suspend the rule by a two-thirds ballot vote. In the denomination, general secretaries, deputy general secretaries and associate general secretaries are elected. Fassett is one of several senior administrators in the denomination facing the 12-year rule.

Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan of the Iowa Area, president of the board, will be appointing a committee to conduct a search for a new executive.

Fassett, 59, became general secretary in 1988. Previously, he had been an associate general secretary with various duties from 1976 until 1983, including a stint as acting general secretary in 1980. In 1983, he became the superintendent of the Alaska Missionary Conference. He remained in that office until he returned to the Board of Church and Society as general secretary.

In recent years, Fassett has traveled on several human rights-related missions, including a peace mission with President Clinton to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In 1999, he was part of a team that spent seven hours negotiating religious freedom issues in Cuba with Fidel Castro. In 1998, he led an interfaith, nongovernmental organization delegation to witness the visit of the U.N. rapporteur on religious intolerance appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to confer with the Dineh (Navajo) in Black Mesa, Ariz., about their land-rights dispute with the Hopi and the U.S. government.

"November is nine months away," Fassett wrote in a memo to board members, "and I expect we will give birth to many creative and exciting programs during that time even as we nurture the ministries in which we are now engaged."

Fassett has been endorsed for the episcopacy by both the Troy Annual Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. If elected a bishop at jurisdictional conference in July, his term would begin Sept. 1 with those of other active bishops.

Fassett, a member of the Western New York Annual (regional) Conference, was ordained a deacon in 1965 and an elder in 1967. He began his ministry as a supply pastor to Stafford (N.Y.) Methodist Church in 1964 while he was a high school English teacher in Batavia, N.Y. He subsequently served churches in Medina and Rochester, N.Y., before becoming the founding minister of the Metropolitan/Urban Mission of the United Methodist Church in Rochester.

Fassett's career also has included working as a special assistant to the American Indian Policy Review Commission of the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the mid-'70s, and serving as an urban affairs officer for Xerox Corp. He has been an adjunct faculty member at several theological schools.

Recipient of an honorary doctorate from American University in 1994, Fassett earned a bachelor of arts from Roberts Wesleyan College and both bachelor and master of divinity degrees from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

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