Pastor’s Dismissal Sparks Outcry

By Walter Fenton –

Gold scales of justice on brown backgroundSerious questions have been raised by congregants and ministerial colleagues regarding the highly peculiar removal of Dr. Carole Hulslander as pastor of Still Waters United Methodist Church in suburban Atlanta.

The congregation began as a Bible study in Hulslander’s living room 16 years ago and has grown into a 120-member multi-racial and multi-ethnic United Methodist church. For the last 15 years she has been recognized as a “licensed local pastor” – a non-ordained clergyperson – by the North Georgia Annual Conference. Although local pastors do not have the same clergy rights as ordained elders, observers are questioning the legitimacy of her dismissal. Local pastors are afforded the same due process rights as all ordained clergy.

Hulslander was informed that she was losing her congregation and ministerial standing in a March 17, 2015 meeting with North Georgia representatives. In a letter sent the following day from the Revs. Dana A. Everhart, District Superintendent of the Atlanta Emory District, and Jessica E. Terrell, Chairperson of the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, Hulslander was told she was being dismissed because she did not “order the life of the local church to the 2012 Book of Discipline” and because she had failed “to properly report and handle an allegation of Child Abuse within [her] congregation/school.”

Hulslander said concerned members of the Still Waters congregation were shocked to learn about her removal two weeks before Easter. They were further confused and angered by the anonymous “child abuse” allegation they regarded as groundless and resolved three months previous. According to Sharon O’Conner, principal of the school, neither law enforcement officers nor representatives from child protective services ever visited or even contacted the school regarding the allegation. Furthermore, O’Connor confirmed that Everhart himself never followed up on the allegation with officials at the school, the church, or with the parents of the child purportedly involved.

Good News called Everhart’s office and sent written questions. Everhart has not responded to any of our requests for comment.

Since the removal of Hulslander, members of Still Waters UM Church council have vigorously and publicly contested Everhart and Terrell’s charges. The lay leadership at the church has refused to receive interim pastors the conference has sent to lead Sunday worship.

Pastor Hulslander told Good News that she was not aware of any alleged incident of “child abuse” at Still Water’s Elementary School until Everhart informed her of the anonymous allegation on December 8, 2014. She immediately investigated the allegation by speaking with the school’s principal, teachers, and the parents of the child purportedly abused. Hulslander reported back to Everhart via an email message on December 10, informing him the allegations were “false” and that there were “no grounds for such a charge.”

That same day, in an email reply, Everhart wrote to Hulslander, “Thank you for the follow up email. I appreciate your research and your thoughtful approach to the possible concerns being shared via my office.”

Hulslander said that Everhart never mentioned the incident again until her appearance before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry on March 16, 2015, and in the letter notifying her of her immediate dismissal from Still Waters.

The parents of the child purportedly involved in the case have told Good News they “are hurt and deeply troubled that [Everhart] used a call from an unknown person to … attack our pastor, church and school.” The parents, who remain active in Still Waters UM Church, and have three children enrolled in its school, claimed Everhart “never asked to speak with [them] or anyone” at the school.

Hulslander said she is mystified by the charge that she has failed “to order the life of the local church to the 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.” Neither Hulslander nor the church’s lay leadership was warned that the congregation was so egregiously out of compliance with the Book of Disciplinethat their failure to rectify the situation would result in the immediate dismissal of their pastor, an unusual and grave step for such a charge.

Hulslander maintained her annual reviews were always positive, that the congregation she helped grow always paid its apportionments, and has been recognized by the North Georgia Annual Conference as a strong multicultural congregation serving in an urban environment.

Unless questions are answered and the matter is resolved before the North Georgia Annual Conference, Everhart is likely to face numerous inquiries from his colleagues at the conference’s clergy session.

“I hope and pray that due process was followed in this case,” said the Rev. Randy Mickler, senior pastor of Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia. “And I trust it will be addressed at the annual conference clergy session.”

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News. 

Comments

  1. What I find stands out in this case is how the UMC will enforce the rules here but yet ignore the Shaffer case like it does not exist. Double standard.

    • So true, so true. The BOD is essentially equivalent to the federal govt legal code. There are so many rules and regs that at any given time, you are in violation of the law. You are set up to fail in 2 ways. 1) if you do everything it tells you, the church will suffocate under the red tape and 2) there is always a clause you didn’t see that gives the DS capos a way to remove you.

  2. Being a LLP myself, it was probably due to the fact that someone thought an elder should be in charge of a church that size. You find quiet a lot of prejudice against us by the bureaucracy. Sad

    • William T says:

      The UMC clergy hierarchy is mind bogling, along with its convoluted ordination system. And the higher up the hierarchy one goes, the least accessible and responsive those folks become. To me, it seems to be the anthetisis of the teachings of Jesus, who, I believe, said several times that the first will be last and the last will be first. Oh my how much the UMC needs sweeping reforms. In this case, all the facts are not known and likely never will be, and perhaps should not be. However, this founding local pastor of this church, or pastor in charge, had been at this church fifteen or so years and was not ordained. So something has been going on here for a long time in the hierarchy of this district./conference.

      • Sharon O'Connor says:

        Ordination is from GOD. One can witness the fruit of Rev. Dr. Hulslander’s ordination in the work GOD has done through her in starting and building a multi-cultural church, schools (elementary, middle, language, music), and day care. She has a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary. We pray that “due process” be given and that the truth of these false allegations will be brought to light!

      • Sharon O'Connor says:

        Ordination is from GOD. One can witness the fruit of Rev. Dr. Hulslander’s ordination in the work GOD has done through her in starting and building a multi-cultural church, schools (elementary, middle, language, music), and day care. She has a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary. We pray that “due process” be given and that the truth of these false allegations will be brought to light!

  3. Rev. Gloris Rhudy says:

    Noticed she has a PHD. Very smart lady with outstanding leadership skills. I certainly hope there is some evidence that she should be so disciplined. Started out a Bible study and built up a multiracial church with a school. She should be brought before her conference and received high thanks and praise. God has used her mightily. Probably giving her church to an elder. Sadly politics and money talk. This congregation may have the last word. I’ll be praying for all involved. Anxious to hear more of this story.

    • CamishaRochelle Ayodele says:

      Thank you for your prayers. The Word of God will always prevail and lift high above mountains.
      Rev. Dr. Hulslander’s vision and leadership comes directly from Christ.
      Still Waters UMC is united beyond cultural and traditional values; Christ is our bond and cornerstone.
      HE will reveal the unjust actions of the leaders in our district and restore the church while amplifying Rev. Dr. Hulslander’s testimony which will encourage other local pastors and congregations.
      She speaks not to tickle ears with favorable words but to relay the message from the Holy Spirit.

  4. Rev. Gloria Lancaster Rhudy says:

    Noticed that this pastor has is a doctor. This is a very intelligent lady who obviously had the Holy Spirit working in and through her to be able to start with a Bible study and build up a multicultural church with a school. I certainly hope there is more to this story than we read here and there are legitimate reasons to discipline her in such a harsh way.Otherwise, this a shame. I guess they will send in an elder to replace her. I hope the members of her church will have the last word. Too often politics and money speak loudly. I will be praying for all involved and that God’s will might prevail.

  5. Ian McDonald says:

    As a former criminal investigator for a Sate Agency the facts presented here would not stand up to a review by an unbiased individual. There appears to be an agenda on somebodies part to discredit her ministry. My experience as an LLP has been that groundless accusations are used to punish LLP’s who re perceived to not give the proper deference to the ordained. One final thought don’t some in leadership positions with in the church realize we are held to a higher standard by God and we all have to give an accounting for every careless word said or careless action taken?

  6. Paul W. says:

    A quick google search of the pastor’s name and UMC brings up the following link as the top result:
    http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2015/04/27/why-would-the-united-methodist-church-want-to-remove-a-popular-pastor/

    The allegation in this article (and in several other articles about Still Waters UMC) is that the Pastor was removed for supporting the official UMC position on marriage as contained in the Book of Discipline and for signing the Unity and Integrity statement.

    If this is true, it is beyond disturbing. If it is not true, the DS and the Bishop have a responsibility to release a statement clarifying the true reasons for the removal or, at least, issue a strongly worded statement indicating that support for the UMC’s official position on marriage is both expected and encouraged. Continued silence from the DS and Bishop is a very bad sign.

    • Stacia R. says:

      Being a resident of suburban Atlanta and a lifelong member of the Methodist Church (currently with a large congregation north of Atlanta), I first heard of this situation during an interview of Dr. Hulslander by Erick Erickson, nationally known radio talk show host and conservative pundit. (By the way, he is currently attending seminary). The inference on the interview was that she was being ousted because of her signing of the statement in defense of traditional marriage, and the child abuse scandal was a cover for her dismissal. I must have been living under a rock for the last several years, but I am now all too aware of the problems festering within the UMC. It breaks my heart, for I and my husband grew up within its traditions. The slip-sliding away of modern culture has its claws in the sanctity of the church, and I am appalled! It hits close to home, as I have a nephew who is “transgendering.” What a misguided lot this world has become: I am disillusioned and disheartened. Only leaders such as Dr. Hulslander and her congregants, who adhere to true Biblical principles, will be able to stem this backlash. I fear that the UMC hierarchy is too much of this world instead of being merely in it.

      May God be with us as we forge ahead through the future and may we obey His truths!

  7. Howard Fryman says:

    Maybe this incident will bring to light the broken system the church is working under.

  8. Jamie Hsiao says:

    I am truly thankful for the different responses here, and want to point out what Rev. Gloria Lancaster Rhudy wrote/noticed about Rev. Dr. Carole Hulslander.

    Yes, she has a DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary graduating 2nd in her class.

    Yes, she is more than qualified to become an Elder Pastor under the UMC.

    Yes, she is not only smart (which she never thinks she is), but more importantly she is a true disciple of JESUS CHRIST our LORD who pours out all of herself into our LORD’s people and the vision HE has called her to build – Still Waters.

    This ministry started in her home with her husband Doug back in 1999 in Woodstock, GA. I started attending Still Waters probably 3 months into their first Sunday service and am one of the lost sheep found by HIM through Pastor Carole’s ministry in Still Waters.

    I am one of the servant leaders at Still Waters who witnessed first-hand through the past 16 years, how the LORD used Pastor Carole and her husband to build this small Church – Still Waters with the “impossible” multicultural (so we were told) vision.

    Multicultural is not just multi-ethnics. It’s not just worshipping in the same church building with different worship services at 10 AM, 3 PM down at fellowship hall and have a “monthly” big gathering for a “celebration” service.

    Our congregation/CHRIST family is consisted of people from Guatemala, Vietnam, Kenya, Pennsylvania, Taiwan (that’s me), El Salvador, Nigeria, South Korea, Kansas City, China, etc. 🙂 The list goes on.

    We have Jewish, Irish, Asians, Africans, Hispanic, ok, you get the idea.

    We worshipped together on Sunday morning! Wed. night, and Fridays (worship practice), Saturdays (servant meeting / training, breakfast for men/women’s), etc.! We sing in 10+ different languages of Worship Songs & different cultural styles reaching our own congregation. We do Body Worship which consists of sign languages and dance. We worship together! As ONE body in CHRIST!

    None of this is possible without CHRIST – but definitely without our pastor Rev. Dr. Carole & her husband Doug!

    Pastor Carole refused pay for almost 5 years because she knows how young & clueless the church/servant leaders (most of us are barely out of college back then) are about building & supporting a church.

    She worked a full time as a scientist at Kimberly-Clark, birthed & built Still Waters (those who has done it knows how difficult it is to birth & build a church brand new), counsel almost full time at night (over 30 hours a week at least – big chunk of counseling is with most of us) while giving most of her & her husband’s funds into Still Waters.

    Yes, she not only never took a penny from the church for years at the beginning, her and her husband pour in their life’s hard work and almost every penny to build this “impossible” church/vision from our LORD!

    They sold their beautiful home they built (literally) with their hands, where Still Waters was birthed and started, and gave all the money to the church – when we came to this building almost 10 years ago, because there is just that much financial need to maintain this building which literally was fallen apart.

    When she was working over 80 hours a week without taking any salary from the church for years, the servant leaders met (most of us are still in college almost graduating) and offer $25,000, which is the entire amount from the church we had, and begged her to start receiving salary, and prayerfully could cut down some work time and not working herself to death (literally).

    It was time for us to grow up and really become HIS disciples! Her love for CHRIST and HIS bride has truly motivated us to do the same for CHRIST and HIS church!

    The 5 young servant couples gave up purchasing their first homes or anything for that matter and gave everything we had to pour into this building as well. All of us want to make our FATHER’s house beautiful for HIM and HIS people!

    Pastor Carole knew becoming an Elder will mean mandatory minimum salary, pension & insurance for Still Waters – she wants those funds to go to ministries such as Homeless ministry (since day one of Still Waters), where we not just provide foods, shelter, but also free counseling, applying for their benefits with government, bring them into part of the congregations, etc.

    So she continued received the ridiculously low salary that Still Waters could afford, refusing years after years, any salary raises that we plead to give her, continue to pour in her time, funds & love into this small church & its ministries.

    We know the church is the people – we are HIS body. It is not this building. It is not this organization of UMC (although we try our best to submit to everything that is required of us starting with Pastor Carole). It is the relationship with CHRIST and each other – we suffer through with each other and we love the LORD and each other.

    This is not even the full story of who Pastor Carole is, and how our LORD used her to build this church! But now I pray people understand why Still Waters is standing up against such horrendous to our Pastor!

    All we want is the due process! Whatever they accuse of Pastor Carole – we want HIS Truth to be brought to light! We are asking for HIS Truth to be brought forth – not any other agenda!

    We are praying for the ones who is doing this to us – as Pastor Carole is constantly reminding us to be our LORD’s witness. We will speak the truth, but we will speak it in love.

    Yes, Pastor Carole has made more than enough shares of enemies. Yes, during this dark times, many have abandoned us and forsaken & attacked us. But our LORD went through the same so we are not surprised. This is a spiritual warfare and we need HIS spiritual weapons to fight against this evil.

    We pray to be pleasing to our LORD through all these.

    We pray for the ones who are persecuting our pastor.

    We pray for our LORD to be glorified! Thank you JESUS!

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