Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

By Thomas Lambrecht –

​​​​​The Rev. Jay Therrell, president of the Florida regional chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, surrendered his credentials as an ordained elder on July 8. He did so because of requirements that had been placed upon him by the conference board of ordained ministry that were inconsistent with the Book of Discipline and violated the policies of the Florida WCA. (Therrell was on leave of absence in order to serve as the Florida WCA president.)

Therrell gives a complete account of how the situation came to this point in a recent blog. The blog includes copies of the board of ordained ministry’s requirement letter and Therrell’s response to Bishop Ken Carter.

Essentially, both the bishop and the board of ordained ministry had been working over the past year to gain access to the names of the churches and leaders with whom Therrell had been in conversation about the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation and the options available to churches under the Protocol. It became apparent that Florida UM leaders wanted to monitor the content that Therrell was sharing with the churches and leaders.

In addition, pastors were fearful that they could be punished for allowing information to be shared and options discussed in their local churches. Licensed local pastors (unordained clergy) are particularly vulnerable, since a bishop can withdraw their appointments at any time for any reason, and district committees on ordained ministry can decline to renew their license for ministry at any time and for any reason.

As we have seen in other annual conferences, when licensed local pastors are proactive in sharing information with their congregations, conference officials sometimes remove them summarily from ministry. Basically, they are fired for doing what good pastors do in helping their churches stay informed and be proactive in planning for the future. We have also seen even ordained traditional clergy moved to a new appointment simply for sharing information with their congregations.

The board of the Florida WCA chapter had determined to protect the identity of those churches and leaders who consulted with Therrell. They did this to protect vulnerable clergy from being fired and to allow churches to explore options and receive information without the threat of the annual conference closing their church (something that has happened in other annual conferences).

Despite repeated requests over a year’s time from the bishop and district superintendents for this sensitive information, both Therrell and the Florida WCA board refused to disclose it. In fact, the attempt to muzzle Therrell began before he even became president of the Florida chapter. Therrell was forced to resign from the Florida cabinet in 2020 because the bishop wanted to forbid him from working on helping to create what became known as the Global Methodist Church in Florida. At the time of his resignation, Therrell was asked to sign a covenant restricting his ability to speak with other clergy or laity about a proposed new traditionalist denomination. Therrell declined.

The Ultimatum

In June of this year, the Florida board of ordained ministry gave Therrell an ultimatum: report the required sensitive information or (it was implied) run the risk of having charges filed against him for disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. The board imposed three requirements:

1. Provide a “full and complete list of all ministerial activities performed while on leave… [including] the dates and locations for all past and henceforth meetings with United Methodist clergy and laity,” whether on church-owned or non-church-owned property.

2. Obtain permission from the district superintendent for any meeting to be held with UM clergy or laity as president of the Florida WCA.

3. Video record all gatherings with Florida UM clergy and laity, with the recording to be given to the district superintendent and the board of ordained ministry.

These requirements would have ended Therrell’s ability to serve in the role of Florida WCA president because all of the district superintendents would have denied permission for Therrell to meet with anyone. The requirements would have exposed vulnerable clergy and congregations to potential punitive action by the Florida bishop and cabinet and would have had a chilling effect on the ability of Florida UM churches to gain information and consider options in light of the Protocol.

The board of ordained ministry’s rationale from the Discipline for these requirements was that they constitute “ministerial activities” that must be reported to the board. Meeting with clergy and laity to inform them about the Protocol was considered “giving guidance, training, and equipping to laity,” which is a ministerial activity. Raising funds was also considered a ministerial activity. Because Therrell was on personal leave of absence in order to serve as the Florida WCA president, the Discipline prohibits him from conducting any ministerial activities outside of the local church where he holds membership, unless the bishop or district superintendent gives permission.

Through a Pharisaical application of the provisions of the Discipline, the board of ordained ministry prohibited Therrell from serving as Florida WCA president while also being an ordained clergy. Activities that any layperson could do – holding informational meetings, writing articles, and raising funds – suddenly became impossible for Therrell to do as an ordained elder. That left him no choice but to surrender his ordination credentials in order to continue serving in the position to which he believed God had called him.


Florida’s attempts to muzzle Therrell are unprecedented. No other district superintendent coming off the cabinet and going on personal leave was prohibited from meeting with clergy and laity in the conference. No other person on leave of absence was required to report all meetings held with clergy and laity, much less video record them and give those recordings to the cabinet and board of ordained ministry.

According to Therrell, the same executive committee of the board of ordained ministry that imposed these outrageous requirements on Therrell allowed an ordained elder who is a lesbian married to another woman to return from leave of absence and be transferred to a conference in the Western Jurisdiction, where she would not face charges under the Discipline. This was done in secret without the involvement of the full board of ordained ministry, and the required interview with the board was even waived. Failure to file a complaint for such a clear violation of the Discipline, while holding Therrell to a standard not even the Discipline envisions, smacks of a double standard. As Therrell says in his letter to Bishop Carter, “If an elder is progressive and violating the Discipline, they are given great latitude. If an elder is a traditionalist and conducting lawful activities that promote the current official stance of The United Methodist Church, they are harassed endlessly.”

Throughout his involvement on the Commission on a Way Forward and since the 2019 General Conference, Bishop Carter has promoted the idea that we should interact with each other with a heart of peace, rather than a heart of war. Unfortunately, with its continued harassment and opposition to Therrell, the Florida conference leadership, including Bishop Carter, has not exhibited a heart of peace. Punitive actions, the attempt to prohibit information sharing, striving to control the messaging, all demonstrate a win-lose attitude that only heightens conflict. The motivation of Florida UM leaders, like those in some other annual conferences, seems to be to use any and every strategy to keep as many churches as possible from joining the proposed new Global Methodist Church. The power and agency of laity is being disregarded and their ability to choose to meet with persons to learn about the new Global Methodist Church is being compromised.

The way forward for The United Methodist Church is not to be found in heightened confrontation and conflict. Instead, it is to be found in mutual respect, transparent leadership, and facilitating individual congregational and membership choice. The whole point of the Protocol is to provide a fair and amicable way for United Methodists to decide whether they want to continue being part of a Methodist church that is evolving away from Scriptural Christianity and toward cultural affirmation, or whether they want to be part of a Methodist church that maintains the bedrock doctrines of the Christian faith and a traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality.

Therrell can continue his role as Florida WCA president, working for a new traditionalist Methodist church, now without the hindrance and harassment of Florida conference leaders. When the Global Methodist Church forms, he will be able to receive ordination in that new denomination and serve in pastoral leadership. Still, his costly stand for integrity and faithfulness to the Gospel is an example for all of us to follow. We salute all such clergy, some of whom have lost their livelihoods and others forced through the upheaval of an unplanned (and sometimes punitive) move to a new church.

There are definitely some parts of the church where the theological conflict is causing casualties. We hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail. Such internecine warfare does not serve the Kingdom of God or the mission of the church. Power plays and punishment for theological differences do not build a healthy church. These situations simply demonstrate yet again how necessary the Protocoland separation really are. We continue to urge its support by all fair-minded General Conference delegates.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News.

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

Bishops Void “Non-Conformity” Resolutions

Tom-Lambrecht-BioBy Thomas Lambrecht

When the New England Annual Conference passed a resolution at its recent gathering in defiance of the standards of the global United Methodist Church regarding ordination and homosexuality, a “question of law” was immediately requested.

When an annual or jurisdictional conference takes an action that appears contrary to the Book of Discipline, it can be challenged through a question of law requesting a ruling clarifying the legality of the action in question. It is first ruled on by a bishop and then reviewed by the Judicial Council. The bishop and the Judicial Council have the authority to overrule conference actions, and the Judicial Council’s ruling becomes the accepted understanding of church law.

In response to an “Action of Non-Conformity with the General Conference of The United Methodist Church” adopted by the New England Annual Conference on June 17, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar has ruled in a question of law that the resolution is “in violation of the Discipline.”

The resolution stated that “the New England Annual Conference will not conform or comply with provisions of the Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQIA persons.” In short, the conference rejected the global church’s sexual ethics, standards on ordination, and its teachings on marriage.

The New England resolution was the first of five annual conferences pledging non-conformity with United Methodist teaching and policy. The others were, Desert Southwest, California-Nevada, Pacific Northwest, and California-Pacific. The Western Jurisdiction also adopted a resolution nearly identical to the New England one, as well as a resolution calling upon local churches and annual conferences in the jurisdiction to “not [comply] with the Book of Discipline whenever it denies full inclusion of a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in the life, ministry and leadership of The United Methodist Church.” If the Judicial Council upholds Bishop Devadhar’s ruling, all the similar resolutions adopted by other conferences would also be null and void.

The New England resolution contained a provision that conference members would “not participate in or conduct judicial procedures related to the Discipline’s prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons” that was ruled to violate the Discipline. A provision to “realign [the conference’s] funding to reflect these commitments, using no reserve funds to pay for judicial procedures related to the Discipline’s prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons” was also ruled to be in violation of the Discipline.

The resolution called for the conference to offer the same benefits to clergy and employees in same-sex marriages as are available to heterosexual marriages and their families. Devadhar ruled that this provision was legal, since conference benefits are not covered in the Discipline. However, a brief filed by the Rev. Michael Pike, the person who asked the question of law that led to Devadhar’s ruling, argues that the “conference may not offer benefits that contradict United Methodist Church policy.” To offer such benefits would “in effect condone behavior that The United Methodist Church disapproves.”

Bishop Devadhar acknowledged that his ruling was “a painful one to make.” He explained that, “as a United Methodist Bishop, I cannot challenge what I believe to be an unjust law by approving an illegal law.” Although not supportive of United Methodist teaching on marriage and human sexuality, Devadhar acted with integrity in this instance. We wish all our bishops and clergy would exhibit similar integrity.

Northeastern Jurisdiction Resolution

A resolution initially titled, “Stop the Church Trials: A Moratorium by Bishops Within the Northeastern Jurisdiction,” was passed by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference on July 14. The resolution was revised several times (including deleting the title), but ended by requesting “all CFA’s of the Annual Conferences of the jurisdiction to state that there are no funds available for initiating of investigations and trials based upon the sexual orientation or marital status of faithful United Methodists or involving clergy for conducting same-sex weddings.” The resolution passed by more than a two-thirds majority.

After the resolution was adopted, a question of law was raised. Bishop Mark Webb has ruled that the resolution “requests the CFAs and the annual conferences to violate Church law or, alternatively, discourages the enforcement of Church law. Either way, the Resolution would be null, void and of no effect.” In addition, Bishop Webb found that the “Resolution would also negate, ignore and violate … provisions in the Constitution,” making it unconstitutional.

Bishop Webb’s ruling will also be reviewed by the Judicial Council next April. If his ruling is affirmed, it would apply to any future resolutions attempting to negate or violate the Discipline in this way.

The Real Question

Given that these rulings are likely to be upheld by the Judicial Council, what does it mean that the resolutions of non-conformity will be ruled null and void? Will the annual conferences, bishops, and jurisdictional conferences that have publicly decided not to live within the bounds of the Discipline now suddenly acquiesce to follow Judicial Council rulings with which they disagree?

It is more likely that annual conferences, bishops, and jurisdictions will continue to ignore the parts of the Discipline that they disagree with, exacerbating the tensions and divisions within United Methodism. As Dr. Ted Campbell said recently at the World Methodist Conference, “When annual conferences declare that they will not follow the law of the church, I think that is in fact a division.”

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergy person and the Vice President of Good News.  

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

Complaint Dismissed Against Openly Gay Clergywoman in Iowa

BlaedelBy Walter Fenton-

Bishop Julius Trimble has dismissed a complaint filed against a United Methodist clergywoman who announced during a plenary session of the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference, “I am a self-avowed practicing homosexual. Or in my language, I am out, queer, partnered, clergy.”

The Rev. Anna Blaedel, a campus minister at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, made her announcement during a  moment of personal privilege during a June 4 plenary session. Shortly after her address, three of her clergy colleagues prepared a complaint against her and submitted it to Trimble.

Trimble informed the complainants on the second to last day of his tenure as bishop of the Iowa Episcopal Area that he was dismissing their charge. As of September 1, Trimble is now the presiding bishop of the Indiana Episcopal Area.

Bishop Julius Trimble

Bishop Julius Trimble

Two of the three complainants in the case, the Revs. Craig Peters and Ben Blanchard, were only mildly surprised by Trimble’s decision. They noted that other bishops are also trying to quietly resolve cases related to the church’s sexual ethics and teachings on marriage, and that the resolutions often allow clergy members to keep their ministerial credentials and remain under appointment with no blemish on their service record.

[In two separate pieces released this week (HERE and HERE), United Methodist News Services’ Heather Hahn reports on two similar cases.]

But Peters and Blanchard also pointed out their laity are mystified by a system that allows clergy to openly defy its standards and then suffer no consequences for their defiance.

In order to dismiss a complaint a bishop needs the consent of his or her cabinet (i.e., the district superintendents serving the annual conference). According to Peters, Trimble told him that he had the “general consent” of his eight cabinet members, but he also said the bishop would not say whether that meant all eight approved his decision or just a simple majority of them.

The Book of Discipline requires a bishop to put in writing for the complainants the reasons why he or she has decided to dismiss a complaint. Both Peters and Blanchard report they have received no such statement from Trimble.

Bishops are also charged with giving “due regard to the interests and needs of the complainants” when deciding to dismiss their complaint. Both Peters and Blanchard said Trimble failed to do so. They believed they were acting as representatives of a larger body of clergy and laity in their annual conference who are concerned about integrity and accountability with respect to the UM Church’s sexual ethics and teachings on same sex marriage.

“I believe the bishop was hoping for a swift and quiet just resolution,” said Blanchard. “But when it became apparent that would not happen he dismissed it as an alternate way of keeping it quiet.” To date, Trimble has not made a public statement regarding his actions, and the Iowa Annual Conference Communications Office is either unaware of Trimble’s decision or has decided not to report on the matter.

In an open letter to “Friends and Colleagues” regarding Trimble’s decision, Peters said he interpreted the bishop’s decision as follows: “We find ourselves in an unprecedented ‘time of transition.’ … We must be willing to offer grace to one another, who for conscience sake can no longer follow the Book of Discipline. This evidently would include those who, for conscience sake, feel they can no longer, with integrity, pay their church apportionments.”

Blaedel remains at her appointment at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, and newly elected Bishop Laurie Haller is now presiding over the Iowa Episcopal Area.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergy person and an analyst for Good News.

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

Statement From the Good News Board

Gold and White LogoAdopted by the board on July 18, 2016

The following statement was adopted by the Good News board following the recent election of a married lesbian as bishop and the actions of nine annual conferences refusing to conform to the Book of Discipline.

The United Methodist Church faces a constitutional crisis.  Nine annual conferences and two jurisdictional conferences have pledged non-conformity to our church order and polity.  This rebellion has now culminated in the election of a married lesbian clergyperson as bishop, contrary to the requirements of our Book of Discipline. These schismatic actions have ruptured the unity of the denomination.   Without swift and decisive action by the Council of Bishops and other leaders, it may be impossible to restore that unity.  This rebellious behavior ignores the adoption of legislation at General Conference in May 2016 that called for a pause in all “legislative solutions” regarding the church’s historic position on human sexuality to make space for a special commission appointed by our bishops to consider the future of the church.

Accordingly, we urge that:

  1. The Council of Bishops issue a statement rejecting Karen Oliveto’s election as bishop and asking her to resign the office for the sake of the unity of the church;
  2. The Council of Bishops act swiftly to form the special commission approved by General Conference, with fair representation of the church theologically and geographically;
  3. That the Bishops’ Commission complete its work within 18 months on two options:
    1. A plan that will resolve our differences over the church’s teachings on marriage and human sexuality that can garner the support of at least two-thirds of the General Conference delegates, thus preserving the unity of the church
    2. A plan for the fair and equitable separation of the church that will allow progressives and traditionalists to be faithful to the grace and truth of God as they understand them
  4. That the Council of Bishops call a special session of the General Conference to be held by October 31, 2018, to consider these proposals;
  5. That individual bishops and annual conferences cease any discrimination against or penalizing of clergy who espouse and defend the current and historic position of the church on marriage and human sexuality;
  6. That evangelical and traditionalist United Methodists come together through the newly formed Wesleyan Covenant Association as a way of speaking with one voice and acting together to promote orthodox Wesleyan scriptural Christianity in response to whatever recommendations come from the Bishops’ Commission.

We strongly believe that those individuals, annual conferences, and jurisdictions that are acting contrary to our church order and discipline are promoting and causing separation in the body. Whatever our points of disagreement, it is these defiant actions that are bringing about division and separation, not the disagreements themselves.

Years of increasingly wayward actions have caused deep anguish and pain among orthodox and traditionalist United Methodists. These actions have caused thousands of our members to leave the UM Church for non-denominational bodies, precipitated the departure or early retirement of effective clergy, and prevented the calling of new young clergy who see no future in a denomination that is plagued by constant fighting and a disintegrating connectional polity. We have been forced to try to explain to potential members why the actions of a minority do not represent the teachings of the church and yet are permitted almost without consequence. Plummeting morale among clergy and lay leaders alike and the accelerating decline of our church membership and attendance have created in some parts of our connection a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Faced with this crisis, many of our laity and even some clergy and entire congregations are reconsidering their membership and participation within The United Methodist Church. Some congregations and many laity will no longer find it possible to financially support a church that has intentionally violated Scripture and our covenant, with potentially devastating impact on the global church, annual conference ministry, and even local church ministry. We have heard from those who plan to redirect or delay their apportionments to no longer support the Episcopal Fund, out of which bishops’ salaries and expenses are paid. Others plan to redirect or delay most or all general church apportionments, and some in affected annual conferences are redirecting or delaying annual conference apportionments as well. We have also heard from laity who plan to stop supporting their local church financially until such time as they can be assured that their tithes and offerings are not going to a disobedient denomination.

We plead with the Council of Bishops to act swiftly and decisively to quell this growing crisis. We appeal to all United Methodists to pray earnestly that God will open the way for a return to connectional faithfulness and a renewed commitment to scriptural holiness in the personal and social dimensions. We commit ourselves to stand strongly on the foundation of God’s holy word and to work with like-minded brothers and sisters in the United States and in the global church to lead the way to a faithful future.


Press contacts:

Rev. Keith Boyette, board chair (540/538-3202)

Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher (281/507-9153)


Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

To the Council of Bishops

In light of the election of a married lesbian as a bishop of the United Methodist Church, faithful United Methodists can endorse the following statement by visiting Methodist Crossroads.

Good News issues the following statement in light of the election of a married, lesbian as a bishop of the United Methodist Church. Shortly, faithful United Methodists will have a chance to endorse the statement. 

A Statement to the Council of Bishops from Faithful United Methodists

With the election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of The United Methodist Church, a pastor who is married to another woman and therefore unqualified to assume the office, it is clear to most people that the church has reached a crisis point.

pen-signing-documentTherefore, we call upon the Council of Bishops to do one of the following: [1] To do all within its power to rectify this breach of our covenant by issuing a strong statement opposing Oliveto’s election, and petitioning the Judicial Council to rule the election null and void. Or [2], expedite the appointment of the members to its “Special Commission,” and to revise the commission’s mandate as follows: the sole purpose of the special commission is to devise an equitable and structured plan of separation of The United Methodist Church, and to present such a plan to a called General Conference to be held no later than October 31, 2018.

For 44 years our denomination has debated its sexual ethics at every level of the church. Valiant efforts have been made to bridge the divide and find ways to maintain unity. Unfortunately, all have failed, and we must confess that in recent years the chasm has only widened.

Shortly after the 2012 General Conference progressives decided to forsake our process of corporate discernment outlined in our Book of Discipline. Instead, they embarked upon an escalating and costly strategy of ecclesial disobedience. Since then we have witnessed the following:

  • Many pastors and at least one bishop have, against the express will of General Conference and our Discipline, presided at same-sex weddings.
  • Over one hundred clergy have openly acknowledged they are in same-sex partnered relationships, and still others have themselves married same-sex partners in the sanctuaries of local UM churches.
  • In many of these cases our bishops have either been unwilling or unable to hold these clergy accountable for these acts of ecclesial disobedience.
  • And in several instances, bishops have mocked our polity by administering disingenuous and even frivolous penalties for serious transgressions of our covenant.

This strategy of ecclesial disobedience has now reached new heights with the election of Oliveto as a bishop of the whole church. She has openly acknowledged that she has presided at over 50 same-sex weddings. And she clearly has no intention of holding her clergy colleagues accountable to their vows regarding our church’s sexual ethics. Her election to the episcopacy comes after:

  • Four boards of ministry, five annual conferences, and two jurisdictions have voted to defy the will of General Conference and reject the rules of our Discipline.
  • And the news that one of our bishops knowingly ordained an openly gay person as an elder and commissioned others for service in our church.

It is now obvious that progressives have no intention of waiting for the bishops’ special commission to fulfill its mandate to revisit our church’s sexual ethics and return with recommendations to preserve church unity. Such a task now seems naïve and out of touch with the reality of our situation. The recent actions of progressives speak as loudly as their words; they no longer want to walk together, they want to walk their own way, regardless of what the rest of our global church says.

Their acts of ecclesial disobedience have:

  • Seriously undermined the ministries of thousands of clergy colleagues and the work of thousands of local churches.
  • Pastors and lay leaders have spent precious time and talent trying to carefully explain to new and old members why our church’s leaders have failed to uphold the Discipline and maintain the good order of the church.
  • Many pastors and local churches have witnessed the departure of faithful members and clergy colleagues dismayed by a church that says one thing about the importance of our biblically grounded sexual ethics, but then allows others to routinely flout them.
  • And in recent years, annual conferences have watched healthy, vibrant local churches leave the denomination because they can no longer be yoked to a church that refuses to live by its own standards.

Our church is in crisis, and it is so at a time when it can least afford it. In the U.S. the long, steady decline in membership and worship attendance is now accelerating at alarming levels. Consequently, local churches, annual conferences, and the general church have been forced to slash budgets and pare back ministries. Before the church is harmed any further, it is imperative for our bishops to do all in their power to either rectify this very serious breach of our covenant or empower the special commission to devise a structured and equitable plan of separation for the consideration of a special called General Conference.

It is time to end the deadlock and to liberate one another with genuine affection. It is time to find a new way forward that honors our consciences and allows people of good faith to live into new ways of being the church.

We call upon all faithful United Methodists to be in prayer for our leaders, and for those who will be appointed as commission members.