Three clergypersons from the Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church have filed a formal complaint against their former episcopal leader, Bishop Julius Trimble, for “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church” and an unwillingness to do the work of ministry entailed by a bishop. Trimble has recently been reassigned to the Indiana Annual Conference. The complaint from the Revs. Craig Peters, Mike Morgan, and John Gaulke was sent to Bishop Gregory Palmer and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, president and secretary of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. Fourteen additional lay and clergy members of the Iowa Annual Conference added their names to the complaint from Peters, Morgan, and Gaulke.
The focus of the complaint centers on the public testimony of the Rev. Anna Blaedel, a campus minister at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, when she announced before her colleagues at the Iowa Annual Conference in June, “I am a self-avowed practicing homosexual. Or in my language, I am out, queer, partnered, clergy.”
In response to Blaedel’s public comments, the clergypersons filed a complaint against the campus minister. After one supervisory response meeting, the bishop was unsuccessful in obtaining a mutually agreeable just resolution. Bishop Trimble summarily – and incorrectly – dismissed the complaint against the Rev. Blaedel and reappointed her as an ordained clergyperson.
The Iowa ministers who filed the complaint point out that Bishop Trimble does not have the right – according to the Judicial Council – to “legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which [he] disagrees, even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections to those provisions” (Decision 886).
The concerned clergypersons also contend that Bishop Trimble’s failure to provide a written explanation of the dismissal of the complaints is a failure to do the work of ministry of a bishop. “The disruption caused by Rev. Blaedel’s admission and the bishop’s dismissal of the complaint has been severe,” write the three pastors, “impacting local church members and clergy across the Iowa Annual Conference who do not understand why the clear standards of our Discipline have been ignored. Bishop Trimble made no provision for a process of healing, which constitutes a failure to do the work of ministry and a violation of the requirements of the Discipline.”
In his negligence to the process of the handling complaints, the ministers contend that Bishop Trimble failed to consult with – or even notify – the complainants before dismissing the complaint.
“We are reluctant to file this complaint and do so out of love for our church and its integrity,” state the clergypersons. “The integrity and trustworthiness of the church is undermined when a bishop chooses to arbitrarily ignore violations of our covenant life, especially when those violations are as public as Rev. Blaedel’s.”