Dear members of the California-Pacific Annual Conference,
We are writing to you having just completed the Conference Transitions Workshop. Around 30 clergy gathered for 3 afternoons to prepare for the new appointments they will assume on July 1, 2021. There are pastors who will be going to their first appointments as well as those who have gone through multiple appointment changes. The conversations held during this time are honest and vulnerable, as change always carries its share of challenge. There is also, however, a sense of excitement and anticipation about new beginnings.
All clergy take the vow of itineration at their Commissioning and Ordination. From our earliest Wesleyan roots, that itineration has marked a part of what it means to serve as a Methodist pastor. The Bishop, with the assistance of the Cabinet, is charged with the duty of making appointments. The 2016 Book of Discipline paragraph 425 states; “Clergy shall be appointed by the bishop who is empowered to make and fix all appointments in the episcopal area of which the annual conference is a part and Paragraph 428.3 states: “When a change in appointment has been determined, the district superintendent should meet together or separately with the pastor and the committee on pastor-parish relations where the pastor is serving, for the purpose of sharing the basis for the change and the process used in making the new appointment”. Lastly, Paragraph 426 clarifies that the pastor-parish relations committee functions in a consultative role and states; “Consultation is not committee selection or call of a pastor. The role of the committee on pastor-parish relations is advisory. Consultation is both a continuing process and a more intense involvement during the period of appointment change.”
We in the Appointed Cabinet do not take the appointment process lightly. We spend hours in the discernment process and most of all, we pray and ask God for direction and confirmation. In our discernment we give faithful attention to make decisions that honor God, care for the mission field, uplift the local church, and honor clergy’s gifts and graces.
By now you may be aware that there is a situation involving some clergy persons in our annual conference for whom the Bishop and Cabinet have discerned that a new appointment is advised. These pastors along with some members of their congregations are resisting a change of appointment. They have made claims of racism and are asserting that the changes are acts of persecution due to their theological beliefs.
All appointments are confidential and this matter is still being worked out. However, I think that it is important that you hear from us as your Bishop and Cabinet:
- All claims of racism are taken seriously as this annual conference has made a commitment to journey together toward being an anti-racist community. We will continue to take steps forward on this journey doing all we can to make Cal-Pac a safe and inclusive place of belonging.
- We do not, nor have we ever made appointments based on theology, gender, or culture differences.
- When clergy vow to submit themselves to open itineracy, they are acknowledging the Bishop’s authority to make decisions about appointment. This is a part of our life as United Methodists.
- The decisions about the appointments in question followed the same process as all appointments made this year.
- There has been no violation of the Book of Discipline.
Our hearts are grieved that our covenant community is broken, and we are seeking to address the conflict in a way that represents the call of Christ on all of our lives. We ask for prayers of the Annual Conference that a way forward will be found that can bring peace and restore community. One way to live this out is to be sure your congregations understand our appointive process and their roles in it. Also, if given a chance to witness of your own itinerant journey, do so. By sharing our collective wisdom and experiences we can best see how we are all journeying together.
Bishop Grant Hagiya
Rev. John Farley
Rev. Jim Powell
Rev. Mark Nakagawa
Rev. Melissa MacKinnon
Rev. Moonyoung Lee
Rev. Sandy Olewine
Rev. Siosaia Tu’itahi
Rev. David Richardson