Time Away

Peachtree City United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 4, 2018
Darren Heil – Leadership Board Chairman
John P. Cerniglia, SPR Chairman

Rev. Susan Landry joined us in worship today. She is District Superintendent of the LaGrange District in the North Georgia Conference, and in that role oversees clergy of our church. She is a member of the Cabinet in North Georgia and represents Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson. It is the Bishop and Cabinet that appoint Clergy to our church and take responsibility for them. She announced today that Rev. Jim McRae has been suspended with pay for up to 90 days.

Rev. Landry announced that the suspension is necessary, so the Board of Ordained Ministry can follow up on a third-party allegation of an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer from a former church. This is not a claim coming from someone in our church, and it is not a criminal or legal matter. Rev. Landry expressed hope saying, “it is my prayer that it will be possible for Jim to return to your congregation, cleared of any wrong doing and ready to serve.”

Rev. Sean Robinson and Rev. Dr. Shannon Karafanda have assumed leadership and worship responsibilities.  On behalf of our Leadership Board and Staff-Parish Relations Committee, we have the utmost confidence in Shannon and Sean to lead us during this time.  We encourage you to support them as they may call on you for your church. Sean and Shannon – thank you. We are with you.

This is not the time to push the pause button.  This is the time to advance your commitment to Christ’s church, to lean into our church. This is the time to deepen your walk with Christ. This is the time to participate in worship more regularly. This is the time to serve the community through our church. This is the time to give extravagantly, and to invite others to join us in worship. Advent is coming. This is the time to anticipate the coming of Christ and to expect a miracle.

As the church we are called to unity.  You and I are called as unifiers. It is up to us to hold our church together. Our words must be unifying words. Our actions must keep our church together, loving each other. When you see people at the gym, at a ball game, or at the grocery store, we call on you to represent our church as a unifier. Please, watch your words.

Jim has been doing an excellent job serving us as our Senior Pastor.  We appreciate him immensely and we will miss him during these next few weeks.  He is not in a good place to lead us right now spiritually. Nobody would be under these conditions. So, it is best for Jim and for our congregation that he surrounds himself with family and friends.  Please pray for Jim.

In matters like this there is a defined process that we, as Methodists, must follow. We must seek transparency and the truth and so an investigation is warranted. While the PTCUMC Leadership Board didn’t have part in the decision-making process that led to Jim’s suspension, as a United Methodist congregation we have no choice but to abide by the decision that the Board of Ordained Ministry and the office of the Bishop made. We wish the process did not require immediate suspension. We have asked Susan to convey to the Bishop our desire that they conduct the investigation as quickly as possible.  We will be working tirelessly, on your behalf. It has been all-consuming, but we will persevere. We will pursue what is best for our congregation.

We will be OK. Our church will be OK. Our best days of ministry are ahead. Please, in the days to come, choose love. Through this choose to love God more deeply and love your neighbors more quickly. The Apostle Paul defines love for us in 1 Corinthians 13: Patience. Kindness. Not rude. Not easily angered. Keeps no record of wrongs. Rejoices in truth. Protects. Trusts. Hopes. Perseveres. Love never fails. So, let’s love each other like never before.

We are the Church. Not merely the preacher. Not the Cabinet. And certainly not the building. We are the Church. The future of this church is in our hands and will be shaped by our attitudes, our words and our actions. So, let’s be the church. Let’s love. Let’s love each other. Let’s love our community. Let’s love Jim. Let’s love Shannon and Sean. And let’s love God.

We love you and we are here for you.

Darren Heil & John Cerniglia