TAMPA Two pastors from the Tampa District
were arrested within two weeks of each other last month on unrelated sex charges. Both
have surrendered their ministry credentials to Tampa District Superintendent David
Lawrence W. Kilbourn, 43, former pastor of Forest Hills United
Methodist Church, was arrested by federal authorities Oct. 21 on one count of receiving
child pornography via his computer after voluntarily turning himself in to police. He
surrendered his credentials as an ordained elder Oct. 15.
James D. Hug, 29, former pastor of Cork United Methodist Church, was
arrested Oct. 26 on one count of sexual battery and 12 counts of lewd and lascivious
behavior. He surrendered his credentials as an ordained deacon and probationary member
Brazelton said members of both churches were shocked at the
allegations, but are beginning to work through their feelings.
The churches are now being served by interim pastors. The Rev.
Kathleen Phillippsborn, who served as an intern at Forest Hills while attending Wesley
Theological Seminary, is now providing pastoral leadership there. The Rev. Bill Fisakerly
III is interim pastor at Cork, where he served for three years after his retirement in
While he hopes to have new pastors appointed to the churches by the
end of the year, Brazelton said the interim pastors agreed to serve until June.
We are doing everything we can to find the best possible
pastors for them, he said.
Church responds with healing
While the events in Tampa have brought sadness, there is also
compassion and offers of help to the churches, potential victims and their families,
according to a statement from the Florida Conference episcopal office.
There is ongoing ministry
through the office of the
district superintendent, as well as the sensitive ministry of the interim pastors assigned
to the two congregations, the statement said. There is prayer for the former
support of their families.
Brazelton has hired professional counselors to work with church
members and is planning workshops, two at Forest Hills and one at Cork, to help church
members express and deal with their feelings.
The workshops will help people deal with the lack of trust
that has developed, he said. The most important thing a pastor has going for
him or her is trust.
At Faith United Methodist Church in Bradenton, where Kilbourn was
the founding pastor and served from 1986 to 1995, the Rev. Doug Pareti held a special
prayer service Oct. 27. Pareti invited pastors from local churches and local professional
counselors, some of whom attend the church, to present a brief message and prayer to the
congregation. On the back of the services bulletin, he listed local counselors who
have offered to help affected church members.
The Florida Conference has also offered to assist anyone who might
be a victim of child pornography or sexual or child abuse arising out of any relationship
with either Kilbourn or Hug, according to Paul Butler, the conferences chancellor.
The conference authorized district superintendents to pay for
counseling with a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist for potential victims. District
superintendents have also been asked to make referrals to qualified local counselors.
The funds are being made available
on an emergency basis
out of concern for those who may be affected, Butler said.
Screening process designed to develop pastors, protect people
While a search is now on for the best possible pastors
for the two Tampa area churches, the Rev. David Dodge, executive director of the Board of
Ordained Ministry of the Florida Annual Conference, says the board is constantly and
prayerfully working to provide conference churches with qualified ministers.
Every person who wants to become an ordained or licensed pastor in
the conference must go through a series of steps by which the conference determines that
persons competency for ministry, according to Dodge.
The process is two-fold, Dodge said. It is
designed to find candidates for ministry and assist them in their growth toward reaching
the status for which they have applied. It is also designed to protect members of
congregations and the community from individuals who want to use the church to live out
Each candidate goes through a psychological assessment, a police
background check, and a series of interviews at the district and conference levels;
provides four confidential references; and is assigned a mentor who helps assess his or
her fitness for ministry.
Once ordained, new ministers are required to attend an orientation
within the first year of ministry, which includes an extensive training component on
preventing sexual misconduct.
There are several kinds of nets in place through which a
person must pass, Dodge said. Its a process steeped in prayer. When the
Board has a tough decision to make about a candidate, they discern what needs to be done,
and they do it prayerfully. They wrestle with that decision, but they never shy away from
The episcopal office said the conference continues in its efforts to
offer our children and youth safe, secure sanctuaries in which to grow in
wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor. It also called on
congregations to be certain that everyone involved in ministry to youth and children is
of the highest caliber.
Even while deeply perplexed by the events of these past few
days, we move forward in our witness for Jesus Christ, the statement said. We
redouble our efforts to let the little children know that Jesus loves them.
of this page
© 1999 Florida United Methodist Review Online