One United Methodist pastor faces church trial, another reaches agreement



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

One United Methodist pastor faces church trial, another reaches agreement
 
Aug. 15, 2007  News media contact: Erik J. Alsgaard*
800-282-8011, ext. 505  
ealsgaard@flumc.org   Lakeland {0718}

NOTE: See related question and answer fact sheet at http://www.flumc2.org/FCNN/articles/000039/003908.htm.

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard

LAKELAND — A United Methodist pastor in Florida faces a church trial Aug. 21-23 after being charged with five offenses under The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, the church’s law book, while another pastor has avoided a trial through mediation.

The Florida Conference Committee on Investigation has found reasonable grounds exist to support a church trial based on charges of crime, sexual misconduct, two counts of immorality, and disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church against the Rev. Michael Frazier, who last served Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach in 2004.

Since April 2004, Frazier has been on voluntary leave of absence.

The trial will take place at First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, with Bishop William W. Morris, retired, presiding. It will be closed to the general public and all media.

According to paragraph 2713 of the Book of Discipline, the pool of possible jury members consists of 35 or more clergy members in full connection from the Florida Conference. Appointments to the pool are made by the conference’s nine district superintendents.

Ordained as an elder in full connection in 1997, Frazier also served Zion United Methodist Church in Ocala from 1994 to 1998 and as chaplain at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach while serving Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church.

“This is a painful and difficult situation for everyone involved,” Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said. “I am committed to protecting the public from misuse of the ministerial office, and I am committed to a fair treatment of clergy against whom allegations are made.”

Whitaker added that only a church trial can determine innocence or guilt, and the clergyperson is presumed innocent until a finding by the church trial determines otherwise.

In April 2004 the state of Florida charged Frazier with having a sexual relationship with a 17-year old girl, a second-degree felony. Those charges were resolved when Frazier reached a plea agreement with the state attorney’s office. Under the agreement the original charges were reduced to a charge of a lesser offense. Frazier entered a plea of no contest, with adjudication of guilt being withheld. The court accepted the plea, and Frazier received a sentence that did not include incarceration.

There was also a civil lawsuit naming Frazier and the Florida Conference as defendants, but after more than two years of deliberations it was dismissed after a settlement was reached.

According to Whitaker, the church delayed its complaint process to avoid prejudicing any criminal or civil proceedings.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Dr. Jacques E. Pierre was granted a voluntary leave of absence, effective July 1, after reaching a resolution to complaints brought against him of sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, immorality and disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church.

In lieu of a church trial and in accordance with he United Methodist Book of Discipline, Pierre, the person who brought the complaint against him and representatives of the Florida Conference met in mediation and agreed on a path of healing and accountability.

As a part of the resolution all agreed that the specific terms of the resolution would not be disclosed.

A question and answer fact regarding the trial is available at http://www.flumc2.org/FCNN/articles/000039/003908.htm.

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This article relates to Board of Ordained Ministry/Clergy Misconduct.

*Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.




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