(This story was updated on November 17 with the addition of a quote from Bishop Trimble.)
Seventeen lay and clergypersons from the Iowa Conference have filed a formal complaint against Bishop Julius C. Trimble citing his “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church” and an unwillingness to do the work of ministry entailed by a bishop.” It arises from the way an earlier complaint against Rev. Anna Blaedel was handled by the then Iowa Area episcopal leader.
In dismissing the complaint against Rev. Blaedel, on August 30, 2016, Bishop Trimble said, in part, “In accordance with Paragraph 363.e of 2012 Book of Discipline
I have decided to dismiss the complaint against Rev. Anna Blaedel. The rationale was shared with the appointive cabinet.” The response, also forwarded to all the involved parties, noted, "The dismissal includes a letter of reprimand to be placed in the file of Rev. Blaedel.” She had said, in a witness to the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference session, “I am a self-avowed practicing homosexual. Or in my language, I am out, queer, partnered clergy.”
Paragraph 363.e of the Book of Discipline
directs a bishop to initiate a “supervisory response process…within 90 days after the receipt” of a “written and signed complaint.” During those 90 days, if “the complaint resolution is not achieved” a bishop has the option to “Dismiss the complaint with the consent of the cabinet giving the reasons therefore in writing, a copy of which shall be placed in the clergyperson’s file.” The Book of Discipline calls for the process to be confidential. In informing all parties involved of the rationale for his decision, Bishop Trimble’s intention was to honor that confidentiality.
The complaint against Bishop Trimble alleges he, “summarily – and incorrectly – dismissed the complaint against the Rev. Blaedel and reappointed her as an ordained clergyperson.” Blaedel is a campus minister at the University of Iowa Wesley Center. The supervisory process in question included a face-to-face meeting among two of the three clergy complainants, the respondent and representative, the Bishop, the clergy Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, and a third-party facilitator. Over the course of several months the group was unable to arrive at a just resolution that was mutually agreeable.
The seventeen complainants 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. According to the three clergy representing the seventeen complainants, “The disruption caused by the bishop’s dismissal of the complaint has been severe, 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
…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 so public.”
Bishop Trimble responded to the filing of the complaint noting, “The church has a process for complaints, including those against bishops.” He went on to say, “My focus remains the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and transforming the world through fruitful congregations.” Bishop Trimble has been the episcopal leader of the Indiana Area since September 1, 2016.
The complaint has been forwarded to Bishop Gregory Palmer (West Ohio area), president of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, and to Bishop Hee-Soo Jung (Wisconsin area), the College’s secretary. “I would just hope that [The College] would hear our concerns and be faithful to the process outlined in the Discipline
,” said Rev. Craig Peters, one of the three clergy representing the group of complainants, along with Rev. Mike Morgan and Rev. John Gaulke. “If they can do that then I think that all of us will be satisfied,” Peters added.
“It’s fair to say that all of us love our church, “ Peters noted. “We want what’s best for the Kingdom of God as well as how the Kingdom is built through The United Methodist Church. That’s what I hope will be accomplished in the midst of all of this.”
The seventeen who filed the complaint Bishop Trimble include 9 clergy and 8 laity. The clergy: Rev. Craig Peters, Rev. John Gaulke, Rev. Mike Morgan, Rev. E. Christine Pauley, Rev. Roger Henry, Pastor Denise Anderberg, Rev. Mike Ellson, Rev. Robert Dodge, and Rev. Jeff Kodis. The laity are: Karmen Jamison, Chris Downey, Doris Henry, James Hoven, Brenda Dodge, Theresa Morgan, Keith Nester, and Ken Graham.