Chattanooga pastor surrenders ministerial credentials
THE SENIOR PASTOR of Holston Conference's largest-membership church has elected to surrender his ministerial credentials as a United Methodist minister, following a complaint against him alleging sexual misconduct.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, the chair of the Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee at Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga District read a statement prepared by the Rev. G. Dennis Newman, 53, senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in the Chattanooga District. In the statement, Newman admitted sexual misconduct.
"The United Methodist Church takes with utmost seriousness any allegation of misconduct against one of our clergy persons," Bishop James Swanson said in a prepared statement. After the complaint was filed, Swanson and Chattanooga District Superintendent Al Bowles began "implementation of the process for dealing with such matters" as stipulated in the 2004 Book of Discipline. Newman surrendered his ministerial credentials "rather than seek resolution through a church trial," according to Swanson's statement.
Christ UMC reported 3,174 members in 2004, making it the largest membership church in the conference. Christ UMC's average worship attendance in 2004 was 1,743, the last year for which conference statistics are available. According to the 2004 Book of Discipline, clergy members in full connection who have left the ministerial office under a complaint may be readmitted by the annual conference in which they previously held membership - "upon their request and recommendation by the district committee on ordained ministry, the board of ordained ministry, and the cabinet after review of their qualifications and the circumstances relating to the surrender of their ministerial office." A period of at least two years service as a local pastor is required prior to readmission to conference membership.
An interim senior pastor will soon be appointed to serve until June 2006, when a permanent senior pastor will be appointed, Swanson said.
"In the midst of this traumatic situation, we urge everyone to join us in praying for God's healing mercy," Swanson said.
He added, "Dennis Newman is my brother in Christ and a brother in calling, and when one of my brothers or sisters falls, I feel that pain just as well."