By United Methodist News Service
Sept. 24, 2009 - Less than two weeks after the Rev. Edward W. Paup resigned as top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, his bishop acknowledged that her office is investigating a complaint that he "had violated the sacred trust of ordination."
Denver Area Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky disclosed the investigation in a letter posted on the Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference's website. She said it was clear there was a growing awareness of the allegations, and she wanted to share information about the process "rather than letting rumor and misinformation go unchecked."
She did not reveal details of the allegations against Paup, an ordained elder in the Conference.
In a telephone interview, Paup, 63, would not address the complaint directly. But he said September 15: "As a bishop of the church, I had to make some difficult decisions that created political enemies." He declined to elaborate on what those decisions or who those enemies were.
Complainants reached by United Methodist News Service also declined to comment. They requested anonymity.
Stanovsky declined to comment on any details related to the complaint, saying she is going to "protect the process so it can be fair and deliberative."
The bishop said she issued the Sept. 11 letter after monitoring the amount of rumor and speculation circulating about the complaint.
Throughout the past year, people have asked her whether there is a complaint against Paup, though the complaint had not been widely known in the Rocky Mountain Conference until recently, she said. Someone did make a comment in the Conference's clergy session this summer that raised questions as to whether there might be a complaint, she said.
Paup's health and recent resignation from the board also have raised questions about a possible complaint, according to the bishop.
She thought it "would ease anxiety within the Conference and across the church if we published what we could without breaking confidentiality," she said. She cited the Book of Discipline's Paragraph 361e, which gives bishops discretion to share information that helps the church heal if a complaint has caused "significant disruption."
"I think any time there's a lack of information and a lot of speculation, it does harm," Stanovsky said.
Stanovsky would not comment specifically on a possible church trial. "Just resolution is possible at any point in the process," she said.
At least one complaint was initiated against Paup in April 2008. Paup was a bishop of the church at the time, leading the Seattle Area, so the complaint was placed with the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops.
The Book of Discipline requires letters of complaint against a bishop to be filed with the college president. Since Paup was president, the complaint was submitted to Bishop Mary Ann Swenson in her role as college secretary.
Paup had served as Swenson's assistant prior to his election as bishop in 1996. "I did not think there was any conflict of interest on my part" in handling the complaint, Swenson told United Methodist News Service.
The Book of Discipline states that the secretary and another member of the college, in consultation with a lay and clergy member of the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy, shall make a supervisory response in cases involving a complaint against a bishop.
Swenson said she dismissed the complaint against Paup by June or July of 2008. "I don’t have any evidence in my mind that would make me think Rev. Paup had done anything egregious," she said.
That September, Paup became the top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. However, he was no longer a bishop, having resigned from the episcopacy effective August 31. With his resignation as bishop, he was now accountable to the Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference, where he had his clergy credentials.
A few months after Swenson dismissed the complaint, Stanovsky, the newly appointed leader of the Rocky Mountain Conference, reopened the matter based on new information she had received.
Paup lasted exactly one year in his role at the Board of Global Ministries before resigning Sept. 1. Bishop Bruce Ough, agency president, said Paup had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was leaving for medical reasons.
Bishop Joel N. Martínez is serving as interim general secretary of the board while a search committee works on filling the post.
Ough told United Methodist News Service that while some concerns had arisen over leadership issues, the complaint did not play a role in the acceptance of Paup's resignation.
"There was a general awareness within the personnel committee that there was a complaint in process, but it was not a factor in our decision," he said.
In her Sept. 11 letter, Stanovsky said Paup "has given permission to share that he is still undergoing testing and does not yet have a prognosis. At this time they are treating the tumor as benign."
At the conclusion of her pastoral letter, Stanovsky asked for prayer for all involved.