Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Appendix Q
Case Study: St. Francis United Methodist Church (SFUMC)
San Francisco, California

[Note: The chronology contained here is more extensive than is contained in the hardcopy book The Church in Bondage.]

Following is a timeline of the history of St. Francis United Methodist Church and its effort to keep its church open. It has engaged in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to keep its facilities, which they estimated to be valued at approximately $1,000,000 from being seized by the conference. While we in Concerned Methodists do not agree with all of the actions they undertook in fighting for their church, it must be viewed in light of the personal agonies they felt at the attempts on the church that had nurtured them for so many years.

[Note: The chronology contained here is more extensive than is contained in the hardcopy book The Church in Bondage.]

1946. St. Francis Methodist Church started as a house church.

1955. St. Francis incorporated, having built a one-story church and purchased parsonage next door.

1972. St. Francis entered a joint ministry agreement with nearby Presbyterian Church.

1995. In disagreement over the direction of church outreach, St. Francis voted to end the joint ministry.

January 1996. District Superintendent Charles Cordes brought a motion at annual church meeting to close St. Francis. Motion was defeated. Bishop Melvin Talbert appointed a quarter-time pastor; instructed by District Superintendent Charles Cordes to not encourage congregation, as St. Francis could be closed at the upcoming June, 1996, Annual Conference meeting. Congregation commenced outreach to community, and developed a children's ministry.

May 13, 1996. Letter from District Superintendent Charles Cordes to Dr. Frank Leeds, Administrative Board Chair, that the decision had been made to recommend that St. Francis be discontinued as of July 1, 1996.

June, 1996. District Superintendent Charles Cordes brought motion at Annual Conference meeting to close St. Francis. The vote was to table the motion. Bishop Talbert called for a second vote. Again, the vote was to table the motion. St. Francis continued to develop outreach to the community with an active children's ministry.

July, 1997. Bishop Melvin Talbert appointed Conference Newspaper editor, Rev. Charles Lerrigo half time to St. Francis. Rev. Lerrigo insisted that disruptive children may not be excused from church programs, and vetoed the hiring of experienced children's program staff. Rev. Lerr1go did not participate in church weekday Bible study program. Rev. Lerrigo invited intoxicated persons to church services; as a result, the sanctuary smelled like a still, and issued "disciplinary rulings" to quash protests. Rev. Lerrigo began practice of unilaterally adjourning Administrative Council meetings. Sunday worship attendance declined; children's programs collapsed; giving fell off. Pastor Lerrigo objected that church members are not respecting his pastoral role, and began practice of tape recording church meetings over the objections of church members. District Superintendent advised that Rev. Lerrigo could tape record meetings if he wished.

October, 1997. St. Francis Board of Trustees served amended Use Agreement on weekday church building user group, Catholic Charities of San Francisco, which operated adult day center on site. Catholic Charities ignored all provisions of amended agreement it did not like, continued to keep desks in the sanctuary, and insisted that the altar be used for storage. Catholic Charities locked St. Francis out of its own janitor's closet.

February, 1998. Catholic Charities's monthly rent was raised to market rates. Rev. Lerrigo opposed rent increase on grounds that Catholic Charities is part of Christian community. Catholic Charities refused to pay increased rents.

March, 1998. Over the opposition of Rev. Lerrigo, St. Francis Board of Trustees voted to evict Catholic Charities.

March, 1998. Evangelical pastors and laypersons, meeting at Oakdale United Methodist Church, published the "Oakdale Declaration," asking for separate Evangelical Conference on grounds that, "Evangelical theology is incompatible with the dominant values of tolerance and inclusion held by (California-Nevada) conference leadership."

March 14, 1998. Pastor Capuli was quoted in the San Francisco Examiner that he would, if given the opportunity, perform rituals of holy union between same sex partners. [From a paper furnished by Lay Leader Evelyn Fernandez-Jones]

April, 1998. Bishop Melvin Talbert wrote St. Francis Administrative Board Chair John Jones telling him, "I am very disappointed in the way that you are attempting to obstruct the ministries and pastoral leadership at St. Francis United Methodist Church."

April, 1998. Over the strident opposition of Rev. Lerrigo, the St. Francis Administrative Council endorsed the Oakdale Declaration, the only church in the Golden Gate District to do so, and the only church in the Conference to do so over the objections of its pastor.

May, 1998. The PPRC of St. Francis rejected the appointment of Rev. Capuli as pastor of their church.

May, 1998. District Superintendent Thomas Kimball demanded resignation of St. Francis Administrative Council chair John Jones. Rev. Kimball advised that, "This church is going nowhere with you."

May, 1998. District superintendent Thomas Kimball announced the appointment of Rev. Arturo Capuli, full time pastor of a nearby ethnic church, Grace United Methodist church [Filipino-American Ministries]. Rev. Capuli, in exchange for a monthly salary of $1,000, was to give two sermons a month at St. Francis, which worshiped earlier on Sunday mornings than Grace, and attend St. Francis church meetings.

June, 1998. At a special church meeting called to approve Rev. Capuli's compensation package, the entire congregation, except one, walked out after the District Superintendent ruled the motion to table out of order. "I'm running this meeting," Rev. Kimball explained. The remaining church member voted "no" on the compensation package.

July, 1998. Rev. Lerrigo retired from the active ministry, and subsequently co-officiated with more than seventy other United Methodist clergy at a holy union ceremony for two women, one of whom is the California Nevada Conference Lay Leader.

September, 1998. Rev. Capuli began bringing members from Grace to St. Francis, making them members of St. Francis for the stated reason that those persons wished to attend St. Francis's earlier worship service. Rev. Capuli explained that people could join any church they wanted as long as they intended to support that church. The presence of Grace members caused no significant increase in giving income. St. Francis began its own membership drive but could not keep pace with the flow of members from Grace, a much larger church with almost 300 members. Those Grace members attending St. Francis returned to Grace almost immediately after the St. Francis service was over. Members, to include Minda Doctolero, first cousin of Pastor Capuli, and Julius and Phoebe Abundo, who are reportedly members of the Grace choir, transferred their memberships to St. Francis in August [from a paper furnished by Lay Leader Evelyn Fernandez-Jones].

September, 1998. In response to the flood of members from Grace, members of St. Francis leafleted Grace, asking the congregation to not support Rev. Capuli's plan to use members of Grace to out-vote St. Francis members at next St. Francis church conference. St. Francis Administrative Council voted to cease paying apportionments, and continued to refuse to pay Rev. Capuli.

October, 1998. District Superintendent Thomas Kimball wrote an open letter to the Grace congregation asking that, "the individuals (passing out leaflets) should be shunned unless (sic) they move all of us from our task of making disciples of Christ and strengthening his church." Rev. Kimball also wrote that, "Rev. Capuli is serving the needs of St. Francis as we (the Cabinet) intend for him to." Most members of Grace refused to accept St. Francis' leaflets, and some indicated support for Rev. Capuli. St. Francis members begin picketing Grace Sunday mornings. One screamed at Mrs. Evelyn Fernandez-Jones, "Why don't you just conform?"

November 4, 1998. District Superintendent Thomas Kimball interrupted the peaceful picketing of Grace annual charge conference by walking off with a picket sign. After John Jones grabbed the picket sign back, Kimball made a citizen's arrest of Jones, charging him with battery and insisting on criminal prosecution. The matter was referred by the county prosecutor to a community arbitration board, which dismissed all charges for a lack of evidence.

December 13, 1998. At St. Francis annual church meeting, presided over by District Superintendent Thomas Kimball, members from Grace voted to oust St. Francis' church leadership, and voted to pay Rev. Capuli's salary retroactive to July, 1998. Rev. Kimball overruled all objections to the fact that members from Grace were voting, and disregarded church corporation by-laws. Rev. Capuli announced he would admit no more members to St. Francis, unless such persons first attend a thirteen-week preparatory class, which he will announce in the future. St. Francis members continued to picket Grace on Sunday mornings.

Late December, 1998. In a series of meetings, outgoing St. Francis leadership spent down almost the entire church treasury by advance paying bills, making gifts, and retaining an attorney. Rev. Capuli unsuccessfully attempted to cancel these meetings, and refused to attend.

January, 1999. St. Francis members formed a house church, meeting on Saturday evenings. Almost the entire St. Francis congregation ceased attending services at St. Francis.

February, 1999. Rev. Capuli announced that Sunday morning would be discontinued at St. Francis for the convenience of those attending. Instead, Rev. Capuli announced Sunday evening Vesper Services. The St. Francis church building was rented out Sunday mornings to a Lutheran congregation for $800 per month. Serious outreach to the parish around St. Francis ceases.

February 13, 1999. The wife of District Superintendent Thomas Kimball, Connis Kimball, knocked down Evelyn Fernandez-Jones, wife of John Jones, who was picketing outside the district parsonage on a public sidewalk. Mrs. Fernandez-Jones sustained a broken wrist. Mrs. Kimball stood over Mrs. Fernandez-Jones yelling, "Get away from my house! Get off my property!" threatening to hit her again. John Jones responded by running into Mrs. Kimball, knocking her backward onto the ground. Mrs. Kimball continued her attack, flailing her fists, John Jones pulled a punch to her face. The attack ceased when the Kimballs' daughter Bonita grabbed her mother and restrained her. Mrs. Kimball was also injured.

February 26, 1999. Bishop Melvin Talbert obtained a temporary restraining order against picketing activities of John and Evelyn Jones.

March 3, 1999. Bishop Melvin Talbert denied the appeal of conduct of the December 13, 1998 election, and accepted District Superintendent Thomas Kimbal's assurances that the membership list was accurate and that only church members were allowed to vote.

March 14, 1999. A special charge conference at St. Francis removed John Jones from his church office.

March 23, 1999. After a two day trial in San Francisco Superior Court, the judge entered a restraining order prohibiting John Jones from coming within three yards of Rev. Capuli or District Superintendent Kimball, or certain members of their families. The judge also restrained chanting, singing, or use of a bullhorn during Grace worship services. Sunday picketing at Grace United Methodist Church, which is located on a streetcar line near a major north-south thoroughfare, resumed; other United Methodist Churches in the district are also picketed on Sunday mornings. Picket signs read, for example: "Grace UMC Brood of Vipers"; "Defrock Bishop Melvine Tailbutt"; "Stop Church Bullies"; "United Methodism Mocks God"; "Fraud"; "Sleaze"; "Lies"; "United Methodism Self Made Gods." A banner reads, "United Methodism Contempt for God." A bullhorn is used to amplify these messages; picketers also chant and sing hymns.

June 4, 1999. A special St. Francis Charge Conference, held at the home of District Superintendent Thomas Kimball, approved the merger of St. Francis into Grace. Members of St. Francis filed suit to overturn the results of the December 13, 1998 election at St. Francis Annual Church Conference.

June 17, 1999. Questions of law were filed at Annual Conference, challenging the conduct of the Conference with respect to St. Francis. The motion was defeated. The members of St. Francis plan to appeal the issue to the United Methodist Judicial Council.

July 2, 1999. John and Evelyn Jones filed an appeal from the restraining order obtained by Bishop Talbert.

August 7, 1999 - Present. St. Francis house church, now calling itself a "church in exile," continues to meet on Saturday evenings. The weekly picketing continues, and St. Francis members continue to pursue those legal remedies available to them.

March, 2000. The criminal restraining order against John Jones was lifted in judicial court.


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