The UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers issued a statement today urging members and churches to "affirm and support the processes by which we order our common life" in response to information that the Rev. John H. Thomas, former general minister and president, has separated from his wife Lynda Thomas and he is now in a committed relationship with a woman with whom he worked while he was general minister and president.
While calling it inappropriate to discuss details publicly, the church officers underscored their support for the processes that are in place to handle matters that could have impact on the wider church.
"The Collegium of Officers is supportive of the processes in place within our denomination if and when circumstances warrant situational or ecclesiastical review," they said.
Below is the full statement:
"The Rev. John H. Thomas, former general minister and president, has shared with UCC leaders, including the current Collegium of Officers, Conference Ministers and others, that he and his wife, Lynda, are in the process of divorcing, and that he has formed a relationship with another woman with whom he worked while in Cleveland. While it is not appropriate to discuss details of this matter publicly, it is important that, as officers of the church, we respond with truth and clarification when questions or concerns are raised. Both parties have informed the Collegium that the relationship is entirely consensual and, at the urging of the Collegium, Rev. Thomas has also informed the Church and Ministry Department of the Western Reserve Association of the matter.
The Collegium of Officers is supportive of the processes in place within our denomination if and when circumstances warrant situational or ecclesiastical review. In our denomination, when clergypersons are involved, ecclesiastical issues are handled at the Association setting, meaning that the Western Reserve Association's Church and Ministry Department is the place where any questions or concerns would be considered fairly and issues such as authorization for ministry may be reviewed. UCC employment aspects are handled by the UCC's Common Services Human Resources office and thereafter by the executives and governing bodies of the employer. The Collegium asks that others support and affirm the processes by which we order our common life, even as we offer our prayerful support for all parties involved."
Thomas, who served for 10 years as general minister and president, left office at the end of his term in September 2009. Due to term limitations, he was ineligible to seek re-election. Thomas is now a visiting professor in church ministries and special assistant to the president at UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary.
The five elected members of the UCC's Collegium of Officers are the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president; Edith Guffey, associate general minister; the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries; the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, executive minister for Wider Church Ministries; and the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner, executive minister for Local Church Ministries.