Open Letter to the Congregation | Mar. 8
Updated: May 2
(the original letter to the congregation is available for download at the bottom of the page)
The community of Abingdon is a remarkable place of welcome and Abingdon United Methodist Church is filled with remarkable people of faith who have not only grown with God but who have challenged me to grow with God, as well! I arrived here just a few months before the pandemic began and I feel saddened that our time to get-to-know one another and develop trust was cut short by circumstances beyond our control, but I have valued the relationships that formed here!
The past two years have been difficult for pastors and churches across the United Methodist Church. It has been no less challenging for your pastor and for the people of this church. Over the course of the past year it became apparent that changes in salary would be necessary for the financial health of the church and the minimum salary requirements for an ordained elder are higher than for a licensed local pastor, so my future here has been uncertain for quite some time.
We could not be sure what the SPRC or the cabinet would decide and, meanwhile, my wife has been in the midst of transferring her orders to the Lutheran Church and becoming clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). She wants and needs to remain at her church in Galesburg so I was very limited in being able to accept another church.
Due to the financial implications to the church and my desire that the cabinet be able to immediately begin the search for this church’s new pastor (before those clergy get placed in other churches), I have decided to take personal leave effective June 30. We are under contract with a house in Galesburg and will move to the new house in May or June, though I continue to look for employment whether with a church in the area or beyond the church.
I do not come by this decision lightly. I have loved the people of Abingdon and my family felt incredibly welcomed by this community, but, despite the challenges, I am convinced this decision is the right one. It gives this church more financial flexibility, gives the cabinet the best opportunity to find the best pastor for this church, ensures that my family is situated and supported, and allows my wife to continue in her ministry.
This decision is not just about my family or this local church, it is also about the larger United Methodist Church. I must discern whether this system (which exerts so much control over its clergy, their families, and churches) is the right place for me. Personal leave will allow me time to explore positions with other denominations and organizations beyond the church as I discern my role within the denomination which I love and in which I was born and raised.
I will continue to be your pastor until the end of my appointment, and I will continue to care about the people of this church and community, however, beginning July 1, I will no longer be your pastor and will not perform pastoral duties with the people of this church. Please know that my prayers will continue for this congregation and the people in it. My warmest wishes, greatest hopes and abiding love remain with this congregation and community.
Blessings and Peace,
Dr. Scott Carnes