Can You Imagine? A Few Hundred United Methodist Pastors Absent from Their Churches on Father's Day -- June 19, 2005!

#2 This is an ongoing thing -- W. PA Annual Conference pastors were able to be in their pulpits on Father's Day in 2007, but in 2008 it was the "same old, same old" with Bishop Bickerton and his cabinet "laying down the law" again -- all pastors will be at the annual conference session for the ordination service on Father's Day in June of 2008. No letter sent this time around but it was mentioned at my blog under the title Father's Day 2008 Among W. PA United Methodists - A Touch of Irony! An earlier blog was posted in May 2008 under the title, They Were in Their Pulpits on Mother's Day, But Don't Expect Them to Be There on Father's Day! Note: if you go to these, use reverse feature on your browser to return here.

#1 After a 2 year absence, the bishop of the Western PA Annual Conference will permit his pastors to be in their pulpits on Father's Day in June of 2007 due to the conference session taking place one week earlier. But there has not been a formal apology issued to hundreds of United Methodist congregations for demanding that their pastors be at the annual conference session on Father's Day during the years of 2005 and 2006!

Can You Imagine?
A Few Hundred United Methodist Pastors Absent from
Their Churches on Father's Day -- June 19, 2005!
And repeated again - June 18, 2006!

Can you believe this?

There will be a rerun of this on June 18, 2006!
All pastors of the W. PA Annual Conference will be
required to be at the annual conference session and
absent from their churches on Father's Day!

Another letter written to Tom Bickerton and ALSO
to the members of his cabinet in the W. PA Annual Conference.
See Letter #2 to Bishop B. & Cabinet

June 18, 2006 will find hundreds of U.M. pastors in W. Pennsylvania

from the pulpits of their churches 2 years in a row on Father's Day!

West Pennsylvania United Methodists can do something about this..

See I want my pastor in my church on June 18th!

Hello -- Theo, here! I'm administrative assistant to a fellow who goes by CR or Circuit Rider on Circuit Rider's Range and whose given name is Clayton D. Harriger (also labeled "cdh" in areas around this web site). He has been residing in south central Pennsylvania for quite some time and is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. His ministerial credentials are in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

I have been given the responsibility to introduce this recent creation by cdh. Back in September of '04 the W. PA Annual Conference was assigned a rookie bishop, Thomas Bickerton, who came out of West Virginia. He is one of the youngest persons to be elevated to the UM episcopal office.

In a sense he hit the ground running once he moved into the episcopal residence in the Pittsburgh area. All kinds of things began to happen and quickly there were visitation days on each of the 10 districts which make up the conference. But that was not the end -- more "Bishop's Day on the District" events have been held.

Eventually one rather negative thing has taken place in the W. PA Conference. The annual meeting of the conference takes place during the second week of June at Grove City College. There have been years that the final day of the conference has fallen on Father's Day, but the vast majority of the pastors returned home in order to be in their churches on this special day.

But guess what? Ordination for new pastors has been scheduled for June 19th (Father's Day) and the rookie bishop has issued what is hardly anything less than a "papal edict" -- a "law" that says all pastors of the W. PA Annual Conference of the UMC will be at the ordination service and participate in the procession in robes and stoles (in the USMC where I put in a 3 year hitch a long time ago, we had the "uniform of the day" -- required "official dress") -- looks like the UMC is picking up on that somewhat! There are no exceptions to the new bishop's demand -- there will be about 700 pastors or so involved in this and they will not be conducting services in their churches on what many consider to be a very special day on the annual church calendar!

So cdh composed a letter about the issue and sent it to the bishop. Copies were shared with some others. To say the least, this is a bit controversial. And in the UMC it is almost a given -- you don't question or challenge a UM bishop on anything he or she says or does -- it's your responsibility to jump when he or she says, "Jump!"

One final comment -- if what you read below seems unreasonable -- or you feel the bishop should not have been confronted with this matter, cdh claims to be a reasonable person -- he is willing to totally delete this area from the web site on one condition -- that a poll be taken in all United Methodist Churches in the W. PA Annual Conference, asking one simple question -- "Do you believe your pastor should be in the pulpit on Father's Day rather than at annual conference?" If the majority say "No!" then this page will be deleted -- however, if the majority indicate that they believe their pastor should be in the pulpit on Father's Day, then the page stays in place.

Maybe you would like to let cdh know how you feel about this matter -- you know, a kind of "informal" poll -- if you feel it is important for a pastor to be in the pulpit and conducting worship on Father's Day, say so -- or if you feel it doesn't really matter, and a rookie or a veteran bishop has the right to yank the pastors out of their pulpits on Father's Day, then say so in an email to cdh -- just click on Penelope at the bottom of this area -- she's the efficient email hostess here at Circuit Rider's Range -- unfortunately, cdh hasn't been able to break her of an offensive habit!

Now then -- please proceed and see what was sent to Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the W. PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Since the original writing of the letter and posting it on the Circuit Rider's Range web site, the June 10, 2005 edition of the W. PA Conference InterLink arrived in the mail. This edition is filled with information and pictures about the June 16-19 session of the Annual Conference being held at Grove City College in Grove City PA. Excitement has been building as preparations are being made for the event. But in addition to the "required" attendance of all clergy by the bishop on Sunday, June 19, at the ordination service, there will be something which may be a first -- there will be a baptism of a 6 month old child conducted by the bishop and a district superintendent -- the child is the daughter of one of the persons being ordained as an elder and that pastor's DS will be assisting Bishop Bickerton. A quote from the article says, "Mary will be baptized during the service, which will be held, appropriately, on Father's Day." All reading this article would have to admit that here was a positive "spin" on the subject that would more than match the expert "spin doctors" in Washington DC! And the conclusion? It's a good thing for all W. PA Conference pastors to be at annual conference on Father's Day rather than in the churches to which they have been appointed.

No statement from the bishop on how any of his pastors should respond in the event of requests from couples in their churches to have a son or daughter baptized on June 19, 2005 during the worship service in their home church. The reason for the request being that Father's Day is very special to parents and a most appropriate time to have their child baptized -- in all other United Methodist conferences in the United States this would be no problem, but in the W. PA Annual Conference....

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bishop Thomas Bickerton
Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church

Dear Bishop Bickerton:

I am writing out of deep concern relative to the matter of what appears to be an episcopal "edict" which requires the attendance and participation of all clergy at the ordination service on Sunday, June 19th being held at the W. PA Annual Conference in Grove City. The concern arises in part also due to my hearing some discussion of this among active clergy.

This unreasonable demand means that all active clergy of the W. PA Conference will not be in their pulpits on a very important day on the calendar, namely, Father's Day.

At a time when fatherhood has been "taking it on the chin" due to cultural changes and the twisted idea that single parents can raise children, or 2 sodomites, or 2 lesbians can raise children without the need of a father, it is imperative that pastors intensely devote the occasion of Father's Day to a clear teaching of the place and responsibility of fathers in the home and family life.

In addition, due to a crazy war in Iraq and other places, the families of reservists are taking devastating hits as these older fathers are now in 2nd and 3rd tours of duty on foreign soil. We recently had a Marine unit leave the Johnstown area for their 3rd tour of duty. Do you have any idea of what this is doing to families which in a majority of cases means a missing father? In the community where the little church is located which I am presently serving at least one family has been impacted by divorce in which one parent was on long term duty in Iraq!

As plain as it can be said -- it is much more important for pastors to be in their pulpits on Father's Day than at an ordination service! The message sent to congregations by your requiring their pastors to be absent on Father's Day will by no means be a positive one to say the least! And here in western PA people do have good memories!

Ordination is a special time of course, but what happens at annual conference is merely an outward visible ritual with all the trappings of robes and stoles. The real significant ordination has taken place long before the event at an annual conference. At least it did in my case on the basis of John 15:16 and at a time before you were born. The "formal" dates of my ordination are listed as in the 60's when you were still a youngster. But the real and meaningful one was revealed to me by Jesus Christ (John 15:16) and that ordination no person, church group or church authority can ever remove! It is what has kept me going for well over four decades!

I probably have participated in more Father's Day services than most pastors in W. PA. Some retirees have a bit of time on me, but in grand total I probably am near the top in numbers since I served circuits over the years.

A final question -- if this had been Mother's Day instead, would all pastors have been required to be at annual conference on that day? We both know the answer to that, don't we? With that I rest my case!

Still contending at,

Clayton D. Harriger, Elder in full connection, W PA Annual Conference

cc: Mark Rehn & InterLink; some other UM pastors

Saturday, December 3, 2005

TO: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton and Members of the Cabinet, W PA Annual Conference:

The Rev's La Mar Carlson, Charles Fowler, Robert W. Higginbotham, Jr., Richard D. Markle, Dr. Martha M. Orphe, Sharon L. Schwab, Frank M. Sherman, James L. Tubbs, Dean Ziegler

Dear Bishop Bickerton and Cabinet Members:

Apparently there is to be a rerun of last year's debacle of having the ordination service on Father's Day and requiring all W. PA Conference clergy to be in attendance. I noted in Chuck Fowler's newsletter the dates of the 2006 conference and that ordination will be on June 18th with all clergy expected to be in attendance.

I appeal to you to think through all the ramifications of doing this 2 years in a row and the very negative message this is sending to the congregations of hundreds of UM churches within the boundaries of the Western PA Annual Conference, as well as UM's and other churches outside the conference who hear of this grave error.

As mentioned to you, Bishop Bickerton, in my letter last summer about this issue, the place for pastors on Father's Day is to be in their pulpits, NOT at an annual conference session, no matter how important some people may feel about such a session at that particular time. Speaking for myself, I never missed being in my pulpit on Father's Day in all my years of ministry and that is a span of time at the beginning of which all of you were quite young and a couple of you were crawling on all fours or just starting to learn to walk!

With family breakdown at an all time high, the rabid confusion over family values, and the growing acceptance that 2 sodomites or 2 lesbians can raise children just as "lovingly" and "effectively" as can a heterosexual married couple, is not Father's Day a grand opportunity to stress God's grand design for the family and the critical role the father has in the experiences of the family members in the home?

But with their pastors "required" to be at annual conference on Father's Day, congregations within the W. PA Conference will conclude, and rightly so, that Father's Day just isn't significant any more.

Further, many UM pastors in the conference are fathers and grandfathers and on June 18th in 2006 will not be able to share the day with their own families because of you know what -- so for sons and daughters in those homes, the message is "The bishop said I have to be at conference, so I can't celebrate the day with you -- sorry about that -- maybe I can make it up to you some other time!"

If, however, you still insist on going through with this, please make no reference to Father's Day at conference at any time -- at best it will ring very hollow and at worst it is rank hypocrisy of the first magnitude.

I will retract all the foregoing and apologize if necessary if you are willing to take a poll of every congregation asking just one simple question -- "Do you prefer your pastor to be in your church pulpit on Father's Day or at annual conference?" and the majority respond by saying he/she should be at the annual conference! And no qualifiers to the question such as, "This is what the bishop expects!" Just keep the question as stated.

Still contending at

Clayton D. Harriger, Elder in full connection, W PA Annual Conference
cc: some friends who will be asked to pray intently about this matter

And now, a PS: Are retired elders expected to be in attendance at Grove city on June 18, 2006? If so, you'll have to count me out -- you see, the One Who called me to preach His Word a long time ago is expecting me to be with my congregation in Gipsy PA ( on that date! Should there be any objection to this, you'll have to take that issue up with Him!

He has wonderfully blessed us in the 6 years we've had the undeserved privilege of being the pastor of those folks. They'd had some serious problems, a major one being with a pastor -- when Jean and I came there we had no regular pianist and attendance was about 12 to 15 persons on a Sunday. Now we have both a regular pianist and an organist with attendance averaging in high 20's to the low 30's. The sanctuary has been totally renovated, including purchase of pews and sanctuary lights from Acme United Methodist Church when pastor Terry T. and his congregation moved into their new church.

So I shall be spending both Mother's Day AND Father's Day with the people God has called me to serve. Most persons of Christian persuasion would agree that both of those very special days should always have equal significance and top priority on the annual church calendar, but that is obviously no longer the case in the Western PA Annual Conference. How many other conferences in the United States can be found which practice this policy?

Can West PA United Methodists Do Anything?

Yes there are things that can be done! Individually, you can call Bishop Bickerton -- you can send an email -- you can write a letter -- explicitly indicate you want your pastor to be at your church on Father's Day! Communicate the same sentiments to your district superintendent.

  • Bishop B's phone # = 724-776-1499; fax # = 724-452-0299
  • Bishop B's email =
  • Bishop B's USPS address = 1204 Freedom Road, PO Box 5002, Cranberry Township PA 16066-0002

The Administrative Council can draft a statement indicating very strongly the desire to have the pastor at his/her appointed church/es on Father's Day and that statement sent to the bishop.

A suggestion: don't let your pastor know that you are doing any of this, other than expressing to him or her that you feel it is very wrong for the pastors to be required to be at annual conference on Father's Day rather than serving in their pulpits on an extremely important occasion. Don't even ask the pastor if you should communicate such concerns to the bishop and the superintendent. The reason? If the pastor is a part of such a protest there can be some form of retaliation taken or possibly a reprimand for a murky thing called "insubordination!" Some of us have long since learned that sometimes it comes down to a choice of obeying church officials or obeying God's call since there may be a conflict between the two -- which do you believe to be the smart choice on that? And you can check the book of Acts as to how some early Christians made their choices in such situations!

In conversations about this matter there are pastors who have privately expressed their dismay at this "demand" to be at annual conference on Father's Day rather than in their churches observing a very important day with their congregations and families. One pastor indicated that the service was about 3 1/2 hours long and because of distance he didn't arrive home until about 5:30 pm on Father's Day -- so much for celebrating Father's Day with his wife and small children! Equally obvious -- no sympathy from the bishop and the cabinet members either -- all that matters is a long drawn out ordination service -- the family can fend for itself! The pastor's name is not disclosed for reasons as cited earlier. ---- cdh

For further reference on UMC related & other relevant issues see:
[NOTE: Use return on your browser to come back here.]

NOTICE: Soulforce is a gang made up of a group of persons of different denominational backgrounds, including Mr. Jimmy Creech, defrocked United Methodist pastor of some time back. Soulforce's goal is to force full acceptance of sodomy and lesbianism in all churches without any restrictions. Be sure to read an interesting challenge to Mel White and members of Soulforce to take their crusade to new heights they may not yet have considered -- see Open Letter to Mel White and Others of Soulforce, Inc.!

[NOTE: Use return feature on your browser to come back here]


Return to or Sneak a Peek at C. D. Harriger's BLOG at
Musings of a Maverick!

Circuit Rider's Range (Main Area) Where It All Begins!
Ramblings from The Pen of a Maverick...!
CR's Leap of Faith! OR The Whole Spread of CR's Range!
Return to Building Walls with Untempered OR Tempered Mortar!
Bird's Eye View of CR's Range
What's New At CR's Range?
How to Become a Christian

For comments, complaints, or just plain axe-grinding, contact C. D. Harriger by clicking on Penelope, efficient mail hostess of Circuit Rider's Range, and she will set up the email form for you to fill out and send on its way