As the Indiana Conference leadership responds to the assignment of Jerry Hoss to lead two churches in the North Central District, Bishop Julius Trimble shared:
We are at our best when we are going about our work in ministry, never straying away from our General Rules: Do no Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God. As your Residential Bishop, I want you to know that I believe the assignment of Jerry Hoss was a mistake we cannot afford to make. Because the office and work of Conference/District Superintendents are extensions of the office of Bishop, I feel it is right, responsible, and redemptive that I apologize. I am deeply sorry for this mistake and grieve the harm it has done.
An open letter is meant to be a protest, admonition, and appeal. I have read the open letter signed by our INUMC clergywomen and many others. I have read it numerous times and receive it as I believe it was intended. In it, the authors have spelled out the problem and called for steps of remediation. To quote a portion of that letter, “The Church bears a responsibility to ensure that we do not perpetuate the systems that allow such abuse to occur.” That is right, and we must make whatever exists or does not exist in our process right so that integrity, safety, and accountability are never sacrificed for expediency. I applaud and commend the rapid response of so many clergy and laypersons and embrace the call and recommendations for accountability.
To that end:
Mr. Jerry Hoss’ assignments were terminated/revoked July 14, 2020. Additionally, his eligibility as a candidate for ministry has been permanently ended.
Care and concern for congregations impacted by assignments have begun and will continue.
Special attention is being paid to offer repentance from leadership and to offer healing to those who have relived trauma during this time, especially within the Indiana Connection.
Superintendent accountability is the responsibility of the Bishop. Experts have been engaged from beyond our Conference to inform and strengthen continuing education, training, and review with a focus on abuse awareness and prevention.
Review is underway to implement necessary procedural changes that ensure all assignments of laity and clergy to local churches meet the highest standards of vetting for safety and success.
Leadership Development staff, the Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, and our Cabinet representatives to the Board of Ordained Ministry are leading much of our response to address internal issues that contributed to this very painful breakdown. Inquiry (and acceptance) has already been made to COSROW (Commission on Status and Role of Women) for assistance. We have welcomed both internal and external reviews of our process via the Board of Ordained Ministry, Cabinet Team, and General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, along with the assistance of COSROW.
Addressing his part in this action, Rev. Chris Nunley offers his personal statement:
Dear Colleagues, Friends, Churches, and All Persons affected by the Assignment of Mr. Jerry Hoss to the Aroma and New Horizons United Methodist Churches:
I am deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused Aroma and New Horizons United Methodist Churches, my colleagues on the Appointive and Extended Cabinets, Bishop Julius C. Trimble, and my United Methodist sisters and brothers, both laity and clergy, whose trust I have broken. I also apologize for the harm that my decision-making process has caused to those who have experienced sexual abuse in their lives that they are now reliving as a result of this assignment.
I regret the decision to assign Mr. Hoss to two local churches. While I reviewed some information with my colleagues on the Appointive Cabinet, I now realize that more information should have been shared in this process. It was my responsibility to assemble and share the information necessary to evaluate this assignment, and I failed in that regard. My colleagues did not have sufficient information to provide adequate counsel on this assignment.
I seek forgiveness from you all from the very depth of my soul.
In the past 72 hours, I have been in supervisory meetings with Bishop Trimble and received the censure of the Extended Cabinet. I will submit myself to every requirement placed upon me as I continue to give my very best to the Kingdom and to be a better Superintendent of the Church. Further, it is my commitment to continue the work of perfecting the processes for assignments and appointments to local churches.
We are deeply aware of the trust placed in us by our Churches and communities. We acknowledge we have fallen short of that trust and pledge to increase our diligence and care for you, your children, and all in our Connection.
With Bishop Trimble, the leadership of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church is fully committed to intensifying the review of our policies to ensure clarity regarding guidelines for those eligible for ministry. We are committed to providing education and accountability in order that this kind of decision will not happen again.
As we offer our sincerest apology for what has happened, we pray for God’s healing presence in the response and actions taken in the days ahead.