1/19/20 – “The Ethics of Ending a Pastoral Relationship”

Posted on : Jan 16th, 2020 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

You may have seen the movie, “The Two Popes” or recently read about the friction between Retired Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.  From “leaks” of a soon to be released book, Retired Pope Benedict is insistent that all priests must remain celibate at the same time Pope Francis is asking the Church hierarchy to consider allowing priest to be married in parts of the world where there is a critical shortage of priests.  The timing of the release of the book is being seen as the Retired Pope trying to undercut the serving Pope in his efforts to make the church more inclusive and address a critical need for priests.

And, you may have heard that the monarchy in the United Kingdom is in a tizzy over Prince Harry’s desire to “pull back on his Royal Duties.”  One side has it that Prince William has been bullying Harry, the other side has Prince William lamenting that he can no longer wrap his arm around his younger brother, as he has for most of Prince Harry’s life.  For now at least, the bromance has ended and Queen Elizabeth is none too happy with any of this! 

Of course Prince William and Prince Harry are not the first to have this sibling rivalry.  King David – Israel’s greatest King – was deeply loved and beloved.  He did almost everything right and set the bar for all of Israel’s future Kings.  Oftentimes in monarchies, the first-born son becomes the next King.  (Until just recently the right of succession in monarchies was limited to only men.)  For King David, that would have been David’s son, Adonijah (add-on-I-juh).  Jacob Issacs writes: “Adonijah was renowned for his princely stature and his aspiring ambition. He led a pompous life, as though he were the rightful crown-prince. His public appearances were always in full state regalia, in an effort to impress the people that he was their future king.”  Unfortunately for Adonijah, his father, King David had another successor in mind – his youngest son, Solomon.  With great palace intrigue, David, being a wise and astute leader, outsmarted his son Adonijah.  He had Solomon anointed and pronounced King at the same time Adonijah was throwing a pre-coronation party for himself – a party to which Adonijah did not invite any of his father’s supporters.  That party didn’t end so well!

So, as you can see, the issue of succession is often difficult and at times treacherous.  That is as true for pastoral (ministerial) succession as any other succession.  More than one pastoral succession has ended in crisis and so to try and avoid that, our United Church of Christ has very clear ethical guidelines for Pastoral succession.  I will be sharing some of those guidelines with you this Sunday as well as why we have them, but for those who cannot attend, let me openly share with you one of the most important covenants we as ordained ministers in the UCC make with our congregations.  As a pastor, I have an ethical obligation not to “intrude upon the ministry of my successor.”  Intrusion includes performing pastoral services such as funerals, weddings, baptism as well as conversing with members about church life or decisions the church is considering.

Friends, our pastoral relationship will end February 29, 2020. On March 1st I will no longer be your Pastor or the Pastor of West Hollywood UCC.  Soon thereafter, you will be welcoming a new pastor to teach, preach, lead, provide spiritual care and support for you, and be an activist for justice in our community and world.

We have been working through our transition process for the last 18 months.  Each step of the way, I have tried to prepare you for the change that is about to come in the hope that you will be ready and able to embrace your next pastor with the love and support that you have shown me all these years.  The last and most important step in our transition is that we NOT end up with “Two Popes,” or “two siblings fighting it out.” 

While I know for some this final portion of our journey is hard to accept, it is absolutely necessary so that your next pastor may be welcomed and embraced, just as you have loved and supported me the past 35 years.  More on Sunday!



I Kings 1: 28-35

King David has his youngest son, Solomon,
anointed as his successor


King David took action: “Get Bathsheba back in here.” She entered and stood before the king.

The king solemnly promised, “As God lives, the God who delivered me from every kind of trouble, I’ll do exactly what I promised in God’s name, the God of Israel: Your son Solomon will be king after me and take my place on the throne. And I’ll make sure it happens this very day.”

Bathsheba bowed low, her face to the ground. Kneeling in reverence before the king she said, “Oh, may my master, King David, live forever!”

King David said, “Call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” They came to the king.

Then he ordered, “Gather my servants, then mount my son Solomon on my royal mule and lead him in procession down to Gihon. When you get there, Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet will anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the ram’s horn trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ You will then accompany him as he enters and takes his place on my throne, succeeding me as king. I have named him ruler over Israel and Judah.”

From The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018;



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