UCC suspends ex-president who admitted to affair

January 24, 2011

The former president of the United Church of Christ has been
suspended for one year and ordered to undergo a "program of growth"
after he admitted last year to an affair with a former co-­worker.

The
UCC announced January 21 that an association within the denomination's
Ohio Conference would oversee a ministerial fitness review of John H.
Thomas, former general minister and president.

Thomas expressed
dismay that within 12 hours of a call alerting him to the decision,
preparations were under way to make the action public. He said word was
being circulated before he had time to talk with his family or consult
with colleagues about the suspension.

David T. Hill, an official
with the association and a pastor in Oberlin, said Thomas's ministerial
standing had been suspended for at least a year, "with reinstatement of
standing contingent upon completion of a prescribed program of growth."

Due
to term limits, Thomas left office in 2009 after serving as president
for a decade. In August 2010, the church announced that he was divorcing
his wife and said "he has formed a relationship with another woman with
whom he worked" within the Cleveland-based denomination.

Thomas,
now a visiting professor at UCC-affiliated Chicago Theological Sem­inary
and adviser to seminary president Alice Hunt, voiced his displeasure in
regard to the decision being made public after a brief interval. "Quite
apart from lacking any sense of human decency, this so violates what I
understand to be concern for the sanctity and confidentiality of church
and ministry proceedings," he said.

"However, given the
voyeuristic nature of the church's approach to intimate details of my
personal life over the past few months, I guess I should not be
surprised," he said in a statement requested and released by the UCC.

Geoffrey
A. Black, the current UCC president, said in a statement he was "very
saddened" by the events that led to the decision. "It is my prayer that
as a church, we will be gracious and compassionate with each other and
move forward together in search of healing and reconciliation."  —RNS