Open Letter Concerning Rev. Donald “Bud” Heckman

This open letter is written by a group of Young United Methodist Clergywomen (under 40). We invited all United Methodists to sign this letter and received 760 signatures. We composed this letter because we are outraged by the lack of justice reached in the matter of repeated abuse of women by Rev. Bud Heckman of the West Ohio Annual Conference. If you are unfamiliar with this case of clergy misconduct and the resolution reached, we invite you to read these articles.

An Open Letter To the Cabinet, the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Clergy Session of the West Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church:

We are writing this letter because we are outraged by the resolution reached by the West Ohio Conference, its bishop, and the Rev. Bud Heckman. We are writing this letter because we believe the many women who have come forward disclosing that they were harassed, preyed on, abused and harmed by Mr. Heckman. We are writing this letter because the survivors of Heckman’s abuse have asked for our support, and we give it unreservedly.

It is clear that there is no justice in this resolution. We are shocked that the church would stand by Heckman’s maintaining of clergy credentials. We agree with what Bishop Palmer said, “There is no excuse” for his choice to target women, his choice to act as a predatory abuser, and his ability to hide behind his professional credentials to shield him from accountability. This resolution sends a painful and clear message to other victims of abuse: they will not be heard, seen, or believed in the West Ohio Conference, or The United Methodist Church. It sends a message to people who abuse their power that the West Ohio Conference will aid in helping to minimize, silence, justify, and excuse their abuses. It sends a devaluing message far beyond the borders of West Ohio and to victims of abuse in the entire connection.

The women he harmed, and their advocates, were kept from having their voices heard in this resolution process. This process was done behind doors that closed out the expressions of pain, violation, and loss that the women felt. Heckman was allowed to shape his own consequences, once again using his clergy status and access to power as a shield from true accountability. This process was not just because those who have been hurt were not heard and taken seriously. This is egregiously wrong. The New York Times, which heard from these women even when the church did not, quotes one survivor, Megan Anderson, as saying, “He’s getting a slap on the hand. It leaves victims out of the picture.” Their fury is justified and we share their sense that injustice has happened here.

We who are clergy seek to use any power that comes from our positions alongside those who have less institutional power, including lay women like those whom Heckman harassed. We who are women, clergy or lay, know all too well the sexual harassment and microaggressions all women in the church endure, whatever their age and whatever their clergy or lay status. We cannot stand by when women are harmed by someone who is a part of our clergy covenant and is not held accountable for his actions. The fact that Heckman maintains his clergy credentials means he suffers very little for his abominable and predatory behavior and he will continue to benefit and maintain status in The United Methodist Church. It is not only parishioners in a local church who need to be kept safe from him, it is all women.

We believe that the resolution reached by the West Ohio Conference, Bishop Palmer, Mr. Heckman, and their counsels without the input of the women Heckman has harmed, allows for continued harassment. We are also aware that allegations against Mr. Heckman date back years, including a criminal harassment charge in 2012, of which the bishop was aware at the time. This shows a clear pattern of behavior on Heckman’s part and a clear pattern of excusing that behavior on the part of the church. What assurance do any of us have that this behavior will not continue? What assurance do we have that other instances of abuse, especially in West Ohio, will be taken seriously?  The fact that Mr. Heckman retains his clergy credentials communicates that the United Methodist Church approves of him as a faith leader. This kind of complicity devalues the orders of all fellow United Methodist clergypersons who exercise their God-given authority with integrity.

We write this letter to you because you are Heckman’s closest clergy siblings and his accountability partners. We are seeking justice for the women Heckman has harmed and protection for other women he will come in contact with while retaining his status as an ordained United Methodist clergyperson. We see that you are the groups of people who may be most able to advocate for the survivors of Heckman’s abuse. While we do not believe this resolution brought justice to the women, it was a binding resolution with specific conditions. In continuing to deny the harm he caused, Heckman has violated the resolution. This allows the opportunity for the process to be revisited.

Specifically, we ask

1) that this matter be reopened and Heckman’s clergy credentials revoked, given that he has violated  the terms of the resolution in his statements to the press.

2) that you insist that the survivors of Heckman’s abuse who have come forward will be invited to share their complaints and experiences and be received with empathy. We suggest the cabinet, all persons involved in the resolution, and the West Ohio Committee on the Episcopacy be the proper audience for such stories, especially given that their harm now comes not only through Heckman but also through the church. You can do this through their advocates, Cassandra Lawerence and Kevin Nelson. They will be able to help you listen to these brave women in a format they are seeking.

3) That this letter be included in the official report of the Board of Ordained Ministry to this year’s West Ohio Annual Conference.

We echo the statement Laura Heckman, Mr. Heckman’s ex-wife, gave to The New York Times, “What I hoped was that the church would take a stand and be an advocate for women, to demonstrate that they are honored and protected.” We, too, hope that these women, who are but a small part of the women who are harassed in our churches every day, will be honored and protected.


The Concerned United Methodist Clergywomen Listed Below
And Other Concerned United Methodists Across the Connection

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Amendment I to be Revisted

As you may have heard, last night news broke that a version of
Amendment I that included lines deleted by General Conference had been circulated to Annual Conferences for the vote, which means we will be voting on the correct version of Amendment 1 in future Annual Conferences.

The news of this re-vote means that we United Methodists have a rare opportunity to right an injustice. While this doesn’t erase the painful message sent by the first vote, the United Methodist Church has the opportunity to send a new message. We urge those who voted against Amendment I to listen to women and learn why it matters to them that God made them in the Divine image. We also urge all disappointed by the original vote to remember that Amendment I failed by a margin of fewer than one hundred votes. In light of this, we urge all clergy and delegates to vote at their respective Annual Conferences. Your vote matters. Show up. Vote. Affirm that God has created each gender equal in God’s image.

Grace and peace,
The United Methodist Clergywomen Collective

United Methodist Clergywomen Respond to Amendments’ Defeat

The United Methodist Clergywomen Collective wrote a statement in response to the failure of two amendments to United Methodist Church’s constitution. Read the details about the amendments here. To see the names of the nearly 900 clergywomen who have signed, or if you are a UMC clergywoman who would like to sign, please do so here.

In the past few days, United Methodist clergywomen have reached out to each other, sharing our deep sorrow at the news that the two constitutional amendments relating most closely to women and gender justice were not approved. Women and girls around the connection must now live into the reality that the United Methodist Church did not affirm our equality with men and boys. We write this letter not to defend ourselves but to confront faithfully those in our church who refuse to proclaim the equality of all people in our foundational documents.

As Wesleyans, we offer a distinctly fourfold response:

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God’s Love Extends to ALL

United Methodist Young Clergywomen Boldly Proclaim that God’s Love Extends to ALL

The Young Clergywomen Collective wrote a response to the Judicial Council decisions about the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto. Read more about the decision here

As the United Methodist Young Clergywomen’s Collective, an ad hoc group of licensed, commissioned, and ordained United Methodist clergywomen under the age of 40, we believe in the United Methodist mission statement “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We fiercely hold to Jesus’ teaching that nothing is more essential to our call than loving God and loving our neighbors. We detest the current denominational trend of excluding the LGBTQIA+ community. This discrimination does irreparable harm to those among us who are LGBTQIA+ and significantly impairs our mission to make disciples who transform the world.

This week, millions of people read about The United Methodist Church in national newspapers, denominational publications, and on social media and saw no love for the LGBTQIA+ community. Instead, they saw a denomination falling short of meeting Jesus’ commandment that we love one another. As a church, we are failing to meet the US’s basic non-discrimination laws. The United Methodist Young Clergywoman’s Collective believes that all people are children of God, beloved and with sacred worth. The Judicial Council’s most recent decision neither made disciples nor transformed the world into a better place; in fact, it has made it harder for us to do so.

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Our Response to the WCA

United Methodist Young Clergywomen respond to the Wesleyan Covenant Association
The following is an open letter response to the Wesleyan Covenant Association. You can see the 200+ signatures here

On Thursday, March 2, 2017, United Methodist clergy around the connection received an email from John Rogers on behalf of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) with a message from the Rev. Madeline Carrasco Henners and an invitation to a conference called “We Believe in the Church.”As United Methodist young clergywomen, many of us have come together to say, yes, we do believe in the Church. And yes, we believe that God is good, and that the Bible is true, and that promises should be kept— all assertions made by the WCA in this email. That does not mean we can support the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The WCA claims to advocate on behalf of those who believe that God is good, the Bible is true, and that promises should be kept. They do not speak for us.

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