The Sin of Talking to a Reporter
Church fires pastor for being sick, elder for being quoted
It's worth reading each of Brad Greenberg's 2,329 words in a July 30 San Bernardino Sun article about former Calvary Chapel Rialto pastor Bruce Nelson, and the 400 words Greenberg wrote in Thursday's follow-up. But here's the story in a nutshell:
- March 17, 2003: Assistant pastor Bruce Nelson leads two-week church mission trip to Madras, India.
- April 2, 2003: Nelson returns to his church having contracted dengue fever, which leaves him with extreme fatigue and joint pain.
- May 30, 2003: After missing five weeks of work due to his illness (he was hospitalized), Nelson received an e-mail from senior pastor Terry Hlebo, which says, "Bruce as of Today May 30 we will no longer be paying your salary."
- June 2003: After criticism from the treasurer of the church's board of directors, the senior pastor says the salary will continue until workers' compensation checks started arriving.
- July 2003: Fearing a civil suit from Nelson, the church denies his request to "keep his lights on and his water running." Nelson says he has never intended to sue.
- November 2003: Nelson appeals to Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship, the umbrella body for the 1,100 Calvary Chapel congregations, but is told the fellowship has no authority over the decisions of the congregational leaders.
- April-May 2004: A workers' compensation doctor clears Nelson to resume work. Nelson's personal doctor says he remains unable to work. Worker's compensation checks stop coming. "Under California labor law," notes the Sun, "Calvary was [then] required to offer Bruce a job within 15 percent of his previous pay." The law also states that the church would have been required to offer him a position in which he "has the ability to perform the essential functions of the job."
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