When California pastor Luiz Lemos, 60, was ordered by his bishop to transfer to another United Methodist church last August, he faced a choice between ministry and family: Either move five hours away from home and risk losing two foster children, or resign as a pastor in the California-Nevada United Methodist Conference.

Lemos resigned. But the story of Lemos, now leading a new community church nearby, and seven other pastors who faced similarly traumatic career choices may become a major case study of a bishop's questionable use of power.

All eight United Methodist pastors are conservative evangelicals in the liberal California-Nevada conference; 67 of the conference's pastors participated in uniting two lesbians in a marriage-like rite in 1999.

The evangelical pastors say that Melvin G. Talbert, their bishop until his September retirement and an advocate of same-sex unions, violated the Methodist Book of Discipline while moving to force them from their Methodist pulpits.

Punishment posting?

Lemos, a native of Brazil, resigned from Foothills United Methodist Church in Cameron Park, California, after Talbert abruptly appointed him to the United Methodist Church of Lindsay, California, a smaller church with a declining membership.

Talbert's move was all too familiar to Lemos. Months earlier, Talbert had unsuccessfully tried to appoint another pastor, Kyle Phillips, to the Lindsay church. Phillips refused and has also left the denomination.

Lemos says his Methodist district superintendent required him to relocate one month before his starting date. Pastors are usually given at least six months' notice to move.

Lemos received no consideration for his two foster children. "We must have permission from the court and their biological ...

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