VAUMC Staff Changes
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We the undersigned wish to express our deep concern and outrage over the manner in which the Common Table for Church Vitality has reacted to the recent sudden decrease in the payment of conference apportionments, a decrease caused largely by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that on Thursday, April 30, 2020 the Common Table determined to address this crisis of insufficient funding by suddenly and without warning, terminating or severely reducing the compensation of certain conference staff members, both laity and appointed clergy. This decision included abbreviated severance pay and discontinuation of health insurance coverage. To wit:
- Rev. Mark Ogren, Director of Congregational Excellence, was terminated effective May 1, given one week’s severance pay and health insurance through May 31. He also receives four weeks compensation for vacation. He is retiring from active ministry effective June 30. By this action of the Common Table the Conference saves three weeks of his salary, a shabby way to treat one of the Conference’s brightest and best. He has served the Virginia Conference with distinction for forty six years, as local pastor, including flagship congregations, as District Superintendent, and most recently on Conference staff.
- Rev. Glen Rowley, Director of Justice and Missional Excellence, was terminated effective May 1. He was given one week severance pay and medical coverage through May 31. Glen is an elder with forty eight years in ministry serving as a local church pastor, foreign missionary, and Conference staff member.
- Brenda Capen, Database Manager/Webmaster, was given a 50% cut in salary. She has served for twenty eight years on the conference staff, constantly learning new technology and is currently working on building a new conference website.
- Nick Ruxton, Videographer, was terminated effective May 1. He was given one week severance pay and medical coverage through May 31. He is a distinguished graduate of Shenandoah University, active lay person with five years experience in videography for the VA Conference.
These are just four whose positions have been impacted; several others have been forced to take pay cuts or have had their positions eliminated without notice.
We believe that the actions taken, and the way in which they were taken, are contrary to the gospel and what it means to serve together as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Further, we believe that the best way to address such a funding crisis is with complete transparency, including an appeal to the clergy and laity of the annual conference as well as the conference staff themselves in order to invite prayerful and sacrificial responses. To our knowledge no such effort has been undertaken. We are aware of no appeal to local pastors or congregations to meet the shortfall of apportionments. We feel that this lack of transparency and lack of any attempt to invite more creative and equitable solutions is inconsistent with just employment relations, particularly as those practices should be observed by the church.
In order to bring justice to this matter, we are submitting to the Personnel Committee of the Common Table for Church Vitality the following requests:
- That, because they have been under Episcopal appointment for the year that ends June 30, 2020, Rev. Mark Ogren and Rev. Glen Rowley be given their full and rightful salary and health insurance coverage through the month of June, 2020.
- That, at this time when communications are vital, Nick Ruxton be reinstated and that Brenda Capen’s compensation be aligned with the salary cuts everyone else on staff is receiving.
- That the Committee seek a resolution to the funding crisis that more equitably distributes the burden of the funding crisis among all persons whose salaries are paid by Conference apportionments.
- That this matter be made transparent to the entire Virginia Conference through a communication from the Bishop, such as a letter via USPS and email. This would include an explanation of how these decisions were reached, who was involved in them, what options were considered, how these changes support the needs and mission of our Annual Conference at this time and in the upcoming days, and how the work and ministry being done by those terminated will be continued during the transition to a restaffed office.
Thank you for taking the time to read our concern and to take action that is appropriate to who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.
cc: Members of the Virginia Conference Common Table for Church Vitality
Members of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration
Members of the Cabinet of the Virginia Conference
Members of the Virginia Conference Committee on the Episcopacy
Members of the Virginia Conference Delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences
The Rev. Dr. Ted Smith, Director of Connectional Ministries
The Rev. Sharma Lewis, presiding bishop, Virginia Conference
In Christian Charity,
The Rev. Dr. Jan Rivero, Retired Elder
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey C. Pugh, Retired Elder
The Rev. Dr. M. Mochel H. Morris, Retired Elder
The Rev. Dr. James Noseworthy, Retired Elder
The Rev. Dr. Karla Kincannon, Retired Elder
The Rev. Cheryl Harrison Davidson, Retired Elder
The Rev. William Davidson, Retired Elder
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