United Methodist Clergywomen Ask Church to Reopen Sexual Misconduct Case Against Elder Donald Heckman

Rev. Donald “Bud” Heckman. File photo

More than five dozen young United Methodist clergywomen are circulating an open letter claiming there was no justice in the denomination’s “just resolution” process for the four women who accused the Rev. Donald “Bud” Heckman of sexual misconduct.

And while that resolution ended the judicial process against Heckman, it could be reopened, according to the letter by the United Methodist Young Clergywomen Collective.

That’s because, the letter reads, “In continuing to deny the harm he caused, Heckman has violated the resolution.”

In its first 24 hours, the letter has received more than 500 signatures from United Methodists across the connection, the Rev. Kate Mackereth Fulton said Thursday (Jan. 23).

“I think all United Methodist clergy people, but particularly those of us who are young clergywomen, have been following this story because it’s a very familiar narrative to us,” said Mackereth Fulton, speaking on behalf of the United Methodist Young Clergywomen Collective members who wrote the letter.

“Every year, in some part of our connection, some annual conference, some (clergy member) — usually a clergyman — is quietly retired because of something inappropriate that they have done, and it has become increasingly frustrating to us to see that survivors and their stories are not part of this process.”

In November 2018, four women filed a formal complaint against Heckman — an elder in the United Methodist Church’s West Ohio Annual Conference who is well known in interfaith circles — accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Earlier this month, Heckman “retired under complaint,” avoiding a church trial by signing a supervisory statement of understanding with West Ohio leaders and attorneys for himself and for the church.

United Methodist Young Clergywomen Collective members say in their open letter they are “outraged” by the resolution.

“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,” according to the letter.

“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 statement of understanding signed by Heckman said he was “not faithful to the ministerial covenant in the following ways: ‘immorality including but not limited to not being celibate in singleness and faithful in heterosexual marriage; harassment; and sexual misconduct.'”

It also said Heckman will acknowledge “any harm this has caused others.”

But in an account written in the third person that he emailed to Religion News Service afterward, Heckman disputed the allegations against him, as well as the details he had agreed to in his understanding with the West Ohio Annual Conference.

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Source: Religion News Service