Letters Concerning the Transfer of Pastor Eric
First from South District Superintendent, Rev. John Farley
Second from the Foothills Staff Parish Relations Committee
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I am writing to let you know that after prayerful discernment with his Cabinet, it is Bishop Grant Hagiya's intent to appoint your pastor, the Reverend Eric Smith, to serve as pastor of another California-Pacific Annual Conference United Methodist Church, effective July 1, 2017. This decision came after prayerful consideration of the needs of the church, the District and the Conference. It can be a difficult time for a local church and for a pastor when there is a change of appointments. This is especially true when it comes sooner than anyone hoped or expected. St. Paul offered a final message to the church in Corinth when it was in a similar heart-rending transition. He said this to the grieving members, "Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." Every parting minister wishes their congregations to be so bold and compassionate.
Pastor Eric has served your congregation faithfully. Over his years of service he has cared deeply for the members through his pastoral responsibilities and preaching. Pastor Eric will be sorely missed. He has been spiritually impacted by your faith and love as well, and he will strive to bestow that compassion upon the members of his new congregation. In coming weeks, you will want to keep Pastor Eric in your prayers during this time of transition. You are also encouraged to celebrate the ministry you have shared together and look forward with great expectation for what God will do in the next season through our collaborative and prayerful efforts. The Spirit of God shall guide us along the way.
As your District Superintendent, I am in consultation with your Pastor Parish Committee and the Bishop and Cabinet in order to discern what will be best for the future ministry of Foothills. May God continue to bless the life of faith and the mission and ministry of Foothills United Methodist Church.
In the Spirit,
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
As members of the Foothills United Methodist Church Staff Parish Relations Commitee, we only recently learned of this decision made by the Bishop and cabinet. Please know that your SPRC unanimously fought this decision very hard on behalf of our congregation and staff. This effort included, amongst others, a meeting with Rev. John Farley and a call to Bishop Hagiya. We vigorously exhausted all avenues for a possible recourse, but to no avail. We now all need to know that this decision is final. We feel too, that we must now have the faith that this decision is in the best interest of our congregation moving forward.
As committee members, we have found some comfort in the idea that the United Methodist system that is making this change is the same system that brought Eric and Karen to us in the first place. We understand that this is a very challenging development and that we all have numerous questions and concerns. This congregation has experienced challenging times in the past, but we also know and believe that through mutual support, we will be stronger.
Obviously, this is a difficult time for Eric and Karen, so please continue to keep them deeply in your thoughts and prayers.
- Your SPRC
Dear Congregation of Foothills UMC,
On behalf of Bishop Grant Hagiya and his Cabinet, I share with you that after much prayer and consultation, it is Bishop Grant Hagiya's intent to appoint the Rev. Greg Batson to serve as your lead pastor, effective July 1, 2017. Pastor Greg is a gifted and experienced pastor who has served for a number of years in the California-Pacific Conference. Pastor Greg is a spirit-filled leader and preacher with a rich experience in worship, music, young people's ministry, outreach and stewardship. As a church leader and developer, he is uniquely gifted to lead Foothills UMC into an era of vibrant growth. Pastor Greg will work together with Pastor Eric and your lay leadership for a smooth and effective ministry transition.
On Behalf of our Bishop, I thank you for your faithfulness, and ask you to hold these two fine pastors and their families in your prayers during this time of change.
In ministry together,
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
A Prayer for Unity
From lay leader Steve Hable
One of the most admirable qualities of our congregation is our passion for ministry. At Foothills, we embrace the teachings of Jesus and actively seek avenues to implement them in our everyday lives. From the Spirit filled worship services to mission work to the growing youth ministry, our congregation doesn’t hold back. Four years ago we welcomed Eric and Karen to our congregation. They have certainly made an impact on Foothills. With the recent announcement regarding the change in lead pastors, your passion and commitment to Eric and Karen has been very evident. We have witnessed a strong outpouring of love and support for them.
Occasionally our passion has resulted in actions that are less than supportive. When emotions are strong, sometimes things are done and said with well-intentioned support, but result in ill feelings and strained relationships. Personal attacks on the integrity of church leadership, refusal to attend regular services, and rescinding annual pledges do nothing to support Eric and Karen. With this conduct, we are only hurting each other and possibly leaving the Smiths with a legacy of discord at Foothills as they begin their new assignment in San Clemente.
As the SPRC stated, the same system that is transferring Eric and Karen from Foothills is the system that transferred them to us. We have good reason to look forward to beginning a new chapter at Foothills. The congregation will soon meet Reverend Greg and Tania Batson. SPRC and I have met them and firmly believe we have been blessed again with outstanding spiritual leadership.
As we celebrate their time with us, please unite in prayer for Eric and Karen Smith as they begin their new assignment. Equally, we need to unite in prayer for Greg and Tania as they join our Foothills family in their new role.
May we continue to serve our Lord with passion and love.
See you on campus.
Dear Beloved Congregation,
I am grateful to have had the privilege of serving as your pastor for the past four years. This pastorate is nearing its end and I want to share a few things with you.
Thirty-six years ago I willingly and happily submitted myself to God and took on the responsibilities of ordination in the United Methodist Church. We have a rich legacy as Methodists; some of our organization and processes may seem antiquated or foreign but they have been time tested and passed onto us through two centuries.
I have never known where I was going to serve before it was time to go. I was sent to Lake Elsinore, Claremont, San Fernando, Pasadena, Redlands, Irvine, and here. Each of these churches had joys and challenges. I loved them all.
I thought that Foothills would be my last appointment before retiring. I am being sent yet again! I have acquired a closer relationship to the wisdom of ...we plan... God laughs. In July I will become the pastor of St. Andrews By-the-Sea. I expect God will do wonderful things while I am at St. Andrews - just as has been the case with each congregation I have served. For God to work in and through me now, I have had to let go of both the past and expectations for the future. Now I ask you to let go too, so that God can work in and through you.
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not see it? (Isaiah 43:19)
We need to elevate and look with what Jesus termed, eyes to see. We'll see God doing a new thing at Foothills. The Apostle Paul wrote,
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Karen and I are glad to stand upon the promises of God - and we invite you to join us so that we can be "faithing" together.
You will soon have a new pastor. I know Greg and Tania, they are wonderful people... gifted. Now they are being sent to you. As you have grown to love Karen and me we ask you to welcome Greg and Tania anticipating that you will grow to love them, too.
Karen and I want to spend the time we have remaining with you rejoicing for how we have grown in love together. We do love you and are so appreciative of the many, many ways you have expressed your love for us.
On a mission trip some years ago, my roommate in Kenya was Dr. Romy del Rosario. He was a missionary who used his vacation to go on mission trips! His benediction, which I love and try to practice always was this... Proceed with joy!That is Karen and my wish for us all.
Thanks be to God,
The Reverend Dr. Eric Smith