(RNS) The former president of the United Church of Christ has been suspended for one year and ordered to undergo a “program of growth” after he admitted last year to an affair with a former co-worker.
An association within the denomination’s Ohio Conference will oversee a ministerial fitness review of the Rev. John H. Thomas, former general minister and president, the church announced.
The Rev. David T. Hill, an association official, said Thomas’ ministerial standing had been suspended for at least a year, “with reinstatement of standing contingent upon completion of a prescribed program of growth.”
Due to term limits, Thomas left office in 2009 after serving as president for a decade. In August 2010, the church announced he was divorcing his wife and said “he has formed a relationship with another woman with whom he worked” within the Cleveland-based denomination.
Thomas, an adviser and visiting professor to the president of UCC-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary, expressed dismay that within 12 hours of a call alerting him to the decision, preparations were being made to make it public.
“However, given the voyeuristic nature of the church’s approach to intimate details of my personal life over the past few months, I guess I should not be surprised,” he said in a statement requested and released by the UCC.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the current UCC president, said in a statement he was “very saddened” by the events that led to the decision.
“It is my prayer that as a church, we will be gracious and compassionate with each other and move forward together in search of healing and reconciliation,” he said.