Do No Harm
Dear Bishop Gary Mueller and the Appointive Cabinet of the Arkansas Annual Conference,
The first rule of Methodism is to “Do No Harm.” Each day we pray that all decisions made by leadership, both lay and clergy, are made with prayerful consideration and through the lens of our first rule. However, through a recent appointment in the Northeast District, significant harm and further potential harm has occurred.
Jeffrey Everetts recently received his Local Pastor’s License and was appointed to the Russell United Methodist Church. We believe that this appointment is a great risk to women and to vulnerable individuals in the congregation and the community. This concern stems from Mr. Everetts behavior that led to an arrest by the Arkansas State Police in May of 2016. The arrest followed an extensive investigation of the actions of Mr. Everetts in his role as a probation officer for Lonoke County. In review of the affidavit filed by the Arkansas State Police, it is evident that Mr. Everetts has a history of systematic and habitual abuse of those are in vulnerable positions. In the case of his arrest, it was the sexual harassment and assault of a woman who was under his supervision. According to the affidavit, each time he was alone with the individual he asserted power and control over her, even going as far as physical contact.
It has been reported that Mr. Everetts has denied all of the allegations made against him by the woman named in the affidavit, as well as several other women who have come forward reporting this behavior. Through information obtained in the Arkansas database of court cases and a simple Google search, this case was still under review as recent as 2018. All of this information is public record and is not a result of covert investigation. It is also public record that Mr. Everetts is no longer allowed to serve as a Probation Officer in the state of Arkansas.
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church sets out strict requirements for those seeking to be certified as clergy. It is not evident, that all information regarding this behavior by Mr. Everetts was properly and thoroughly disclosed to the District Superintendent, the District Committee on Ministry, his ministry mentor, the Charge Conference of his sending congregation, and the Staff Parish Relations Committee of his sending congregation during the certification process. It is very disconcerting that this abuse of power occurred just five years ago—this is not an isolated incident that occurred in his youth and has been addressed through counseling, repentance, and deep spiritual work.
Therefore, those who are signing this letter have deep concerns about his appointment and approval as a Licensed Local Pastor. Below are the stated reasons why we, both lay and clergy, strongly request that he be removed from the pulpit and not have the credentials to preside over the sacraments of the United Methodist Church:
- We the undersigned do not believe that Mr. Everetts is fit to serve as the leader of a local congregation of the United Methodist Church and is not due the title of Reverend.
- We believe that due diligence was not performed in the certification of Mr. Everetts to be a Licensed Local Pastor.
- We believe that the sacred trust between laity and clergy has been breached.
- We believe that this appointment causes great harm to the women in the congregation of Russell, the greater community, and to the clergy women who are colleagues of him.
- We believe that the appointment of Mr. Everetts is a great embarrassment to the Arkansas Annual Conference and to the United Methodist Church at large.
The laity and clergy of the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church must be able to trust those who are placed in authority of appointing clergy to our congregations. We deserve to not have those who have taken advantage of positions of power to be elevated to the sacred position of the pulpit and sacrament. We deserve to know how Mr. Everetts was allowed to pass through the many checks and balances that are required by our Book of Discipline without further investigation into this matter.
We request that Bishop Gary Mueller and the District Superintendent of the Northeast District of the Arkansas Annual Conference swiftly remove Mr. Everetts from the appointment at Russell UMC and revoke his Local Pastor’s license.
With Grace and Peace,
The Laity and Clergy of the United Methodist Church