Hot Seat Reheated

Putnam’s Hot Seat column from The Point. Photo Courtesy of Michael Christensen.

By: Neal Putnam, “Hot Seat” columnist for The Point (1974-1975); Investigative Reporter for The Blunt (1976); Current Newspaper Reporter 

I wrote the column “Hot Seat Questions” in The Point and The Blunt in the 1970s and the column is re-heated for this special issue.

I posed a Hot Seat Question for Thomas Taylor, the District Superintendent of the Southern California District Church of the Nazarene, about his active role in the church trial of Pastor Dee Kelley, former pastor of San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, which is on Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus.

Kelley, who has pastored First Church for 17 years, lost his license after a 9-0 verdict by the church jury on Aug. 14. A Nazarene appeal board denied his appeal on Nov. 20 and he said farewell to the congregation on Nov. 26. 

Question: Why was a church trial necessary for Pastor Dee Kelley for writing a 3-page essay in a book (published by Nazarene elder/theologian Thomas J. Oord) when the Church of the Nazarene already has the authority to remove a Nazarene preacher’s license?

Taylor did not respond. I told him the question would be published even if he did not reply, and I asked him to give some kind of answer.

The question was emailed to his office and personal email on Jan. 8 and repeated. A letter with the question was sent to Taylor’s office at the Southern California District in Temecula, CA on Jan. 9.

The letter was returned on Jan. 19 with a sticker that said, “Return to sender, insufficient address address, unable to forward.”

I called the Nazarene office in Temecula on Jan. 19 and left a message inquiring about their address since I got the letter and I wanted to know their new address. I left two phone numbers and my name, but I did not get a callback.

I sent another letter to the same office on Jan. 20. That letter was not returned.

I found an old email address for Taylor and sent the question again on Jan. 13. That email was returned and it said Taylor was no longer using it.

As to the answer to this question, it is generally acknowledged that the Church of the Nazarene has the authority to revoke a pastor’s license to preach if there is some type of misconduct without the necessity of having a trial.

No one wants to go on record to say this in a newspaper interview, unfortunately.

The trial of Kelley only focussed on the three pages he wrote in an essay in the book “Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming” in which approximately 89 other writers participated.

Kelley’s essay was the key piece of his trial — not his sermons, character, teaching, background or history with the church.  There was no clergy misconduct presented.

The trial, held in a San Diego hotel, was closed to the public and the press. There were approximately 60 people from Kelley’s church who wanted to attend but were turned away, in part because it was in a conference room. Instead, they prayed with their pastor outside the courtroom before walking him to the courtroom doors.

If the district church wanted to be transparent, they could have held the trial in a larger forum and allowed people to see what was going on. Closed trials are the type held in countries like Russia and Iran that seek to suppress truth and due process.

The book’s editor and publisher, also a Nazarene minister, has been charged with being out of harmony with the doctrines and conduct prescribed by the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. He is still awaiting trial. 

 Here’s to transparency in the future!

Editor’s Note: A recent update from the General Court of Appeals of The Church of The Nazarene states, “After carefully and prayerfully considering all of the facts and circumstances in the matter before us, and recognizing that there is ambiguity in the Manual’s definition of ‘ministerial activity,’ we conclude justice is best served by allowing the appeal to move forward. The objection is, therefore, overruled. The Southern California District Advisory Board is invited to respond to the Notice of Appeal. Said response is to be filed not later than February 19, 2024.” 

Dee Kelley is therefore allowed to move forward in his appeal process.