Crosse defrocked by Methodists for role in forming congregation

June 16, 1995|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

The Rev. St. George I. B. Crosse III, conservative Republican politician, HUD official, local TV personality and outspoken critic of what he sees as too-liberal tendencies in the United Methodist Church, has been defrocked as an ordained minister in the denomination.

Mr. Crosse, a former head of the Baltimore office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and currently an official of HUD's fair housing and equal opportunity section in Washington, said yesterday that Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel illegally denied him a church trial as required by the rules before a minister may be involuntarily dismissed.

The minister said he was drummed out of the denomination that he has long served faithfully by "this bishop who is drunk with his episcopal power."

But a spokesman for the church's Baltimore-Washington Conference that Bishop Yeakel heads said Mr. Crosse's request for a church trial was not received before a stipulated deadline and that "all possible appeals within the church structure have been exhausted." His termination is effective July 1, Mr. Crosse said.

Technically, the reason for the minister's dismissal is his alleged violation of provisions of the United Methodist Book of Discipline specifying that "no pastor shall arbitrarily organize a pastoral charge" and that "a new local church . . . shall be established only with the consent of the bishop in charge and the cabinet."

It was widely reported last fall, said the Rev. James Skillington, the conference spokesman, that Mr. Crosse "announced that he was leaving the [Methodist] church to begin a new congregation with his wife."

Mr. Crosse previously had been granted a voluntary leave of absence by the church's Board of Ordained Ministry "in order to assist his wife in a child-care ministry entitled Society for the Advancement of Families Everywhere," the spokesman said.

The new congregation -- unaffiliated with the United Methodist denomination -- is the Overcomers Tabernacle at 620 S. Beechfield Ave. in Southwest Baltimore, which held a consecration and dedication service Oct. 16. Mr. Crosse contends that the church was started by his wife, Delois Crosse, and that he merely assists her.

An open invitation to the Oct. 16 service stated, "Overcomers Tabernacle is an innovative ministry that will teach God's people to overcome sin, fear. Delois Crosse, with her husband, St. George Crosse, are a team ministry for the church."

Bishop Yeakel is sensitive about the number of United Methodist clergy who have left the denomination and taken their congregations with them, Mr. Crosse claimed. The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the church has registered a net loss of about 2,000 members since a year ago, the minister said.

"I have been railroaded," he said. "It is a gross injustice. The bishop is a sexist and a racist. And furthermore, my pro-life, anti-abortion stance and my opposition to ordaining homosexuals have made me unpopular with certain elements in the church."

Bishop Yeakel said last night, "I'm sorry St. George feels he must resort to attacking me in such a way, but I stand by the action of the conference."

Mr. Skillington said Mr. Crosse simply refused to play by the rules.

Because the letter in which he asked for a trial -- undated but postmarked May 31 -- was received 30 days too late, his request was denied and the Board of Ordained Ministry recommendation that his ministerial credentials be lifted was approved at an executive session of the clergy the morning of June 9 in Washington.

Mr. Crosse did not appear at the meeting even though "all clergy who are elders in the conference are expected to attend executive sessions," Mr. Skillington said. Mr. Crosse said he could not be there because his attendance at a HUD-related meeting in Baltimore was required, but he appeared before the same group that evening, asking to have the issue of his dismissal reintroduced.

Bishop Yeakel ruled him out of order, Mr. Skillington said. Mr. Crosse said the bishop turned the microphone off, undemocratically and rudely denied him an opportunity to speak and had him ejected from the room.

The outspoken Mr. Crosse, 55, is not likely to let the matter of his defrocking rest. He is known for his strong expressions of his conservative views on local radio and television.

He and his family moved to the United States from Grenada in 1957, when he was 17. His first job was picking strawberries for $4 a day. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a law degree from the University of Baltimore, a master's degree in special education from Coppin State College and a divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.

A perennial unsuccessful candidate for elected office, he co-chaired President Reagan's campaign in Baltimore in 1980.

Mr. Crosse has been pastor of a number of United Methodist congregations in the Baltimore area, and has been a Methodist missionary in Barbados. Among his Baltimore charges were Calvary, Lewin and St. Matthew's churches.

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