Pastor found guilty in church trial

January 13, 2016

In a church trial held Jan. 11-12, 2016, in the Florida Conference, the Rev. Errol Leslie was found guilty by a jury on three charges relating to an allegation of an extramarital affair with a member of the laity while serving Palm Bay United Methodist Church in Florida.

Rev. Leslie, whose orders were recognized by the New England Conference, has been serving Wesley Memorial UMC in East Hartford, CT, and Vernon UMC, also in Connecticut, since July 1, 2015.

The charges brought by the Florida Conference Committee on Investigation were:
  • Immorality
  • Sexual misconduct (heterosexual)
  • Disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church
The trial court, by a vote of 9 to 4, terminated Rev. Leslie’s conference membership and revoked his credentials to conference membership. He will cease serving churches effective immediately. Rev. Leslie retains his ordination in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas; The United Methodist Church does not have the authority to revoke this ordination.

“A church trial is always a last resort, and is inevitably difficult and painful for everyone involved,” said Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar. “We are sorry to lose a colleague, and will continue to pray for him and his family. Our prayers go out to the victim and anyone who has been harmed by these unfortunate events. When a pastor’s actions conflict with The United Methodist Church’s values and practices, there is a process to deal with that, and we must trust in that process. I am grateful to the Florida Conference for their work on this matter.”

“The two congregations served by Rev. Leslie undoubtedly have questions and are experiencing pain in the wake of this trial,” Bishop Devadhar said. “I want them to know they are in our prayers and will have our utmost support as they face this challenging time ahead. I am confident, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we can reach a place of healing.”

Bishop Al Gwinn was presiding officer at the trial. Rev. Jay Therrell served as counsel for the church and Rev. Scott Campbell served as counsel for the respondent.