It appears that the Rev. Scott Jansen will soon be leaving his job as the pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church. A congregational meeting has been called for Sunday for members of the church to vote on dissolving the relationship between Jansen and the church.
In the Presbyterian Church congregations hire and fire their pastors. The vote reportedly comes after years of dissatisfaction and division within the church, most of it focused on Jansen.
The church’s Board of Session, which is the governing body of the church and is composed of 18 elders, voted Sept. 17 to call the congregational meeting. The proposal to be voted on Sunday was suggested by Jansen and approved by the Session last week.
It calls for Jansen to deliver his final sermon at Riverside Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Oct. 12. Then Jansen, whose contract with the church runs until the end of the year, will be on a paid sabbatical leave until Dec. 31.
“It was Scott’s motion,” said Mary Ann Sadilek, the clerk of the Session. “He suggested his last date.”
Although Jansen has some support in the congregation, he told the Landmark that he expects the motion to dissolve his relationship with the church to be approved.
“I would say it’s very likely,” Jansen said.
Jansen was asked by the Landmark what led up to this vote to dissolve his relationship with the search.
“Well that is a good question,” Jansen told the Landmark. “I do not feel it would be appropriate for me to make a comment in the press about that.”
The 52-year-old Jansen, who has been pastor since July 1, 2007, told the Landmark that he does not have another job lined up.
Many members of the church reportedly have issues with Jansen’s leadership.
“I think it is time for something new for both of us,” said Jeanine Buttimer, a church deacon.
Even his critics concede that Jansen is highly intelligent. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he worked for a time as an engineer before entering the seminary and earning a Ph.D. in theology from Claremont Graduate University in California. He is the author of the book Why You Experience Evil: The Eight Best Explanations, which was published in 2009.
“Scott should probably be a professor and not a minister,” said one former member of the church who said she left the church because she didn’t like her family’s interactions with Jansen.
The loss of members and divisions in the church has made for an unpleasant atmosphere at the church for years, some members say. This summer the entire staff of the church’s preschool left after the church wanted to reorganize the staff at the preschool.
However some members of the church, including Sadilek, support Jansen and are heartsick that he may be leaving.
“His sermons are the best I’ve ever heard,” said Sadilek who has been a member of the church for 62 years. “He is the best preacher and the most intelligent. I’m just very distressed that he might be leaving.”
Sadilek said that since the email went out to church members notifying them of the congregational meeting on Sunday, she has heard only from church members who support Jansen.
“I would say that Scott is greatly beloved by many members of the congregation,” Sadilek said. “The only people who have contacted me are sorely distressed. Nobody has contacted me and said ‘Thank goodness’. I’ve had people calling me in tears. I certainly do not believe that a majority of the congregation would like to see Scott go to a different church.”
Betsy Gardner, a former deacon and a member of the church’s choir, also would like Jansen to stay.
“I’m really sorry to see him go, if indeed the vote goes that way,” Gardner said. “Pastors are supposed to strive to do the right thing, and I think he tries harder than most.”
Sadilek said that pastors fill many roles and it is very difficult for one person to excel in all those roles.
“It’s hard to find one person who can be a good preacher, a good administrator, good visiting the sick,” Sadilek said. “That’s asking an awful lot of somebody. No one is perfect. No one can get along with everybody.”