On March 31, 2021, Pastor Stephen Um’s call to Citylife Presbyterian Church was dissolved. The timeline of events leading up to the separation are outlined below.
- September 2020: The Session became aware of some concerns regarding outside business activities conducted by Pastor Stephen Um. After lengthy discussions with Stephen and various members of our church and Staff, the Session felt it was important to involve the regional Southern New England Presbytery (SNEP) for guidance. This was in line with the church’s obligation and responsibility as a member of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) denomination, and also allowed an objective third party to conduct an investigation. At the same time, Stephen was immediately placed on a leave of absence.
- October 2020: The SNEP initially formed a Committee to review the list of concerns presented to them by the Citylife Church Session. Based on the initial evidence found by the Committee the Presbytery called a meeting on 10/24/20 to vote to form a Judicial Commission to complete the investigation and rule on its findings.
- February 2021: The Commission completed its investigation and submitted its report to Pastor Stephen Um, who pleaded guilty to all charges. They then proceeded to recommend a sentence of censure of indefinite suspension from office. On 2/25/21, Stephen submitted his resignation to the Presbytery.
- March 2021: On 3/13/21, the SNEP called a meeting to ratify the Commission’s report and on 3/21/21, the congregation of Citylife Church called a meeting to accept Pastor Stephen Um’s resignation.
Thoughts from the Session:
God is holy and righteous and abhors sin. It is not to be taken lightly; nor is it ever just private. When one member of the body sins, the entire body is affected (1 Corinthians 12:26). As much as we fervently cling to the truth of Jesus’ saving grace, we must equally hate and reject sin in our lives (Hebrews 10:26-31). The Session has spent time in introspection ourselves, and have recommitted to the ordination vows we made to live a life above reproach (Titus 1:7).
It is only natural for us to feel disbelief and disappointment in watching a spiritual leader fall, but we are reminded to “put not your trust in princes” (Psalm 146:3-4), and remember that Jesus is our perfect spiritual leader. We invite you to join us in shifting our focus to care for those most deeply hurt (Psalm 34:15-18) and affected by these events and the actions of Stephen Um. There are many on Staff and members in our congregation who have suffered silently; some have already left the church. Our desire is to thoughtfully and carefully walk alongside these individuals, to listen to their stories and pain, to grieve with them, and allow God, the perfect healer, to do His work (Psalm 147:3).
This journey will be long and arduous and at times painful, but we have hope that God will carry us through this season as He promises to complete the renewing work He has begun (Phillipians 1:6). We have a long way to go and there is still a lot to learn; it will require a great amount of courage, patience, and compassion. The Session and Staff are committed to this journey, and have enlisted the support of counselors like Michael Coggin, but our ultimate source of confidence is in our Lord (Jeremiah 17:7), the great physician (Luke 5:31), who can heal all of the victims of spiritual abuse in our church. At the same time, there is hope in that same God, to redeem our fallen leaders.
– Citylife Session