United Methodist Minister Karl Mertz, who was suspended last year after saying in a sermon that one cannot be a segregationist and a Christin too, has now been dismissed formally by the church's Mississippi Conference.
In recommending termination of the 34-year-old minister's probationary membership in the Conference, its Board of Ordained Ministry said it wanted to make "quite clear that the action was not based on Mertz's beliefs on race."
No other reason was offered, however.
The decision to remove Mertz from his pastorate came in 120-to-36 vote by the Conference's clergy. At the same time, the entire Conference, clergy and laymen, approved the original suspension, which had placed the clergyman on an involuntary leave of absence.
A committee representing the three parishes to which he was assigned had made several complaints against him, Mertz acknowledged, but he said that none of the complaints were made known to him until after he had preached the disputed sermon.
Mertz now works as an equal opportunity specialist with the U.S. Labor Department's office of federal contract compliance in Jackson. Complaints about his firing have been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, with another federal agency Mertz declined to identify, and with the denomination's national Commission on Religion and Race.
Mertz maintained that the basic issue involved in his dismissal into promote racial integration within the Mississippi Conference. "It is a fact that not a single person is assigned across racial lines to (United Methodist) churches in Mississippi," he said.