By Jessica Brodie
SALUDA—United Methodists across South Carolina are mourning this month after an ailing retired pastor reportedly died from neglect and abuse at the hands of his son and daughter-in-law.
The Rev. James Boyd Chewning, 79, died Nov. 2. His son and daughter-in-law, Donald Ralph Chewning and Kathy Laine Chewning, have been arrested and charged with felony abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death.
According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the case was investigated by SLED at the request of the Saluda Police Department. If convicted, the Chewnings face up to 30 years in prison. The warrant affidavit said the late pastor was “battered, restrained to a bed using zip ties, and rags and duct tape were used to cover the victim’s mouth and eyes.”
South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston called for prayer and an increased awareness of those vulnerable to neglect and abuse.
“The passing of the Rev. Boyd Chewning weighs heavily upon my heart and the hearts of all of those who were touched by his ministry, which stretched over more than 40 years at United Methodist churches across South Carolina,” Holston said. “We are in prayer for those who loved Rev. Chewning, and we grieve his loss throughout the Methodist connection. The allegations of neglect and abuse serve as a reminder of our obligation as Christians to look out for the defenseless among us. It also presents an opportunity to reaffirm our Safe Sanctuaries Policy, which represents ‘our total and unwavering commitment to the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of all … vulnerable adults.’”
Chewning was ordained as a full elder in the South Carolina Conference in 1965, two years after his first appointment t the Union Charge. He served churches in eight of the conference’s 12 districts. When he retired in 2004, he was pastor of Emory UMC, Saluda, and Nazareth UMC, near Batesburg-Leesville.
His memorial service was held Nov. 15 in the Nancy Freeman Stringer Chapel at The Oaks.
Regarding abuse, the UMC Social Principles state, “We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. … Regardless of the cause or the abuse, both the victim and the abuser need the love of the Church. While we deplore the actions of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God’s redeeming love.”