Associates in Advocacy now has two sites on the internet. Our primary help site is at http://www.aiateam.org/. There AIA seeks to offer aid to troubled pastors, mainly those who face complaints and whose careers are on the line.

Help is also available to their advocates, their caregivers, Cabinets, and others trying to work in that context.

This site will be a blog. On it we will address issues and events that come up.

We have a point of view about ministry, personnel work, and authority. We intend to take the following very seriously:


Some of our denomination's personnel practices have real merit. Some are deeply flawed. To tell the difference, we go to these criteria to help us know the difference.

We also have a vision of what constitutes healthy leadership and authority. We believe it is in line with Scripture, up-to-date managerial practice, and law.

To our great sadness, some pastors who become part of the hierarchy of the church, particularly the Cabinet, have a vision based on their being in control as "kings of the hill," not accountable to anyone and not responsible to follow the Discipline or our faith and practice. They do not see that THE GOLDEN RULE applies to what they do.

If you are reading this, the chances are you are not that way. We hope what we say and do exemplify our own best vision and will help you fulfill yours. But we cannot just leave arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance to flourish. All of us have the responsibility to minimize those in our system.

We join you in fulfilling our individual vow of expecting to be perfect in love in this life and applying that vow to our corporate life in the United Methodist Church.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you have any questions or suggestions, direct them to Rev. Jerry Eckert. His e-mail address is aj_eckert@hotmail.com. His phone number is 941 743 0518. His address is 20487 Albury Drive, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.

Thank you.


Friday, May 5, 2017

A personal view on JCD 1341

Watch this space for commentary on the April, 2017, session of the Judicial Council.  For anyone interested in my opinion on the Judicial Council's decision on the challenge to Bishop Oliveto's legality, go to my personal website at www.jerryeckert.blogspot.com/.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Commentary on Judicial Council Decisions 1323 to 1337

The following observations are intended to encourage you to read the decisions of the Judicial Council for yourself. These blog posts are in no way church law in any form but could help you understand some important aspects of the decisions.  Should you feel I have made an error of fact or interpretation, please let me know (email at aj_eckert@hotmail.com) so it can be corrected.

I began offering commentaries in November of 2008, starting with JCD 1099.  This brings them up to date.  While I have not considered going back to the earlier decisions of the Council, there have been a few that have drawn comments that you may discover on this blog.

Please feel free to send your questions about any ruling by the Judicial Council, past or present, for my observations based on your question.  Like this blog, my answers carry no weight of law.  But maybe we can both learn something.

I've included the URL for each of the rulings. That should allow you to click it or paste it so you can go directly to the decision. I’ve added subject titles and have put in labels that can be picked up by search engines.

Each decision’s commentary is posted separately so this review doesn't seem so long! And by using the list of contents in the left margin of this blog, you can go to whichever decision is of interest to you.
The phrase “the Council” when used refers to the Judicial Council.

Rulings of the Council may be referred to as JCDs (Judicial Council Decisions) or JCMs.  Judicial Council Memorandums do not provide decisions of law but may refuse to take jurisdiction, remand, or show a question is not legally appropriate under Council rules.  On rare occasions, the Council may provide their rationale in a memorandum.

Associates in Advocacy (AIA) publishes updated indexes of all Judicial Council decisions and memoranda. If you are interested, contact Rev. Michael Brown, 158 Saxony Ct., Vallejo, CA 94591. The Judicial Council website now offers a search function which covers every JCD since 1940.  Go to http://www.umc.org/decisions/search.  To go straight to all decisions, leave all the boxes blank on that search page and click on the “search” bar.  Then you can scroll and scan to find what you want.  To highlight a key phrase you search for, use the proper box and click on the “search” bar.  While you will get a list of decisions and can go into each, you will not find your phrase highlighted.  To get the highlighting in a particular decision, do “Ctrl f” on PC compatible computers or “Command f” on Apple computers.  That gives you a drop down box at the top of the page.  Type in your phrase, click on “Enter,” and the phrase will be highlighted in that decision.

I found articles about people and decisions in United Methodist News Service under www.UMC.org/.  I clicked on “News and Media” at the top of their page, clicked on “United Methodist News” to get to their home page and then clicked on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner.  That opened a box at the top of the page.  I could put in key words and numbers followed by clicking on “Enter.”  The search function will let you know which articles had that content.  There are articles going back as far as 1952, though the articles are not in chronological order.  I also do not think every article has yet been digitized and posted on the site.
All my commentaries on Council decisions are subject to editing, updating, and revision.  You may want to check back from time to time on decisions of special interest to you.

JCM 1323

Reconsideration of JCD 1314

The Council turned down this request without a rationale.  The case relates to JCD 1276, the one where the advocate tried imaginative ways to get an appeal before the Council for a pastor involuntarily retired.  I have two observations:

1. Advocates need to persist.  It is rare for the Council to actually respond to a request for reconsideration but once in awhile, like facing the nagging old woman in Jesus’ parable, some kind of breakthrough might occur.  Besides, the involuntarily retired pastor has exhausted all of his in-church options and can see if a civil court can accept jurisdiction.  Civil courts hate to take a case from a denomination with a judicial system unless the pastor has tried everything legally involved in a Church case like this one.

2. Council groups tend not to challenge their predecessor Council groups’ decisions.  That’s one of the dynamics that allows for precedent to develop.  Besides, the previous court applied its best thinking.  The grounds for reconsideration would have to be compelling to get a new Council to do it.

JCM 1324

Reconsideration of JCD 1319

I thought JCD 1319 was perfectly clear.  The time for the Congo Central Conference had been set by the conference and could not be changed by the bishops. Apparently the bishops could not take “no” for an answer.

Unfortunately, I do not know what issues were involved so my snark could be way out of line.  Whatever was brought back to the Council was not compelling so there was no reconsideration.

JCM 1325


Reconsideration of JCD 1321

Silicon based computer chips work very well in binary situations but DNA can be used to store digital information based on more the “0” and “1.”  DNA strands have multiple points that can be used.  Computers of the future will be using “chips” of organic material, be smaller, and be able to handle even more complex things quicker.

Using this as an analogy, there are some of us who can only handle binary matters, yes/no, good/bad, (I’m) right/(you’re) wrong.  So not surprisingly, facing “multiple sources of authority” is incomprehensible to some of us.  In some, our “comprehension” gene is really just a silicon chip. 

I’m saying that as with so many human traits, not all of us have the same genes so some of us get certain kinds of diseases, some of us are right handed, and some of us don’t like coffee.  Those are built into our physiology and there’s not much anyone can do about it.  I think one of those traits is the ability to think in only simple terms without the ability to expand into thinking in complex terms.

I speculate then that those asking for reconsideration in this case cannot make sense out of the original decision.  That does not make them unintelligent.  Intelligence has to do with a different gene.  Hence, black-and-white thinkers can sometimes tolerate or agree to disagree or downplay the importance of a matter they cannot understand.  Similarly, complex thinkers can also tolerate, etc. on some issues and maintain effective relationships with those with whom they disagree.  But once in awhile (and in the Trump era), intelligence is not able to bridge the gap and this difference in ways of comprehending becomes a barrier to community.

Law, then, if respected, keeps us together.  When Law is agreed upon, it bridges the differences and the community is sustained.  When law is abused or some give up on it as having authority, that leads to breakdowns and splintering of relationships.  At least the ones asking for reconsideration were hoping law would work in this case.  That’s a good sign.  If they can live with the result, that is a better sign.

JCM 1326


Election by Casting Lots

Unfortunately, the parties interested in electing delegates to General Conference by lot from Northwest Philippines Annual Conference did not send in the necessary documents by the deadline the Council had set.  It is entirely possible that the folks involved in this case were busy.  In the past year, the Philippines have been hit by several major typhoons and, without further information, we may never know if they even survived those terrible storms.

See my comment  re: JCM 1305 on the Council’s original request for more information on the case and the interesting possibilities involved.

JCD 1327


Conference  Resolution Against Enforcing Laws on Homosexual Concerns

The New England Annual Conference passed a resolution which intended to counter all the things in the Discipline that they felt was oppressive with respect to the LGBTQIA community.  The statement of facts reproduces the resolution which identifies those places in the Discipline.  The bishop ruled against the points of the resolution where they countered church law but allowed those related to non-law portions like the Social Principles.

Usually such resolutions are couched in aspirational terms.  This one was clearly a challenge which directed disobedience to church law.  The Council affirmed the Bishop’s rulings.

The Bishop and the Council were on the same page and were consistent with many past Council decisions about such resolutions.

This was not the only annual conference to assert freedom from following a handful of recent laws.  It is a sign of growing dissatisfaction in the United States and Western Europe with church law on these matters.  For what it is worth, I think it is highly likely that much of the rest of the world will shift in this direction because of so many in the younger generations for whom the attitudes differ from the older generations.