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.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Eliminating Guaranteed Appointments

With General Conference approaching, NEWSCOPE is getting statements from prominent church leaders about thngs that need to be addressed in the United Methodist Church.

The January 11, 2008, issue includes a list of requirements for consideration. The list was proposed by Dr. Lyle Schaller. Unfortunately, it is without any commentary or argument to support his suggested requirements.

Maybe short-shrifting ideas will get more dialogue going. It certainly got me to enter this fray!

I agree with Dr. Schaller that conferences aim toward much longer appointments and that local churches need to be more involved in mission exchanges with churches on other continents. I’m sure he has good reasons for some of his other ideas but they did not particularly move me. The one that bothered me was his idea to initiate a process requiring the elimination of guaranteed appointments.

He will have willing partners in that endeavor among many bishops. In many conferences, pastors have no assurance of appointment because of the way their Cabinets handle appointments and complaints.

Cabinet members in those places freely use the phrase “You are unappointable.”

Cabinet members in those places freely avoid fair process to run off pastors, usually at the bottom of the peck order, whenever the pastor may be attacked by clergy killing congregations. Despite the Judicial Council’s recent ruling (JCD 1082) against such practices, some Cabinets will ignore them just like they have the Discipline.

They get away with it because there are no effective means of holding Cabinet members accountable. The Discipline leaves loopholes a mile wide in the procedures it provides.

A complaint against a DS ends up being handled under Paragraph 429.3 instead of Paragraph 362. It’s called “circling the wagons.”

A complaint against a bishop goes to episcopal colleagues in the College of Bishops who cover for one another. The “supervisory response” there just never ends with anything they judge as having enough weight to pursue . . . unless sex is involved . . . no matter how egregious the complaint.

Because Dr. Schaller has gone on record in support of a major change like eliminating guaranteed appointments, let me suggest he add the following in order to provide the proper administrative set up to go along with it.

1. Eliminate lifetime elections for bishops. Require that they be up for re-election every four years and that they return to a local church every eight years.

2. Take away the bishop’s power of appointment so that s/he can have time to get to know the local churches well enough to be able to supervise the taking in of new church members. That way bishops would have more to say about fulfilling goals of increasing church membership.

3. Drop the appointment system completely and let it become a call system like most other Protestant churches have.

4. Elect superintendents and let them be the one who enables pastors and churches to link up when a pastoral change is needed in that district. Changes would be made as seldom as possible and only when necessary to allow the pastors and churches more stability to have the fifteen year tenures called for by Dr. Schaller.

5. Make it easier for congregations to split so they can form new congregations whenever a particular pastor or clique in the congregation divides a church. Let the entrepreneurial spirit prevail.

Oh, while we are at it, let’s eliminate tenure for university and seminary professors. And let’s make Congress and former Presidents have to buy private health insurance.

I do not mean to appear to make light of one “requirement.” A change as suggested by Dr. Schaller has ramifications which, if made without full consideration of all the other elements of a system, will tend to further breakdown the whole system.

If pastors do not have guaranteed appointments, they are completely at the mercy of the appointment power of the bishops. It is bad enough as it is when a bishop ignores the Discipline.

By allowing bishops a lifetime election but eliminating the guaranteed appointment, the General Conference would be giving bishops even more power over their conferences.

Every pastor would be even more tempted to seek to please the bishop because it would not just enhance their moving up the peck order. Without a guaranteed appointment, the bishop could arbitrarily take that career away completely. Imagine the consequences of that kind of dependence built into the system.

I always wondered how medieval governance by lords over servants evolved from more democratic Christian structures. That’s what it looks like to me and I don’t want it to happen in our denomination!

1 comment:

circus writer said...

Amen, brother! I have some friends & colleagues who "buy" this hair brained idea, who I believe are neive because they do not (in my opinion) understand the political/personal ramifications of this action. Thank you!