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.

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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.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lobbying by groups

An individual trying to get something through General Conference that could change things for the better is thought to be impossible.

Far and away, the most effective at bringing change are organized groups.

The most powerful lobbying group is the Council of Bishops. Their lifetime election gives them so many advantages. They hold the power of appointment over every clergy person at General Conference. They are respected by the laity, especially those who sometimes gain considerable stature in the church by becoming important in the structure.

I am amazed that lay people in positions of serious authority can sometimes be unable to face up to the injustices that come to their attention. I take that to mean there is a dependency on the bishops for their status.

Watching efforts by reasonable people to deal with some of the imbalances caused by the money it takes to have bishops for life shows that it is often very hard to get General Conference to agree.

Getting bishops into the legislative committees as parliamentarians almost died because of the inability to gather enough for this General Conference. But they will be the parliamentarians as of 2012.

And their candidates for Judicial council won.

The next most effective lobbyists are the conservative coalition. Behind them are millions of dollars that support some of their efforts. The cost of cell phones for hundreds of overseas delegates was not raised from the donations of the pastors and average laity. Nor is renting a whole hotel just a block from the conference center. That had to have been done long before the GC Commission realized that the two major hotels would not be ready in time.

The conservative coalition provided free breakfasts for any delegates who wished to have them. And they have worked hard to get their delegates elected from the various annual conferences. Their national communications network is second to none. They provide glossy printed materials to hand out to the delegates while most lobbying groups have materials produced by computer but then reproduced by copy machines.

The conservative coalition got some of their legislation through despite having fewer delegates than in previous General Conferences. They did so by successfully lobbying and marshaling foreign delegates for many of their key votes on homosexuality.

Methodist Federation for Social Action and groups seeking justice for homosexuals did not have the financial resources but they have been at lobbying longer than the other groups. Their communications network is not backed up with massive funding like the conservative coalition, but they are closer to the public relations model of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" than the other two groups and so tend to be more persuasive on nearly all other issues than the wedge issues raised by the conservatives and the institutional control issues raised by the bishops.

The progressive coalition's successful negotiation of the "witness" demonstration and doing it without arrests this time was quite effective. Their success at voting out Judicial Council members that had been a major conservative block for the last eight years is as good as the conservatives' taking over of the Judicial Council eight years ago.

Beyond those three, there were few others that gained attention.

In particular, the Women's Caucus did not seem active this time around. Beyond having monitors on inclusiveness who were given time to report their counts of speakers' gender, status, and nationality, there seemed to not be much new in the way of legislation.

That monitoring did have a major impact on this GC. Few middle aged white men were elected to leadership on the legislative committees and sub-committees!

Those roles usually help people who want to be bishop gain "face" time and their performance in those roles is a serious factor in winning election to the office of bishop. If so, many more women than usual will become bishops in July's jurisdictional elections.

The "Spotted Owl" group was very effective and their effort to shorten the time required to become an Elder appears to have succeeded. Their goofy knit caps should go into some kind of "Hall of Fame" for specific issue lobbyists.

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