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, April 9, 2009

Spring AIA letter

Dear Bishop,

Bill Stevens passed away recently, according to the postcard from the conference. Bill must have been 160 years old! He was a bright spot in the Wisconsin Annual Conference for as long as I can remember. I believe he became Conference Secretary just before I joined the Conference in 1962. I think he kept that job into the 1980s.

Those who had the responsibility of checking the journal, Bill’s minutes of the previous day, were amazed at his accuracy and completeness. That was especially remarkable because in those years, some of our sessions began at 8:00 a. m. and continued until 10:30 p. m. We actually had conferencing in those days.

Bill used a typewriter with three copies using carbon papers. Remember, to correct an error meant erasing all four sheets and typing over. During the years I was on the journal committee, I do not remember there ever being more than a single letter error correction.

And the copies were always ready by 8:00 a. m. so the committee could review them very early in the next day’s session. When we asked him how long it took, he said he was usually to bed by 3 a. m. And he never seemed tired, even after four or five days of Conference. His minutes were as error free and clear the last day as the first.

He was a hard-worker in the churches to which he was appointed. He went wherever the bishop sent him and got to serve in small, medium, large, rural, small town, and urban churches during his first forty years.

At conference in 1976, six years before his first retirement, he was unusually sad. It didn’t last long, but he still felt it deeply. “Jerry, I was looking forward to this year because it is when I expected to become a superintendent. I’ve been a pastor for thirty-four years and think I learned a thing or two that I wanted very much to use to help the younger pastors. It has been a great system we’ve had in the past where an experienced pastor became a superintendent for the last six years of his career, what with all that experience and no longer any reason to aspire to a higher office. I was all ready and they passed me up. Actually, they passed up several of us and appointed young, inexperienced pastors to be on the Cabinet. I understand the desire to move our ethnic and women clergy along more quickly but none of them are really ready yet. Everything has to happen now, I guess, before they have a chance to learn patience and maturity. Being superintendent will be just another career move instead of its culmination. What a shame.”

Bill went on to serve local churches another 21 years before retiring again in 2003. Eveready should have named the energizer bunny after him.

In the covenant of the clergy,



Jerry Eckert said...

Afriend sent this by e-mail:

Great letter indeed.....

Jerry Eckert said...

From a friend's e-mail:

Thank you for your honoring Bill Stevens. I get lots of cards like this, but when this one arrived it was special, even though I didn’t even think of the many years he was secretary. Thank you for reminding me of this. He was a true servant of the Lord. I remember his asking our retirement class why we were retiring from serving the church; he was still serving churches after his retirement. Yes, the energizer bunny, and he never reserved it for himself, but used it all in the service of Christ.

Thank you, Jerry.

Jerry Eckert said...

An e-mail from a friend:

Thanks for the news about Bill Stevens. I remember him well from my days in the Wisconsin Conference. We were blessed to have such a man of God amongst us. His observations about being a DS are enlightening. We are far, far removed from the design of which he speaks, as well as the role of a DS. We as a denomination are poorer for it.

Jerry Eckert said...

E-mail from another friend:

Thanks for this. I appreciated Bill very much over the first years of attending conference, but I had no idea, even so, of the hours he put in.

I agree with his comments on appointments to D.S.

Jerry Eckert said...

An e-mail from an out-of-state friend:

What a moving and obviously well deserved tribute to an exceptional pastor. Your recollection of Bill Steven's disappointment regarding the selection of superintendents resonates around the church, I'm sure. We have had very similar concerns with some appointment of superintendents in our conference, for the reasons cited. We have no choice but to let the trend pay out, which, we can hope, will be hastened by some ineffective performances by superintendents who should never have been called to serve as DS.

I was impressed with your emphasis on excellence in your remarks about your colleague. That quality, unfortunately, is too often lacking in the church today at all levels.

Where morale falters, standards slip and I see this happening in too many places. All the more do the Bill Stevens stand out.


Jerry Eckert said...

Another e-mail says this:

Thanks for your reminiscences of Bill Stevens. I agree with your assessment and learned more about him. He certainly exemplified "ordination is for life" and "there's no retirement from being a Christian."

Jerry Eckert said...

E-mails keep coming:

Bravo, Jerry! A fine tribute to a faithful disciple of Jesus.

In the Circle of God's love,


Jerry Eckert said...


What a fine letter and tribute to a gentleman of the old school who served admirably for ever so long.

Thank you.

Jerry Eckert said...

And yet another:

Thanks for the remembrance, Jerry!

Jerry Eckert said...

Bill's story strikes a positive chord with another friend:

thanks for sending that - it always amazed me that everything was done on the typewriter and we got items immediately - now in the days of computers we wait for months and months for the journal/yearbook. I would like to know why this happens.

If someone were to ask me, I would agree with Bill in regards to the superintendency... we need people with a broad base of experience. We need people who can guide pastors and help churches understand what it means to be the church - for SO many churches it is maintaining and sustaining and thus forgetting that our churches are to be in Mission and tackling the issues of the day while providing a spiritual base for everyone.

Thus my response to a nice letter

Happy Easter

Jerry Eckert said...

Late today, this response came from a friend:

Sorry I never knew him. What a lovely tribute.

Jerry Eckert said...

Another friend wrote:

I never knew that he was hoping to be a District Superintendent. Based upon my years of working with Bill, I believe he would have been a good one. On a personal note, Bill passed on to me the values of tithing, on-going mission projects, a neat/attractive appearance in the sanctuary for worship, a hard work ethic, and wearing a robe at worship.

I am writing to share a deep disappointment with the lack of collegiality among us. Years ago, our Bishop impressed upon us that we as clergy are part of a collegial community. Part of what this means is to honor each other at the time of death.

My disappointment became acute while attending Bill’s funeral. To say the least, Bill was a giant in our midst. For 28 consecutive years he was the secretary of Annual Conference, making sure that the journals were received in late August. Now, even with computers, we have to wait until January. For at least six decades he served UM Churches--full-time and later part-time. Even in retirement, he faithfully attended Annual Conference.

Thus, I was disappointed big time when only a dozen or so clergy attended Bill's service. I realize that many of Bill's peers have died.
Never-the-less, what about all the others who could have been there to honor Bill, pastors who had churches near his, especially during the two decades since he first retired?

I miss Bill and a host of others who are no longer with us.

Jerry Eckert said...

Still another friend's comment:

Like Bill, one of my frustrations with the Cabinet is its penchant for trumping valuable experience with gender and inclusiveness to the nth degree. Thanks for sharing your recollections about our mutual friend.