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.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Observations about the Judicial Council

Unlike the Supreme Court, no one on the Judicial Council has a lifetime appointment. Nominations occur at the General Conference meetings every four years. The Council of Bishops nominates as do delegates attending. It is highly unusual for floor nominees to be elected. Bishops tend to nominate candidates who would most likely be supportive of bishops and of the institution of the church.

Only rarely is a “church law geek” elected. Lay members tend to be civil lawyers or judges. Clergy members that have been elected were not known for challenging their bishops on the floor of annual conference over a matter of church law.

The term is eight years upon election and every four years half are up for re-election. The result is that in some quadrennia there may be a change of several members. In 2008, because of the need to fill early retirements, six new members were elected. That means that of the nine standing members, only three carried over from the previous quadrennium. As a result, it may take at least a couple years, if not longer, for new members to get up to speed on what the Discipline and previous Judicial Councils have actually said.

What makes matters worse is that the number of cases going before the Judicial Council has increased over the years so that there may be as many as 24 cases docketed for the autumn session and as many as a dozen for the spring meeting. The gatherings last five days. That must surely be exhausting and may not be enough time to be thorough.

The Council president assigns teams of two or three to focus on certain of the cases. Then each team reports to the whole body. All members are supposed to have a working knowledge of each case in order to assure that the team’s work gets a proper review. However, under the stresses facing the Council, the final results are uneven. That means that those who have decision-making power in the denomination can find precedent for whatever they want among the conflicting decisions.

Votes are never announced. The only clue is who signs dissenting or concurring opinions. But even then it is hard to say who voted which way but chose not to sign.

Advocates pray a lot and hope they can succeed at instructing the Council members! Most Council members are aware of their need for that instruction and call for specifics from church law from all parties-at-interest to help guide them.

The postings of seven articles today are all related so please consider clicking on “Older Post” in the lower right hand corner to take you to the next article in this set.

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