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.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

JCD 1119


Since the 1840s, Annual Conferences have struggled with the balance of power between laity and clergy in one or another of the branches of the people called Methodist. While that struggle for us was largely settled in the merger of 1939, some clergy who serve churches but who are not ordained Elders have sought to have a vote on all that is before the conference. The push in recent years by Cabinets to have more Local Pastors in order to have a cheaper at-will work force (I do have a bit of opinion about that) has meant that on the matters where Local Pastors may not vote, such as for delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences and constitutional amendments, the desired balance between clergy and laity is not met. The goal of equalizing lay and clergy membership in the annual conference required in our constitution is blocked if all the lay members can vote on amendments but the Local Pastors can't.

The issue was brought to the floor in Minnesota during a session where constitutional amendments were under consideration, one of which (Amendment 19) would give the vote to Local Pastors on more matters. It was not just a matter of idle curiosity.

Unfortunately, the request for a declaratory decision in this case was not as clear and precise as it needed to be. The Judicial Council, by taking advantage of the question’s ambiguity, interpreted constitutional amendment voting as “not the work of the annual conference” in order to avoid answering the question.

Votes on amendments are one of the few things that are tallied individually when they are taken. An amendment passes on the total of all those voting church-wide, not on the basis of the number of annual conferences in which it received a majority. That bit of polity was the opening the Judicial Council chose for their interpretation that these votes are not "the work" of an annual conference.

However, that view fails to take into account three important points.

First, the Discipline makes the annual conference session the setting for the vote. Ballots are not mailed individually to members to be returned by a certain date. The constitution requires the votes to be taken at the annual conference session. Therefore, it is part of the work of the conference.

Second, while not all amendments directly affect the work of an annual conference, in this case, at least one did. The passage of that amendment before all of the annual conferences, including Minnesota, on the voting rights of Local Pastors would change the balance of power of clergy and laity in their annual conference as well as in all of the conferences across the denomination. That would affect nominations and elections of conference members, have to be factored into budget work of the conference, and influence the work of the conference that occurs in the clergy session, to name a few implications.

Third, the work of the annual conference includes other matters that serve the needs of the larger church beyond the conference’s borders: election of delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences from which many go on to boards and agencies of the general church, financial support for the general church, requesting actions by the Judicial Council, and petitions for the General Conference to consider every four years. The work of the annual conference includes more than what goes on in the boundaries of the conference and the plenary agenda.

The Judicial Council narrowed their definition of what constitutes the “work of the annual conference” by this ruling.

This erosion of the centrality of annual conferences in the polity of our denomination is a trend that is not being discussed anywhere I know of. Here are some other things which erode the powers of the annual conference: Restricting nominations for certain offices to just the bishop and not allowing them from the floor of conference, allowing general categories to be called “line items” in mission budgeting rather than requiring that the individual ministries and projects are to be the line items for plenary votes of the budget, taking away the right to use requests for declaratory decisions by saying that they may never be used prospectively, and finding administrative ways to remove Local Pastors without any review by the conference.

The “law of unintended consequences” may be in operation here as these kinds of rulings come down from the Judicial Council.

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