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.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

JCD 1197


This decision patiently distinguishes between the guidelines provided for incapacity for an annual conference with regard the standing of the pastor and with the guidelines of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits for picking up the cost of the benefits upon confirming incapacity for at least six months.

In the instant case, it took the General Board eight months to make that determination. Meanwhile the benefit was paid by the annual conference (Board of Pensions) on the presumption the General Board would pay back what the conference covered plus pick up any future payments necessary. Such a length of time is not unheard of before a determination is made. It is a compassionate risk a conference takes when it grants incapacity leave, knowing the General Board is very strict about what constitutes incapacity.

The question of the pastor’s standing in the conference when the General Board does not grant incapacity was raised at the annual conference session. The Judicial Council parsed the distinctions saying the conference votes the pastor’s standing but the General Board does not. This decision reminds the Church about this long standing principle.

The conference officers were left with the dilemma of continuing to fund the incapacity leave during a period of low financial resources, learning the General Board was not going to bail them out in that specific case. Conference officers did then seek to drop the pastor from incapacity leave at annual conference because the General Board did not pick up the costs.

The payment amounts to only 70% of the conference average salary so no one would be gaming the system. The pastor may also seek Social Security Incapacity (SSI), something that has its own criteria which may differ from the conference’s and the General Board’s. It is not uncommon in some cases that the federal government is more compassionate than the Church. I have been told that the General Board then diminishes its contribution by the amount SSI picks up.

The Council cleared the air on the pastor’s conference standing. It was up to the conference to handle the pastor’s standing no matter what the General Board did. I just hope someone in the conference advised the pastor to seek SSI at the same time he sought incapacity from the General Board because the General Board would have a hard time justifying refusing incapacity when the federal government grants it.

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