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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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 5, 2012

Where Do We Find God's Spirit in Our System?

The following post was included in the April 4, 2012 United Methodist Insight, an online weekly collection of essays and articles about the 2012 General Conference. It can be found at



Sometimes God's inspiration shows up in the most unlikely places, such as in this rap by Doug E. Fresh that served as a theme song for the movie "Ghostbusters II":

Spirit! Some people hear it, some people fear it,

Spirit! Some people just won't go near it!

Sure as I'm me and you should know you're you,

The Spirit is the key to unlock the true you.

Looking beyond its obvious references to the comedy's plot, this ditty captures one of my biggest concerns about the many alternatives flying about for United Methodist governance: Where does the Holy Spirit operate in our system?

The seat of power where the Holy Spirit resides in a denomination is very important, though our conversations do not usually go into that arena of theology. When I was in seminary, we talked in terms of the central entity of the denomination being the annual conference. All of the church's structure was to help the annual conference serve the needs of local churches that could not be handled by local churches themselves, meaning everything from how our churches got their pastors to how we shared mission responsibilities.

The reality at that time was that the general church boards and agencies appeared to feel they were the true bearers of the Holy Spirit. This was shown in the ways that some of them operated with no accountability and were subject to some financial mismanagement.

Charging to the rescue was General Conference, picking the Council of Bishops to reign in the agencies by having them be chairpersons of the respective bodies and having a cluster of bishops serving as directors of each agency. Thus, the power shifted. The center of power devolved onto the Council of Bishops, whose members were in a position to direct and influence actions of the boards and agencies AND to direct the legislation coming to General Conference.

As in the pre-Reformation era when the Catholics openly talked of their bishops and archbishops bearing the Holy Spirit, ours actually do, even though we don't use that terminology to describe it. The Church begins to fail if one or both of the following happens:

•When we let any one segment of the Church be its sole power without checks and balances and some form of accountability; or

•When we are unwilling to recognize that the Holy Spirit moves as It will and may be surfacing someplace other than the power center.

How would everything that is coming before the 2012 General Conference change if attention were shifted from legislating win-lose scenarios to discerning where and how God's Holy Spirit is active, and then legislating to follow that guidance?


UM Insight coordinator Cynthia Astle contributed to this essay.

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