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, August 22, 2012

JCD 1210



At the instigation of the Council of Bishops with little or no input from the Boards and Agencies of the denomination, a wide-ranging plan named “A Call to Action” was developed over the past quadrennium. It had many features and many critics. By the time it reached General Conference, it had been broken up into various parts, as discussed in my posting on this blog of “April 25 – Dr. Chomingwen Pond,” under which I included a section called “A Call to Action.”

Right after lunch on the day it was passed (May 2, two days before adjournment), the plenary voted with no discussion to refer this variation on reorganization called “Plan UMC” to the Judicial Council. This was such a high profile set of legislation, having taken up all the oxygen in the room at General Conference that the Judicial Council took it up immediately.

As they have done with so many reorganization plans submitted from annual conferences, they discerned the primary flaw of this one, an attempt to move decision-making from the bodies granted it by the Discipline, and placing it in other bodies.

Here again, as I’ve written before, the Council of Bishops was seeking to gain control over more and more of the organizations of the denomination. Nowhere in any version of the segments of “A Call to Action” was there an effort to look at where the bishops in their duties may have contributed to whatever malaise they were trying to resolve with their plan. The problems of the denomination were with everyone else, as the plan clearly pointed out.

But the Judicial Council stuck with examining the plan for constitutionality, not for its inherent weakness. With care, they laid out the constitutional flaws of this reorganization attempt, the same ones they have explained over and over in previous rulings dating back to JCD 364, a decision given in 1972. See also the most recent, JCD 1198, from 2011.

One special feature of this decision is that it did not restrict itself to the possible constitutional issues identified by the one making the request. Under the general rubric of determining constitutionality, the Judicial Council found its own grounds for determining that the legislation lacked constitutionality. Again with careful argument, the Council was clear about what it found. Future efforts to reorganize the Church better take these into account.

I do not expect those who cobbled together “Plan UMC” will do any better when they try to revive this kind of thing for 2016.

The immediate effect of this decision had a serious impact, though, in three ways.

First, the years spent over the past Quadrennium working on “A Call to Action” suddenly were seen by many observers to be the waste they were. And the hours spent trying to keep it alive at General Conference despite its questionable objectives were not lost on the majority of the delegates in Tampa.

Second, the impact of this effort led by the Council of Bishops further eroded the respect with which they had been held by the rest of the Church. Many episcopal leaders expressed dismay at the lack of trust they were being shown by the actions of the General Conference. See my posting of May 29 on “Trust of Bishops.”

Third, two agencies, the General Commission on Religion and Race and the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, were preserved. Under Plan UMC, they would have been merged and would have had next to no resources to continue in any serious way, if at all.

In conversations I had among bishops during General Conference, I found every one of the bishops with whom I talked stunned at what had happened to their “wonderful” ideas meant to “enliven” the denomination. We can look forward to similar efforts for 2016, though this General Conference did not fund a new study. I do not see that stopping those energetic leaders from bringing many petitions professionally packaged to sell in the next conference’s prime time. The Judicial Council better be ready for more work in Portland, OR, in 2016.

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