Two bishops, three general church agency representatives, and experienced advocates will be key resource people for training advocates and for opening discussion of changes to personnel and fair process policies in the United Methodist Church.
On November 11-13, 2014, these people will meet in a seminar on advocacy. The seminar is open to pastors and lay people interested in how church personnel law actually works and should work. Sponsored by Associates in Advocacy, this workshop will allow those who sign up to interact in direct and informal ways with the resource people.
“We are all on the same team,” dean of the workshop, Rev. Jerry Eckert, said. “While advocacy is formally adversarial, it does not need to be antagonistic. Every church officer and advocate involved in a hearing or trial is seeking to be fair and work out justice for those involved.”
Those who want to advocate for fellow pastors or laity will have the opportunity to hear from a bishop what she faces when a complaint comes in. They will hear how a trial court presider prepares for a trial and hopes counsels on both sides do. They will hear how staff of the Division on Ordained Ministry work to revise church law to be more effective and fair. They will hear how commissions related to women and race do their advocacy. They will have a chance to question and discuss concerns with these resource people and with experienced members of Associates in Advocacy during the 48 hours of the seminar.
“It is an honor to sponsor such a learning opportunity,” Eckert said. “It is extremely rare where this mix of folks get the chance to be eye-ball to eye-ball with each other. Those who wish to attend will be part of what may be a ground-breaking event.”
There will be one other resource person, a lawyer for one of the insurance companies that specialize in churches. She will update the group on what kinds of law suits are likeliest to come up against the church and what mistakes are being made by church people that lead to those law suits.
Being a seminar, the resource people who are not presenting become engaged in the discussions just as those who come as attendees. Everyone is seated at one round table for presentation and discussion.
The seminar is being held in a motel in the vicinity of Chicago’s Ohare Airport. Space is limited. Those who wish to register should contact Eckert as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost to the ones who register will be their transportation, meals, and lodging. This year, Associates in Advocacy has had help covering all the other expenses for the seminar.