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, August 4, 2022

Observations on Recent Judicial Council Decisions

 I have not regretted going over a year without commentaries on Judicial Council Decisions.  Most of the issues before the Council were of how best to allow separation from the denomination by discontented pastors, bishops, churches, and conferences over gay rights.  Those decisions regarding separation have been carefully and thoughtfully described by Heather Hahn of the United Methodist News Service in her respective articles at the time of their publication by the Council.  I really had nothing to add regarding the meaning and legality of Paragraph 2553 and related paragraphs allowing withdrawal.

I have temporarily passed over the decisions on other subjects.  I hope to address those in the near future.
I complained privately that the whole issue of splitting the denomination was distracting us from global warming, THE crisis facing humanity.  A recent Council of Bishops was reported as incidentally looking at climate change and I realized I had to say something publicly.  

I knew the bishops were stuck in various levels of litigation over separation.  If I was going to get them to shift priorities (dropping so much of the other stuff they are expected to do) and build up the denomination, I needed to offer some specific steps to consider to do that building and finally offered some vignettes to encourage use of those steps.  I hope my letters to the bishops was of help to them.  

Part of saving the planet, besides facing up to global warming, is establishing a stronger church so that we can work together better and so that we can lean on each other through the tragedies of floods, fires, and storms that are upon us and yet to come.

The Judicial Council has little opportunity to deal directly with global warming because there is little church law dealing with it.  Once General Conference provides appropriate laws, the Council will be able to get involved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Paying Attention to the Unnoticed

Below is the email I sent to each bishop, active and retired, around the world.  I addressed each personally, using first names for the few that know me from face-to-face contacts over the years.   


Dear Bishop Sano,
Two thoughts on the meaning of incarnating God's love in the midst of the climate crisis and our declining membership:
One, what if we divided up our districts as United Methodists and established parish lines out to the next UM church in all directions. We would not use those lines as restrictive to define our pastoral "kingdoms" but as defining for whom we were responsible.  I'm not sure who are the unnoticed in your area, but in the United States we have at least one group: those who might be a potential mass shooter.  
In all of the hundreds of cases of the past two decades in the US, especially since the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire, no mass murderer or his family has been reported to have a pastor or church involved in their lives.
I do not think that John Wesley had that in mind when he admonished his preachers to visit from house to house.  But I would not be surprised if he was concerned that unstable or otherwise vulnerable people were going unnoticed and therefore unserved by church.
The Jehovah's Witnesses who actually do visit house to house do not go beyond trying to encourage people to join their association. I know. I've mentioned to them when they visit me that they are doing a unique thing and could be bearers of lists of resources counties and communities offer. They turn glassy-eyed when I ask them about that.
So, my fellow UM pastors, what do you think? Can we carry on a "red flag" ministry that just might save a ton of lives?  Whether or not we can get an assault weapons ban, maybe we can stop a mass shooting before it happens by paying attention to these unnoticed folks.
Two, to get a glimpse of what incarnating God's love looks like, let me share a little story.  A young mother and her 6-year-old son were out shopping and stopped to get something to eat.  The waitress took the mother's order of a shrimp salad and iced tea and turned to the little boy.  "He'll have a hamburger and a glass of milk," the mother said.  The waitress did not turn away from the boy. "Sir, what will you have?"  The mother started to repeat what she'd ordered for him but the waitress gently raised her hand, looking at the boy.  The boy glanced at his mother, saw her pause, and he turned back to the waitress.  "May I have a toasted cheese sandwich and chocolate milk?"  The waitress smiled, nodded her head, glanced at the mother to be sure the order was okay with her, turned and went to get their lunch.  The boy turned back to his mother and said, "She thinks I'm real!"
In my years of ministry, when someone made me feel real, I caught a glimpse of God's paying attention to me, a glimpse of God's love.  
Who are the unnoticed where you are?  If you can't think of any, as a starting point look at with whom Jesus spent his time.  Once we have established who we need to serve, then we have to find the strategies, means, and support systems to help us reach out in God's name, especially among the unnoticed.
In the covenant of the clergy,
Rev. Jerry Eckert, retired, Wisconsin Annual Conference
PS  Have you read the book LEADERSHIP THE WESLEYAN WAY by Aaron Perry and Bryan Easley?  An African colleague identified it as a book he keeps on his desk.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Something worth considering

Dear Bishop,

As the globe warms, you and your episcopal colleagues are seeking strategies which can rebuild our Church. That process will take you out of your comfort zone. But let me assure you, the history of our denomination world-wide will show there are few strategies that have not already been tried. Uncomfortable as the best ideas will be, they have already borne fruit, even if laid aside in many places in recent years.

I have some suggestions that I hope will supplement what you and your colleagues from all over the world are considering. These suggestions were time tested and effective during the decades that led up to the golden era of the Methodist Church in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Bishops from other parts of the world will have good ideas to offer from their area's best period.

Let me begin with the encouragement of two church leaders: One, Rev. Willliam James, put it right out there when clergy complained about having churches that were too small or were struggling: "Stop bellyaching," he said, "and build the church you want where you are."Two, what Dr. James urged was also said a little differently in the midwestern U. S. A superintendent who appointed a pastor to a circuit in the 1880s gave a terse bit of advice which guided that pastor's ministry until 1959. Before his death, the pastor with the help of a writer wrote a book with the title being that advice: DIG OR DIE, BROTHER HYDE (by Harriet Harmon Dexter - still available).

What were the techniques these men used? Here is my summary:

One, bishops must model by their actions how important it is to engage their clergy in one-on-one time together. Like our fathers in the faith,*bishops need desperately to spend the early months of their episcopacy getting to know every pastor in their area. No ifs, ands, or buts. It may take more than a year. Impossible? Then maybe the conferences are too big and need to split. You do not have to be boss of everyone and everything! 

Two, bishops must appoint the most experienced pastors available to model this visitation approach to being a DS. Have them visit every pastor in their district during their first month in office and no less than once a year thereafter.

Three, if they are willing to do it themselves, the bishops and superintendents can ask each pastor to visit every church member and constituent in the first month or so of their appointment. This is where church growth happens, where God's love is incarnated locally.

These are not rigid rules but seriously held goals to get everyone out of the office and eyeball to eyeball with those for whom they are directly responsible. These goals are serious enough to require delegating most remaining tasks to others or dropping those tasks altogether.

Four, keep records in conference statistics showing the number of visits. Conferencesmust celebrate, honor, and acknowledgeat all three levelsthose who do visitation. 

The visits (and it may take more than one visit per person) are to get acquainted, learn the "lay of the land" (who makes the major decisions and how), assess needs as perceived by the individuals being visited, and assess skills (what is the individual good at, experienced with, or is curious about. I used such a list in my visitation and have it in my book on ministry [YOUR FIRST CHURCH - self-published]).

Rapport and trust grow if the visitors are able to give attention and assimilate the information obtained. After that, brief one-on-one moments between the visitor and the visited in other settings may be enough to facilitate any agenda on concerns coming out of the contacts. 

Yes, masks and social distancing may be necessary for now. Modern technology can offer help in visiting and assessing. Once the eye-ball to eye-ball contacts have achieved their purposes, having activities like potlucks, training sessions, rallies, and normal meetings can build on the relationships established during the visits. 

Five, the Church needs to modify its goal of "making disciples." That is only an intermediary step to making apostles. When I was serving churches, most people came to church to be re-assured they were on the right track with their Christianity and the mission work that they were doing in their day-to-day encounters at home, work, and community. They took their being apostles seriously even if they did not use that terminology. And they could because they worshipped God who did not leave them on their own.

Other things like funerals, weddings, baptisms, pet deaths, hospitalizations, losing jobs, and other pastoral care events become normal exchanges between people who know each other and modify sermons to be pastoral as well as encouraging or instructional.

If you take these suggestions seriously, a whole bunch of stuff can happen. The Council of Bishops could shift back to being a support group. Even the most controlling of bishops would have to change their approach or would quit. The pastors looking for a comfy zone might end up leaving. People who were discovered in the visitation would fill in behind them.

Other techniques like class meetings, house churches, quarterly conferences, and circuit riders might make sense again in some places if not universally.

Six, maybe best of all, by exchanging histories, ideas, and experiences with your colleagues you get the benefit of the best thinking in the world on how they are surviving and how they are growing.

The suggestions related to visitation are valid for evangelicals as well as for moderates and liberals. Even our varied theologies may be situational (see my PS below about situational leadership styles). UMs are believers in sanctification and going on to perfection. If our mission statement turns from just making students to producing church members mature in mission wherever they are or are called to be, that could change the direction of our Church (get it back on course, to my way of thinking).

I hope these ideas add to your own best thinking that is going on with your colleagues.

In the collegiality of the clergy,


Rev. Jerry Eckert,Retired, Wisconsin Annual Conference

PS A very small but remarkable publication on leadership styles ought to be among your desktop books. It is Ken Blanchard's LEADERSHIP AND THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER. There are many ways to lead and they shift according to the situations you encounter. The book helped me understand why I was so pleased to sometimes be called "coach." Leading is more multi-faceted that just giving direction and delegating.

*As I understand it, John Wesley is estimated to have traveled 1.25 million miles over nearly all of the British Isles visiting lay speakers and classes. Francis Asbury may have traveled 2.5 million miles on horseback along the American eastern seaboard and western frontier doing the same.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Ah, presumptuous sin

 Dear Bishop,

When I wrote to you earlier this month about global warming, several of your colleagues responded in a very helpful manner.  More on those responses in a moment.  As I read them, I reread my letter and realized I was not clear as to what I was concerned about.  
I presumed that you would know I was criticizing the Council of Bishops' (COB's) practice of setting up parallel action groups at the same time the agencies of the general church were doing those same things.  It appeared to me both a waste of time and money and it appeared to me that as a body, the COB felt it had to be in a position to take credit for what others were already doing.  
I also presumed that the action of the COB on global warming was more of an afterthought than a genuine concern.  The one good thing was that the COB was out ahead of the GMC on it.
But several of your colleagues graciously drew my attention to Bishop Dyck's 2010 book A HOPEFUL EARTH (which I am reading now) and that as a retired bishop, she is working through the COB's ecumenical office with other denominations on global warming as well as working closely with Church and Society.  I had forgotten about retired bishops being freer to focus on critical issues.  I understand the COB is realizing that and calling upon retirees to help on a number of concerns.
I also presumptuously forgot that bishops could be deeply involved with their own annual conference's agencies and task forces on climate change as is the case among several active bishops. 
My hope is that you will forgive my presumptuousness.  Life is far more nuanced than we may believe.  That is something of which even we older observers need to be reminded.
One other presumption I have had is that you and your colleagues would know how to handle reprioritizing what the cabinet does to help pastors and their churches to succeed.
In the coming weeks I hope to offer suggestions and I will try to keep my emails about a page or so long.
In any case, please read Bishop Dyck's book if you have not already.  I think you will encourage your conference to read it.  It preaches!
In the collegiality of the clergy,
Rev. Jerry Eckert, retired clergy, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Interesting Day

 Dear Bishop,                                                                                        May 3, 2022


The focus of my day was preparing for and having a CT scan.  The warmth of the iodine I received for the scan reminded me of how my body warmed during a similar test when I was hospitalized two years ago.  Only that time, the warming did not stop after a few minutes.  The scan required that I tolerate the heat build up for 18 hours.  Sorry for the hyperbole - it was 24 minutes but in minute 23 I was ready to claw my way out of the machine because I could no longer tolerate the heat.  By 2031, the whole planet faces heat that billions will not be able to tolerate.


Then this afternoon, there was a crash of thunder and our TV went off.  Out our windows we saw the branches were thrashing all around, and suddenly we could hardly see more than a few yards because of the downpour (four and a half inches in two hours).  Typical of summer weather in Florida.  Except, it is not summer for six more weeks.  And the downpour lasted way more than the typical ten minutes.  Certain parts of our country may find themselves wishing such storms would end in two hours.  And they may be flooded out before 2031, you know, like 2019.


My neighbor went out after the rain and found a tree on fire (struck by lightning and still dry despite the storm).  Our fire department got it under control, luckily.  Our dry winter weather causes a wild fire season by early spring so our neighborhood was fortunate this time.


And the GMC is a week old, leaving you all with a ton of concerns as pastors and churches absorb your time as they seek to leave.  They will again drain the focus you've begun on global warming.  I know both Keith Boyette and Tom Lambrecht and asked them what they are doing about climate change.  I got no response. 


Good leaders know when to delegate.  Maybe you should hand off direct action on global warming and give that responsibility to one of the denomination's agencies who can focus on it and not be distracted by all the stuff for which you are responsible.  Let someone else save the world so that you can focus on saving the Church. 


In the collegiality of the clergy,




Rev. Jerry Eckert, retired, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Commentary on Judicial Council Decisions 1400 to 1418


Introduction - The following observations are intended to encourage you to read the decisions of the Judicial Council (JC or Council) for yourself. These blog posts are in no way church law in any form but could help you understand some important aspects of the decisions. Should you feel I have made an error of fact or interpretation, please let me know (email at aj_eckert@hotmail.com) so it can be corrected.


Since the March 18, 2020, posting on this blog, the world has experienced a pandemic that has killed over a half million Americans and more than three million world wide. The world has not yet shaken it off and certain elements in the US are refusing to deal realistically with the danger, leaving everyone vulnerable to new variants of the virus that could overcome therapeutic work that has been successful in combating the disease and also refusing vaccinations with the same potential effect. As a result the Judicial Council did not meet until this winter and spring and General Conference has been postponed several times and is to be held August 29 to September 6, 2022. Some of the Decisions reflect that reality. As local churches have had to use computer-facilitated virtual gatherings, so all church agencies have used Zoom and other communication systems to meet from the members’ respective homes. Whether or not such uses of technology have been a blessing remains to be seen. The Council has had to meet virtually and the results are described below.


History -I began offering commentaries in November of 2008, starting with JCD 1099. This brings them up to date. While I have not considered going back to the earlier decisions of the Council, there have been a few that have drawn comments that you may discover over the years covered in this blog.


Any questions? - Please feel free to send your questions about any ruling by the Judicial Council, past or present, for my observations based on your question. Like this blog, my answers carry no weight of law. But maybe we can both learn something.

Terminology - The phrase “the Council” when used refers to the Judicial Council. As noted above, I will occasionally use their initials (JC). The Council of Bishops has become a frequent petitioner in recent years. Especially so this session. They will be referred to as the “Bishops” or “COB.”

Rulings of the Council may be referred to as JCDs (Judicial Council Decisions) or JCMs. Judicial Council Memorandums do not provide decisions of law but report refusal to take jurisdiction, remand, or show a question is not legally appropriate under the Discipline or Council rules. On rare occasions, the Council may provide their rationale in a memorandum.


Referring to rulings - I've included the URL for each of the rulings. That should allow you to click it or paste it so you can go directly to the decision. The website was redone this fall so there may be a problem using the older URLs. I’ve added subject titles and have put in labels that can be picked up by search engines.

Each decision’s commentary is posted separately so this review doesn't seem so long! And by using the list of contents in the left margin of this blog, you can go to whichever commentary on the decision which is of interest to you.

Finding things – There are three good sources for finding a JCD or JCM that you think exists or hope does. Associates in Advocacy (AIA) indexes, the JC website search function, and the United Methodist News Service (UMNS):


AIA indexes –AIA publishes updated indexes of all Council decisions and memoranda. If you are interested, contact Rev. Michael Brown, 158 Saxony Ct., Vallejo, CA 94951.


Council website search function - The Judicial Council website now offers a search function which covers every JCD since 1940. Go tohttp://www.umc.org/decisions/search. The web page gives you several options for finding any decision(s) you may want. To go to a listing of every decision, leave the boxes empty and just click on the “Search” bar. To follow up on a theme such as “separation of powers,” or if you remember a short phrase from a decision, or know the conference or a person involved, type that into the “Keywords” box. Then click on “Search.” To go to a specific decision by number, ignore the “Keywords” box and type the number into the “Decision Number” box and click on “Search.” Follow the instructions given on the page to search based on other things like approximate date of the decision. Clicking on “Search” for all these options provides a list of possible decisions. Scan those listed to find the most likely decisions that can be of help to you. To get into a decision itself, click on the red text.


Once into the text of a particular decision, you will not find your phrase highlighted. To highlight a key phrase you search for, do “Ctrl f” on PC compatible computers or “Command f” on Apple computers. That gives you a drop down box at the top of the page. Type in your phrase, click on “Enter,” and the phrase will be highlighted in that decision.


UMNS - Another source of help to find and understand particular decisions, I found articles about people and decisions in United Methodist News Service underwww.UMC.org. I clicked on “News and Media” at the top of their page, clicked on “United Methodist News” to get to their home page and then clicked on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner. That opened a box at the top of the page. I could put in key words, names, or numbers followed by clicking on “Enter.” The search function will let you know which articles had that content. There are articles going back as far as 1952, though the articles are not in chronological order. I do not think every article has yet been digitized and posted on the site.


Concluding remarks -Hopefully, my commentaries on this blog will be a valued resource in your search for understanding church law and its contexts. I also hope my directions for navigating in UM sites will help you in your research on the work of the Judicial Council.


All my commentaries on Council decisions are subject to editing, updating, and revision.You may want to check back from time to time on decisions of special interest to you.


DISCLAIMER:The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the writer and are not necessarily those of Associates in Advocacy nor its individual members. While the writer has made it a practice of letting AIA’s officers see these commentaries prior to their being posted on the blog, there have been no endorsements by them or the organization now or over past years.

JCM 1400



Florida Annual Conference v. Provisional Members


In 2012, Rev. Kenneth Carter was elected to the episcopacy.  He had been to jurisdictional conferences five times and was delegate to General Conference three times prior to his election.  He took an active part in jurisdictional and general church matters, being on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, among many other responsibilities.  All the years paid off in gaining the recognition and making the contacts needed to be elected bishop.  Such efforts are the current way to be successfully elected.  He was regarded highly enough among his Council of Bishops ranks to be elected its president in 2018, a convenient turn of events for him.


The subject of this memorandum, Rev. Erik Seise, during this six year period, became a provisional member of the conferencew and began his efforts to become an ordained Elder.  He had started, from scratch, Wesley Foundations on two different university campuses.  Like many other Wesley Foundation directors or other pastors in non-local church appointments, he tended to be treated as an outsider not deserving of the normal collegial respect.  For example, at a retreat for prospective Elders, he along with the others were encouraged to speak freely because everything was to remain confidential.  He did just that only to discover someone ratted him out to a conference official.  There were a number of similar events which escalated to the point where he posted something on Facebook about how things were.  He was chastised about it and immediately removed his posting.  One of those events had been serious enough that when one of his co-campus ministers also raised similar criticisms, she was forced out ministry.


The bishop was apprised of the Facebook posting and wrote a letter to Rev. Seise  on February 15, 2018, with allegations of multiple wrong-doings.  Interestingly, while each sounded terrible, none had all the specifics of time, place, and description of the actual event that occurred.  Bishop Carter wrote that the letter was background for its intent to inform Rev Seise that he was not only going to be dropped from provisional membership to which he had been elected by the annual conference, he was going to be put on involuntary leave of absence upon review by the conference relations committee on March 9.  The committee supported Bishop Carter’s request and the Board of Ordained Ministry did too.  Bishop Carter’s letter was the only “complaint” Rev. Seise ever saw before the hearing and it was the basis of the hearing against him.


Bishop Carter appeared as a witness against him at the hearing.


Rev. Seise appealed to the administrative review committee who found nothing wrong with the procedures.  Why would anyone in their right mind jeopardize their next appointment by crossing the bishop on something he obviously wanted?  


To avoid just this conflict of interest, a new provision for appeal outside of the annual conference was passed into church law in 2016.  Rev. Seise followed that and appealed.  The chairman of the jurisdictional committee on appeals wrote a one page summary which said no church laws were broken.  Rev. Seise appealed that to the Judicial Council on August 29th, 2018, who later deferred his case until February, 2019.


Regarding the late May Annual Conference session, because of the conflict of interest within the annual conference, Rev. Seise was unable to find anyone willing to raise questions of law at conference.  Bishop Carter presided at the clergy session and moved this matter along with great dispatch so that it would have been hard for anyone to challenge it.  


That summer, the Judicial Council had been asked by the Council of Bishops several questions about the meaning and application of the new appeal paragraphs.  That was dealt with at the fall session of 2018.  They had sent in their questions on July 27, just two months after Florida Annual Conference.


Bishop Carter, as president of the Council of Bishops, appeared before the Judicial Council to speak regarding the issues.


The Judicial Council ruled in JCD 1361 that all the provisions of the new appeals law were appropriate and applied to all of administrative categories, leave of absence, etc., except one, provisional members being dropped.  That they left to be the province of the Board of Ordained Ministry despite the fact that the clergy session “owned” Rev. Seise, having elected him to be a provisional member in the first place.


Bishop Carter had won on his case against Rev. Seise before it even was considered by the Judicial Council.


The Council took up the Seise case the following February.  In JCM 1373, the Council chastised the jurisdictional appeals committee for failing to respond to Seise’s points of appeal, having given only a blanket statement that nothing had been wrong with the processes against Rev. Seise.  There was no reference to JCD 1361.


The Council required the jurisdictional committee on appeals to rectify their work with a full response to each of Seise’s points of appeal.  


The committee responded by saying none of the appeal points were in violation of the Discipline, though they never showed awareness of pertinent JCDs related to Rev. Seise’s specific points of appeal.

Rev. Seise offered his response and the Council took them up on November 1, 2019.  In JCD 1384, they said the appeals committee saw no vitiating or egregious errors of law and supported the jurisdiction’s committee on appeals.


What was startling about this decision was that it was made during the same session of JCD 1383 which ruled that members of the Cabinet, Board of Ordained Ministry, and the other committees who processed an administrative case should not be allowed to vote on the case when it came to the floor of the clergy session.  Despite having Rev. Seise’s case and his briefs in the hands of the Council during the summer of 2018 and its information about a live example of the injustices in the administrative system over the nineteen months before the Council and the Council did not connect any of their other related work to his case.


Rev. Seise sought reconsideration on that ground.  He was not granted reconsideration in JCM 1400.


In reviewing this history for you, I notice a number of flaws in my understanding as his consultant on the case as it developed and wish I had emphasized some things more, and realized the Council could not take the time to steep itself in Rev. Seise’s case because they had such a heavy load to examine during a challenge of our denomination by a recalcitrant and clever conservative caucus (my opinion).


But there are two things that I have to flag about this case.


One, the Seise case was in the hands of the Council with all its points of appeal, the name of the bishop and conference, and awareness that Rev. Seise was a Provisional Member seeking full membership when his conference forced him out.  Yet it allowed a major party at interest in his case, Bishop Carter, to be involved in a hearing on the meaning and application of the appeal process under ¶2718.3-.4, the passage which gave Rev. Seise the right to appeal all the way to the Council.  And it appears to have allowed Bishop Carter to carve out Provisional Members from the list of all that were covered by this new appeal.


Two, Bishop Carter’s involvement from the very beginning (he provided the only written complaint against Rev. Seise prior to the conference relations committee hearing used to run him out of the conference) all the way to the Judicial Council where he should never have argued on behalf of the Council of Bishops because of the appearance of impropriety.  He should have recused himself and if he didn’t, the Council should have asked him to step down because of the obvious conflict of interest.  


What can be done about this?  Hopefully, members of the Council will from now on be alert to such conflicts of interest.  Bishops will avoid the appearance of impropriety in their rush to get through their own agendas.  And maybe General Conference can continue to change church law to prevent the conflicts of interest in our personnel systems.


Unlikely, the Council could reconsider the case and weigh the evidence brought by Rev. Seise differently than the appeals committee did.  And the annual conference could offer something to try to make whole the situation that forced Rev. Seise out of ministry.


The damage done to the campus ministries by the conference actions and the damage done to the reputation of the UMC to the Seise family, their friends, and those who know their story will be one more blot that cannot be simply wiped away.  Ignoring it will more deeply imbed it in the thousand similar cuts that have undermined our denomination over the past forty years.


Editor note:  Many years ago, my wife’s experience with personnel management led me to write that our denominational personnel practices are not at all consistent with federal law on employment matters and I called upon human resources professionals in our Church to consult with church leaders about bringing them into line.  We do have ¶334.3 as one such alignment and hope it is being used, though it was not in this case (nor other cases that have come to my attention).  Apparently Cabinets were too busy (?) to use it in the cases that have crossed my desk.  


The 1976 Supreme Court “Serbian Orthodox” ruling categorized personnel matters as doctrine, leaving them practically untouchable by civil suit under “separation of church and state.”  The UMC unwisely has cloaked its policies behind that and gone on its merry way destroying ministries, family lives, congregational health, and conference morale at the hands of bad or inept leaders with little or no accountability.


Thanks to Erik Seise who reminded me of our denomination’s inconsistency with federal employment law.