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.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Judicial Council Ruling

October 31, 2007

--From the blog "Kairos and Ambiguities" at http://zilhaver.typepad.com/ by permission--

Yesterday the Judicial Council posted its decisions on line. There are many that are interesting and will have impact on the church (I may comment on them at another time), of course I am most interested in reflecting on the questions of law I submitted during the clergy session at our last annual conference.

Judicial Council Decision 1077 is the Judicial Council’s direct response to my questions, but these answers must also be understood in light of the Judicial Council’s response to a similar Clergy Study Team in the Memphis Annual Conference Judicial Decision 1082. Both of these actions dealt with Clergy Study Teams appointed by their respective bishops to come up with a plan to define and deal with ineffective clergy in a streamlined process.

This is not surprising, as both Bishop Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and Bishop Wills of the Memphis Conference have collaborated together on many good projects even before they became bishops. Most recently they shared together at the "Clergy Get Away" for the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. So, it is not surprising to see two parallel clergy study teams in their respective conferences.

The Judicial Council chose to address all the issues raised about the WPA Clergy Team and the ad hoc process (aimed at exiting pastors) in the Memphis decision. It did so for two main reasons, first it is easier and provides more freedom for the Judicial Council to speak clearly on a subject from a Declaratory Decision rather than from a Question of Law. Second, the Memphis Clergy Study Team had completed a full report, whereas in Western PA these things were still in a more formative stage.

The Judicial Council has set excellent standards to which any Clergy Study Team seeking to streamline exiting procedures must meet, whether that team function in Western PA, Memphis, or any other annual conference in the connection. Here is a summary of the problems found in this clergy team/ad hoc process.

The deficiencies in the policy include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The policy circumvents fair process as defined in the 2004 Discipline and prior Judicial Council decisions. The policy provides no means for the clergyperson to challenge the determination of ineffectiveness or to have access to all records that were relied upon in making that determination.

2. The policy does not provide for the clergyperson to be informed in writing of the problems or issues which caused the cabinet to determine ineffectiveness.

3. The policy does not allow the board of ordained ministry and its executive committee to carry out their disciplinary responsibilities for dealing with clergy ineffectiveness as provided in ¶ 362 of the 2004 Discipline.

4. The policy does not provide adequate pastoral care and support to the clergyperson who has been declared ineffective, nor is there any mention of pastoral care and support for his or her spouse and family.

5. The twelve month whirlwind process for dealing with a clergyperson’s ineffectiveness and the number of times the clergyperson is offered the opportunity to exit suggests that the primary purpose of the policy is to weed out ineffective clergy rather than developing the skills and abilities which would enable them to become effective.

6. The policy supplants the disciplinary provisions for dealing with clergy incompetence, ineffectiveness and unwillingness or the inability to perform ministerial duties as provided for in ¶ 362.2, .3, and .4 of the 2004 Discipline by establishing its own process for dealing with these issues. According to the policy, the initiation of an administrative complaint will be done only if the ineffective clergyperson fails to exit voluntarily.

7. The policy limits the range of remedies available in response to an administrative complaint as provided for in the 2004 Discipline.

8. Specific disciplinary paragraphs are not cited in the policy.

Having dealt with the Judicial Council on several other occasions, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon with a call from a member of the Judicial Council. They may not talk to anyone prior to the announcement of the decision and normally they make no contact (this was this persons first time, as well as mine). I was humbled that this person felt that the brief was the best the person had seen during the person’s tenure on the Judicial Council. There was an expression of thanks for the good work and encouragement to keep up the good fight.

Knowing that God’s providence works all things for good, I rejoice that I may play a small part in the Kingdom of Heaven. May you know that joy in your heart as well.

Until next time…Grace & Peace

Rev. Robert Zilhaver

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