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, January 16, 2008

Eliminating Guaranteed Appointments

With General Conference approaching, NEWSCOPE is getting statements from prominent church leaders about thngs that need to be addressed in the United Methodist Church.

The January 11, 2008, issue includes a list of requirements for consideration. The list was proposed by Dr. Lyle Schaller. Unfortunately, it is without any commentary or argument to support his suggested requirements.

Maybe short-shrifting ideas will get more dialogue going. It certainly got me to enter this fray!

I agree with Dr. Schaller that conferences aim toward much longer appointments and that local churches need to be more involved in mission exchanges with churches on other continents. I’m sure he has good reasons for some of his other ideas but they did not particularly move me. The one that bothered me was his idea to initiate a process requiring the elimination of guaranteed appointments.

He will have willing partners in that endeavor among many bishops. In many conferences, pastors have no assurance of appointment because of the way their Cabinets handle appointments and complaints.

Cabinet members in those places freely use the phrase “You are unappointable.”

Cabinet members in those places freely avoid fair process to run off pastors, usually at the bottom of the peck order, whenever the pastor may be attacked by clergy killing congregations. Despite the Judicial Council’s recent ruling (JCD 1082) against such practices, some Cabinets will ignore them just like they have the Discipline.

They get away with it because there are no effective means of holding Cabinet members accountable. The Discipline leaves loopholes a mile wide in the procedures it provides.

A complaint against a DS ends up being handled under Paragraph 429.3 instead of Paragraph 362. It’s called “circling the wagons.”

A complaint against a bishop goes to episcopal colleagues in the College of Bishops who cover for one another. The “supervisory response” there just never ends with anything they judge as having enough weight to pursue . . . unless sex is involved . . . no matter how egregious the complaint.

Because Dr. Schaller has gone on record in support of a major change like eliminating guaranteed appointments, let me suggest he add the following in order to provide the proper administrative set up to go along with it.

1. Eliminate lifetime elections for bishops. Require that they be up for re-election every four years and that they return to a local church every eight years.

2. Take away the bishop’s power of appointment so that s/he can have time to get to know the local churches well enough to be able to supervise the taking in of new church members. That way bishops would have more to say about fulfilling goals of increasing church membership.

3. Drop the appointment system completely and let it become a call system like most other Protestant churches have.

4. Elect superintendents and let them be the one who enables pastors and churches to link up when a pastoral change is needed in that district. Changes would be made as seldom as possible and only when necessary to allow the pastors and churches more stability to have the fifteen year tenures called for by Dr. Schaller.

5. Make it easier for congregations to split so they can form new congregations whenever a particular pastor or clique in the congregation divides a church. Let the entrepreneurial spirit prevail.

Oh, while we are at it, let’s eliminate tenure for university and seminary professors. And let’s make Congress and former Presidents have to buy private health insurance.

I do not mean to appear to make light of one “requirement.” A change as suggested by Dr. Schaller has ramifications which, if made without full consideration of all the other elements of a system, will tend to further breakdown the whole system.

If pastors do not have guaranteed appointments, they are completely at the mercy of the appointment power of the bishops. It is bad enough as it is when a bishop ignores the Discipline.

By allowing bishops a lifetime election but eliminating the guaranteed appointment, the General Conference would be giving bishops even more power over their conferences.

Every pastor would be even more tempted to seek to please the bishop because it would not just enhance their moving up the peck order. Without a guaranteed appointment, the bishop could arbitrarily take that career away completely. Imagine the consequences of that kind of dependence built into the system.

I always wondered how medieval governance by lords over servants evolved from more democratic Christian structures. That’s what it looks like to me and I don’t want it to happen in our denomination!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Review of TRAGIC REDEMPTION by Hiram Johnson

Review by Dr. Donald D. Budd*

The author, Reverend Hiram Johnson, brings some fine credentials for the writing of this book. He is both theologically trained and a professional counselor. He is a United Methodist clergy and is under appointment as a counselor in private practice. Asbury is the seminary where he received his Masters degree in counseling. He has an MSW from the University of Kentucky. He has credentials as a board certified diplomate in clinical social work.

The author intertwines two themes throughout the book. They are:
1) therapeutic insights and
2) his spiritual journey from faithlessness to faith.

The story line is interesting. He tells of being the driver in an auto accident that killed a 17 year-old female passenger on Christmas Day. Then he traces his journey through various therapy situations to deal with his guilt and shame. In a way the book can be compared to a “before and after” experience, that is, before faith and after his conversion.

The narrative also mixes his theology and his therapeutic insights. For example, right after the accident, many friends tried to share Scripture with him and he found that more disruptive than helpful. He writes, “All Scripture is pure and true, but the timing and context in which it is read or heard makes the difference as to whether it is significant, embraced, or from our perspective, feels downright cruel.”

Throughout the book, he quite successfully uses Scripture texts where he thinks they do work. He also pulls in quotes from all kinds of sources. This reviewer did enjoy the quotes. In fact, they were one of the book’s strengths, taken from a wide range of writings, including many with which the reviewer is familiar. When looking at the issue of personal flaws, something he had previously seen as objects of guilt and shame, he found this from Harold Kushner, “Although God may be disappointed in some of the things we do, He is never disappointed in who we are, fallible people struggling with the implication of knowing good and evil.”

Rev. Johnson’s greatest contributions are his counseling skills, wide reading, and experience.

This is not to say that there are some concerns which the author doesn’t address.

For all the talk of faith and grace redeeming persons through appropriate Scripture and belief, this reviewer found it very interesting that the author came to faith via community. It was through the church that God revealed God’s self to the author. The author found Christ through people. It was not just God’s use of the accident and its aftermath that brought him to faith but the faithfulness of believers.

Another concern the book does not address is post traumatic stress syndrome. It was not helpful to this reviewer who has to deal with PTSS. I am a Vietnam Veteran. Anger and hate were my issues; guilt and shame were not. With so many Iraq occupation casualties and veterans having PTSS, the author misses the chance to acknowledge them. The difference between the stress of his experience and that of a vet is like the difference between apples and oranges.

The book clearly is not an academic treatise. He makes many assertions without verification. But it is an enjoyable read for nonprofessionals as are most books for the popular market.

While Rev. Johnson really does not add anything new or unique to counseling theory, any Christian counselor or pastoral counselor would accept the book with gratitude. His emphasis is on grace, on Christ’s forgiveness of our sins which in turn enables us to forgive ourselves and others.

Psychologically the book is very helpful, i.e. the definitions of key counseling words and the problems of guilt and shame.

Virtually all persons who counsel deal with these issues.

To whom is Rev. Johnson writing?

How about Conservative pastors/theologians? They will be accepting of the book and find it profitable reading. This will be especially true for those who are not trained in counseling or have little exposure to counseling theory. The conservative pastor/theologian will appreciate the combining of counseling insights and belief system, even if he/she disagrees at some points with the author’s theology.

The book is not intended to be a methodology book or a how-to book. This being the case I do not see how it will help an untrained counselor to bring healing to a client. However, the book introduces many key clinical insights that can open up to the novice the breadth of issues a counselee may be facing and hopefully be encouragement to pursue in further study.

I would be very careful about passing it on to lay people. If their
guilt/shame is severe they would need a therapist to help them. Hopefully, the book will be a catalyst helping readers to recognize that help is available.

Would a liberal theologian/pastor find this book helpful? Theologically the help offered has usually been considered and found by them to be inadequate. The value of the book is how it presents a conservative approach to counseling as well as a bibliography which includes the key texts used in conservative circles. All have things to learn from each other especially since many of our parishioners tend to be conservative.

I am glad to have read the book and have the distinct privilege of reviewing it.

Rev. Donald D. Budd, D. Min.


Editor’s note on Dr. Budd:

He received his BS degree from Southern Nazarene University. Double majors: philosophy and Christian education

His graduate degrees are a Masters in Religion Education from Nazarene Theological Seminary, Masters degrees in Church Management and Pastoral Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University and his M. Div. equivalent and D. Min. from United Theological Seminary

His counseling ministry was a part of his parish ministry from which he is now retired.