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.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Open Meetings

A number of years ago, I had the bad experience of being summarily run out of a meeting at General Conference after I started asking questions about the committee's responsibilities. The meeting I attended was related to the distribution of petitions to the respective legislative committees, with no real need for closing the meeting.

I learned too late that church law restricts the closing of meetings to anyone unless there are sensitive negotiations such as personnel matters, deployment of security, etc.

The current version of that law, Paragraph 721, is a little more elaborate than it was back in the 1980s. When I read it just now to be sure I knew what it said, I found an addition that I had never noticed before: "While it is expected that the General Conference, the Judicial Council, and the Council of Bishops will live by the spirit of this paragraph, each of these constitutional bodies is governed by its own rules of procedure."

The Judicial Council only opens its meetings when there is a public hearing. All of the rest of its deliberations are closed. Not all of their cases fall inside the categories of items for which closed meetings may be called. However, many do. Like most judicial bodies I know of, deliberations are closed by common practice.

The Council of Bishops, I am told, have their worship services open but somehow find ways to conduct the larger part of their business out of the view of the public, frequently by having their small groups meeting in hotel rooms during breaks. I have not tried to observe when the bishops meet so I cannot speak with any real authority on it, except to say journalists reported to me that they can never seem to find where the real work of the bishops is being done. What they do get to observe is pretty vanilla stuff.

After reading the open meetings paragraph in the Book of Discipline, I checked the rules of the General Conference. There was nothing about open or closed meetings in the rules about the particular committee I'm interested in.

Do they get to make up their own rules on the fly?

No, fortunately. I found the relevant rule right near the beginning of the "Plan of Organization and the Rules of Order."

The second to last paragraph of the Preamble contains the following as new material to be added upon vote of the General Conference on Wednesday night:

Trusting that God is at work throughout all of creation, the church invites the public to observe its deliberations by conducting its business in open meetings (consistent with P 721 of the Book of Discipline).

Often, such passages are brought over from another portion of the rules due to editing considerations. In this case, that passage is new.

It will not be in effect until Wednesday night, if it passes.

But it is nice to know it could be there for the rest of the Conference.

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