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.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

What One Thing Re: Fair Process

“I’ve already made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

The biggest problem I see in dealing with the troubles a minister may face is that few of us clergy really understand the difference between facts and opinions.

The greatest frustration of the pastors with whom I’ve worked as an advocate is that the officers of the church draw conclusions before they’ve heard the pastors’ side of the story. And no matter what the information is that would clarify the situation, the leaders do not want to hear it.

There are many reasons for this mind-set.

First and hardest, we have to admit that we do not have all the pertinent information. Admitting any weakness or mistake is hard but we must discipline ourselves to realize we have to withhold making a judgment (forming an opinion) with only one side of the story.

That’s not really that hard to do. If something is as bad as someone says, it is probably a criminal act and the police should be called in by the one making the accusation. They are better trained to perform an investigation into something that could cause great harm..

Second, once an accusation has been made, we can sometimes tell if the accusation is an opinion (perception) of the accuser (complainant) or a fact (includes times, places, and specifics of the alleged events) that can be verified some other way.

Third, no one said this would be easy. With everything that we have to do, following up on an accusation takes more than gut feelings. Gaining enough background information is an acquired skill that takes a patient puzzle-solving mentality that not everyone has.

Fourth, because not everyone can do it, church leaders need to give the task to those who can differentiate between facts and opinions. A leader always feels some measure of responsibility in any crisis but a good leader seeks to give responsibility to those who can best handle it.

Finally, coming to a reasonable judgment takes time. Haste makes waste! Rushing to judgment may be bearing false witness against your neighbor.

Do these observations, if followed, break the pattern of pre-judging that undercuts our treating one another fairly?

Put yourself in the shoes of the one who is accused. Would you want your leaders to make decisions before they’ve heard what you have to say? Would you want them to be lazy or careless or impatient about getting all the facts?

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