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.


Thursday, May 1, 2008


There are two petitions which ask the General Conference to censure individual United Methodists. One is directed at President Bush.

At plenary the other day, a mellifluous southern gentleman rose to take umbrage at the scurrilous attacks on one private individual in the other petition. The General Conference has in the past censured public officials so there is a precedent to do some censuring.

We really do not have a very good mechanism to deal with public officials who do things worthy of sanctions. To bring them through a complaint process puts the matter into their local church, which somehow seems an odd place to handle a complaint that could be national in scope. Seeking to get the General Conference to acknowledge the validity of a complaint at the level of a censure is about as likely a way as any to draw attention to a miscreant.

But this genteel churchman would have none of it for someone he did not name. He asked that the Rules Committee establish a rule to prevent such rapacious, vile, and obscene petitions against a private individual to be refused for consideration by such an august body.

The presiding bishop referred the matter to the Rules Committee. The next day, they brought such a rule for the body’s consideration.

In essence, it said that any petition for censure against a private individual could be withdrawn by the petitions secretary if the petition was found to be obscene or defamatory.

Further, the determination of the petitions secretary was to be reviewed by the Committee on Reference for affirmation. The committee could overturn or affirm the determination. They would make the final decision about forwarding the petition for censure to the proper legislative committee or withdrawing it.

Both censure petitions had come in before the rule was passed so they were regarded as valid under the old rules and had already been published among the pre-conference materials.

Both petitions had been seen by all those who took the time to read the huge books of petitions.

The first censure petition related to President George W. Bush. Since it was related to a public figure, it needed no review under the new rule and was referred to the proper legislative committee. The questions about obscenity and defamation were not asked but neither would have applied.

The second petition was referred to the petitions secretary for determination and his determination would then be reviewed by the reference committee . . . of which I had previously been critical, though this year’s group seems exemplary and diligent.

I was there when the petitions secretary reported his determination to the committee. I sat fascinated as they parsed the decision and reasons behind it that he gave.

He said that he determined the individual was a public figure based on his nomination to a national government office. He said he found no words or pictures that were obscene. He said that while the material contained highly critical words they were not actually defamatory.

The group spent more than an hour carefully going over every angle, every question, every definition, every bit of legal knowledge (two lawyers that I would trust in any circumstance are on the committee), every concern they had.

They carefully avoided arguing the merits of the petitions since the Conference would make that determination. They just wanted to be sure the guidelines of the new rule were met.

Then they went over it all a second time as they prepared to vote and then to publish their grounds for their decision. I can’t think of anything they didn’t do to be sure they got it right so no reasonable person could second guess their motives.

You can't stop unreasonable people for second guessing in any case!

It was obvious from the discussion that several were strongly opposed to the content of the petition but they took part. They joined in the effort to be sure that their task was defined and that their decision “had legs.”

They finally came to a vote which except for one abstention was unanimous. The petition was determined as proper under the new rule, and was then forwarded to the appropriate legislative committee.

Oh. The petition. The individual toward whom the request for censure was made is Dr. James Holsinger, president of the Judicial Council, and nominated for Surgeon General of the United States by President George Bush.


The committee fully expected that the press would be all over their decision and went to the trouble of discussing how members could respond to media queries, mainly referring the reporters to minutes that would become public records upon approval the next day or to the chairperson for accuracy.

Their decision did not appear in the Daily Christian Advocate the next day. I posted the above blog that morning only to withdraw it when I discovered there was no other publication. I figured the decision would not be news until the matter was voted upon by the General Conference. I waited.

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