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, May 7, 2008


In 1952, several students from Latvia attended my hometown Waukesha's High School. They escaped the Russian take-over of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. That history came back to life when I had the honor of going to dinner with Tarmo Lilleoja.

Tarmo was elected as one of two delegates to General Conference from Estonia. I met him at the Reference Committee. He represented the Ministry Legislative Committee. So I saw a good deal of him the first week.

Tarmo's command of English is very good so we had an extensive conversation about him, his family, the church in Estonia, and his country's history.

When the Russian occupation ended in 1991, Estonia was left in a shambles, its economy ruined, its infrastructure in desperate need of help, and its humanitarian needs tremendous. The influx of aid from Europe and England was handled through the church which had maintained its connections during the occupation. He became one of the administrators for that program.

Estonia being a small nation of around a million and a half citizens, it pulled together, restoring its original governmental system from before the Russian occupation during WWII. It held elections and became re-established very soon after the Russians left.

It meant a great deal to Estonia that its ambassador to the US was recognized here as Estonia's government in exile from the time the Russians took over in 1944. The rest of the world recognized the Russian-formed government after WWII. The US decision made it easier for Estonia to become re-established as an independent nation and it explains how it is that Estonia has been a part of the "Coalition of the Willing" in our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tarmo said that the German take-over had been peaceful. Estonia was seen by them as a former German colony (Germans had invaded Estonia in 13th century). During WWII, Estonians were conscripted into the German army. When Russia invaded, they hunted down and killed many of those former "German" soldiers. Russia's occupation was cruel.

Other times in history going back to Middle Ages were frequently under Russian domination. The Bolsheviks tried to keep Estonia within Red Russia, but failed. Estonia established its independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

He told me his dad had been conscripted by the Germans but somehow escaped detection by the Russians. However, they conscripted him without realizing he had served in the German army.

During the Nuremberg trials, Estonian conscripts guarded the German officers. One of the officers recognized his guards who had also served under him. But he never told on them.

Tarmo has three sons, all as different as they can be. One has exceptional athletic ability and Tarmo was in touch with college coaches while he was here to see if they had a scholarship program for which his one son would qualify.

Tarmo's wife is dean of the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Estonia. When I told him I wrote a manual for first-time pastors, he said she might be interested in seeing it so I sent him a copy by e-mail.

It is long past time that we were more clear about how the churches in other countries are not "mission" churches but full-fledged national churches like ours is. We are fortunate to have a relationship with them.

I have no trouble looking at that relationship being as equals.

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