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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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, May 12, 2008

Finishing up

I'm sure more thoughts on General Conference will occur to me in the days and weeks ahead. But every good thing must come to an end. Even if you don't agree that this has been a good thing, I'm still ending it!


For you who may have wanted some word on how a petition you were interested in came out, my friend Peter Milloy found one key website: http://calms.umc.org/2008/

Or you can get to it through the www.UMC.org website; go to 2008 General Conference; and then go to Resources for delegates; and finally click on Legislation tracking.

Not all the information is there on each petition sent in but by persisting, you'll probably find how a petition made out. If not, I'll ask Peter.


One of the things that happens at General Conference is that there is an omnibus motion to accept the items not yet debated in plenary but which have been handled in the legislative committees. It is made at the last minute of the business session.

This blog will be my "omnibus" action.

I kept notes on scraps of paper I could carry in my pocket. I also reported some things by e-mail to particular friends. Some of that information, though of more general interest, did not make it into the blog till now.

Some will go into relevant blogs as updates. In "A Word about the new Judicial Council" from Tuesday, April 29, I report the new officers.

Here I'll list the whole Council with who are the two top alternates in order of their election:

Members from election in 2004 - 2012:
Rev. Dennis Blackwell (Greater New Jersey Annual Conference) (Pastor, lead delegate to GC)
Beth Capen (New York AC) (Lawyer, active presence at all levels of conferences & local church)
Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe (new president) (South Carolina AC) (Dean of Chapel at Emory Univ.)
Judge Jon Gray (new vice-president) (Missouri AC) (alternate to JC in 1996 and 2000)

Members from election in 2008 - 2016
Rev. Kathi Austin-Mahle (Minnesota AC) (Conference staff)
Judge Angela Brown (California-Nevada AC) (Commander Naval Reserve,Retired; active judge)
Rev. F. Belton Joyner (new secretary) (North Carolina AC) (retired pastor, writer, on Cabinet)
Rev. William Lawrence (North Texas AC) (Dean, Perkins School of Theology, SMU)
Judge Ruben Reyes (Philippines) (Supreme Court member, professor of law)

First lay alternates 2008-2012:
Jay Arthur Garrison (Holston AC) (Conference Chancellor)
William White (Wisconsin AC) (Conference Chancellor)

First clergy alternates 2008-2012
Rev. Joe May (Mississippi AC) (Pastor, active on jurisdictional and general church levels)
Rev. James Karblee (Liberia AC) (Active on all levels of conference)

All the candidates listed good backgrounds. Only Bill White specified that he was not a member of "any particular advocacy group." I really think that helped him get so many votes!


When the rules for GC were being considered, a delegate sought the floor to amend the rule on use of cell phones. "Since texting is basically silent, I move we allow it. That way I can be in touch with my daughter who is a delegate on the other side of the room."

It passed.


As I was waiting to see a delegate, I sat in the hall outside the main entrance to the plenary. Sitting in another chair next to me, a retired pastor named Rev. Cecil Reed, chatted with me.

He introduced himself as the chaplain to President Jimmy Carter whenever Camp David was used. One time the head of chaplains for the Armed Services asked to be able to conduct services and preach.

President Carter said, "No, I really prefer Cecil."


Marshals and pages are a marvelous help at General Conference. The marshals are stationed at all entrances and exits to the arena as well as to the plenary. They control foot traffic, keeping visitors out of areas that would crowd the delegates in their work but allowing visitors to observe.

The pages are the carriers of messages. They carry notes to delegates from visitors, other delegates, and agency staff people (bishops maybe?). It rarely takes more than a few minutes for a note to reach a delegate.

These marshals and pages are there at their own expense. They share in a freewill offering taken toward the end of the Conference. That rarely provides more than 20% of their actual expenses.

All of these volunteers know that is the situation. They are happy to be at GC and to be able to help.

What is disconcerting is that the information they are sent about possible housing are about hotels that begin at $135 a night. What is not mentioned in the materials are the smaller chain motels across the street costing less than half.


Before GC began, I happened to go back stage of the podium/worship center. At previous GCs I attended, it was a good short cut from where I usually sat during plenary and the Cokesbury bookstore.

There were armed Fort Worth police officers in pairs here and there in that vast area, maybe a half dozen altogether. None challenged me but I got the impression I was not welcome to roam freely as I had in the past.

I didn't go that way again.

When President Sirleaf of Liberia came, there were officers all over outside and inside. There were extra volunteers to stop people from going in or out certain doors. I could understand that.

But two nights later, two armed officers were up in the bleachers where I was. They were watching the podium but not in a way I took to be "on the alert."

It took all the nerve I had to go over and ask if they found the plenary interesting. There was a polite response to the effect that it was not. I asked if they happened to belong to our denomination, thinking they came in to see how GC was going. They said no. I asked what their mission was. They looked at me strangely. That kind of ended the conversation.

A friend described his annual conference session where armed police were all over the meeting and worship hall the whole three or four days.

While I am sure there were officers around during the whole GC, that one night was the only time I saw them in our public space as a conference.

I still feel bad that someone thought they had to be there.


I wonder if our understanding of the church would change if we realized a pastor plus a church become a franchise holder. What value would the franchise be to the holder? Would someone please consider the administrative flow chart and then do the math.


I attended a meeting where several people spoke of their emotional and spiritual journey through having a son or daughter come out of the closet. One retired bishop used a line that might have made Revs. Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee proud (or not!). The bishop said, "My Lesbian daughter has two children and she's still a virgin. Take that, Pope Benedict!"


I found out that the reference committee did not send over all of the personnel procedures to the Judicial Administration Legislative Committee. Someone must have gotten to them to argue that administrative procedures were not involuntary. That had been the criterion on which was based my request for switching many petitions from the Ministry and Higher Education Legislative Committee.

It will be interesting to see if the problem that led them to switch so many other petitions will come back to haunt them - that different sections of the personnel processes, of Fair Process and Restorative Justice, will coordinate or have dysjunctions.

One new passage that apparently was passed into the 2008 Discipline allows the bishop to make a final determination about appointability. Some bishops have ignored Fair Process and they can ignore what seems to be a new fairly reasonable process of supervision.

The key phrase of the new passage is this:

" 4. If an elder fails to meet professional responsibilities (¶340), does not demonstrate vocational competence or effectiveness as defined by the annual conference through the board of ordained ministry and cabinet, and/or does not accept the appointment determined by the bishop, then an appointment may be forfeited and the provisions of ¶362 may be invoked. " (Paragraph 334)

That sure sounds like it could become involuntary in a hurry!

That may depend on what the meaning of "may" is (to paraphrase President Clinton's famous quote.)


One of the volunteers from the Central Texas Conference knows someone from Port Charlotte, FL, and wondered if she goes to our church. . . . Ours is the smallest UM Church in town and I haven't run into her.

Sometimes the world is not as small as we thought.


During one of the worship services, a Native American church group sang a lengthy benediction in their own language and music.

One of the things I like about our church is that we give reason and opportunty for languages and musical forms to be preserved for future generations. It may not be enough given all the pressures that are washing away these ancient cultures. But it is something.


I heard an interesting phrase.

A bishop worked for years to get a project up and running so that this GC could authorize it. In the legislative committee, he found out that the project was headed for rejection because it wasn't from "inside the tent."

A bishop is seen as "not inside the tent?"

In every hierarchy, even those at the top, have their own hierarchies!


I will report on specific changes related to personnel work in more detail after our Associates in Advocacy meeting next week. They may require several postings as this report on General Conference did.


It's about time to mark this three oh (reporterese for sending the article for editing and publication).

I have enjoyed the journey through General Conference and trying to share some thoughts about it.

There are other reports in blogs and in the various media, church and secular, that have details about things in which you may have been more interested.

If you stayed on this long, I thank you and hope it was worth your time and attention.

As always, feel free to contact me to question, correct, challenge, or exchange thoughts.

I now return the blog to its original intention, commentary of the current church scene. And this blog will be transferred over to our website for future reference sometime soon.


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