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.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Welcome to the new bishops

Dear Bishop,

Welcome to the episcopacy! By now your arms have been stretched at least 18 inches from the grabbing hold of the "train" traveling past you at 90 miles an hour as of September 1.

Being bishop isn't exactly what you expected unless you enjoy paper work, making decisions about more diddly matters than you knew crossed a bishop's desk, working seven days a week, and getting by on four hours of sleep a night.

In time, you will get on board that "train," find others to help with the diddly stuff, cut your hours and get more sleep so you do not become an accident-prone zombie too tired to realize you are exhausted.

Actually, most bishops I have known tend to have strong constitutions. They tend to find the pressure stimulating. But they still do not realize how tired they are. Your best monitor may be your dog. If she growls at night when you come in the door, you are away too much!

But prospective exhaustion is not the only danger you face.

Everyone who wants a piece of you has come around. Remember when you first started out in a new appointment how some of the earliest folks, as hospitable as they seemed, really wanted something. Mainly it was to be in their side in some kind of dispute. While some were gross about it, some were pretty slick and you did not discover their intentions until they may have compromised you with some of your church members.

In a couple days, I will introduce myself more completely so you know where I am coming from as a part of Associates in Advocacy and who that group is.

For now, let me offer this warning: New bishops like new DSs are approached by folks with a serious complaint and they want you to go along with them right now to resolve the disastrous situation they bring to your attention (President Bush did not invent that tactic!).

For example, in my position, I see new bishops caught up in nasty personnel issues which usually had been handled by previous bishops in ways that did not satisfy the complainers. New bishops get "triangulated" very easily because they start off trusting everyone who comes to them first . . . . Once they commit to that person, it is very hard to change their minds with new facts. Too busy! Too committed to be supportive of the ones on their staff/Cabinet until they really know them! And maybe slightly prejudiced about certain kinds of complaints.

I'm Northern European in ethnicity. We have a tool that helps us when someone pops in on us with a tough situation for which they want an immediate commitment: the Norwegian "Oh?"

Works like this: Conference Trustee says, "We need to close all these little churches with less than 50 members. We can't get them to join the conference insurance programs and they are a drag on us."

Bishop: "Oh? Gather some more information for me so I can look into it. Who else has information? Why do you think the previous bishop didn't do more about it?"

Or this: DS says, "That pastor has been uncooperative, refuses to follow the Discipline, won't show up for meetings, has tons of complaints against her, and refuses to acknowledge she has any problems."

Bishop: "Oh? Tell me about the times she was uncooperative? What meetings did she fail to attend? Was she the only one who didn't show? How come she is still around if she has so many complaints against her? Why didn't the previous bishop take the actions you want? What documentation do you have that she actually did what you say?"

Or this: Conference staff says, "The previous bishop was so busy on Council of Bishops' stuff that she refused to take time to listen to what all the local churches have been crying for (services provided by that staff member). She would not take time to talk with me when I asked for an appointment. She was not a team player but a distant CEO-type."

Bishop: "Oh? Tell me about what the Council asked of her? Describe in more detail what it is you wanted her to do with respect to your work area? Tell me when you tried to meet with her and what happened each time. Describe how you work with your own paid and volunteer staffs."

Now that you get the picture, I'm sure you have already been "tagged" by someone like these folks and know you had to go slowly to be sure you had all the facts and knew all the Disciplinary steps that need to be followed before any decisions can be made.

With the zillion decisions demanded of you, exhausted as you are becoming, trusting as you want to be, the best you may be able to do is say, "Oh? Let me think and pray about that for awhile so we don't fall victim to presumptuous sin!" Make a note of the matter and go back to it after you've slept on it and had a chance to check for more information about the problem and the people involved.

While this is a personal note to you, most of my stuff will come to you as part of group mailings. You may need to be sure your system does not block me out as spam. If you do not want to get occasional letters like this, just tell me. I'll honor that decision.

More about me soon.

In the covenant of the clergy,


(Rev. Jerry Eckert, retired, WIAC, contact person for Associates in Advocacy - website: www.aiateam.org)