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, November 23, 2008

JCD 1105


This case involves a pastor cleared by church trial but who has not been cleared under a state agency’s policies of alleged complaints.

The Council ruled in the pastor’s favor because the church trial had authority to acquit the pastor and therefore restore him to full appointment and pastoral support.

The bishop had refused to return him to ministry because of a conference rule which he felt required passing muster with the state on the allegations. The Council ruled that the Discipline superseded the conference requirement.

A concurring opinion contained a statement that the trial court did not hear all of the evidence even though they agreed with the majority opinion.

I have no doubt that fear of any pastor causing harm (and a subsequent law suit against the conference) underlies both the bishop’s actions and the concurring opinion.

It needs to be pointed out that the Church has reason to doubt the adequacy of state investigations into criminal allegations. In one of several cases I know about, the case against a pastor in another state that caused him to be incarcerated was found by the church to be spurious and he was returned to ministry as soon as he was released from prison.

It appears that the state did not make its criminal case in the matter behind JCD 1105 but left the complaint on the books of a state agency. Expunging those kinds of records is not always easy for a wide variety of reasons.

However, I believe that, despite the concern of the bishop and the concurring Council members, the church really cannot act against a pastor based on the possibility of future transgressions (JCD 725). Nor can they presume the result of how the trial court would have voted had they had other information. Not everyone would agree with the judgment of the bishop and the three Council members. In fact, six other Council members did not agree or they would have co-signed the concurrence.

One member who presented a dissenting opinion raises some important thoughts relevant to the requirements for persons seeking ministry in that conference. But the church really needs to be sure the state has substantiated the allegations through due process before it accepts the state’s “listings.”

I hope that the Cabinet will think creatively rather that retributively under these circumstances and work with the pastor on a supervisory plan that is unobtrusive but provides protection for those in the church and protection of the pastor who will be vulnerable to false allegations.

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