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, January 7, 2009

Younger New Pastors

Our colleague Danny Burttram has some helpful thoughts in reaction to a United Methodist News Service daily summary. First, the summary:

Young clergy numbers rise, bucking leadership trend

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—For the first time this century, the number of United Methodist clergy under the age of 35 has surpassed 5 percent. In 2008, the number of young elders increased from 876 to 910, and the percentage grew from 4.92 to 5.21 percent. The increase is “modest good news” for the church, said the Rev. Lovett Weems, coauthor of an updated study, “Clergy Age Trends in The United Methodist Church from 1985-2008.”

Now, here's Danny:

My thinking, for what it is worth, after reading the ‘full story’.

The problem with the article is clear enough. It assumes that if you increase the percentages of young ministers you will automatically increase the degree to which ministers are able to challenge the ‘established way of doing things.’

In reality, the young clergyperson gets wrapped up in the progress down the path of ‘how to be and appear successful.’ Progress down that path is easier if you don’t raise questions with authorities.

The real issue is not how many young clergy you have, but how they learn that it is a part of their calling to raise questions with the ecclesiastical institution in which they exist.

Who teaches them this? What examples are there for them to learn from?

An essential part of Christian ministry—and especially United Methodist Christian ministry – is ministry to the institutional church. Part of this ministry involves pouring balm on the rough edges of the institution that are rubbing sore spots on its members and its clergy. But part of this ministry is to raise questions with the authorities in such a way that they feel the pain they are causing others – and are willing to admit their mistakes, repent, and work on problems.

We never finish this task. It is a lifelong process – a dynamic process that shifts from one area to another. And the ‘religious right wing’ makes sure that it is a dangerous task to pursue. How do we learn to do it and where do we begin?

By the way, this is an issue not confined to the UMC. It is pervasive in many of the institutions we have come to embrace in our society.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AIA letter for January

Associates in Advocacy
January 6, 2009

Dear Bishop,

At the end of my first year at Perkins (1959), I visited the North Texas Annual Conference to see how they operated. Despite the thousand delegates present, the bishop granted the floor to only ten people during the plenaries I observed. Albert Outler, of course, four big church pastors, and five DSs. No laity. No other clergy.

The June before I left for Perkins (1958), I was ordained Deacon at the Wisconsin Conference whose delegates numbered about 500. I spent a day observing there before the ordination. During the course of business, a friend who had been ordained Deacon the year before was recognized and rose to speak to the matter on the floor. A few minutes later, following a report by one of the DSs, a minister rose and in a diplomatic manner, severely criticized the report while the DS was still at the podium. I saw the two men laughing over lunch together an hour later.

Rev. William Blake, my pastor during high school and college, was conference historian and I asked him about the difference between the two conferences.

“I can’t tell you how that Texas conference operated during the 1930s. But let me tell you what we did during the Great Depression. Even before President Roosevelt took office, things were very bad in the rural and small town areas of our conference. The churches serving those areas were really struggling to pay their bills and to pay their pastors. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be serving churches whose incomes were still fairly strong set up a fund which was then distributed to help pay the salaries of the pastors in the struggling churches.

“The best thing about that was the collegiality that developed in our conference among the ministers. The relationships between the older better-off pastors and the younger struggling ones continued as some of those younger ones received more financially solid appointments. They continued the sharing with the new pastors who joined late in that decade.

“That program ended in 1945 as the war economy improved everyone’s lot. But those last ones who benefited never forgot and passed along the collegiality to this day.”

My conversation with Rev. Blake was in the early 1960s.

By 1980, nearly all those pastors were retired and with them went that memory of the close bonds they had experienced because of the grace shown among clergy during the Depression. That memory’s impact lasted fifty years.

In the covenant of the clergy,