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.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Women leaving ministry

Lately, quite a number of women clergy have been asking for my help. They are women who have struggled and excelled so that they could achieve educational goals and meet Disciplinary requirements and they still are leaving the ministry within a few years.

The pattern seems to be that they are appointed at the entry level where the churches they are serving are in decline and where they are not always welcomed by some key people because they are women. Because the situation is already going down hill, they have additional stresses because of the tendency in many conferences for the superintendents to be quite distant doing program or being unable to stay in contact with pastors lowest in the peck order. When a lay person makes a complaint, the DS in those conferences looks at the statistics and sees little success with the woman clergy so the DS tends to presume the pastor is the problem. The laity is the source of revenue for the conference so “the customer is always right.”

What is most unsettling is that I have not seen a difference when the conference is led by men or women. The pattern is the same.

Here is a portion of a note between two women clergy, one of whom is frustrated over how she has been treated as the conference put her on leave of absence:

“It is wearing and I am overwhelmed by the intensity of the questioning and searching for justice. I am seven years away from my most recent experience of injustice with the system. I think I went in expecting injustice and was not so surprised by it when it happened.

“Having said that, I still want to emphasize something. Your sisters in ministry have grave concerns about the futility of aggressive response to anything in the system. I guess that's why most of us take it until we don't want to anymore and we leave.

It's not because we don't have the courage to address it. We just choose to spend what energies we have in ministry, picking our battles very carefully. I didn't see anything in the system that was worth fighting against and risking my opportunity to be in ministry. This side of my experience of seven years ago, I still don't see anything I want to spend my energies on. Maybe I will at some point. I'm not adverse to the idea. But life is too short! And I have to trust the process enough to believe that eventually the system will correct itself or die.”

Since I entered ministry in the 1960s, I have seen the entry level churches change from being training grounds for new pastors to being cemeteries for the least experienced pastors. Men clergy face similar treatment but they are not up against I Corinthians 14:35 et al.

When the denomination represents condemnation of pastors in trouble and not redemption for them, we have to correct ourselves or . . . .