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, May 14, 2011

JCD 1166


In Kentucky Conference, an advocate raised “five questions related to administrative and judicial procedures concerning a clergy person in the conference.” Under their policies since JCD 799, the Council ruled the questions were moot because bishops are not part of the judicial processes and cannot be used as a means of judging what other bodies are supposed to judge.

Here’s the problem. When the bishop decides to direct a complaint against a pastor into the administrative processes under the Board of Ordained Ministry, the appeals process has a logical progression, just as it does in the judicial track which moves toward a church trial.

If there is a violation of the Discipline perpetrated by one or another of the persons or bodies handling the complaint, the respondent has the right to raise those as questions for a ruling by the presider over the next hearing body. That is the route of appeal. So let us say that errors are made at the last step before annual conference, at the meeting of the Board of Ordained Ministry where the respondent is fighting administrative location. His/her advocate raises questions about violation of church law with the chair of the Board who is presiding and the chair allows the Disciplinary violation to go unchecked. The respondent pastor wants to appeal to the clergy session as the place to stop the action against him/her. The Discipline says that appeals of violations of the Discipline are to go to the presider at the next hearing body. Some clergy sessions have the Board chair presiding and she/he may be the one who already ruled on those same Disciplinary violations, so under ordinary definitions of what an appeal is, the BOM chair has to be replaced.

There are two options for who is to preside. One is the vice-chair of BOM who has already voted on the motion against the pastor. The other is the bishop. If the vice-chair does as the chair did and allows the Disciplinary violations to go unchecked, what is the recourse of the respondent? If the bishop chairs the clergy session, then JCD 799 applies making Paragraph 2715 meaningless, contrary to JCD 331.

If the respondent was in the judicial process, appeals would go from the trial to the jurisdictional appellate committee to the Judicial Council.

But in the administrative process, the appeal ends at the annual conference. The clergy session makes the crucial vote. Everyone in that body is subject to the appointment of the bishop and Cabinet. Since the bishop has already given credence to the complaint by referring it, having been involved in the supervisory process sufficiently to know the complaint and having an opinion which leads to referral into the administrative process, the self-interest of the pastors in the clergy session can lead to a faulty decision against the respondent. And the only way to get an outside review of the matter where no one has a vested interest in the case is through the questions of law to the bishop as presider of the conference plenary which has the vote to support the report of the BOM. Such questions of law go to the Judicial Council but it can use JCD 799 to block that line of appeal as it did in this case as well as in JCMs 1130, 1145, and 1153. And the respondent’s search for justice is ended without a final appeal beyond the milieu and influence of command within the annual conference.

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