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.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

JCD 1174


In a question raised in the North Alabama Conference, the bishop was asked if appointment consultation had occurred according to the Discipline. The bishop, of course, said it had. The questioner said it hadn’t. The Council said it wasn’t a fact-finding body so it went along with the bishop.

I have difficulty with that for two reasons.

First, in JCD 629, the Council said, “Ambiguities must be construed in the favor of the person affected.” In this case, the person affected was the pastor.

Second, the Council ruled in JCD 595, "The Judicial Council has authority to determine factual matters which are essential to decide the legal questions involved." In this case they had conflicting information and faced the question of how to determine if one or the other statement contained sufficient facts to make a determination.

Did the bishop provide copies of his documentation to back up his telling? Did the pastor challenge what the bishop said occurred? Did he have any documentation showing the bishop was inaccurate? Or did the matter come down to “He said/He said.”

The Council members do not have research staff. They do have knowledge of colleagues with the skills to do research and analysis and, under the rules of practice and procedure, can integrate such research into the work on the case.

I have been critical of the lack of examination of the materials coming to the Council. Too many times, it was not discovered until too late that necessary materials, especially minutes of annual conference or clergy session, have not accompanied the questions of law or requests for declaratory decisions. The Council had to remand cases, postponing for six months the work of the Council to resolve what in some cases were time-sensitive matters.

I urge the Council to establish a process to check each set of materials when it comes in to be sure all the required records are included and to check to see if differences of fact are documented. The Council cannot let itself be in the position of guessing about facts that should have been documented by the parties at interest. The Secretary should have the authority and the help to do that checking when cases arrive for docketing and should have the responsibility to insist to the parties that they document all of the pertinent facts before docketing the case.

I must concede that since I have not seen what was included in either brief, I cannot say definitively that the Council did not have the facts. In writing legal materials such as in summarizing a statement of facts, inadvertent changes in wording can leave an impression that is not consistent with the reality.

But it is disconcerting when the Council cannot say what the facts are and excuses itself by saying it in not a fact-finding body when it has the authority to press the parties to provide more information. It is even more disconcerting when rushed by a huge docket for the short time they have to work each session, they simply accede to the bishop rather than to follow their own guideline on ambiguous situations.

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