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

JCM 1160


Northern Illinois persisted in seeking clarification re: JCD 1032. They also asked if revising Paragraph 225 by replacing the discretionary “may” with the absolute “shall” superseded JCD 1032.

The Council pulled out the “boiler plate” (legal slang for stuff that becomes standard language in similar cases) they used in JCM 1158. They took no jurisdiction.

Beth Capen added her two cents worth in an extra mixed opinion. Her material is not a straight repeat. While starting as she did in JCM 1158, she explores the Disciplines since 1939. The trend is to show less discretion available to the pastor as the passages are modified through 2008.

The Disciplines I read in my early years were much the same as the 1939 Discipline written when the northern and southern churches merged. It says, “When the Pastor is satisfied as to the genuineness of their faith, their acceptance of the baptismal and membership vows, and their knowledge of and willingness to keep the rules and regulations of The Methodist Church, he shall present the candidates to the congregation….”

I was in seminary when the Discipline said, “When they shall have given proof of genuineness of their faith…,” presumably to the pastor responsible for their membership training, the pastor could then present them for membership.

In the north, the church followed the Lutheran/Catholic milieu and had confirmation classes. In the south the milieu was Baptist, membership training was Sunday School, and people, and children as young as 5 or 6, could present themselves for baptism and membership at any public service (worship, revival, Bible class, or prayer group) and could join on the spot at the discretion of the pastor which he rarely used unless an ethnic person was involved.

That oversimplifies how people became members but both show that the pastor was presumed to have some discretion. Practice led most pastors to never use their discretion in order to expand the membership of their churches. And the Disciplines tended to follow that while retaining the word “may.”

This memorandum, like that in JCM 1158, lays at the feet of the General Conference the responsibility to clarify what we should be doing.

Unlike what I’ve seen from Council rulings and members’ opinions, I believe JCD 1032 was not an activist decision “making law.” It was very conservative in the sense that it described where the Discipline really was, no matter what the bishop wanted. That was pretty gutsy, but not surprising given the Council’s membership at the time.

What worries me is that with the requiring of pastors to take in anyone who presents him/herself for membership, I can see a small ultra-conservative church joining one of our congregations, taking it over because the pastor could not stop them under the 2008 Discipline. More realistically, I can see Southern Baptists dissatisfied with their pastor, joining one of our churches and asserting their polity once they became officers of the local church and sending off people into the ministry in our denomination who practiced a congregational polity once they joined an annual conference.

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