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

Summary remarks for JCDs 1152-1181

The Council faced thirty-one docket items. Around half were memoranda, rulings that mainly included lack of jurisdiction, deferrals, and requests for reconsideration. But only a small handful showed no rationale. This Council has helped clarify church law, precedent, and their grounds for such rulings. By doing so, they perform an invaluable service to anyone trying to approach them with issues needing adjudication.

The other half also provided extensive analysis and careful interpretations which showed their thinking about how they reached their decisions.

The Council’s judicious use of concurring and dissenting opinions continues to be very informative and valuable for legal and historical reasons. This body of work, built on research, provides immense help to those who seek legal information to deal with complicated issues, from property insurance to forming provisional annual conferences.

The next step in the development of a mature canon of church law is the collation of the hard work showing up in the decisions of this Council. Indexes available from Associates in Advocacy and whatever is used by the Judicial Council already provide outlines for such a canon.

The Council is reaching its stride for the Church and deserves much credit for its effective service.

A large docket raised many issues. I identify six important ones.

1. JCD 1032 got a lot of attention with requests for reconsideration, with about a fourth of the items on the docket. The Council properly called upon the General Conference to resolve the issue but they, like the rest of the denomination, tend to see the problem as one of unwisely restricting pastoral authority and not of episcopal over-reach as I do (see my rationale under the comment on JCM 1160). Northern Illinois provided five docket items in their effort to overturn JCD 1032 and the Council began using “boiler plate” passages to simply say, “Work through General Conference, not us!”

2. I was deeply disappointed in the continuing pattern of the Council relying on their 1997 JCD 799 and failing to face up to violations of church law in personnel cases whenever an advocate used questions of law to appeal. Previous Council sessions have chosen to take jurisdiction in JCDs 1031 and 1135. If the Council accepted my arguments under JCM 1166 as well as what I’ve written in this blog about JCD 799 on January 11, 2011, and chosen to look into the things done by local church and conference leaders to the pastors seeking justice through the Council, in most of those cases, they would find as they did in JCD 1156, “Lack of diligence, integrity, care, or compassion in dealing with a case almost always results in irreparable harm to both the individual and the church. That has usually happened by the time a case of this nature gets to the Judicial Council.”

3. I was equally elated to see the Council’s JCD 1156 where a request for a declaratory decision was honored, and not summarily dismissed under JCD 1048. This Council can do exceptional analysis on many things as this set of decisions from November of 2010 shows. That excellence was applied to the personnel case brought in this docket item. The Council has just seen the tip of the iceberg of dirty tricks and machinations certain bishops and certain conferences have done to pastors.

4. I am glad for the flexibility that provides for Council action ad interim. But the trend so far, though small, is worrisome. Two decisions were handled outside the Council’s normal sessions at the request of two different sets of bishops. Is that showing some kind of privilege allowed to bishops?

(Ed. Note: I wish the Council had a way to handle personnel matters ad interim in order to sort out questions about abuse of fair process while it was happening rather than long after it happened. I think an annual conference judiciary team or maybe one on a jurisdictional level could handle such claims, especially in the administrative track.)

5. The number of Central Conference requests was unusually high. That appeals came from Africa and Eastern Europe is a sign of their growth. The Philippines has used the Council for a very long time.

(Ed. note: The Council’s four responses over the past year to one case may be giving them a better view of what is happening there. One clue is that for JCD 1152, the College of Bishops reported that the DSs went along with the change of site for an annual conference. In their report to the Council for JCM 1162, they admitted that the interim bishop appointed his own DSs to make that decision when the true DSs chose not to respond to the interim bishop. No matter which DSs were properly appointed, the College of Bishops was caught in a lie to the Council. I pray the Council will watch that situation carefully.)

6. Not having the actual questions of law nor other facts in front of me, I can only guess that JCM 1156, like JCM 1130, were seen by the Council as their best way to handle what may have been antagonistic questions meant to embarrass the respondents in those cases. My experience has been quite the opposite, that questions of law have been raised to help a respondent out of a bad situation. I can believe, as the concurring opinion in JCM 1130 states, that confidentiality was an important factor in the Council's decision. The problem remains though how to maintain it but not let a bishop off the hook for unfair decisions he or she made in a case.

7. Finally, I apologize to those seeking wisdom on financial and property matters for my not knowing enough to be sure my observations provide you with help on the decisions of interest to you. Your observations would be valuable. The material in this blog can be easily changed when the facts warrant it.

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