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, July 30, 2011

On "incompetent pastors"

A recent daily UMNS e-mail carried the story of how bishops have a hard time removing incompetent pastors.

I submitted a comment which I offer through this blog:

Let me speak to the issue of incompetent pastors. For two reasons, I am not convinced by bishops who say they have hard time removing incompetent pastors. One, all they need to do is supervise, that is, keep track of times when pastors mess up in their work (keep a file and accumulate a paper trail), draw the incidents to the respective pastor's attention, work out a mutually agreeable plan for improvement with a warning about failure to work at it, follow up if the pastor fails, and take it to the Board of Ordained Ministy's personnel committee. It is a little bit of work but supervisors in every other employing entity do it all the time. Is it possible that superintendents do not have the time to do their job? Is it possible that superintendents are not properly trained to do their job? Is it possible that bishops choose superintendents who are incompetent at supervising? Is it possible that bishops are incompetent at supervising and thus fail to follow normal protocols when there is incompetence involved? Is it possible that bishops are not being held accountable for failure to properly supervise their superintendents or fail to follow normal protocols in handling pastors in trouble?

Such issues have a major effect on morale in an annual conference. Horrible bosses turn good pastors into troubled pastors....

Second, for many years, the hoops prospective pastors have to go through have raised the bar on the degree of competence pastors have to meet to become members of an annual conference. How is it that all these glowing candidates (prospective members are rarely being criticized but rather are greatly lionized during clergy session) are suddenly incompetent and need to be identified by the Cabinet as unappointable? Is there a possibility that their morale or their health have been crushed by lack of support and upbuilding of their ministries from their superiors in office?

Now let me add some additional observations about how things are actually going in the denomination.

Petitions dealing with these kinds of issues have been sent to General Conference since 1980 only to be ignored in favor of petitions from the Council of Bishops presented through GCFA or GBHEM. The protocols in the Discipline come from the bishops themselves, which makes their criticism misplaced. They want to take over the function of hiring and firing pastors at will, something they already have over Local Pastors, something some bishops have actually been doing with complete disregard for the Discipline.

No one compliments bishops on how successful they are at matching pastors and churches and helping both succeed together.

No pastors are encouraged to visit among the church members and constituents by the example of bishops and superintendents who visit among their pastors.

Everyone in the connection seems to have found more important things to do. We find it easier to complain and seek shortcuts.

Jurisdictional conferences take little time asking episcopal candidates about their pastoral care practices as pastors. Maybe we need to select pastors who like pastors and who like churches to become our bishops and who have some understanding of supervision. Morale builders may do more to diminish the number of incompetent pastors than giving bishops more power to fire pastors.

In conclusion, the voice of the bishops is not the only one that should be heard in the discussion of pastoral competence. Many of us see other dynamics involved and pray that our voices will be heard as well.