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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

April 23 - "The African Caucus"

(Written on Monday, 4/23, revised Thursday 4/26 – submitted 4/29 to UM-Insight but not published)

The large meeting room at the Marriott was filled to capacity. It could have been more than 1,000 people. Delegates from overseas filled most of the room and the rest were translators.

The orientation of these delegates to the issues and processes of the conference were handled in a straight-forward manner by representatives of various boards and agencies and General Conference staff. Those needing translation were given earphones so they could have the benefit of several translators who sat in booths at the very back of the large room.

During the practice of voting procedures, there was no mention of the electronic voting to be used during plenary sessions. And the presiding bishop was “casual,” not really very helpful. In fact, conversations at the tables of delegates made it hard to hear what the bishop was saying.

For the end of the afternoon, the delegates were divided up into their respective regions to each speak among themselves. The African delegates stayed in the main hall and the others went to other rooms. The room was still more than half full.

Six bishops sat at the table on the stage facing the delegates. After prayer and a general word of gathering, one of the bishops began making some observations to the delegates.

“Be mindful of gifts with strings attached. There are those who will give you cell phones and free meals in exchange for your vote on certain issues,” she said. “Beware.”

“Watch out for people who take you shopping when you should be voting.”

Another bishop was quite concerned that the delegates keep in mind the needs of Africa. “Do not be absent!” he said. “Absent votes help the other side.”

“Africans understand what is to be supported and what is not to be supported. We do not want to be seen as only worried about African concerns. We stand before God. We are United Methodists. But we know what will help the African church. The rest will take care of itself in the future. PULL TOGETHER,” he concluded.

Another bishop focused on simple strategies. “Stay till the end of meetings. Don’t miss meetings. Vote right.”

Another urged delegates to spend their money wisely on meals so that they would have something left at the end of General Conference.

“The translators are here to help you speak, to give you voice in the meetings. Use them,” he said. He also urged them to be brief in making statements.

“And if you wish to try to speak English, do not be afraid of making a mistake, thinking your English is broken. BREAK IT!”

The last bishop identified some places where they needed to assert themselves. “We must be better represented on the Judicial Council and University Senate. We must be united on these.”

A period of discussion followed.

The first delegate to speak said he most appreciated his right to vote as he chose.

Another asked that the bishops offer them guidance on the issues. Interestingly, no bishop did during the session.

A delegate asked if there was a strategy to come up with candidates not only for the Judicial Council and University Senate but also for seats on committees, boards, and agencies all across the church. A bishop responded saying that a committee needed to be formed to come up with names for such positions and not to count on the bishops.

It was clear that the bishops called upon the delegates to vote in solidarity.

During the whole session, there was no mention of social issues. A translator later clarified what issues the Africans seemed most concerned about.

“They are deeply concerned about expanding educational opportunities, especially having greater seminary capacity to meet the astounding growth they are experiencing. They want a quicker process to ordination and conference membership. They need more representation at all levels of the denomination. They want help which facilitates travel and communication. There are things they have on their agenda far more important than social issues.”

A delegate later reported he also heard the delegate who was thankful for freedom of conscience to vote as they chose. And he said he heard the plea for guidance from the bishops. “These are both going on among the delegates,” he said. “There are some crucial things that Africa needs, education, seminaries, a quicker ordination process, better representation. These are our biggest concerns.”

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