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.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

April 25 - Rigging the Legislative Process

What few people understand about the legislative process at General Conference is that it is subtly rigged.

First, a large number of those who belong to the board or agency whose petitions are being considered seek to be on the legislative committee that is considering those very petitions. No one stands up to this conflict of interest.

Second, since that group tends to know each other, they are quick to nominate people they expect to help get their petitions in. Most committee members do not want to be an officer because it is genuinely demanding. So while they squirm hoping they will not be chosen, the “controllers” jump in. The nominations are made and closed and the officers are in place within minutes.

Third, the order of evaluation of petitions is predetermined. On the top are those known to be the favorites of the bishops. Second are the favorites of the board or agency. Third are those from annual conferences, and fourth, at the bottom of the pile, are those from individuals. That order is followed when the petitions are divided up among the sub-committees that deal with petitions related to a particular paragraph or concern. So every petition is read by someone. If that one person who happens to be reading those from annual conferences and individuals is on the Board or agency sponsoring the other petitions, the prospects of those lower priority petitions are nil.

There are two hedges against losing those bottom petitions completely. One is an active lobbyist who has gotten to key people about their significance. The other is that the Advanced DCA prints every petition. Curious and conscientious legislative committee members will read them and may be motivated to support them.

Fourth, as General Conference is adding more and more Orders of the Day and special events, legislative time for the committees and for the plenary is more and more restricted. Conference rules now include concluding times for such work and allow that there is no requirement for either to finish deciding about everything. Rules 25 and 35 clearly state “legislation not acted upon . . . shall remain unfinished.”

Fifth, by going slow, presiders cut into precious time needed to consider all the issues before them and poor parliamentary work wastes even more time. That works in favor of the petitions on the top.

And sixth, there is the rule that allows no related petition to be considered once a petition on that issue has been passed. See Rule 31 (2).

What keeps General Conference from irrelevance is that good people can work around these rules and practices and still get something important done. While the odds are hugely against that, I have seen it happen at every General Conference.

The only other thing that saves General Conference is that the changes rarely are big enough to make a major difference in what happens at the local church level.

The problem is that there can be accumulative effects of minor changes which finally become significant on Main Street. Every General Conference is up against that and sometimes has the vision to avoid disastrous decisions, no matter how rigged the process is designed to be.

That’s a good reason to believe there is a God.

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