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 30 - Holy Conferencing

I came from the discussion on homosexuality with my African friend with my head still spinning. Would my LGBT friends realize how their efforts appeared to my African friend?

They had no inkling why Africans voted at Fort Worth last General Conference against moderate and positive language about enlarging the circle to take in homosexuals.

My LGBT friends tended to think in terms of pure homophobia or poor Biblical exegesis or votes bought by the gift of cell phones and free meals as the only reasons.

I really hoped the dialogue would enlarge beyond stereotypical thinking and delve into what the experience, tradition, and reason of third world delegates were.

Monday night, the delegates were divided up into regional groupings to practice Holy Conferencing in anticipation of the floor debates to come on homosexuality.

I observed the African delegation once again, spotting my two friends, and having a good location on the front edge of seats for visitors.

I happened to sit next to a UMNS reporter that I had met briefly in the press room early the week before. We chatted as the delegates gathered and exchanged ideas and concerns on a wide range of issues. We hoped the session would pay off but we both knew that the value of such practices depended on the questions asked to trigger the discussions.

There were to be four for the delegates to discuss around their tables. The groupings appeared to be of people from the same conference or language. There were earphones to translate the statements of the leaders and the questions.

My heart sank when I heard the first question: “What are the advantages of being a world-wide church?”

If I were African, I’d think the following, based on what I had seen so far these two weeks: It is easier to identify the problems rather than the advantages of trying to be a world-wide church, like the asking of questions that might mean something to westerners but don’t translate into our own language. We don’t need talk. We need help with developing schools, colleges, and seminaries. All we’re doing here is words, words, words. We want action.

The reporter and I returned to exploring things of mutual interest we had not yet chatted about. It appeared that is what happened among the delegates.

The second question was similar. ““What needs to be strengthened to maximize our fruitfulness and faithfulness?”

How do you answer such a question? What fruitful actions are we talking about? What constitutes faithfulness? How does this question engage people on a level where holy Conferencing draws on their human experience and faith systems?

The reporter and I shook our heads and chatted away just as the delegates seemed to be doing at some tables. At others, we saw frowns and confusion and no conversation. The practice did not seem to be going anywhere.

The third question was this, “How can we honor each others’ differences while we strengthen our unity?”

Which differences? What kind of unity is there beyond being United Methodists and still talking to each other and working together? Is there a problem you want us to consider which is causing disunity?

The discussion at the tables tapered off pretty fast.

The fourth question thus was asked nearly right away. “How can we move toward more equitable sharing of power and representation around the world?”

That one did not connect with the delegates, as far as we could tell. Most of the tables chatted briefly and then turned toward the leaders wondering what was next.

At that point I had to leave so I would not be driving my hundred miles too much after dark.

I hope some Holy Conferencing started after that but unless the leaders had more relevant questions with real specificity, the exercise was futile. Didn’t anyone know about Norris Sanders’ book CLASSROOM QUESTIONS or any of the work at the University of Chicago on questions and the nature of thinking?

Let’s hope the team that put that evening’s exercises together does a serious evaluation of how it went and what might have worked better.

The evening did not appear to have helped anyone to be ready to face the difficulties of the next few days’ plenary debates.

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