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 30 - The "Set-Aside Bishop"

I mention my discussion with a European bishop in a post below (“Incompetent Pastors”). I met him the afternoon of April 23 and was very impressed with him. He shared what it was like to be a bishop in his Central Conference, how very different the Church was in each of the countries to which he has been assigned. He displayed the same kind of warmth, attentiveness, and curiosity I experienced with the bishop from an autonomous evangelical Methodist denomination in Asia. Let me say it again. It is people like them that give me hope for the Church.

I brought up the idea of setting aside a bishop as sought in The Call to Action.

He said he thought it was a necessary role because there were so many things that needed more attention than just what could be provided by the secretary of the Council of Bishops and the ecumenical relations role held by a retired bishop.

I asked, “Don’t you think such a position sets up the possibility of a future holder of that office assuming the role of Pope for United Methodists?”

His reply was immediate and urgent: “The other bishops would not stand for that!”

We may never know. The General Conference voted down the idea this time.

Let me give you four words about the implications of a set-aside bishop.

The first word is “elaboration.” Sociologically speaking, institutions tend to elaborate, get more complex, as long as they have resources. It appears that the Council of Bishops which takes very seriously Wesley’s saying about the world being his parish, envisions their body as the primary bearer of that mission.

Bishops travel the world for a wide variety of what appear to be valid reasons, visiting mission stations, establishing relations with autonomous churches with a Wesleyan background, connecting with Central Conference annual conferences for mission and resourcing special projects, etc.

Bishops have chosen themes and projects for the denomination to emphasize and resource.

Bishops have developed four focuses to direct our denomination’s ministries.

The Council of Bishops is a hotbed of great ideas needing expression and financing. The more they meet, the more they generate all these programs that will serve the world and the denomination. That’s a lot of talent and insight to put in one room and not find more things to do than can be done.

That’s elaboration.

“Insularity” is the second word. When such a body gathers frequently, its members develop strong and lasting relationships. Those relationships become more important simply because they are with important people. The effect becomes circular and mutually gratifying, leading to the development of a self-conscious elite or in-group.

That in-group very quickly becomes subject to Group Think, the frame of mind in which there is no need to listen to others from outside the group because the group has such wonderful perception and experience and insight. They are too bright to be wrong. They do not really need anyone else’s input.

Insularity means that little attention needs to be given to others outside the group because there is less relational energy available for the group’s members to share with others. They really only need each other.

That’s insularity.

The third word is “power.” Such a potent group, sitting with such wonderful ideas and sense of world mission among such excellent people, needs to express those things. To do it, they need authority to move resources, people, and finances around to fulfill those things. Unless those are already at their disposal, they need to bring to bear any power they have as a body to do the politics needed to give them what they seek.

By inserting themselves into the legislative and judicial processes as far as they are allowed to go, they can add to their administrative authority and take control of what they need.

That’s power.

The fourth word is “coordination.” Since each bishop is spread pretty thin with Council of Bishops efforts and programs as well as their own jurisdictional (regional) and annual conference responsibilities, no one can really coordinate all the efforts needed to obtain their goals. A set-aside bishop is a necessity.

A single person who can organize the various talents and skills of the Council of Bishops’ members would be extremely valuable to help the body function in its desired manner.

That’s coordination.

The General Conference closed that door. But with so much energy, the Council of Bishops will try to find another way to achieve their calling. With all those godly people involved, it must be a calling from God.

Didn’t Reinhold Neibuhr write a book about that phenomenon, MORAL MAN, IMMORAL SOCIETY?

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