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

May 1 - Guaranteed Appointment Removed

The Council of Bishops has been deeply concerned about incompetent pastors and removing them because they were the obvious cause for the malais of the denomination. Every bishop, foreign or domestic, raised the question with me, “What do we do about incompetent pastors?” See the posting below entitled “Incompetent Pastors.”

Having worked with many pastors identified as incompetent by their Cabinets over the years, I saw that those who were really incompetent got removed sooner rather than later.

Those who were competent either walked away, wiping the dust of the UMC off their shoes as they walked out the door, or stayed and fought. The bishops had a hard time with the latter.

They had judged the pastor and now the pastor was disagreeing with them! That shouldn’t happen. No one should disagree with as Christian, hard-working, and conscientious a person as their bishop.

Why should the system slow down the process of removing them outright, especially in “right-to-work” (right to fire-at-will) states? Bishops have the authority to fire-at-will Local Pastors simply by not giving them an appointment.

That kind of power is needed to unload pastors who are too old (50 or older males) so that women and ethnics can replace them. That kind of power is nice to have to deal with the ones who are not loyal to the bishop (those who raise question at conference, advocate for a pastor in trouble, or disagree openly or in writing with something the bishop says or does).

For this General Conference, the bishops again sought the right to remove incompetent pastors by seeking an end to guaranteed appointments for the ordained members of annual conference. The presumption is that then the bishops would not have any more problems and the church should wax strong again, unencumbered by lousy pastors.

That Tuesday morning, the legislative committee and then the General Conference gave the bishops the removal of the words “guaranteed appointment.” And in effect, the legislation allows bishops to choose to place an Elder into a part-time ministry or to not appoint a pastor at annual conference.

BUT NOT UNTIL AFTER JANUARY 2013 when the new Discipline goes into effect.

But there are two things that the bishops did not ask for. One is that the legislation has been referred to the Judicial Council for consideration of its constitutionality which will be ruled on in late fall. I expect a very carefully thought through decision from the Council since Dr. Lawrence is a real Discipline wonk and will not allow any carelessness to be featured in the decision. And I will not predict what that would be.

The other thing the bishops did not anticipate, as I understand the legislation, was that while a pastor can be put involuntarily on transitional leave for up to two years, the Cabinet then has to document why that pastor may not then return to be appointed. They could not get away from having to prove incompetence sooner or later.

Practically speaking, they can dump a pastor any time they want. They do already, contrary to the Discipline. But some pastors are pretty motivated by unjust treatment and will follow all the options they have to fight what they see as unjust. If they don’t walk away the first week, being out for two years will not stop their seeking to return to full appointment status. The confrontations and processes have only been put off.

If the Judicial Council feels the change is unconstitutional, the bishops are right back where they started from.

Will any of them learn creative imagination to re-examine their presumptions and find wiser and more Christian alternatives? Will they realize their own role in discouraging pastors into unenthusiastic ministry?

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