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 3 - Seeking Contacts I Had Missed So Far

Thursday found me needing to make contact with some people that I had missed getting to see since I came. At the back of the plenary, I brought along a note to request a few minutes of time from a delegate from a European country. I met his countryman in 2008 and wanted to hear how he was doing. The delegate is a young man but is a DS and was there as a delegate for a second time.

As I chatted with him before the plenary session began, I had the wonderful feeling of speaking with another saint of the Church. There was that warmth and attentiveness that is so excellent to experience. He gave me the news I requested and then confirmed the email address of the delegate I had met in Fort Worth.

After a quick trip to my “office” to do email, I returned to the plenary in search of another delegate. I went to the side where all the stands were because that was the closest to the delegate’s seat. As I walked in the door, a nice young person was handing out rainbow stoles. He gave me one, my first. I stuffed it in my bag until later (I’m not sure why). And passed my note to a page.

A moment later, the delegate looked over and saw my red jacket and started over, even though it was not break time yet. We spoke briefly. I simply asked him to arrange a meeting with another delegate from his conference that I did not know. He disappeared back into the plenary area. I turned around to look for a seat and suddenly he was beside me again with another man, a Korean whom I knew was not the one I had requested to see. The delegate introduced me and I realized immediately that an interview with him would be very fruitful.

His English was impeccable. I knew he was fully Korean and yet he was very comfortable in my language. While our conversation ranged over a great many subjects, for which I was truly grateful, I came away from that experience moved by a whole new perception about how to love our neighbors. From it, I first discussed the concept I wanted to explore with a friend whose views I greatly respect and whose humor I enjoy. Then I wrote the following paper:

What if . . .

(Written May 3 and submitted to UM-Insight but not published yet)

What if all the pastors could speak two different languages fluently? What would General Conference be like?

"Stop right there!" my friend said when I broached the subject

"I went to the Philippines for two years with the Peace Corps and as hard as I tried, I just had no gift for picking up their language."

I was a little surprised by his statement because friends of mine also stayed in the Philippines and their kids knew Tagolog within the first month. My friend is definitely smarter than a fifth grader! But he simply could not do it.

This week, I dearly wished my own semester of Spanish and two years of Latin and time spent in Korea and Japan had lifted my own linguistic boat. If French had been my second language, I would have had an easier time communicating with some of the Africans with whom I spoke. They tried hard to understand my midwest English and I tried hard to understand their mid-African English. I had to admire their respect for me by trying so hard to speak my language and I could in no way reciprocate.

So I had all the sympathy in the world for my friend but that did nothing to make me feel better about failing to respect my neighbors and be able to talk with them in their language, broken as that attempt would be.

So let me pose a question. Would our seminaries be wise in asking prospective students to have the equivalent of two years of a second language of the choice of the candidate? That could mean they would already be competent in, say, Spanish, as well as in English having been born into a Hispanic family. That could mean dealing with an immersion experience or a commercial language program so that they could have a grasp of the basics of another language. Doctoral candidates have such requirements because research and other significant writings in nearly every field of endeavor are in other languages.

We as pastors are now facing four important issues requiring a capability in a second language.

First, our annual conferences have many pastors for whom English as a second language is nearly non-existent. Therefore they fall outside the active covenant of the clergy of that conference. We English speakers unintentionally isolate them from our fellowship because of that.

Second, delegates to various conferences, study programs, and boards and agencies including General Conference put us in important contact which would be made much better if we Americans could speak in a second language. I have talked with many foreign delegates but was restricted only to those who could speak English. How many more saints would I have met if I knew their language!?

Third, Cabinets are in a bind when they have English speaking pastors needing to live in an area where their spouse has an important job and the only churches available in that area are of a different language. Korean, Hispanic, Estonian, and Haitian pastors almost all speak a second language so they are actually more appointable since they can serve English speaking congregations as well!

Fourth, think how cool it would be for a small congregation which has a large influx of Hmong, Vietnamese, Cuban, or Chinese families move in nearby and have a "WASP" pastor who could also speak their language as well as they speak our own. Wouldn't that be evangelism of the highest potential?

I am constantly reminded just how narrow my own thinking is about showing respect when total strangers treat me honorably by speaking English for my sake. That is love incarnate. To love our neighbors, we need to be able to speak at least one other language. Being here at General Conference is a powerful reminder of just how many people of other countries speak multiple languages and we are so self-centered that we fall into the trap of thinking we deserve that they speak OUR language.

We must urge pastors to be bi-lingual.

"But . . .," my friend reminds me. "I tried and I just can't do it."

And our seminaries stopped requiring Greek and Hebrew many years ago. I heard they stopped requiring it because there were so many good translations into English and because commentaries did so much better a job of analyzing meanings of those languages than the professors.

How do I answer those concerns?

First, seminaries, by having a language requirement, would be encouraging young people to learn a second language at a time the "kids" would be more capable of absorbing one. The expectation would start early.

Second, with the number of different ethnicities in our seminaries, most of them are already bi-lingual.

Third, for those totally language-deaf, and incapable to learning a new language, some kind of extended exposure such as an immersion experience may be an option, where they would have to find a way to communicate by picking up a few words, learning a pidgin-form or lingua-franca, even learning an impromptu sign language which might give them more confidence to enter situations where English is not spoken and still be able to operate at a functional level.

Fourth, as this requirement is considered, others with cross-cultural experience could provide other ideas and alternatives.

Consider this a first offering of a conversation to which others are most welcome to add their voice.

Sitting here in the food court, I hear people speaking English, Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese. And that's just today. Last week I heard Russian, German, Norwegian, Ojibwa, and Swahili.

Personally, my second language is "Discipline." I do a lot of interpreting of that into English.

But I think how lucky those others are that they have a language of their own and they can also speak my language. I would love to think my successors in ministry will have that ability.

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