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.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

JCD 1226



This decision was also deferred from the spring session and I repost my comment on JCM 2011 from last May. It deserves repeating:

“Part of the ‘Call to Action’ legislation was getting rid of the guaranteed appointment. For many quadrennia, petitions have been before General Conference to remove the right of pastors to have an appointment if they were in good standing. None had passed before. The Methodist principle that every church shall have a pastor has as its corollary that every pastor shall have a church. On the basis of this contract, every church would have seamless leadership changes and pastors were committed through conference membership to be available to assure that promise.

“In 1956, the General Conference added phrasing to the Discipline that guaranteed appointments for pastors. The purpose of the addition was to support those who were minorities or were women. The impact was significant. The good bishops had been very conscientious about making sure every pastor had a church and they continued to do that as women and ethnic minorities entered their annual conferences. But not all bishops were good. The law was needed.

“Beginning with the Korean War and continued during the Vietnam War, both of which had the draft, a number of people entered annual conferences who were not as competent because they were safe from conscription as long as they could get through seminary. By the late 1970s, their ineptness came to the attention of bishops and efforts were made to remove them.

“Those efforts led to a change in 1980 that allowed superintendents to initiate complaints against pastors and that allowed Cabinets to initiate involuntary leaves of absence. By 1984, as I watched morale plummet in my own annual conference, I realized that their new power changed superintendents from “pastors of pastors” to “enforcers.” The gap between pastors and Cabinets grew immense. The very power to remove incompetent pastors actually produced pastors who pulled back from doing anything that would draw the Cabinet’s attention. As a result, their ministries languished, and Cabinets had even more pastors not being as effective as they could be. Further, the stress of being between critical superintendents and laity who could be antagonistic led to stresses that affected the health of pastors which increased the appearance of ineffectiveness.

“Thus, by 1984, a cycle of destruction of pastors had begun. Standards to enter conference membership were raised and all the new pastors entering the ministry came in with glowing reports of their energy and competence. Those standards have become so high that many seminarians do not even bother to join our denomination. And the bright and promising new pastors disappeared into the ranks. Even with high standards, the talk of incompetent pastors has only grown over the years. See my post of May 4, “A Persistent Theme” under which is an article about “Incompetent Pastors.”

“There have been two demographic twists to this issue. Because of the denomination’s declining size as older people die and younger people do not join as they used to, many conferences have had to close churches and thus have a surplus of pastors to account for at appointment time. The short term fix, of course, would be to drop pastors from having to be appointed. In the Council of Bishops’ view, the only legitimized way to do that was to end the guaranteed appointment system. Transfers to other conferences needing pastors and changing the structures which have destroyed morale and broken trust of superiors in office were not considered.

“The second demographic twist is that older pastors are retiring at an alarming rate, going out early whenever they can. These two lines, closure of churches and high rate of retirement, have not crossed yet. Very soon, in the next few years, there will not be enough pastors for the churches that are still going.

“On Tuesday, May 1, the petition removing guaranteed appointment was passed by General Conference. There was no provision saying it went into effect immediately so it would become effective on January 1, 2013, along with nearly all the rest of the legislation passed this year.

“On the last day in Tampa, a delegate moved referral of the legislation ending guaranteed appointments to the Judicial Council and it passed by a majority vote even though only twenty percent support was needed.. The Council, having barely completed work on the ‘Plan UMC’ decision before the end of General Conference, had no way it could deal with this request so it deferred it to the Fall session.”

Upon careful and educative review last week, the Council declared the changes voted at General Conference to be unconstitutional because as part of itineracy the right of appointment was being removed and the right of trial and appeal were also being removed.

Cabinets are going to have to get smart. In addition to arranging appointments in other conferences needing pastors or offering golden parachutes to get pastors to retire early, they will need to find other positive options.

The chances are that in some conferences, Cabinets will take the low road and continue to take any complaint as an excuse to put a pastor on involuntary leave of absence and then keep changing the requirements to re-enter the ministry as the pastor seeks to return to appointment.

There is an unusual aspect to the full decision. Because the appellants pointed out the interconnection of other legislation passed by General Conference, the Council struck down as unconstitutional a number of other amendments brought through other Calendar Items to Disciplinary paragraphs passed by General Conference that were not directly included in the original request but were Discplinary paragraphs noted in the changes to P 337. The Council agreed with the appellants that those amendments had to be addressed or they would undermine the decision about the change to the paragraph that was addressed. Thus transitional leave remains voluntary, and associate members of the conference remain available for appointment.

As noted by church media, P 338 which allows bishop-initiated appointments to part-time churches, was not noted in the changes to P 337. Under the new law, bishops can make an appointment that was voluntary before but now could be involuntary.

It will be interesting to see which conferences fire off requests for a ruling from the Judicial Council on that. So from January 1, 2013, until late October of next year, bishops will be experimenting with using part-time appointments on “incompetent” pastors.

In conclusion, clergy are only slightly more secure in their jobs than they were before the unconstitutional changes to P 337 and its ancillary amendments that got through General Conference. Bishops still have the authority to appoint pastors to the smallest churches available, take any minor complaint and turn it into a big deal to get rid of a pastor they don’t like, or intimidate a man over 50 or an ethnic or a woman into retiring early or taking leave of absence by designating them as “unappointable.”

Even the Council’s staunch endorsement of fair process as required before a pastor can be left without appointment will not have an impact as long as bishops are not held accountable for such violations.

Update: I have read the Brewington-Nelson-Riss brief which shows they added the other legislation related to Paragraph 337 and have changed the text above to reflect that.

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