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, November 6, 2012

JCD 1228



A question of law was raised at the Baltimore-Washington Conference about its policy on consensual sexual relations among pastors, staff, and church members. A section of a policy on sexual misconduct included a means by which to solve a real problem: how may the dating of single consenting adults within a church be wisely addressed?

Unmarried pastors, staff, and church members fall in love just like everyone else. And like everyone else who is an adult, consensual sexual relationships may feel right to the respective couples. Such sexual ties have been allowed in some church contexts when the matter came to being defined in church law: for example, “bundling” is allowed and even encouraged in some Christian groups.

The solution put forward by the new policy was to allow such a relationship if permission is granted by a person in authority in the church. Presumably, that leader knows both parties and trusts their relationship and discretion. That leader might also be able to assess the dangers of abuse of power or conflicts of interest in the relationship and affirm those are irrelevant. And if they were relevant and potentially toxic, the permission would not be granted. If the relationship was consummated in that latter circumstance, one or both of the couple would be subject to sanctions under church law.

One flaw is that the private relationship between two people would no longer be private.

Another flaw is that the United Methodist Church has not dealt with this issue outside of normal institutional practices and guidelines of recent years. Church law is clear: no sex outside of wedlock.

I have not seen the briefs so I have no idea how mature the arguments were with regard to the sensitivity to the dilemma that single pastors and staff face in their dating life. So it is hard to assess the depth of the consideration by the Council of this difficult subject.

The Council did give a bit of a clue, though. It appears they have no sensitivity to single people.

In a unanimous concurring opinion, the Council stomped on singles’ needs by asserting that the only factor involved is the power relationship that the Council presumes always exists in a relationship within the church.

There is always that danger. But not every relationship is tainted by it. Before the furor over clergy sexual misconduct began in the 1990’s, nearly every widowed or divorced pastor I knew found love and marriage within their respective congregations or staffs.

Propinquity reigns as a significant basis for establishing relationships. It always will. Again, it is not the only factor when love comes our way.

It is clear that this Judicial Council group will not allow for propinquity. The concurring opinion makes it sound like a moral matter. But it is a combination of fear of law suits and a fear that people can operate in a mature fashion when it comes to their love life. Ideologically, the Council joins with those who do not trust people in matters of love. The Pharisees would be very at home with them on this issue.

Please understand that many if not most women have experienced cruelty and abuse related to their sexuality by some man in their lives. Their concern about power abuse is well-grounded and deserves as much attention as any other form of abuse in our society. But that does not excuse fierce legalistic rules which are destructive of responsible relationships.

This is not to say the Baltimore-Washington proposed policy is a good option to solve this dilemma. This is not to say there are not dangers of conflict of interest and power abuse. What worries me is the lack of sensitivity to single people’s dating issues. Unfortunately, as a denomination, we are not having an adult conversation about that.

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