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.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

JCM 1214



Just before the conference finance and administration committee presented its budget at the North Carolina conference session, a pastor felt it was necessary to have the bishop clarify what constitutes promoting “the acceptance of homosexuality.” Apparently he felt that by supporting the conference budget which included apportionments to support the budget of the general church, he would possibly be voting for items in it that promoted homosexuality in some way.

I’ve read and reread the Council’s decision and still am not clear what it can teach us.

The bishop’s response included saying the question did not connect with any action actually being taken by the annual conference. I agree with that. But the Council did not . . . exactly. The rest of the bishop’s response was essentially that the questions were moot and hypothetical, which really does not answer the questions, but the Council felt that it did, which is something that is a little hard to understand.

I have three problems with this decision, it shows one of the inconsistencies of the Council, it shows a lack of clarity, and it suffers from the complexity of where and how to raise legal questions in our system.

With respect to the first, sometimes in the past, the bishop has specifically answered the questions and the Council has said they were really moot and hypothetical and disregarded the bishop’s answers. Sometimes the Council simply accepts “moot and hypothetical” as the answer. Sometimes, the council has chastised the bishop for not answering the question even if it was moot and hypothetical.

I hope the Council clears that up so bishops provide what they should in responding. The rest of us who are interested in the Council’s work could be better at helping identify them.

The second problem, occasional lack of clarity, is probably due to the rushed nature of the work time of the Council. Each item on the docket is assigned to a team of two or more to write up a decision for the Council and then the whole body critiques it. When any rewording is completed, the item is voted on by the whole body. When they are hurried, sometimes things pass without full consideration.

I have frequently commented on the desire of this Council to teach as well as decide.

In this case, that desire obscures the law rather than clarifies it. Consequently, a relatively simple matter of law, that the questions do not clearly link to the action of the conference, and that the questions are not really questions because they are pretty self-evident but the answers would change nothing.

For example, "Does the performance of same sex union or same sex marriage ceremonies constitute promoting the acceptance of homosexuality?” which is the first question, pretty clearly answers itself but the answer does not really change anything because it fails to connect with a specific item in the conference budget or even in the budget of the general church.

I’m sure in the mind of the questioner there is a connection, but the legislative process already tested the degree of connection during General Conference and determined there was no connection.

But I found hard to follow the decision’s language because it obscures that lack of connection.

That could be me. Sometimes I feel very dyslexic when I read church law! The truth is that sometimes the dyslexics are the ones explaining it! I am teasing, of course. I confess to not always being very clear in my explanations so it can happen to anyone.

The way the Council handles its workload does not always leave them sharp and clear and willing to edit decisions like this one.

The upshot may be that those who look at this decision will think the Council is intentionally obscuring its decision for political purposes, namely “acting liberal.” I do not think that is true in this case but others may think so.

Finally, as stated in my comments on other decisions, it is difficult to know how to ask questions of law or enter requests for declaratory decisions. Some of the most knowledgeable ask them in the wrong place or do not ask the questions correctly.

While I believe the Judicial Council and the various ways to approach them can be and have been effective in clearing up tangles in church law, we still have problems with inconsistencies, lack of clarity based on overload, and complexity of process.

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