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

JCM 1229



The South Central College of Bishops challenged the constitutionality of the involuntary retirement of a bishop by the jurisdictional episcopacy committee.

They had five questions, the first of which asked about constitutionality and three others that followed up with hypothetical questions. They withdrew the fifth which asked the Council what its rules were for the hearing the Council was authorized to have if the bishop appealed the decision.

Their questions were actually sent in prior to any final action taken by the jurisdiction and its episcopacy committee.

The Council’s review noted no restrictions in the constitution to the General Conference providing for involuntary retirement through the jurisdiction and therefore ruled P 408.3 to be constitutional.

This decision is well after the fact following the request of the college of bishops, because the committee held a hearing with the bishop and his counsel, decided to retire him involuntarily, which decision was then supported by a vote of the jurisdictional conference.

I wonder if the committee would have thought to ask the conference to vote on their recommendation if the bishops had not gotten their questions referred to the Council.

Years ago, in JCD 475, the Council ruled that only those who elected a bishop could hold him/her accountable. That is why the Council of Bishops no longer is where complaints against bishops are handled. Unfortunately, the parallel related to superintendents (P 429.3), written at the same time that the one where bishops were held accountable by the Council of Bishops, still stands.

Since 1984, petitions seeking to take accountability for superintendents out of the Cabinet have been voted down by General Conference. I know. I submitted them from then all the way through 2012.

The bishops get around JCD 475 by having General Conference put their accountability in the college of bishops on the jurisdictional level. While that has been modified to allow for the supervisory response to be handled by one bishop plus two members of the episcopacy committee rather than two bishops (see P 413), it has been impossible to hold a bishop accountable for Disciplinary violations outside of those related to sexual misconduct (see JCMs 1221).

Until this year….

The Judicial Council has scheduled a hearing for the bishop. He has appealed the episcopacy committee’s decision to involuntarily retire him. That hearing will be held Nov. 10 in an extraordinary session.

If the Council does not overturn the involuntary retirement, a whole new chapter on accountability of bishops will finally open up.

Note: P 413, which is the route taken to hold the bishop accountable for failing to use consultation in appointment-making in the North Alabama case (JCM 1221 above), provides the other way to handle a complaint against a bishop. P 408.3 does not appear to require a complaint to arise through P 413. Provisions of P 413 can end up in the hands of the episcopacy committee of the jurisdiction under P 413.3e). In the case of Bishop Bledsoe, no complaint was ever brought so P 413 was not used. They went directly to the jurisdictional episcopacy committee under P 408.3.

I hope JCM 1229 means that P 413 as it is now written will eventually become superfluous and bishops will no longer have a hand in handling their own accountability. By all means they should challenge one another to go on to perfection and to obey church law and to avoid harm. That would be characteristic of a good professional relationship. But they should not participate in the processing of one another’s violations of the covenant of clergy and church law.

Update: In researching the decision of the Council when they met in November to hear Bishop Bledsoe's appeal, I discovered that the Council president is a member of the annual conference presided over by Bishop Bledsoe. In the past, when a Council member was from the same conference as a case, the member recused himself or explained why he or she did not. There was neither recusal nor explanation in either this docket item nor the Bledsoe hearing.

The rationale he might use is that he was not part of the jurisdictional processes and therefore recusal is not an issue.

But with their respective offices being close in Dallas, and with Dr. Lawrence being under Bishop Bledsoe's appointment to be Dean at Perkins, I am uneasy about the situation.

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