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.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

JCD 1234

RECONSIDERATION OF JCMS 1176, 1184, 1192 and 1205

For the fifth time, someone in California-Nevada Conference raised a question about the closing of a church without all of the proper steps having been followed.  In two of the four previous Council responses, the argument was that the original request was parliamentary and not a question of law.

The Council resolves this request for reconsideration in the same way.  However, it presents much more of the story so that its decision has that much more historical context.  For one thing, they report that the bishop okayed the closing without there being a vote of the Cabinet as the Discipline requires.  However, at some time, possibly in 2011, the bishop allowed the lay person speaking on behalf of the congregation to make his argument and then asked the conference to vote.  The result was a conference vote to consummate the closing.  That fulfilled an unusual Disciplinary passage which says that the Discipline did not have to be followed in order for the matter to be settled by the conference.  Is that even constitutional?

The history added to this decision (note it is not called a memorandum even though all the Council does is turn down a request for reconsideration) describes a number of breakdowns and conflicts but only from the point of view of the pastor, superintendent, and conference committees involved and not from the church members.  Were the conflicts in the church because of a few people who were trouble-makers and had a disruptive history in that church?  Was there a better way to handle that possibility?  Or was the pastor being arbitrary and heavy-handed in seeking to resolve the problems?  Were the pastor’s actions legal under the Discipline?  Was a bad situation exacerbated by bad appointments to that church where sensitivity to cross-cultural and cross-racial issues were critical?  Did Cabinet members take arbitrary actions that worsened a tough situation?

In some ways, the Council needs to be commended for its patience (five requests for relief based on one event that would ordinarily be cut off after the first request for reconsideration).  In some ways, it appears that the situation was handled badly and the Council’s hands were tied by rules governing their authority.  In some ways, those seeking to resolve the conflicts which arose from processes and attitudes failed in their attempts to get it before the Council in a proper way.  In some ways, it feels like the Council passed up an opportunity to resolve a situation which was not really out of their reach.

Even what seems to be a simple case can be far more complex and far less tractable to our legal procedures.  To me, the more that is actually known about everything, the better chance there is to resolve it justly.  And if there were misrepresentations made, can any resolution by the Council in this case mean anything?  Technically, because the Discipline gives the Council the last word, we all have to move on.  But with what confidence?

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