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.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Ignoring the Discipline Doesn’t Doom Us - II

In my first statement about the unlikelihood of our church being doomed to schism over violations of the Discipline, I may have come across as a little bit flip about how seriously those violations are being taken. I may have underplayed how frequently conversation about homosexuality issues comes up. I accept those criticisms. My main point was that violations of the Discipline will not lead to the church splitting. I think that there are those who want to control the whole denomination and are using the threat to split as an emotional hook to keep everyone’s attention so that no one will notice what they are doing on other fronts to gain control.

I understand and respect that there are people of integrity who are so concerned that they are ready to separate themselves from the Church and say so openly. I have heard it from friends on both sides. I am not talking about them in my assertions about the use of schism as a distraction. Some on both sides are just caught up in the emotion because until we find consensus, our respective commitment to our view of things will be painful to us. My hope is that they will listen to me long enough to separate their emotion from the issues so that they can watch out for being manipulated into actions which harm our real covenant which I symbolized in my last statement with the potluck suppers and shared mission.

Let me lay groundwork for my view that schism is not pending by sharing a little history.

When I became a minister there was a largely accepted view in our denomination that homosexuality be ignored. There was no concern about it in my first decade in the ministry. Homosexuality was first mentioned in the Discipline in the section on “Social Principles” in 1972. Homosexuals were to be treated as children of God and homosexual marriage was not “recommended.”

Homosexuality got controversial when a very popular Baltimore pastor came out of the closet and was asked to give up his credentials. There was nothing against being Gay in the Discipline at the time, and there was no landmark decision on the separation of church and state which was to come down from the Supreme Court soon after. The pastor sued and won a six figure settlement from the conference and was reinstated by court order.

Believe it or not, the movement to include passages against homosexuality in the Discipline was quietly supported by bishops because they didn’t want courts to interfere with their appointive authority. Even the liberals of stature (the older ones) were hung up on the "Ewww" factor, the distasteful image among straight people of intimacy between men.

The bishops wanted a quick way to get rid of homosexuals who were beginning to come out and got the 1980 General Conference to give them the tool of involuntary leave of absence. The Judicial Council supported this dastardly tool in a case specifically involving a Gay pastor.

In conservative literature that I’ve seen, they say they became involved around then because of the Gay pastor who won his law suit.

The result was the unlikely joining of the two now disparate bodies supporting making homosexuality and its ancillary practices illegal in church law.

While the bishops got a way to remove Gays from ministry in 1980, the conservatives succeeded in making it against the Discipline for any church body to donate to anyone promoting acceptance of the Gay life style. To get it through, there were rumors that they would leave the denomination if they didn’t get it passed.

That threat was taken very seriously over the following Quadrennium. The most common topic at the 1984 General Conference was about whether or not the denomination would split as it had in 1844 over slavery. The conservatives came in with very strong language against ordaining and appointing homosexual pastors. The moderates tried to use "the seven last words" as they were called ("fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness") to bridge the gap. The threats to leave the church continued. But there was no schism.

Similarly, at each of the General Conferences since, there have been variations on the theme of schism and it never happened. Why? There are at least two reasons: One, the ones making the threats got what they wanted. Two, what use would it be to control half of a diminishing denomination and spend years fighting over property in the courts?

On an individual basis, leaving the UMC over our homosexual issues, no matter which side one of us is on, makes sense. There are other denominations where our viewpoint is carried out in the life of that church. But breaking up the whole denomination just isn’t feasible because so little would be left.

So I urge you, dear reader, to stop fretting about schism. It ain’t gonna happen!

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