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 - III

In my previous posting on this topic, I gave two reasons why the United Methodist Church will not split. One, the threat of splitting succeeded in getting legislation through General Conference so why split? Two, the litigation over properties and heading up half a Church make splitting an irrational goal.

I have two more reasons there will not be a split. One. while certain conservative factions have used the emotional blackmail to cover their agenda of taking over the whole denomination, another caucus was carrying on power grabs which went unnoticed because everyone was focused on the homosexuality issues and the potential split. Two, I do not think my friends who disagree with me (there are some on both sides who do not!) will finally break fellowship.

With regard to the first, let me put in a little more history. The coalition between the conservatives and the Council of Bishops began to break down when some bishops who had Gay children began to advocate for a return to not having those new laws which they saw as genuinely hurtful to their children and counter to the pastoral ministry to which they had been ordained.

As the older liberals retired or passed away, their younger successors jumped into the fray on the side of homosexuals. They knew homosexual classmates at college and seminary. Just like every other minority in America grew with the expanding population following WW II, so did the gay community.  In 1988, the dynamics changed. Without the bishops and old line liberals to support them, the conservatives discovered a new partner. An African delegate spoke very strongly in support of the new laws. That should not have been a surprise. Our denomination's missionaries up till WW II had tended to be much more evangelical than the main body of the church in the US. Efforts began to form a coalition between non-European delegates to General Conference with the conservatives pushing to sustain the anti-homosexual laws.

While the liberals and conservatives, each with new support, became more and more confrontational, the noise and heat generated not only covered those who wanted to take control of the denomination as happened in the Southern Baptist Church and others, it covered up the accruing of powers by the Council of Bishops.

Beginning in 1980, Bishops put in legislation that put them in charge of almost every aspect of handling complaints, including initiating them against pastors: essentially letting Bishops carry on the judicial functions of the annual conference.  Bishops essentially ended serious discussion of conference budgets by having the Judicial Council rule that a “line item” was a category and no longer a specific budgetary item for consideration by the plenary (JCD 663). Bishops took responsibility for heading up every general board and agency and having five or more other bishops on the governing bodies of each agency. Bishops tried to take over who may become members of the local church but this time were thwarted by a conservative Judicial Council (JCD 1032), a decision which the vast majority of the denomination condemned. Bishops persist in developing reorganization plans in which they are voting officers of the key annual conference council and again, the Judicial Council has thwarted them, only to have another conference plan get referred to them (there are too many decisions to cite). The bishops wanted to establish a full time bishop as the executive secretary of the Council of Bishops, which while voted down in 2012, is practically being done by a retired bishop. The agenda of the 2012 General Conference was dominated by A Call to Action and Plan UMC and its variations to the point where only a little legislation was actually accomplished. And it seems to me that the Council of Bishops is slowly building an alternative program body which, while utilizing some boards and agencies, is going to be under their own control.

I do not see the Council of Bishops allowing a split, not while they are busy building their own “Kingdom of God.” Even if my perception is wrong on this, bishops know the costs of litigation and will fight tooth and nail to avoid it happening. They will not allow schism.

Finally, as I wrote to my young friend in my original letter to him, “There are those who want you and me to fight and be alienated . . . and inadvertently support their ambition to rule the UMC! I know your heart. I think your know mine. We may have different views on homosexuality at the moment and we may differ on how certain passages of the Discipline are so important that we should split the denomination over them.

“Who knows what success the power seekers will have? That is not going to change my relationship with you. If the schismatics win, we may have less contact but only if we let it. If the unifiers win, I don't see you leaving. You'd stay to try to figure what happened and learn from it and maybe ‘live to fight another day.’

“My friend, thank you for asking. I have learned a lot in my 79 years, I have watched a lot of history, denominational and otherwise, as well as have learned a lot of history during college and seminary and since. I enjoyed laying out some of my learnings and views on what has happened. I think they are true and that I can support every one of them with information that you would not be able to ignore, though agreeing could be very hard. That's okay. I have not got your whole summary of your experience and belief. I may change some or more of my views once I've heard back from you. That's what true faith is about, discovering the truth in Scripture, experience, tradition, and reason so we deal with reality and not with the fantasies of ideology.”

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