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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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, August 13, 2015

JCM 1295

 HYPERLINK "http://www.umc.org/decisions/61964/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6IlwvZGVjaXNpb25zXC9zZWFyY2gtcmVzdWx0cyJ9" http://www.umc.org/decisions/61964/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6IlwvZGVjaXNpb25zXC9zZWFyY2gtcmVzdWx0cyJ9


A retiree of the East Ohio Annual Conference rose to request reconsideration (recommit) of the “Business of the Annual Conference” passed during clergy session.  The bishop ruled it out of order and was not challenged.  The retired Elder then sent a brief outlining the Disciplinary violations involved in the case of a provisional minister being discontinued.

The Council had to refuse jurisdiction since no question of law or request from declaratory decision had been noted as floor action entered in the minutes in the conference journal.  An individual may not bring a request for Council action without using the Disciplinary mechanisms available.  The issue had been raised as a parliamentary motion which, when ruled out of order, was not challenged.

The retired Elder’s heart was in the right place but he made several mistakes in trying to find justice in a situation of a colleague.

What is often the case going into a clergy session is that no one knows a pastor is in trouble.  The pastor that is being removed from ministry is usually told by a Cabinet member (or three if that conference uses triads of DSs) that the pastor may not speak to anyone about it.  Since the “Business of the Conference” report of the Board of Ordained Ministry is not seen by anyone but Cabinet and BOM personnel prior to the gathering of the clergy session, the rest of the clergy are not alerted to a problem a given pastor may face.  The clergy session covers a lot of ground and it is not always easy to sort out what is happening when the chairperson moves the business along as fast as possible.  Most members of the clergy session are amenable to that because it is a tiring amount of business to pass on.

Presuming that is the scenario and that the retired Elder only found out about the provisional minister’s case when it hit the floor during the clergy session, here is what I wish the retiree had done:  

One: move that the pastor-in-question’s matter be acted upon separately from the rest in that category.  If it passed, then go to step two.  If it failed, move for a tabling of that whole category in order to give time to allow the Elder and minister to meet to discuss the issues involved.  It is important that if there is a question about process or facts related to the provisional minister’s case, that time be allowed to make inquiries before the vote. If that passed or failed, then go to step two.  

Two: request a ten minute recess so the Elder and minister can meet.  If it is granted, the two must meet.  If that is not granted, the Elder has to get to the minister as fast as possible during the clergy session.  If a vote on the category comes up and the minister’s name is still in it, then the Elder has to interrupt the discussion with the pastor and vote for the resolution!  That gives him the right to request reconsideration (to “recommit” in the terminology used in East Ohio) if the category passes.  As soon as the Elder has enough information about the case, he then goes to step three.

Three: as soon as possible, in the clergy session, make a motion to reconsider the category for the purpose of dealing with the provisional pastor’s case.  (All motions also have to be turned in as written motions, part of the paper trail the conference secretary needs for keeping the minutes accurately.  If the motion prevails, go to step four.  If it fails, go to step five.  So far, all of this has been parliamentary steps to try to bring the minister’s case before the clergy session.

Four: move that the name of the provisional minister be removed from the list for discontinuance.  (For every motion there needs to be a second so every advocate must make it a practice to second everyone else’s motion so the matter can be dealt with on the floor.  Even apparently trivial matters may be more important upon discussion than it may appear when the matter is first raised.  If the advocate seconds everything and encourages those around him/her to do it, then others will too.  Their help will be needed at this point because the Elder can’t second this/her own motion!)  The motion, if seconded, then gives the Elder a chance to report what may have been false information or improper actions taken.  The floor can then go into involvement.  After all sides have been heard, request that the vote be taken by secret ballot so that Cabinet members cannot intimidate those who might disagree with them on the case of the provisional minister.  If the motion passes, the provisional minister is restored and the Cabinet has to find an appointment for him/her.  If the motion fails, and the Elder believes an injustice is being done, then he/she must go to step five.

Five: move as a request for a declaratory decision under Paragraph 2610.2(j), given the steps taken by the conference, were those steps consistent with Paragraphs 327.6 and 363 and their proper application of the Discipline in the case of (name the provisional minister) whose change of status was voted upon in this year’s clergy session of the ______ Annual Conference, and who is responsible for pastoral support compensation for any time left without appointment?  If a second is given, the matter is open to discussion and amendment from the floor, though usually there is little of either.  Request a secret ballot and hope that you get a majority.  That would move the matter to the Judicial Council for their consideration.

Alternate five: raise a question of law under Paragraph 2609 asking the bishop who is to ensure fair process under Paragraph 415.3 if specific actions (list the errors of process) were consistent with Paragraphs 327.6 and 363 in the case of (name of provisional minister) before this year’s clergy session of the ________ Annual Conference, and asking who is responsible (see JCD 492) for any pastoral support compensation if the minister was left without appointment improperly for any length of time before being returned to ministry.

These alternatives overcome the barriers that would make them moot or hypothetical because they are dealing with matters involving actions by the annual conference and specific to a particular case where the answers to the questions affect the actions of the conference.  They also allow for the clergy session and bishop to right the wrong, leaving going to the Council as a last resort.

While the Council has tended to expect such matters to come under Paragraph 2610, they have accepted on rare occasion, questions of law under Paragraphs 51, 56.3, and JCD 1244.  Be sure to look up the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council, currently at 

 HYPERLINK "http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/who-we-are/judicial-council/documents/jc-rules-of-practice-adopted-4-18-2015.pdf" http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/who-we-are/judicial-council/documents/jc-rules-of-practice-adopted-4-18-2015.pdf

I hope to help them revise Appendix A relating to what is moot and hypothetical and what is within their jurisdiction.

Hopefully this advice will help in future cases.

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