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.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

JCD 1321


Conflict Between General Conference and Annual Conference Authority?

I do not have the minutes of the plenary session in which the question was raised for this decision.  Again, this is an illustration of the flexibility of the Council regarding what questions it chooses to answer.  It is hypothetical because it is not going to resolve anything related to a specific petition or action of the General Conference.  In fact, the Council even points out the question is vaguely phrased but is taken as a request for a declaratory decision.

The one raising the request perceived a conflict between a couple Council decisions from the early 1980s as well as a lack of clarity between the powers of the General Conference and the annual conference.

Regarding the conflict between the two decisions, the Council found none.  The annual conference determines whether a candidate or pastor has passed the qualifications for ministry. qualifications set by General Conference.  That is what JCD 542 affirms.  JCD 544 affirms the authority of the General Conference to set the qualifications.  Just because some delegates the General Conference would disagree with a particular annual conference’s decision about a pastor does not mean the two decisions are in conflict.

Similarly, the possible violations identified in Paragraphs 304 and 2702 are uniquely understood and enforced by each annual conference for ordination or handling of complaints.  This separation of powers is part of the “multiple sources of authority” built into our system where no one source is absolute and controls any of the others.  The annual conference may not ignore a qualification set by the General Conference but the General Conference may not set the priorities of the annual conference in determining the seriousness with which an annual conference takes those qualifications.

This stance by the Council represents the longer history of law in the United Methodist Church.  And it does not go unchallenged.  I think I can safely speculate that there was serious discussion about deferring a decision on this to the next session in 2017 when the new Council will begin working.  The question came up near the end of the General Conference.  Even the briefs were only two page papers, unheard of in Judicial Council annals!  The “Separate Opinion,” which is neither concurring or non-concurring, seems mild enough in its critique of the prompt action of the Council.  

I am inclined to see Decision 1321 as simply affirming settled law.  The challenge points to a desire to overturn it.  The key word in the “Separate Opinion” is “coordinate.”  Can the “multiple sources of authority” coordinate their efforts?  We will see how the newly elected Council will handle decisions on this contentious set of issues.

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