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.


Friday, March 10, 2017

JCD 1331

Constitutionality of Defrocking an Elder by a Different Conference

A good defense lawyer tries every avenue that may help his/her client.  As JCD 629 says, “Ambiguities must be construed in the favor of the person affected.”  And there appeared to be ambiguity between Paragraphs 33 and 2719.1.

I think the bishop’s answer was correct, even if he probably should have let the Council take jurisdiction.  Again, there is confusion as to which kind of legal question was appropriate in this circumstance.  That is not always easily answered.

The case here is really moot.  That the respondent, to my knowledge, did not try to get a change of venue to have the trial in his own conference ended his claim on which conference would be able to end his membership.  To get a change of venue in this case would have put the trial a thousand miles from the witnesses.  The Church always has funds for its witnesses but the defense is put at a marked disadvantage.

Without getting the trial transferred to his home conference, the chance was slim for this case but the defense had to take it.

Update: The last time there was a serious look at our judicial system, as called for in the concurring opinion, was in 1988 when bishops were mired in civil suits costing the denomination huge fees for bonding.  General Council on Finance and Administration which contracts for bonding for the bishops led the way, taking a small petition to the General Conference suggesting a study commission (written by a Judicial Council member) and expanding upon it.  That study commission came back with fair process in 1992 which was a huge leap forward.  However, in a milieu where bishops felt the declining of the denomination was the fault of incompetent pastors, they weakened fair process to get as close to “at-will” firing of pastors as they could get.  The biggest weakness in the system is the supervisory response where intimidation and coercion can go on unchecked, driving pastors to desperation where leaving is the easiest and most sane option.

I have speculated that each pastor mistreated this way may drive twenty or more people away from a congregation.  We lose around 150 pastors a year, a tiny number compared to the total of pastors that we have.  But that is a possible loss of 3,000 people per year.  And there is no telling how many people those folks influence not to consider joining our denomination.

My numbers may not be accurate, but the phenomenon of ripple effect for nasty treatment of pastors goes a long way.  And my argument persuades no one of influence in the denomination.  It will take another series of lawsuits that start costing us big bucks to motivate someone to do something.

Update 2: I do not intend to suggest that bad behavior such as sexual exploitation by a pastor does not also have a negative ripple effect and drive people away from the UMC.  Everyone who harms another under the "banner" of the Church can disrupt and even destroy people's attitudes toward the Church.  All cases must be handled appropriately to avoid further harm to whomever is the victim of the harmful behavior and to the Church.

No comments: