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.


Friday, November 24, 2017

JCD 1349

Forcing Pastors to Go Part-time

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, like many conferences around the country, is facing the problem of diminishing numbers of churches that can afford full-time pastors.  These smaller churches are also diminishing in capacity to afford paying full apportionments, though that is not identified in the bishop’s response to the “request for a decision of law.”  Other words are used to speak of lack of financial strength in the churches.

To help resolve this problem, the bishop and his cabinet have come up with a plan that really only identifies which pastors are not getting their churches to pay full apportionments and threatening them with being put in part-time appointments as punishment.

The reason my opinion is this stark is that the plan’s legality became cemented in church law in New Jersey until the Council ruled on it.

Here’s how it works:  When a question of law is asked of the bishop at an annual conference session, his/her decision becomes law for that conference.  The only thing that can modify or reverse that legalization would be if the Council overturns or modifies the bishop’s decision.

So the bishop asks the dean of his cabinet to raise a question of law to which the answer supports the cabinet’s (bishop’s) plan and then she/he has full legal power to plow ahead with the cabinet’s plan.

I have not seen this kind of manipulation before in Judicial Council decisions..  Maybe other bishops have just been a lot more subtle about it.  Church law geeks have known about the possibility since the 1980s.

The Discipline provides that a bishop may initiate a part-time appointment for “missional purposes.  What the New Jersey plan does is allow the bishop to change the definition of “missional” to include failure to raise money.  

Let me say that the problem this bishop’s plan seeks to resolve is real.  The demographics of the United Methodist Church in the United States are pretty grim.  Many conferences have more pastors than churches.  Many churches have elderly members dying off without younger folks joining.  Many new ethnic populations are moving into formerly all-white neighborhoods around the churches and few pastors are bi-lingual and capable of working with the new populations around them.  –That’s truly “missional” as a concern.

An old saying in the South is that you get more flies with honey than with swatting.  This bishop’s plan is a not so subtle form of swatting.  

The Council has brought an end, at least on paper, to this nonsense.  They saw that the plan was not up for a vote and that the questioner made no reference to any specific case representing a problem with the plan or a way for the plan to resolve it.  So they took no jurisdiction.  Just to be sure no one missed it, they added that “the bishop’s decision of law is reversed.”  So the bishop can no longer say he has legal authority bolstered by the Judicial Council’s support.  They have not given it so the bishop better be very careful about his use of the cabinet’s policy.  By using the policy in an actual case, he faces getting a referral to the Judicial Council for a real case.  The Council just might rule against the policy.  They did not like his decision this time.

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