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2 big disputes ahead at General Conference

 
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5:00 P.M. ET Jan. 9, 2011


A web-only design by Wordle/Kathleen Barry.
A web-only design by Wordle/Kathleen Barry.

Two proposals hover near the top of the controversy list as The United Methodist Church approaches this spring’s General Conference.

The first would restructure the denomination, including consolidating nine of the church’s 13 general agencies under a 15-member board.

The second would end job guarantees for ordained elders in good standing.

The 2012 General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, will have final say on the proposed changes when it meets April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla. However, the proposals already are drawing scrutiny from United Methodist groups across the theological spectrum, and those groups will be out in force at General Conference to advocate their points of view.

Both proposals aim to address four decades of declining United Methodist membership in the United States. Legislation to restructure the denomination originated with the Call to Action process. The Study of Ministry Commission drafted the legislation to alter “security of appointment” for elders, a move endorsed by Call to Action leaders.

“I don’t think there is any question that the restructuring proposals and the entire ministry report, of which security of appointment is one piece, will be some of the primary places of debate,” said the Rev. Robert J. Williams, the chief executive at the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.

Almost everyone agrees the denomination needs to change. Where views differ is how best to go about it.

In general, leaders of the denomination’s unofficial progressive groups fear the recommended restructuring will lessen the church’s commitment to ethnic diversity and minimize programs that foster church growth, particularly among people of color.



Donald Hayashi <br/>
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert.
Donald Hayashi
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert.
View in Photo Gallery

The recommended restructuring “isn’t United Methodist, and it isn’t Wesleyan,” said Donald L. Hayashi, who worked with the Methodist Federation for Social Action, a denomination-wide progressive caucus, in drafting an alternative reorganization that has been submitted to General Conference. Reconciling Ministries Network, another progressive caucus, also supports the alternative plan.

Meanwhile, leaders of unofficial evangelical groups see the restructuring as a cost-saving measure that will put more focus on local congregations. “We believe that a lot of the proposals are moving us in the right direction,” said the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of denomination-wide evangelical caucus Good News.

Although often on opposing sides, some progressives and evangelicals share misgivings about legislation to eliminate “security of appointment” for elders in good standing. In The United Methodist Church, bishops and their cabinets are responsible for appointing clergy to congregations and other ministries.

“We’re concerned that pastors (might) become vulnerable to arbitrary decisions on the part of bishops and cabinets,” Lambrecht said.

Reorganization

The two proposals come after a number of studies over the past four years showing that the denomination’s status quo is unsustainable.

While The United Methodist Church is growing worldwide, particularly in Africa and the Philippines, the U.S. membership has declined by 29 percent since 1968, going from 10.7 million members to fewer than 8 million. The U.S. membership still provides most of the denomination’s financial support.

The initial legislation to restructure the denomination’s agencies came out of the multiyear Call to Action process, initiated by the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table to “reorder the life of the church.”

The proposed agency — the United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry — would combine the functions of nine general agencies — the Board of Discipleship; Board of Higher Education and Ministry; Board of Global Ministries; Board of Church and Society; Commission on Religion and Race; Commission on the Status and Role of Women; Commission on Archives and History; Council on Finance and Administration and United Methodist Communications, which operates United Methodist News Service. The work would be organized into offices of congregational vitality, leadership excellence, missional engagement, justice and reconciliation, and shared services.



Patricia Miller<br/>
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert.
Patricia Miller
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert.
View in Photo Gallery

The hope is that the consolidation will eliminate walls of separation, competition for responsibilities and redundant activities among the agencies, said Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, a leader in the Call to Action process. A “more nimble, cost-effective and focused” agency structure would in turn help annual (regional) conferences foster more vital congregations, he said.

However, Hayashi — who is also president of the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists — said the proposed reduction of agency governing boards from more than 400 people to 15 would “effectively eliminate racial/ethnic leaders on the agency boards,” he said.

“United Methodist agencies mandated to monitor race and gender discrimination would disappear and the five ethnic plans approved by General Conference would not have the capacity to continue providing leadership training, continue developing new congregations and (continue) revitalizing existing ones.”

He pointed out that that ethnic minorities, particularly Latinos, account for the greatest population growth in the United States. “They are younger and more family-oriented,” he said. “This offers the greatest opportunity for church growth, but they don’t offer high income. Will they be a priority?”

Evangelicals take a different view.

Reducing the size of boards and agencies can help local congregations by reducing what they pay to support the general church, said Patricia Miller, executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, an evangelical caucus.

“I think (the current structure) is extremely costly, and there are more efficient ways to deal with the issues of boards and agencies,” she said. “Ministry takes place at local churches. Boards and agencies can help with some availability of programs, etc., but the actual ministry takes place at local churches.”

Lambrecht of Good News also said his group favors Call to Action’s “emphasis on local church vitality” and its potential cost saving.



The Rev. Steve Clunn <br>
A UMNS photo courtesy of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
The Rev. Steve Clunn
A UMNS photo courtesy of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
View in Photo Gallery

Point of agreement

Progressives and evangelicals do share some concerns about the restructuring. Leaders of both Good News and Methodist Federation for Social Action criticized the Call to Action plan for not offering enough representation to church members in the central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

In the proposed legislation, the board of the newly created United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry would be accountable to a 45-member advisory board called the General Council for Strategy and Oversight. This council would replace the 60-member Connectional Table, which coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministries and resources.

The legislation designates that the 45-member council board should include one member from each of the seven central conferences. The board’s 41 voting members also will include five bishops, five members the denomination’s ethnic caucuses, three representatives from the Advisory Committee on Ministries with Young People and 21 members elected from jurisdictions in proportion to their jurisdictions’ membership.

“You have the Southeastern and South Central jurisdictions getting the lion’s share of the vote,” said the Rev. Steve Clunn, Methodist Federation for Social Action’s coalition coordinator. “Either you’re going to be representative across the board, which is fair, or you’re going to create power blocks, which this does.”

Lambrecht expressed similar worries.

“I am not sure the 45-member General Council is large enough to be actually representative of the church,” he said. “We are a little bit concerned about the under-representation of the central conferences on that group.”

Security of appointment

Methodist Federation for Social Action and Good News also join together in panning proposed legislation to eliminate “security of appointment” — which is also known as guaranteed appointment — for ordained elders.

The Study of Ministry Commission, in its report, said the practice is not financially sustainable and “limits the ability of the church to respond to the primacy of missional needs.” An earlier report estimated there are 784 more U.S. clergy than positions needed in the church.



The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht<br/>
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery

The commission has submitted legislation that would allow bishops and cabinets to give an elder in good standing a less than full-time appointment. The legislation also would permit bishops and their cabinets, with the approval of their boards of ordained ministry and annual (regional) conference’s executive session, to put elders on unpaid transitional leave for up to 24 months. Clergy on transitional leave would be able to participate in their conference health program through their own contributions.

Lambrecht said he fears the current legislation offers too few protections for clergy.

“At Good News, over the years we’ve become aware of numerous stories of pastors who are either arbitrarily denied an appointment or appointed to a much lower position simply because the bishop or (district) superintendent didn’t like their theology,” he said.

Clunn voiced a slightly different concern.

“For us, the big question has been: ‘Why do we give more power to bishops in terms of appointment of clergy, when they are not using the power they have now?’” he said. “If there are clergy who are ineffective now, they have the right and responsibility to take that to the (conference) board of ordained ministry to work on to either help that clergyperson become more effective or to help them find a new vocation.”

The legislation changes the current process by stripping a conference’s clergy “the final say in terms of voting whether a clergy person is removed or retained or in good standing or not,” he said.

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 59 comments

  • Clark Neel 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    No person
    deserves appointment for life. Most people's performance change over time and that
    is not just because they grow older. Some people are not willing to try new
    approaches to serve their church, some simply wear out lose the drive they once
    had. Clergy who are not willing to give 100% need to strengthen their
    commitment to Christ's church or they need to find something else to do. I
    recommend that a board be appointed within each Conference that is made up of
    Elders and laity, with two of its members being from another Conference. The
    members should be representative of the views of the entire Conference and not
    loaded with friends of the Bishop. With each of these people submitting their
    will to God, fair decisions will be made. I know in our church we had two
    pastors, in a row, that were not qualified to be an Elder. One was an adulterer
    and the other had gone past their ability to do the job. But nothing happened
    to these folks - they were just moved to another congregation which now suffers
    from their lack of leadership. Thankfully, the adulterer became such a problem
    that the Bishop was FORCED to take action to remove the person. We must have a
    system of review and action that ensures quicker intervention to ensure
    churches are served by the very best.

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  • Halneff 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I write as a Layperson with concern for the continuation of the UMC.  There are many books and articles on the problems in the modern church, and many proposed actions and solutions to go with them.
    Somehow the Pastors must be enabled (freed-up)  to tend to and minister to the congregation; this activity cannot be done by Lay people or Lay Speakers, or Stephen ministers, etc.  I refer readers to the book by Eugene Peterson; The Pastor.  Read the last 40 pages or so.
    This Pastor found his work in ministering to the people!  The "running of the church"  was put into the able hands of the Lay people.
    I submit that most every church would do a whole lot better under this approach!  Certainly the Lay people will be better Disciples when they are actively engaged in the health of the church.   

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  • Isabella1709 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Frankly, I feel the UMC has far deeper problems than the internal structure of the church. I personally ceased attending your church because of it's liberal and anti-Israel leanings. You have bought into the Islamic & liberal koolaid and I see no hope for any of you. Last summer I met with many former Methodists at a small Evangelical church near my home in Tampa and we all felt your support of the liberal Gay marriage rights and the Islamic Palestinian lie is at the root of Methodists failings. Your church will die because you have turned your backs on scripture. Yeshua was an orthodox Jew and I suggest you consider his teachings in that context.

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  • mc54 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The real restructuring that we need is to end life time tenure for bishops  I will vote to end guaranteed appointments for clergy if the bishops will agree to end life time tenure for bishops.  Time for the bishops to put their money where their mouths are on being willing to change.

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  • JAS0418 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I have read the Study of Ministry Commission Reports and Recommendations.  I have prayed about the issues and questioned responding to the article and some of the posts.  I question the underlying premises for the proposed changes.  I question the proposed resolution.

    p. 3 - We have heard from cabinets and bishops that in some conferences too few full-time appointments are available for elders."  Deal with those "some" conferences by allowing Elders to move from AC to AC.  Stop allowing non-Methodist trained clergy into ACs.  Use our imaginations, find alternative ways to minister.  

    p.  3 - "We have heard from bishops and general agencies that we must find new leaders for The United Methodist Church who can recognize where God is moving and join in the transformation of the world."  Does this mean that those of us who are presently in ministry do not recognize where God is moving OR that we haven't been asked?

    p. 6 - Developing a Culture of Call - seems to suggest that only those 35 and under are worthy of hearing God's call and/or are able to articulate that call in a meaningful manner in today's reality?  Really?  I wonder what Paul as a second career apostle would respond.

    p. 10 - Without any substantive proof the following statements are made:  Please note the number of instances where the word "some" or "sometimes" is used. 

    Security of appointment limits the ability of the church to respond to the primacy of missional needs? ( As pointed out on page 11, par. 430.1 [and with no proposed amendment] the Bishop and Cabinet have this authority already.  Are they not effectively using that authority?)

    Security of appointment sometimes emphasizes the clergy person's needs instead of focusing on the church's mission.  (If I understand the calling correctly our primary as need as clergy is to offer the grace of Jesus Christ to the world.  If there are circumstances that sometimes require grace and flexibility for those of us who are called to this ministry is that a bad thing from the church -- us?)

    Security of appointment restricts flexibility of appointments.  (Elders take an oath upon Ordination to go where we are called -- if we refuse an appointment it has been my understanding that we have violated that oath.  Or is that requirement only for some?)

    Security of appointment is not financially sustainable ... . (Within my own AC and District there is a disparity of salary that reaches into the 10's of thousands of dollars.  What happened to the idea that we hold all in common?  What about salary schedules that allow for years of service and effectiveness that is applied to all within an AC or a District?)

    The entire Transitional Leave proposal is questionable.  An Elder will be given at the minimum a 90 day notice of unemployment, a loss of housing, and possibly insurance.  It has been suggested that this is acceptable because this is how the real world operates.  I believed that the Church was called to be different than the real world.  In the real world as an employee I would choose where I applied for a job, I would be able to negotiate my salary, I would be able to say yes or no to a job, I would choose where I lived, and in what type of house.  I would make decisions regarding the best school placement for my children or location of where my spouse might find employment.  These are all decisions that are taken away from an individual when they become an Elder.  So, tell me again about the real world.

    Do we have declining membership in our denomination?  Of course we do.  So does every other denomination as well as some of the mega nondenominational churches.  Who is responsible?  All of us.  Bishops, Cabinets, Agencies, Clergy (Elder, Deacon, LLP, etc.) and Laity.  The proposal to end "guaranteed appointment" as the fix for these issues is not the answer and it is not the right road for us to be traveling.  If we got into a pickle together -- then we need to get out of the pickle together. 

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  • Jim Clevenger 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    "Progressives and evangelicals do share some concerns about the
    restructuring. Leaders of both Good News and Methodist Federation for
    Social Action criticized the Call to Action plan..."

    Number one, I thought we got rid of recognition of "groups" within the United Methodist Church, yet this article still recognizes them?
    Secondly, I have a problem with identified groups of any kind getting this kind of notice within a UMC letterhead, yet alone making it sound like these "movements" are identified as progressive and evangelical.

    You want to "kill" the UMC for good?  Keep this labeling exercise within the UMC.  It will be sure to prove to seekers of faith we have become a church of politics instead of a Church of the living God, a Church of Jesus Christ and a Church of the Holy Spirit.

    I can vote about politics.  I can't vote about His Will.

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  • Barbara 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Re elimination of "guaranteed appointments for Elders in good standing":  If there are more "Elders in Good Standing" than church appointments available for them, then why are there so many "lay preachers" and/or "local licensed preachers" filling appointments?  Sometimes, those lay preachers are receiving medical and retirement benefits from multiple sources (outside of the conference) putting a greater strain on the conference's resources.  Often these lay preachers do not have sufficient training for them to be effective leaders ... they're just "filling" a pulpit (and not necessarily effective preachers either).  Local churches deserve to have a pastor who can fill all of their needs, not just someone to preach on Sunday morning.

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  • Ruth 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Amen...........small churches are suffering and cannot afford an ordained pastor who would grow their congregations. 

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  • kathrynsadams 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    The problem here is they are putting to much of the world in the church and not preaching God's word. The word says be set apart, not mingle with the world. The reason the church has a falling off is because there's no power in the church  we have become to much like the world.  When we get back to God's princples and live by them. Then we will see growth. why would the world want to come to a place that has no more to offer than they have. When chrisitans live the same way they do. The church and its leaders need to seek God and get into his presence then you will see lives changed. In  His presence you can find what you need. Watering down the gospel will not help anyone and we will stand before God one day and will be judge for every word we say and do. Leaders of the church will be held accountable for their congerations. God is loving and kind but he is also Holy, a just God and a God of order!

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  • Ruth 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Too much emphasis put on "Contempoary" services, which are difficult for small churches to secure leadership.
    We are conforming to the world.

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  • dan bowman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    There needs to be a clearly defined system in place of what it means to be an effective pastor before "guaranteed appointments" are repealed.  Bishops must also fall under the same expectations of effectiveness or removal since they also are clergy.  Bishops should have no part in determining a pastor's effectiveness, that should be determined by something similar to a Board of Ordained Ministry's recommendation to the Annual Conference based on empirical evidence and then voted on by the Annual Conference clergy, not by the single opinion of a Bishop.  

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  • ConcernedUM 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I have four points to make:  1) In 2008, the UMC made is EASIER for individuals to be ordained and obtain the promise of a "guaranteed" appointment.  Why?  Was it because we needed more young clergy or because there was a clergy shortage at the time?  Why not make the process a bit more difficult, and extend the probationary/provisional period until the clergy person proves themselves effective in ministry and can then be ordained, and granted tenure/guaranteed appointment.  Of course, other posts are correct that there are NO clergy effectiveness standards; 2) the lack of clear and consistent clergy effectiveness standards is a major problem and will definitely result in arbitrary decisions by bishops and district superintendents.  The language requiring a guaranteed appointment to elders in good standing is a check and balance on the power of bishops given the fact the bishops are humans too and will no doubt be tempted to abuse their sole authority in appointment-making.  Sin remains in bishops just as it does in pastors.  The kind of absolute power sought by the bishops here is a disaster-in-the-making; 3) The ultimate responsibility for the church's effectiveness is NOT with the pastors. It lies with the bishops.  If anyone's "appointment-security" is to be changed, shouldn't we change the lifetime election of biships?  Who gets to decide if Bishops are effective?  If an Annual Conference is declining, it is the ultimate responsibility of the bishop, not simply the pastors; 4) this proposal is simply a way of avoiding the hard and unpopular decisions that have to be made in annual conferences.  I am specifically talking about closing ineffective churches, merging churches, linking churches on circuits with stronger churches, etc.  I am concerned that what we are seeing here is spiritual and political cowardice on the part of leadership.

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  • jkct 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Read a lot, i believe, I think, We should,,,,,,very little "after prayerful consideration" . Might be the problem is doing God's will......our way.

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  • SkylerBungee 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Just wait till more issues that people do not know about comes forward. I know of two cases right now were they are being sued for many wrong doings! AND its sad that we listen to pastors and think that GOD called them to be there for us. Since all the issues have been going on, --MY Faith has changed and will no longer be apart of any UMC or UMC Pastors till the court cases is over! I had read many comments on this post, and the one about being fired and a hard church, well- I believe you and yes this happens for no reason.

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  • Jeannie Harn 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The UMC has many problems And several pending court cases right now, because they have done past preacher's wrong. I bet people don't write about that. I use to be proud to be a UMC person but now, I say other wise. The Bishop and all under him do not listen to the truth that is said to them and do not want to make it right for the ones they let go and Black Ball. Yes, there is proof to all of this. When you are a preacher, you are called by God. A Preacher is called to P R E A C H  -- R E A C H -- E A C H-- Other. Why does the Bishop and other cabinet members have the ablilty to run Paster's off and then want them to give up their preachering papers, just to settle a case..  I think it is kind of funny that some preachers can do so wrong and get by with it and then the preachers who do no wrong, are the ones they let go and say they can't preach no more.. The South Ga Confer. is a joke.. I can't wait for a pending court case that I KNOW ABOUT is settled before a judge and then lets see who the UMC will be getting rid of..

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  • Mike Rayson 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Ok... time to start up the flamethrower!!   :-)

    The UMC system is, as I understand it, the only Methodist denomination to offer guaranteed appointment.  I never had it in my previous denomination - and thank God I didn't!  In fact, I was fired from my second appointment.  Nothing I did wrong, and it was indeed a hard church to serve (5 pastors fired in 10 years).  Funnily enough, God had something right around the corner that was incredibly fulfilling and challenging.  Now here I am in the US - and frankly, I don't get it.  To me as an immigrant, it feels like American Exceptionalism dressed up in a different robe and stole!  You don't "deserve" to be a pastor because of your education, ordination, and the pretty coloured thing around your neck on Sunday - you "are" a pastor because God has called you to be in ministry.  What right do I have as a pastor to stand aside a factory worker who has just been layed off, or a single mom struggling to pay the bills because her hours just got cut, if I know that at least I'm safe and sound, and not like 'those' people.

    Also - those that assert that no guaranteed appointment lessens your effectiveness to preach prophetically is actually hurtful and somewhat insulting to those of us who are Methodist ministers in other Methodist denominations who do not have that same protection.  We preach prophetically too you know - even when that sometimes means we get run out of town by the angry mob with pitchforks.

    Using the old and tired "but what if my Bishop doesn't like me" argument seems to me to be saying (and admittedly, I am still an outsider even though I've been in the US and UMC for 6 years) "I don't trust God - even when life seems difficult".

    Please don't think I am trying to be disrespectful or graceless - I'm simply pointing out holes in the guaranteed appointment argument that I see that are rarely, if ever, explored.  God will continue to work whether our institution (it's my institution now too!!) has guaranteed appointment or not.

    In terms of positive reinforcement - we have GREAT things going for us in the UMC!!  Praise God for what he does in us, through us and with us.

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  • pastormendy 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I love the itineracy and think that doing away with guaranteed appointments hurts that a little. I wonder what it will look like for our connectional ministries in that sense. I think pastors may be fearful to request a move when the Holy Spirit is calling them to do it, simply because they may be afraid that they may lose their source of income. I can also see that there might be more of a political influence in the system which, is of course currently in our Church, but may become more concentrated. My particular conference is overrun with more pastors than we can accomodate with churches so it would be a help for us, but also a complicated problem.

    Then on the other hand I've experienced this problem personally. Within my conference there is a fear to ordain someone who is working in an extension ministry because of guaranteed appointments. The fear is that as an elder I may ask for a position in a local church and they will have to provide me with one even though our elders out number our churches. I have been fighting an uphill battle because of this. I feel strongly called to be an elder and strongly called to chaplaincy, but I have felt hesitancy from the board every time I go before them when dealing with my ordination process. I am also aware of military complaints about the fact that there are very few United methodist chaplains because of this and even fewer hospital and hospice chaplains. 

    I wonder about a modified guarateed appointment system. Perhaps there needs to be a chaplaincy or others, who need to be elders, non-guaranteed route and a local church guaranteed route. Then maybe there should be an easier way to evaluate effectiveness and put pastors on probation as needed.  With this make it clear which of the three routes, deacon, non-guarantee and guarantee, fits for which kind of ministry and the call in a person's life. Clarify the process a bit and maybe it might help.

    I must say I pray for and do not envy those who are part of general conference and must make these decisions. That is a heavy calling.

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  • PastorUM 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    When such a radical (?) change as guaranteed appointment for an elder in good standing is being proposed, I think a compromise would be that it would take effect in some year in the future so that those who are entering the process are aware of what elder ordination in The UMC involves.  It is unfair to have that happen retroactively to persons who are already gone through all of the time, expense, examination, and ordination required to be a UM elder (yes, I am one of those).

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  • eric pone 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The bulk of the issue here is that the role of DS and Bishop as they currently stand are obselete. I really think we need to rethink whether the role of DS is even relevant in today's church. Many of the top performing congregations are top performing because of the vision of the pastor who is listening to God and then helping the congregation to walk in that vision. Many times Bishops and DS's interfere based on prejudice and ruin potentially viable ministries. More importantly, too often they keep congregations on life support who should have died a long long time ago. What really needs to happen is that we need to simplify the denomination big time. Reduce the council of Bishops to 15 members with one serving as the executive of the Church for 4 years. The role of DS should be elected annually and that person should be mandated to be maintain a charge. Instead of putting pastors to parishes why not just let congregations choose their own pastors. Most don't need MDIV's they could just as easily take care of themselves. There is more to being UMC than just the structure and I think we have gotten too far away from that. 

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  • RevDLM 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    To me it seems that both problems of boards and ordained elders are because our church needs to be fixed.  The problem I sense is that to fix the problem we are removing the engine and transmission and not replaceing it with anything anywhere near as efficient as it currently is.  I sense the the church would rather decline than step forward in faith!  What is needed is a revival in the entire denomination from the top down.  What has happened to the Holy Spirit in our denomination?  It seems the bank balances have the most power and the Holy Spirit is not much more than a topic of discussion!

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  • UpperNY 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I find it hard to believe that there are 784 more clergy than full-time appointments.  In my conference (Upper NY), full-time appointments are given to clergy of other denominations, and we routinely receive clergy transferring from other denominations into conference membership.  Shouldn't these appointments be given to United Methodist Elders, and the gate closed to those of other denominations BEFORE we resort to discontinuing guaranteed appointments for Elders?

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  • Pastorsmate 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Aside from the issue of evaluating clergy effectiveness (which is needed, but with a fair system of doing it), there is another reasonable, gradual-but-effective way of dealing with having "784 more U.S. clergy than positions needed".  Put a very temporary "hold" on new-clergy appointments -- and until all 784 receive "needed positions", appoint them to all the slots vacated by retiring clergy.  Then when they are all appointed to "needed" positions, open the doors again to admitting new clergy from that time on, only when there are needed positions to fill.  
    This is a purely-functional solution to what is seen as "excess" (a separate discussion!), but it would give the UMC time to set up a fair and reasonable system of evaluating clergy effectiveness and connecting it to the appointment system.

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  • rizaldedizon 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    What is important today is for our Church (UMC) to be relevant and effective.  Restructuring,  is I believe the initial exercise that is needed. But this should be anchored on the true mission of the Church and it should always be centered to Christ. Let the Holy Spirit inspire and move us all ( church officials, clergy and the laity).

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  • Young_adult_student01 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    As a young adult college student, planning on going into seminary in the next year; I don`t like what I am hearing.  You want to get rid of guaranteed appointments why?  This is one way to push young adults away, by telling them that they won`t have a job, if they are doing their job right. I understand the economy is bad right now; but that does not mean that you should tell the ordained elders who are doing their job; that they don`t need to have it.  That`s not the christian thing to do.  The clergy that are not doing their job, probably should not be in ministry; if they cannot do their job.  You need to rethink your decision and open new churches; if you believe the money will come.

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  • sailwaywil 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The concept of a guaranteed appointment was a committment
    shared by clergy and conference administration once upon a time to benefit
    conferences who could not find enough clergy to fill the ranks. In theory it
    worked because clergy gave up income and compromised some of their sense of
    calling for security. It was suppose to allow pastors to be prophetic without
    fear of being out on the street. To change it now is to go back on the
    committment and promise made by the conference which ordains the clergy and is
    patently dishonest, if not sinful. The reason we have more clergy than
    positions is that Conferences have not funded building enough new churches and
    revitalizing the old line churches. The Bishops who desire this legislation are
    asking clergy to bail them out of a tough situation. However, it doesn't
    address the problem, which is that we are not holding a standard up for our
    churches of growing,  Moreover the UMC has become reactive rather than
    prophetic, which is why we have too many clergy

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  • UMPastor 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    As an ordained elder my calling is from God and is affirmed, witnessed, and mediated through the Church, with the Bishop of my Conference giving visible representation of this through ordination and the laying on of hands. I, for my part, must daily live up to both my calling and the trust placed in my by the Church at my ordination. Ordination is not a right, it is a responsibility. If I falter in this responsibility as seen in the eyes of others, I want and expect to be held accountable by my sisters and brothers represented by the Cabinet, the Board of Ordained Ministry, and my Bishop - even if it ultimately means being told that the Church and the kingdom of God would be better served by my finding a different calling. In the end, its not about me. I dare not forget - for my own soul's sake.

    As for fearing that I will be treated unfairly, the truth is, it's already happened under the current system. In 25 + years of ministry, I was given one appointment that seemed to be furthest from anything my DS and I had discussed, and in another I was first promised-then passed over for another - BUT, I have also been given 2 incredible, amazing, unlooked for, and wonderful appointments to churches that I did not deserve. Go figure... I guess God (through others) sometimes knows better than I do. Definitely. 

    Our current system has lost its effectiveness. Are the proposed changes better? Time will tell. At least we are finally looking to fix something instead of pretending it still functions. I long for, and pray for, the day that Gen'l Conf will be long on mission effectiveness and short on maintenance...

    Regardless of what happens, Christ is still Lord of the UMC. Therein I place my hope and security.

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  • Pastpastor 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I left a job paying $2!,000 in 1977 with the assurance that as long as I functioned as a faithful Pastor I would have a place to serve.  I am now retired after 33 years in Ministry.  While I was passed over for some appointments that I thought I should have gotten, I always had a place where I could serve God.  My 4 Denman Evangelism nominations speak to my effectiveness as a Pastor.  When we ask persons to work for what is usually well below the standard of income compared to industry, the least we can do is assure them that they will have a place to serve as long as they are found to be effective in God's eyes.  Our broad based inclusiveness should include everyone who meets our standard (book of Discipline), not just those we agree with.

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  • Pantocrator 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The spirit of guaranteed appointment is based not in an entitlement to one's piece of the pie, but in the "take thou authority" issued when one's call to apostolic vocation is acknowledged through ordination.  We need to call it guaranteed DEPLOYMENT, not appointment.  It should be considered a fishing license, not a meal ticket. 

    Let the Conference retain authority over the fractional time funded by equitable compensation and then see what happens.  If you receive 1/4 your compensation from equitable comp, 1/4 of the time should be spent in outreach!

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  • texastruthrules 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Everyone who I know who has left the Methodist church in the past few years have left because of the progressive influence on the church. When addressing these issues such as the church seeming to endorse communist rallies, occupy movements, socialized  medicine etc with my Methodist pastor in Texas he pointed out that ideas of collective salvation (redistribution of wealth as the only way to get to heaven-nobody goes unless everybody does)  were being taught in seminary school when he was there. Perhaps the restructuring process should take into account biblical principles that will lead followers to true salvation and not principles that serve a different idol. 

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  • RMLS 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I say a hearty YES to the restructure, most boards are archaic in structure and the average person would be shocked by the entitlements and salary of people in our agencies.  As to losing inclusivity--it is already a myth in our denomination and pretending we're inclusive has only served to hide the 'isms' endemic in our denomination.  But taking away guaranteed appointments only for elders, not for the Bishops?  Why?  If it's a good idea to allow for more accountability and quality control for our clergy, it is certainly equally, if not more important for that same quality control and accountability for the bishops.  They will only become more insulated and more powerful (if that's even possible) if we only deal with clergy appointment and not acknowledge the same rule (term limits) for the Bishops.  

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  • revdak 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Having been in the ordained ministry since 1960, I've seen and heard it all when it comes to guaranteed appointments. I've seen outstanding pastors passed over for advancement because they are "not known" among the leadership ranks,, or are outsoken in ministry and pulbit and deemd too risky for an "appointment".  On the ohter hand, I've seen pastors really sluff off their work, but get ignored because they are one of the "good old boys" who know the ins an outs of leadership above them. Conclusion: human nature producs both kinds and creating a system which will/could be interpretd as potential threat is hardly less than adopting a business atitude, rather than address ministry.  Some contend that clergy must be answerable to someone in their job.  I've always assumed that the One who called me to ministry was holding me accountable.  Perhaps,....just perhaps we need to concentrate on being sure our "ministers of Christ"-- are honest born-again believers and are called to minisry and not a religious business.  We face a core problem of faith, not a business decision which will lead to better "profits"  We could use a few active prophets, however.

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  • RMLS 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    A hearty YES to the restructure.  But would someone please help me understand how we can get rid of guaranteed appointment, but not apply that logic to our bishops?  They--and only they--are exempt?  Because of what?  Super-competency?  Infallibility?  That's a scary dichotomy.

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  • RMLS 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Why the loss of guaranteed appointment only for elders?  What about our lifetime bishops?

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  • Linda Harris 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    As we discuss clergy ineffectiveness, perhaps we should investigate what may have happened to facilitate such.  So often our clergy are sent into the lion's den with no idea of what could happen.  Any person, even one set apart, will lose effectiveness after being beaten down by a congregation who either did not want a new pastor or a short pastor, or a Black pastor, or a Hispanic pastor, of a female, or a young person...etc.  We often allow our pastors to be destroyed without giving the support they need...and if the pastor is less than full time, there's no requirement for conference health insurance and individual health care often doesn't include a provision for counseling.  Perhaps we should hold our congregations more accountable.  Why are some pastors dying so young? 

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  • Curt Magelky 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I have read many of the comments posted and as a student pastor working toward ordination, the idea of guaranteed appointments is interesting but a little troubling as well.  I think the idea of knowing that I could have guaranteed job security once ordained is nice but I also think it could breed laziness, and maybe does breed laziness in clergy.  I think a great motivator to succeed is knowing that there are consequences to failure. 

    But we also might ask ourselves what constitutes clergy effectiveness and how do we measure this?  Do we look at numbers (attendance, membership growth, etc.)?  Or do we take a look at numbers and situational circumstances like the subculture of the individual congregation together?  I think we run into problems when we judge a pastors effectiveness only on the numbers when there could be other factors involved.

    When looking at clergy effectiveness, we should as the most important question.  Are they helping to bring people to know the love of Christ through leadership of the local congregation they are assigned?  If they are not, why?  Was recognition of the call in error, were they placed in a congregation where their gifts aren't being used to their full potential, or was it something else? 

    Clergy have to go through a lot to become ordained so they shouldn't be callously discarded but they shouldn't be allowed a permanent place when they are not trying their hardest to bring people to Christ.

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  • rabbigramp 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    If ordained Elders in good standing are denied guaranteed appointments, will churches who do not support the programs, theology and/or apportionments of The UMC  be told that they cannot be appointed a pastor?

    While the major onus for leadership in church growth and evangelism lies with the pastor, many congregations display an attitude of not wanting to grow or to give ...  It may be the failure of clergy leadership, but often it is just stubborn clinging to the sin of the "old man" and refusing to let the Holy Spirit work...  Both clergy and laity are often guilty!

    IMHO, United Methodism does not have a surplus of available pastors.  It suffers greatly from a lack of comm
    itment, confidence and vision.  Maybe, we should make a $5,000 available to some of us clergy and challenge us to go birth abd grow a church!  Many vital congregations have been birthed on less when they are free from the bureaucratic burden we are so quick to pile upon our pastors and congregations.

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  • Greg the Bunny 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I would be able to support this provided two companion pieces of legislation were added: elemination of lifetime episcopal appointments (what is being done to get rid of ineffective bishops?) and giving pastors the authority to get rid of ineffective lay people, including removing from the membership rolls those who fail in their membership vows.

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  • Vicky Kelley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I support the idea of doing away with the guaranteed appointment to deal with our future unfunded liability issues.  I'm not so sure about doing away with it in order to deal with ineffective clergy.  If a clergy is ineffective, is it really acceptable to put them in any church, even a part time one?   I would like to know a couple of things about its implementation, which will be key I believe.  What is the criteria to determine if a clergy person gets a less than full time appointment? Convenience of the cabinet or performance?  Will a person receive a less than FT appointment because the DS doesn't wish to move them, even though one may be available elsewhere (think clergy couples, person with 5 kids and needs a large parsonage, a person with disabilities and needs a handicapped accessible parsonage)?    Secondly, if a person is appointed part-time, will the Board of Ordained Ministry relax the standards of what a person is allowed to engage in while appointed less than full-time?  Will that person be able to be employed part time by another church or another denomination?  Will they be able to obtain gainful employment elsewhere (tent-making) without being considered for a full-time appointment at a later time?  

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  • Anne Constant Ewing, age 73, lived in Phila since 1966 except 3 years in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 5th generation Methodist. Worked ( still do somewhat) as a community organizer, which really means thinking through issues, breaking down projects into doable sections and helping people to get them done. 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Re: Restructuring the governance of the UM Church
    I have looked at both proposals, the Call to Action one and the one Called  A New UM Administrative Order .  I agree about the lack of CC representation and the unreasonable cutbacks in ethnic ministry services in Call to Action's proposal. 

    I also find the New  UM Adminstrative Order to be much clearer, much more comprehensible, and to make most sense, as it groups related agencies together.  I recall the previous proposal of the Connectional Table, which I spent hours and hours figuring out, and how I thought then that it would never pass the local Conferences, because it was not really comprehensible to anyone not part of the inner circles of church policy and control.  If we want to consolidate, if we don't want to try to struggle through another quadrennium of failure, with study groups fighting it out over a failing church, then let us look for a clear AND inclusive structure which arranges for all to have the representation they deserve.

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  • Pantocrator 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    If God has called more people into apostolic, missionary,
    itinerant ministry than there are available churches and significant unreached people groups, exactly how is that a problem? 

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  • Pantocrator 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Somehow it posted kind of odd:  The question is (better stated_,

    If God has called more people into apostolic missionary itinerant ministry than there are available, established, churches to cloister them away from the significant unreached people groups not presently coming to our denomination, exactly how is that a problem?

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  • Jeff Pospisil 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Wow...I never thought of it from that angle.  I've met very few pastors where I felt they should no longer be pastoring a church.  Most of them love God and love the people.  Maybe it's time to unleash them instead of trying so hard to control them.

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  • LeeMG 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Jumping from  400 general agency members to 15 is using a big ax when a paring knife is needed.  Annual conferences and jurisdictions need to re-structure to better reflect ethnic and minority representation,  Then the General agencies will have members who have received those perspectives. 

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  • LeeMG 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

     There are too many ordained elders for the church support but that is because Bishops and boards of ordained ministry have not done their jobs   .Ineffective ministers need to be dismissed, with reasons for dismissal, not arbitrarily or temporarily laid-off by the presiding Bishop.  A strength of the United Methodist Church is it's quality of ministry.   Putting elders in the position of probationers saps that strength.

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  • lmiller 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I am concerned and continue to be concerned about our United Methodist church's move to the left, and away from our Wesleyan heritage.  I know of pastors who have violated their vows of marriage , were disciplined and gave up their credentials for a while, only to be returned in a few years and appointed to  larger Congregations and given positions of honor in the Annual Conference, offered the opportunity to preach to the gathering at Annual Conference.  I also know of another who prior to ordination went of TV and spoke publically about her support of gay marriage, only later at Annual Conference make a different public statement saying she supported the United Methodist Discipline and was subsequently ordained and appointed to a large church in Central Vermont. There is something wrong when a Bishop who knows a individual is either openly gay, or knows they do not support the Discipline of our United Methodist Church but continue to go ahead and ordain such individuals.  Where is the accountability?  At this point in my career, I do not see  a whole lot among some clergy and also some Bishops.  It reflects badly on our church and I am conviced one of the main causes for the declining membership.  We all need to wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late. Amen!!!

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    (Edited by a moderator)

  • sailwaywil 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Our Wesleyan heritage means that the UMC. has always been progressive, ahead of society, and prophetic. If living up to our tradition as a Social Activist Church means we are moving to the left and are more progressive (I use that term instead of your implied liberalism in the term "to the left) then so be it. As for pastors who are returned in a few years to active ministry then you should be celebrating that they have been redeemed and reclaimed by the Gospel. The church is not in judgement business but in the  redemption business, so how is it wrong for the church to be forgiving, and allowing for restoration of clergy to their calling. would bet the fact that these clergy lost sight of whose they were had to do in part with the lack of emotional support that they received from the parishes they served which overloaded their marriages. This means that the responsibility for their sin is not only individual but corporate, shared not only by their wrong decisions but those who failed in their ministry partnership with them, i.e. the church which did not support them or even realize the need to support them.   

     I would suggest that if you actually studied the Discipline there is a great deal in it that you would not agree with, particularly in the social principles (e.g. the church's condemnation of capital punishment). I do not believe our church should completely wipe out either debate or dissent, which you are really suggesting by not allowing someone such as this women to dissent on TV. but also be ordained. I would  be careful in implying that if a person supports gay marriage then they themselves are necessarily gay.

    The reason that the church has been in decline is that we have amnesia about who we really are not that we have changed. No, we have not changed enough to be relevant to many and so they ignore us. Conservatives like yourself are confusing the institutional church you have experienced with the church, because you have not experienced the prophetic church which confronted slavery, that spawned the Temperance Movement, that helped lead to women suffrage, that took the Gospel to Africa and Korea. No the UMC of today is more concerned about maintaining the vision of what has been rather than to dream new dreams and see the visions of the church as it once was and could be again of reaching out to the outcasts like gay people, minorities, older adults, immigrants (illegal and otherwise) and the poor. We have spent too much time worrying about numbers and declining influence, etc. and forgotten how to listen to God's voice to make Disciples.

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  • Pastor_R 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I believe that the possible change to the gaurantee of a position for Elder's has its drawbacks.  First and foremost it fails to address the issue of how to deal with clergy that are no longer effective.  By removing the gauranteed appointment system it seems a bandaid has been applied to a gaping wound.  Might it not be better to address the evaluation process as it relates to all clergy appointments so that it is objective rather than subjective.  What truly makes a clergy person inneffective?  When does the congregation get evaluated for their accountability to their membership vows?  How often are clergy called inneffective when the local church has become a clique that refuses to be shepherded?

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  • Masked_Methodist 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Here here, anyone who has tried to implement a vision of turnaround for a local church runs into huge pressure against change. With that the pastor is accused of being inneffective, when actually the opposite is the case. I am for removing the gauranteed appointment system as long as it includes the Bishops are no longer a life term appointment and there is some realistic and practical balances put in place to for Pastors dealing with clergy killers.

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  • feslop 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Like any good sermon, a three point comment.  First, are 'progressive' evangelicals and 'orthodox' liberals cousins?  Second, the church bureaucratic cake is sagging with too many candles, a move the restructure proposal seeks to address. If demon racism is behind the proposal or inevitable if it is adopted, then the church is already lost beyond what our current approach of 'salvation by committee' can address. Third, as long as the general church lacks a national, unified and coherent definition of 'effectiveness,' suspicion will run deep that personalities and pickiness will call the shots for who gets retained and who gets the door. Of course clergy effectiveness can defined by bishops and cabinets like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography, i.e., I know it when I see it. And what is the trip-wire to remove an ineffective bishop under the new standard. I write as one who favors the end of tenure but sees huge problems if the church does not have clear, measurable and defensible standards to define 'effective.'

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  • theospilot 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    They keep telling us there are TOO FEW younger clergy coming in to take the places of those who will be retiring or leaving in some other manner or another.  This appears to be a pretty short-term problem. The tools exist to handle the needs to help clergy exit and it is a fair process as the article mentions.  This proposal would not be fair and would lead I expect to numerous lawsuits.  I agree, too much power in the hands of the Bishops.  Most of the Bishops tend to be pretty liberal and could in this process simply eliminate those they find they would rather not have voicing a contrary opinion.

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  • Ernest1936 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    The possible change in not guaranteeing an Elder a position is a positive change, not only because there are not enough positions, but also as in other areas when you guarantee a position bad and good remain.  Just because a pastor is in good standing does not mean that they should be guaranteed a job.

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  • mc54 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    One more point to consider.  It is always tempting to give someone more authority to deal with a problem.  Ineffective clergy is certainly a problem.  A greater problem is this:  sooner or later someone who inherits that position with the greatly increased power is going to abuse - probably sooner than later.

    Our bishops are often so out of touch with the grassroots of the church that to increase their power is not a step in the right direction.

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  • mc54 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Ernest1936, I agree that you have a point.  However, it should start at the top with the bishops.  Let them lead by example and give up their life-time appointment.  Term limits for bishops works in central conferences where the church is rapidly growing.  Bishops already are able not to appoint clergy who are judged ineffective, but nothing can be done about our ineffective bishops, who are hurting the church far more.

    Also, we can give bishops more power to fire ineffective preachers, but how do we stop them from promoting them?

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  • nape 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    To ask an Elder to itenerate with no net beneath them is asking them to be faithful while they allow you not to be.

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  • justpreach 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

     If the net is in anything other than Christ, then perhaps those elders should be the first to go.  Trusting in their own financial abilities rather than the direction of the Holy Spirit is part of our whole problem.

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  • lmiller 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Goo point made...hope you will see another post I just added to the mix.  Retired in Vermont and still preaching the gospel without fear or favor from any other human

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  • Ernest1936 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I believe going from 400 to only 15 is too little to help support all of the issues that they will be working with, also that it will not give a good representation of the general church. I understand that the general church needs to look at ways to lower costs so the local churches do not close though.

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