Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guaranteed Appointment

I have a friend on the United Methodist denomination wide study committee on ministry. As we continue into the 21st century, [they] are evaluating certain practices. [They] hope [I] would be able to answer a couple of questions, as [they] deeply value [my] opinion:
The two questions are:

1. What is your opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist now practices with the itinerant clergy (the clergy agree to go where the bishop sends us, the bishop guarantees the clergy a job). Would you favor keeping it or not? As much detail and perspective that you can give would be most helpful.
2. If the guaranteed appointment is eliminated, and if non-seminary trained local pastors are ordained, what would be the motivation for a candidate for ministry to pursue a seminary education (and accumulate a large amount of debt)? Recent statistics suggest that almost half of new candidates for ministry are on the local pastor track (which currently means they are not ordained).

My response:

1. My opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist Church now practices with itinerant clergy is that we are not doing any favors to our churches, our pastors, or the Gospel. By limiting risk, and rewarding complacency (don't rock the boat) we are not creating enough discomfort in our congregations and for our clergy to effectively risk and challenge and change. I am reminded of several passages in the epistles where the Apostles have gone out and appropriated what was before, in the culture, or in the historical record of Israel and made it work differently for the immediate context they live. Jesus does this as well, accepting the discomfort internally, while creating discomfort for the people. [Luke 4:14-30] I am in favor of guaranteed appointments, with a broader understanding of the purpose of the appointment, to train leaders, to administer the Sacraments, and to serve more churches (in the style of our Circuit Riders - entire regions of several states, etc, not our Current Circuits that encompass no more than 7 churches [that was the largest circuit I heard anyone serving]) I also believe that we do not do enough oversight of our clergy as provided for in the Discipline for evaluation and removal from ministry. If we were to do the work required for oversight as presented in the Discipline I think we would not have the same issues. Paragraphs 331.5-6 (deacons) and 334.4 (elders)

2. I know the expected debt load of incoming clergy is beyond what the expected income is. This should be better rectified, with a more strenuous examination prior to entering seminary, including service in the local church. It might be that the Board of Ordained Ministry would spend time culling from the ranks of the enhanced leadership of the Local Pastors those who would be a good fit for seminary. I applaud the efforts of our local pastors, and know them to do outstanding work. I think that setting seminary trained persons as guides and trainers for service would only serve to enhance that model, as well as allow for greater lay empowerment through the entire process.

I apologize if I have been anywhere unclear in my thoughts, and I would be happy to follow up as best I can.

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3 Comments:

At December 02, 2009, Blogger Bruce said...

There is a rising storm in the ranks of clergy in the United Methodist Church. Traditionally, the
clergy has been divided by educational and experience lines. The individual churches do not get a
choice of which clergy they want, a central supervising group over each conference chooses where
the clergy go to serve. The group consists of the resident bishop, and district supervisors called
district superintendents forming a circle of power that rivals any large corporation. Clergy that
attains, through education, the status of elder, is guaranteed an appointment in the current system.

The storm that is brewing surrounds this guaranteed appointment system. I admit this system of
appointment has never been ideal, in that it protects pastors who are less effective than other pastors,
but that is a very fine line to be able to judge. The community, economics, and the church itself play
into the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of pastors. Pressures from within the governing body of
the conference, i.e., the bishop and cabinet of district superintendents, telling their young pastors that
they must go through the educational requirements of a college degree as well as a Master's of
Divinity post graduate degree in order to be effective and to climb into upper tier churches in
membership, salary, and budget, has spawned anger and distrust within the 'new ideology' being
introduced by the new generation of United Methodist Bishops.

 
At December 02, 2009, Blogger Bruce said...

PT 2:

The new ideology seems to be likened with other corporations that struggle with an aging workforce.
Bishops are not restrained by any clergy group, although the Board of Ordained Minstry, should have
the power to make the bishops accountable and protect the United Methodist pastor, has fallen by
the wayside and have become merely interviewers of prospective pastors. The bishops today have
free reign to do as they feel is necessary.

The storm rising is the traditional conflict of age/education/experience equals wisdom versus youth
equals wisdom. Today in this fight to overcome the traditional ideology and according to the Book
of Discipline (the rules of the church), clergy within the United Methodist Church has guaranteed
appointment, however today we are seeing local church pastors who do not have the education
requirements, young probationary pastors with less than 2 or 3 years experience, and elders who have
less than 5 years experience moves immediately into upper tier churches, leaving behind those who
have worked hard over the past 25 or 30 years to build onto their experience of ministries in order
to be able to move into these churches and be effective.

Remember, I do not believe that guaranteed appointment has ever been fair however, it protects the
pastor from bishops and superintendents who may like or dislike pastors in appointment. If
guaranteed appointment is done away with, it is this pastor's opinion that it would be a free-for-all
for the bishops to 'get rid of' any pastor who doesn't do ministry the way the bishops want. What
has made the United Methodist Church great is the fact that we all do not do minstry the same wam,
we are a very diverse church. Doing away with guaranteed appointment would be like opening day
of hunting season!

If the United Methodist Church is going to change the way pastors' are appointed, the only way to
do it, is to get rid of the process entirely and give it to the local churches. I suggest local churches
from the smallest to the largest be able to choose their own pastor from trained United Methodist
indoctrinated pastors from an application and a interviewing process. The pastor, no matter if he or
she is well educated or not, young or more experienced, the church should be the one to make the
final judgement. As far as salaries are concerned, the church should set the salary based on their
pastoral responsibilities and their budget. As it is now, the bishop and district superintendents and
general conference determines what salaries' different classes of pastors make. For example, if one
church has 75 persons in attendance, take in an average income of 100,000 dollars, and desire to
have a full time seminary-educated pastors then they must be able to meet certain salary
requirements.

The new ideology that is being slowly introduced by bishops, desires to do away with the guaranteed
appointment but not their power and control of the local church. To give the church the power to
interview and pay according to their budgets would basically be handing the churches the power to
govern themselves much like the Southern Baptist, Freewill Baptist, among two denominations
among many that are effective today.

I believe, however, Bishops of the United Methodist Church will never agree on such a system
because it would usurp power from them and give it ultimately to the local church. It would give
the local church a bargaining chip that is basically removed from them under the current appointment
system. So, it seems that the 'new age' bishops desire to have more control over the pastor and the
local churches without giving up anything. I foresee that if this push to eliminate guaranteed
appointment gathers steam, that a union of pastors will emerge within the United Methodist Church
that will rival any other union of other corporations. Then the Bishops and superintendents would
have to go to the bargaining table with their colleagues or the pastors would protest and strike.

 
At February 11, 2010, Anonymous JK said...

Coming from the husband of a UMC pastor, the thought of doing away with guaranteed appointment makes me sick to my stomach. What the church asks of my wife is tremendous - pull her kids out of school, have me quit my job and move to a new town every 3-5 years. If we're there a year they can just say "sorry, we don't have anything for you".
When you think about all of the hoops that UMC preachers have to jump through, a lot of it is done because they know they'll have a job. If you take that away, I think you'll have a lot of new people say "No, thanks, I'll go over to some other religion where I still get to be a preacher but don't have to jump through all hte hoops."

 

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