Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guaranteed Pastoral Appointments - A Luxury We Can Afford Anymore? Revisited.

The Commission to Study Ministry will be recommending to the General Conference in 2012 to do away with guaranteed pastoral appointments. I wrote about this last year in this blog.

One statement confirms what I always thought - the clergy shortage was a myth. Yes, a lot of clergy are retiring, but the general membership of the church is declining as well. We desperately need leadership borne out of passion, not entitlement.

My only caution is that we not see this as a "fix all." One commission member noted: "Guaranteeing clergy jobs produces 'a culture of mediocrity. It allows people to coast rather than to continue to strive and to grow,' said Seattle Area Bishop Grant Hagiya, a commission member. 'What we need is the flexibility to maximize our leadership to those who are going to make a difference.'"

Maybe. But Southern Baptists are losing members too, and they certainly can't blame guaranteed appointments for their demise. Leadership, an understanding of discipleship, and a willingness to be spiritual guides and models seem to be needed now more than ever.

John Meunier, a fellow blogger and bi-vocational local pastor, writes a very good blog about this and what doing away with guaranteed jobs in the UMC might mean. An exerpt:
I think radical changes in the rules for ministry must go hand-in-hand with a renewal of a shared sense of our Wesleyan roots. It is from our shared identity as a people called Methodist that we need to define what we mean by effective ministry and the nature of the mission of the church.

Such a move also places much more importance on the role and quality of conference leadership. Do we select bishops and district superintendents to be the leaders with an clear eye for ministerial effectiveness and the skills and gifts to nurture and support mission-oriented churches and clergy?

Will our church structure and rules need significant rewriting to free clergy to do what they would be expected to do?

Does the denomination need to take on itself more of the expense of the educating of new pastors?

I look forward to the conversation.
So do I. Of course... does it have a chance of passing?



Unknown said...

could not agree more!!! Like we've talked about before it seems like there is a small minority that are willing to step out on the limb of change and not be satisfied with the status quo-- it's obviously not working!!

"CAPTAIN DAVE" said...

Will taking away the guaranteed appointment really "fix" anything, other than perhaps removing a burden from Cabinets that don't know what to do with some of us?

In this era of "anti-government", I don't believe this will satisfy the local churches who want more say in which pastor they get.

Let's just go to a call system. That way, clergy will have to compete for jobs and negotiate compensation and benefits like health insurance and pension. And churches will bear the responsibility if it doesn't work out.

That will free up more time for the Bishop & Cabinet to do other things (like...?), the Annual Conference will not have to deal with insurance and pensions (free money!), and pastors will be more effective than ever. (Not!)

Sky, I'm afraid this is going to be a long conversation.

Sky McCracken said...

It probably IS going to be a long conversation, all of which will most likely be moot, since I doubt many delegate at General Conference would vote to do away with guaranteed appointments.

One point that probably needs addressing is the itineracy: is it relevant today? Is it practical today? It made sense in 1784 when clergy were single men only. Does it make sense in today's context?

I suspect if the UMC survives, the itinerancy will eventually fade away with since it is given lip service at best these days. Look at our own conference: how many have made a career out of itinerating, with the caveat "but I can't leave Memphis-Jackson-[insert location here]." The itinerancy is already dying, and it is selectively enforced. I used to think we had a two-tiered itinerancy (large membership churches vs medium & small membership churches), but I believe it is multi-tiered now. In our conference, the reasons given include one or more of the following (and I am sure I am missing some): (a) can't leave Memphis, (b) can't go to Kentucky, (c) don't want a parsonage/I already own a house.

It seems that cabinets/bishops around the Connection don't want the responsibility to deem folks ineffective for ministry, and BOM's around the Connection have strange and differing criteria for how they credential/don't credential clergy candidates who come through. Just as every conference has their own apportionment formulae, it seems that every BOM has their own set of standards. So moving clergy around from one conference to another to deal with shortages and overabundances will meet the obstacles of "we don't want that kind of clergy," "they went to the wrong school," and other such objections. The Connection is a misnomer, most certainly.

Folks ARE anti-government right now, and not without good reason. I have very strong reservations about Arizona's immigration law, but the reality is that their law was enacted because of the reticence and inaction of a Congress more worried about getting re-elected than taking action... action which might have lost them the Hispanic vote. You can't blame the Left or Right on this one; they're equally guilty. But you CAN blame power and those not wanting to risk losing it. In the midst of a leadership vacuum, Arizona "took thou authority."

The guaranteed appointment SHOULD have freed clergy up to be prophetic, take tough stands, and worry about increasing the Kingdom instead of worrying about losing one's job. However, the case can be made that it has lead to complacency, dumbing-down, and mediocrity. Academia is having the same struggle with the tenure system. Are we insulating clergy against the reality of the world - indeed, are we unintentionally disempowering them - when 90% of one's congregation faces the reality of being unemployed at the drop of a hat, yet clergy can dare to preach about sacrifice and vulnerability while having a guaranteed job, salary, insurance, and housing?

I agree. There is a lot of conversation that needs to take place. Perhaps some repentance and confession, too.


Anonymous said...

OK I'm not certain whether doing away with guaranteed appointments will or will not help much of anything. I realize doing away with them would allow bishops a freer hand in dealing with those whom they deems "ineffective". However, as Sky noted, the criteria for measuring effectiveness is varied and changes as quickly as a Chameleon can change color.

Yet, Sky’s excerpt from John Meuiner’s blog contained this sentence, “Does the denomination need to take on itself more of the expense of the educating of new pastors?”

Now, I may be hearing Meuiner’s question differently that he intended, but my answer is “YES!”. However, I do not primarily mean the “financial” expense. Primarily I mean the expense of educating our pastor’s on the district level where the Superintendent might act as dean to oversee the education, or continuing education, of ALL the pastor’s in her/his district.

There are a variety of ways we might work out how curriculum would be determined, but the possibility is very real and would allow us to bring the major question of Wesley’s day into our “present age”. “What shall we teach?”

I know such a move would cause a major shift in District Superintendent’s and Bishop’s role in the life of a Conference, but maybe it is time to lay down the calculator and once again pick up the pen. I know, “the pen” is old world technology, so maybe I should say the “iPhone”. Whatever the tool is though, in this present age, the teaching and leading of those who have the responsibility of helping us pastors, who have the responsibility of helping church members, who have the responsibility of helping others follow Jesus – that teaching and leading needs to be done on the ground where the seeds are to be planted. I am certain of this, because all ground is not the same.

Bro. Dan

Anonymous said...

Maybe not in the Memphis Conference but in other conferences one reason pastors are not prophetic is b/c of fear of moving constantly and the game that is played in the conference with appointments and apportionments (you don't pay apportionments in full you move). If guarantee appointments are taken away, there will be even more fear in many clergy's lives and more trust broken as laity are often entrusted more than the leadership of the pastor to begin with. Having a guaranteed appointment allows for pastors to be more prophetic, to have more authority (in a system that does not allow for much pastoral authority) and protects women and minorities. Discerning who is effective and who is not may be easy in some cases but in some situations holding churches accountable for their unhealthy and critical environments needs to happen to.