Local Pastors, Get Out Your Buzzers…Maybe

During GC, I posted about local pastors possibly getting the right to vote for delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference. This wasn’t something that got a lot of attention during GC, and there was a bit of confusion over whether or not this really passed.

This morning I saw this article from UMC.org. Here is an excerpt,

The 2008 United Methodist General Conference approved a constitutional amendment giving local pastors, provisional members and associate members voting rights to elect clergy delegates to General Conference and jurisdictional conferences.

In 2005, nearly 15 percent––or 6,660 of the total clergy membership of annual conferences––were full-time or part-time local pastors. Of these, approximately 4,000 local pastors will be able to vote for delegates to the 2012 legislative meetings, should the amendment be approved during the 2009 annual conference sessions. In 2005, there were 2,492 probationary members, now called provisional members, and 2,065 associate and affiliate members.

To go into effect, the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the aggregate vote of all clergy and lay delegates voting in the 2009 annual conferences, said the Rev. Robert Kohler, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Some of my faithful readers equate this to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and yes, I understand that 4,000 more people voting for delegates probably isn’t the kind of profound shift that will cause our denomination to be more or less faithful in the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

On the other hand, my Local Pastor friends seem to appreciate the potential opportunity to get some kind of voice in the process of electing delegates. To me, at least at least this would include them in the process. After all, they can’t serve either as lay or clergy delegates!

In any case, I’ll be voting that local pastors will get this opportunity.

If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

Remember that old question? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to observe it, does it make a sound? Sometimes I feel like this is a metaphor for some of the things that happen at General Conference.

Our Book of Discipline and our Book of Resolutions are constantly expanding. If this keeps happening, we’ll probably have to have multiple volumes of both. We keep passing resolutions, adjusting language, and generally feeling pretty good about both.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it just feels like we still think that we’re living in the United States circa 1950, when Time Magazine published articles on our bishops (see here and here). I consistently hear about living in a post-Christian world until it comes time for General Conference. Then we pass legislation and wheel out petitions, all of which are consistently ignored. If we add an entry to the Book of Resolutions and no one is there to read it, does it matter that we’ve officially decided to increase our tithes on mint by 2%?

Don’t get me wrong. Even though it seems that we have a quadrennial bout with pessimism, I’m less skeptical than some of my friends and colleagues. It’s just that I sincerely believe that we should be trimming the fat, digging through the strata of bureaucracy, and focusing on mission more than ever. Instead, it seems that we spend far too much time churning out statement after statement and developing proposals until they reach the sky.

I suppose that’s one reason I’m encouraged by our focus areas. Making new congregations a priority is far overdue, but it is essential and encouraging. Thanks be to God, it is something tangible. This is something that will make a real difference in the daily lives of women and men wherever these congregations are planted. Our focus on reducing poverty and poverty related diseases in the name of Jesus Christ is also encouraging. These foci are not simply statements or a position. They are actions that will tangibly express the love of Jesus in the world.

We do have a future and a hope, but we have to remind ourselves constantly that this hope is in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It isn’t some vague disembodied hope in the human spirit. It isn’t nostalgia for the good old days when Time had a reporter at General Conference and congress actually cared what the mainline churches were saying. It’s a hope embodied in Christ, enlivened by the Spirit, and lived for the glory of God!

Local Pastors to Vote for Delegates

An interesting constitutional amendment will be sent for approval by annual conferences. You’ll find some of of the details in an article on umc.org.

If annual conferences approve the constitutional amendment, deacons, associate members and provisional members may join ordained ministerial members in full connection in voting for delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences. To be eligible to vote, local pastors must have completed the Course of Study or master of divinity degree and have served under appointment for served two consecutive years immediately preceding an election. Only ordained members in full connection with an annual conference may serve as delegates.

Stephen Taylor, over at NitroRev also has a few thoughts on this since he spent time on the committee that worked on this legislation.

I’m happy to see this pass, even though I’m sure many local pastors would like the opportunity to serve as delegates as well. In any case, I wonder what this means for the more politically minded among us. Will local pastors get more attention in election years than they have in the past? Will this mean we’ll have increased representation from clergy in rural areas? What do you think?

Guaranteed Appointments Anyone?

In all of the conversation about other important issues, I haven’t heard much about guaranteed appointments. It was a hot topic before General Conference, and I figure we’ll eventually hear about it again.

In any case, apparently this is what came out of the legislative committee for Ministry and Higher Education and was adopted by General Conference on one of the consent calendars (these tended to fly under the radar a bit more than some of the more high-profile marathon-debate type stuff):

There are professional responsibilities (¶340) that elders are expected to fulfill and that represent a fundamental part of their accountability and a primary basis of their continued eligibility for annual appointment. These shall include:
a) Continuing availability for appointment;
b) Growth in vocational competence and effectiveness through continuing formation is expected of conference members. The board of ordained ministry (¶ 634.2n) shall set minimal standards and specific guidelines for continuing formation for members of their conference and ensure their availability. Further specificity of priorities for current appointments shall be arranged in consultations with appropriate bodies in that setting.
c b) Annual participation in a process of evaluation with committees on pastor-parish relations or a comparable body comparable authority as well as annual participation in a process of evaluation with the district superintendent or comparable authority;
c) Evidence of continuing effectiveness reflected in annual evaluations by the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee and by the District Superintendent or comparable authorities;
d) Annual participation in evaluation with his or her district superintendent Growth in professional competence and effectiveness through continuing education and formation. The Board of Ordained Ministry shall may set the minimum standards and specific guidelines for continuing education and formation for conference members;
e) Willingness to assume supervisory and mentoring responsibilities within the connection.
3. If an elder fails to meet these professional responsibilities, the provisions of ¶ 362.4c may be invoked the bishop may request suspension, recommend an involuntary leave of absence, suggest the voluntary surrender of credentials, seek the administrative location of the elder, or file a complaint. Any elder who does not demonstrate growth in vocational competence and effectiveness as defined by the annual conference and any elder who will not accept the appointment determined by the bishop forfeits the right to an appointment.

3. When an elder’s effectiveness is in question, the bishop shall complete the following procedure:
a. Identify the concerns. These can include an elder’s failed professional responsibilities, vocational ineffectiveness, or refusal of Episcopal appointment.
b. Hold supervisory conversations with the elder that identifies the concerns, and designs collaboratively with the elder, a corrective plan of action.
c. Upon evaluation, determine that the plan of action has not been carried out or produced fruit that gives a realistic expectation of future effectiveness.
4. If an elder fails to meet professional responsibilities (¶340), does not demonstrate vocational competence or effectiveness as defined by the annual conference through the board of ordained ministry and cabinet, and/or does not accept the appointment determined by the bishop, then an appointment may be forfeited and the provisions of ¶362 may be invoked.

Anyway, just thought you might want to know about this.

Elected to Judicial Council

For those of you who are following this, several bloggers at General Conference are reporting the newly elected Judicial Council members. I don’t know much about these folks, so I’ll list them without comment (Update: A friend sent me this link which provides a little more information on these folks):

  • Kathi Austin-Mahle (Clergy)
  • F. Belton Joyner (Clergy)
  • William B. Lawrence (Clergy)
  • Joe May (First Clergy Alternate)
  • Angela Brown (Lay)
  • Ruben Reyes (Lay)
  • Jay Arthur Garrison (First Lay Alternate)