what you may not realize about the loss of guaranteed appointment #gc2012

Tonight, my heart was stilled from its racing on the guaranteed appointment issue.

I have felt the both/and of a desire for a clear, mission process for appointments AND the deep desire to protect my brothers and sisters who might unfairly be discriminated against in the process where homophobia, sexism, and racism still exist. I was not of one heart on the issue. When asked how I would have voted on the floor had I been seated, I honestly could not answer… perhaps I would have abstained.

But tonight, a colleague of mine – Sean McRoberts – and I dove deep into the legislation to figure out what the actual implications are.

1) this is not a simple power given to the bishop or cabinet to dismiss you to ministry… there are checks and balances all throughout the process. According to the legislation we passed and the BoD, either a lack of missional appointment placement OR an ineffective pastor who is not appointed has to be approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry AND the clergy session. Someone who recieves the status of “transitional leave” must be voted on by the order and so as clergy, if we feel uncomfortable with this process, we need to remember that we have the ability to vote and support one another if the process/boom/cabinet is acting discriminatorily…

2) the appointive cabinet, Board of Ordained Ministry, and Clergy Session all have to agree for a person to move to transitional leave (it is a status change). Transitional leave has a two year maximum according to the discipline. A person cannot simply be returned to transitional leave again and again. If a person is being transitioned out of ministry due to ineffectiveness, that two years gives time for a process of healing, discernment, counseling, and new calling to occur. In Iowa, we currently have a three year process to counsel and support clergy who are ineffective so that they can either grow or discern a new calling.

3) some important work was done in the legislative committee. They added a requirement for accountability that says statistical reporting on the people put on transitional leave and/or appointed to a less than full time position (age, gender, race) has to be sent to the executive committee of the BoOM and the conference and jurisdictional committee on the episcopacy.  Committee on Episcopacy should then include those statistics in the annual evaluation of the bishop.  (we also approved at this general conference a switch from bi-annual to annual episcopal review).

Prior to this GC, bishops were not evaluated on their appointment making activities, only on the other areas of their ministry. If there were complaints, we could use administrative process to require remedial action and/or bring charges.  This is still the case, only this way we have a process of statistical information to help evaluate if their are patterns, intentional or unintentional, that exclude persons from the table. The process already is in place for helping ineffective or discriminatory bishops transition out of ministry (we just never use it!)

4) there is an important addition, also from the legislative committee, that calls for a group of four laity, two clergy, a district superintendent and the bishop of the annual conference to determine annually criteria for missional appointment making. These criteria are then to be used by the cabinet in their process of discernment. This adds the voice of clergy and laity into the process.

So… with these four clarifications/implications… what do you think?

15 Comments

  • Joe

    May 4, 2012 at 6:05 am Reply

    just remember, however, that the BOM is appointed exclusively by the bishop. They owe their ministries to him/her! Who is going to go against the bishop’s wishes? This anticipates a bishop with less than good motives, which some of our bishops do. The other reason some may be “transitioned” out is AGE. Ageism is alive and well in our denom., too!!

    • Katie Z.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:59 am Reply

      Joe, thanks for your comment. BoOM members are nominated by the bishop, but there also is clergy session to consider, and the accountability to the Committee on the Episcopacy. I think that even though you are correct, there are still sufficient checks and balances.

      • kevin dalton

        May 4, 2012 at 9:19 am

        Joe is correct the BOM is solely under the discretion of the bishop. And how often during clergy session has anyone ever gone against what the bishop?

      • Christopher Miller

        May 4, 2012 at 10:43 am

        I don’t know about every clergy session, but in our Annual Conference we are often told that we must vote without additional information on the situation because it is confidential. I find this outrageous. My guess is that it will all be rubberstamped for fear of not getting an appointment yourself. If you’re not the one going down, you may just feel relieved and vote yes and secretly say, thank God it was not me THAT TIME. And two years without a paying job is more than hard. Those who have given their lives to pastoring, have little other marketable skills… sad to say, but true.

  • Erin Racine

    May 4, 2012 at 6:26 am Reply

    Thanks for this, Katie. It makes me feel MUCH better about the whole thing!

  • Bonnie

    May 4, 2012 at 8:16 am Reply

    Katie, Thank you for your committment and for checking into these things. I think that knowing this does help reduce the fear, I am hearing. I believe it will take some time for all of us to learn to trust again, which is what we need to do in order to move forward in serving God. There is always a potential of abuse of a rule just becasue it was implemented and because we are all human beings, tempted by sin. We need to be very prayerful and supportive of one another as we move through this change. These things you have pointed out are good reasons for clergy to come together in covenant and accountability to one another, watching over one another in love. We can help one another through this, by the grace of God. I am glad to know there is already a work being done to care for the direct effect of this decision.
    Serving Christ with you.

  • Capri Grimes

    May 4, 2012 at 9:27 am Reply

    There are many questions in my mind…
    1. The committee of review might not know you. The would take the Bishops word on the situation.

    2. You can be not appointed because there is no place for you. Even if you are effective.

    3. You can file for transitional leave but it has to be 90 days prior to annual conference. What if you don’t know that you are not getting a place after that?

    4. Since you would be technically laid off, can you file for unemployment?

    5. As I read it, any type of ministry you do while not appointed has to be under the authority of a specific church you have attached yourself to and under the authority of that pastor. Does this mean I have to have permission to marry & bury?

    6. When I was laid off in the secular world, I recieved a letter of recommendation, a serverence package and help finding another job. Will that happen here? Can I go find myself a job? If I’m not allowed to get my own job when not appointed, then how do I pay my bills and health care costs?

    7. Can I apply for a job at another denomination?

    8 Who pays for your move out of the parsonage?

    9. If I move my family to an apartment (no appointment means no parsonage) and sign a long term lease – then in 6 months a place opens and they want me to take it, who pays off my lease? If I say no to the appontment, does that mean no other one later?

    Oh yes, I have more isues. These are just the first quesitons that come to mind.

    • Katie Z.

      May 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm Reply

      I can start to reply to parts… first, point 3. That 90 day notice ALSO applies to the cabinet/bishop… since they would be placing you on transitional leave, they have to let you know 90 days before that would take effect, then it would go to BoOM, then to clergy session at conference

    • Wesley

      May 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm Reply

      Churches are exempt from unemployment laws when it comes to their clergy, so any clergy left unappointed would be ineligible for unemployment compensation since the churches don’t pay into the system.

      • Katie Z.

        May 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

        the same is also true for lay employees of the church… perhaps we need to think more about how we can be supportive in this arena.

  • Brian

    May 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm Reply

    I echo the above comments. I am an elder currently on family leave, and until now wondered if the path of return to pastoral ministry had just been closed on me (after all, if I’m currently without appointment and now not guaranteed one…). I appreciate not only the time you took to study and understand, but also the choice to share and the manner in which you’ve done so. I’ll be sharing this on my FB page, and I hope many of my colleagues (and interested others) read it as well.
    Thanks again!

  • crickparson

    May 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm Reply

    “Checks and balances” is not entirely accurate. The legislation makes it clear that the committee which develops the annual criteria is ADVISORY in nature, only. The bishop, and the bishop alone, has the final say in the matter. The bishop is under no obligation to adhere to the committee’s recommendation and there is no recourse if said bishop chooses to ignore them altogether. This is not true “checks and balances,” but an attempt to convince us that bishops will not be permitted to act purely on whim when, in fact, there is no real protection against this. Also, Transitional Leave is only one of several options available to the bishop, not the only one.

  • Pantocrator

    May 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Here’s what I have heard from my own bishop:

    1. This is not only about ineffective pastors, but a shortage of appointments and the problem of people who are not available to move anywhere – specifically those married to other clergy. Once guaranteed appointment is repealed, one or the other clergy spouse will be run out of the ministry due to the annoyance they create for the Bishop and cabinet (who believe “without reserve” takes precedence over the vow to “fidelity in marriage.”)

    2. The immediate consequence of this legislation will be the dismantling of the commissions on equitable compensation. With Bishops being free to appoint elders to part time status, there will be no logic behind appealing to the commission for supplemental support.

    “Transitional leave” will never be needed. A simple move to a part time appointment complete with loss of benefits will break the ministerial family economically and force them out. Punitive appointments just got more punitive.

    Please tell me which elder WITHOUT GUARANTEED APPOINTMENT will call a Bishop and Cabinet out for nepotism, cronyism, sexism, racism, or other bias? Perhaps a retired one.

    • Katie Z.

      May 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm Reply

      I’m not sure what conference you are in, but that message greatly saddens me. I think clergy couples are amazing and can do amazing ministry either apart or together.

  • Katie Z.

    May 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm Reply

    Friends, I have appreciated your comments and the issues you raise. One of the things I am realizing more and more is that we have to have courage and stand up for ourselves and for one another. Many of these comments talk about fear, about lack of a voice, about not being willing to ask hard questions and issues of distrust.

    It got me to thinking about the birth of the unions in the manufacturing industry. A few people who were not afraid had the courage to stand up for what was right and speak about what was not. They knew they might lose their jobs. They knew that they were taking a chance. They knew that all might not be well with them in the short term, but that they were building and dreaming of a future in which injustices would not occur.

    The folks who crafted the removal of guaranteed appointments did so with the expectation that a strong GCORR and GCSRW would help us to call out injustices. While it appeared that was in jeopardy, the commissions have been restored.

    But it is also up to us. We need to be bold. We need to be prophetic. We need to care for one another. We need to speak up if there is injustice. We need to ask questions and not take “no” for an answer.

    Do not be afraid. Live out your calling with boldness. And build relationships with your sisters and brothers in ministry so that we might all support on another and help live into the kingdom of God right here.

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