No More Guaranteed Appointments

Let me be clear and up front: I haven’t thought this through, and am thinking as I type. Probably not the best way to go.

But I think one way to really shape our clergy (myself included) is to stop guaranteeing appointments when ordained. Now, I speak in very broad and general terms, but what happens when we get guaranteed appointments or tenure, there’s a chance that we slip into being comfortable and content with what we have and who we are. That’s never bad, but that’s not good either. As Francis Chan wrote, the Holy Spirit is often called the “Comforter” so why would we need a comforter when we are already comfortable?

I say this as I now see that there is no hope at all for my Redskins this season. All I can hope for is to get a high draft pick and we don’t screw that up either. (And believe me, we can). The problem begin in 1999 when Dan Snyder bought the team. (And yes, I’m going to blame everything on him.) He thought the best way to win was to pay big named players big money to come play for the ‘Skins. So at one point, you had washed up Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith earning lots and lots of money. The thing about sports is, when it’s a contract year (meaning the player is looking to sign a contract after the season) the player plays his mind out so that he can earn his money. What happens often (not always) is that after the player gets his money, he coasts again, until it’s time to renegotiate his contract. Honestly, if I just signed a 100 million dollar contract, sure I’d be frustrated in having a 3-8 record, but hey, I’m gettin’ paid (yes, Mr. Haynesworth. I’m talking to you. How many sacks have you had this season?)

I think the scare of not knowing what may be next is healthy for us. I think it forces us to be creative and prevents us from being comfortable and ineffective. (Of course, that’s idealistically speaking).

Maybe I’m totally wrong. But at the rate of our decline, a lot of people looking for ordination now have to deal with this, because there are more clergy than there are churches.
And of course, ineffectiveness is a judgmental word to be throwing around, but to create change, there must be a sense of urgency. And sadly, that sense of urgency comes a bit too late for many of our churches and clergy.

What say you?
What would the appointment system look like if there were no longer guaranteed appointments?
Would our polity change drastically?
Would the attitude of clergy change?
Or would this change nothing, but only increase insecurity, distrust and corruption?

9 thoughts on “No More Guaranteed Appointments

  1. To do away w/guaranteed appts, we’d also have to remove a Bishop’s absolute right to appoint, becoming more congregational. I can’t see anyone (esp. the Council of Bishops) going for that.

  2. I agree with Keith’s post. The guaranteed appointment is a necessary check on the appointive authority of the bishop, which is sadly more likely to be abused these days than before. Basically, all it guarantees is that the bishop may not throw away an elder in full connection, whose ministry is affirmed by the clergy session of the annual conference. Since bishops are already way too powerful and unaccountable, GC would never approve removing the check without ratcheting down episcopal power. Remember, bishops can talk at GC, but not vote! The whole clergy vote has been elders and deacons. The hitch is, no one, even the General Conference, can limit the role or authority of the bishop…they are constitutionally protected under the Restrictive Rules. The only legal way out is to get through an “amicable separation” measure through General Conference, based not on hurt feelings about homosexuality, but constitutional necessity, and recharter like-minded churches with a general superintendency instead of episcopacy, one that approves appointments instead of fixing them. It is a mess, but historically, the only way around this quagmire that i can see.

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. That being said, I agree with Keith’s comment, that the only way to get rid of guaranteed appointments is to get rid of the itinerant system completely. I like the itinerant system a lot. I think it gives clergy and congregations the opportunity to realize that a congregation’s success or failure should not solely depend upon a pastor. But you can’t have all-powerful bishops without some check on their authority, and that check is guaranteed appointments.

    I’m not opposed to a transparent, as-objective-as-possible evaluation process where ineffective pastors are no longer guaranteed appointments. Something like a three-strikes-and-you’re-on-probation policy, where if you have three consecutive churches give you bad reviews, the GC can reevaluate your qualifications.

    Finally, I think everyone needs to calm down with regards to the state of the UMC. Yes, we are losing members, but we’re also losing clergy at roughly the same rate (http://www.churchleadership.com/research/um_clergy_age_trends.htm), so we do NOT have a massive surplus of clergy. Also, the UMC is in a MUCH healthier position than most mainline denominations in the US, and we are an international denominations whose membership is growing outside the US. These facts indicate that maybe the itinerant system is not to blame for our membership losses, since most other mainline denominations are congregation-based. Evaluating our message and getting back to our evangelist roots would do more good for the UMC than changing our polity will do.

  5. The other side of dumping guaranteed appointments is that it would make us clergy a lot more focused on keeping everyone in the congregation happy. And the last thing we need to do is reinforce the “happiness trap.” One of the most valuable things we can do is inculcate creative discomfort with the status quo, but this usually comes at personal cost with relationships the many members. If I know that I might get actually fired, rather than merely moved, every year, I’m going to make sure no one is uncomfortable with what I do.

    That leads inevitably to stasis then decline of the church.

    Agree with earlier comments that is dangerously enhances the power of bishops. Already i have talk that what we clergy really have is “guaranteed relationship” with the Conference rather than guaranteed appointment.

  6. While reviewing pros and cons on the guaranteed appointment for clergy, a major issue seems to have not been properly commented whether or not a given congregation is properly nourished under the properly nourished in a good social or family environment.
    The ministry is the process of once’ lifetime spiritual evolution during the dedicated pastoral life.
    I observed many successful clergies in latter although once so lightly treated as incompetent.
    Thus, the congregation has to provide mutually acceptable civility in mutually nourishable ground.
    According to our family experience in the Korean United Methodist Church and Institute, New York, as long as one has a strong personal ties with the district superintendent and some clergies closed to the episcopacy, even the looting the church treasury could be done very easily without any objection, of course he has to have a group of power hungry supporters who are seeking for any status in any form in any means, no any moral requirement.
    Rev. Won Tae Chae was skilled able navigator in the murky stream of his own creation, which was only possible in the naive immigrant church.
    He had a moonlighting full time job at New York Theological Seminary for ten years while the congregation in disarray. Who cares? After he was removed, always, the same kind replacement assigned as if in mob connection. In the incidents, why these guys need any job guarantee when they have their own source of the juice?
    Last twenty years, the historic church has been under seize of like these the well trained dishonest clergies and supers, etc. Needless today, the flow of the street guys comes to manage the church. It is noticed once the course established there is endless human resources of the kind to fill in.
    When Rev. Won Tae Cha group took over the church treasury, he filed three lawsuits against us to cover up the looting. For one case, they charge my son and me as attempted mass murders, place us on the trial at the New York State Supreme Court –my son
    demanded all damages $8,000. Now Rev. Cha works for the Bishop Jeremiah J. Park – very smelly. They should return the stolen church money. Anything can go even in the church if one has the money and power.
    I wonder, If the guaranteed appointment system established, like our church will disappear in time unless the street people stops coming in force to inherit the oppressive corrupt offices.
    I have noticed many questionable characters are serving as trustees or directors in the church organizations.
    I have tried to reflect our experiences to the bishops and other clergies.
    So far no response from any Jesus people as we were not black enough nor white enough at all. Needless to say, it seems to be the moral climate of UMC, very insensitive to any church moral issues but the job.
    I warmed our young assistant pastors not to be a tool of the corrupt ministry. Speaking out is risking their jobs.
    Thus, according to the experience, the UMC’s immediate critical issue is the moral crisis to urgently implement an “in-house cleaning.” Then, who needs a guarantee? Endangered species. Who needs this bishop? Who needs the mobs?
    How this story could be told to the Jesus people?
    IS there anybody in UMC?
    Reference; Website. :: 기독일보 Christianity Daily How long the church scandals should go without punishment? … KOREAN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH AND INSTITUTE, REVEREND WON TAE CHA, YOUNG SO KIM, …

  7. This is the last betrayal of the General Conference against the “rank and file” clergy. Images of EMron or GM killing promises under pension plans. When ordained to service under the itineracy, “guarrenteed lifetime appointment” was the carrot to a sometimes cruel stick. Any clergy promised “guarenteed lifetime appointment” ought to be freed from the promise to “serve where appointmented.”

    All the hand wringing over the decline in membership has made clergy the scapegoat. This totally ignores social issues, refusal to address relevant theological issues. and a new Episcopal leader who cares more about #s of members and conference budgets than the clergy that serve under them. (My mother died and I had cancer surgery within a year and never got a call or a card from my Bishop. It’s not so much that he didn’t care… but he didn’t even care enough to pretend….)

    Maybe some of the problem with “ineffective clergy” has to do with Boards of Ordain Ministry that passes through only marginally competent candidates because of some hidden “quota” or because the candidate is someone’s son, daughter or friend. In business most “fires” are actually bad “hires”.

    This action will not fix anything; only make worst a problem with clergy burdened by large student debt, dilution of theological edcuation, D.S.’s who side with churches instead of protecting their clergy and Bishops who don’t know or care for their ministers…

    Any wonder I retired early?

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