Tuesday, May 1, 2012


A change that has come about at General Conference 2012 (GC 2012) is that ordained elders are no longer "guaranteed" an appointment.  This came about a little over 50 years ago with the ordination of women to ensure that gender was not a consideration on whether or not an elder would have employment in the local church.  Since then it has been argued that it is an avenue for ineffective clergy to coast because even if they were not effective in the local church they would have an appointment somewhere when their church asked for them to move or they asked to move.  I agree with many who are in favor of doing away with security of appointment that accountability is essential.  Just to be clear I have no argument with this.  I also have known those clergy that might be considered ineffective and understand that there is a need for at the very least a plan for improvement, training and in some cases counseling for these clergy.

The following is a response to a blog post by a young delegate to GC2012 that was present when this decision was made.  See her post HERE.  I appreciate her take on this issue, and feel that as she is speaking from the point of view of a clergy spouse she fully understands the ramifications of today's decision.  Here is my reply to her post:

I appreciate that you “have hope and faith that these committees to evaluate the decisions to terminate appointed clergy will be effective.” Of course, as we have learned throughout history faith and hope in humanity can end in disappointment. Thus to ensure fairness in employment we have many civil laws which regulate employers so that employees will have a minimum compensation, equal opportunity in hiring, and the like. Because, as in many things based on the corporate world, it’s all about the bottom line and the profit margin. If they can get away with paying children $.50 an hour, they will.

The truth is that while there are many who feel doing away with guaranteed appointments will raise the bar as to clergy effectiveness, I fear it will have the same ramifications as the standardized testing in public schools. The teachers teach to the test. Extrapolating that to the clergy, the clergy will then feel a need to appear effective without actually being effective. Those who are ineffective understand how to do this. And the bar that will be set will be based on metrics which have proven to be problematic in the ability to measure the work of God.

In actuality there was already a system in place to do away with clergy who did not fulfill their covenant relationship including effectiveness in ministry. This was not something that was unavailable prior to this decision. There does not seem to be any recourse for churches who are ineffective regardless of the clergy placed there, and there is little done regarding laity who do not live up to the covenant of membership. Deacons and local pastors are not guaranteed an appointment but they were also not required to itinerate. This seemed to be the trade off, yet the itineracy was not addressed in this petition.

Until there is a standard for what ineffective means, it is subjective, and therefore, opens the door for discrimination based on a variety of things not the least of which is gender, race, theology, etc. As I female clergy I can tell you that gender discrimination is not a thing of the past as some would have you believe, and in other parts of our connection women are just now gaining some respect from their male colleagues. As I cannot speak from personal experience as to the minority issue, I will not. I fear that this decision will have unintended and far reaching repercussions that have not been considered, but I pray I am wrong.

I have heard from other clergy and laity who are concerned with this decision as there is no mutuality of accountability.  It seems that ineffective churches and laity, are not being held as accountable for the effectiveness of local church ministry as a pastor that is appointed there.  Further, the Bishops are not subject to this as once you are elected Bishop you are Bishop for life.  (Term limits for Bishops were also discussed and voted down at GC2012.)

With this decision as well as the lack of accountability for local churches and Bishops, I am concerned on the following points/questions?

1.  What about those areas of the connection (including the Central Conferences) in which gender equality as well as other discrimination is still an issue?

2.  What about church's who are not effective historically and, as some have pointed out are considered "clergy killers."  Will they be held to accountability as well?  Perhaps not being guaranteed an appointment of a clergy or even being closed for ineffectiveness.

3.  What are the standards for effectiveness?  How will this be measured?  Since there isn't a hard, firm standard it is still largely subjective, and that is a concern to me.

4.  If a Bishop has a large number of clergy not appointed due to ineffectiveness will that reflect on his or her episcopacy?

5.  If a clergy is deemed to be ineffective in one setting, are they free to seek appointment in another conference?  Or does this equate to a "defrocking?"

6.  Why was the avenue to remove clergy from the ministry currently available in the Book of Discipline not considered adequate for encouraging effectiveness in ministry?

Okay, these are a few thoughts/questions I have on this.  Perhaps you have answers or thoughts you would like to share on this.  Please let me know what you think about this issue.


Sonja Tobey said...

Here is a blog from someone else that has answers to many of my questions. Thanks to Amy Lippoldt


John L. Myers said...

This is all new to me. I have serious doubts about accurate methods of measurements of effectiveness for either the church or the minister, but forsee many invoking the name of Deity to support any particular position. The nature of the church, as I understand it, implies that it strives for achievement in areas where there are no metrics and to attempt to assess these areas is like explaining why a joke is funny.