Why I supported the end to guaranteed appointments

Posted: May 24, 2012 by efenster in Ideas, Uncategorized

I appreciate our United Methodist clergy so much.  Given my unique position in the conference as a Church Development staff person who works closely with scores of local church pastors, I have perhaps a better understanding of the challenges, injustices, and pressures on our pastors than most laity.  So why did I support the General Conference’s decision to do away with guaranteed appointments? 

It really came down to Wesley’s rule to “do no harm,” harm to not only churches with ineffective pastors but also for the pastors themselves. 

Before I went to Tampa as a General Conference delegate, I asked a number of district superintendents, both presently and formerly serving, what they thought about this issue.  Everyone of them said that we had to do away with guaranteed appointments if the appointment process was to have integrity.  As the appointment season wears on,  manytimes they eventually have to present a  pastor to their new appointment knowing that the pastor has a track record of ineffective ministry and that the church will suffer as a result. 

But it’s not just the church that is harmed.  I believe we’re also harming the ineffective pastor whose ministry gifts are best suited in another ministry role.  If we care about them, we won’t continue to place them in a situation that sets them up for failure. 

In preparing for General Conference, I learned that guaranteed appointment wasn’t a part of our Book of Discipline until the 1950’s when women were allowed to serve as pastors.  The concern was that there might be a bishop who refused to appoint a woman because of her gender.  Guaranteed appointment insured her a church.  When the U.S. Central Conference (made up of our predominately black UM churches) was disbanded in 1968, guaranteed appointment was retained to make sure that black pastors would be given a church to serve.  The sense at this General Conference is that we have moved far enough down the road with gender and ethnicity that guaranteed appointment no longer is needed to protect these two groups of pastors. 

However, just to make sure, the legislation was amended to require bishops and conferences to have a clear process to deal with ineffective pastors that includes review and due process measures.  Of course, our conference has already been developing such a process, so we’re ahead of the game.

My hope is that our laity would support their pastors and do all they can to help them succeed.  And that we can help those rare pastors deemed ineffective to find the right ministry that matches the gifts God has given them.   — Ed Fenstermacher


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