May 29, 2010

Let's Talk Appointments: Part II

One thing I find interesting about "guaranteed appointments" is that the United Methodist Church would choose to enter into a lifetime "contractual" (or covenant if you prefer) relationship with an individual. When an elder is ordained, the UMC commits to a relationship that will last the individual's lifetime. Guaranteed. I'm not sure I can think of any other profession where this is the case. It almost seems as though this effectively ties the hands of the denomination when dealing with elders that are less than good but remain in "good standing".

I have been working on staff at the same church for 8yrs and to think about the changes that have taken place in my understanding and thoughts on theology, ministry, leadership, etc. in that short time is significant. I have a hard time trying to imagine what some of those thoughts will be in the next 5yrs let alone 35yrs. I wonder if "guaranteed appointments" is the best practice for the UMC as it tries to maintain a standard both theologically and doctrinally, as well as on social issues across the denomination and its clergy. What happens when a pastor's theology changes over the years? Or his/her views on various social issues (i.e. homosexuality) becomes different than the denominational position on said issues? It seems like shall suggests that the denomination has to figure out a way to keep him/her around while struggling to figure out in which role. May seems to suggest that the denomination has another option, a sort of no-appointment probation or even a very nice goodbye letter.

As the conversation continues, feel free to jump in and share your thoughts. Be on the lookout for Part III.


Jolene said...

I'm not a pastor but it seems to me that the church would be setting a good example of covenant if they kept the lifetime commitment. Christ's covenant with us is eternal, the covenant of marriage is supposed to be for life, why should the church take the easy way out? People in relationships change and work through difficulties.

Anonymous said...

The current system in the UMC is like having tenure in academia. As long as there is nothing wrong, why dismiss someone. Boards of ordained ministry need to do the job already assigned to them to verify the effectiveness of all clergy. No need to change the Discipline.

Matt Lipan said...

Jolene: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree w/you that the church has an opportunity to be an example of covenant. what i think becomes difficult for the church is that it is also an employer and one of the things that comes with that is an expectation that its employees will be effective. no other profession that i know of will guarantee a job even if one is not effective.

in my opinion, the difficulty facing the UMC right now is the ability to define effectiveness and what they call "good standing".

i think you bring up a really interesting point, thanks for sharing it!

Matt Lipan said...

ajscom: thanks for the read and comment.

tenure is a great comparison. i'm assuming that when you say "nothing wrong" that means a certain level of effectiveness. if so, than maybe no need to change shall.

great point about the responsibilities of the BOM. how can that be changed?

thanks so much for sharing.

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

It could be a good thing for the church to honor it's committment's..but there is a sense that when one has security that it invites mediocrity or complacency. I'm a sports guy (and a pastor)'s no coincidence that athletes often have great seasons during their contract year because they have to "earn" their paycheck...and then their numbers drop once they get their contract and they have a perceived sense of security.

The church needs a way to evaluate effectiveness. I do not think there should be guaranteed appointments unless there is a better way of evaluating effectiveness.

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

Guaranteed appointments also keeps alive small churches that have may or may not have any desire to be effective as a church (regardless of the pastor). This adds extra strain on conferences/districts when it comes to pensions/benefits and administrative cost.

Matt Lipan said...

Steve and Andrea LaMotte: interesting point about guaranteed appointments keeping dying/ineffective (regardless of the pastor) churches open that shouldn't remain open. i'm not sure i've ever thought of it from that perspective before but it seems to make some sense. these types of churches clearly become a burden on limited conference/district resources that innovative churches could otherwise use.

good thoughts, thanks for sharing.