When I have the chance to talk with someone more than briefly about the move one of the most common questions that comes up is about how pastors in the United Methodist Church get moved around in the first place. This question seems to be evenly distributed among those that have just started and long time attenders in United Methodist Churches. First a few of the key players
Bishop – oversees all the churches in an annual conference, which is nearly always a particular geographic area.
District Superintendents – oversee the churches in a particular area of the annual conference.
Cabinet – The Bishop, District Superintendents and a few other key staff
Here is the low down on the process:
United Methodist pastors are appointed to a church or churches on a yearly basis. In theory, a pastor could be appointed to a different location each year. In practice, an average would be that a pastor would serve 5 to 7 years at one location. It seems that the amount of time that a pastor serves at a particular place has trended longer more recently. Longer tenures tend to work out better for both pastors and congregations.
In the fall each year, the church makes a request as to whether their current pastor continues to be a great fit or if they would prefer that they serve elsewhere. This request is put together by the Staff Parish Committee, one of the governing bodies of the local church. As a pastor, I also complete an appointive request about whether I feel the congregation is a good fit for my gifts or if I might serve more effectively elsewhere. In addition to these forms, the District Superintendent has a conversation with both the pastor and the church about what might be next.
In January the appointive cabinet takes an inventory of all the churches and pastors is completed, taking in to account who will be retiring, who is graduating from seminary and will be ready for an appointment, what church / pastor combinations are working great and which are falling apart. Then they begin the discernment process using all this data, prayer and seeking God’s guidance to make appointments for the year ahead.
Ultimately it is the Bishop who makes the appointments with the advisement of the rest of the Cabinet. Bishop Scott Jones of Kansas has shared that the goal of the appointment process is “to maximize the missional effectiveness of every church in Kansas.”
Pastors and churches are notified of the appointments in the spring and they are fixed in the early summer at the annual meeting of all the pastors in the Annual Conference.
Does that make sense? What could be more clear? What did I get wrong? What else would be helpful to know?
One of the more common questions that I have received is: What is Nicole going to do?
My wife, Nicole, is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She and I were appointed full time to Resurrection in 2006 and we have both served here since then. After our son was born and taking maternity leave, Nicole transitioned to a part-time, 20 hour / week role.
We will be moving as a family to El Dorado and Nicole has requested a 20 hour / week appointment in the El Dorado area. It would not be at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, but it may be at another church in the area, in Wichita or some other flexible possibility. We have been told that the Bishop and District Superintendents are still in the discernment process for her. (I will write more about how this whole process works in the days ahead.) We hope to know within the next few weeks.
I have had several clergy friends ask about the details of my recent paternity leave, so I wanted to share some of the questions and my responses, as well as the letter that I used to initiate the process.
I was on paid leave for 5 weeks full time and 3 weeks part time.
My responsibilities were covered by another staff member at Resurrection. The local church that covered the cost for my responsibilities.
My supervisor arranged coverage with another staff member. I recognize that there are some distinctions about this and it may not be so helpful for other situations.
The staff person who covered for me was responsible for the very basic routine. All strategic development was put on hold until I returned.
I am a full elder in the Kansas West Annual Conference serving in the Kansas East Annual Conference. I am not aware of a standard plan for either of these annual conferences.
I put together basic instructions for the person that was covering my responsibilities and wrote the following letter to initiate the leave.
My wife, and I are expecting the birth of our first child in January. The current due date is January 2, 2011. I would like to would like to request Paternity Leave according to the provisions found in ¶356 of the 2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
I would like to take full time leave beginning January 2 and continuing until February 5, 2011. I will make arrangements with my supervisor, for complete coverage during these five weeks. I would like to take part time leave beginning February 6 and continuing to February 26, 2011. I will be available for weekend worship responsibilities, important scheduled meetings and will be available by and responsive to email communication during these three weeks. I would like to return to full time responsibility beginning on February 27, 2011.
I will continue to be in conversation with my supervisor to address any particular considerations for coverage or other issues regarding this leave request. Will you please let me know what, if any, additional next steps need to be taken to receive this leave? Thank you for your time and consideration!
It seems that this question has most to do with how one interprets the Bible. Scripture is inspired by God and paints a picture of God’s character, God’s action and God’s people.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, TNIV.
Scripture is the written Word of God that reveals the personal Word of God, Jesus Christ. The good news and truth of scripture can be a source of faith. As such, scripture becomes authoritative and normative for the Christian life.
So what does this mean when it comes to Jesus’ miracles? I believe that Jesus miracles are true and historical fact. They point to the reality that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He has control over all creation. However, my faith does not rest on the historicity of Jesus’ miracles.
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
I agree with what my current senior pastor, Adam Hamilton says in response to a question about whether he really believes in the resurrection, I don’t just believe it. I’m counting on it.
There are some things which one needs to believe to be a Christian. They are what makes Christianity distinct from other religions, systems of belief or unbelief. One of the most basic guides to the Christian faith is the Apostles’ Creed. This is a statement of faith that helps to set the guidelines or the boundaries of what it means to be a Christian. While one may not understand the entire text, belief as outlined in the Apostles’ creed is necessary to be a Christian. The text of the creed as found in The United Methodist Hymnal:
You do not have to agree with all of the beliefs and positions of The United Methodist Church to be a United Methodist. However, you do need to agree upon some of the central issues of Christian faith. The founder of Methodist movement, John Wesley, preached a sermon titled, Catholic Spirit, in which he addresses this question. He asserts that if believers are of one mind about a few things, there is room for disagreement in others. Beliefs that are to be held in common include:
Service to others out as a result of one’s love of God.
Love of one’s neighbor as oneself.
One of the hallmarks of being a United Methodist is that we seek the good on both sides of any number of issues that face the church and world today. United Methodists are of one mind about the above list and hold in tension those more trivial idea about which there are disagreement.