What is a guaranteed appointment in the UMC?

According to the 2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, “Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop…” (¶334.1) There is conversation about changing the “shall” in this paragraph to “may.” This would, in effect, end a guaranteed appointment to serve at a local church.

In addition to the characteristics of an effective clergy person from ¶340 in the Book of Discipline, there are several other professional responsibilities that are necessary to continue to be eligible to be appointed to serve at a local church. According to ¶334.2, they are:

  • Be available for appointment
  • Complete an annual evaluation with both the church and District Superintendent
  • Show evidence of continuing effectiveness reflected in these annual reviews
  • Participate in continuing education and formation.
  • Willingness to supervise and mentor others

Shall, may, guarantee or not all this seems reasonable to me. How about you?

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9 thoughts on “What is a guaranteed appointment in the UMC?

  1. Yes, I believe these are “reasonable” expectations. The problem lies not in the expectation but the execution. Some conferences have wonderful tools to use for the annual evaluation. Others do not. Some are based upon agreed to outcomes that not only reflect upon the pastor, but also on the church. Others have been (and I will assume, although this might get me in trouble, continue to be) focused solely on the pastor and whether or not the congregation is happy with what the pastor is doing which has most often focused on visiting the current members, providing for the baptism, marriage, and funeral responses of the church. Some of these have transitioned into political maneuvering and personality issues.

    When there is an agreed-upon method for measurement, when expectations at the local level are clearly identified and articulated by the D.S., the Pastor, and the SPRC, the evaluations are much more effective and helpful in determining clergy and church effectiveness.

  2. What other Protestant denominations have guaranteed appointment? We have minimum salaries, guaranteed appointment, health coverage and good pensions. Our Conference BOOMs seem to continue to recommend people for ordination even though the number of pulpits for full-time clergy are declining.

  3. Legit expectations. Concur with Jeff, the devil may be in the details of the execution. This may be one of those things that what looks to be effective in Colorado, may be deemed to be sadly deficient in effectiveness in Georgia. I have my own ideas of what effective looks like (i.e. a Matthean fruitfulness) but … is there a Wesleyan norm ??

    Raising Big John raises the question with me: When did we get to guaranteed appointments? I think they post-date John Wesley, right? Nothing seemed guaranteed in his deployment of itinerating pastors.

  4. Yes, we have minimum salaries, but, for most, these salaries pale in comparison to other professions/callings/jobs with similar levels of educational expectation – at least on the Ordained Elder/Deacon paths. Yes, we have health coverage, and in most conferences it is good. But we also have an aging group. When my wife was employed full-time, we could purchase family coverage for $250 less than it was costing me in our required conference plan. And, if we opted out as the pastoral family, the church still had to pay the church required amount. Yes, we have good pensions. But so do many other companies that require master level degrees. And while “the number of pulpits for full-time clergy are declining”, many conferences continue to have a shortage – even when the denomination says we have a glut!

    Creed, you also ask what other Protestant denominations have guaranteed appointments. I don’t have a clear answer, but why leave out the Catholic denomination?

    • Well, Catholic clergy don’t have to worry about family health coverage! There aren’t any votes to ordain anybody and if your bishop doesn’t like you, you are out the door.

      I do believe that we need to streamline the path to a M. Div.

      Honestly, I am missing the accounts of conferences who TODAY don’t have enough elders for their pulpits. We hear a lot about trying to shoehorn full-time clergy into churches that may not be able to support them or creating two-point charges to do so. The “shortage” scare has come from the seminaries and GBHEM. If we are continuing to increase the numbers of charges that aren’t suitable for a full-time elder and the megachurches, then we are continuing to reduce the overall number of charges for full-time clergy.

  5. If we ask the question: “What other protestant denominations have guaranteed appointments?”, we should also ask: “What other protestant denominations assign their pastors through the office of the bishop, wherein the pastor has little to say about where they serve?” The protestant churches that have a “call” system means that the pastor is without a guarantee, but they also have the ability to decide if they want to serve a church in a certain area. If they don’t, they don’t apply or respond to the call. Many of those churches also do not have church-owned housing and the expectation, when called, is that the pastor will be present for many years. Our system is both good and bad. We pastors often do not have the ability to choose where we will live, what schools our children will attend, build equity in housing, and we don’t have a guarantee of a long appointment – the “needs” of the conference can, and sometimes do, supersede those of the pastor and family. On the other hand, we (folks like me who entered ministry in the UMC in the 80’s) were promised we would have a job. We were told we’d have support from the conference through the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Cabinet. We were told we’d have adequate housing provided which meant that we didn’t have to sell or purchase a home. In today’s market, that’s a significant thing! We are appointed a year at a time, but most Bishops today are looking for and supporting longer appointments.

    As for the conferences that don’t have enough elders – my conference is one that is still experiencing a shortage. (Wisconsin) We continue to have to recruit outside of our conference (which isn’t all bad – changes the mix and the climate of the conference in good ways sometimes!). We have more clergy in retired status than we do active in churches.

    With church decline; training, encouraging, and supporting pastors to connect with new populations (holding pastors accountable at certain levels for numerical growth), and closing churches whose viability is gone (populations have moved or, especially since the 1968 merger, there are two congregations a few blocks or a few miles apart serving the same population group) in order to expend our pastoral resources better certainly must enter the mix of discussion and possibility.

    I agree we need to streamline the path to the M.Div. and ordination. We’ve often put so many expectations and “rules” on the path that many bright, young, talented persons are going to other denominations or planting their own church. We value education, but we’ve often made education the golden cow and it’s time to make a gourmet burger, in my humble opinion.

    This has digressed from the question in Andrew’s post, however. While I’ve already stated that I believe these expectations of an “effective elder” are legit, I would ask a second question… how do we help churches, districts, and superintendents develop tools that help us effectively measure some of these areas? In the current UM Reporter, there’s an article by Bishop Willimon stating that it is, indeed, all about the numbers. I believe that if that’s true, we need to use the Paragraph 213 (Book of Discipline) study must be done for every charge where the church is static, declining, or in a changing population area. Where a church is found not viable, it is respectfully moved toward merging with another viable congregation or compassionately moved toward closing.

    I still strongly believe that merely changing the language for pastors is not enough. We must change the complete system in order to reap the benefits that we seek. Unless we are as willing to be honest with and about our congregations, we’ll continue to burn out pastors who could turn us around.

    Blessings!

  6. I’m starting seminary in the fall as a young (21) certified candidate for the ministry of the elder.
    I’m not opposed to eliminating guaranteed appointments, but to eliminate them by changing “shall” to “may” places a lot of power in the hands of bishops. The power to remove an ineffective clergyperson from his or her pulpit needs to come from the Board of Ordained Ministry and Clergy Session. To give the bishop sole authority to remove clergy from their pulpits eliminates some of our pulpit freedom, I think. Though the bishops can retaliate if pastors cause trouble in our current system by giving them low-paying appointments, they can’t take away a pastor’s job and house. Further, what do we do with “ineffective churches”? Some churches will not respond to a pastor and go outside their walls regardless of how effective the pastor is. A one word change in paragraph 334 doesn’t address the root cause of the issue.

  7. The whole issue goes back to the first General Conference of 1784 when Asbury and Coke “took over” the American church and fianlly Wesley was pressured to ordain them Bishops even though there was a huge outcry against “leaving kings in the church”. Even Charles Wesley derided John for doing this is a poetic form. Only preachers were aloud to vote, no laymen. Many wanted a democratic form of government and the argument grew and continued to raise questions concerning adoption of the Anglican (Catholic) form of government with power vested in the Bishops. Finally in the General Conference of 1824 things came to a head with many persons, ministers and laymen, being excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal Church in some of the most Catholic dogma language concerning the rights of the Bisops to lead the church. In 1828 the first meeting to organize the Methodist Protestant Church was held and the official name adopted in 1830. The Methodist Protestant Church grew throughout the next century but in 1939 the three major denominations of Methodism met at a uniting conference in Kansas City. The Methodist Episcopal North, The Methodist Episcopal South and many of The Methodist Protestant Church Conferences. No Bishop existed to make all of the Annual Conferences of The Methodist Protestant Church join. Many left the conference and did not join. The largest group established a national headquarters which still exists today in Collins, MS. Go to http://www.themethodistprotestantchurch.com for complete information. The Methodist Protestant Church has not ever guaranteed a pulpit to any Elder and each church can choose their own pastor. To age 75 I was a staunch Methodist, even though I was very upset at the “united” part. I pastored for years as a “Methodist” pastor. Was told by the hierarchy on occaisions to “lie” about things to keep the desires of the Bishop and District Supt. going. At one point I was demoted for refusing to lie. I left the ministry but God had other things in mind for me and brought powerful men in the conference to my aid. My life from there on is long and does not need to be told here. I finally went into the Life Insurance field and have stayed there to this point in my life. The local areas ran short of ministers for small churches and the “big boys” asked me to come back and take a small congregation for the United Methodist Church, they later added another. My wife and I gave back all of the income except enough to cover expenses so the churches could pay their apportionments. To do this they made me go back to a pastors school and never would recognize my creditials and work under the “Methodist” church which had existed from 1939 to 1968.
    Since my great grandfather had been a Methodist Protestant Minister and a missionary doctor in the 1800.s and established the first Methodist Protestant Church in Minn. and organized the first Kansas Annual Conference right after the Civil War, I kept trying to find if the denomination still existed. The United Methodists kept telling me it no longer existed. BUT IT DID! I found the website, visited with the General Conference President and left the United Methodist Church. All of the Methodist Protestant Ministers of Oklahoma joined the union of 1939. (maybe because of pension and guaranteed church?) We are now in the process of building the first Methodist Protestant Church in Oklahoma since 1939.
    Politics in the United Methodist Church are worse than I ever experienced in the business world!
    Coruption is rampant but is held down because of the power of the hierarchy over pastors.
    The Annual Conference owns the church buildings and property even though the people paid for it and if the people do not agree with the hierchy or go against theology of the hierchy the property is locked up to that congregation and sold. (This actually happened in Coyle, Oklahoma.)
    I could go on and on but our forefathers fought for freedom which the Methodist Episcoal Church denied them at the organization of the General Conference of 1784.
    True freedom of religion does not exist in the United Methodist Church.
    The ministers are controlled, there is basically a professional ministry not a spirit led ministry.
    The churches are owned by the Bishops and Annual Conferences.
    I joined the Methodist Protestant Church ministry because there is true freedom for the church. Ministers and Laymen are always equal in voting matters. If 75% of the congregation of the local church decides to move to another denomination they are free to do so and take their property with them.
    The Church can decide on their own minister instead of one being forced down their throat.
    True Wesleyan Justification and Sanctification are believed and taught.
    The Bible remains as the guide to the Christian life rather than current theological writings from liberal seminaries.
    God is worshiped with Jesus Christ as the head of the church and the Holy Spirit as the revelation of God to the world.
    Pray for a revival of Christianity not a development of a new religion without any true guidance.

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