How did that happen?
Well, it should come as no surprise that parliamentary procedure had a lot to do with it.
For some background on this issue, let me attempt to summarize what was at stake here. Ordained elders in full connection currently serve "at the pleasure of the bishop." This means that we agree to go where we are sent and to use our gifts in ministry in whatever setting the bishop and cabinet choose for us. In Methodist-speak, this is known as itinerancy.
|Molly Simpson Nason and Jeannie Trevino-Teddlie|
But this will now change. For some time, there has been a growing awareness that our current system is not supportable. Bishops and cabinets regularly scramble to fill all the pulpits. In some conferences, there is a clergy shortage. In others, there are more elders than there are pulpits. In addition to this challenge, Bishops and cabinets occasionally find themselves at a loss to know what to do with a clergyperson who is not deemed effective. A pastor who has a pattern of ineffectiveness, but is otherwise in good standing, must be given an appointment. In practical experience, this sometimes hurts our connection, it hurts our churches, and it hurts our witness to the world. It also doesn't allow an opportunity to acknowledge that there may come a time when a clergyperson is called to exit the ministry gracefully.
Okay. So, there are some arguments "for" doing away with guaranteed appointments. But what about the flip side? What if you are a 57 year old woman who has served three churches in a row that are not willing to accept a woman in the pulpit? What happens if you are thus deemed ineffective? Without a guaranteed appointment, you could be put on leave - with no pulpit, no salary, no benefits - "at the pleasure of the bishop." What if you are a Korean-American pastor with an Korean accent who just doesn't seem to "fit" in the churches in your conference? Could you find yourself without an appointment, even though you have great gifts for fruitful ministry? What if you have a strong theological/social stance that is contrary to the one held by your bishop or district superintendent? Could you be told, "We just don't have room for you?"
Clearly, there are strong arguments for and against guaranteed appointments. You'd pretty much expect that some of these issues would be raised on the floor of Conference, wouldn't you?
|Here I am, working with Gary Mueller|
and other delegates to"perfect" the
Mueller Amendment in sub-sub-committee.
To get the ball rolling, Rev. Gary Mueller of North Texas presented an amendment to the petition that would create some framework for the bishop and cabinet to be held accountable to the annual conference, the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the episcopal committee of the jurisdiction. Specific metrics are built into the amendment to require the Bishop to report to the BOM and the episcopal committee who does not receive an appointment and why, plus statistics of age, ethnicity and gender for those who did not receive appointments. This amendment was discussed, debated and "perfected" in the sub-committee (and, again, a sub-sub committee). The sub-committee then passed the petition, as amended.
|And here's our work in progress....|
On Saturday, the amended petition came before the Ministry & Higher Education committee. The petition was presented, and the committee asked some clarifying questions about the amendment. Oddly, there was very little discussion and debate. People seemed ready to vote. We did - and the amended petition passed: 68-7, with 8 abstaining (and before you judge those who abstained too harshly, please know that we had a number of international delegates in the committee. This petition does not apply to their process of ordination, and some did not truly seem to understand our system, with or without the petition. Possibly, these delegates chose not to vote.)
Since fewer than 10 votes were cast against this petition, the petition was placed in the consent calendar, along with many other petitions that qualified for the consent calendar.
As you might guess, a petition that goes on the consent calendar can be lifted off the consent calendar. All it takes are 20 signatures of voting delegates. It appears that these signatures were sought and a request was made to lift this petition off the consent calendar for discussion by the body on the floor of General Conference.
So - this morning, when we received our Daily Christian Advocate, one of our first orders of business was to vote on the consent calendar, in its entirety. We were told that a small number of petitions would be taken off the calendar, and we were given those numbers. We were also told that two petitions would not be taken off the consent calendar, because only 19 signatures were submitted (apparently 20 lines were filled out, but one person signed twice). Amazingly, one of these petitions was the one dealing with security of appointment.
And so...we voted. We voted to approve, wholesale, all of the petitions (with the exception of the few that had been properly taken off the consent calendar) on the consent calendar (about 14 pages of closely-written text). We felt pretty good about it, actually. After the frustrating day we had yesterday, it was nice to take care of business in such an expedient way.
It was close to two hours later when Rev. We Hyun Chang of Belmont, MA came to the microphone and brought this action to the attention of the body. There was a flutter of concern, a request to reconsider this item, a few impassioned speeches and a clear desire from many to have the opportunity to discuss this monumental shift in our polity. And then, we voted. And the vote did not pass (564-373). Not enough people wanted to reconsider this item, and so the original vote stands. And guaranteed appointments fall.
I spoke with Gary Mueller shortly after the vote. We both could not believe that there would be no discussion on the floor on this issue. (Especially considering the amount of time we give to issues of far less import for our ordained clergy.) Gary said he never intended for the petition to receive no discussion, and we are both concerned about the negative feelings from a body that feels that they had no voice in this decision. But there you are. We finally made a decision to change something. We did it with very little discussion.
I pray that the decision was the right one.