Security of Appointment and Vital Congregations

The Judicial Council cannot stop leaders from following the Call to Action’s mandate. Their recent decision 1226 has made it harder for the church to send the best clergy to serve churches. Whatever one thinks of their interpretation of the church’s constitution, their decision is final.

The question now before us is this: How shall we lead the church to meet the adaptive challenge? Remember the wording from the Call to Action: “To redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The answer is that bishops, cabinets, boards of ordained ministry have to be focused on increasing the number of vital congregations. We must have high expectations of our clergy. We must provide them excellent education to prepare them for ministry. We must provide support systems to help them grow in their effectiveness. And we must be resolute in exiting ineffective clergy from the ministry.

After eight years of service as a bishop, I can testify that many parts of our connectional system have developed unhealthy patterns that detract from our focus on vital congregations. Bishops shy away from taking decisive action that would not be welcomed by the clergyperson. Cabinets want to be nice and compassionate to the clergyperson and not deliver unwelcome bad news. District Superintendents fail to build records in the clergyperson’s file that would support an administrative complaint. Boards of Ordained ministry function too often as the union bosses protecting incompetent colleagues.

In all of these cases, leaders are choosing to be nice and compassionate to the individual, while neglecting the mission of the church. The local congregations suffer because we do not tell the truth to those who should no longer be in the ministry.

Yet, there are effective remedies available to all of us as leaders. Bishops need to have the backbone to make the hard calls. District Superintendents need to build the documentation of ineffectiveness. Boards of Ordained Ministry need to focus on building a conference of the best clergy possible. Local church staff-parish committees need to nurture and support clergy for their growth and hold them accountable in evaluation.

If all parts of our leadership deployment system are focused on vital congregations, we can make significant progress even with security of appointment.

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