What an eventful morning at General Conference. From guaranteed appointments being eliminated via the consent calendar to then being asked to reconsider and that being voted down. What an up and down morning. What we do know is this: guaranteed appointments are gone and there are measures in place in an attempt to ensure that abuse does not happen.
Again, I have no problem with eliminating them. I have had this thought since before I was even ordained. My call comes from God, that has been affirmed by the UMC but ultimately if at any point in my ministry that affirmation is deemed no longer valid I have trust that God is still with me on the journey. I will always ask questions and challenge because I care deeply about the UMC and about seeing God’s Kingdom advanced. Job security doesn’t scare me because I trust God will provide wherever that path may lead.
All that being said, yesterday I wrote a post listing some “unintended consequences” that could come from the elimination of guaranteed appointments in an atmosphere of mistrust and decline. I wanted to write about another unintended consequence that is not meant to say that the elimination is wrong, but rather to make us all aware as we move forward to help address and hopefully build the trust that is so desperately needed if we are to continue in our faithfulness together. I believe the measures put in place along with the elimination of guaranteed appointments will help guard against many of these, but the truth is often perceived reality is more powerful than actually reality. If I perceive a threat (whether it is real or not) I am going to react accordingly. So here is one of the things I believe we are going to have to monitor and address for the health of the entire denomination.
- Pastor’s who are struggling will hide those struggles out of fear of its adverse effect on their employment rather than bringing it to the attention of conference leadership so that it can be dealt with in a healthy manner for both the clergy, local church, and conference.
There is already a bunch of mistrust in the system even with the guarantee of appointment. Often clergy who could use help hide that need out of fear of adverse effects on the type of appointment they may get. I am afraid that with the added fear (again perceived not necessarily actually real) of employment security, many clergy will hide those things that could easily be addressed and then later it becomes a bigger issue with much more damage to all parties. It is hard to say we need help even in a system of deep trust, but it is even harder in a system where there is doubt and trust issues.
Ultimately, the issue isn’t really about having guaranteed appointments or not having guaranteed appointments but rather it is about trust. How can we as churches, laity, clergy, and conferences help to address the mistrust and doubt we have within the system. How can we encourage one another to continue to speak boldly as God leads and to trust that through it all God is with us? I think it is going to be especially important for clergy to hold one another accountable by building trust and support even in the midst of mistakes and hurt. We will all need to monitor one another to make sure abuse isn’t happening at all levels of the church.
But basically the biggest question is this: Can we trust one another and most importantly can we trust God is with us on the journey no matter what?