Graphic courtesy of MFSA
The Call to Action and Plan B ignore an impending crisis among pastors available for appointment.
Between 1970 and 1980, around 5,900 full elders were ordained and entered annual conferences in the United States. Now, 32 to 42 years later, only somewhere near 2,500 have already retired. That means that 3,700 pastors will be retiring over the next several years, according to estimates I requested from GCFA. This in turn means that 60 fully trained experienced pastors on average will leave each U.S. annual conference over the next eight years.
That figure does not take into account the number of pastors who are second-career elders that entered with maybe only ten years to serve before reaching retirement age. It does not take into account the number of pastors being told by their Cabinets that they are not appointable, who will be forced out of ministry without Fair Process. It does not take into account the increasing number of pastors retiring early. It does not take into account the number of retirees who stay on to serve full or part-time.
With so many factors, most of which only add to the impending crisis, I challenge the General Conference to consider this issue very seriously.
Ah, but the wonderful emphasis on seeking young people to come into the ministry will surely more than fill in behind the retiring pastors to provide us with fully trained elders.
At the 2008 General Conference, students and pastors under 35 demonstrated as "Spotted Owls," an endangered species. Statistics bear up their assertion:
"The percentage of elders and deacons younger than 35 is too low to meet current and future needs for ordained leadership. The percentage of young elders increased to 5.47 percent in 2010, the highest in over a decade. Clergy aged 35-54 now represent 45 percent of elders, down from 65 percent in 1985. In 2010, for the first time, over half of active elders are age 55-72. Deacons show increasing age trends but still have only 9.56 percent under age 35." -- 2010 Clergy Age Trends Report, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
And what of the movement encouraged by church leaders to bring in more enthusiastic local pastors to replace the "professional" elders who are blamed for the decline in church membership?
Despite that emphasis since the 1980s, local pastors have not reversed the downward spiral. That could be because when a district superintendent is done with a local pastor, without warning the local pastor is never again given an appointment, invariably with no explanation.
Every pastor in the denomination is watching all these short-term, sometimes cruel, procedures. Morale in most conferences is lower than it has ever been.