Ministry Study Recommends End to Guaranteed Clergy Appointment



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An Episcopal Polity Cannot Live without Guaranteed Appointment

What has been neglected in all this discussion is the reality of economic necessity. A clergy who is left without an appointment, but told that if he can hold on for another year (or two), "there might be" an appointment for him/her, has to survive. So does his/her family. Such a clergy, who took a vow to devote his/her life to serving Christ and the church, will do one of two things: take a secular job, or start hustling to get a call to a church with a Congregational form of polity. If s/he does the latter, and his/her bishop subsequently says "I have an appointment for you," what is in it for that clergy to take that appointment and put his/her family back into the realities of itineracy again? Likewise, a church which is angry at its Bishop, or which loses its pastor but is asked to wait until Annual Conference to get anything more than a string of weekly pulpit supplies, will quickly learn that there are unemployed, members-of-Annual-Conference clergy out there. They could simply decide to hire one, ostensibly on a "temporary" basis, and then refuse to accept a new appointment the Bishop might offer, because they like the pastor they chose.
It would not take very long for the time to develop in which those whom a Bishop wants to appoint will not take appointments, so they don't go through the risk of unemployment created by lack of a guaranteed appointment, and for churches to decide that they can look for "free agent" clergy to be their pastors.
Does anyone remember the "third restrictive rule" in our church constitution, the one that says we can do nothing that will destroy our form of Episcopacy? If ever there were anything that would create such a destruction, the lack of a guaranteed appointment would be it.
Guaranteed appointment is the price we pay to allow Bishops to try to appoint the kind of clergy with the gifts and graces needed by any particular local church, so that church can carry on with its ministry without the one to two year wait endured by churches on a "call" system with a congregational polity. Guaranteed appointment is the flip side of the same coin as having an appointment system. Economic necessity, if nothing else, creates that link.
The sad thing is that those who wish to do away with guaranteed appointment think this will be a way to weed out "ineffective pastors." There already is a way to do that, and it is being done in one or two conferences: Administrative Location procedures. I've done 20 of those in the last 3.5 years in my Annual Conference (California-Pacific) as defense advocate. We've worked out win-win solutions for church and clergy, in every case.
What it takes is to have bishops and superintendents willing to gird their loins and to file complaints, with the understanding that issues can and should be worked out. It is the fear of the hierarchy to file complaints that allows the retention of "ineffective clergy."
Why should all clergy have to pay the risk and price of their fear?

Tom Griffith more than 9 years ago