Tonight, my heart was stilled from its racing on the guaranteed appointment issue.
I have felt the both/and of a desire for a clear, mission process for appointments AND the deep desire to protect my brothers and sisters who might unfairly be discriminated against in the process where homophobia, sexism, and racism still exist. I was not of one heart on the issue. When asked how I would have voted on the floor had I been seated, I honestly could not answer… perhaps I would have abstained.
But tonight, a colleague of mine – Sean McRoberts – and I dove deep into the legislation to figure out what the actual implications are.
1) this is not a simple power given to the bishop or cabinet to dismiss you to ministry… there are checks and balances all throughout the process. According to the legislation we passed and the BoD, either a lack of missional appointment placement OR an ineffective pastor who is not appointed has to be approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry AND the clergy session. Someone who recieves the status of “transitional leave” must be voted on by the order and so as clergy, if we feel uncomfortable with this process, we need to remember that we have the ability to vote and support one another if the process/boom/cabinet is acting discriminatorily…
2) the appointive cabinet, Board of Ordained Ministry, and Clergy Session all have to agree for a person to move to transitional leave (it is a status change). Transitional leave has a two year maximum according to the discipline. A person cannot simply be returned to transitional leave again and again. If a person is being transitioned out of ministry due to ineffectiveness, that two years gives time for a process of healing, discernment, counseling, and new calling to occur. In Iowa, we currently have a three year process to counsel and support clergy who are ineffective so that they can either grow or discern a new calling.
3) some important work was done in the legislative committee. They added a requirement for accountability that says statistical reporting on the people put on transitional leave and/or appointed to a less than full time position (age, gender, race) has to be sent to the executive committee of the BoOM and the conference and jurisdictional committee on the episcopacy. Committee on Episcopacy should then include those statistics in the annual evaluation of the bishop. (we also approved at this general conference a switch from bi-annual to annual episcopal review).
Prior to this GC, bishops were not evaluated on their appointment making activities, only on the other areas of their ministry. If there were complaints, we could use administrative process to require remedial action and/or bring charges. This is still the case, only this way we have a process of statistical information to help evaluate if their are patterns, intentional or unintentional, that exclude persons from the table. The process already is in place for helping ineffective or discriminatory bishops transition out of ministry (we just never use it!)
4) there is an important addition, also from the legislative committee, that calls for a group of four laity, two clergy, a district superintendent and the bishop of the annual conference to determine annually criteria for missional appointment making. These criteria are then to be used by the cabinet in their process of discernment. This adds the voice of clergy and laity into the process.
So… with these four clarifications/implications… what do you think?