Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I'm glad I'm a UCC pastor...

...because it means that I'm not a United Methodist one.

I really don't mean any malice in that, so please don't read it that way. Hear me out.

One of my pastoral colleagues recently notified the rest of us in town that he's been reappointed to another church. To those outside the UMC (including myself, whose knowledge of UMC polity could fill a thimble), this type of act is reputed to be a capricious game of Methodist Roulette, where bored bishops throw darts at a map and pull names out of a hat.

I'm sure that there's more to it, and I'd love for a Methodist reader to chime in and tell me that this is a more careful process than that.

But it remains that I'm thankful for the search-and-call process as the United Church of Christ observes it, which can simplistically be summed up like so: you interview, you find what you hope will be a good match, and you stay for as long as you want.

I couldn't stand being forced to move every few years, or even months.

So Methodists, I'd love to hear more about how this actually works. Right now, I have to own some feelings of thankfulness mixed with a little bitterness. The guy who's leaving is a good guy and I'd hate to be jumbled around like that every so often just because someone else says "it's time."


Anonymous said...

There's a possibility I may be losing both of my UMC colleagues this year -- but both will be by choice. One is retiring; the other is requesting reassignment for personal reasons, nothing to do with the current assignment. The latter colleague spent 22 years in her previous assignment - which may be a record for UMCs.


Jeff Nelson said...

I had the chance to talk to him after I wrote this, and as it turns out he's been reappointed in order to replace a pastor who had to take leave for one reason or another. So his current churches (it's a two-point charge) will have an interim for four months until the next annual conference.

At least UMC churches don't have any lull between pastors, including interims. That's certainly a positive that they have over search-and-call.

Thoughts From Jeff said...

As a youth minister serving in UMC, i can say that it is a very careful process and the moves usually only take place at the annual conference.

Yes, there are times when a move occurs during the year but they really are rare.

The bishops, the distrinct superintendents and the staff parish committees along with the pastors attemp more than a throw a dart at the map.

I have also served in three different conferences ( all in different states ) so I can say that there are some that may do it better than the others.

But, it is a beautiful thing when it is seasoned with prayer and the moves are made to match a senior pastor with gifts / passion that meet the need of the church in their current life cycle.

No, it is not always rosey and yes, at times there are political games but for the most part, I think it is good.

Yes, I have the experience outside of the UMC as well.

Jeff Nelson said...

Thanks, Jeff.

I figured that the process was much more careful (and, one hopes, prayerful) than the dartboard analogy. I'm guessing that the mantra to "trust the process" often gets repeated, and I imagine that in the majority of cases the higher-ups know what they're doing.

Still, I myself would be frustrated in such a system even with a background that has nurtured a restless spirit.

Living the Biblios said...

I like what Eugene Peterson urges: "Stay in one place as long as you can." Now that happens to fit my personality, but I think too it benefits the local church. Then again, Jesus only spent three with years disciples...

Anonymous said...

Methodist preacher's kid here. I'll admit that the moving around aspect of the appointment system can be frustrating for pastors and their families in the UMC, but as somebody who has also spent time in the UCC and other churches, I have noticed some very good things about the way the UMC does it. First, it helps to ensure that a church is built around a congregation, not a pastor. Second, it allows churches to have the pastors they need at the times they need them (such as a strong visionary leader when engaged in a building project and a talented pastoral presence when dealing with difficult relational issues.) As has already been pointed out, the moves usually happen at annual conference, and they aren't often entirely unexpected. The pastor and the congregation have input in the process. It has both pros and cons.