Cautionary Note Sounded About Part-time Appointments
The Judicial Council ruling upholding security of appointment for elders and associate members does not require a full-time appointment, but the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s general secretary issued a cautionary note during a Webinar about the ruling attended by 204 people.
The Rev. Kim Cape said the Judicial Council decision did not address new legislation allowing the bishop and cabinet to initiate a part-time appointment. “Nowhere does this decision say security of appointment ensures a full-time appointment,” she said.
Cape also stressed that the Judicial Council ruling strengthens the relationship between itineracy and security of appointment. Itineracy is the procedure in The United Methodist Church through which bishops send clergy to a particular church or mission field.
“This actually gives bishops more authority in appointment making . . . and helps bishops reclaim the missionary sense of itineracy while requiring elders and associate members to be fully itinerant,” Cape said. “Itineracy is intended as a tool for mission. . . to deploy clergy where the population moves.”
Cape said GBHEM does not recommend using less than full-time appointment as an option for exiting or decreasing the workload of ineffective clergy. “Additionally, less than full-time appointment is not a category to be used for remedial action against a clergyperson,” Cape said in the Monday Webinars attended by many annual conference Boards of Ordained Ministry officers.
“In raising this issue, we want bishops and Boards of Ordained Ministry to be aware of their responsibilities and roles as a less than full-time appointment is considered for a clergyperson,” Cape said.
Cape stressed that there is a process for exiting ineffective clergy that involves identifying the concerns, holding supervisory conversations, and creating a corrective plan of action with a realistic time period. Then, if the process fails to produce sufficient improvement, a recommendation for a status change may be initiated by the bishop and superintendent. That results in additional requirements for written notification to the clergyperson and BOM regarding specific recommendations, followed by a Fair Process Hearing, and a BOM recommendation to the annual conference Clergy Executive Session for final action.
“Friends, this is basic human resources,” Cape told those attending the Webinar.
To view the Webinar presentation and other resources related to Boards of Ordained Ministry, visit the Boards of Ordained Ministry homepage.
GBHEM has a checklist to guide annual conferences through a recommendation for involuntary status change that includes the steps to be taken and the required timelines, Cape said. That checklist is located at www.gbhem.org/bom.
The Rev. Meg Lassiat, GBHEM’s director of Candidacy, Mentoring, and Conference Relations, and the Rev. Anita Wood, director of Provisional Member and Deacon Ministry Development, answered questions about a pilot project to assess clergy effectiveness and annual conference polices concerning pension and health benefits, especially as related to part-time clergy.
Lassiat said five annual conferences – Upper New York, Florida, Pacific Northwest, Southwest Texas, and West Michigan are part of a pilot project this fall to test the effectiveness assessment tool developed on more than 10 years of research into pastoral effectiveness.
The target date for the assessment process to be ready for all annual conferences is August or September of 2013, Lassiat said.
Several people attending the Webinar asked questions about requirements for pension and health insurance benefits for less than full-time clergy. Wood told them that every annual conference votes on pension policies for that annual conference. “Providing benefits for less than full-time clergy is a choice for every annual conference,” Wood said.
Under legislation approved by General Conference 2012 pension benefits are mandatory only for full-time clergy.
Wood said annual conferences also decide their own polices on health insurance. Wood said that means a clergyperson appointed to less than full-time appointment might also lose health and pension benefits.
Asked about an appeal process for clergy appointed less than full-time, Wood said the legislation appears to require only the recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry and the approval of the Clergy Executive Session.
Cape, Lassiat, and Wood urged BOM members and annual conference staff to discuss all these issues with their bishop and cabinet now in order to work together on a fair system.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.