Assembly sets guidelines on clergy effectiveness

Delegates to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference approved a petition dealing with clergy effectiveness and continuing availability for annual appointment, and also outlined conditions under which a pastor's appointment may be terminated.

The petition was one of many measures approved April 30 on the General Conference's consent calendar. The denomination's top lawmaking body, which meets every four years, gathered April 23-May 2 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

The delegates, following the recommendations of the ministry and higher education legislative committee, voted 696-24 to amend and approve a petition related to Paragraph 334 of the denomination's Book of Discipline to give bishops procedures for corrective action or terminating an ineffective pastor's appointment.

The Book of Discipline specifies responsibilities that an elder in The United Methodist Church must fulfill. Those responsibilities, outlined in Paragraph 340, are derived from authority given by ordination, according to the book. Elders are responsible for the "ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order and Service" within the church and serve in the church and the world.

The delegates voted on the process for a continued annual appointment and what would occur if an elder does not fulfill his or her responsibilities. The basis for an elder's continued eligibility for appointment includes availability; annual participation in an evaluation process with a pastor-parish relations committee or comparable authority; annual evaluation with a district superintendent; evidence of continuing effectiveness reflected in annual evaluations by the pastor-parish relations committee, the district superintendent or comparable authority; professional growth through continuing education and formation; and willingness to supervise or mentor.

The delegates gave bishops an evaluative process to complete when an elder's effectiveness is being considered. The approved petition allows bishops to identify the concern, engage in conversations with the elder, design a corrective plan of action, and set a realistic expectation of future effectiveness.

After evaluation, if an elder has not increased competency or effectiveness as defined by the conference board of ordained ministry or cabinet "and/or does not accept the appointment determined by the bishop, then an appointment may be forfeited and the provisions of Paragraph 362 (of the Book of Discipline) may be invoked."

Paragraph 362 deals with complaint procedures, the supervisory response and due process, and remedial action.

The delegates rejected petitions requesting that bishops appoint a pastor to less than full-time service. The petition involving clergy evaluations would have allowed a district superintendent to initiate changing a pastor's conference relationship if three evaluations found the pastor to be ineffective and not likely to become effective through training and counseling.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

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