The beginning of each year brings with it appointment questions for United Methodist clergy and churches. Clergy ask: “Is God leading me to stay in my current appointment for another year or is it time for me to move to my next assignment? Is my ministry in this context fruitful? Are my gifts and graces what this congregation needs?” Staff-Parish Relations Committees ponder, “Are we a good match for the clergy appointed here? Are we making a difference in our community?” These are great questions that are important for clergy and churches to consider periodically.
This year the District Superintendents and I have heard an additional question from many of our churches and clergy. “How will the North Alabama Conference Appointive Cabinet make 2020 appointments in light of major changes that might be enacted at the May 5-15 General Conference?
The open-endedness of the phrase “that might be enacted” is a reflection of the uncertainty of what the 2020 General Conference will determine regarding our denomination’s policies about same-gender weddings and ordination criteria. One possibility is legislation fulfilling the protocol or another proposed plan that sanctions division of The United Methodist Church into two or more Wesleyan expressions. Other possibilities include continuing, reversing or adapting current policy.
Upon considering various scenarios, the District Superintendents and I have concluded that our normal appointment process will serve us well, regardless of what the 2020 General Conference brings. Thus, the 2020 appointment process will continue to include components familiar to North Alabama churches and clergy, such as: careful listening (consultation), sharing insights about clergy and churches (cabinet conversations), prayerful matches (appointment-making) and strategic transitions (passing the baton).
Consultation: District Superintendents consult with all clergy each fall. In addition, each winter they meet with Staff-Parish Relations Committees requesting a pastoral change. Through careful listening, District Superintendents identify the unique gifts, graces and life situations of clergy as well as strengths, challenges and hopes of congregations.
Cabinet Conversations: District Superintendents share their insights with one another about clergy and churches prior to and during the initial appointment-making cabinet retreat.
Prayerful Matches: The District Superintendents and I pray for moving pastors and receiving churches throughout the appointment-making process.
Strategic Transitions: Staff-Parish Relations committees and clergy in the moving picture are requested to participate in a Pass the Baton workshop led by Dr. Jim Ozier one evening during the week of April 20-23. Designed to help moving clergy and receiving churches get off to a good start together, these workshops will be offered at various locations in the Annual Conference.
Calendar: Below is the calendar for the 2020 Appointment-making season.
Yes, now is the time of year when appointment questions abound among United Methodists. A higher than usual level of uncertainty is thrown into the mix this year, due to the denominational climate. Even as the appointive cabinet continues to consider various scenarios, we will utilize the appointive process that has served North Alabama Conference clergy and churches well over the past eight years. Our desire is that every move will result in new disciples, deepened discipleship, fruitful ministry, increased engagement in the community and a transformed world.
As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference