June 30, 2014

By Fred Koenig

The United Methodist clergy appointment is one of the most important processes the denomination engages in, but it is often misunderstood. In an attempt to bring understanding to how clergy end up where they are, Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase presented a session on Demystifying the Appointment Process. 
    
Often called then itinerate system or itinerancy, United Methodist clergy offer themselves as being called to be sent, and surrender themselves to be sent where needed. In the spirit of Christ, they come not to be served, but to serve. One question drives the process: Will it further the kingdom more to move or stay? The mission of the church comes first. During cabinet meetings, the Conference mission statement of leading congregations to lead people to actively follow Jesus Christ is foremost. The Five Expectations also guide the process: Christ-Centered, Fruitfulness, Excellence, Accountability and Collaboration.
    
Bishop Schnase recalls another Bishop telling him that when she first became involved in the appointment process as a district superintendent, she was mainly concerned with how the pastor would feel about the appointment. She later became more concerned about how the people of the church would feel about the appointment. Finally she learned that it was more important to consider how the people in the community surrounding the church would feel about the appointment. 
    
“We have an appointment process that is mission-field focused,” Bishop Schnase said. 
    
Information gathering for the appointment process begins with charge conferences, followed by clergy evaluations in the fall, and consultations in the spring. Both the clergy and the pastor-parish relations committee fill out forms that include the question of whether the clergy person should stay or move, and why. Numbers are examined, compared to the demographics of the surrounding community, to determine if the church is growing or declining. 
    
The cabinet meets for three long, uninterrupted days for assessment week, with each district superintendent bringing an assessment packet with a summary of the information gathered. 

Principles That Drive Process

  1. The mission of the church comes first.
  2. The appointment process deserves our honesty and a view for the good of the whole connection
  3. Reward excellence in the mission field (not just in local congregations) process is data supported.
  4. Four years is the minimum service in area for effectiveness – four years under 200, six years 200 – 500, 8 years over 500.
  5. We don’t move pastors during the provisional period, if the pastor requests move, provisional clock (two years supervised) starts over. 
  6. Plan intentional leadership development for high potential pastors for long-term good of the mission of the Conference. 
  7. Consultations refer to the conversations we have before the appointment is made.
  8. We begin with strategic appointments, not highest salaries.
  9. Work graciously encouraging ineffective clergy to exit rather than to appoint them somewhere where there is no confidence they can succeed. 
  10. Part-time appointments, student appointments and lay pastors will be worked out by the DS. 
  11. Done by mid-May
  12. Attend to system to further mission. 
Bishop Schnase said he expects every district superintendent to be working for the good of the Conference, not just the good of his or her district. 
    
“Superintendents don’t hold cards too close to the chest – that’s the easiest way to become a former superintendent in this conference,” he said. 
    
Bishop Schnase noted both the clergy and the local churches have a voice in the process early on, but later it is up to him to make the appointments. 
    
“When the phone call comes in the spring, we’re not asking your opinion about it at that point,” he said. “If you are the PPR chair, when you get the call that we want to set up time to introduce a new pastor, it’s not an interview.” 
    
The Missouri Conference has more women in large churches than any other Conference in the South Central Jurisdiction. Bishop Schnase said he still occasionally gets a request for a male pastor. 
    
“If you’re saying you would rather have a less-effective male pastor than a more-effective female pastor, you should consider the signal that you’re sending me with that request,” he said. 
    
Bishop Schnase opened up the appointment boards, and then walked through the process the cabinet goes through in filling a vacancy in a church, which then creates another vacancy in a different church, resulting in a chain of appointment changes. He said pastors are sometimes “promoted” to a more strategic location where they are needed, even though the salary may be significantly less in the new location. 
    
“This happens is about 30 percent of the cases,” he said. 
    
By May of this year, there were 30 retirements, and 57 full-time clergy changed appointments. At the end of the process, there is one question that the Bishop and cabinet have to answer so they know they have done their job: “I have appointed ______ to ______ so that ______ . 
    
For more information on the appointment process, go to www.7levers.org