"Can we talk?": Pastors express fear, frustration as denomination moves toward change

"Can we talk?": Pastors express fear, frustration as denomination moves toward change

About 350 pastors attended Clergy Gathering on Oct. 25, after a morning discussion on guaranteed appointments elicited frustrated commentary about clergy effectiveness, financial security, and pastor-to-district superintendent relationships.

The annual fall meeting was titled, "Can We Talk?" and featured Bishop James Swanson as the main speaker. Clergy Gathering was held at Colonial Heights United Methodist Church in Kingsport for the second year.

After a presentation by Holston Treasurer John Tate regarding finance changes in early 2011, pastors broke into groups to discuss the denomination's possible elimination of guaranteed appointments.

One pastor acknowledged his fear of change, saying, "I don't think guaranteed appointments are going to survive the next two General Conferences, and when that happens, the [district superintendents] won't be sending, they'll be brokering."

Another pastor questioned standards for clergy ineffectiveness, asking, "What are we going to do with all these churches that are ineffective, no matter who the pastor is?"

Bishop James Swanson responded that pastors considered to be ineffective are minimal. "I know most pastors are trying to do the best they can with the hands that were dealt to them," he said. "But I don't have 903 churches that can be your dream church."

Swanson earned laughter from his audience when he chided them for having "unrealistic expectations for what it means to be in ministry."

"This is a tough job," he said. "I would rather be putting hub caps on cars. This job will make you cry and then some folks will sing the Doxology over you and ask, 'Why you crying?'"

Following Holy Communion, participants received a "gift card" from Swanson, defining the United Methodist Church's purpose and mission in four steps. The card may be reprinted and shared with congregations, Swanson said. (Download PDF)

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See also:

  • "Clergy Gathering 2009 'breaks the silence' on violence in the home" (The Call, 10/16/09)