Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 (NLT)
It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The first time they came onto the scene, I told my wife that I could guarantee that they would seek to become a church (denomination if you’re so inclined) even though they, at least at first, insisted that that was not their plan. I became put off by being told by WCA leadership that forming a church was not going on when the signs were all there. But I digress… Lo and behold, as the situation within the United Methodist Church has evolved, they changed began to lay the foundation for a new church body. This came closer to fruition with the release of their proposed Doctrine and Discipline document. It’s important to note that this document is still a draft and is even only half of a draft at this point. In spite of my apprehensions of WCA, I find that their doctrine seems spot-on with expressions of orthodox Methodist/Wesleyan belief. High regard for the sacraments – including baptism of children and babies – is retained and other important Methodist distinctives are contained. I like that WCA has incorporated the creeds as foundational doctrinal standards as well. I have to admit, overall I like what they have put out so far.
Well, except for one thing: Their proposal for clergy deployment.
The proposed system of clergy deployment is a modified call system. The short version: Congregations would call their own clergy from approved lists provided by their annual conference. There is also a provision included where congregations must include at least one woman and one person of color on their list of candidates to be interviewed. A friend and colleague who is part of the committee putting the discipline together asked for comments and I expressed that I saw the possibility for a lot of unintended consequences. As we talked, he invited me to submit my own proposal and promised to bring it before the rest of the committee working on this portion of the proposed Doctrine and Discipline. I thanked him and believe this was very gracious even though he knows fully that I’ve been critical of WCA’s tactics since its formation. I took him up on this offer and sent my proposal, which I am posting here for you to read as well.
This is far from perfect and I’m sure needs a lot of cleaning up but here it is. All I did was copy and paste the proposed clergy deployment paragraphs, crossed out the portions I wanted to change, with my own proposed language in bold. Several of the unintended consequences I mentioned previously are included at the rationale I included at the bottom of my proposal. I emphasize that this is not perfect. I’m not a parliamentarian or a legal scholar. My goal was to propose a system that would be equitable in allowing congregations to have a say in who their pastor is as well as providing a fair process for qualified clergy to be considered for an appointment.
The system is a modified appointment system. The presiding elder (proposed terminology for what’s now a District Superintendent) would consult with the congregation’s Committee on Staff-Parish Relations to discern the needs, hopes, and desires of the congregation (I know that’s what’s supposed to happen now but…). The PE would then make a recommendation for a pastor to be appointed to the congregation to the Bishop who must give their approval. All parties – the PE, clergy, bishop, and Staff-Parish – must give their consent before an appointment can be made. The initial length of the appointment would be for three years (except in extraordinary circumstances). After three years, the pastor and SPRC would submit consultations and, if both parties agreed to continue the appointment, the appointment would become indefinitely fixed until either the pastor or the congregation wanted to change. The Bishop could still ask the pastor to move but the pastor would be able to say no.
I also included language to give the proposed Hosier Rule (gender and racial equality rule) some teeth.
What follows is what I have submitted. Feel free to share your thoughts on social media or in the comments (but be respectful and civil – I don’t believe that’s asking too much). My proposed additions are in bold. Also, I apologize for some of the paragraphs being split but you should be able to get the general idea.
¶ 518. CONSULTATION AND CLERGY DEPLOYMENT. Consultation is the process whereby the
presiding elder confers regularly with the pastor and the staff-parish relations committee of the
local church to evaluate the ongoing pastoral needs of the congregation. Clergy deployment
should take into account the unique situation of the local church and also the unique gifts and
evidence of God’s grace of a particular pastor. To assist local churches, clergy, presiding elders,
and bishops in the deployment process, church and clergy profiles, a clergy evaluation, and
deployment advisory forms must be completed or updated annually. annual conference boards
of ordained ministry may develop the appropriate forms to fit their context.
1. Church Profile. The presiding elder shall develop with the pastor and the staff parish
relations committee a profile that reflects the needs, characteristics, and opportunities for
mission of the local church consistent with the overall mission of the ___________________
Church. The profile shall be reviewed annually and updated when appropriate, particularly
when a pastoral change is anticipated. The profile shall include:
a. The general context of the geographical area in which a congregation finds itself,
including demographics and economic factors.
b. The size, financial condition, quality of lay leadership, history, and special needs of
c. The congregation’s service programs, evangelism efforts, discipleship model, and
mission to the community and the world.
d. The qualities and functions of pastoral ministry needed to fulfill the mission, goals,
and special needs of the congregation.
e. A tentative job description for the pastoral position the congregation seeks to fill.
2. Clergy Profile. The presiding elder shall develop with the pastor a profile that reflects
the pastor’s gifts, evidence of God’s grace, professional experience and expectations, and the
needs and concerns of the pastor’s spouse and family. This profile shall be reviewed annually
and updated when appropriate, particularly when a pastoral change is anticipated. The profile
a. An overview of the pastor’s personal faith, call and commitment to ordained
ministry, and the integration of his or her vocation with personal and family well-being and
b. A vitae of the pastor’s academic and career background, including his or her
professional experience, academic degrees, professional experience, and publications.
c. A listing of the pastor’s skills and abilities as they relate to pastoral ministry.
d. A statement of the pastor’s preferred type of ministry setting.
3. Clergy Evaluation. The staff-parish relations committee shall conduct an annual
written evaluation of the pastor’s ministry, using forms prepared by the conference board of
ordained ministry, which shall be shared with the presiding elder and the pastor. The presiding
elder shall meet with the pastor annually to review this evaluation.
4. Church-Clergy Advisory Form. At the end of the third year of a pastoral appointment, the pastor and staff-parish relations committee shall
each complete an advisory form
annually to declare their desires for continued ministry for the next ministry year. The advisory form shall offer several options, each of which must be
supported by a descriptive narrative. The advisory options shall be:
a. Stay — The pastor and/or congregation have a missional reason to remain in
for the coming year.
b. Either — The pastor and/or congregation are ambivalent about whether to
remain in ministry together
for the coming year.
c. Go — The pastor and/or congregation believe that it is time for a pastoral
d. Help — The pastor and/or congregation requests that the presiding elder
provide mediation or advisory help to resolve an issue between the pastor
e. If the pastor and committee do not match in their desire for the coming year,
the presiding elder shall meet with both parties to seek resolution or to
advise a pastoral change. No pastor may be removed from a pastoral charge
without the consent of the resident bishop.
f. If the pastor and committee do match in their desire for the pastoral appointment to continue, the appointment shall become fixed until such time as the congregation and/or the pastor express a desire for a pastoral change. Such declaration shall be made during the annual consultation period within the annual conference. Note: This provision does not prevent a Presiding Elder or Bishop from consulting with the pastor about serving another congregation where the Presiding Elder/Bishop believe the pastor’s gifts and graces for ministry are needed. In such a situation, if the pastor desires to remain at their current appointment, they may do so without penalty.
¶ 519. THE PROCESS OF CLERGY DEPLOYMENT. The process used in clergy deployment shall
include the following:
An opening for a pastoral charge may be initiated in a number of ways:
The pastor chooses to leave a charge to take another pastoral position
in a different church.
The pastor must receive written permission from the presiding elder before interviewing for another pastoral opening.
ii. The pastor retires.
iii.The pastor chooses to go on transitional leave, unpaid leave of absence
or surrenders his or her credentials.
The pastor dies or is incapacitated for an unreasonable length of time.
ii.The pastor is removed for misconduct after due judicial process.
iii. The local church requests a change of pastors and the change is
approved by the bishop.
When a pastoral charge has been declared open by the bishop, the presiding elder
consults with the local church’s governing board to determine the
process by which clergy candidates for the opening may be identified. the ministry needs of the congregation in order to assist the presiding elder and the Bishop in determining appropriate candidates. The presiding elder and governing board may choose together from one or more of the following options: The governing board may choose to develop its own list of potential clergy candidates for the pastoral opening. The presiding elder must approve any candidate(s) before they may be interviewed by the local church. The governing board may choose to request the presiding elder to conduct a search and present a candidate or a list of candidates for the pastoral opening. The presiding elder may choose to offer additional candidates for consideration. The presiding elder shall advise the governing board on the nomination, formation, and election of a transition team to manage the deployment process, the outgoing pastor’s exit, and the first year of the pastoral transition. The transition team consists of up to 15 persons, chaired by the chairperson of the staff-parish relations committee, which will include the chair of the church governing board and may include the staff-parish relations committee, or a subset thereof, and other at-large members elected by the governing board. The pastoral transition within the congregation shall be overseen by the Committee on Staff-Parish Relations in consultation with the Presiding Elder/Bishop.
transition team Committee on Staff-Parish Relations are responsible for managing the steps in the deployment process and conducts transition planning with both the incoming and outgoing pastors:
transition team Committee on Staff-Parish Relations advises the outgoing pastor (when applicable) to
ensure that he or she leaves well and provides the incoming pastor with
The transition team develops a list of candidates for the pastoral opening and submits a preferred list to the presiding elder for approval, or receives a recommended candidate from the presiding elder. The transition team conducts interviews of a clergy candidate presented by the presiding elder or candidates on a list approved by the presiding elder and chooses its preferred candidate.
transition team Committee on Staff-Parish Relations advises the incoming pastor, prepares an appropriate
congregational welcome, and meets at least monthly with the pastor through
the first year of the transition to identify opportunities for early wins,
potential points of conflict, and to assist the pastor in learning the
congregation and community.
A list of available clergy candidates for a pastoral opening
may be generated from among the following sources: shall be maintained by the _________________
A database of available clergy maintained by the _________________ Church. Clergy who apply for a particular pastoral opening via the presiding elder. A list of clergy generated by a search firm employed by the local church. Clergy currently serving another church may be contacted by a local church to gauge interest in a pastoral opening but clergy must obtain written permission from their presiding elder before interviewing. Other sources as determined. Any list of clergy candidates for a pastoral opening must be approved by the presiding elder before interviews take place with the transition team. The presiding
elder will also ensure that the list of
approved candidates available clergy to be considered for a pastoral appointment conforms to the provisions of
The transition team shall interview clergy candidates using its preferred method. The presiding elder may act as advisor and coach for the interview process. The Presiding Elder shall make a recommendation of a clergy person to fill a pastoral opening to the Bishop. This recommendation shall be based on discernment through prayer and other means in order to identify the best available candidate with the gifts and graces needed for a congregation or charge. In the case of two Presiding Elders desiring to place the same candidate within their district, the Bishop shall determine which congregation the candidate shall be appointed to. The transition team shall identify its preferred candidate. After consultation with the candidate, the presiding elder informs the bishop and cabinet.
The bishop, presiding elder,
transition team, Committee on Staff-Parish Relations, and incoming pastor must all give
written consent to the pastor’s placement prior to declaring the position closed. If any of these parties does not give consent, the Presiding Elder will meet with the party that withheld consent to identify and mediate issues that caused the party to withhold consent. As a last resort, if issues cannot be resolved, the process begins again with consultation
between the presiding elder and
transition team Committee on Staff-Parish Relations.
In the placement of associate pastors, the senior pastor of the church must also give
consent prior to declaring the position closed.
When a pastoral opening is declared closed, the appointment shall be for a period of three years commencing at a time determined by the Bishop. This minimum term is to allow the pastor and the congregation to form a strong relationship, to establish the pastor’s ministry, and to allow a thorough assessment of the pastor’s ministry and the congregation’s vitality. This three year period shall not be shortened except in extraordinary circumstances as determined by the Bishop.
¶ 520. DIVERSITY IN CLERGY DEPLOYMENT. Consistent with the values and mission of a global
church, recruiting, developing and retaining talented and gifted clergy that can reach all people
is a priority. We welcome and rejoice in the expansion of racial-ethnic and multicultural
churches within our movement. We also encourage and affirm clergy who may be called to
cross-cultural ministry as they follow the pioneering and teaching leadership of the Holy Spirit,
along with both male and female clergy who enhance the witness of the church with their
different lenses and intrinsic gifts and graces. In particular, we seek to attract, equip and deploy
women and those of all ethnic backgrounds so that their ministries may thrive.
To that end, establishing a diverse pool of clergy is critical, as is offering deployment
opportunities for both male and female clergy, from diverse races, ethnicities, and cultural
backgrounds. Each annual conference and bishop shall be charged with developing and
implementing demonstrable recruitment strategies and best practices for attracting gifted and
¶ 521. THE HOSIER RULE. The interview slate developed for each clergy opening must comply
to the following parameter, hereby known as the “Hosier Rule,” named in honor of Harry
Hosier, a black Methodist preacher recognized as one of the greatest orators of his time who
often accompanied Francis Asbury during the Second Great Awakening in early American
The list of candidates approved to interview with a local church or other ___________________Church entity with a clergy opening for an elder, deacon, or local pastor in any position, as well as those interviewed, must include at least one cross-cultural and one female candidate from outside of the church or organization involved All qualified candidates shall be considered for appointment regardless of gender and/or ethnicity.
The ________________ Church will maintain a current record of available female and clergy
interested in a cross-cultural ministry opportunity within its denomination-wide database
that the presiding elder and local church will draw upon for the slate. The presiding elder and local church may also honor the Hosier Rule by finding qualified female and candidates interested in cross-cultural appointments to interview from other external resources as well. Records of interview slates showing a good faith effort to comply with the Hosier Rule shall be kept by the presiding elder and shall be periodically reviewed by the bishop’s office. Compliance with the Hosier Rule may only be waived if the transition team of the local church or entity, along with the presiding elder and bishop, all certify in writing that such compliance is not feasible in a particular instance, specifying the reasons why such is not possible. Barring such certification, evidence of failing to abide with the integrity and spirit of this rule In the event that the Presiding Elder or Bishop determine that a congregation has refused to accept the appointment of a qualified pastor based solely on the pastor’s gender or ethnicity, such determination shall lead
to corrective actions as determined appropriate by the presiding elder/Bishop and restricted resourcing to the local church/entity, up to and including withholding a pastoral appointment for a period of up to one year or until the Presiding Elder or Bishop are satisfied that corrective measures have been effective.
There are numerous reasons for proposing these revisions. While I believe that the modified call system of clergy deployment proposed was created in good faith, I further believe that several unintended consequences were not considered or simply overlooked. Among them:
- Undue difficulty for women and persons who are not Caucasian in obtaining an appointment/call. The reality is: Numerous congregations will simply refuse to seriously consider candidates that are not white males. This is a sad reality of our fallen world but one that the church must acknowledge and discourage. Especially in a connectional church, a system of clergy deployment that relies on a congregational committee to “do the right thing” with little actual accountability is not wise and is not equitable to women and minorities.
- Allowing a congregation to contact clergy who are under appointment about serving in their context is unethical. Congregations should not be in competition with one another for pastors. Such competition does not promote a spirit of cooperation or connection. This further would lead pastors to simply go where more money can be offered without regard to their particular calling or the actual missional needs of the church.
- A modified call system does not offer any sort of security for the pastor or their family. When clergy can be released at any time for any reason, one can argue that this will motivate them to do all they can to be effective in ministry. An effective pastor should not be motivated by fear but rather by the calling that God has placed on their lives. Providing clergy with a set amount of time for an initial time at an appointment will allow both the clergy person and the congregation ample time to discern whether or not the appointment is a good long-term fit and, if not, to begin making necessary preparations.
- Small membership congregations would suffer. In the early days of the Methodist movement, clergy deployment was conducted by appointment in order to send the best clergy to the places that had need of their gifts and graces. This system further ensured that all congregations desiring a pastor would have one assigned to them. Under a modified call system, small congregations would be particularly hard-hit because they would have difficulty finding clergy to serve them for what is often a very small salary. Without some sort of appointment system being in place, our small congregations would be at a distinct disadvantage.
- Any sort of congregational call system is antithetical to our Wesleyan heritage. This amalgamation of connectional and congregational polity would lead to confusion and further dilution of the historic Wesley practice of Methodists. We’re either Wesleyan/Methodist or we’re not: A modified call system would lead the church further down the road to being something different.