I had a conversation with a colleague last night about “guaranteed appointment.”
I’d already shot off an e-mail to my bishop telling him that if the cabinet in my conference ever deems me to be ineffective — and training does not fix my problems — I’ll turn in my credentials rather than fight a legal battle to enforce my “right” to appointment. (This all assumes I am ordained at some day in the future.)
As I told my colleague, I am hopelessly idealistic and naive about all this.
My colleague, in sharing about concerns, said the problem we have is that we don’t know who gets to define what “effective” means.
I’m sure many of my readers can share stories from within the belly of United Methodism about politics and personality conflicts leading to unfair or punitive appointments. We all know that there are congregations in United Methodism that are dysfunctional and chew up pastors like wood chippers. If I ever have to serve one of those, perhaps my pledge to the bishop will come back to haunt me.
Our Book of Discipline has an extensive list of clergy responsibilities (¶340). In ¶334.2.c the BOD discusses the meaning of effectiveness:
Evidence of continuing effectiveness reflected in annual evaluation by the pastor-parish relations committee and by the district superintendent or comparable authorities.
In ¶334.3, the BOD lays out the process to address concerns when clergy effectiveness is in question.
a) Identify the concerns. These can include an elder’s failed professional responsibilities, vocational ineffectiveness, or refusal of episcopal appointment.
b) Hold supervisory conversations with the elder that identifies the concerns and designs collaboratively with the elder, a corrective plan of action.
c) Upon evaluation, determine that the plan of action has not been carried out or produced fruit that give a realistic expectation of future effectiveness.
When an elder does not live up to his or her pastoral responsibilities, the BOD has procedures (¶361) to remove that person.
By my reading, we define “effective” on the basis of congregational and supervisory evaluation of the pastor’s ministry. Through the Vital Congregations process, it seems as if supervisors are going to more and more rely on “metrics” to make their evaluations. Congregations, I suspect, will always be more ambiguous in their standards for pastoral effectiveness.
[EDIT: Adding text after Taylor Burton-Edwards' comment below] The text of ¶334.4 places the responsibility for defining effectiveness in the hands of cabinets and Boards of Ordained Ministry:
If an elder … does not demonstrate vocational competence or effectiveness as defined by the annual conference through the Board of Ordained Ministry and cabinet …
As Taylor points out, it is incumbent on the BOOM and cabinet to develop explicit definitions for effectiveness and competence. I am not sure if my conference has done that. I certainly do not remember (although this may say more about me than the process) this topic being explicitly discussed in a meeting I have been a part of. Perhaps this ruling will give some impetus to such conversations.
So, what do you think it means to say a pastor is effective?