You know, there's a lot of things I appreciate about Methodists, but I never did get this whole appointment-of-pastors thing. Is it the case that churches don't have a say, or just not ultimate say on who their pastor is and how long he or she stays?
There are excellent responses to his query in the thread. I don't have time to lay out a complete argument for episcopal church government, but I would like to bring up a few points:
- Episcopal government (hypothetically) has greater capacity for church discipline. If, for example, a pastor is popular but abusing his office (e.g. theft, immoral behavior) or is teaching false doctrine, then a presiding bishop can yank him out regardless of his local authority. For example, within hours of a UMC pastor getting arrested, the District Superintendent will suspend him from office and have a qualified interim pastor installed until the next appointment cycle.
- Churches that hire the pastor that they want may not get the pastor that they need. Let us say that a local church has greatly bought into consumerist/health & wealth Christianity. If they have the power to choose their pastor, are they likely to hire what they need -- a pastor who will teach against this worldview? No.
- A pastor in an episcopal governing church is not vulnerable to a 51% vote of members to remove him. In a congregational government, the authority in the church is a board of deacons or elders, or 51% of members at a business meeting. In an episcopal government, the pastor is sent to the church representing the authority of the bishop. Although a United Methodist pastor can be driven out of a church if enough members make enough noise, an overnight coup d'etat that leaves the pastor unemployed in the morning cannot happen in the UMC.
- Episcopal government was how the early church, dating back to the Apostolic church, was led.
It is true that denominational authorities can abuse their power. Good ol' boys networks exist in some corners that protect immoral pastors or false teachers from their failure to uphold clergy standards. And congregational church governments have considerable advantages. But whatever system rules a denomination, it will become corrupt unless saturated with humble prayer and led by the Holy Spirit. That is an inevitability.