Sunday, June 03, 2007

Transferring Ministers Between Conferences

¶ 347.1 of The Book of Discipline reads:

Ordained clergy or probationary members from other annual conferences of The United Methodist Church may be received by transfer into probationary or full membership with the consent of the bishops involved. Consultation with the chairperson or executive committee of the board of ordained ministry shall be held prior to the transfer.

A professor here at the Florida Campus of Asbury Theological Seminary told me that when he took his present job, he decided to transfer his membership to the Florida Conference so that he would have sacramental authority. Usually, he says, this kind of transfer involves the receiving bishop calling up the transferring bishop to verify that the elder or deacon is a quality minister. Then the elder or deacon is received into his/her new annual conference.

But this professor said that Florida required more. He had to write and turn in numerous candidacy essays, have two in-depth theological conversations with two District Superintendents, and have his psychs done again.

This practice makes sense. Hypothetically, an unscrupulous bishop could fob off his bad elders to other conferences by saying "Oh, sure! Tom is great! We sure will miss him and all of the wonderful work that he's done here." to the receiving bishop.

Maybe we should update the Discipline to reflect this practice. What do you think?



Jim said...

I've heard one reason the Florida Annual Conference is restrictive is based on Florida's increasing population.

They have an inordinately high number of pastors who seek to transfer in and more when you include pastors retiring to Florida. As a result of supply and demand they have increased their "entrance requirements" if you will.

In a somewhat related note, it seems like the candidacy process for ordination has become so long and arduous that I wonder if some worthy pastors choose not to pursue it or shift to other denominations.

My wife was ordained under the 1996 Discipline, and asked the question, based on the current requirements, interviews, and timelines, would Jesus be eligible and complete Ordination in the United Methodist Church?

The process takes longer than Jesus' entire time in public ministry. That seems like it could be a barrier that prohibits some otherwise excellent pastors from following their call.

CBrulee said...

The UMC would benefit from some sort of process that verified performance of a minister changing Conferences. But I'm at a loss as to how to prevent deliberate deception.

It seems to me that the real problem in cases of deception and "passing off problems" is an inability or lack of desire by the Conference leadership to appropriately counsel and minister to a pastor who needs it.

In any case, an increase of focus on the Holy Spirit within UMC administrative bodies would benefit all. Too many church members feel that their district and conference leadership barely considers the spiritual needs of congregations in pastoral assignments.

Todd said...

I believe the length of time required in UMC conferences is necessary because of the failure of local churches and districts to mentor and/or screen "worthy" candidates along the way to ordination.

The local Charge Conference has to approve of candidates to move forward. Yet many of our local Charge Conferences have little to do with announced candidates.

District Committees of Ministry do provide a bit more oversight. That oversight is lost, however, when candidates move off to seminary.

That means that the bulk of the process falls to the Annual Conference. If we could develop some clear mentoring/oversight at the local church and district levels, then the end of the process could be shortened.

Rev. C. S. Roberts said...

The Discipline always sets the minimum. I applaud Conferences that require more than just the minimum while keeping the top-down rules to the minimum.

Nathan Mattox said...

As a minister who has transferred conferences (AR to OK) that sounds pretty involving. Florida probably doesn't want to have many transfers in because they probably have lots of folks looking to retire there, etc. I think the Cal-Pac has the same problem. Keep the discipline like it is. If conferences want to heap on extras, that's their perogative. As for unscrupulous bishops, I'd say we need to have a little more trust in our bishops not to deal in underhanded schemes. Come on--give them some credit. Maybe I'm naive, but my perspective is that we need to trust that the Spirit is involved in the "making of bishops" and the decisions they make are for the good of the church.
In an increasingly mobile world, where pastor's spouses professional careers (like my own) carry them to regions beyond the antiquated conferences, the rigid systems of the Florida and Cal-Pac's will only be barriers to young adults (with young adult professional spouses) entering the ministry. If we want to make the ministry more and not less attractive to young adults, we need less barriers to conference transfers, not more.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. ~William Blake