Many delegates were surprised and even shocked by how quickly a far-reaching proposal that takes away the security of guaranteed appointments for ordained elders breezed by The United Methodist 2012 General Conference.
The item was approved as part of a large numbers of proposals in the assembly’s April 30 consent calendar. The consent calendar is a tool used by General Conference to expedite legislation wherein recommendations from legislative committees with no more than 10 votes are grouped and passed together.
There was a motion to reconsider the item but it also failed by a vote of 564 to 373.
Under this new legislation, bishops and cabinets will be allowed to give elders less than full-time appointment. The legislation also would permit bishops and their cabinets, with the approval of their boards of ordained ministry and annual (regional) conference’s executive session, to put elders on unpaid transitional leave for up to 24 months. Clergy on transitional leave would be able to participate in their conference health program through their own contributions.
Under the legislation, each annual conference is asked to name a task force to develop a list of criteria to guide the cabinets and bishops as they make missional appointments.
The cabinets shall report to the executive committees of Board of Ordained Ministry the number of clergy without fulltime appointments and their age, gender, and ethnicity. Cabinets will also be asked to report their learnings as appointment-making is conducted in a new way.
Earlier the assembly voted down a proposal that would have allowed elders and deacons to be eligible for ordination as soon as they complete their educational requirements after serving a minimum of two years as a provisional elder or deacon.
The commission stated security of appointments for elders has been a major stumbling block for missional appointments.
“We have clergy who have proved ineffective and the ways of dealing with them are cumbersome,” said the Rev. David Dodge, a member of the study commission. “Removing the security of employment allows bishops to deploy clergy more appropriately to do missional ministry,” Dodge said
Kathy Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist Communications.