Bishop and Cabinet Begin the 2015 Appointment Process
From Bishop Goodpaster The process of appointing clergy to our churches is one of the most important responsibilities assigned to the Bishop and the Cabinet, and one of the most visible and distinctive features of the connectional nature of our church. Bishop Goodpaster and the Cabinet met last week (February 23-27) in the first of three retreats specifically intended to prayerfully review, assess, and discern where all clergy will be appointed for the coming conference year which begins on July 1. During their week together, the Cabinet spent time in prayer and in conversation about the churches, the networks, and the clergy in each district. This annual appraisal provides an overview of the mission as it is being lived out across our conference, as well as information regarding those people and places where a change of appointment will be necessary. In addition, the Cabinet spent one afternoon with Kim Ingram, Sally Queen, and Gary Shockley and heard from them information about available candidates, graduating seminary students, and opportunities for planting new churches and strategic partnerships. But these are only the first steps of an on-going process of prayer, discernment, conversation, and review. At the end of the week, the superintendents returned to their assigned districts to continue consultations both with clergy and with Pastor-Parish Relations Committees. It is through that process that the task of appointment-making truly becomes a collaborative effort. The Book of Discipline defines consultation as a process in which the bishop and the superintendents learn about and “take into account the unique needs of a charge, the community context, and also the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of a particular pastor.” (Paragraph 427) In a statement to the Conference, Bishop Goodpaster said: “We are keenly aware of the anxiety that these months of the year create among our churches and clergy. As a Cabinet, we are deeply committed to appointing clergy to churches so that the mission of Christ is extended across our conference and into the world, and to do so without regard to race, age, or gender. While there are many factors which make this work more and more challenging, we fervently seek God’s guidance, and believe that God will bless our efforts. We covet the prayers of everyone.” Some of those challenges reflect continuing trends that have emerged in recent years. Many churches find it necessary when there is a pastoral change to reduce the salary. This creates gaps in the system, and means that many clergy have to move at salary cuts. Again this year, the Western North Carolina Conference has more clergy entering the appointment system (new candidates, seminary graduates, and those returning from leaves) than we have clergy who are retiring. Even though it places a great deal of stress on the itinerant system, we take seriously spouse employment, family concerns, and requests for a limited geographical appointment. We cannot, however, accommodate all such requests. Over the next several weeks, the Cabinet will meet twice in five day retreats (March 23-27 and April 13-17) which will again be characterized by prayer, conversation, and discernment. The Bishop does not anticipate churches or clergy hearing anything definitive until the end of April, with the general public announcement of the appointments scheduled for the first Sunday of May. In the meantime, the Bishop and Cabinet urge everyone to be in prayer for this work, whether you are involved in a change of appointments this year or not. It is in this way that we demonstrate our connectional system as we pray for one another and for God’s mission in the world.
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