Thursday, May 17, 2012

Moving...a reconsideration

There have been many changes in the itinerant system of the UMC over the years.  From what it sounds like, back in first and middle part of the 1900s ministers showed up at Annual Conference and learned if they were moving or not.  No prior warning.  Simply called out each appointment by name and then there was a frantic line at the payphone to call home and let their spouse know that it was time to pack.  Now it is different and there is a joy in that.  My wife and I would go insane if every year we had 1.5 weeks to pack before we moved.  Too much planning on our part happens to use to be that ready.

What I like now about the system is they do seem to listen to the needs of the pastor's family.  They attempt to do their best to listen and work with what they have to take care of the needs of the minister and his/her family. I know this is not the case for everyone and I am sure you can find tons of people who would disagree with that sentence but it is true for me.

During the move process I received our first projected appointment.  It was not what I was hoping for or expecting.  I am sure that some good ministry could come out of that appointment but it didn't tick off any of the boxes I was hoping for.  There were a laundry list of reasons why this would be a bad fit and so we started to look at our options.  My District Superintendent (DS) knew I would not be pleased with the appointment.  I could read it on her face when she told me.  But my wife and I prayed about it.  We did as much research as we could on the area and the church.  We did our secret ninja drive by to see the community, but in the end we  knew it wouldn't really work.  And if we had to move there it would not be for the long appointment that we desired.

The option that presented itself was to ask for a reconsideration.  I was told to write a letter to the cabinet naming the reasons why the projected appointment wouldn't work and what we desired out of an appointment. We set to work writing, rewriting, praying, rewriting, praying, sending it off to have people read it, and praying some more.  Finally we created a one page letter that we thought represented our situation the best and we sent it off.

After round two of appointment making meetings we heard about our appointment.  There was a change and the second projected appointment ticked off most of the boxes we were looking for.  I praised God because it seemed the Cabinet actually listened.

When we received our first projected appointment I felt let down, frustrated, angry, disappointed and for the first time truly doubted my abilities.  I thought I had accomplished some good things here at Trinity and that the cabinet could see that but after the first round I thought my accomplishments had fallen on deaf ears.  Then with round two I felt they had listened.  I do not understand what it is like during the frustrating, prayerful, and stress-filled appointment making process.  I truly feel the DSs and Bishop lose sleep over their  decisions and wonder if they are the right ones.  I don't seem them as heartless or vengeful, although I am sure that there are others who do.  I feel the system worked for me and I may never know why.

So today, as I write my sermon and pack boxes, I am thankful that the system has seemed to work.  It may only have been for me and my experience and I have faith that the cabinet is doing their best for the sake of the Conference and the Kingdom of God.  I confess I didn't feel that way in March but not in May I do.

Bishop and the rest of the Cabinet, please forgive me for my ill thoughts and frustrations.  Thank you for prayerful listening.

(Something I never found was a written guideline for what a Letter of Reconsideration should look like.  If you are in a place where you need to write one I am happy to email you a redacted copy of mine.  I am not saying it will work but I'm happy to share the format and structure of the letter.  Just send me an email at revjimparsons at gmail dot com)


Anonymous said...

I was not happy with my first appointment, but I was glad to get it… I was the warm body available at the right time. So I served and worked hard and trusted God and stayed for 18 years.

I stayed there until God called me to another assignment, and I serve God gladly in the new place. I think you received a second consideration because you are younger, and the UMC is currently catering to young clergy. I hope the second choice works out for you; I believed you have burned some bridges by doing this that will make it difficult in the future for other appointment changes.

Finally, what about the person who has to go and fill the appointment you did not want, appointment changes always create a ripple effect throughout the conference. Sometimes you have to trust God, and pay your dues, and hone your skills, God may have had some great thing he wanted to teach you at the first appointment, yet you refused, and perhaps have missed a great blessing.

So yes I am glad guaranteed appointment are gone, and though the bishop and cabinet are not always right, perhaps with their collective age and wisdom and God’s providence, there was much to learn, even if it didn’t feel right or meet your needs.


Unknown said...

AL, I did not include all the factors in my reconsideration in this post because much of it is very personal because they were for family reasons. I do believe if I did accept that first appointment God could have used my time there to do some good things. I never once doubted that.

Here is the thing, when we got married I made a promise to my wife that I would place her and our future children before the church. I am happy to give the church all I can for the sake of the Kingdom of God but not for the sake of losing my family. So I put them first when we asked to move and when we asked for a reconsideration. If I didn't ask (whether I received it or not) I would have been putting the church before my family and that was not going to happen. So I simply asked.

I do not think MY conference caters to young clergy and I don't think I burned bridges. I simply followed the options that were presented to me by my DS and knew that I may not receive the reconsideration. I don't know how it worked or who got bumped or even if they did. This simply could have been an appointment that became available at a later date, only the cabinet really knows that.

I wrote this post to share that God can work through the appointment process in different ways. I feel we as clergy need to speak up for the sake of our families and our callings. We hear so much about people complaining about the appointment process that I wanted to post something positive.