By Keith Boyette
June 4, 2021
A frequently asked question by those considering affiliation with the Global Methodist Church relates to how clergy deployment decisions will be made in the new church. At this time, we can only address deployment decisions that will be made between the legal formation of the GM Church and its convening General Conference (the “transitional period”). The convening General Conference will decide on the method of clergy deployment following that conference.
Most churches that align with the GM Church during the transitional period will likely continue to be served by the clergyperson serving at the time of alignment if both the local church and the clergyperson want to continue their relationship. The Transitional Leadership Council (“TLC”) of the GM Church has no intention of disturbing church-clergy relationships in such situations. Continuity will be important during the transitional period as churches will be navigating important changes.
Nevertheless, some local churches that join the Global Methodist Church during the transitional period will need the assistance of a bishop or the TLC regarding pastoral leadership. The most likely reasons for new deployments in that period will be: (1) where a clergyperson decides to retire and elects senior status, (2) where illness or financial exigencies necessitate a change, and (3) where a death has occurred.
During the transitional period, the TLC has sought to keep the clergy deployment process as closely aligned to the current system as possible. The TLC made this choice because the laity and clergy who align with the GM Church should be the ones to determine any changes to the deployment system at its convening General Conference, not a transitional leadership group. Appointment making during the transitional period is addressed in paragraphs 509-514 of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline.
When the relativity rare change in clergy leadership is required during the transitional period, the TLC has adopted a process that intentionally includes major input from the local church in the deployment process. Consistent with Methodist practice since the days of Francis Asbury, during the transitional period clergy will be appointed to serve local churches by the bishop charged with providing oversight. If there is no such bishop for a particular church during the transitional period, the function will be performed by the TLC (see ¶ 509.2 and .6).
Appointments are to be made with consideration of the needs, characteristics, and opportunities of congregations, the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of those appointed, and in faithfulness to our commitments to an open itinerancy (¶ 509.3). Unlike in the UM Church, appointments can be made easily across conference lines (¶ 509.4).
Consultation with both the clergyperson and the pastor-parish relations committee (PPRC) is significantly enhanced from what is typically experienced in the UM Church. The PPRC “must be given the opportunity to give input on the suitability of a proposed appointment and to raise any concerns it might have” (¶ 510). A PPRC may raise substantive and missional concerns about the suitability of an appointment and when such concerns are raised those concerns must be addressed by the bishop and cabinet, including providing an explicit rationale for any decision in response to such concerns. Consultation is mandatory and bishops are accountable for ensuring that consultation occurs.
A clergy deployment system only achieves its ultimate objective of ensuring appropriate appointments if the system is completely transparent providing a full and frank exchange of information and perceptions by the local church, the clergyperson, and the bishop. In such a system, there will often be competing interests and goals which must be balanced and addressed. The selection of clergy leadership is among the most important interactions between the denomination and the local church. The deployment of clergy not only impacts the mission of the local congregation, but the ability of the denomination to advance the fulfilment of its mission globally.
The GM Church is confident that most churches that align with it will continue with their current pastor as they move through the transitional period. We rejoice that many churches will experience stability in this process. Where a change in appointment is necessary, the GM Church strives to ensure that such changes serve the needs of the local church, clergyperson, and mission of the GM Church.
In the coming months, as churches begin to make alignment decisions, the GM Church will work closely with local churches that anticipate the need for deployment of new clergy and with clergy who anticipate the need for a new assignment to ensure that the process described above is implemented in the best possible way. Ultimately such a process will only achieve its objectives if it is bathed in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let’s earnestly pursue God’s best together.
If you are a clergyperson who anticipates a need for an appointment different than where you are currently serving following the legal formation of the GM Church, please email firstname.lastname@example.org providing your contact information. Likewise, if you represent a church that anticipates aligning with the GM Church and believe you will need deployment of a clergyperson following alignment, please email email@example.com. Finally, if you reside in a community where you anticipate that a new GM Church will need to be launched, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. At the appropriate time, you will be contacted to begin the consultation process. All information shared by clergy and local churches will be kept confidential.
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.