As most of you know, on September 29, Pete Foley, Administrative Council Chair, announced that Pastors Mark and Becky will be retiring at the end of June 2020. Since some of us have never experienced a pastoral change, there may be interest and concern about what happens next.
The United Methodist process of matching pastors and congregations is a “send” process, whereby pastors are sent (appointed) to a congregation by the Bishop and Cabinet (the Conference Superintendents). Some other denominations have a “call” system, whereby a local congregation “calls” or hires their pastor.
Our church in Martinsville is in the Central District, one of ten in the Indiana Conference. The bishop of Indiana is Bishop Julius Trimble, and our superintendent is Dr. Aleze Fulbright. Their offices are on the north side of Indianapolis, and their contact information can be found in our church office or you are welcome to go online to www.inumc.org and access the plethora of information about the church.
The process begins with an “opening” — when a pastor is leaving a pastoral appointment because of retirement, death, a change of appointment, or a change of status (such as going on Leave). Once an opening occurs, then the Appointment Process proceeds through the following steps:
The Conference Superintendent (CS) of that church meets with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee (PPRC) to discuss the needs of the congregation for pastoral leadership. Together they develop a “profile” of the congregation, the community, and the pastor leadership needs of the congregation to be in ministry to that community.
The CS takes that Profile to the Cabinet (The Bishop and all the Conference Superintendents) and they thoroughly discuss the needs of that congregation. Together the Cabinet considers all of the available clergy of the Conference and selects the person who best matches this Profile. This selection is based upon the needs of the congregation, and the Cabinet selects the best available pastor to match those needs, without regard to that pastor’s gender, age, or ethnic background.
The selected pastor is contacted by the Cabinet and informed that he/she is to be appointed to the church. The pastor is provided with the Profile developed by the PPRC and with any other relevant information that the Cabinet has available. The pastor is asked not to contact anyone other than immediate family about this selection, but to prayerfully consider this appointment and to give a response to the Cabinet.
The pastor informs the Cabinet of his/her acceptance of this appointment. If the pastor for sufficient reason does not want to accept the appointment, then he/she puts into writing to the Bishop a request for the appointment to be reconsidered. The Bishop and Cabinet will determine if the appointment is to be reconsidered, in which case the Cabinet repeats step #2 above and selects another pastor for this appointment.
Once the selected pastor has agreed to the appointment, the Cabinet contacts the PPRC Chairperson to arrange a meeting with the new pastor, called an Introduction. Normally the CS will not divulge the name of the new pastor prior to this meeting.
The new pastor and the PPRC meet with the CS present and presiding, in order to discuss the ministry needs of the congregation, the ministry gifts and experience of the pastor, and the basis of this “match”. Unless serious concerns are raised, or new data or insights emerge, then it is understood that this is the new appointment. However, if such emerge, then the PPRC may put into writing to the Bishop a request for the appointment to be reconsidered. The Bishop and Cabinet will determine if the appointment is to be reconsidered, in which case the Cabinet repeats step #2 above and selects another pastor for this appointment.
The new pastoral appointment is announced by the PPRC Chairperson in a Sunday service or by letter to the congregation after the pastor has had an opportunity to share this announcement with the PPRC at his/her previous appointment (which means that church is “open” and the Process begins at step #1 for that congregation).
There is no definite timetable at this point, but over the next several weeks, the Administrative Council, with input from the congregation, will be working on a profile of our church and prospective pastor(s). It is possible that a new pastor will be appointed and named as early as February. The Council and the church office here will strive to keep the congregation informed, but you are always welcome to call or ask questions of Pastor Mark and Becky and/or members of the Administrative Council.