The Process of Appointment Making
New York Annual Conference
In a memorandum dated January 23, 2018, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton released the following document that he described as "an attempt to clarify the process by which we, as a Cabinet, undertake and complete the annual process of appointing pastors to local churches."
- Foundational Principles
All clergy have her/his basic and primary relationship to the Annual Conference, in which they have their membership. The relationship to her/his appointment, whether it is to a local church/charge or to an appointment beyond the local church, is secondary and derivative. The Annual Conference is the basic unit of United Methodism, and is the setting in which the clergy person’s relationship is located.
- We are an itinerant church
“The itinerant system is the accepted method of The United Methodist Church by which ordained elders, provisional elders, and associate members are appointed by the bishop to fields of labor. All ordained elders, provisional elders, and associate members shall accept and abide by these appointments.”
(¶338, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
“Through appointment-making, the connectional nature of the United Methodist system is made visible.”
(¶425.1, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline).
- Open Itineracy is the standard of appointment making in the New York Annual Conference
“Open Itineracy means appointments are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement.”
(¶425.1, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
This means that an objection to the pastor based on the criteria stated above is not sufficient reason for the withdrawal of a proposed appointment. District Superintendents are expected to state clearly to Pastor/Staff-Parish Relations Committees that the resident bishop and the cabinet will strive to make the best possible appointment based on the church needs and the gifts of the pastor. Pastors are also expected to reinforce the principle of Open Itineracy and teach their people in a deeper understanding of this concept.
- The bishop and cabinet are committed to making cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments
“Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are appointments of clergypersons to congregations in which the majority of their constituencies are different from the clergyperson’s own racial/ethnic and cultural background. Annual Conferences shall prepare clergy and congregations for cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments. When such appointments are made, bishops, cabinets, and boards of ordained ministry shall provide specific training for the clergypersons so appointed and for their congregations.”
(¶425.4, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
It is the understanding of this cabinet that there is significant work needed to improve our approach in this area. The identification of more intentional training opportunities as well as a deeper understanding of the various sub-cultures that are representative in a highly diverse area are essential.
- The role of the District Superintendents in Appointment-Making
Each District Superintendent is expected to have thorough and sufficient knowledge of the churches and the pastors in her/his district in order to represent them properly. The basic means of gaining this information is the annual Charge/Church Conference and the annual “one-on-one” interview with each clergyperson (including those appointed beyond the local church). Pastors are asked to complete the form, “One-on-One Dialogue with the District Superintendent” in anticipation of their annual conversation with the District Superintendent.
It is assumed, however, that the process of gaining “thorough and sufficient knowledge” goes much further than these basic gatherings. Interaction with churches and pastors in times of fellowship, worship, and mutual interaction throughout the year are essential in gaining a more complete picture of the community, local church needs, and pastoral gifts.
- The Role and Understanding of Consultation and Appointment-making
“Appointments shall 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.
(¶427, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
“The district superintendent shall develop with the pastor and the committees on pastor-parish relations of all churches profiles that reflect the needs, characteristics, and opportunities for mission of the charge consistent with the Church’s statement of purpose.”
(¶427.1, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
“The district superintendent annually shall develop with the pastor profiles reflecting the pastor’s gifts, evidence of God’s grace, professional experience, and expectations, and also the needs and concerns of the pastor’s spouse and family.”
(¶427.2, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
- Community Context
“The district superintendent may develop community profiles with the pastor and the committee on pastor-parish relations.”
(¶427.3, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
We encourage every pastor and local church utilize the resources found in the “Mission InSite” tool. The cabinet utilizes this resource throughout the year to gain greater understanding of the context of situations that we are discussing, especially during the appointment process.
“The bishop and the cabinet shall consider all requests for change of appointment in light of the profile developed for each charge and the gifts and evidence of God’s grace, professional experience, and family needs of the pastor.”
(¶428.2, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
The compiling of these profiles along with the regular Church/Charge Conference, the annual “one-on-one” interviews, and the regular interaction of the district superintendent with the congregation & pastor is considered to be the fulfillment of the disciplinary process of consultation in appointment-making.
As stated above, interaction with churches and pastors in times of fellowship, worship, and mutual interaction throughout the year are essential in gaining a more complete picture of the community, local church needs, and pastoral gifts.
- The Initiation of a Move Request
“A change in appointment may be initiated by a pastor, a committee on pastor-parish relations, a district superintendent, or a bishop.”
(¶428.1, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
In New York, a process has been initiated whereby a pastor may request consideration for an appointment that is clearly open due to impending retirement or some other anticipated transition from a local church setting. While this opportunity has been afforded, it is no guarantee that a request will result in an appointment being offered to that particular setting.
Likewise, even though a request for a change in appointment has been requested, there is no guarantee that a change of appointment will take place.
Every year the S/PPRC and the pastor submit a form to the District Superintendent declaring their interest in continuing to work together or in a potential change of appointment. The S/PPRC committee is asked to complete the form “Evaluation & Church Profile (Document One and Document Two).” The pastor is asked to complete the form “Appointment Review” each year as well. These forms are found on the conference website.
- The Initiation of a Move
The following principles must be understood:
- Any pastor can be considered for an appointment and any local church/charge may receive a new pastor.
- All pastors are appointed for one year at a time. The standard for this is a July 1st to June 30th appointment.
- Although exceptional circumstances may exist, in most cases, the move to a new appointment will take place on July 1st of each year.
Pastors must take responsibility for guiding the congregation, and especially the Pastor/Staff-Relations Committee, in an understanding of these principles. Pastors are expected to affirm the process and work with the congregation(s) in understanding the concept of itinerancy. A helpful resource in this education is the “Annual Appointment of the Pastor” liturgy found the United Methodist Book of Worship.
- Limitations on Pastoral Moves
Pastoral moves should not and, in most cases, will not be used as a primary source of conflict resolution. It is expected that pastors and congregations will engage, with the assistance of the District Superintendent, in the “high road” of conflict mediation with the goal of finding resolution so that effective ministry can take place. It is only after sincere and intentional efforts at resolving conflict that a change in appointment will be considered.
It is important for all pastors and congregations to understand the changing dynamic of appointment-making. As a bishop and cabinet, we are encountering a dramatic rise in part-time appointments. This, coupled with the continual rise of minimal salary standards and associated benefits, is presenting increased challenges in making effective appointments. As a result, creative configurations of charges and the creation of cooperative ministry clusters will be, at times, considered.
- Setting the Stage for Appointment-Making
- During the late summer or fall of each year, the District Superintendents will conduct “one-on-one” interviews with each pastor. During these interviews, the District Superintendent will gain a sense of the pastor’s desire to return to their current appointment or request a move to another assignment.
- In addition, during the fall of each year, the District Superintendent, in consultation with the local church/charge, will be responsible for creating and perfecting a profile for each church/charge in their district. Since every pastor is only appointed for one year at a time, each church needs to be clear in their description of their church’s makeup, context, ministries, and current needs for leadership. This is necessary so that the District Superintendent can adequately represent them when/if a pastoral change takes place.
- Before the end of the calendar year, written communication with the District Superintendent should be made for all those desiring a change of appointment. This request for a change is limited to the pastor and/or the Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee.
It is the responsibility of the District Superintendent to ensure that the church and the pastor are aware of any requests that are made by the other party.
It is understood that:
- Submission of a written request does not guarantee a change in appointment.
- The absence of a written request does not guarantee that a pastor will stay in their current assignment.
- When a change in appointment is requested, the District Superintendent will confer with the pastor and the Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee to clarify intentions, detect any potential places of conflict which may need/require intervention, perfect profiles, establish criteria for consideration of a change in appointment, and detail the process whereby a change in appointment may/may not take place.
It is important to have dialogue concerning the committee’s understanding of the community context and their vision for how the ministry of the local church and the role of pastor facilitates that understanding. We encourage local churches to utilize the “Mission InSite” resource available to each church/charge.
- Shortly after the first of the calendar year, the bishop and cabinet will correspond with the active pastors concerning the “clear opening” appointments that are anticipated. Pastors are encouraged to submit their names for consideration of appointments that they perceive may fit their gifts and graces.
- Throughout the appointment season, the bishop and cabinet will communicate assignments that are filled and further “clear openings” that have emerged.
- We invite and call upon each local church/charge and each pastor to intentionally lift up the bishop and cabinet in the challenging and potentially life-changing work of appointment-making.
- The Process of Appointment-Making
The process which the bishop and cabinet uses to consider pastoral appointments is as follows:
- Commencing each January, the cabinet gathers for our initial appointment conversation. During that session, “move worksheets” are utilized which give clear indication of the settings where a potential move is anticipated. These settings are determined, as stated above, by anticipated retirements, a request for a move made by either the pastor, the local church, the district superintendent, or the bishop. The “move worksheets” also contain detailed information on all pastors which reflect such things as salary, years of service, status, gifts, family, etc.
The District Superintendents will also have profiles compiled which give detailed and accurate information on each church/charge as compiled in their local church profiles and results of “one-on-one” conversations with pastors. This information is held in strict confidence by each member of the Cabinet.
During this meeting, requests for changes will be carefully reviewed as will the District Superintendent’s recommendations where changes have/have not been requested. In addition, the cabinet will begin to formulate a strategy for their approach to fulfilling these requests during the move season. This strategy takes into serious consideration appointments of a critical nature, returning seminarians, retirements, etc.
- It should not be assumed that appointments will flow from the highest salaried positions to the lowest during the appointment season. The strategy developed each year may reveal critical needs which must be addressed on all levels of the salary scale.
- The appointive process will continue throughout the winter/spring as the bishop and cabinet prayerfully determines which pastor is appropriate for each “open” church/charge/community.
- The selection pool will be all ministerial members and candidates of the Annual Conference but may also include creative discernment of persons beyond the Annual Conference who possess the gifts needed for a particular church/charge/community.
- Appointments are usually discerned in the following manner:
- Throughout the discussion of appointments, the cabinet will be involved in prayer as they seek God’s direction for the church and the pastor.
- When a church/charge is being considered for a change in pastoral leadership, the District Superintendent will share with the cabinet the detailed profile of the church’s mission, vision, core values, context, spiritual gifts, particular needs for pastoral leadership, etc.
- Following this presentation, the cabinet prays for this church and the process of discernment which follows.
- Cabinet members are then free to lift up any name which they feel led to share. The names lifted by the District Superintendents may/may not be from within their district. At this time, pastors who have submitted their name for consideration are shared as well.
- Once the potential pool of names is established, the cabinet begins a discernment process which narrows the focus of the profile as well as refine the list of potential pastors considered for the appointment.
- Once the list of potential pastors has been refined, detailed information concerning the pastors being considered will be shared. Information related to family needs, geographical limitations, gifts/graces of the pastor, etc. are taken into consideration during the discernment conversation.
- Once the cabinet’s discernment process has been completed and a potential pastor has been determined, the pastor’s District Superintendent and the potential receiving District Superintendent will engage the pastor in conversation concerning the appointment. Under normal circumstances, the pastor will be invited to enter into the discernment process with the cabinet to prayerfully consider this appointment. Twenty-four (24) to forty-eight (48) hours is the normal time for discernment of the appointment. Longer time frames may be negotiated with the cabinet in unusual circumstances.
- It is expected that all conversations between District Superintendents and the pastor regarding a potential appointment are confidential, except for the pastor’s family (where applicable). While we fully understand the desire of the pastor and family (where applicable) to visit the community as a part of their discernment, there should be no interaction with the church until the appointment is accepted. There is an understanding here of maintaining appropriate boundaries in our clergy covenant relationship. The violation of this covenant may result in the withdrawal of the proposed appointment or further disciplinary action where warranted.
- Following this time of mutual discernment, the cabinet will make a final determination as to the viability of this potential assignment. A pastor’s discernment and response to the potential appointment is highly valued however may not be determinative in the assignment.
- Should the cabinet decide to present the proposal to the Staff/Parish Relations Committee, the normal process of conducting a “in-take” will be as follows:
- A time of meeting/fellowship with the incoming pastor and family (where applicable) with the receiving District Superintendent usually will take place around a meal prior to the formal meeting with the S/PPRC that day.
- The “in-take” gathering is a closed door meeting between the incoming pastor/family (where applicable) and the S/PPRC team.
- It must be noted as well that when an in-take is conducted, no vote is to be taken, as the S/PPRC does not have the authority to choose or to refuse a pastor. The committee does have a right to respond to the proposed appointment. The response to the proposed appointment will be taken into consideration, however it will not necessarily be determinative. “Consultation is not merely notification. Consultation is not committee selection or call of a pastor. The role of the committee on pastor-parish relations is advisory.” (¶426, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
- When the process stated above is completed and the appointment is tentatively set, a clear timeline of announcements to the existing and anticipated appointments will be established. When the appointment is shared publically, it can be announced in the following manner: “It is anticipated that Bishop Bickerton will appoint (name) as pastor of (name) Church/Charge in (community).” It must be noted that the appointment is tentative until read and fixed by the bishop at the session of the Annual Conference. Mid-year appointments are tentative as well until formally announced by the bishop through the “Vision” as well as the Annual Conference website.
- It is encouraged that incoming & exiting pastors develop a process of transition which celebrates the ministry of the current pastor while also anticipating the arrival of the new pastor. Timely access to the parsonage is expected in order to give the new pastor appropriate time to plan for the anticipated move. A clear and intentional transitional protocol is to be established for each setting. Meetings of the anticipated pastor with leaders of the new church/charge must be clearly negotiated with the existing pastor and with the approval of the District Superintendent.
- All pastors are expected to be present at the session of the Annual Conference where the appointments are read and fixed. Each pastor, whether moving or staying, will receive their annual assignment at that time. The appointments of all ministerial members and local pastors are printed and distributed at that time.
- Persons who are not credentialed or licensed will not have their names read at Annual Conference since these persons are only “contracted” to serve a church/charge on a limited basis.
- Special Considerations
- Clergy Couples
The bishop and cabinet value the unique calling of clergy couples in our itinerant system. While we value the calling of each pastor, we are also committed to providing assignments for clergy couples which are close enough to allow for the couple to enrich and grow their relationship together. While we cannot guarantee appointments in close proximity to one another, we are committed to exhausting all possibilities in order to do so.
- Limited Itinerancy
A pastor may, at times, express a desire or need to remain located within a certain geographical region for family, spousal employment, schooling needs, etc. All pastors in the itinerant system are expected to move anywhere within the bounds of the Annual Conference. However, the cabinet is committed to being sensitive to the needs that are expressed. The formal signing of a “Limited Itinerant” agreement acknowledges that the cabinet understands the limitations of geographical placement and the pastor understands the possible consequences of salary, full/part-time appointments, and church size that may result from those limitations.
- Making appointments when a request is not made
Even though we encourage and actively participate in a mutual process of discernment between the bishop, cabinet, pastor and congregation, there are times when the bishop and cabinet will prayerfully and strategically determine that it is in the best interests of the local church/charge, the pastor, and the Annual Conference that a move take place.
- Cross-Racial Appointments
The bishop and cabinet have been involved in ongoing discussions regarding the high level of racism which exists in our culture as well as an affirmation that we are committed, as an inclusive body, to making cross-racial appointments within our Annual Conference. However, making a cross-racial appointment requires an intentional process which must be specifically negotiated and established between the present pastor, the incoming pastor, and the S/PPRC. Intentional networks of support must be established to provide the incoming pastor with a place for encouragement, support, and relationship building. Regular, established meetings with the S/PPRC, the District Superintendent, and the pastor are to be established in order to keep clear lines of communication open, especially in the early months/years of the appointment.
- New Church Start/Revitalization Appointments
Due to the unique nature of a new church plant/revitalization project, the appointment process will be somewhat different than the process described above. Several pastors may be considered at once. Intentional conversations may ensue with the potential pastor(s), the cabinet, the Director of Connectional Ministries, the Director of Congregational Development and Revitalization, etc. However, once those conversations have been conducted and a proper sequence of discernment has taken place, it is the bishop who makes the appointment. These appointments also require the development of intentional support networks among colleagues and others who can prayerfully assist the new pastor in fulfilling their calling to this ministry.
- Appointments of Deacons in Full Connection
“Appointments of deacons are to be made in consideration of the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of the deacon, needs of the community, and the gifts of the congregation and institutions. The appointment shall reflect the nature of the ministry of the deacon as a faithful response of the mission of the church meeting the emerging needs in the world. It may be initiated by the individual deacon in full connection, the agency seeking their service, the bishop, or the district superintendent.”
(¶430, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
It must be understood that when a Deacon is seeking an appointment to a local church (whether primary or secondary in nature), the established process of discernment and selection used for other clergy (stated above) will not be followed for the Deacon.
- Appointments to Extension Ministries
Persons appointed to Extension Ministries remain within the itinerant system and are accountable to the bishop, cabinet, and Annual Conference. Likewise, these persons should expect the same moral and spiritual support by the Annual Conference as are persons who receive appointments to pastoral charges.
When a person enters into an extension ministry within the Annual Conference, they are to relate to the district and District Superintendent in which the extension ministry is found.
When a person enters into an extension ministry beyond the bounds of this Annual Conference, the extension ministry will relate to the district and District Superintendent from which they departed (unless otherwise requested). That District Superintendent will be responsible for maintaining ongoing and regular contact with the person under appointment as a means of providing support, communication, and relationship.
In response, the person appointed to the extension ministry must provide an annual report to the Bishop, the District Superintendent, and the Board of Ordained Ministry, which will serve as the basis for their annual evaluation.
(¶433.2, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
- The Selection of District Superintendents
“Inasmuch as the district superintendency is an extension of the general superintendency, the bishop shall appoint elders to serve as district superintendents. Prior to each appointment, the bishop shall consult with the cabinet and the committee on district superintendency of the district to which the new superintendent will be assigned for the purpose of determining leadership needs of the annual conference and the district. In the selection of superintendents, bishops shall give due consideration to the inclusiveness of The United Methodist Church with respect to sex, race, national origin, physical challenge, and age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement.”
(¶417, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
- The bishop annually evaluates the ministry of each District Superintendent and also conducts an annual “one-on-one” interview with each District Superintendent concerning their ministry and the fulfillment of their call as it relates to the role and responsibilities of being a District Superintendent.
- When a change in superintendent is anticipated, the bishop conducts an interview with the District Committee on Superintendency to create a profile of the context, culture, ministries, and specific needs of the area which can be facilitated by a District Superintendent.
- The bishop shares those findings with the cabinet. The cabinet is then given the opportunity to share the names of persons who may possess the gifts necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a District Superintendent as well as the needs and context which exists in the district.
- Following the meeting of the cabinet where names are shared, the bishop will discern who will be asked to consider serving as a member of the cabinet. The existing members of the cabinet will be informed of the bishop’s discernment only after the new District Superintendent has been approached and has agreed to serve.
- The new District Superintendent will be invited/encouraged to attend and participate in cabinet meetings throughout the winter/spring prior to assuming their duties following the Annual Conference session.
- It is understood that a District Superintendent is selected first as a member of the cabinet before they are subsequently assigned by the bishop to service in the districts.
Our United Methodist Book of Discipline states clearly that the itinerant system is the accepted method by which pastors are appointed by the bishop to places where they can live out their calling and use their gifts in ministry. Yet, itineracy faces unique challenges in the 21st century. While the itinerant system must become more creative, porous, and accepting of the unique challenges facing many of our pastors, this historical system still has validity and merit as an effective tool for placing called servants in places where their gifts are needed and well utilized. The church should not be tempted to abandon this system, nor should pastors or charges be resistant to it due to the rise of congregationalism within many of our churches.
The purpose of an Annual Conference, the role of Bishops and District Superintendents, the role of our clergy, and the function of the local church have a clearly stated intersection. This intersection happens at the point of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This partnership and collaboration is what makes us unique as United Methodists. It also provides an intentional process whereby disciples can actually be made and nurtured within our church.
Service in the church is a gift of God which none of us should underestimate. From a clergy standpoint, the ability to serve in a variety of settings during one’s pastoral career provides rich and wonderful opportunities to see God at work through a variety of people in different and unique contexts. The opportunity to be held accountable in the fulfillment of our calling provides the possibility of committing ourselves to life-long learning and growth. It also provides us with the gift of being connected together in relationship. That connection confirms our call, shapes that call throughout the journey of our lives, and holds us true to that calling in the midst of the inevitable challenges which face us in the journey of life. From a local church perspective, this system enables us to benefit from the diverse gifts and graces of those sent to be among us as servant leaders. It also enables us to be a part of a blessed connection of churches across this region and throughout the world that is able to do far more together than any of us could do on our own.
In the opening section of our 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline, the Council of Bishops sets the context for the entire book of church law. That context applies most significantly to the role and function of appointment-making within our denomination:
“We pray that it will enable all persons to celebrate God’s grace, exalt the meaning of faithful discipleship, and inspire on the part of many a deeper desire to be more effective witnesses for the Head of the Church, even Jesus Christ our Lord.” (pg. vi, 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline)
May it be so!