For the month of May, I thought I’d share with you a little information about the pastoral appointment process in the United Methodist Church. This process is hundreds of years in the making, and personally I feel it is one of the best, if not THE best, method of matching pastors and churches. Does it always work perfectly? Of course not! Why? Because the process, even though done by human beings under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, still is not mistake-proof. Obviously, I have only been a part of this process since 1997. But, for the most part, it has always worked well for me and the churches I’ve served. That said, we were happy this last month to receive the news that we have been appointed to Homestead and Dorton for at least another year. Here is the announcement that was shared with both churches.
“Bishop Bill McAlilly and the Nashville Area Cabinet of the Tennessee/Memphis Conferences worked prayerfully together to make missional appointments to every church in our Annual Conference. As Chairperson of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, I give thanks for the ministry of our pastor, Tim Lewis, who continues to be a servant leader among us and am happy to share that he/she will be returning as our pastor for the 2021/2022 conference year. “
While we are thrilled to receive this wonderful news, there is really more to the story. Earlier in April, we received the following information from the bishop and his cabinet concerning pastoral appointments. This gives a wonderful insight into the pastoral appointment process. But first, you may say, “who is this ‘cabinet,’ and what is their function?” The cabinet consists of all the district superintendents in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference. So, the “cabinet” is evaluating hundreds of churches and pastors to make sure there is a good fit, and pastoral gifts are being utilized where they are most needed. So, as the late Paul Harvey would say, let’s hear “the rest of the story.”
This week, the Nashville Area Cabinet met to continue the work of the appointive cabinet for this conference year. We began by praying for each pastoral family and each congregation, seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We are far too mindful of our own human shortcomings as we do this work for we “see through a glass darkly.”
Still, it is the task for which we have been called and which we believe offers us the best opportunity to give the best leadership available to the congregations under our care. Over the last several weeks, District Superintendents have been in consultation with pastors and congregations seeking wisdom and understanding for the work that is before us. We ask for your prayers.
Perhaps you will recall reading the covenant around which we order our lives. The following excerpt relates to our appointive work:
Remember that we belong to the Annual Conference and, as so, our individual contribution to Cabinet Work is toward the economy of the whole. The mission of the Church is our first priority. In our appointive work, we hold these convictions in common and allow them to characterize our work:
• We cannot do enough consultation.
• It is better to make no appointment than to make the wrong appointment.
• We will only reward those who have been fruitful with the responsibility they have been given.
In all our work, we will maintain the practice and spirit of confidentiality by adopting the following practices:
• Hold all cabinet meeting conversations in strictest confidence unless/until permission is granted to share information with others.
• Hold all personal conversations between the bishop and cabinet members in strictest confidence unless/until permission is granted to share information with others.
• Ensure that Administrative Assistants hold conversations with the superintendents and communications between superintendents and episcopal office in strictest confidence.
• Embrace the most confidential use of technology for cabinet and district office communications.
Always during this season, I am reminded of God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.
From the beginning of the Methodist Movement, pastors have been sent. It is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the United Methodist Church. Since 1746 when John Wesley appointed lay preachers whom he called “helpers” to definitive circuits, we have followed this practice. I suspect that sometime in the future, this practice will be modified to address the changes in life patterns of 21st century people. Until then, we continue to practice the gift of itinerancy.
May each of you be a blessing in the places God has called you. Bishop McAlilly
Finally, this prayer was prayed after the reading of the announcement of our reappointment to Homestead and Dorton. Personally, I am deeply humbled when I hear this prayer each year. I hope and pray that you are as happy as Mrs. Preacher and me. Each year, I pray and seek God’s will as to whether or not to ask for reappointment or a move. God is not quite finished with us here. Someday, as we have said many times before, we will be gone, and “all good things must come to an end.” But, while we are here, let’s continue to work together “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Lord Jesus Christ, our Living Savior, we give you thanks for our church. It is a gift of grace to us. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Tim Lewis, who will continue to serve us as pastor, teacher, leader, and friend in Christ. May your grace be upon him/her and his/her family, giving peace and joy and confidence as we begin the new conference year together. Open our hearts and minds to receive the gifts you have for us in these days as we give thanks for what has been and anticipate what will be. Our life is in you, O God, and through the Holy Spirit we pray this day. Amen