A major concern regarding delegates and pastoral appointmentsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread
I have been following this discussion board for the last few years, hesitant about posting because I do not want the "regulars" of this board to think that I am using this board for the purpose of "tearing down" the church. I have been a member of this denomination for over 40 years. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were also members of the denomination, so I want to clarify that my intention is not to tear down but to bring to light two concerns that were bought to my attention by a fairly new member of the AME church. A few weeks ago, I was attending a national women's conference and I saw a woman whom I had not seen in about a year, who attended an AME church in the same city that I reside. I asked her how she was doing at her church. She said that she was no longer a member of the church because she was asked to leave. I was confused because she had such a love and respect for the denomination for many, many years. When I asked her "why" she was no longer a member of this particular church, she stated that the pastor of the church, the presiding elder and the members of the official board of the church asked her to leave because of some issues that she raised at an "open mic" session of a Quarterly Conference. One issue that she raised is the issue of pastors "bidding" for church appointments. This particular women expressed concerns about why a cadre of seminary-trained ministers had yet to be appointed to churches. It was bought to her attention by a ministerial collegue that many of the Bishops appoint ministers to churches, particularly the more prominent churches in the connection, based on the "highest bidder", or the person who pays out the largest sum of money to receive the appointment. She wanted to find out if that was true. Another issue that she raised was the issue of candidates for Bishop/connectional officers "paying" delegates for their votes. She raised this issue because she stated that she attended the 1988, 1992 and 1996 General Conferences. She recalls that at the end of two of the general conferences, she saw at least two candidates for Bishop and/or Connectional office rushing to the delegates area with the classic silver bank briefcases. When she inquired about the contents of the briefcases, she was told by one of the more precocious campaign managers that "in order to win Bishop/connectional office, you need lots of money to campaign. A big chunk of that money goes to paying key delegates. That is how you win." When this concerned member raised these issues at her Quarterly Conference, a meeting was held with her, the presiding elder, the pastor and key officers of the church. She was asked to leave the church and that a Certificate of Membership would be issued on her behalf to attend ANY other church that she would like to attend. However, with those kinds of questions, she would have to leave. She is currently seeking legal action regarding this issue. I let her know that I would post her concerns on the AME-Today discussion board because I felt that the discussion board would be a safe place to raise issues of this magnitude that affect the AME church. My question(s) are, 1) Is it legal for pastors, presiding elders, Bishops, etc., officers of the church to put people out of the church for raising issues? 2) Is anyone else aware of these activities "financial" activities occurring in our branch of Zion, and if so, what, if anything, can be done about it. or 3) Is this just the way things are "done" and we should just accept them if we choose to remain AME. Thank you.
-- Anonymous, October 25, 2003
I bless God for your courage in asking such direct and important questions. Unlike you,I am a relative new comer to this discussion page and have at time posted my reply and received some unfreindly replies. But that has never stopped me because I believe in the right of each of us to have our opinions, which are based on our personal life experiences. Some of the remarks even made me think a bit more and almost had me changing my mind, which is healthy for me.
Now as for your questions: 1. Is it legal to ask someone to leave the church? My answer is in the form of a question, "Did Christ as anyone to leave the church for asking questions?" Only recently at my church we have experienced a situation where a persons was told in a letter on Church stationary stating that he was no longer welcomed to fellowship with our church because this man refused to put his membership at our church. This man did not agree with the Pastor's style of secretative leadership, but he did enjoy the feloowship of the memebrs of the church. This man gave his tithes to the church, was there for any and all events of the church (sometimes he was the first to arrive and the last to leave). At times, he even was the first to help clean up the church (without pay) when we were between janitors. This man gave money even to Economic Development, but because he thought that there were some things that was not above board, the Pastor wrote a letter to this man stating that the officers and congregation, of which he is the head, has aksed that he no longer fellowship with us. Needless to say, when this was brought up at a meeting witht he Stewards, there were others who were told that "If you don't like what is going on here, go to another church". That is the trend now at the church I have my membership, if you don't agree with the Pastor, you are labeled a trouble maker, a non-believer and you can leave. The unfortunate thing in this is that there is only one AME church in this city were I live. Many have left the churh and have been attending other churches but have not joined becasue they wish to remain AME, but have been refused participation at the AME church in this city.
Question 2. Finaical activities..... Yes there is a great deal of financial activitiy that goes on in the process of elections in our Zion. However, I do not put this all on the shoulders of the Bishops and General Officers (or those who are running for these postions). I put most of that on the shoulders of us the delegates, those of us who do not call our laity and clergy into accountability over these issues. And of course, let us not forget those who even accept such gratuities in the first place. But then again, General Conference has not been about God's business any way. If you can recall, there was a great deal of political underhandedness at the First Geneal Conference when one person was elected but he was of course not the first to be ordained as our first Bishop.
Questions 3. Do we accept it? I say no but who am I. For some unknown reason, I say let's make waves even in our local church, then in our Confernece and Episcopal District and then at the General Conference. However if you do this, you run the risk of being an outcast.
I love God and strive to do the right thing. I also pray that if in my doing it is not the right thing, I will be called into question and be God-like in spirit to accept the consequences of my actions. I am also a realisit and know that some if not all of my comments today are not going to be favorably accepted and that's okay.
-- Anonymous, October 25, 2003
Thank you both for your courage and you are both on target and exactly right. Olivia what you described happened to me this year as well. Except the preacher, only, and not the Presiding Elder was involved. I have no intentions of leaving my church.
Katherine you are also right that we have allowed it to happen to long. I could not agree with you more when you say it is time to make some waves. The highest authority in any Methodist Church is Christ. After that the Conference rules--not any member of either the clergy or the lay. That is why we have five of them (conferences that is.) It is now time that we learn this and make some Tidal Waves.
-- Anonymous, October 25, 2003
I am sorry that all these events have happened in the church to people who obviously love God. However, I have learned that many times we experience more conflict in the church than in the secular world. It happens because the enemy takes every opportunity to masquerade in God's house because he knows that the church belongs to Jesus and that many people will be saved through this institution.
I recall as a child that my mother had her feelings hurt many times in the baptist church. I recall hearing some nasty things that were done to the pastor who had been there for 40 years. I have learned that when we get in the flesh and not follow the Spirit that the events like these will occur.
I recommend that we use the superior weapons of prayer, meditation,fasting, and of course waiting on the Lord to fight in this battle. Remember, it's not your battle, it is God's battle. Wait for the General to tell you to advance, stand still, or yes even retreat.
-- Anonymous, October 25, 2003
Olivia opines -
"I have been following this discussion board for the last few years, hesitant about posting because I do not want the "regulars" of this board to think that I am using this board for the purpose of "tearing down" the church."
Well, I hope I am not one of those "regulars" you reference. Let me offer my response to your three important questions.
Q#1 "Is it legal for pastors, presiding elders, Bishops, etc., officers of the church to put people out of the church for raising issues?"
Answer #1 - According to the Discipline, the grounds for excommunication do not include speech if such speech is not malicious for the purpose of spreading lies and falsehoods which can be damaging to the church. If the speech is merely asking questions or seeking clarification a member in "good and regular standing" has all rights and priviliges to do so.
Q#2 - "Is anyone else aware of these activities "financial" activities occurring in our branch of Zion, and if so, what, if anything, can be done about it."
Answer #2 - The bidding process, while not officially recognized, is an unofficial process to allocate scarce resources. It's nothing more than an auction at work. Now I can understand how this may appear offensive to those who believe that merit alone should be the determing factor for pastoral assignments. It appears to be at face value an AME version of the early Roman Catholic practice (pre- Lutheran) of the seling of indulgences. While I'm somewhat apprehensive to defend the "bidding process" my training in economics lead me to conclude that such auctions can have desirable market outcomes if the transaction results in the Bishop using the winning "bid" for benevolent purposes and edification of less- prosperous AME congregations in his/her District.
Q#3 - "Is this just the way things are "done" and we should just accept them if we choose to remain AME."
Answer #3 - Yes, this is the way things are done SOME of the time, not always. If we truly desire change, follow the due process outlined in the Discipline and exhaust every level of appeal. Seeking legal action should be a last option only if all other interanl appeal rights result in an unfavorable ruling.
I hope this helps. Your friend is more than welcomed to email me privately if she seeks additional information. QED
-- Anonymous, October 27, 2003