Making appointments

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Making appointments

March 12, 2008    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0812}

NOTE: This is the first of three articles about the appointment process. A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

Each year the bishop’s cabinet of district superintendents goes through a process of appointing pastors to local congregations. We influence the life of the annual conference more by making appointments than by any other means. By making appropriate appointments, we equip the local churches with the leadership they need to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The cabinet may have more understanding of the needs of local churches than most members imagine. District superintendents develop a holistic understanding of churches’ histories and mission and an in-depth awareness of pastors’ strengths and weaknesses. Consultations with pastors and staff-parish relations committees give to superintendents a contemporary reading of the relationship between a pastor and a local church. Profiles of pastors and local churches provide the entire cabinet with a self-portrait for both pastors and churches.

In deciding which pastor to appoint, normally the cabinet spends sufficient time understanding the missional needs of a congregation. Then members of the cabinet nominate pastors to be appointed to the congregation, and each nominee is studied carefully. Through different means, a consensus is reached about who should be appointed. When there is no consensus, the bishop makes the final decision. The guidelines for appointment-making that provide directions for the cabinet can be viewed at

Staff-parish relations committees are aware that we have abandoned the practice of asking the committee to vote annually on the tenure of a pastor. Any committee or pastor can request a consultation with the superintendent regarding a move. However, just because all appointments are made on an annual basis does not mean that it is wise to require committees or pastors to discuss a pastor’s tenure every year. Our encouragement of longer pastorates influenced our change from the old procedure.

I need to add a frank word to members who try to influence the superintendent or me by a letter-writing campaign or petitions. Petitions are never considered since they represent a failure to follow The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, which gives authority to elected staff-parish relations committees to consult with district superintendents. Letter-writing campaigns are such an obvious attempt at lobbying that they are counterproductive. Neither a superintendent nor I can make any meaningful response to such letters since we are engaged in a confidential process lasting several months before it is brought to conclusion.

Always we seek the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole process of consultation, study, conversation and decision-making. We try to exercise good judgment as we ask for the unseen guidance of divine wisdom. It is not unusual to experience surprises that cancel our own judgments; we welcome these as reminders to us that we are a part of God’s church where the Spirit works in ways that transcend our human limits.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.

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