Willimon’s Words on Equitable Compensation

Last month Bishop Will Willimon had some interesting words on Equitable Compensation in his podcast called, A Word about Equitable Compensation. In the podcast he points to equitable compensation, or help from conference funds to pay a pastor minimal salary, as the root of some of our issues as a United Methodist denomination.

Some of his points are…

  • It breeds laziness, in some ministers, in some churches, and in some cabinets who use it as a tool not to make hard decisions about pastors and churches.
  • Millions of dollars are being spent by conferences to prop up churches that don’t need to be propped up.
  • It only holds the bar up to the minimal salary or in other words, it allows churches to do as little as possible, the bare minimum. (he states pastors should get paid more than they do and I would be curious what he thinks the pay scale should be but he doesn’t get into that)
  • Churches that cannot afford to pay the salary and benefits of an ordained elder should be put on charges/circuits

There are many issues within the structure of our denomination and I agree with Willimon that this is one. I know of churches within my own conference that accept equitable compensation to pay a minimal salary for their pastor but then they also have two other people staff. Priorities seem unclear here.

Willimon also mentions a couple of things that makes it seem like he would be in favor of dropping the guaranteed appointment and making the cabinets start to make hard decisions and have tough conversations with clergy and churches. (more thoughts at another time)

Is equitable compensation a crutch for congregations that should just be put on a charge? Is equitable compensation telling pastors not to try too hard because there is only so far you can fall? Your thoughts?

If you would like to subscribe to Bishop Willimon’s podcast you can do so by going here.

Clergy Health Initiative = Ministry is Bad for Your Health

Round two of surveys were sent out by the Clergy Health Initiative. the goal of this group “is not simply to gauge the state of pastors’ health. It is to facilitate changes that enhance it.” This is study done with the Western North Carolina and North Carolina Conference and is run through the Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.

With their request for us to fill out another round of surveys, which did take almost 45 minutes to complete (but was compensated $25 for doing it, DATE NIGHT WITH THE MRS!), they provided us with a few facts from the first survey. It seems being a minister can be bad for your health!

All of these stats are compared to the state of North Carolina as a whole.

Obesity Rates: NC= 29% Clergy = 40%
Arthritis: NC= 27% Clergy = 29%
High Blood Pressure: NC= 25% Clergy = 29%
Asthma: NC= 10% Clergy = 14%
Diabetes: NC= 7% Clergy = 10%
Depression: NC= 6% Clergy = 10%

It is intersting that compared to NC, we are higher in every category. No wonder we pay an arm and leg for health care (at least in the WNCC).

Why I Voted the Way I Did

In response to John’s comment, which started to be too long for a comment, here is why I voted for our Annual Conference to stay at Lake Junaluska.

To tell you the truth I came in ready for the conference to move. I think we as a conference should be willing to make necessary changes to encourage growth and hospitality. Since the Lake Junaluska auditorium doesn’t fit all of our delegates it seemed appropriate to move. I did not agree with a couple of the arguments that were flying around. IE…Lake Junaluska is to pretty to move, God is only at the Lake, we won’t be able to be spiritual in Greensboro, there is too much crime in that area of Greensboro. That was all too much sentimentalism and was really only grounded in personal opinion (and lack of the ability to see God in concrete).

In the end I did vote to stay and did so for two reasons. 1. Our money would go to help another United Methodist agency. If we moved to Greensboro we would only be padding Kourey’s pockets, owner of the convention center. Plus the area around Lake Junaluska benefits well from our coming there, although they do hike up prices on hotel rooms and such. The estimated economic impact of AC is around $1,000,000 in the area. I would much rather do that in the Waynesville/Maggie Valley area than Greensboro (3rd largest city in NC) because it is a large positive impact on the community.

The other was a passionate plea from two youth delegates. They said they grew up together and they “always began the summer at the Lake.” I thought about my two children and that “the Lake” is about the only time PKs can get together for a long period of time. They can interact with kids who understand their unique situation (living in a parsonage, Mom/Dad always at meetings, hearing people talk badly about their Mom/Dad). If we met in Greensboro the families would stay at home.

Overall those two reasons, economic effect on the community and my children growing up knowing other PKs and not regretting everything “church” persuaded me to stay. But as my wife reminds me, NO ONE CAN COMPLAIN NOW. I can no longer complain that the so called air conditioned Stuart Auditorium is a brisk 95 degrees. I can no longer complain and I won’t because I voted to stay.

Annual Conference thus far

Well it is that time of year again and I am up at “The Lake”, aka, Lake Junaluska for the Western North Carolina Conference. It has so far (clergy session + day one) been a good time. Worship has been wonderful.

Conference business has been a little trifle. There is one major issue that is coming before the conference and that is, where to have annual conference. A Task Force has looked at moving the WNCC AC to Greensboro, NC and is proposing to do that next year. The main reason is that the annual conference has outgrown the facilities here at “The Lake”. Stuart Auditorium we congregate in can only sit 2/3s of the delegates of the AC. This means that 1000 people are left out from voting. This does seem a little unfair.

I could go on about the little things like not many eating options, poor air conditioning in the auditorium, and a couple more but then I think I am being a little trite now. We will vote on this matter tomorrow afternoon but today we could ask questions of the task force and to clarify anything we desired. Around 48 questions were asked, and 1/3rd were simply reasking the same question and some were people really making a statement and not asking a question.

Some were valid. Where is the money we spend on AC going? If we move to Greensboro it will go to the Koury Family, the rich young rulers of the center we would host the AC in and who own a good portion of Greensboro. Here at “The Lake” (are you tired of the quotes yet?) the money goes to a United Methodist Conference Center, actually the United Methodist Conference Center for the South Eastern Jurisdiciton.

We need to honor the amount of delegates we have and if we have out grown the space, being good stewards, we need to look at options. I understand the need to move but there is sentimental passions stirring too.

Some of the questions that were posted were plain stupid. There is no other word, just stupid. “Did we know that the crime rate in this area is one of the largest in Greensboro?” (Like Jesus commands us to go only where crime is down and there are no poor). Some of it is emotional. Stuart Auditorium has had more clergy ordained in it than any other place in the nation (pretty freakin cool!) The view is unbelievable and the resources for families to join delegates and have stuff to do is very good as well. But the Holy Spirit is known to not only reside in this cove of the mountains.

How will I vote? I am still up in the air. I can see both sides. Change is scary. Change is necessary. Are we changing for the sake of changing or are there real and tangible needs that can be filled by going elsewhere? We do make an impact on the community around us and we provide a nice boost to the economy of this area. But hotel room prices do go up for these four days, by almost 30%.

It will be interesting to say the least.

Email from UMR – Opinions Needed from WNCC

I have been blogging for over three years now because of one reason, it is therapeutic. I have found that as I am able to work through some of the thoughts in my head it makes room for more. Huh…funny how that works. Since blogging (and not really caring about the amount of typos) I have articulated probably 3 good posts, yes that is an average of one a year. Many times I get done with a post and say…”well not sure what I just said there but here’s hoping it makes sense”, then pressing publish.

It has always amazed me how far post travel too. Using Google Analytic and Site Meter, I can tell that this blog, in its three years of existence, has been read in on every continent (except Antarctica). I don’t know why the person in Iceland, Uruguay, and Iraq have found my blog interesting but it is neat to see that for the .02 seconds they were on, they read or saw something of mine. That is neat but also humbling.

What has been truly humbling is that people pass my posts onto others. Last week I received an email from Andy James who is the Marketing and Sales Executive for the United Methodist Reporter. Apparently someone had forwarded him my posts on the Conference and Communications Part I and II. James is now interested in talking to me further about my observations and critiques and seeing if the UMR could help out the WNCC in anyway. I told him he may have gotten the wrong idea, I have no authority or sway in the conference to determine any type of change in our communication. I was only involved in an hour meeting for the conference’s communication audit and wanted to express my views via a post or two.

Now the UMR is approaching me for other ideas. Weird and now I really don’t know what to tell him besides what I wrote

So if you are in the Western North Carolina Conference, what should I tell him. Do you all agree with my posts or ideas or are there other ways the UM Reporter could help our conference in its communications?

I’ll post about my conversation with James later.

Annual Conference – clergy session update

I may have been a little negative about AC in my last post. Stuart Auditorium was nice and cool last night at our clergy session, but we were missing the 1500 laity…so we shall see. This clergy session was actually enjoyable…the best one I have attended actually.

Bishop Goodpaster gave us a good message with some inspirational, obtainable, and realistic goals we, as a conference, will be striving for. Here is what he is proposing:

Before Dec. 31st, 2012 the Western North Carolina Conference will have: [updated]
300,000 members – making us the 3rd largest conference
30,000 more in worship on Sundays
3,000 mission teams sent
300 remissioned congregations
30 new congregations

What I liked about this that a bishop set goals. Now, this is only my third bishop since entering the ministry 7 years ago. In a time of financial trouble he looked forward and he did so in a positive matter. In the past I have been bashed over the head and slapped around but this time it felt like a coach in the locker room giving us a half time pep talk. “We will have 300,000 members, 30,000 in worship, 300 mission teams, and 30 new churches!”

After the meeting I am ready to do my part.
UPDATE: Bishop Goodpaster also has made a mandate that every church have professions of faith, not just one but 3% of your roll. What I did not hear clearly was if that was by the end of 2012 or each year. That means we, at Trinity, are to have around 6 professions of faith…time to get to work!

Same Old, Same Old…aka Annual Conference

Today I am heading to Annual Conference. In the Western North Carolina Conference, ever since Jesus was on earth, it was held in Lake Junaluska. Those of you outside the WNCC or SEJ should know that this is the mecca of Methodism in the southeast. It is a mountain escape with more retired clergy living on the hills than trees. It is a beautiful place and does some great ministry and offers wonderful retreats to the South Eastern Jurisdiction. Think Dirty Dancing but for United Methodists!

What it doesn’t offer is a great Annual Conference. We meet in Stuart Auditorium. A 100 year old building that got wireless Internet before air conditioning. Last year they got air conditioning but instead of being hot, when they closed all the windows to try and keep the four holes pumping kinda cool air in, it felt being in a plastic bag. It seats 2000+, we have around 2500-3000 delegates. If you can do the math that leaves 500-1000 delegates without a seat.

Lake Junaluska offers par to sub-par accommodations. I am going to stay at the newest hotel, the Super 8. YEAH! [I have not ventured into the ‘renting a house for the week’ because I don’t have the money to spend on a vacation house for the week]. There are a handful of restaurants in the area, all the rest are fast food. Parking is horrible and I have walked almost a mile to from my parking spot to the auditorium.

Plus we waste a ton of time on this conference/vacation. The clergy session is on Wednesday night at 8:00 pm and it is over on Sunday after the worship. There is nothing on the schedule after 12:00 on Saturday and huge chunks of time for everyone to leave, get something to eat, and hike back. [although they have asked some restaurants to have some lunch options available on the grounds this year, so that may be nice]

There is move to move Annual Conference to a different location. Some where in the middle of the conference and a place that can provide better accommodations and meeting space. It is fought over every year and with a new bishop at the helm we will see.

My biggest concern is what meeting there represents. We are told by our leaders [bishops and district superintendents] that change has to happen in the local church. We, as a conference, are dropping in numbers in memberships because church refuse to change. Yet we as a conference refuse to change. Are we being good stewards of our money, resources, and time by meeting in Lake Junaluska? Or are we merely doing things how we always have been because that is what we have always been doing? If we are going to usher in a new age of United Methodism in the western part of North Carolina; if we are going to follow Jesus, make disciples, and transform the world; should we not do that by example and be willing to change on a conference level.

Yes, you are going to make people angry. There are tons of retirees who love to come off their porch and join in during conference. There are people who go up there for the whole week and enjoy making it a family vacation. But we have to look at the reason we are doing what we are doing and be willing to ask the question, can we do it better?

We have a new bishop presiding over his first AC in this conference. We will see how it goes and what becomes of it all. Until then, I’m in shorts, a polo shirt, and sandals. Pounding the water and caking on the deodorant, praying for cool weather and auditorium.

Amendment Discussion moves to New Blog

Below is some news I received from our Conference’s E-news. Interesting…adding to John Meunier’s discussion he has been having on Conference Amendments and using the Internet to inform people how they should vote, here, here and here. I have not completely read through this blog yet but it will be interesting I guarantee.

New blog initiated for UMC constitutional amendments discussion

One of the considerations for delegates to the 2009 Annual Conference, June 11-14 at Lake Junaluska, is to decide whether or not to approve 32 amendments to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. Opinions vary over many of them, particularly those dealing with the worldwide nature of the Church. A blog is now operational for those who wish to read and/or post opinions and information about the proposed amendments. [Go to blog]

100 Years Celebration = Buildings?

Something this week triggered a sad realization I had at Annual Conference this past year. Tired of sitting in a so called air conditioned Stewart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska, I moved over to the truly air conditioned Terrace Hotel to watch the business via closed circuit TV. There I watched the part of conference where the churches celebrating milestones are recognized. Those congregations who are now 100 years old, 150, even 250 were all paraded out and celebrated.

What was sad was what was celebrated. As the announcer read off each church they gave a quick history of the congregation. Here is how many of them went, “First UMC started in 1908 on the corner of First St. and Main St. in Anytown, NC. The sanctuary was completed in 1910 and a new education building was added in 1915. In 1963 an addition as added to the educational wing to add classrooms and office space…”

The celebration really only included talk of buildings. It made me ask the question, “Is this all we will be remembered for, building buildings?” I don’t remember hearing anything about lives being touched, mission projects being done, people helped, or souls transformed. Nothing about the church being The Church, just buildings.

I think the RETHINK Church video that is going around has some wonderful things to say about church being The Church once again. In a little over a decade my congregation will celebrate its 100th year. I will have moved on to another appointment (probably) and I wonder how this church will be remembered. Will we be remembered by the buildings we built or the lives that we touched? The bricks we put up or the souls that were transformed?