at least one guaranteed appointment!

the united methodist general conference met a few weeks to discuss matters related to the church. i am thankful for our faithful north texas conference delegates, clergy and laity, who worked very hard, and endured unbelievable frustration, on behalf of the church. watching online was painful; i can't imagine what it would have been like in person.

one of the unfortunate outcomes of the general conference was the removal of so-called "guaranteed appointments" for united methodist elders. this was one of the benefits of full-time leadership in the church. an elder in full connection was guaranteed to be appointed somewhere, unless circumstances made an appointment impossible. there were disciplinary steps in place to assure accountability among pastors in the annual conference. but the general conference felt these steps did not go far enough. the judicial council, the church's equivalent to the supreme court, will rule this fall whether this decision violated united methodist polity. personally i believe the decision will be overturned.

today i received an email from our bishop confirming a rumor many had voiced for nearly a year: paul rasmussen will become the senior pastor of highland park united methodist church upon the retirement of mark craig next summer-- 2013. the bishop used words like "unusual" and "unique" to describe the announcement a year in advance, and said this would eliminate clergy competition for the post or representatives from the church from checking out prospective successors for mark craig. our district superintendent, dr. clara reed, thought this could be a model for clergy transition in larger churches. i was reminded of the situation at frazer memorial united methodist in montgomery, alabama, upon the retirement of senior pastor john ed mathison. it makes absolute sense for those senior pastors to have a voice in the leadership of the church after their retirement.

my question: why only large churches? pastors who serve medium sized churches or small ones still know their congregations better than anyone else. and the congregations themselves are certainly aware of their needs. should we not be concerned with fruitful transitions for churches of all sizes? i have no problem with the highland park situation at all; if h.p. and mark craig and the bishop and cabinet think paul is the right guy, great-- but what would happen if senior pastors, congregations, and cabinet were consulted on every appointment at the same level as this instance? how much stronger could our churches be-- of all sizes? i love my appointment to oak lawn, and i can confidently say it was an inspired move last summer. but when my tenure here is ending-- 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 25 years from now, how can we best promote stability here too?