The Western North Carolina Conference received a letter from our Bishop today. It said that the cabinet was not yet finished with the appointment process. It seems with only a few retiring this year, people coming off of leave and back from extension ministries, plus the number of graduates from Divinity School there is an influx of clergy needing appointments. Then you add the fact that 18 churches in the WNCC have eliminated associate pastor positions. What you have left over is too many clergy with not enough pulpits. It seems after filling all the placements there are currently 24 clergy without an appointment. I’ll let Bishop Goodpaster explain in his own words.
We entered our work together aware of the anxiety and turmoil that fill our society and many of our churches during this time. We knew there would be challenges. Eighteen of our churches decided to eliminate an Associate Pastor position; others, because of the economy, had notified us that the compensation package of the pastor would be lower in July, many at substantial cuts. We have a dozen of elders who will be returning from either Extension Ministry appointments or various Leaves. With the downturn in the value of the pension funds, fewer of our clergy opted to retire this year. And, in response to the continuing call of God, we have a number of Western North Carolina students graduating from seminary and returning to serve Christ in their home conference.
We are not yet ready to notify any person or church about a projected appointment for the coming year. The reality: after working for more than four days, we arrived at an unprecedented moment. Having tentatively “filled” every open and available charge with a clergyperson, there were still more than two dozen clergy (most either full connected ordained elders or provisional elders) without a placement. That, of course, is unacceptable, and contrary to the principle of the itinerancy system that is part of our Wesleyan heritage.
There are been many stories of churches doing great work and money coming in despite the economic crisis. I have also heard of churches who finished thousands of dollars behind. Clergy receiving pay cuts or in the case of associates, losing their positions. The financial grip of the nation is affecting the UMC in the Western North Carolina Conference. My prayers go out to those who are on the move list and who are living with even more questions of where they will be placed.
Peace be with the cabinet, the churches, the clergy, and the clergy families.