BSP: How does the UMC appointment system today compare to what you believe was practiced in the 1st century church?
TW: As I understand it, in the first century church based its understanding of leadership on spiritual gifts, the calling of the individual, and even the general authority of all believers to go and preach the gospel, as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28. There was also an accepted form of church discipline regarding leadership, as seen in the writings of Paul and his warnings to come and deal with congregations who were either tolerating sin or accepting of false doctrine and practice in their midst. The appointment system of the UMC has many of these same dynamics, which can be very positive and helpful to congregations who are truly open to reaching their communities for Christ. However, I see differences in that the current appointment system is very slow to address ineffective congregations, who, despite receiving qualified and gifted pastors, have continued in a conflicting and combative state for many years. The appointment system would serve these churches well to design some sort of mechanism to help these churches turn around by appointing selective pastors with established skills of mediation, leadership and a “no nonsense” vision of moving forward. I also see in the early church how the role of mentoring younger leaders helped shape the congregations of the first century. Whether it was Paul and Timothy or Priscilla/Aquilla and Apollos, persons coming into the body of Christ as leaders were able to receive guidance, mentoring and personal attention from those more seasoned in the role as leaders. In some ways, District Superintendents are supposed to fill this role, but this rarely happens due to the fact that Superintendents spend much of their available time dealing with bureaucracy and crisis management. I believe that if there were a better system of mentoring new leaders and encouraging existing leadership through pastoral care, crisis management, consultation and constructive review, the appointment system could be much more effective in producing not only more effective pastors, but more effective congregations at reaching their communities for Christ.