Dear pastors and congregations of the Mountain Sky Conference:
Grace and peace to you. You may have noticed that there has been a rush of appointment announcements lately. You may also have surmised that there are many more to come, even though it is already May! We know this raises considerable angst especially among pastors and congregations who are expecting and awaiting new appointments. Add to this the anxiety of our post-General Conference reality and the uncertainty of our future as a denomination or conference. Well, it’s not a very comfortable place right now for any of us.
Someone once asked me to describe the appointment process. My response that I’ve shared a few times since: It’s something like trying to put together a large jigsaw puzzle, while riding on a merry-go-round as your little brother pushes as fast as he can. And then your sister reaches over and steals a piece. That may not explain it, but it does get to the spirit of it. Each year we make somewhere around 70 appointments trying to consider the missional needs of the church as well as the personal, family and professional needs of the pastors involved, and the obligations we have under the Book of Discipline. That’s not an easy puzzle to complete.
One extra dimension of complexity that we have that many other conferences do not is an investment in a highly consultative process. Many conferences rely only on a written church profile for consultation. Many conferences do not include a pastor-SPRC introduction for each appointment. In addition to the discernment of the bishop and cabinet, every appointment in our process involves at least two meetings by the district superintendent with a church’s SPRC and at least two conversations between the superintendent and pastor-designee. It can sometimes take two weeks or more between the final discernment of an appointment and the completion of all steps and announcement of that appointment. And that’s if everyone says "yes." If a church says "no" (quite rare) or a pastor says "no" (more common than you might think), then we must go back to the drawing board and it takes even longer. Each appointment takes a lot of time.
We as a cabinet wouldn’t want it any other way. We value the consultative system we have. We appreciate all the voices involved in this complex process. We have seen how the Holy Spirit can work in the midst of that strange mix of conversations between cabinet members, Staff Parish Relations Committees, and pastors. While not every appointment works out as everyone hopes, we believe this process offers the greatest chance of appointments being made that will benefit the congregation, pastor, and advance our common mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
But, it takes time. And because of our commitment to this consultative process, it can’t be rushed or shortcut, even if a pastor or church says ‘no’ and sets back our plans or there is a denomination-course-changing special General Conference that meets in the midst of appointment season. So as we work through the appointment process this year, and it feels a bit late, we ask for your patience and understanding. And as a pastor asked to serve an appointment you didn’t expect, or as a church to receive a pastor you didn’t expect, please pray and be open to the possibility that what is unexpected may be exactly what you – and Christ’s church – needs.
Rev. Jeff Rainwater
Dean of the Cabinet
Wyoming District Superintendent