A joint blog from Pastors Chris, Daniel, and Danny
You have probably heard by now, either by announcement on Sunday, the Phone Tree, or the email message, that Assurance will embrace a change in Pastoral Leadership this summer. The bishop is reassigning Chris to another church in Western North Carolina. It is normal to have feelings of shock and disbelief given that Chris has served a relatively long pastorate here at Assurance. It is important to remember that even though this feels sudden, this is what pastors in the United Methodist Church sign up for when we respond to God’s call on our lives. Hopefully this blog can serve to help educate you more about this process. All three Assurance pastors are under appointment by the bishop, to serve year to year in the life of Assurance. A Bishop and their “Cabinet” of District Leaders pray over the needs of all 2500 or so United Methodist Churches in Western North Carolina and strive each year to faithfully make moves based on the needs of every church, matching pastoral gifts with community and church leadership needs. Some pastors serve shorter appointments at a church for four or so years, others are called and able to spend many years serving the same congregation. In a blog post that has some helpful information about this process, Daniel’s friend, Jonathan Andersen, writes:
“Churches in the UMC receive new pastors through a system called itinerancy. Itinerancy is a system of church organization in which ministers are sent to local churches by a Bishop and are regularly rotated from one to another. Ministers and Bishops are all part of a geographically organized conference (mine is North GA, Daniel, Danny and Chris’ is Western NC), which is broken down further into districts. The conference limits where a Bishop can appoint each pastor to serve.
The appointments aren’t random—every year the Bishop and District Superintendents consult with those like me seeking a pastoral appointment and with each church in the conference. Through much prayer and conferencing, they then seek to determine where to send pastors so that the UMC can best live out its mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The gifts of the pastor, his or her family/life situation, the needs of a local church, the needs of the denomination, and many other factors are involved in the process. . . Many Methodist Churches in Britain, Central America, and all over the world continue to use this system that has a historical basis from Methodism’s earliest days.
The rapid growth of Methodism throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in America can be partly attributed to this form of organization as Wesley himself says, “We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”
Itineracy finds biblical roots in the missionary journeys of Paul and the early apostles. They traveled around the Ancient Near East and Asia to share the gospel with as many people as possible. Churches aren’t interviewing their pastors in the New Testament book of Acts, rather the Apostles and Bishops are “sending” them based on gifts and needs through a process of discernment. It is a large task, that certainly has its imperfections, and yet we would suggest that it is a “process” that has worked for all of us in the past. Without this system, Chris would never have been sent here to serve years ago. Through itineracy, Daniel was sent here four years ago right out of seminary when he did not know about Assurance. All of this is to say God’s Spirit is at work in, through, and sometimes in spite of this process of itineracy that sent Chris, Daniel and Danny to Assurance. And perhaps the greatest gift of itineracy is that it places the ownership of what it means to be the church, not on the pastoral team, but on the congregation. In a time where you may feel powerless, God’s Spirit is actually giving you the ultimate power to continue to faithfully serve as the Body of Christ. Chris, Daniel, and Danny are not the church. You are the church and God is calling all of us to be a source of light, life, and love.
And so, we put our full trust in God’s grace through this season of transition. Because if there is one thing we can be certain of, it is that in all the years past and in all the years ahead of us – God is with us and God is calling us to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ who go serve Him in the world.
If you have any questions during this time of transition our pastors and lay leaders are here to help in any way that we can. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Chris Westmoreland – firstname.lastname@example.org - 704-519-9660
Daniel Corpening – email@example.com - 980-298-3737
Dave Zietlow – firstname.lastname@example.org - 704-918-8703
Merrianne Myers-Zietlow – email@example.com - 814-449-7845
Karen Furr – firstname.lastname@example.org - 704-719-0961
Misty Molloy – email@example.com - 336-250-2859