A Word from Bishop Graves: the 2021 Appointment Process

January 25, 2021

January 25, 2020

Colleagues and Friends, 

Currently the cabinet, pastors, staff-parish committees, and churches are working on the upcoming appointment year: July 2021 to June 2022. I have found that cabinet transparency is vital in building trust. To inform you of our process, but most importantly to ask for your prayers, I want to share the following:

The cabinet, consisting of the seven district superintendents, Rev. June Jernigan, and myself will be working to make over 540 appointments between now and annual conference, scheduled for June 6-9. During the pandemic, the cabinet would prefer to make as few moves as possible, but we know certain circumstances require one. Our work will be conducted via Zoom, which adds to the complexity of the process.

I have said this before but there are many factors that go into this process which include retirements; churches open by the death of a pastor; pastors leaving our annual conference; local church needs and concerns; pastors’ needs and concerns; and family considerations, to name a few. The combination of these circumstances leads to many emotions. Our United Methodist appointment process is like no other mainline denomination.

What I have come to learn and have experienced is that the Holy Spirit is in this process. As unusual as it may seem, I have been so blessed by my appointment-making time. It is sacred work and the Alabama-West Florida Conference has a Godly cabinet that makes our work deep and rich. Please pray for us!

To help guide your time of prayer, let me share how we will complete our work:
We have begun discussions around possible clergy couple moves; seminary students graduating and seeking their first appointment; and those going to licensing school and seeking their first appointment. Senior pastors with an associate have shared with the district superintendent and me their needs around the associate pastor appointment. We have people wanting to transfer into the conference and those who seek to transfer out. The list of parameters we encounter is endless.

March 1-3: We will gather and mark our worksheet consisting of each church and pastor. We will mark a “return” meaning the pastor is projected to go back to the church they are serving. We will mark “open” due to retirement, death, or the pastor has left. “Move” indicates the pastor will be moving from their present appointment or “either,” means the pastor could stay or move. We mark them in pencil as move statuses could change based on shifting needs and conversations. Approximately 75-80% of pastors will be marked (return). We will begin to make some appointment projections; we may or may not communicate them out of the cabinet.

March 15-18: The cabinet will project most of the appointments during these days.

March 22-24: Those pastors moving will get a phone call from their district superintendent to set a meeting to go over their projected appointment and pastor-parish chairs will be called and told of the projected appointment. The full SPRC will be informed and instructed to keep the appointment confidential.

April 5-6: The cabinet meets to review all projections and to make any adjustments.

April 6-June 6: The cabinet will continue to work at filling part-time appointments and other situations that might arise as pastoral introductions are made.

April 11: Pastors and churches are free to publicly communicate the new appointment unless otherwise directed by the district superintendent.
April 12: Pastoral Transition materials will be given to district superintendents to organize with their respective districts. If you are receiving a new appointment, your incoming superintendent will contact you with more details so that all may have a successful start.

In some churches we will conduct a process called off-boarding to help churches prepare for a new pastor and in other places on-boarding to help the new pastor move into their new appointment. Furthermore, there will be a Beginning Pastors Workshop for those who have their first appointment. That date will be released in late winter.

As you see, the appointment process is the most important work we do and one that I want to live into God’s will. I feel it is important to be transparent to all our clergy and congregations.

We need and appreciate your prayers.

In Christ,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference