UMC Advocates Discuss Process, Changes


Connellsville District Supt. Robert Zilhaver shared an analysis of recent Judicial Council decisions during a recent gathering of Associates in Advocacy, laity and clergy who walk through the disciplinary process with clergy accused of church violating church law. The group met May 8-9, 2019 gathering in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. 

Rev. Robert Zilhaver

Besides the Judicial Council decisions, Zilhaver addressed the new administrative appeals process and the principle of legality. There was also discussion on how to shield the church processes from those who wish to use them to gather information or leverage for civil action against The United Methodist Church or its members.

Associates in Advocacy started in the civil rights era when clergy were often accused or violations of church law in order to stop their civil rights work.  Today the organization works in a variety of areas assisting those caught in unfamiliar disciplinary processes. Zilhaver has served as an advocate for several years.

During devotions, the Rev. Bill Boyd of Edge Park UMC in Fort Worth, Texas reflected on his experience at the Special Session of General Conference 2019.  He said he processed the outcome sometimes with anger and sometimes with disappointment.  But when he saw a picture of Jesus weeping, his heart and his approach changed. He understood Jesus was weeping with him, he said.  The spiritual energy of the anger and disappointment was channeled into the spirit of St. Francis.  He led the group in the prayer of St. Francis before the start of discussion.

Rev. Valerie Barnes, Chews/Carters Charge of the Baltimore Washington Conference, led a discussion of property issues, especially with historic black churches.   The group reviewed the dynamics of processes used by annual conferences to deal with property and discussed methods by which congregations and pastors can actively take positive steps in any such process.

Other presenters included Rev. Peter Milloy, a retired elder from the Minnesota Annual Conference, who shared his experience working for the defense team at the recent trial in the Greater New Jersey Conference involving Rev. Jisun Kwak.

Rev. Robert Nelson, president of Associates in Advocacy, set the next meeting for October 30-31 at the Super 8 at Elk Grove Village, Illinois.