The core logic of this itinerant system was that the elders comprised a missionary group in covenant with one another for the preaching of the gospel in diverse settings. The church covenanted to provide work and financial support, and the traveling preachers covenanted to go where sent, preaching the good news as they did so.
Similar to the other religious orders like the Jesuits or Dominicans, Bishop Asbury claimed,
“there is nothing like the itinerant ministry for keeping the whole body alive from the centre to the circumference, and for the continual extension of that circumference on every hand.”
(Methodist Episcopal Church, Discipline (1798), 42.)
The body is kept alive through the fertile cross-pollination of new ideas and the development of lay leadership.
Pastors who are exposed to the movement of God beyond a particular locale can speak and act prophetically in the face of insularity. For example, in the May/June 2009 issue of Weavings, Roberta Bondi writes about a United Methodist pastor who discovered fourteen migrant workers and children sleeping under their trucks near the church where he had just moved. As a stranger in town, he was able to see what the rest of his congregants had been missing; he invited them back to the parsonage and witnessed Christ’s love to both them and to his congregation. This prophetic stance was possible due to both his status as a stranger and his appointment to be there for at least a year; he had a year to justify his actions and to move the local church to a greater awareness of justice and hospitality as Christian values.
Today the major strength of the itinerant system lies in its possibilities for developing inclusive, multi-cultural ministries through cross-racial appointments and other forms of cross-pollination of ideas. Guaranteed appointments ensure that women and racial/ethnic minorities are not left out of the appointive system. They protect the freedom of a pastor to speak out against injustice and to not be victimized because of her or his gender, race, language, physical ability, or ethnicity.
Currently, this guaranteed appointment system is being debated because ineffective ministers are not held accountable for their ministry… What are your thoughts?