In The United Methodist Church, clergy appointments are made annually by the bishop. This unique system of deploying clergy dates back to John Wesley.
United Methodist pastors are itinerant - sent, not called or hired. "Itinerancy" refers specifically to the commitment by pastors to go and serve wherever their bishops send them.
In the early days of Methodism in America, a pastor, usually a circuit rider, might be sent to serve multiple churches in a large region. This practice became the basis for the system The United Methodist Church uses today.
When bishops consider appointments, they consult with others who know the congregation and community, including the district superintendent, the pastor, and the pastor-parish relations committee of the local church. The needs and desires of the pastor and the congregation are considered, but the mission of the church comes first.
After the consultation process, the bishop sets the pastoral appointments. Appointments are typically for one year at a time, though the bishop may move any itinerant pastor at any time. The goal of this process is to match, as much as possible, the gifts and graces of the particular pastor with the needs of a particular congregation or ministry setting. This series of different pastoral leaders over time helps form and develop ministries in the church and community.
Rev. Belton Joyner explains, "In a connectional system such as United Methodism, the question from any individual congregation or from any individual [clergy] is not, 'What is best for me?' The question is 'What is best for us, the whole connection?' The one who has oversight, the bishop, makes those decisions. (The New Testament word for bishop is episkopos, which means 'the one who can see the whole picture.')"
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.