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Tenure Debate Spreads to Methodist Church

A new piece in the Wall Street Journal reports that a tenure controversy is brewing in the Methodist Church, which is looking to keep enrollment high by recruiting high-quality pastors. Unfortunately, they are butting up against opposition that will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the debate over teacher tenure:

Church leaders say that as they try to re-energize churches and draw more people into the pews, in part by recruiting new, enthusiastic pastors, they are constrained by longstanding tenure rules that give each ordained pastor a place to preach until mandatory retirement at age 72. . . .

But pastors see job security as a trade-off for the itinerant life of a Methodist preacher—they may move every three or four years—and say guaranteed reappointments have protected the church from sexism and bigotry, as no one can be denied reappointment on the basis of gender or race.

No profession or industry is immune to the changes in the work environment that are reshaping our world. Long, lifetime tenure with secure employment may have been the norm in most industries in the mid-20th century, but that model simply doesn’t work anymore. That these trends have spread as far as houses of worship suggests that we’re likely to see a lot more of these debates in the future.

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