Dr. Don’s Retiring. What’s Next?

What’s Next Since Dr. Don’s Retirement Announcement?

As you are aware, Dr. Don Martin, our senior pastor, has announced his retirement, which will take effect this summer. It is a time of mixed emotions – excitement for Dr. Don and Lisa as they enter a new phase of life, but also a time of sadness as we will say “so long” to our dear friends. Over the last 14 years, Dr. Don has not only been an excellent pastor and visionary leader, but he has become a deeply loved friend. The Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee (SPR) is so appreciative of Dr. Don’s ministry with us, and it will be a high honor to celebrate his ministry as his retirement date comes closer.

You may be wondering what happens next. We hope these frequently asked questions may help to provide a better understanding.


First of all, what is the Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee (SPR)?

For those who might be unfamiliar with the administration within the United Methodist Church, the SPR Committee is often referred to as the “human resources” department of the church. While that is certainly true, the SPR Committee is more than that. We are called to encourage and support our pastors, staff, and their families and work faithfully toward unity within our church family. We work closely with our pastors and staff so that each is able to best use his/her gifts for effective ministry. We also serve as a liaison between the pastors/staff and you, our church family. Above all, we pray for our pastors and staff and we hope that you will join us in that! One of the duties of the SPR Committee is to serve in a consultative role during the pastoral appointment process.


When a pastor announces his/her retirement, is there a search committee to fill the vacancy?

There is no search committee. The United Methodist Book of Discipline states “Clergy shall be appointed by the bishop, who is empowered to make and fix all appointments in the Episcopal area.” Our bishop is Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson. Bishop Sue and her cabinet (all district superintendents in the conference) look at the appointment needs throughout the conference, taking into consideration the needs of each church, the gifts and talents of each pastor, and other circumstances in the conference.

The SPR Committee in each local church consults with the district superintendent about the relationship between the pastor and the congregation and communicates the desires of the church. The role of the SPR Committee is advisory only. The district superintendent reports the advice of the SPR Committee to the bishop and the cabinet. Again, the bishop will make all pastoral appointments. Your SPR Committee has already begun productive and meaningful conversations with our district superintendent, Dr. Doug Thrasher, and will continue to consult with Dr. Thrasher throughout the appointment process.


Why are pastors appointed to churches in the United Methodist Church rather than us finding our own pastor?

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the United Methodist Church is the itinerant system in which pastors move from appointment to appointment. “Itinerancy is the system by which the Methodist Church moves its ministers from church to church so that at all times every preacher has a church and every church has a preacher….” (From Encyclopedia of World Methodism) This system dates back to the days of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Itinerancy is part of the “connectional” nature of the United Methodist Church.


With the new construction just being completed and Dr. Don’s long tenure at Alpharetta Methodist, is this a good time for new leadership? Will our church be okay?

As Dr. Don shared himself, “the building construction will be complete, and the city and surroundings of Alpharetta are new. A new Senior Pastor will enter at a good moment.” While the senior pastor is certainly a critical part of the church, we should remember that the church is one body with many parts, and the senior pastor is one part of Christ’s body. As the Apostle Paul tells us:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. – Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

The Body of Christ at Alpharetta Methodist has many parts and you, the congregation, are a vital part of that body! Additionally, we have two outstanding clergy, Rev. Brad Greene and Rev. Terri Henkel, an exceptional staff and excellent leaders already in place to “Win men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ.” The SPR Committee, under the direction of our district superintendent, Dr. Thrasher, will ensure that there will be many productive steps in place for a smooth transition as we welcome a new senior pastor to the body of believers at Alpharetta Methodist.


What can I do about voicing any questions or concerns I might have?

Any person in the congregation can speak to a representative of the SPR Committee about his or her concerns. The chair of our SPR Committee is Beth Simpson.


When will we find out who our new senior pastor will be?

The new senior pastor will be announced in mid to late April.


When will Dr. Don’s last Sunday be?

Dr. Don’s last Sunday will be June 30.


When will the new senior pastor’s first Sunday be?

Our new senior pastor will lead us in worship on July 7.


What can I do, now, if anything?

Pray! Please pray for Dr. Don and Lisa as they transition to a new season of life. Please pray for our new senior pastor and family. Please pray for Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and her cabinet, including our district superintendent, Dr. Doug Thrasher. Please pray for our SPR Committee as they continue to serve in a consultative role and lead the congregation in this critical transition of pastoral leadership. Above all, please pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us all throughout this time of transition and that we all will be open to His leading and wisdom.

Please know that your SPR Committee is confident that God is in control of the appointment process and that the exciting future ahead of us is His to lead and ours to joyfully follow! God is good all the time and He is in control.