At the most recent General Conference of the UMC, one of their actions was to remove "guaranteed appointments" for elders in full connection.
First of all let me say that there was never a "guaranteed appointment." Clergy could always be removed for cause. The problem was that very few bishops or cabinets have had the temerity to actually remove ineffective clergy, even though they know who they are as do the clergy who work with them.
Second, this clause was only in place for ordained elders. Licensed local pastors could be removed at any time without guarantee of being reappointed, and they have been. I know several local pastors who lost appointments not do to ineffectiveness but because the cabinet needed their churches to place elders. I also know a local pastor who was literally fired during his appointment and told he had two weeks to get out of the parsonage because he had the temerity to tell the DS that he would be taking a church in another Methodist denomination at the end of the appointment year.
As a local pastor, and as a provisional member I have never been protected by this clause. I have had to prove my effectiveness year in and year out. I will be ordained on Friday, and it was only at that point that I would have been "guaranteed" anything.
The clause was put in during the 1950's in order to protect women and minorities so that cabinets would not refuse to appoint them because some churches would refuse to receive them. So, it has some history that makes it important. It was also claimed that it would protect pastors who were being "truly prophetic" from being drummed out of the church. The problem is I know few clergy who are truly prophetic, including me. I have my moments but they are few and far between. I also wonder if it is needed to protect women and minority clergy. It certainly hasn't protected women from getting truly terrible appointments.
But, the one thing I have noticed in the aftermath of this decision is that those who seem to be most upset about this are not those of who are young and just getting in, but instead it is older clergy. I suspect there are several things going on here. The first is that this is the system they have always had, and therefore any change is difficult to deal with. They have always been able to rely on the fact that they were "guaranteed" a job.
I also suspect that some feel threatened that as they near the end of their careers that the cabinet might start ignoring the seniority system in place (which is not in the Discipline) and start appointing younger clergy to "their" churches and place them in less desirable locations. of course if the itinerancy system worked the way it's supposed to this would always have been a concern.
The simple fact is as a younger clergy member I'm not concerned as much about my next appointment as I am about where the church is going to be in twenty years, something most older clergy are not looking at because they will long since be retired.
In addition, we come from generations which have never been guaranteed jobs. Our parents did not work for the same company for the entirety of their lives, and older generations did. We have never had job security, and in fact have always known some level of insecurity, and thus the church is just beginning to match what the wider society has already known.
I'm not really concerned with the loss of the guaranteed appointment because I trust that if I do my job and show fruits of the spirit, that God will continue working through me, regardless of what the church does, and if I don't then I deserve to lose my job.
At Annual Conference this week there is supposed to be a resolution brought up which will require a 2/3 majority of the clergy session vote to remove someone for "cause." If that passes it would effectively mean that we would never actually remove anyone, because the likelihood of getting 2/3 of the clergy voting to remove a colleague is just about impossible to imagine, even though most of us could tell you which clergy should not be given new appointments. The other major problem is that most clergy can also say which churches are clergy killers or are otherwise unfruitful but who continue to receive the benefits from the system without giving anything back and are never held accountable for their behavior. Until everyone, including bishops, cabinets, churches and clergy are all held accountable then nothing will change.