Monday, January 31, 2011

Vocational Policies...

Good day God,
I'm not quite sure how you will take this - but - well - I'm not quite sure anymore what a Methodist vocation is.
I thought I knew.
I thought it had something to do with the fact that my 'work' didn't feel like 'work' because I knew that I would do it anyway - regardless of pay.  It was something about OUR relationship and the fact that the way that  I felt about you, and the world, and faith and the future, was best expressed through my relationship in service to others, and with your Church.

Now I'm flummoxed (I like that word!)
I know that I still feel compelled to minister, I would still do it whether I was paid or not, in fact, I don't really seem to know how NOT to minister. The way in which that works out with others is uplifting, inspiring, heartwarming, affirming, confirming, challenging and motivating.. (Thank you)

But the 'Church' bit gets harder every year.
I keep saying to myself - ignore the Connexion - just get on with the task of being a minister where you have been stationed.. but it's just not that simple.
What we do at Connexional level SHOULD affect what we do at local level.
I am not a congregationalist, I do not serve a congregationalist Church and the last time I looked, the URC and the Methodists were still separate denominations, (even if we do share the odd consultation.)

The fact is that I am employed as a Methodist minister to work in a Methodist Circuit, within a Methodist District which belongs to the British Methodist Connexion which is part of the World Methodist Council.

So what happens Connexionally should concern me, and the members of the Churches I serve...
Polity and Practice are part of the Church's proclamation.

Most of us listened hard when we were promised that the 'team focus' project was all about creating a Connexional Team which would provide vision and leadership, which would inspire, motivate and equip the Methodist Church to work together for the sake of God's kingdom. We were told that ONE of the tasks of the new way of working was to provide better oversight of the budget - but we were assured time and time again that team focus was NOT about finance, was NOT about cutting jobs,was NOT just about good management - It was supposed to be about our calling.

But to be perfectly honest, from where I work, it seems as though the Governance structures which have emerged out of the Team Focus process have less and less to with our agreed priority:

To proclaim and affirm its conviction of God's love in Christ, for us and for all the world; and renew confidence in God's presence and action in the world and in the Church
And certainly less and less to do with Methodism's way of being Church - of being 'connected'.

So it isn't really a surprise to me that there are fewer and fewer responses to connexional reports.
It is a source of grief, a pointer to the problem, but not a surprise.

The thing that really bugs me, however, is the way in which changes to our theology and practice are so disguised in bureaucratic gobbledegook that its hard for those not trained in both theology and business management to unpack it all and see what's really going on.

The last council paper on team focus (MC118) (available here) for example, states that paragraph 23 addresses an issue that has ecclesiological implications. In actual fact - the entire document has ecclesiological implications, to say nothing of profound theological implications for our understanding of the whole people of God. (This is in spite of the fact that no mention of God or doctrine, occurs in the paper)

As a former managing director I applaud the concerted effort being invested in the well being of those who work for the Connexion at Methodist Church House
I just have a simple question - Since when did circuit ministers stop being a part of the Connexion?

Are we not worthy of consideration when it comes to working conditions?

Are circuit ministers, in keeping with ministers who work as part of the team, going to be asked not to use our God given, Church affirmed, identity as Revds if we have any full time lay employees in our Churches? (Am I alone in thinking that when ministers are denied their Connexionally affirmed title of Revd  when they are called to serve at Connexional Level there is something wrong?)
Will circuit ministers have a staff handbook and policies instead of standing orders to determine our working conditions?
Will circuit ministers and superintendents, who often have a larger staff to oversee, also be given training in leadership and management?
Will circuit ministers ever be given support to cope with all the changes in the Connexion and our workloads?
etc etc etc

And then God..
a big part of me says -
ignore it..
Why run the risk of upsetting people again?
Life's too short - just work in this little corner...
But it really isn't that easy.

I'm daft enough to believe in Connexionalism, which makes me deeply concerned about the implied theology in some of our most recent council papers. In particular I am distressed about the increasing secularisation that they represent and the inexorable shift to congregationalism that they promote.

PLEASE - is it too much to ask for a little more talk of God, a lot less bureaucracy?
PLEASE - is it too much to ask for a little more respect for vocation - lay AND ordained,  and a lot less concern about secular status?
PLEASE - is it too much to ask for a little more concern about the work of the whole Connexion and a lot less about the connexion's governance structures?

And that's before we even begin on the request to changes to standing orders governing the SRC !


  1. If we spent as much time on ecclesiology as we do on management consultancy we'd be in a much better position!

  2. PLEASE is it too much to ask that Council Reports and be written in a language that can be readily understood by everyone.