Friday, June 10, 2011

Methodism and the Nunc Dimittis

Good morning God,

It's an odd thing to say, but the General Secretary has helped me understand the Nunc Dimittis in a way I could never have believed possible before.. and its bitter-sweet. The same thing that makes me feel I really can die in peace, also energizes me and makes me long to live and see more of what you have granted us just a tiny glimpse of.  I wonder if Simeon felt that strange mix of elation and peace, excitement and anticipation, longing and regret on seeing Jesus?

Ok, Ok the General Secretary's report is not quite in the same league in one sense - but it DID let me see Jesus - it DID open my eyes and offer me a glimpse of your salvation and filled my heart with hope - and dread - for the future.

The report is written in clear and accessible Godly language that draws on the riches of our tradition and the experiences and inspiration of past presidents - yet is still clearly profoundly prophetic. That it is YOUR word I have no doubt. Yes, it shows evidence of careful editing, there is no desire here to upset or offend, but this report also makes no apologies for the fact that should the Connexion be persuaded to follow the vision that you have given to the General Secretary and the Connexional team, it will be radically changed from what it is now.


No minister likes to think that their ministry, their service to you God has been in vain. As with so many I have been more than disillusioned about the 'Church' and its seeming loss of passion for the gospel, commitment to mission, obsession with structure and form rather than Scripture and prayer.
The seemingly slow inexorable slide into Anglicanism, institutionalism, officialdom etc has depressed me beyond belief. The lack of godly language or the use of Scripture in our public communications, the absence of any real sense of direction other than a parroting of 'the priorities' had left me seriously questioning my vocation.

The words of the Easter liturgy spring to mind..
If we have fallen into despair. If we have failed to hope in you, If we have been fearful of death, If we we have forgotten the victory of Christ. Lord, forgive us.' 
But on the eve of Pentecost you have answered my prayer by giving me a glimpse of a possible future..
The General Secretary's report captures what Methodism once did best - move forward into the future, taking the risk of being different, radical, even passionate in a desire to serve You in obedience and truth. It then dares to spell out how that might still possible today before providing just a few small illustrations of what Methodism might look like if it chose to follow that route. And for the first time since the whole 'Team Focus' process started - I feel a part of the team again, as though the Connexion includes me in, rather than writes me off as a circuit minister.


Yes, I know, this will be incredibly risky and painful for many in our Church to accept and adopt.
Yes, this runs the risk of initially at least losing us almost as many members as it potentially creates,
yes this takes us further than ever away from the careful steering towards respectable ecclesiology that has eaten up so much of our energy and vitality over the last 30 years -
by grace, by your wonderful powerful spirit God, we could actually do this - we could actually become a mission minded people once again, more worried about You than about our committees, buildings, titles, and personnel departments!

Provided we don't procrastinate.

I really want to be a part of this Lord.. not just witness the birth of it!


  1. The report made my skin tingle! I feel we are at a critical point in our story and I think this is very probably the defining moment. Do or die!

  2. All I can really say, Angela, is AMEN!

  3. Is the report online somewhere we Americans can see it?

  4. here's the link :

  5. Thanks Anonymous - I didn't think John would want the entire volume 1 of our conference agenda!

  6. As a (Methodist-friendly) Anglican, I'm intrigued by 'The seemingly slow inexorable slide into Anglicanism...'. Can you say more?

  7. Hmm.. As an Anglican friendly Methodist i will try and explain without I hope causing offense.

    For the last two decades it has seemed as though the only ecumenical option being pursued by the leadership (not membership) of the Methodist Church has been some form of merger with the Church of England.

    This is not something I would personally welcome. Whilst there is much I value in the Church of England, I find the way in which Methodists are being persuaded to change so many of our own distinctives such as lay presidency, lay pastors, gender equality, extempore liturgy, corporate rather than personal episcope, etc 'for the sake of greater union' to be depressing.

    It is akin to saying that the Spirit has not been at work in our Church in the gifting of those graces and in the revelation of the theology that lies behind them such as the priesthood of all believers, the confidence in the means of grace and the doctrine of Christian perfection etc.

    But Methodists are great ecumenists and so have tended to comply.. And have increasingly lost sight of their own identity, ecclesiology etc. Presbyters have become more like parish priests tied to their Churches, and less like circuit ministers - engaged in a shared mission.

    There is - I believe - a proper place for both traditions. I am happy for Anglicans to be Anglicans, I could wish for more Methodists to be happy to be Methodist.

    Does that help?

  8. It sure does! Your non-offensive forthrightness and loving clarity are maybe Methodist qualities in themselves.