DOES THE METHODIST CHURCH MEET ITS IDEALS? LAYING DOWN THE GAUNTLET:


Readers are invited to add thoughtful responses in the comments at the end

A CHALLENGE TO SYNODS

PREAMBLE:

You must be the change you want to see in the world

Mahatma Gandhi

In his presidential address at the 2009 Methodist Church conference, President Alan Upson observed that in talking of John Wesley’s conversion and life story we are in danger of using Wesley’s experience vicariously.

“But rather than visiting Wesley in his prison”, he said, “it would be more honest to make his history our own.”

If then if we are honest, we might acknowledge that if recent Synods and this last Conference are anything to go by, the reality of our church life does not always match our expressed vision in our mission statement.   For example, if a thoughtful observer to our recent conference were to attempt to work our what our apparent mission statement appears to be, based entirely on what was observed in what was reported and discussed in our meetings would they indeed notice a focus on a care for God’s creation (which is implied by one of our Mission statements) – or for that matter, a clear intention that we are serious about learning to be peace makers and finding situations where we can make peace.   Yes there was one (perhaps only one) lively debate at Conference, but that alas was on a topic that is not even suggested by the Mission statement, namely the question as to whether an annual, or bi-annual conference should be the pattern for the future.

It should be stressed that there is no suggestion that the current carefully crafted mission statement does not adequately represent a series of points of desirable focus for relating mission to vision.   There is similarly no question that at every level the membership of the church has been comfortable to identify with the statements.   There is no contention we need yet another round of identifying our goals.    Surely the point we have reached is the next step of grappling with the reality of moving towards these goals in a way that both we and those who observe us can see the progress.

Accordingly we suggest a challenge to our respective synods.   There are three questions we would like to put before you.

Looking again at our vision (mission) statement, which aims are we currently showing to be important in our Church life?

Which aims are we currently neglecting?

Which aims suggest concrete action which is achievable in this coming year?

To take some simple examples:   If peacemaking was considered a worthwhile focus there is then the question of how we need to resource ourselves eg perhaps dispute resolution training together with a deliberate intention to locate places /peoples where this peacemaking needs action.

If care of God’s world requires action, perhaps a tree planting or beach cleaning project would be appropriate.

There are of course subsidiary questions like:

How might we encourage our Churches to respond to our mission statement?

How do we educate ourselves on the relevant issues?

There is even the question  if Conference itself act as a focus by requiring that each business area of the Church identify which parts of the mission statement pertain to their action and report in such a way as to highlight their responses and intended responses to those areas?

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