Monthly Archives: April 2009

Methodist Stationing 2

In my last post 42: Methodist Stationing 1 I explained the first stage of the stationing process. That ends either with a minister getting an extension for a number of years or with the Circuit and the Minister entering the stationing process.

I did explain something of the stationing process for probationers (not net ordained and going into their first appointment) for them there is no choice, they are simply sent. Obviously the same is true for Circuits who have agreed to have a probationer, they simply receive, there is no choice.

However, for ordained ministers and the Circuit looking for them the process is different, again I am going to focus on Presbyteral Ministers rather than Diaconal Ministers (for whom the Diaconal Order have an important role to play).

I can't go into precise details for the 2009/2010 stationing process as I don't have the detailed timetable yet, so this is a more generic explanation. Note to that the process is subject to change and so may be quite different in future years.

The process starts as soon as the Circuit and Minister have agreed not to seek an extension. Obviously, if the Circuit is not replacing the Minister they drop out of the process. Similarly if the Minister is "sitting down" (Methodist speak for retiring) then they will not enter the stationing process but the circuit will if they want a replacement. Essentially this means the process will be under way by the beginning of September.

In our Circuit last year we know that one Minister was sitting down and another was moving at the end of a 1 year extension, we also knew that we were choosing to move from 4 to 3 presbyters in the Circuit. So both the moving minister and the Circuit entered stationing.

I'll start with the process for Ministers and then look at the process for Circuits.

Stationing Process for Ministers

  1. Write a profile of yourself. There is a standard format for these which say something about yourself, history, gifts, preferences etc. The profile also indicates your flexibility in where you can serve (many have restrictions caused by issues such as elderly parents, schooling and spouses employment). You also indicate whether you are willing to serve as the Superintendent of a Circuit. Submit the profile to your District Chair.
  2. Receive, read, digest and pray over a book containing profiles for all the Stations (the appointments circuits are seeking Presbyters for). Make a list of the ones you think you are most suited to (suggestion appears to be that you put between 5 and 10 stations on your list). Send the list to your District Chair.
  3. The District Chairs (and a small number of others) meet together at the start of each of several stationing rounds. In each round they first try to match presbyters with the Superintendent Stations, then they seek to match Presbyters with as many other stations as possible. They do this by working with both the Circuit and Presbyter profiles as well as the District's policies and plans for mission.
  4. Each time the District Chairs come up with a "match" both the presbyter and circuit are informed and they usually arrange for the presbyter to visit the following weekend (or the one after that).
  5. When the potential presbyter visits a circuit they have been matched with there are a number of things that will probably happen.
    1. Meet the Circuit Stewards and the Circuit Leadership Team
    2. Meet the Circuit Staff
    3. Meet people from each of the Churches they would have Pastoral Charge of
    4. Visit the manse that is allocated to the station.
  6. At this point if both parties are happy then the match is confirmed and subject to ratification by conference the minister will move into that manse during the following August and start working in the circuit on September the 1st. If either the circuit or the minister is not happy with the match then both parties are put back into the stationing process for the next round of matching. I suspect that at this point there will be consultations with their District Chair by the presbyter and the Circuit.
  7. Those stations not filled after three rounds of matching are treated specially, occasionally a minister will be "plucked" out of an existing appointment to fill one that is considered to have a high priority. Also high priority appointments that have not been filled are advertised around the connexion.
  8. In a similar way any presbyters without a station after three rounds of matching will presumably work with their District Chair to see what can be done. I am very vague on exactly what happens at this point, I know that this applies to one Minister from our District at present (ie no appointment yet for September).
  9. Generally there will be a number of stations around the country (around 70 in total I believe) that do not get filled by 1st September.

Stationing Process for Circuits

In the most part this is similar to Ministers, only it is an Invitation Committee chosen by the Circuit Meeting that will write the profile and make the decision about the suitability of the match etc. Usually the Invitation Committee will include Circuit Stewards, representatives of the Churches that the minister will have pastoral charge of, and some or all Circuit Staff.


I am not very familiar with any of the earlier versions of this system. So far most of what I hear says that this is the best system we have had to date and that in most cases it works pretty well.

Of course there are always some cases where it is difficult to find a match. Generally that appears more common for presbyters who are fixed to a small geographic area (something that is perhaps becoming more common as spouses incomes are frequently the main income in the household). That is hardly a surprise as geographic restrictions must make it harder to find a match that meets other preferences of the presbyter with the geographically available stations and their preferences.

The process does mean that Presbyters and Circuits are both very dependant on their District Chair, for many years the Northampton District has been in the vary capable and loving hands of Alison Tomlin who has inspired our confidence and trust through here sensitive and loving support for us. Alison is stepping down as District Chair this summer (not quite to retire as she is doing a one year job share of a superintendency with her husband first). Our new District Chair will be Peter Hancock, who I have not yet met (but have heard good things about).

Methodist Stationing 1

If there is one thing about the Methodist Church that people, both inside and out, find difficult to understand it is the idea that Ministers are generally itinerant (ie they move around from appointment to appointment).

This summer I will complete my first 4 years as a Methodist Minister and so will go through our process of extension and possibly stationing. So I thought I would write a little about all this. However, don't get your hopes up. You are not going to learn things before it is appropriate and this is in no way an expose or anything nasty. Instead I hope it will at least help make what happens a bit clearer. Please note that there are two different orders of Methodist Minister namely Deacons and Presbyters. The process that leads to a minister being stationed in a Methodist Circuit varies between the two orders, what I write will focus on the process for a presbyter.

My first appointment was for five years, that is the norm which is only changed in rare circumstances. Again as is the norm, I spent the first two years as a probationer before my Ordination at the Methodist Conference in Blackpool in July 2007. Probationers are treated as a special case when it comes to the stationing process. So the process that applies to those whose current appointments end in August 2010 is different to that of probationers being stationed for the first time in 2010.

So let us begin by considering how I ended up in Raunds, in the Nene Valley Circuit which is in the Northampton District. Note that essentially neither probationers not circuits are given any choice in the stationing process. When a circuit agrees to accept a probationer for an appointment then someone will be chosen and their task is to welcome and support them – there is no interview or chance to say no. Potential Probationary Presbyters do fill in a form with preferences and my experience is that the Church does it's best to honour the most significant elements of that (no not perfectly). Once they have sent that form off the next thing a Probationer hears is the name of the Circuit, the location of the Manse and the Churches they are going to serve. If memory serves that was in February for a move into the manse in the August ready to start serving on 1st September. Although it is worth noting that at least in theory nothing is final until confirmed by the Methodist Conference in June or July.

Now at the end of April in the 4th year the process that decides whether you stay in the current appointment or move to another in 16 months time begins. I should at this point make it clear that not everything about the process is yet clear. For example the detailed timetable provided by the district is not yet available.

I have just come back from a "Time to Reflect" retreat, that was for 4 districts and was a time for reflection on who we are, where we are and what comes next. It was not a decision making time nor is there any reporting back from it, instead it is a gift from the Church to support those who are entering this process for the first time. I personally found it extremely encouraging and helpful.

Over the next few weeks Districts will be training the Circuit Stewards (who are lay people elected by the Circuit Meeting – which consists of people elected from the Churches) in their part to play in the process (a central role).

At some point in the summer the Circuit Stewards will hold an informal conversation with the minister to discover if they wish to apply for an extension. It can sometimes happen that a Circuit feels that it needs to reduce the number of ministers on their staff in which case I guess that that is a rather different conversation. I would expect that if that were the case it would not come as a surprise to the minister as they will be aware of the circumstances in the circuit. I understand that the final deadline for the minister to express their chocie is on or about the 1st of September (although I believe Circuits generally prefer it much sooner).

If the Minister wishes to apply for an extension (between 1 and 5 years) then the Circuit Stewards will hold a series of conversations with the Churches and other groups served by the minister. They will then form a recommendation to the Circuit Meeting on whether the Minister should be invited to stay for an extension.

If the Circuit is going to stay at the same number of ministers (or presumably if they are going to seek to increase that number) and the minister wishes to stay, then the Circuit Meeting in September goes through a process which ends with a vote on the extension. Upto a total of 10 years within the Circuit a simple majority is sufficient, after that the percentage increases.

At this point if an extension has been agreed then the process ends until 16 months before the end of that extension (although in many cases the process next time will be shortened as it will be clear that there will not be another extension for whatever reason, quite common with one or two year extensions, I believe).

If an extension is not agreed (because the minister does not seek one, or because the Circuit cannot offer one or because the Circuit chooses not to offer one) then the process of stationing starts for the minister and potentially for the circuit. This post is already long enough so I'll put that in a separate post (see 42: Methodist Stationing 2).

Time to Reflect Retreat

Here is the route I rode to get here yesterday. Just over 80 miles which meant starting at 4:45am, still that meant a nice 2nd breakfast in Cambridge. Only unpleasant bit of road was the A1307 south from Cambridge.

Raunds to Pleshey at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

As I wrote in a comment on Re-vis.e Re-form: This released something in me…..

By the way I am on a retreat for Methodist Ministers
who are coming towards the end of their first appointment to prepare us
for all the procedures of ether extension or stationing.

leaders of the retreat are all women. 2 lay and 1 ordained (there was
supposed to be a 4th leader who is a man but a family issues stopped
him coming at the last minute). They are all highly qualified and this
is a great gift from the Church.

Also on the retreat, which is
for five districts there are 8 women ministers and 6 men (it was
compulsory so not that the men chose not to come).

More signs of hope in the Methodist Church.

Now off to prepare for group work this afternoon, a great hardship to go out into the beautiful gardens to sit in the sun and reflect <grin>

Going for it

On Friday in 42: Getting ready for the C2C I wrote

Next week I am on a course at The Retreat House, Pleshey. It is only about 70 miles away but starts with lunch at 12:30pm on Monday so I would have to leave home very very early to be sure of getting there in time. At the moment I plan on getting a lift part of the way and then riding the rest. I do hope to ride all the way home as training.

Well, I have in fact decided to ride the whole way. My Garmin 705 bike computer has sorted me out a route which is just over 76 miles. I'll be starting at 4:30am which should give me plenty of time. Just doing my packing now, then hopefully an early night.

Am planning to go on my normal Trek road bike which will make this my longest ever ride on an upright bike. My 2nd longest ride ever. The longest was to Cheltenham in a day as part of a day and half riding to a retreat at Lindors Christian Guild Hotel. The first day was just over 90 miles in January 2007 on my recumbent trike.

Anyway after a very hilly (for this part of the world) ride on Friday where I did nearly 60 miles (and 3750 feet of climbing) on my full suspension mountain bike I figure this should be possible.

Phone signal permitting, Pleshey looks about as remote as Essex gets :-), I'll confirm safe arrival tomorrow.

C2C Training in Leicestershire and Rutland

Here is today's ride. It was gorgeous. Note that the average speed includes stops at the bike shop on the north side of Rutland water, the coffee shop on the south side of Rutland water and Costa Coffee in Oakham. Plus I bonked in a major way about 8 miles before the end. Had to walk up one hill and used 1st gear a couple of times.

Weather was lovely and the route was great, very quiet and lots of hills (except round Rutland water) which is what I wanted for C2C training. Distance was about the same as a C2C day and the climbing about 1/2 what I will need to do on the first 2 days of the C2C.

Note I started at Belton-in-Rutland, the other waypoint is an extra because the Garmin Edge 705 had stopped recording totals for climbing and descending, turning it off and on again fixed it but created a waypoint. It seemed to go wrong at Costa Coffee, maybe it does not like my Massimo Fair Trade Latte with skimmed milk and extra shot.

C2C training in Leicester and Rutland at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

The Gospel Coalition

Adrian Warnock announced in the middle of the night that a website that is definitely not for me is now open: FREE The Gospel Coalition Network from The City NOW OPEN.

So here is The Gospel Coalition. Theologically this is a network which is focused as you might expect around the issues that Adrian finds important:

  • male headship
  • inerrancy in scripture
  • penal substitution as the only model of atonement
  • American city culture

So I won’t be joining.

But if you want to join a bunch of American men trying to build a Church Network free of women then feel free.

You can see their key foundational documents without joining.

  • The Gospel Coalition | About lists their council which consists of 49 men. One is from Canada, one from the Cayman Islands and the rest (that is 47) from the United States of America. Clearly this is not a global movement in any way, it ignores all but North America and ignores all women (oh and don’t expect a welcome if you are either GLBT or a supporter).
  • Foundation Documents: Theological Vision for Ministry makes it clear that essentially they stand against postmodernism.
  • In their Foundation Documents Confessional Statement we notice the (expected) very detailed views on scripture and (expected) minimal views on Baptism. This is typical of their approach. Key members don’t agree on baptism so they ignore those differences and present a very weak theological statement on baptism. However, as very conservative evangelicals that variation is swept under the carpet where in other areas such as the view of Scripture and Atonement where they agree no other view but their own is allowed.

As always there are huge areas of Christ’s ministry that are completely ignored in their statements. Just three straight off the top are non-violence, justice (it is only seen in individual relationships) and being Pharisaic about religion.

In terms of our Christian discipleship in the world today there are also the usual big gaps such as climate change (nothing at all), war (nothing at all), reconciliation between nations (nothing at all), trade justice (nothing at all), and global crises in health, education & poverty (nothing at all).

There are also the areas of silence where reading through the lines their views are clear but unstated. The two really obvious ones are male headship (obvious when you look at the make up of their council) and sexuality (they are not going to stand for any GLBT rights).

Summary, just more attempts by this group of extreme Christian leaders to redefine Evangelical Christianity in their own narrow way. Best keep away.

Getting ready for the C2C

Just over 2 weeks to go before I ride the Coast to Coast. That is Whitehaven to Sunderland 135 miles 13,600 feet of climbing.

So I have been getting some of the preparation done, in doing that I have committed myself to a round trip. Now I am riding the Coast to Coast in 3 days (Saturday 2nd May to Monday 4th May) and then continuing on the Two Rivers Route to Tyneside (8 miles) and then back to Whitehaven on the Reivers Route (170 miles). That will start in a small way on Monday 4th and finish on Thursday 7th.

So in total it should be about 310 miles and 16,600 feet of climbing in 6 days of riding.

All the accommodation is booked, just waiting for a couple of confirmations about car parking and bike trailer parking. As I am doing the Reivers route on my own and need to carry all my stuff I am using my Bob Yak trailer (not easy to carry enough stuff otherwise on a full suspension mountain bike). Bob_yak

I am hoping to drop the trailer off at the Sunday night B&B as I drive up to Whitehaven on Friday 1st May (only an extraq 35 miles, not too much in 300 total) . Then I will be able to tow it for the last day of the C2C (which is mostly downhill) ready to continue on with the Two Rivers and first 18 miles of the Reivers route.

The whole purpose is to raise money for Christians Against Poverty and so far the total is over £1,500 but I want more. Please visit and make a donation if you have not already done so. I am paying all the costs so every pound goes to Christians Against Poverty.

It seems there are 18 of us riding with over £9,000 in sponsorship so far. If you have already sponsored me then why not sponsor John Hearson who is sharing a room with me for 2 nights (the money still goes to Christians Against Poverty).

Tomorrow (well actually today now) I am heading for the hills and the rain. I plan to drive to Belton-in-Rutland (just west of Uppingham, off the A47) and ride to Oakham for lunch (via Loddington, Launde Abbey, Knossington) and then back to the car, they have much better hills there than we do in Northamtonshire so it should be better training. I want to aim for 50 hilly miles to build some confidence.

Next week I am on a course at The Retreat House, Pleshey. It is only about 70 miles away but starts with lunch at 12:30pm on Monday so I would have to leave home very very early to be sure of getting there in time. At the moment I plan on getting a lift part of the way and then riding the rest. I do hope to ride all the way home as training.

I have done about 30 miles so far this week, plus plenty of digging to plant potatoes but it is not anything like as much as I would like to have under my belt this close to the event. Still if I can manage another couple of hundred beforehand I should be ok.

More perspectives on life with a young baby

A while ago I wrote 42: How to help your wife when there is a new baby, Dave Bish has commented and written a good post himself: the blue fish project: Loving my wife… when she's a new mother.

In that he writes:

… if I've met Jesus – then the effect should be transformational, and
that should help me fulfil my primary humanward calling, to love my
wife, through love, kindness, patience etc. Which isn't to say I
shouldn't be verbally bringing her to see and treasure Christ, but that
firstly I should adorn that gospel with my life. Preaching the gospel
without words, one could say.

Good points. However, I think there is more and in other directions. As is often the case when a complementarian writes there can be assumptions about the direction in which the gospel needs to be communicated. Let me point out two other ways that the gospel is communicated in parenthood without words.

  • Until you have seen the change in a woman when she is happily breast feeding her child there are depths of love you have not yet seen (remembering that this may not always be visible especially if she is struggling with difficult after effects of giving birth, post natal depression,  lack of sleep, a baby that does not want to feed properly, a Mark Driscoll sermon etc etc). Until you have seen this you cannot properly understand Isaiah 49:15 or Isaiah 66:13.
  • Until you have seen the contented and trusting way a baby will doze while breast feeding there are depths of trust you have not seen. That affects your understanding of John 12:36 and John 14:1 as just two examples.
  • Some women have described childbirth and nurturing their baby in very spiritual terms which indicate that the whole way of being a mother can seem to transport you into God's presence. This can be sometimes be seen by others.
  • We have probably all seen on TV harrowing images of mothers sacrificing their lives, their health to try to save their child (maybe in getting them to a refugee camp, in putting the child's welfare first etc). I think this can reveal something of the love of Jesus that took him to the cross to save us.

These are just a few examples of ways that the gospel is communicated in ways that complementarians often seem to miss (because their understanding of gender roles blinds them).

However, there is another danger which it is important to note. In A Call To Men (which I quote from in 42: A Call To Men) Jonathan includes this quote from a friend of his called Peggy:

I flinched a bit when you said: “The role of mother is virtually untouchable in our society, especially in a Christian context.” For so many Christian women, being a mother is the only thing that they are really empowered — overtly and covertly — to do. While that may not be the whole (actually, I’m confident it is not!) issue here, it is a part of it. If it is untouchable, the brother have to bear some of the responsibility for that, IMO.

He then wrote:

Peggy had in no uncertain terms nailed it on the head.  In subjugating
and oppressing women, in limiting them to certain exclusive roles, MEN
have in essence driven women to a place of defending these territories,
at the expense of relationship.  We are in essence creating a culture that deeply effects our own marriages, families, and social structures.

The big danger in both DaveB's post and my response is that we end up implying that women are only fully human when they are a mother and it is only through motherhood that they can be completely fulfilled (or indeed share the gospel). That is not the case.

So while I wanted to show that it is not just the role of the father to share the gospel without words in the family. While it is good to celebrate sharing the gospel through motherhood we must not pretend that is the only way for a woman to do so. So I want to emphasise that women do share the gospel without words in many different roles and ways

A Call To Men

Some wonderful news from America as we see some light at the end of the tunnel. Read the whole of A Call To Men and all the posts it links to to find new hope for men through freedom.
Here are a few choice quotes:

The creation account is interesting in that there is a moment when God allows Adam to first see life without the presence of Eve. And the point is to call out what was MISSING. “It is not good for man to be alone.” And then God reveals that Eve is within Adam. The whole of humanity is found in the both/and. And it hit me in a very deep way. The whole of humanity is only found in both expressions of God’s image, in the male and the female.

And when we oppress women by cutting out their voices, their participation, and their calling to leadership we have in essence cut ourselves off from the whole picture of our own humanity. We have oppressed ourselves. We are missing the half that is part of us. And again, none of this is new, but what these events did was unveil my eyes to the path to restoration and wholeness.

So today I want to call men out of their own oppression by refusing to oppress the other half of themselves: women. And I’m talking flat out refuse. This is not a call to think about it. This is a call to step up and own it as a completely different way of living, one defined by grace, invitation, and permission, not shame, rejection, and fear. The truth is we’re not even giving women permission. We’re validating the permission that God has already given to them. And this will mean owning our own history as the male half, even if we didn’t participate. It will mean seeking forgiveness with the women around us, reminding them that it is our part to redeem the oppression we have created. And in some cases, it will also mean taking on the responsibility for our neighbor, who has not yet discovered his own courage.

Our freedom only comes when we first stop participating in the
oppression of women.  It is time to remove our shame.  It is time to
step into our own calling as men and be love in the fiercest way
possible, and against the most oppressive of enemies.  And our enemy is not our neighbor standing near or afar, but the lie that lures us to oppress each other.
For all of us, it is time to end this oppression against women so
restore not for their sake but for ours as well.  And when we do we can
rediscover the whole image of humanity and of God in our midst.

Related posts that should be essential reading: A Mending Shift » The Wounded Image of God, random thoughts from a housewife: A rebel without a clue and Losing My Religion: Why the Heart of Every Man Should Be Breaking.

Hat tip: Re-vis.e Re-form: A Call to Men.