In The Road to "Elder" ado: It is all about relationship! POSITIVES David Matthias wrote:
I agree with you. But you might sound less like a "one record" man if
you answered David's implicit criticism of the Methodist church (well,
it fits you better than any other church I know) that "Who oversees a
Church is … determined by a random decision from above".
My own experience about the way the oversight of a Church is determined within Methodism has in fact very little with a "random decision from above" (unless we understand God to be the "above" in which case I do not think it is appropriate to refer to it as "random").
Firstly, there is a 26 page booklet on Good Practice in the Stationing
of each year Ministers issued to all Ministers and Circuits involved in
stationing. I have my copy of the 2010 document in front of me. This is
important as the process needs to reflect human rights, equal
opportunities and employment legislation. No random decision could do
that, but equally no system based on friendship could achieve that
Secondly, the Good Practice Guide makes it clear that this is a connexional process. In order to server in the Church Ministers need to be both ordained and in "Full Connexion" with the Church. Connexion for Methodists is about relationship. We are all connected (ie in relationship) and our structures and procedures reflect that.
Thirdly, the guide recognises that stationing (ie determining where ministers serve and thus provide Pastoral Oversight) is a partnership involving a large network of people many of who are representatives of groups. For example it explicitly includes: the minister, their spouse and families, circuit stewards (elected by the Circuit Meeting, which itself is elected by the elected Church Councils), (the Diaconal Order and Warden of the Order for Deacons), the District Chair, the District Lay Stationing Representative, the circuit invitation committee (chosen by the Circuit Meeting), the church stewards and representatives and all groups within the Churches and served by the Churches including ecumenical partners.
Fourthly, the guide makes clear the need to balance adequate information and confidentiality.
In my own experience I know that my first appointment as a probationer involved a web of relationships. From my side that included the Methodist Director of Studies (Angela Shier-Jones), the Team at Church House and the Stationing Committee of District Chairs etc. This is a team of people who have strong relationships, they work together a great deal and usually have known each other many years. Their work could not be described in a any way is a random decision from above, it is neither random nor "from above" in the sense of a centralised authority figure. I know that all 3 of us who came from Seite that years were very happy with the way that the stationing process treated us.
From the side of the Church there is a complicated web of relationships around the Circuit who will have been involved in deciding that they would have a probationer, knowing that they would have no direct say but instead would rely on their relationship with the District Chair to look after them.
In the process that I am at the start of this year (detailed somewhat in 42: Methodist Stationing 1 and 42: Methodist Stationing 2) there is again huge reliance of relationships within Churches, Circuits, Districts and between Districts.
But at the same time as there is all this reliance on relationships through which things get sorted that happens within this wider framework which is there to ensure fairness and which avoids the dangers of favouritism or special favours for friends (and the guide is extremely specific on what must be done to avoid such problems).
So I am starting this process, not knowing what the outcome will be yet confident that the process, while no perfect, is being handled by people with whom I have good relationships and who have good relationships between them, within a process that does its best to ensure fairness while at the same time being run by people who are very committed to prayerfully seeking God's will. All that sounds good to me and I am comfortable to be within this community, this connexion or related people.