Leslie Griffiths. Image via Wikipedia
It has taken me some time to catch up with this issue, as I currently don't have access to the Methodist Recorder. Fortunately, Methodist Preacher has published the letter printed in last Thursday's Recorder. If you follow the link, click on the image and follow more links you eventually do reach a legible image!
I was impressed by Methodist Preacher's post and it is this I will respond to, rather than Leslie Griffith's letter, although the two are obviously related. So, today I'll comment on Methodist Preacher's article and then in some further posts I will write about what I believe has gone wrong with the Anglican Methodist Covenant and suggest how episcope might paradoxically help answer some of the issues MP identifies in his article.
MP quotes Martin Atkins, the General Secretary of the British Methodist Church, who during his Presidential year remarked on 'the large number of people he met during his presidential year now serving in other churches'. I have at times joked about the 'Methodist Diaspora' because it is not difficult to find ex-Methodists in almost any church, or indeed any faith. Some of them look upon the Methodist Church with some affection, my experience is they are not always antagonistic to the Methodist Church, they have simply moved on. Why is this happening?
It is as if the Church is failing to do its job of being a Catholic denomination, one that holds together a variety of theological positions. It seems its failure as a Church is in providing the basics of what people need for faith and so they, often reluctantly, look elsewhere.
Further on, MP quotes Leslie Griffiths' comments about the experience he has had, presumably of the leadership of the Methodist Church. Whilst I have experienced something of what he writes about, it has not been to the extent that he describes, which is truly shocking. He concludes: "there's a chasm between our people and those who lead them."
He's right. Like MP, it is my experience in the local church that keeps me faithful, rather than the politics of what goes on at Methodist Church House. Leslie Griffiths uses the adjective 'littleness' and it is picked up by MP. I must confess I'm a little unclear what the word means, but I think I have some experience of the limited vision and groupthink at the core of the Connexional Team. I'll write more about this in a future post. For now I will mention one example, that I believe is typical of the problem with the Church's leadership.
The closure of the Resourcing Mission Office in Manchester is one of the most short sighted and irrational actions I have ever had the misfortune to witness at first hand. I worked there for six years, whilst this decision was rolled out (I write 'rolled out' rather than 'taken' as I believe the decision was made over 6 years ago if not earlier).
The reason given as far as I can tell is that somehow it is less efficient to run the church on two sites. Never mind that the team in Manchester was efficient, effective and irreplaceable. In the name of efficiency, or is it tidy mindedness (littleness?), it had to be dissolved and replaced by some new people, with no experience, no knowledge of the connexion and working independently of each other in London. Somehow this is supposed to help the Districts. 15 or so faithful, knowledgeable staff are to be made redundant for what reason?
MP concludes, 'This I have learnt is not a matter of individuals but a systemic institutional problem that simply debilitates.' He is absolutely right and somehow we need to address this problem. I'll have a go in my next few posts.