flagging faith


Ministry or Midden - the new dumping ground?

I rejoice in the work that the Methodist Church has done in the last thirty years to diversify the ministries it is prepared to recognise. No longer is it appropriate to speak of 'the ministry' (though many still do) as if that referred to a single group or designation. Rather the ministry of Christ in the Church is now exercised in a greater diversity of roles, orders and authorised ministries. But here's the rub: as new 'vocational pathways' have been created, so the difficult, unpalatable or humdrum parts of ministry have been visited on the unfortunate few - mainly presbyters, Superintendents and Circuit Stewards. So we see the emergence of more categories of ministry 'freed' from the bu

Good enough?

“Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." - the perfect is the enemy of the good. Recent news seems to confirm Voltaire's fear that, unless something is perfect, it is useless. So we get moral outrage whipped up against organisations and individuals who have provided outstanding service to others because of the actions of a tiny minority. The past actions of some Oxfam workers in Haiti, and perhaps elsewhere, are deeply shocking, but they do not mean that Oxfam's incredible legacy of humanitarianism is somehow worth nothing. Ask the countless thousands of children, women and men around the world who are alive and well because of Oxfam and the selflessness of their workers. From the EU to the NHS to O

Lenten Challenge #time4change

The new movement for Methodists and Wesleyans, Dignity and Worth, is up and running. This Lent, it is challenging friends and supporters to undertake 5 actions in the name of justice and equality and the first is to organise a Bible Study around the themes of relationships and marriage. They have now produced some material on the theme of FAMILY and I wanted to promote it here. Good for any time of year, but why not make #time4change this Lent?

Mission and the Numbers Game

We're all looking for the silver bullet, that one technique, idea, strategy that will lead to exponential growth in our congregations. Of course, we deny it, but numbers is the sole criterion by which we judge success or failure in church life. Don't believe me? Ask yourself why you feel the need to justify the lack of numbers in a Sunday worship service? When you organise a 'mission' event, do you worry whether it's been worth it if a hundred people turn up? I bet you worry if four attend! We kid ourselves that it's not about numbers, but it really is. Of course, the truth is that statistics can be deceiving. I have sat in many meetings where the growth in the Church in Africa is ascribed t

Look, no mitres!

Since I wrote the original post, the Church of England General Synod have discussed and voted on the report. It has passed, albiet with much less than unanimity. Having listened to the debate, here are some additional thoughts: 1. Any language about unity that talks about the Methodists 'coming home' is patronising and ignores the two centuries of traditions that have grown in the time since separation. It also implies that the Church of England is not in need of any correction. 2. The term 'bearable anomaly', though it might be technically correct, is highly offensive; a more inclusive term is desperately needed. 3. A lot has been said about what the Methodists 'lost' in separation. What di

The Scrabble People of God?

Getting people to talk about sex, gender and relationships is not the easiest task in the world. Getting Methodists to do it seems even harder. So the idea that the best way to identify people who are not cis-heterosexuals as LGBTQQIAAPPN2K is a major barrier to beginning the necessary conversations we need to hold if there is to be progress towards a more inclusive and open church. My experience has been that so many people are fearful of holding an open conversation because they don't want to get the language wrong. In their desperate wish not to offend, they believe that silence does the least harm. This is obviously not true of all, but for those who want to get it right, I firmly beli

Out of the depths

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, icons depicting the baptism of Jesus have him up to his neck in water. Rowan Williams, in his little book, Being Christian, reflects on that as an invitation to immerse (or baptize) ourselves in the chaos and messiness of the world, not just dip in and out of peoples’ lives in forays from the sanctuary. The invitation is to be ‘out of our depth’ in order to be ‘near where Jesus is … being led towards the chaos and the neediness of a humanity that has forgotten its own destiny.’ (2014, p5) For some of us, especially those in Christian ministry, getting enveloped in the neediness of others is simply an attempt to escape from the chaos within. The grateful respon

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