Last week, I wrote about how I thought the changing of the titles within the Presidency might give people a better sense of the collaborative nature of the offices within it. I want to do further in order to make the 'significant part in the leadership of the Church' that the Presidency plays much more effective. Here goes:
Change the way nominations for the offices are sought. Currently, we ask for ten members of the Conference (five ministers and five others) to sign the nomination forms. This means that 'Conference old-timers' - those well-known to other members of the Conference - have a huge advantage over others, especially in the election of the Vice-President.
My suggestion is to retain the need for ten nominations, but these but come from District Synods or Circuit Meetings. To ensure parity, those putting themselves forward could write their reasoned statement (possibly longer than the current meagre 200 words) and have them put together in a booklet sent to all Spring Circuit Meetings and Synods for nomination.
This would serve two key purposes - a wider range of candidates could emerge, including those from outside the Conference 'bubble'; and the wider membership of the Church would have a direct input into the election of the leadership and a better knowledge of who was running.
Currently the President and Vice-President offer a blog on the Methodist website and reports to the Methodist Council. Since the Council meetings are not open to the wider Methodist public through live streaming (why is that?) a very few of us get to hear their reflections.
A suggestion might be to make room in the Agenda of the Conference at the end of their year of office for the President and Vice-President to share their insights and reflections in an official Report. Given we have asked them to work on behalf of the Conference in this way, why do we not want to hear what they have learnt?
An even more radical version of Suggestion 2 would be to begin the term of office at the end of one Conference and finish it at the next. Currently, the President and Vice-President engage in a year of visitation and deep listening to the Connexion only to find nowhere to share it at the end. Even though the bar on speaking at the subsequent Conference has been lifted, there is still an expectation that interventions will be kept to a minimum.
If we were to ask the Presidency to preside at the Conference as their last act, rather than their first, there would be ample opportunity to share the wisdom and insight from their year. It would, especially, give the Vice-President a chance to address the Conference, something only the President is permitted to do through the Pastoral Address to the Presbyteral Session.
I may have suggested before that we create a Presidency Council, made up of the Presidency plus six other former Presidents and VPs, to take counsel together and be consulted as a matter of course in the policy-development process. Giving the Presidency a distinctive voice has not been easy with a yearly change, but the Church needs to learn from the accumulated wisdom of the people we place in these positions of responsibility. This avoids the inevitable dilution that comes from the Connexional Leaders' Forum and the Methodist Council, where other voices predominate.