One of the strengths of worldwide Methodism– and one of the weaknesses – is its incredible diversity. World Methodist Council members have a variety of forms of leadership, some contextually-informed, others an innovation on the tradition. That means you can find Presidents, Secretaries and Lay Leaders rubbing shoulders with Prelates, Moderators and Bishops at any global gathering. Even those called by the same title can have very different job descriptions.
In British Methodism, we have tended to scoff at those of our Wesleyan brothers and sisters who have adopted an episcopal polity. For some reason, we have counted Methodist bishops as less 'real' than Anglican ones whilst, at the same time, questioning the whole idea of a so-called 'historic' succession. I dare some of it is a reflection of the British class system, theologically expressed, but it also prevents Methodists on these islands from learning about leadership from the wider Methodist family.
It's a bit surprising that there haven't been many attempts to gather together global Methodist thinking around leadership in one place. That's why I am beginning a project next month to interview up to thirty leaders from World Methodism about their experience of leadership and the biblical, theological, cultural and personal influences they encounter in shaping their ministries. I will seek to bring leaders and models of leadership within the World Wesleyan family into closer conversation with one another in order to discern patterns and prospects for the future. Through encounter and reflection, I hope that all involved will be enriched in their understanding and practice of leadership.
In the coming months, you will find videos of these interviews on the website of the Susanna Wesley Foundation (http://susannawesleyfoundation.org/) as I collect material from across the globe. My hope is to contrbute to the ongoing thinking of the WMC and how it seeks to bring the Wesleyan family together. At a British Connexional level, I want toprovide rich material for reflection on leadership at a time then the Methodist Church is undergoing signifact change and in the midst of discussions about the possibility of bishops. At a local level, the provision of video material and a study guide I wish to assist Methodists to engage with the World Methodist family and contribute to a greater understanding of the richness and diversity of the World Communion to which they belong.
And speaking of that Communion, can we think about changing the name to become the World Methodist Connexion rather than Council? I really think Council mis-describes what we are about and gives the wrong impression that we are constituted to do business. Those of us who have experienced membership of the WMC will know that we have no real power to pass resolutions that affect member churches. Rather we gather as a family to renew and deepen relationships and our common fellowship. Isn't the right word for that 'Connexion'?