Ever since I posted a blog on the troubled state of income and expenditure in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa people have asked: “So what’s your solution?”. Clearly there are many decision makers who are either in denial or who simply choose not to engage in the debate. Those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul.
I loved the creativity. There were many observations, experiences and practical suggestions to help us on the way. A Dutch Reformed church in Walvis Bay has turned into a gym and is still used for worship on Sundays; questions surrounding the real cost of moving the MCO (Methodist Connexional Office) from Durban to Johannesburg were raised; separated bishops (costing the equivalent of 3 ordained ministers) with no sign of income generation coming from their offices constitute a massive drain on resources.
The debate opens the door to a host of proposals.
- Eradicate the office of bishops. The MCSA has been crippled by the shift to Episcopalian governance. Instead of being a movement of the spirit of God, we’ve become infatuated with positions of importance
- Resurrect a one year Presidency. Each newly appointed President brings years of ministerial experience and wisdom to the Church. There are stories to be shared and visits (to each District) that need to be made. Their wise words of encouragement bring grace, joy and perspective to those who work at the coal face.
- Bring back the Ministerial Session. Litigation must fall and dialogue must regain its rightful place. Turning the Laws and Discipline into a Book of Order says something about us. We’ve lost the discipline of the Wesleys and the law of love.
- Candidates for the ministry should not be older than 25 years. The energy, enthusiasm and contribution of the young no longer exists in the Church. Call has got lost in the attraction of sheltered employment.
- Learn from the ecumenical community. There is a place for worker priests. Ministers who pay their own way and remain active in ministry are no a burden to struggling communities.
- Learn from History. In order to meet the future, we have to learn from our past. One thing that strikes me about the Church in the Middle Ages is that people planted a Cross and created a presence around the Cross. Church became central to the town or village. There was local ownership and buy in to all the activities that came from the gathered community.
- Make property work. It’s agonising to see so much underutilised church real estate. Here’s my take. There should be only one church in a town, village, suburb.
- Sell all our churches and (with the help of architects and town planners) create a living, life giving space shaped around meeting basic human needs. I see a place of worship surrounded by shops, cafe’s theatre, recreational space, film studios, music and student centres, heritage and board rooms and much more making up the modern day church.
- Sabbath living. Instead of worshiping for one hour on a Sunday, Sabbath keeping turns into Sabbath living. The Methodists, for example could meet on Wednesday, Presbyterians on Thursdays, Baptists on Fridays. The Rule of Order is to use the property 24/7 to the glory of God.
- Examine the Context. We live in a multi-faith society. What does it mean to listen to and include people whose life world is different from ours?
I think Wesley would invite us to use the internet (and our imagination) and support “POP-UP PULPIT” to bring out the best in people. All it takes is a CROSS (the love of God), an OPEN BIBLE (the living word) and a GLASS OF WATER (the gift of life) to start all over again.
Christians celebrate the HAPPENINGS (Signs of the Kingdom) of what God is doing in the world today. No matter where we are in the world, through POP-UP PULPIT we can preach what we practice. Join the conversation and express your thoughts.