I’ve been up to Joburg twice in the last week for meetings – both visits reminded me that we are part of a very big Methodist family in Southern Africa.
The first meeting was a workshop of members of our synod disciplinary structures from around the Connexion. Each synod has a committee that handles disciplinary hearings and I serve on the one in our synod. In the Natal Coastal Synod over the last seven or eight years we have only had three disciplinary hearings (when a charge or complaint of some sort is brought against a minister or member of the church). Other synods have not been as fortunate. Sometimes there are serious cases involving conduct that cannot go unchallenged, but for the majority of cases the real underlying problem that sees a matter brought to this committee is a breakdown of relationship between members of the church. How critical it is that we are able to deal with conflict in a mature way! (and in accordance with the teaching of Jesus in Mt 18:15ff)
The second meeting was a small committee that meets to consider changes and updates to the Methodist Book of Order, the manual of rules and procedures that governs the MCSA. The Book of Order is a vitally important document in so many areas of the life of the church – it sets out our essential doctrinal beliefs, our practice relating to the sacraments, and deals with how ministers, deacons and others are to be trained and stationed, finance and property, conflict resolution, elections, and more …
All of this is necessary, and without these administrative pieces in place, an institution as large as the MCSA would collapse. But the work we did in these two meetings reminded me of the danger we face of thinking that the maintenance of the institution is the ‘main thing’. The institution helps us to organise the work we are called to, but it is not the be all and end all.
At all levels of the church, our reason for being remains the calling to be a community who worship together, who make and grow disciples of Jesus, and who serve the world for which he gave his life.
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