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Discomfort…

July 3, 2018

Sabbaticals.

I know they are gift, not reward.
I know they are scriptural and God-ordered.
In my experience they are a blessing to those who receive them, and I trust and hope that they have been to those who received from such ministry thereafter too.
I have heard at Conference this year, and other years as well, and agree wholeheartedly, that we must recognise and emphasise our Methodist understanding of ministry which is Presbyteral and Diaconal – ordained – and, importantly, lay. This means – for Presbyters and Deacons – working with many, many volunteers. They are crucial and the focus of the life of our church.
I cannot fathom therefore why the Conference seemingly nodded through a reduction in the time to wait before a first sabbatical. It seems to me that Agenda item ‘21/13’ creates greater pressure on those volunteers in Circuit and a lack of parity within our ordained ministry as a result of this change – that Sabbaticals be taken after 7 years, not 10 years, of initial service for those who’ve not had one yet (I paraphrase!). I am saddened that there was not greater debate nor greater emphasis of the issues, and the seeming need to speed through business meant that only one speaker – pro the issue – came up to the tribune.
I know of the pressured existence of ministerial staff. I understand he juggling act of vocation and work, family and life. I strongly empathise with the need for wellbeing and flourishing in our churches. As I understand it however, there are processes for dealing with needs for time out, and compassionate leave, for a variety of reasons within Circuits. Our excellent new supervision processes are designed to support and uphold ministry in order to enable such needs to be noticed and met. A sabbatical is for other purposes and not to be mistaken for such. I would have spoken to resist it if I had been able to be present. I think that’s clear.
I believe that this decision will have ramifications through the Connexion, upon the wellbeing of our membership and communities, and that in what we have done today, we have done a disservice to the Methodist people.
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