Church leadership to come under microscope
The role and tenure of the Methodist Church of NZ president and vice president will come under scrutiny next year. Conference has asked the Church to discuss key aspects of the presidency during 2007.
Following the failure of Conference 2005 to select a presidential team, a Presidency Review Group was formed to examine the presidency. It looked at the technical issues around selecting the president in the current setup.
It also raised more fundamental questions about the presidency and these will now be discussed by synods and other bodies in the Church.
Among the topics to be discussed is the question raised by Te Taha Maori ‘Would Tauiwi accept a gay or lesbian person as president or vice president?’ Tauiwi Strategy Meeting will facilitate discussion on the question and share its understanding with Taha Maori during 2007.
Conference also asked that the whole church to discuss the theology of leadership, the role of the president as chief pastor, and the structure and length of term of the presidency.
During Conference 2006 Revs Brian Turner and Jim Stuart submitted a notice of motion that will also be included in the Church’s discussion of the presidency. The notice of motion asks Conference to reaffirm the commitments Conference 1997 made to order its life and practice according to the Human Rights Act of 1993 and to set aside exemptions granted to religious groups.
The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics, including gender, age, race, religious belief, or sexual orientation.
Brian says he is aware some quarters of the Methodist Church see the notice of motion as divisive but he believes the Church should recognise the stand it took in 1997.
“It was not a decision that can be shelved. The Human Rights Act stands like the Waitangi Treaty of 1841. Even though we are now a different church and a different society than when they were enacted, they have enduring significance.”
Director of Tauiwi Pasifika Ministry Rev Aso Samoa Saleupolu says the notice of motion clouds the issues the presidency review group is to examine.
“My personal understanding is that the notice of motion raises issues in a way that is counter productive. In reality the Church has no consensus on this issue.
“The answers to questions about the presidency lie in the areas of theology and justice. The Church is no longer monocultural and we may need to look at new models of connexionality,” Aso says.
Brian says the Church can only achieve consensus by working at it.
”We have achieved consensus in regards to the ordination of gays and lesbians, albeit with an out for those who wish to stand aside. Ordination is a more compelling and far-reaching issue than the presidency. There is no reason we cannot have consensus on other issues of leadership,” he observes.