29 June 2022
The Methodist Conference has voted in favour of a new plan to make the process for those seeking leadership and ordained ministry more accessible.
The new 10-month Connexional Exploration programme will be open for registration in May 2023 and will open to anyone who is baptised and has been in active membership of the Methodist Church for at least one year.
There will be 3 stages to the process in order to enable people to explore vocation and church leadership in the widest possible sense. Phase 1 will enable the participant to Explore – asking which of a number of paths God might be calling them to follow. They will do this alongside an accompanist who will be there for support throughout the process. Accompanists will be recruited from a wide range of experienced people and will be there to advise, support, guide and reflect.
For those who then feel called to test a call to ordained ministry, Phase 2 Discover will include a period of reflection at a retreat; finally in Phase 3, the candidate will submit a portfolio and attend a selection conference.
The new system will work to make the candidating process culturally sensitive and affirming, ensuring fairness to all candidates. The system will have built into it sensitivity and awareness in relation to issues of race, gender, disability and sexuality, as well as learning styles and medical issues.
The new system is designed to ensure careful and sensitive decision-making. There will be more time with each candidate at the selection conference which will allow for deeper engagement with a person’s journey and heritage enabling better discernment.
The Ministerial Co-ordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries, the Revd Dr Claire Potter says: “The Methodist Conference has taken a significant step in adopting this new process by which people will discern God’s vocation. It allows each individual to navigate that journey with an accompanist and means the focus and feel of the process will be on hearing God’s call and responding to it, rather than regarding candidating as a series of boxes to be ticked or barriers to overcome. We anticipate that this will enable many more people and a wider diversity of people to respond to God’s call into a wide range of ministries, some of which will be ordained.”
The system for candidates to explore their sense of call to ordained ministry in the Methodist Church and for the church to test that call has been in place since Union in 1932.
Currently, to candidate for presbyteral ministry a person must be baptised, a member in good standing for three years and a local preacher. To candidate for diaconal ministry a person must be baptised, a member in good standing for three years and a Worship Leader. Evidence suggests that changing these conditions may enable more to explore their sense of call to ordained ministry.