Day 2 of Breakout has been good but I’m beginning to feel a little conference fatigue! If you want a fuller set of notes about what Johnny Baker has been saying then visit Andrew Dunlop’s blog here. I haven’t taken any notes (because I don’t do that kind of thing) and unfortunately, my mind has been taken up with an awkward undercurrent of thought:
You know when you think you’re on a trajectory and you feel comfortable and at peace with the direction and speed of that journey?
Then you hear something that sits uncomfortably with that trajectory?
And then you hear someone else say it (and there is no way that they could have conspired)?
And then another?
And you start to wonder is this some cosmic mind? Or just the trending conversation?
And then you think ‘well even if it’s the trending conversation’ and nothing to do with a greater force – surely I need to take it seriously’.
Well that’s kind of happened to me!
As regular readers know, I have struggled with the idea that the inherited church (which for me is The Methodist Church of Great Britain) has released a few pet pioneers into the world and told them to be brave risk takers only then to tell them that if, in the end, it doesn’t look and smell like a Methodist Church it ain’t a church! or at best if it doesn’t look and smell like what they say a church should look and smell like – then it isn’t a church!’
And I’ve struggled with the inequity of theological discourse where inherited models of church have chosen both the model and the place of theology (which, as a colleague pointed out to me, is how you win battles!) and so, I felt that what pioneer ministry must do, and what would be the end result of this process was the birthing of something new, something that would not be Methodist.
But! Throughout the Breakout Gathering I have been hearing a new song, at first I thought it was the Anglican’s who just weren’t radical enough (which might well be true), but then I started to hear it in other places too, and it started to resonate with my growing understanding of who I am and what I am called to do. And then Jonny Baker went and said it from the platform! Cheers Jonny!!! I’m paraphrasing but he specifically mentioned Venture FX and said something like: ‘I’m impressed with the Venture FX stuff in the Methodist Church, but you pioneer’s are only loosely attached to the church and if you want to make a real difference you have to refound the church from the heart!’ he was speaking in the context of dissenters (read Andrew Dunlop’s blog post).
That’s not what I wanted to hear! I wanted the project to becoming self sustaining as soon as possible and then, if necessary we could grow independently of The Methodist Church. Don’t get me wrong here – this isn’t empire building! My hope was, and still is, for a small missional community that does not necessarily grow in size but has a massive transformational impact in local communities and on people’s lives.
So now, it looks like our little missional community in Stoke is taking off (more on that soon) and I am a member of Methodist Council and other connexional committees/groups and I’ve been elected to conference 2012 and I have been appointed a tutor with a specialism in mission, evangelism, church and culture.
And it got me thinking …
Maybe this missional community doesn’t just jettison itself off in a different direction? Maybe it becomes the place that supports me and funds my imagination as I, alongside others at the heart of Methodism, seek to reclaim and refashion the narrative that is Methodism?
If that’s true then this is going to be messy – because it isn’t simply about rolling over and adopting the status quo, it’s about becoming dissenters at the heart of the community. It means me, along with other pioneers and dissenters will pick the place and mode of theology. Our practice will credit our theology bank and our vindication won’t be because the permission givers have said Yes! But rather in the very act of our performative truth claims (in other words – what we do will tell people who we are – not a carefully crafted Church Document that everyone can sign up to).
Is this the divine trajectory for pioneer ministers? Venture FX? me?
I’m hoping not …
But I can’t stop hearing it …