Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Supporting Clergy in LEPs

In the past the Mission Partnership carried out reviews of ministers in LEPs. They were usually linked to licence renewal (in the case of Anglicans) and similar time frames were adopted by the other denominations. The reviews asked two questions:
  1. Is the post still needed?
  2. Is this the right person for the post?
These would probably have been good questions to ask if the Mission Partnership (or its predecessor) had the power to make decisions about deployment on behalf of the denominations - and many people assumed that the Mission Partnership had such powers - or should have. 
Unfortunatley the reality was somewhat different and all of the denominations had their own processes - the Methodists, of course, planned everything at circuit level which really annoyed people who wanted to decide who they had in their team. In fact, all of the denominations had their own processes and decision-making bodies, but it was sometimes possible to forget this...
As for the questions?
Well, the first is a bit of a no-brainer. No-one is going to say that a post isn't needed, are they? It might not be possible to afford it - or it might be more sensible to use the resource elsewhere - but these are different questions. Ask a church if their post is "needed" and they'll generally say yes...
And the second is a really difficult one to ask if you don't have clear criteria to asses a person against. The danger is that you open the door to disafected (or manipulative) people who use such a process to stick the knife in or apply presure for their own agenda...
The truth is that neither question are appropriate for the Mission Partnership (acting as Churches together in Milton Keynes) to ask. This was made particularly clear in a couple of reviews when clergy pointed it out!
In the meantime, denominations (and partnerships) have developed their own systems of review and appraisal. Oxford Diocese has just launched its own process of annual ministerial review - and we've explored a process of peer review in Watling Valley, inviting ministers to reflect on their ministry on the basis of our agreed vision and values.
So, old fashioned reviews are dead in Milton Keynes. Some may say "hooray!" but others are conscious that these reviews provided an opportunity for our ecumenical body to ensure that clergy are properly supported - and to gather information which will help the long-term planning of churches and denominations working together in the city...
Hence a small group was formed to look at the issue. This group recognised that it is no-longer appropriate for the MP to "review" clergy but there is a duty of care. The suggestion was put forward that the Mission Partnership set up a system of regular "pastoral conversations" by a team of "visitors" who will meet clergy six months after arrival, every three years thereafter and as soon as an individual has indicated that they are about to leave. These conversations will focus on support, asking questions about practical and experiential issues and will also give clergy an opportunity to raise issues which churches, partnerships and denominations may need to consider.
The group met today and did some work tidying up its proposal. It will now be presented for people to consider. It may be, of course, that this is still regarded as an interferance in proper denominational business - or it may provide a mechanism for ensuring that our key "assets" are cared for and heard...
What do you think?

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