The sad truth is of course that some sections of the British Methodist Church have long since lost Wesley’s love of theology and have managed (with Conference’s consent) to reduce most of the Church’s theological output to a compulsory second section in some Conference reports (and now for the theology…) oh yes.. and to a dreaded subject at seminary. (If the looks of some of our students when they come to their first theology lesson is anything to go by, theology is about as popular in our Church as a pickled onion is in an apple pie.)
I suspect that the root of the problem lies in our having lost the ‘groundwork’ of theology - the pew theology that fed and nurtured the love of theology, of searching the Scriptures and studying God’s world in some of our members and local preachers. From Wesley’s time on, the Methodist people were fed theologically by the works of popular theologians and - in particular - by the published books and reports of the Church. Wesley even rewrote and abridged a few works in order to make them more accessible. The Agenda’s of earlier conferences up to the 1990’s are an amazing collection of theological works. Embedded in the reports from each division of the Church is clear evidence of the Church as church, wrestling with scripture and faith, not just its necessary order.
It would be hard to say the same today. Although there are some good reports being produced, on the whole, the paucity of religious language in any of our Church’s official paperwork is now well past scary.
As a Church we should start with the theology - not with the business. Good business practice does not always mean good theology or good ministry. Church reports and papers are a part of our public proclamation as well as our internal business. I really believe we are drowning out our proclamation of God’s grace with official, business management language instead of God language. We have good news to share which is lost amidst the jargon of impact and risk assessment!
Keep beating that drum sister!