Letter to Ministers
At the end of Conference 2017 I greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus. Conference met under the theme of “Being Together with God’s Creation”, and the address of the Presiding Bishop which focused on this theme, with special attention to the call to unity at the eve of the 60th year since the Conference statement:
‘The Conference declares its conviction that it is the will of God for the Methodist Church that it should be one and undivided, trusting to the leading of God to bring this ideal to ultimate fruition, and that this be the general basis of our missionary policy’.
The address of the Presiding Bishop to Conference is on the website, www.methodist.org.za. It will, of course, also be in the 2018 Yearbook. The Bible studies, led by Bishop Mike Vorster which spoke to our togetherness in terms of our care for creation, are also on the website. All these documents are exceptionally useful in our collective Connexional discernment and leadership, not only on a Connexional, but also on a District, Circuit and society level.
As we go into this Year of Unity in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the challenges are before us, as a Church, to seek every opportunity for reconciliation where that is needed, and also to find new ways to inculcate a true unity in our togetherness as a church.
Conference had called the year 2017-18 the Year of Unity on our Connexion, and now calls us to set aside the year 2018-19 as the Year of Children and Youth.
The Conference gathered in a very sombre mood, remembering the sudden and violent death of Bishop Thembinkosi Fandaleki only weeks ago, and was further brought to its knees as Bishop Lesiba Nkhumise passed away very suddenly during the business of Conference on Thursday morning. We mourn with our brothers’ families and we keep the Clarkebury and KNB Districts in our prayers.
Appointments made by Conference to celebrate are:
The Lay President, Mr M James Nkosi was re-elected as Lay President for a second term, 2018-2020.
Bishop of Limpopo District- Rev Sidwell Mokgothu 2019-2023;
Bishop of Natal West District- Bishop William Dlamini- 2019-2023;
Bishop of Northern Free State and Lesotho District- Rev Bana Setshedi 2019-2013;
Bishop of Clarkebury District – Rev Mongameli Noqayi 2018-2022;
Youth Unit Coordinator – Rev Simphiwe Mntembu 2018-2020
The Mission Congress report was adopted, and further work is being done, compiling a resource for use in Circuits, consisting of the plenary and elective material from the Congress.
The District borders of our Connexion is an issue that has been in our collective mind for more than 15 years, and Conference this year received the report of the Structures Committee which had been meeting with groups from all Districts over the past months, in workshops, to interrogate our District shapes and sizes. What is clear is that Structure should not determine our Mission, but that our Mission should determine our structure. All Districts in these workshops came to a unanimous conclusion that Districts are not well shaped for mission, and that radical change is needed. Further
work will be done on this, and will be before Synods 2018. The full report on this is in the second half of the General Secretary’s Report to Conference.
Conference endorsed the following policies that will appear in the Yearbook, and in the next edition of the L&D:
Social Media Policy. Please read this carefully, and let your leaders and members become aware of this policy as well, because it affects Ministers, employees and members of the Church.
The Connexional Gifts Policy. This policy relates to gifts given at every level of the life of the church, including, of course, our Organisations.
A Code of Conduct for all Treasurers in all quarters of the Connexion was approved. This will appear in the Yearbook as an appendix to the Finance chapter.
The Constitutions of our Organisations were under revision in 2017 and amendments were approved by the Connexional Executive. These amendments will take effect as from 1 January 2018. The Methodist Publishing House will facilitate the availability of the Constitutions.
Coming to the Districts for discussion will be the Boundaries of the Connexion, a Ministers’ wellness policy, and the question of freedom of conscience to conduct Civil Unions.
Resolutions of Conference that will affect Ministers and Circuits directly, which you should please pay special attention to, include:
· Districts will as from 2018 have annual Presbyters’ Convocations.
· Conference approved a programme of mandatory Continuing Ministerial Formation.
· Any Circuit charging for baptisms must immediately desist from doing so. Baptism is freely administered at no financial cost.
As the Year of Heritage draws to a close, please look at the website to find two documents that can be of continued use: the Phambili study material, a 6 week class meeting/Bible study group resource on our Methodist Heritage, as well as a small children’s activity book on our Heritage which can be downloaded for use at home or in Sunday Schools. A book called “The Barnabas Shaw Story” by Rev Emmanuel Gabriel for senior primary- aged children has also just been published and is now available from the Christian Connexion shops.
To those of us on the move, may God bless you as you begin to say your good-byes, and prepare to minister in another part of our Connexion. And to those who are superannuating, we thank you for your years of service, often at great personal cost. May you rest well, and enjoy our beloved church, from a slightly different angle.
Yours in Christ,