A new theology of ministry : the ordained Methodist ministry in New Zealand, 1880-1980 (1990)
AuthorsThompson, Susan J.show all
Between 1880 and 1980 the ordained ministry of the Methodist Church of New Zealand faced many changes. This study seeks to examine the way in which, during this period, the ministry lost much of its homogeneity to become instead a more diverse body, made up of and valuing a greater range of people with new and varied gifts, and prepared to explore and experiment with alternative ways of offering ministry. In doing so the thesis will concentrate on the ministry of the Wesleyans and, later, the united Methodist Church, although indicating in a general way some of the thinking and practices of the other Methodist traditions in New Zealand. The special position of the Maori ministry will be discussed in further chapters, but for the most part this study will focus on the Church's European ministry. In tracing the development of this change to the ordained ministry, two major themes have emerged, both of which have challenged traditional assumptions about the changing nature of such a ministry. The first has been the desire for rigid concepts of ministry and a narrowly defined presbyterate to be opened up and made more inclusive and more flexible. As the Church has re-examined its understanding of ministry, then, it has developed a whole new theology of ministry and laity. The second has been an increasing trend towards "professionalisation and specialisation” within ordained ministry. This is expressed in the desire that the Church and the presbyterate do things in a 'professional’ way, seeking 'professional' competence. These themes run throughout the chapters to follow. This study is divided into five chapters, each examining some aspect of the changing nature the Methodist presbyterate between 1880 and 1980. The first will look at how the ordained related to their lay colleagues in ministry, and in the way in which this gradually changed as the Church accepted a more equal view of ministry. The second will trace the growth in alternative forms of ordained ministry, reflecting the Church's new willingness to experiment with different ways of working. The third will show how restrictions upon those who could enter the presbyterate were removed, allowing women, married men and Maori to be admitted to ordained ministry with full status. The fourth will trace the changing history of the process by which the Church selected its candidates for ministry – a history revealing, among other things, the desire for a more professional expertise. Finally, the fifth will show how Methodist education for ministry has developed over the century, gradually becoming more individually flexible within the College and without. The research for this work is mainly based on written, Methodist sources. The most useful of these have been the minutes of the Methodist Annual Conference. These contain the annual reports of the Church's committees, departments and institutions, and the resolutions passed by the Conference. Certain statistical material may also be derived from various lists (like, for example, the stationing list) and from the questions of Conference. This material is sometimes problematical as the Church has often displayed a lack of consistency in the way these have been kept (by, for example, changing categories and including people in more than one list). Specific problems are noted with the appropriate tables. The Church's law books have proved to be another useful source. Produced more irregularly (in thirteen editions between 1880 and 1980), these contain the rules and regulations of the Church. A less official source than these is the Journal of Conference, which records the daily business of the Conference, and so reveals something of the process leading up to the final resolutions found in the minutes. It includes the unacceptable motions and reports that are not recorded in the minutes, and some of the debate - with the names of those included - surrounding an issue. The Church's newspaper the New Zealand Methodist Times, also contains more detailed reports on aspects of the Conference, together with all sorts of articles and letters to do with Church life.