Friday, 6 August 2010

Closer Working: LEPs and Constitutions 3

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Here are the remainder of the recommendations from the group considering LEPs and constitutions for Closer Working, the Methodist URC Consultation.  See previous recent posts for the others.

(a) The group recognised the struggle that both denominations are having to find people to fill the posts of denomination ecumenical officers (DEOs).

Recommendation 1: We encourage both denominations to appoint Denominational Ecumenical Officers by county, rather than by District, Synod or Area and consider offering the posts to lay as well as ordained. We hope that this will reduce the workload, the travel component of which is considerable in large Districts and Synods.

For the Methodist Church, practice varies between Districts.  Some Districts have several District Ecumenical Officers, often dividing the work according to county boundaries.  Others might have one DEO covering a large area, including more than one council.  Another problem is some Districts cover parts of several counties and some counties are in several Districts.  Should there be one DEO or two where two Districts share a county? 

I am not aware of any constraints on lay people being District Ecumenical Officers, although I suspect the contribution of lay people might be overlooked sometimes, when making appointments.  It is a role some lay people might find rewarding as a means to learn more about the churches.  I would have thought it would be possible for parents caring for small children, for example, to take it on as most of the time required is not in scheduled meetings. 

(b) The group believed that sponsoring bodies are often perceived as being the instigator of reviews and requester of reports rather than a supportive body which encourages working together for mission. The review process is often laboured, onerous and expensive in terms of time, people and money. We noted that in some cases the URC have identified a number of differing approaches to review – continuous reflection, accompanist attached to the Church Meeting, companion based support, etc ...

Recommendation 2: We ask CTE to “think outside the box” when it comes to the methodology of reviews; also ask CTE to encourage sponsoring bodies to create sustainable networks of LEPs that could be mutually supportive. Is there a place for a web-based forum for the sharing of good practice?

Conversations are already taking place at CTE's Group for Local Unity about methodology of reviews.  The suggestion about networks of LEPs could be introduced into this conversation.

(c) We believe that the number of LEPs, and particularly Methodist/URC LEPs, is likely to increase in the coming years, for a variety of reasons, some economic, some mission driven. It is important that the structures that support LEPs are effective and flexible, yet CTE appeared to some of our group to be highly institutional, similar to NHS and County education bodies in their mode of working.

Recommendation 3: We ask CTE to consider whether or not their current structures and ways of working truly relate to what is happening “on the ground” and to review their own procedures and hierarchical relationships, judging whether or not they are “fit for purpose”.

CTE has seen this recommendation and may respond to it.  However, it seems this recommendation is based upon a misperception of CTE's role.  CTE has two field officers, to cover the whole of England.  they support a number of County Ecumenical Officers (the exact job title varies) who are employed by the local sponsoring bodies (usually called Churches Together in xxx, where xxx is the name of a county).  Without more detail is is difficult to tell whether the complaint relates to CTE's national role, or the role of the county bodies. 

As far as procedures go, CTE is asked to support local initiatives according to agreements between the churches.  Reconciling often incompatible regulations is not easy and CTE tries to make them as simple as possible.  Recently CTE, with the churches, has introduced new arrangements for the approval of LEP constitutions.  This has simplified the approvals process at the expense of a much more restricted model constitution.  It's early days but we seem to be getting far fewer complaints.  Under the old system the length of time it took to carry out approvals was the main complaint and this has been largely addressed.  If there are procedures that are still problematic, CTE needs to know what they are.  Comments below will be passed onto CTE.

Please note I'm on leave and will respond to comments on this post upon my return on or soon after Tuesday 24 August 2010.

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