Image via WikipediaThe Methodist Church in Wales is split into two Synods or Districts. Synod Cymru is Welsh speaking and the Wales Synod is English speaking or bilingual. Here are some extracts from a paper written in January 2011.
Synod Cymru exercises the vast majority of the ministry in Welsh. Chapel culture is very strong within the Welsh speaking communities in Wales and so it is more natural for Welsh speaking Methodist congregations to form partnerships (which may or may not be formal arrangements - hence the 'LEP' in commas) are most common with the Presbyterian Church of Wales and with chapels belonging to the Union of Welsh Independent Churches (UWI). (We should of course remember that the latter is an informal grouping and that chapels which are members of the UWI retain their autonomy - the Union having no oversight or authority over them.)
Synod Cymru has counted about 16 area based partnerships or 'LEPs'.
There are about 18 circuit based partnerships as well as 4 chaplaincies in higher education, 4 industrial and workplace chaplaincies, 1 prison chaplaincy and one other. There are also a couple of training partnerships.
Challenges and difficulties facing ecumenical co-operation
- Strategic deployment of ministry. The difficulty is that we all use different processes and timing patterns in deploying ministry which can lead to frustration between partners, particularly when there is pressure to reduce staff levels, and where there is a different approach to the length and timing of interregnums.
- More limited access to funding to support strategic development. Restructuring of connexional funding has led to Districts (including the Cymru and Welsh Synods) having to fund what previously was held to be connexional priorities, with a consequent reduction in the financial resources available.
- Changing assessment of key strategic issues. Faced with this reduced level of funding, we have to make difficult decisions as to where we can continue to support ecumenical ministry schemes. In some cases this means that given changed circumstances, we can no longer afford to resource some areas of work in the way we once did.
- Different language / cultural settings require different partners. The language and cultural geography of Wales means that Methodism may look to different partners in different places. For example, the Wales Synod may look more naturally to the Church in Wales or the URC, whilst Synod Cymru may look to the PCW or UWI as partners. However, in responding to issues across Wales, we need to remain coherent as a denomination.
We suggest that key is to find common areas of mission priority. These may include:
- areas where significant new housing development is planned
- areas where chaplaincy work is developing
- sharing in new approaches to training for ministry
- sharing in other ecumenical mission projects