Friday, March 22, 2013

when it’s broke, there are ways, not to fix it, but to refound it

This has been part of my world this week – Methodist history.

With the guidance of President Andrew Dutney, I’ve been reading about John Wesley (and trying to avoid the interesting diversions like Moravian financial collapses and the resultant impact on mission). I’ve been following a research hunch and testing a research theory. Gerard Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission: Refounding Religious Life Formation talks about the difference between renewal and refounding. Renewal modifies old methods. Refounding goes back to first principles and allows them to become imaginative resources in the radical rethinking of the way we do things.

Arbuckle thus encourages a focus on the stories, the fundamental questions and the founding vision of the group. Hence my research. If Fresh expressions is about mission what are the mission stories that lie in British soil? How might they be re-found? I’ve been looking at three areas, with Methodism being one. Hence the pile of books.

Take one example: a founding story

“The Wesley emphasis on mission as determining order.” (Rack, The Future of John Wesley’s Methodism)

So the refounding story:

“To determine its shape and structure the future Church may have to return to Wesley’s insight – that such matters be decided by mission.” (Rack, The Future of John Wesley’s Methodism.)

(For another, and very contemporary example, I think this is a superb example of refounding, Andrew Dutney returning to the Basis of Union,)

Posted by steve at 02:23 PM


  1. Inspiring – thank you. And another book to read 🙂 Blessings x

    Comment by Nel Shallow — March 23, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  2. Thanks for this, Steve. A good time for me to think about these things. At the moment I am forming a new church council between three congregations. I am taking the chance to make sure that the mission values we’ve shared on the journey to combining is reflected in the very structure of the new council. It’s great to have a blank slate (at least at this level of the organisation), doing so with existing institutions is a different matter. The amazing thing is that the others are more excited about the chance for a new start and new focus than I am (the vibe is that we just don’t want another meeting, we want to do the things that matter.) It is also interesting that the expression of the intended relationship between the congregations is being considered as a potential way forward by others in the area (congregations linked through a joint church council to support each other in the mission that each discerns in their own place).

    Comment by David Ferguson — March 23, 2013 @ 9:05 am

  3. David, I’d suggest that if your 3 congregations are looking for a new start, then don’t refound in any of their narratives but either
    – basis of union – and no better place than –
    and/or in some shared discernment of God in your landscape in the past


    Comment by steve — March 23, 2013 @ 9:36 am

  4. The narrative we’re basing it on is their common story of transiency and the key narrative of the Prodigal Son (we did a communal discernment exercise the week after Beatrice’s intensive). This was a turning point in our journey. It is interesting that each of the congregations sees themselves in different parts of the story, and are willing to listen to each other as they do so. At the first meeting we will be working through a communal mission statement based upon that discernment exercise.

    While the regulations are often seen as a distraction from the more encouraging theological document in the same book, there are some gems in there that arise from engagement with and extrapolation of the basis. Take this one for a missional statement to build a group around:

    The Church Council shall give priority in its life to building up the Congregation in faith and love, sustaining members in hope, and leading the Congregation to a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world. This priority shall be reflected in the agenda of its ordinary meetings. (3.1.2(a), new regs, and I do recognise this quotes the basis word for word in the central section)

    I think Wesley would approve of the last sentence.

    It took the General Secretary to remind me of this hidden just before a more prescriptive list that tends to become the focus of church councils.

    I will have to see about the conference – it’s hard to plan that far ahead in my current situation.

    Comment by David Ferguson — March 23, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  5. Nel, Still keen to read what you sent me. Thanks for that,


    Comment by steve — March 24, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

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