We’ve just finished the 2017 Convocation of the Methodist Diaconal Order (MDO). As usual a great event for bonding and renewing friendships. Despite my many request for change, however, the organisers of Convocation remain seem unaware how to make the most of the resources of deacons present – so rich in experience and insights. Yet again the event was designed in ‘conference’ mode with plenary sessions led from the front – usually by presbyters – the norm. This year we thankfully had some good sessions – not least from Roger Walton (President of the Methodist Conference) and Rachel Lampard (Vice-President) on ‘holiness and justice’ – but otherwise deacons remained as listeners and observers. The Methodist Faith and Order working party’s is supposed to be exploring the theology and ecclesiology underpinning the MDO. However, once again its ‘report’ was a non-event – yet more questions (delegated to small diaconal groups) on issues discussed many times before at Convocation – and no space allowed in the two plenary sessions for any comments or questions from the floor. When will we get some idea of what they are thinking and if, after two years reflection up till now, they have come to any conclusions?
I was offered a fringe workshop to have my paper of the diaconate as a new order of mission discussed (see ‘Articles’ in this blog). In the end we were cramming people into the room. Some very good comments made and clearly a lot of eagerness to talk about a new vision for the MDO. However, a good deal of suspicion as to what Faith and Order are really up to – it may be they don’t know themselves but even to have that shared would help!
We urgently need a new order of mission in the (whole) church – to match up to the challenges of a massively shifting culture around us. It would take some training of a new diaconate to form the core of this but at least it would be a start.