Our Superintendent has asked for his initial five-year appointment to be extended for a couple of years. As it happens, I'm all in favour, but I've never been too happy with these situations. Until quite recently, the slightest criticism of any minister, no matter how dire, was always met with the most appalling patronising speeches from those in power about how wonderful and special ministers were. The sun shone from every ordained backside, God was in his heaven, all was right with the world, and if the churches were unhappy that was their problem. If you run a church that way, is it any wonder if members vote with their feet?
The result, of course, was that it was almost impossible to get rid of any minister wanting to stay. I remember one in the late 1980's, who people were seriously unhappy with. He asked for an extra two years, and the vote, by a show of hands, didn't go his way. The Circuit Stewards announced a miscount, asked us to raise our hands again, and a couple of the people who voted neutral changes to a yes vote. They repeated this charade three times, and eventually got the result they wanted. We then decided that future extensions were to be decided by a paper vote, which at least stopped that nonsense.
Then we had the practice of Circuit Stewards going round with a minister coming to look at the circuit, telling us not to ask them questions, and assuring us that if we said no, we'd be left without a minister. In fact, of course, the worst that could happen is that we might be short of a minister for a year, while the existing Circuit ministers covered the extra churches. The result of this approach was that we had a couple of ministers that the churches were extremely unhappy with. That's obviously not in anyone's interest.
We've currently got a situatiuon where there's a shortage of Superintendents. The District Chair thinks the answer to this is for Circuits to amalgamate, so fewer are needed. As far as I can see, that makes even more work for them, and makes the job even less attractive. You don't solve a recruitment problem by working the present incumbents to death! What we need to do, of course, is to look at the role, lighten the burden a bit, and try to make it more attractive.
The result has been that Circuits have come under pressure to amalgamate. A very large Circuit has been formed in Birmingham, next to us, and it has financial problems. Allegedly, some are blaming this on the fact that we, and once other Circuit, refused to join. Our current Super is being very supportive over this, and if he moves, we're likely to come under pressure again.
That's fair enough, but I've just had an argument with one person at the meeting, who claimed that if we didn't grant the extension, we'd be compelled to amalgamate. I felt it was another piece of manipulation, and made it clear that I didn't believe there was any mechanism for compelling us. In the end, the guy half admitted it. I checked Standing Orders as soon as I got home, and sure enough, there doesn't seem to be any such provision. I've got no issues with Paul's extension, but I have very considerable issues with the stuff that goes on; our only chance of avoiding any more dodgy minsters they try to send us is to have an honest discussion, air any concerns, and reach an unmanipulated decision.