Towards a New Synod of the Methodist Church in Wales
Consultation process responses from the Circuits of both Synods
On behalf of the Steering Group representing the two Synods of the Methodist Church in Wales and the British Methodist Connexion, we would like to express our thanks to all our Circuits, Areas, churches and members who engaged in the consultation process regarding the document Towards a New Synod of the Methodist Church in Wales. This consultation process took place between September –November 2018, and the attached paper gives a summary of the feedback received. The consultation was a very important step in the overall discernment process for a way forward.
The Steering Group met on 14th December 2018 to consider the feedback and what was being said through it. It was noted that while there was broad support for the proposals in principle, there remained many questions about the details. It was also agreed that while the feedback raised a lot of important questions and made a number of valid points, these did not present an argument for not continuing with the process overall. The Steering Group was grateful for this cautious but positive affirmation of the conversations that are taking place.
The Steering Group is currently seeking to respond to the strongest points made in the feedback in the following ways, in order to help to move the process forward:
- Work is being undertaken by officers of both Synods on possible arrangements and models for the finances of a new Synod;
- Work has begun by the Steering Group to consider patterns and membership of the various councils, committees and other meetings that may be necessary in a new Synod;
- A draft Language Policy is being prepared, taking into account the valuable comments made from members of both Synods as part of the feedback;
- Consideration is being given to the timetable for the ongoing process in order to ensure that the concerns and questions raised within the feedback are properly taken into account.
Further work in response to the feedback will be carried out as the conversations progress.
The Steering Group meets again on 22nd January 2019, and the Methodist Council will receive a report on the consultation process, as approved by its Scrutiny Group, when it meets on 30th and 31st January.
Once again, many thanks for all your responses to the call for feedback. Please do not hesitate to contact either of us or any member of the Steering Group as we continue to work and pray together.
Revd Dr Stephen Wigley (Chair, Wales Synod)
Revd Dr Jennie Hurd (Chair, Synod Cymru)
Towards a New Synod of the Methodist Church in Wales –
Consultation process responses from the Circuits of both Synods
Written responses were received from 10 out of the 11 Areas, all of which held discussions in Area Meeting or in an extra meeting. An informal verbal response was received from an Area Steward of the remaining Area. A small number of written responses were received from churches and individuals (largely expressing opposition).
Replies were received mainly from Wales Circuits (15 circuits replied). Some churches and individual members of the Methodist Church also responded.
Question 1 – Do you support the proposal that the two Districts of the Methodist Church in Wales should work towards coming together to form one new District?
- 9 Areas were broadly supportive of this; 1 was divided; 1 was strongly against.
- Overall, there is a desire for more information in general, especially for reassurance regarding the place of the Welsh language, the financial arrangements and representation to councils, Synod, committees.
10 responded yes
- Concern was expressed regarding lack of information re: numbers of churches/members – it was felt desirable to get a better feel of the situation.
- Wales is too big for one Synod – two Districts proposed, both bilingual.
- Our Circuit was very divided with no overall support for or against.
Question 2–If so, do you support the proposal that a new District should be known as Synod Cymru Wales?
- 3 Areas supported this; 6 expressed no opinion; 2 proposed the name ‘Synod Cymru’.
- It was pointed out that the word ‘Synod’ is used in both languages (unlike ‘District’/’Talaith’), although the name ‘TalaithCymru/Wales District’ was also suggested.
- The name ‘Yr Eglwys Fethodistaidd yng Nghymru/The Methodist Church in Wales’ was suggested.
- It was noted that Synod Cymru Wales involves repeating the same name: Synod Cymru can be readily understood, and many bilingual institutions in Wales carry a name in Welsh only.
The following proposals were offered:
Cymru Wales Synod 4 Wales Cymru District 1
Cymru District 1 Wales Synod Cymru 4
District Cymru Synod Wales 1 Wales Synod 1
Wales Cymru Synod 1 No view about the name 3
Cymru/Wales District 1
- What is the legal requirement for the name regarding order of Welsh/English?
- Cymru Wales Synod makes no sense.
- Name not an issue.
- Should Synod Cymru become part of Wales Synod?
- What’s wrong with District and why have we become obsessed with Synod – it confuses the ‘body’ and the ‘meeting’.
Question 3 – Do you support the proposal that a new District would comprise the current 16 Circuits in the two Synods, one of which would be a Cymru Circuit with a Welsh-speaking identity, mission and ministry?
- 7 Areas broadly supported this; 1 was strongly against; 2 expressed concern for being in the minority at Synod level; 1 said all circuits should be bilingual.
- The responses were very mixed, with a strong level of concern for the Cymru Circuit being in the minority.
9 responded yes
- 15 bilingual Circuits would be preferred.
- All bilingual Circuits.
- Would need to reinstate the role of Assistant Chairs into the model.
Question 4 – Do you support the proposal that a new District would be led by two co-Chairs (one residing in the north of Wales and the other in the south of Wales), at least one of whom would be bilingual in Welsh and English (or committed to learning the Welsh language)?
4 Areas said at least one Chair should be fluent in Welsh from the start; 3 said both should be fluent; 2 expressed no particular response; 2 were broadly supportive.
10 responded yes
- Anxiety about possibly limiting the pond where co-chairs could be drawn from – language requirements.
- The co-chair model did not work when Wales Synod formed so why now?
- Will the funding for two co-chairs remain? How secure is it?
- If only one Chair at some time in the future, that person would have to be bilingual – the available field would be very small.
- Who would deal with any significant issue if no lead Chair?
- A better model would be one Chair and one Vice Chair – with the roles alternating yearly.
- One Chair, two Deputies one in the north and one in the south.
Question 5 – Additional Comments
- There’s no mention of ecumenism in the discussion paper. The new Synod would need a Welsh-speaking Ecumenical Officer to relate to the Welsh-language denominations.
- It’s essential to safeguard and respect the Welsh language.
- We need to remember we’re already in relationship as the Methodist Church in Wales, with two Synods.
- The proposal offers the possibility of raising awareness of the Welsh language/Wales as a bilingual nation among Wales Synod members. There are potential mission opportunities.
- There’s no reason why existing local ecumenical relationships shouldn’t continue.
- It’s God’s church, not ours!
- Concern was widely expressed about the possible financial implications, especially any rise in the assessment.
- There is the need for a solid language policy – absolutely essential. There must be total commitment to bilingualism and to the Welsh language, which must continue to be the language of the Cymru Circuit.
- Some shared positive experiences of bilingual worship – and others, negative!
- There are possible positive practical implications – no duplication of some meetings; the recognition of Welsh speakers in Wales Synod churches; opportunities for bilingual worship.
- It’s a way of continuing the Welsh-language work after we’re gone!
- There was a very real anxiety/fear of being swallowed up/dominated by the English-language circuits in the Synod, being just one of 16.
- There needs to be simultaneous translation for meetings.
- There’s strength in unity; we’re stronger together.
- Synod money must be available to support the Cymru Circuit, as it is at present.
- This presents the opportunity to rethink/rework how the Cymru Circuit assessment is set; it offers the possibility of moving from per member to a church by church basis.
- The language policy must be to the standards adopted by the Welsh Language Commissioner.
- A few thought the discussion document to be complicated and too much work to read.
- This kind of arrangement already works well with the PCW/EBC.
- People should have the right to worship in their own language.
- Concern about travel in an all Wales Synod.
- The outcome for mission in the integrated Wales Synod was not very effective – should this move go ahead, there needs to be a better outcome.
- Major concern about bilingual printing costs.
- Concern that Circuit assessments must not be increased due to the formation of a new
- A strong dislike regarding the use of headphones to cope with translation.
- How do people with hearing aids manage with headphones?
- Staffing power of Chairs in moving people within a district – might be greater in an integrated District.
- What are the advantages of a new Synod?
- Would there be a need for a bilingual hymn book and service book?
- Having co-Chair would be a good model.
- A new Synod would create a good base for the voice of Methodism in Wales.
- Bilingual Synod meetings would be difficult and attendance could well decrease due to the need for headphones to be used.
- What would be the implications for Synod, Circuits and individual churches?
- Not a good questionnaire – written so that there are positive responses for agreement to the proposal.
- Time scale for responses too short for proper consultation.
- Not enough information about the implications to make informed decisions. Before any formal decision made, Circuits must be provided with much more detailed information and this will no doubt require the timescale to be extended.
- Information received suggests only impact of the new Synod would beat the ‘top’ level.
- The split of power looks imbalanced – suggesting a 50-50 split when perhaps due to membership, it should be 94-6.
- What effect will it have on staff coming from outside Wales? A difficult task at present and would this proposed model make it worse?
- Not clear on how the work load of the two Chairs would be split.
- Is the proposal going to keep a number of very small churches open for a little longer?
- We can cooperate together without joining.
- Working as one Synod will open up new opportunities for work across Circuit borders and between traditionally English work and traditionally Welsh work.
- There needs to be care not to create two Synods – each led by a co-chair.
- Both Chairs would need to be involved in the stationing process.
- Concern was not just expressed about language, but also about culture and ‘rootedness’ in Welsh culture.
- Missional aspects must guide the discussions of the matter of structure in the detail.
- The meeting in our Circuit attracted only 9 people.
- 33 people attended our meeting – the informal vote overwhelmingly supported the proposals, with only a few not voting and one voting against.
- There needs to be a local vision for the future – very important to maximise the single Synod in a local geographical area.
- Concern about being able to attract ministers to Wales.
- How can predominantly English speaking areas encourage the use of the Welsh language?
- There is a need for more bilingual resources.
- In the north, creates the opportunity for LPs and WLs from both Welsh and English speaking churches to support each other.
- Important that the single Synod proposal document be put together in such a way as to reflect views that development of mission in a multi-language environment will be an evolving process and we need to follow God’s lead.
- There is a hope that soon we will see a need for some Circuits in different parts of Wales to integrate and work bilingually.