The Covenant Relationship between the Church and its Ministers: Commitments and Expectations

(The Ministerial Covenant)

The Conference in 2020 received a report on The Ministerial Covenant and commended it to the Connexion for study and response (Resolution 35/1).

The task group has received responses from Circuit Meetings, District Synods, and the Convocation of the Methodist Diaconal Order and, in the light of those responses and further work undertaken to ensure consonance with the work of the Faith and Order, Law and Polity, Equality Diversity and Inclusion, and Ministries Committees, will bring a further report to the Conference in 2022

The report is a culmination of work over several years. In part it began in response to recommendation 8 of the Past Cases Review, “That serious consideration be given to producing a Code of Conduct for ministers along the lines of that produced by the Church of England”.

In 2017 the working party reported to the Conference that it had considered the matter and concluded that it would be beneficial to the Church to have material which would bring together into one place what the Conference has said over the years that it requires of its ministers (presbyters and deacons), and provide a tool for ministers to reflect on their own attitudes, behaviour, and practice. The tone of the material would therefore be one both of expectation and of aspiration, and could be used in conjunction with the supervision that the minister undertakes and her or his Ministerial Development Review.

The responses received in the feedback from consultations on the 2017 report have led to several changes being made to the material. Those changes included

  1.  amending the title of the work from “Ministerial Code of Conduct” to “Ministerial Covenant” in order to clarify the nature of the material;
  2.  changing the format of the material from a list of things that an ordained minister ‘should’ do to a series of questions against which ministers can examine themselves with the help of a supervisor or mentor;
  3.  adding a list of questions against which those who deal with ordained ministers locally or connexionally can examine themselves as to how well they are fulfilling what those ministers might reasonably expect from the Church.

The revised material presented to the Conference in 2020 is in two parts. The first is an Introduction to the process that is being envisaged, how it might be of use in supervision, and how lay people bearing responsibility in dealing with ministers might be encouraged to use it. The second consists of the Points for Reflection about which ordained ministers and those who deal with them might be invited to ponder. These latter are based on the Criteria for Selection for Ordained Ministry approved by the Conference, each of which is presented under three headings: Office (that to which the minister is called); Being (the habits and attitudes which inform the living out of that vocation); and Functioning (the minister’s practice in particular circumstances and situations). The last section is presented as bullet points, not because these are boxes to be ticked but because this is a clear way to present the detail for reading and reflection.

One question that has been repeatedly asked is ‘What would happen if I breach these expectations?’ The material enables us to be clear about (in)appropriate behaviour and (in)competence but does not change the way in which either is addressed under Part 11 and Section 04 of CPD. Rather, reflection prompted by the Covenant will help the minister and others to identify where their practice can and should be improved, where the source of any deficiency lies, and what can be done to address it.

  • Click here to download the Conference 2020 report 'The Ministerial Covenant'

At the Conference in 2022 The Ministerial Covenant was represented in a reworked fashion. Now known as “The Covenant Relationship between the Church and its Ministers: Commitments and Expectations”. The Covenant seeks to codify the expectations of both those in ordained ministry and the Church. The Conference adopted sections 1, 2 and 3 of Part B and directed that these be published in Book IV of The Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church (CPD). The Conference also resolved that the commitments in paragraph 11 be made annually in the Methodist Diaconal Convocation, the Presbyteral Session of the Conference and the Representative Session of the Conference beginning in 2023, and thereafter commended for use across the connexion.

Click here to download the Conference 2022 report ‘The Covenant Relationship between the Church and its Ministers: Commitments and Expectations’