The buzz in the Methodist Church at the moment is all about Rev Paul Verryn's suspension by the church. I wasn't going to blog about this, but Steve Hayes asks the question, 'Why aren't Methodist bloggers talking about this, whereas the previous buzz re same-sex marriages was aired throroughly?'
The reason that I find this difficult to blog about is that it is an issue that revolves around a personality. This is about the person of Paul Verryn. The Ecclesia de Lange same-sex marriage thing didn't revolve around Ecclesia, but around the principles and stand of the Methodist Church and the Christian church as a whole. Ecclesia's action forced the church to act on its rules regarding clergy and same-sex unions.
Whatever it may seem like to outsiders, (and please note that I speak on my own behalf, not on behalf of the MCSA) Paul Verryn's suspension should not be seen as a rejection by the church of his work with refugees. This is not a question of 'what does the MCSA think about refugees or our role in working with them?' The church has many times publicly supported the work at Central Methodist Church.
For this reason, the two cases are very different. Ecclesia's was a test case, if you like, to test the church's stand on civil unions. This case does not 'take on' the church as regards a principle. In fact, it is simply a disciplinary issue involving an individual. Because this individual is high-profile it, unfortunately, cannot easily be dealt with privately as it should be.
As far as I understand, and I don't have any 'inside' knowledge, the charge/s against Rev Verryn are to do with following process within the Methodist Church and to do with obedience to the Church. This charge could have been laid by anyone (where the reason could be a personal grudge or a genuine desire to see the church act with integrity or whatever), but this charge was considered by a lawyer (the one appointed by the church annually) to be worthy of consideration - that's how the Church works. I'm not sure if suspension is automatic at this point, but it is a temporary arrangement until the disciplinary committee meets. In this case, there is no foregone conclusion as to the outcome of the disciplinary process. It seems to me that the committee could hear the reasons for Rev Verryn's actions and concur with him, saying that he did the right thing. It could also uphold the charge.
Obviously, as in any big organisation, there is stuff that happens behind the scenes. Paul is by no means a neutral leader. He has many people who agree with him and many people who don't like him. So people look for conspiracy and factions and hidden agendas. I don't know if they are there or not. Well, they are there, but are they coming into play in this situation? I don't know.
I think the biggest concern for the Methodist Church is the way that this has hit the media and the sensational aspect that is has taken on. Whether that was intentional or not, I also don't know. We all make mistakes and the MCSA maybe just didn't know how best to deal with this.
So, those of you outside, does this help? It is just my take on the situation.
Other posts Dion, Steve Hayes.