Thursday, February 19, 2009

Things that happen

As a new minister I had two things last week that showed how unprepared I am in many ways for what I am doing! The first was someone coming in who had to apply to the liquor board for a license to operate her tavern. This is in a town 50km from Grahamstown where there is a small Methodist Church. The steward who looks after the church had signed the form but it needed a stamp. Now Methodists, after the example of John Wesley, are not keen on promoting the sale of liquor. I personally have a big issue with the damage that alcohol does amongst our poorer populations. But the form didn't ask about whether or not the MCSA approved of taverns, but whether the operating hours would not pose a disturbance to the church. My supervising minister was in hospital and I couldn't get hold of my superintendent, so I had to make a decision and I stamped it (no idea whether it was the right stamp). I still don't know whether I did the right thing - and I suppose I should ask someone some time. Ideally, the church would embark on a mission to promote an awareness of the dangers of alcohol, in that area - that would be meaningful. My refusing to stamp the form would just be obstructionist. I have no idea whatsoever if there is an official Methodist view as to what I should have done! The lady got a good lecture on the dangers of drunkenness and her moral responsibility, but I doubt if she took much of it in.

The other thing was a church leader coming in and very tentatively saying that there was a women's group in town. They were looking for a minister to open their meeting on Saturday. Some of the ladies were members of the church. Could Rev Mathiti or I help? Oh, by the way this is the ANC Women's League. That one at least I knew the church's position - but not because I've been taught it. So I told him 'No' with a clear conscience on that one.


Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Jenny - (I hope this does not carry the weight of a criticism)
you had someone come and ask you to share the Gospel of Jesus and pray.... and you said "No". I am not aware that the Methodist Church stops us from doing this.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Pete
Thanks firstly for saying that are not wanting to criticise, but to make me think - I appreciate that.
Yes, I have thought about that - not so much when it happened, but afterwards. And I have thought of the inconsistency in that I would do a funeral for the ANC if necessary - I really don't know how one could refuse to do that.
My understanding is that as a Methodist minister I may not publicly be involved in party politics, or in any sense make it seem that the Methodist Church supports a particular political party - is this correct?
I am an activist at heart and there are certain things that I need to be careful of. I am only six weeks into a journey!!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

By the way - thanks for the comment Pete. I do like to hear other ideas!

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Yes you are right: Methodist ministers may not join a political party. But this does not mean that we refrain from political life: I believe that our political independence gives us space to offer comment on the political life of our country. Obviously this needs to be done wisely and with care - but then any attempt to speak "ex cathedra" is done with caution. For this reason I am open to God prompting me to accept an invitation to pray/speak at a political event. The organisers of the event will not tell me what to say - and if I offend "then so be it".

(In the past I have opened various UDF functions with prayer, presided over ANC/PAC funerals, and spoken at the National Party Councellor's forum. Some liked what I said, some didn't.)

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Methodist shibboleth "truly rural"? The speaking of it separates the sober from the rest! ;-)

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I'm not sure if I can say that even when I am sober!

Steve Hayes said...

I am reminded of an Anglican Synod in Zululand, back in the bad old days of apartheid. One deanery proposed a resolution that the church urge the KwaZulu Government to be careful about issuing liquor licences, especially in areas of high unemployment.

It had in mind Nondweni, a "dumping ground" for the ethnically cleansed from blackspots in white areas, where the first public building was not a school, a creche, a clinic or a church, but a bottle store, and the licensee was an Anglican and a member of the very synod. He stood up and confessed (though he hadn't been named), and said that if they didn't buy from him they would just take a taxi to Nqutu, 15 km away. And someone else said "Including the school kids?"

Then the debate got hijacked by people who wanted to get speakers and films from alcoholics anonymous, and to talk about alcoholism. And others stood up to give testimonies about how they had given up drinking. And our deanery, which had proposed the resolution, said we weren't talking about alcoholism, that we didn't think drinking was a sin, and that though we thought drunkenness was a sin we were talking about a different sin altogether -- making private profit out of public misery.

But a little casuistry and rationalisation goes a long way.

I realise that dosen't help you with what Methodists should do in another time and place, but just to let you know that others have had similar problems, and have found them difficult to solve.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Our policy is that we are not partisan. I suppose there are borderline cases, but it seems to sort out most of them. With regard to licenses, we withhold our approval if it’s doubtful (the last time we did, the Church was threatened).